Su-Su-Summer Time

Yes!

It’s finally here and I couldn’t be happier: warm weather.  And with warm weather comes summer.  And with summer comes barbeques, short shorts, cold drinks, crystal clear pools, shady umbrellas, bottles upon bottles of sunblock, and laughter.

So.Much.Laughter.

I’ve always enjoyed the sticky days that summer is known for.  Growing up, I’d spend it laying out on my parent’s back deck, with my mom and sister, while listening to Kiss FM on my battery operated boom box.  The scorching deck would blister a bare foot, so we kept flip-flops at the ready; only going barefoot on the fiery wood as we danced our way from the rubbery fold-out chairs to the refreshing pool.  My mom would happily watch my sister and I as we splashed around in the pool, goofing off, making whirlpools, playing Marco-Polo and attempting underwater headstands. She only jumped in occasionally to cool off, and spent most of the day slathering on fresh coats of tanning lotion and relaxing as she glistened in the sun.

I can still smell her Hawaiian Tropic SPF 5, if I close my eyes.

It’s been four summers since she passed away, but I still remember every detail about those days.  She would lay there, smoking her cigarettes and painting her nails a bright shade of red.  She was a bronze goddess, effortlessly gorgeous with long dark hair, a thin curvy waist, and her favorite black bikini.

I wanted to be just like her.

And I tried to be.  I would soak up the sun’s hot rays after drenching my pale body in tanning lotion and saturating my hair with lemon-scented Sun-in.  But instead of being sun-kissed, I ended up with burnt, painful skin and orange hair, year after year.

I didn’t care, because I was happy.

During my twenties I rarely saw water during the summer, but instead I would spend warm days at baseball games with my husband, rooting for the Tigers.  We would sip frosty beers and munch on Hebrew National hotdogs as we baked, shoulder to shoulder, under the rays of the July sun.  The smell of buttery popcorn would fill our noses, making us crave the salty treat.  If the Tigers were away, we would day-drink limey vodka gimlets at outdoor bars with friends.  We’d laugh and talk as jazzy house music filled the air. We had no real responsibilities, no kids and no cares in the world.

Life was good.

Today, again, summers are different. Summer days are now spent chasing little ones at the wading pool with big beach hats and SPF 50. Or at the beach, sweaty and covered in sand. At home, we spend breezy afternoons on the swing, finding shapes in the clouds, coloring with sidewalk chalk on the blacktop, or sharing drippy popsicles that leave our fingers sweet and sticky.  My husband and I spend cool nights on the back deck with glasses of crisp white wine as we watch the fireflies blink, and hear the crickets sing.

These summer days are my favorite, so far.  They make me reflect on where I came from, what I’ve gone through and what kind of woman I have become. They make me appreciate the past, while staying present, and also looking forward to what the future may hold.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’d like to go pour myself a glass of Pinot Grigio and listen to the crickets.

Summer is awesome.

Photo courtesy of  Ann Demianenko at Unsplash.

This week I revamped an old piece that you can find here.  Hope you like my changes!

 

Journey to a Magical Place

I watched my daughter, young and slender with a head full of short blond waves, staring out the kitchen window at the falling rain.  I could see the boredom in her blue-green eyes, reflected against the window pane and my heart ached.  La Nina left its dingy mark on my tiny town for nearly thirty days, making her toys begin to fade from bright colors to pastels.  Her happy dolls were now depressed.  Her Legos preferred to be in a puddle, rather than built into magnificent structures.

I walked over to my daughter and gently placed my hand on hers.  She looked up to me and smiled brightly.

“Hey, Momma.  Whatcha doin’?”

“Hey, Sweetie.  I was actually just thinking that we need a little adventure.  What do you think?”  Her smile spread even farther, reaching her ears.

“What kind of adventure?” She raised up onto the very top of her tippy-toes, getting as tall as she could manage.

“Well…” I said, thinking for a moment, “I think we should go on a surprise journey to a truly magical place.”  She clasped her hands in front of her freckled face and jumped in excitement.

“Let’s do it!”

We quickly loaded into the van, trying to stay dry by running between the drops.  Our seatbelts clicked as we harnessed ourselves in securely, ready to embark on our rainy-day excursion.

“So where are we going, Momma?”

