Monday, March 26, 2007

Hello Miss Sunshine!

It’s official. Spring has sprung. Goodbye, Mister Gray Skies. Hello, Miss Sunshine.

I hope you have walked around your house and de-winterized it. Threw away anything resembling that season. Pinecones, evergreens boughs and holly berries have got to go. It’s time to display bird nests and eggs, daffodils and butterflies. Open your windows. Wash the blankets. Get a puppy.

Winter and spring have become for me—this week especially—metaphors for everyday living. I have noticed—more than usual—a predominant and unfriendly ethos floating around the world. A winter-like “graying” of people and their zest for life. With the arrival of spring, it’s time to change that. And for good.

Just last week, when I was changing in the gym locker room, a fellow lap swimmer waltzed in donning the cutest bathing suit. Totally fabulous. Orange tankini. So I commented (couldn’t help it of course): “Wow! That’s a great suit!”

No response.

Thinking she was hard of hearing, I looked her in the eye and repeated myself. “GREAT suit!” inflecting my voice so she would really take note.

She looked straight at me, kept walking and said nothing. Just opened the door towards the pool.

What’s up with that?!?

I stood back and shook my head. “What a hag,” I thought. She couldn’t have even stopped to say “thank you?”

And so it goes. People in their own little worlds. Without thought or time for anyone else. Wandering around with no bounce in their steps nor sparkle in their eyes. Living in “winter moments” of gray rather than “spring moments” of (lime) green.

My plea this week is simple: Live as if you believe in the hopes and promises of spring. Greet others with a smile. Say “good morning” to a complete stranger. Look at a colleague in the eyes and ask how he is doing. Laugh with your eyes. Shake someone’s hand firmly. Answer the phone cheerfully. Open the door for the mailman gratefully. Drive courteously.

You will stand out in the world. And be respected and admired for embracing life with spring-like exuberance. With joie de vivre. It’s not difficult. Takes very little extra energy. Just requires thinking about others. Of shifting one’s mindset.

It’s what the world needs at spring. Totally. Spring has sprung. Live it.



Monday, March 19, 2007

No Big Deal

Ok. This is the first time I am publicly admitting to it: I am accident prone. Now, if you’ve ever “googled” me, it would be readily apparent. It’s been completely disclosed over and over again in my writings. I’ve been hit by a car while crossing the street not once but twice (and how many people do you personally know who could say the same thing?) First time: I was hit while walking and wound up unconscious for awhile before waking up in the ER and spending four days in ICU. That was followed by a month in the hospital, months in physical therapy, a couple of major surgeries and permanent damage to my right leg (it’s almost one inch shorter than my left as a result of being crushed to smithereens). Second time: I was hit by a car while biking by a j—k who failed to look before he leapt into the street, hitting me broadside, re-breaking my pelvis and my left shoulder (which required complete reconstruction and excruciating physical therapy for almost one full year. )

I haven’t had any major accidents since then, nor have I had many minor ones, except for the very occasional fender benders, the likes of which seem to mess up moms like me, teenage drivers and others who sometimes have other things on their minds. Mind you, I am a low risk driver. Middle-aged (ouch!), careful and not-given-to-convertible-sports-cars-due-to-turning-middle-age. But I have so much on my mind these days: the whereabouts of four kids in three different schools, my husband’s travel schedule, the dog and guinea pig’s dinner schedules (OK, I am kidding; I spend zero time fretting about the guinea pig) and the soon-to-be-remodeled kitchen subcontractor’s bidding schedules. Not to mention the state of the economy, the upcoming presidential race, the war in Iraq or stamping out global illiteracy.

As moms, we carry the weight of the world on our shoulders! And that weight, while dragging down our physical beings, wreaks havoc on our brain waves!?!

Just last week, while driving pleasantly enough to work (my office is a good 45-minute commute through mostly idyllic country two-lane roads) I took my foot off the brake when the light turned green for one teensy second while simultaneously looking down to change the radio station (I’d blame this on my daughter’s delay in organizing that mysterious iPod I got for Christmas but I don’t think that argument would stand up in court) and boom! Metal hit metal as I ran into the backside of the enormous SUV now directly in front of me. Yuck. Out I got, on this rainy, cold Monday morning (the first day back from my birthday celebration in sunny Miami nonetheless) and met the slightly irritated woman SUV-driver-owner. I apologized profusely, told her I took my eye off the wheel for one teensy-weensy second as we stood there, in the rain, inspecting the damage. A coin-sized bubble messed up her otherwise perfect fender and, after offering my insurance info as well as payment and restoration in full, she smiled and said: “I’ve done that before. No big deal. Go and have a good day.”

