Living as if there is always a tomorrow…

Today was a 9.9 day. I saw the blue sky from my bed as I awoke and I knew it would be stellar!

Arriving in my seat at the dining room table after brewing the perfect cup of tea, I awoke my computer to look on a Facebook page for a picture of my 14 year old who had surely survived her first night at YEA Camp (Youth Empowered Action) in Charlton, MA. I was hopeful that she would experience a week of passion-building, consciousness-raising excitement. I was feeling good!

The phone rang next to me and I saw my sister Cyn’s familiar name on the screen. Family, she is but since she’s not too frequent in her calls, I had a flash of warning before I said hello. “Have you been on Facebook yet?” she asked.

“Not yet, why?”

“I think our cousin David died.” “I don’t know for sure, but it looks like it by his son Jake’s posts.” she said.

It was not for almost 3 more hours that I knew for sure what had happened. No one was returning her calls and Google searches pulled up nothing.

I was already dressed for a morning bike ride, having been granted a “do whatever you want day” by my lovely wife. It was her way of sharing the “burden” of having been gone almost 2 full days of every week for the past 2 years to care for her ailing dad. We are always trying to keep a balance, it seems, of energy, patience, and time. Time, I believe, is the most valuable and also the most elusive…

“I’m going to go for a ride,” I said. “There’s nothing else I can do right now.”

“Please be careful!” she said, as she does and has, for 18+ years.

“I always am.” I responded, as I always do.

When I head out on a ride, or plane trip, or anytime I feel like I might be in danger (for as far back as I can remember), I have surrounded myself in my mind with white light. I can visualize it swirling around me and protecting me. I ask my spirit guides to keep me safe, and today, I added, “It’s not my day. It’s not my time!”

This morning as I repeated that ritual, I felt uneasy. I thought of the speed at which we can go from alive to dead, one minute our flame burning brightly, the next, extinguished. It isn’t fair and it causes pain, mostly felt by those left behind. And then I think about the fact that I strongly believe that everything happens for a reason, yet there are many more questions than I have answers.

No one knows for certain what becomes of us when we die; I believe we’re all mostly just afraid of the unknown. Certainly, we must get a better understanding as we age? I fear we just amass more questions.

All I know is that time is moving at a speed that I cannot fathom and control and that unless I can find a way to slow it down, my flame will be blown out in what seems like an instant!

When I was young, I planned to live until I was 100, but by the time I was 40, I’d revised that to “90 or above would be fine.” Now, I’ve lowered it again and I’m aiming at 85. That gives my kids plenty of time to have kids so I can meet them all, which is something that I never got with my own parents.

My 2 youngest, “the babies, the twins, the little ones,” have just gotten back from a week of overnight camp. They have somehow grown into teenagers at only 11.5 years old, look a foot taller, and seem almost ready to venture out of the nest on their own. Not really, but they do seem much more grown up this week!

“Can we go for 3 weeks next year?” they pleaded

“Really? How would I be able to live without you for 3 weeks? Wouldn’t you get homesick?” I said.

“Well, maybe a little, but it would be fun! Please, Please, Mommy & Mama?!” they chimed.

I thought to myself, “No, that would be impossible. That’s like being one of those parents who just want to get rid of their kids and send their kids to boarding school. Out of the question! Two weeks, maybe, but it’s expensive!”

“We’ll see”, I said, as I mumbled ever so quietly… “never going to happen!”

They keep growing, even when you’re not around. At camp they do things for camp staff that they don’t do at home. Like brush their teeth on the first request as they herd their way towards the makeshift outdoor sinks. They go to sleep on schedule, get up early for extra activities, and try new foods. They bring their dishes on their trays to the dishwasher area! They clean up after themselves…And they make friends with kids who may grow up to be lifelong friends, tethered to each other through distance over the years, and reunited in old-age. These are memories that last a lifetime.

My cousin David died almost instantly from an aneurysm on his brain stem. I doubt that he felt any pain, nor had time to realize how dire it was. One moment he was there and the next he was gone. He had just turned 50 a day before, and left his parents, 2 siblings, 3 grown boys, a lovely girlfriend, 2 ex-wives, and the rest of us relatives reeling with the suddenness, the sadness, and the questions. I still see him as a young boy like it was yesterday, with taped up broken glasses and all of my sisters and his sisters teasing him because he was the only boy and we could.

A few nights ago, before our daughter went to YEA camp, she came to our bedroom where I lay, alone (on a night when the wife was at Dad’s), armed with her computer to show me a hair straightener that she wanted to buy.

“It’s only $79.00” she said. “Can I get it?”

“$79.00! Your hair is gorgeous. You don’t need a hair straightener! And that’s a lot of money!” I said

“It’s not $150.00, like some of the others! Please? I really want it and need it!” she whined.