“Well, let’s see,” I looked at her eager face in the rearview, “the place we are going can set you free from reality, like leaving this rainy day behind.  You can let your ideas can run wild, taking whatever shape your mind will allow.  You can visit far away cities, countries, or even planets.  Then, magically, it can bring you back to Earth when you’ve been traveling in the cosmic, dark blue space for far too long.  It can help you learn to dance, cook, and knit.  It can offer you new and magnificent ideas as well as ones you’ve heard time and again.”

“Tell me more!”

“Okay, sure.  The place we are going brings hope and love in times of depression.  It gives us power at our weakest hour and supports us when we think we’ve got no one on our side.  At this place, you can be a superhero, a doctor, a racecar driver or maybe even a rock star! It’s a splendid place of fairytale, a marvelous place of modernity and a noble place of history.”

As we pull into the cement slab parking lot and look up at the building made simply of red brick and grey mortar, I am reminded of many days spent at a place like this, as a kid.

“The library!”  Excitement spilled over each syllable as my daughter kicked her feet in delight.  “Yay!”

As a child, I loved going to the library with my mom.  It was an old building made of stone, reminiscent of a castle or old church with cathedral ceilings and oversized arched windows filled with stained glass.  Inside was quiet and smelled of forgotten paper, pinched together between bindings, and filled with the promise of joy.  It was my favorite place; I always chose to borrow books from series like Baby Sitter’s Club and Sweet Valley High, or anything R.L. Stine (to this day, I love a good thriller).

This library was much newer, round in shape and filled with maple wood trim, but still it had that same papery smell I remembered.  I could envision my mom picking and choosing her newest novel from the recent returns, right by the librarian.  She liked to find gems there.  I could hear the beep of the beige boxy computer as it checked out each book to a new renter, eager to learn something new, or dig into an old favorite.

I brought my eyes back to my kid, today, now rummaging through the hard-bound children’s section. Taking her time, she read titles and carefully decided on several that she liked.   She walked through the aisles of paperbound treasures filled with bedtime stories, yet to be read, and lightly touched a few familiar titles.  Slowly, she gathered even more books to borrow.

By the end, her chosen stack of Star Wars and princess themed books almost reached her eyes, which were gleaming with excitement.  My daughter walked up, plopped her stack of books onto the check-out counter, and offered me her biggest grin.  The trip to the library had turned her undeniable boredom into an opportunity for exploration.  I patted her gently on the head, hoping that one day she’d remember the papery smell, the beep at the check-out counter and the feeling of time spent with me on our journey to this magical place.

“Let’s go, Momma!” she said excitedly.  “I have some adventures to begin!”

Photo Courtesy of Gaelle Marcel on Unsplash

Bullying SUCKS.

The year was 1993, I was in fifth grade and I’d finally convinced them (you know the ones – they had perfectly poof-y hair, the best bodysuits, gem-colored jeans, the newest sneakers and BOYFRIENDS) that I was cool enough to be part of their group.  I was IN, which took some diligent work on my part because even though I wouldn’t say I came from a poor family, my parents definitely lived paycheck to measly paycheck, sometimes struggling to make ends meet.  They did their best to not let us feel the burden of being broke, but we had better luck getting a unicorn than clothes with labels.  That was difficult to explain while trying to fit in, but somehow I managed.

In any case, it was a cold, rainy day in good old blue-collar Toledo Ohio; a typical spring day in the Midwest.  It was pretty much completely miserable on all levels.  My “friends” and I arrived at school early, so we decided to take a stroll in the frigid, torrential rainstorm for some Jolt Cola at the local In-N-Out, situated across the street.  My brick behemoth of an elementary school was perched on top of a hill (which was lovely on a sunny day, but during rain it was like a slick pig, full of muddy bumps).  Instead of taking the stairs like any halfway intelligent person would have done, we decided to be total idiots and take the shortcut down the hill.  For some reason, I went first and (big surprise) I only got one K-mart sneaker on the hill before losing my footing.  One teensy-weensy tiny step and

DOWN

I

WENT.

I was sliding down a muddy hill wearing my only decent pair of blue jeans.

Crap.

As I was sliding (which felt like a freaking eternity, by the way), I managed to crane my neck to see “them,” my so-called friends.  I reached a pitiful hand out in a lame attempt at some help, but they just stared at me, wide-eyed with smirks painted on their pretty faces.  One laughed, then they were all laughing.  They pointed and giggled, then pointed and giggled some more.  When I finally came to a stop I was a brown, wet mess sitting on the sidewalk.  No one even helped me up.  So, with burning cheeks and an undeniable desire to crawl under the nearest rock, I got to my feet, found the closest set of stairs and went inside the school to call my mom. Rain water sloshed inside my no-label sneakers with each embarrassing step and brown water dripped from my even browner hair.  I hung my shoulders, not daring to glance at them.  I knew that I would officially be OUT and somehow, despite the chain of events, I still thought that mattered.