I thought I had left the scene completely unscathed. Thought I had done zero damage to my own car, until a week later when Nick, who was home from college, commented on my messed-up front fender. I hadn’t even noticed……but it was, indeed, noticeably banged up and lopsided.

I had global illiteracy and the state of the economy on my mind.

As I sit at my computer and look at my (somewhat messy) house (and think about my messed-up car), I realize what an imperfect world we inhabit…and what an imperfect piece of work I truly am. The guinea pig’s bedding is strewn all over the kitchen floor; a sweeping tonight will only guarantee more mess in the morning. The laundry basket is emptied and clean clothes are lined up in my drawers; tomorrow, dirty socks and tennis clothes will fill up that space. A candlelit dinner is enjoyed in our dining room and china has been washed, dried and put back in the cupboard; breakfast will bring another round of dried cereal and milk in bowls that will not quite find their way into the sink.

And so it goes. On and on and on. A relentless stream of accidents and mishaps and messes. And mistakes. Innocently enough, yet inevitable. Life is messy. And motherhood can be even messier. Sticky. Dented.

And would we have it any other way?

As you go through these years carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders, I hope that someone—your spouse or your kids or your parents or your best friend—will give you grace. Let you get through the messes without being too hard on yourself. (My own husband’s reaction to the discovery of my dented fender? Laughter.)

As laundry and dishes and things and puppies and toddlers mess up your days, give them plenty of grace. Sweep or wipe or mop as need be. And try to let it all roll off your shoulders. Try to smile and believe: “No big deal.”

And then go and have a good day.

Easier said than done. Yup. Especially when hormones impair our best-intentioned good humor. But we are, after all, in the season of Lent. Reflection is in order. Perspective.

I wish you all blessings on your week,


Monday, March 12, 2007

Happiness Revealed Through Family, Girlfriends…and Chocolate

And great food and drink. Sunshine. Dancing.

I just spent my birthday (“the big one”) holed up in a hotel room and conference center in New Jersey where I was committed to a three-day business meeting. Nothing against New Jersey; I could certainly think of worse places to be. I had, after all, heat, hot water and electricity. Plenty of coffee. But the days were long. And my heart yearned for home. My familiar and favorite spots. My own bed. Shower. Closet full of clothes. And hubby, kids and Bichon Frise pup snuggled up on my legs during my just-before-bedtime ritual of watching the news sprawled out on my down-cushioned sofa, plump pillows supporting weary head.

But work responsibilities called and, truth be told, there is something extremely satisfying about living up to work responsibilities. So I attended this meeting without too much whining. It helped a lot that we had a treat awaiting us with—as serendipity would have it—perfect timing (which took away any of the pain I was experiencing.) For my husband happened to have qualified for a recognition trip gifted by his company which took us both to South Beach (Florida) for four days (in the middle of winter) conveniently convening as soon as my New Jersey business meeting ended.

On the last night in New Jersey, my husband met me in my hotel so as to spend my actual birthday night with me. He surprised me with the dozens of cards and emails that you—my wonderful and faithful readers of this Rocket Mom Newsletter—sent to me. He organized them all in an album and wrapped up the whole thing in a beautiful box, presenting it to me at the end of a long work day which found me too exhausted to even find my way downstairs for a bite of dinner. So I just sat in my hotel room—facing my husband who sat across from me to watch my reactions—with dark chocolate bar in one hand and the card-and-email-stuffed-album in the other.

It was a lumpy-throated hour. Some of your notes, frankly, totally choked me up. Others filled the room with gut-busting laughter (the “Carolina Machina” was priceless, Deborah! I laughed and laughed until I cried. ) As I leafed through notes from my oldest girlfriends as well as from new ones, those of you who, though scattered across the globe and whom I shall probably never meet, have become connected to me each week through this Newsletter—I understand with every cell of my being the value of family and friendship (OK, and chocolate, too).

To those of you who wrote to me: thank you from the bottom of my heart. I laughed and cried out loud. This was a tender time spent in a quiet hotel room in—of all places—New Jersey. With the love of my life. And with you all. Your notes invigorated me to continue writing despite the increased demands on my days, a tough day job and book contract being the two heavy “new-ish” factors in our family’s already bulging equation.

Your friendship—along with the great food and drink, sunshine and dancing for which SoBe is famous and of which my husband and I appropriately indulged in celebration of “the big one”—meant the world to me on my birthday. As it does on this day, too.

Thank you for being my friend. For celebrating with me one of my life’s greatest days.

Big hug,