Bullying is a real problem.  I see it now even with my daughter, who is only six.  We, as parents, need to stop this starting at home.  We have to teach our children that bullying is wrong.  We have to help them learn that it’s important to include peers, and to be themselves, no matter what.

If you’d like more information on bullying, check out the government’s website found here.

 

Photo courtesy of Reza Shayestehpour on Unsplash

Time again.

I pushed myself out of bed this morning and blinked, closing one eye to focus on the bright red numbers staring back at me.  It was only 4:48 a.m.

I still had time.

With a fresh tear already stinging my sleep-deprived eyes, I stumbled down the stairs, covered in pillow-y soft carpet.  The feel of it made me want to find my covers and return to a state of slumber, but I pressed on.  I moved one foot in front of the other until I found the bottom of the stairs, the cold dining room floor and my little sister standing with bags packed beside her.  I grabbed her, hugging her tight so the smell of her shampoo would linger a bit longer.  I had to talk my mind into letting her go from that hug because, like always, I knew my heart would be empty when she was gone.  Miles and miles stretch between us and kids, spouses and careers keep it that way.  We do our best to keep the girls close, but the little time we make never seems like enough.

The only words my mouth managed were, “I love you.”  I swept hot tears away with my finger while still in her embrace.  I didn’t want her to see me cry again.  I cautiously let go of her, taking note of her dark chocolate eyes and her long, caramel colored hair.  Her half smile gave way to something, either lack of sleep or sadness, but I couldn’t make it out at the early hour.

Quickly waving, I walked back up the stairs and found my dark, warm bed.

But my arms and legs couldn’t find the comfort between those blankets anymore, now made of sandpaper instead of soft cotton.  My eyes kept drifting open to thoughts left unsaid, hanging in the air like ghosts.  The makings of a hole were already starting to appear in my heart, a fleshy wound from not being near her.

My head was swimming and I needed to see her with my eyes, now wide with anticipation, one more time before she left to board that plane.

I jumped back out of bed and shuffled quickly down the stairs with a racing heart, but when I reached the bottom of the stairs, something was different.  The only thing waiting for me this time was the cold wood floor and a dark, empty space, much like the one now forming deep in my heart.

The only sounds were those of a clock ticking, tick-tock, tick-tock, the dishwasher running, swish-swish, swish-swish, and my heart pounding furiously in my ears, bang-bang, bang-bang!

No sister.

No tiny niece.

Only me, my girls sleeping soundly in their respective rooms and my home, now returning to it’s everyday routine.  I sighed, defeated by time, once again.  I pulled out my laptop, poured a steamy cup of coffee and began to write.

 

The Day I Snapped.

I can remember the day like it was only just yesterday.

I was sitting on my white couch, dirtied with muddy paw prints, baby spit-up and something neon pink, which I couldn’t quite decipher.  My head was clouded from lack of sleep and I hadn’t showered in what seemed like days.  My oldest daughter wanted to build puzzles and her frustration was growing with each passing moment because her new baby sister, a.k.a. the screaming thing, wouldn’t give her two minutes of alone time with me.  The dogs were barking, but not just the normal kind of bark.

No.

It was the ear-piercing, cringe-causing kind that makes a person want to shout or rip her unwashed hair out.

Maybe both.

There were piles of dirty dishes spilling over the sink and onto the un-wiped counters and I was drowning in loads laundry, yet to be done.  There were boxes that needed to be packed.  A house that needed to be listed and a five-year-old’s birthday to be planned.  There was so much to do, but not enough time and I couldn’t stand looking at those walls for one more second.

I had vomit on my shoulder, yoga pants that were stretched out in the knees from wearing them so long and two mismatched socks.  I didn’t care.  I pulled my ratty, unbrushed hair back, hoping that would hide some of the stink because I needed to get out of there. Without using my better judgement, or rather any judgement, I packed up the kids and headed to where else, but my favorite store with a big red bulls-eye!

Of course while we were shopping, my new baby needed an immediate diaper change right while my oldest was looking at the dollar toys and of course my oldest had a meltdown because that’s what little kids do.  Especially little kids who’ve just had their small worlds turned upside down by a new sibling.

So then, of course, I had two crying children in the toy aisle.

Of course.

I remember taking a deep breath, trying not to lose my shit right there next to the little happy white and red dog, smiling at me because he sees this crap on an everyday kind of basis.  I didn’t want to give him and his cute puppy dog face that kind of satisfaction.  He wouldn’t see me break.

So, after talking myself down from the ledge and regaining what little composure my fuzzy, sleep-deprived brain could manage, I packed my kids back into the car and went home.

The house was still dirty, the dogs were still barking incessantly and the kids were still upset.  I had more than I could take.  Something in my head literally snapped and all I could manage were tears.

I thought to myself, this must be what a nervous breakdown feels like.  I am definitely breaking down right now. I called my husband because I needed him; I was weak and I needed his strength.  But when he answered, the words all sounded wrong.  I was a blubbering fool and the words, my words, were gone.

I was broken.

That was just one year ago.  It took me one long year and the support of family, friends, coffee and wine (definitely wine) to get out of that place and into this one, where I am better, for the most part.

I am a work in progress, but then again most of us are.

The Doves Have Cried

When I heard the tragic news of Prince’s passing today, I literally could not believe it. My heart has been aching all day for his family but, even more than that, for the world. His death affects people from one end of the Earth to the other. Prince’s music has spanned decades, brought barriers down in the recording industry and his sound almost exclusively could have defined the eighties.

I can remember dancing around my dining room while my mom played Raspberry Beret and Little Red Corvette on our stereo cassette player long after the albums were released. We would be wearing our stone-washed jeans with white Keds and t-shirts tied in knots at our hips. I’m sure my long brown hair was in a side ponytail and I was probably missing a tooth or two.
I had a Purple Rain movie poster hanging above my bed even though I’m pretty sure I wasn’t even allowed to watch the movie at the time.
And I’m sure many people have belted out Kiss with Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman, because I know I have on more than one occasion.
The remix of When Doves Cry was epic in Romeo and Juliet and Party Like it’s 1999 has always, always ALWAYS been the go-to song for New Year’s Eve at any party I’ve ever been to.
Ever.
This was the music that molded and shaped me in my formative years. I ate it up like candy back then and still, to this day, I have a physical and emotional connection to Prince and his music, much like Madonna, Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston.
This kind of music transcends generations and he is the definition of what pop music is and should be.

It breaks my heart that we have lost another global pop icon and even after the dust settled this afternoon, I still have trouble grasping that Prince, like so many other influential artists from my childhood are not here any longer to continue making music.

Photo is courtesy of Buzzfeed.

 

First Breath Without Her (YeahWrite Microstory #262)

FlowerShe closes her eyes, drawing breath deep into her lungs.

The aroma of fresh cut grass touches her nose, a reminder that life doesn’t end with death.

A solitary tear escapes her eyes as her cheeks tingle with warmth from the sun.

Finding Balance in my Crazy Life

There once was a time when I flew off the handle on a regular basis.  I was tired, stressed and a wee bit unstable.  But after a year of therapy, plenty of mistakes and a lot of soul-searching I am finally in a better place mentally and socially.  It wasn’t easy to get here and there were plenty of bumps along the way, but the journey has been life-changing.

Over the last year, I have decided that there are five things that I need each and every day to stay sane and stable.  I have listed them below (in no particular order, of course).

  1. COFFEE.  Lots and lots of coffee is required.  Sometimes I drink it by the gallon.  (Like on those days when Ashlyn decides that 5:00 a.m. is a good time to play with Mom.)
  2. Hugs.  I need at least twelve hugs from each of my daughters and my husband each day.  It is a way to reconnect with them and remind myself that everything is just the way it should be.
  3. Laughter.  If I laugh on my worst day, then it suddenly isn’t so bad.  Laughter is medicine for the heart and soul and my husband is the best doctor to prescribe it.
  4. Writing and/or Reading.  If I am having a moment; then I know I need to write about it.  If I can’t think of what to say, then I need to read instead.  It’s that simple.
  5. Meditation.  I don’t have hours to meditate each day, but I have five minutes and that’s exactly how long I try to meditate for.  It’s not much, but every morning while my coffee is brewing I sit quietly and start the day in a positive state of mind.  I remind myself of my intention for the day and connect with the quiet world around me.2016-04-18 09.19.12 How do you stay balanced?  Please share your thoughts!

And She said to Follow my Dreams.

I can remember it like it was yesterday.  I was sitting with my mom in white plastic chairs on her front porch talking about life.  I was roughly 21, so my true sense of life had literally barely begun to show itself.  I was probably more  worried about getting to the bar to play some Golden Tee with my brand new boyfriend, Justin, than to sit there and fully grasp the conversation she was trying to have with me.

“Don’t do what I did, Danielle,” she said, shaking her head slowly.  She took a long hit off of her menthol light 100 before finishing.  She exhaled and a cloud of smoke drifted over the porch railing, blue paint chipping of from bad weather over the winter.  “Don’t wait until you’re forty to figure out what makes you happy.”

“But I am happy,” I said.  And I was, or at least I was a superficial version of happy.  One where my judgement was both blissfully ignorant of how cruel the world can be and also clouded from too many late nights at Club Sin where I danced my troubles away over loud music and Jager Bombs.

“I’m serious, Danielle.  Find what makes you happy and do it.  But don’t just do it; do it with your whole heart.”  I rolled my eyes at her for trying to be way too serious.

But my mom was such an intelligent woman who only ever wanted the very best for my sister and me.  And she was often ‘way too serious’ in her conversations, but she was also full of wisdom and life lessons.

This happened to be one of those lessons.

You see, my mom decided when she was in her forties that she wanted to be a nurse. Helping people had always been her passion and it took her forty long years to realize her dreams.

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After she graduated, she worked in hospice and loved every moment of it.  I had never seen her happier.  She would go to work and come home with a smile on her face.  She was happy like that until the day she found out she had cancer, at which time she was no longer able to be around her sick patients.  Having to quit being a nurse made my mom incredibly sad.  Her dream had been crushed by cancer.

Last week, on the four year anniversary of her death, that conversation from her front porch crossed my mind and I literally had a come-to-Jesus moment.

We need to do what makes us happy, no matter what that is, because we have no idea what tomorrow holds.  If we hold off on our dreams they will only ever be just dreams.  And I don’t know about you, but I have big things in store for my dreams, so not going after them TODAY isn’t an option.

<a href=”http://yeahwrite.me/moonshine/”><img src=”http://yeahwrite.me/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/moonshine.png”></a&gt;

Rushing Along.

Today I found myself getting upset at my oldest daughter over the smallest things while shopping in Target.  She wanted to take some extra time to peruse the shiny, beaded headbands, but I rushed her along.  She asked to look in the dollar section and I only let her quickly scan the aisles.  I kept thinking how much I needed to hurry.  I needed to get what I needed and get outta there.  But why?

Every skip, giggle and distraction was making my temper run hotter and hotter until I had finally had enough.  I yelled.  I told her she was going to spend time in her room because she hadn’t listened to me the countless times I asked her to hurry along.

As soon as we got in the car I started to realize my behavior.  I have only been going through the motions the last two days, barely hanging on.  I am just a fragile eggshell of the mother and wife I want to be, right now.

The depression always returns during this time, despite my countless efforts to distract myself.

But my kid deserves to be able to be a kid.  She should be able to look at shiny headbands -I know my mom let me do stuff like that.  She never rushed me along the way I do with Reagan.  Getting to look at the toys and treats is part of what makes shopping fun for kids.

What am I rushing for all the time?   Why do I hurry myself through life?  I try to remind myself to live in the present, but I’ve been failing MISERABLY at that lately.  I keep thinking about the past; dwelling on my own sadness rather than focusing on my daughters’ current happiness and that’s not what I want at all.

I looked at my sweet Reagan in the rear-view, her eyes saddened because of my behavior, and knew at once it was I who needed a timeout, not her.

“I’m so sorry for rushing you Reagan and for being snippy.  Mommy is really sad right now because I miss my mommy very much.  But that’s no excuse, so again, I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay, Mommy.  I understand.  And I’m sorry you’re mommy is in Heaven.”  R  eagan looked up at me and her eyes met mine in the mirror.

“I love you, Reagan.” I said and I could see her smile return.

Once we got home, I opened the van door on her side and gave her the biggest hug.  She put her little hands on my face and said “We should swing today, mommy.  That will take your mind off being sad.”

“That’s a great idea,” I whispered before kissing her cheek.  I smiled at her and wiped the tears from my eyes.