It went downhill from there. I wasn’t going to buy something that cost that much when we had just dropped a good chunk of money on new school clothes. She continued to whine and I stood my ground. She didn’t even want to consider looking on ebay for a better price on a used one. I finally just told her I wasn’t going to argue about it anymore and to go to bed!

10 minutes later, I called her back in…

“You know,” I said, if you had come in here saying “Mommy, there’s something that I really want to buy, but I don’t have enough money for it. Is there any way I can work it off?” I would have listened with much more open ears. Instead, you came in here like a spoiled teenager expecting that you would just get what you want! We talked more, and she quickly realized her mistake and apologized. The next morning, she was up and dressed and had eaten breakfast and was ready to tackle the jobs I’d given her. I told her she’d be sore the next day, tired of stooping over to cut saplings on our back hill but would be pleased with herself when she accomplished her goal. 3 hours later, she texted me pictures at work to say she was done!

What was most enlightening about our talk that night, was that in appealing to her to think about being more of a go-getter and to work harder and to find a passion in life, she said to me, “You just want me to be a politician! You want me to be political!”

“Whoa, what?” “Hell, no I don’t! Politicians have to lie a lot, and they don’t do a lot of what they say they’ll do. The good ones are few and far between. I’d never want you to be a politician!”

“I just want you to be passionate about something!” I said. “I gave you life. I gave you a flame that burns inside you, but it’s up to you to fuel that flame!”

“Finding a passion is as easy as setting up a lemonade stand at a busy intersection on the bike path to raise money for your friend whose sister is dying of leukemia!” “You make signs and posters with her picture on it and you raise thousands of dollars, not because people care about the lemonade, but because they see your passion and want to donate!”

“Passion is getting your school to stop selling water in plastic bottles, but instead to encourage kids to bring refillable bottles in and have filtered water dispensers in hallways!”

“Passion is going out once a week with your siblings to pick up trash along the bike path!” It’s your future and your kids’ future that needs to be saved, and I’m just trying to get you to care about that. It’s getting tougher and tougher for people to live in this world and kids need to see that their choices now can make a difference. You need to help be that difference!

We’ll see what Saturday brings when she comes out of camp “empowered” in some way. I’m hoping that she’ll have learned some skills that she will use to fire herself up about some cause and to energize others to do the same. It’s not like she hasn’t had examples!

Life starts and life ends. What we do here in the time that we remain, matters. Instead of living each day as if it were my last, I want to treasure my time and live as if there is always a tomorrow!

R.I.P.

R.I.P. David Cassinelli

Thanks for reading!

Letting Go…

It’s almost comical how little I actually produce of value these days. It used to be, that when I was working, really working for a salary and running a business, that I got more done in a day than most people do in 3. As a parent, I remind myself daily how valuable my presence is to my children but I too-often find myself searching for value in my life around my work, as I continue to search for meaningful employment.

We all move in cycles. Once, in my 20’s, I had the world at my feet! I knew that I was in love, that I wanted to be with this person for the rest of my life, have kids together, make a home…everything was a rainbow of colors everyday. We had the house, the dogs, the two kids, were starting a business together, and then “poof,” it disappeared…

Years later, My life is great, and luckily I never did collapse from that fall, but I did change. I had to re-group, re-define, and try to understand who I was as a person when not with this other person. And, I needed to learn how to be a mom without the same family unit- the other parent who wished this child/children, into this world.

With many LGBT couples, the idea of having a child, whether biologically or not, adopting, fostering, whatever the case, it is a conscious choice. For me and my then partner, it was one that we planned for 6 years. It had much fore-thought, and it was very quickly successful both in the getting pregnant and birthing process once we fully committed. Almost 7 years into being a mom, which then included a 3 and a 6 year-old, I was not planning to be a single parent.  I had also not planned to see my kids only half of their lives! That idea, once it sunk in, broke my heart. 18 years later, and having lived through that time, I am a changed mother.

There are many events that I’ve missed and  don’t even know about, that my kids did with their other mom and her friends and family. There are boo-boos, fears, crushes,  friends, clothes, outings, and special meals I’ve missed. There are relatives I’ve never met, and artwork they’ve made that I’ve never known, pictures and videos that I’ve seen but not been there for… It makes up half of their beings.

Almost all of the friends I knew in my 30’s as young lesbian couples, either with young kids or trying to have kids, are now divorced. They see their kids 3 or 4 days a week, split weekends and holidays, and have either a harmonious relationship with their ex. or a completely rancorous one, and sometimes even the known is unpredictable. The toll that it takes on the kids is unknowable, but it can sometimes come out in behaviors towards parents or siblings, or trouble at school, poor eating habits or obsessiveness with technology, TV, or anything! As a parent, it’s crazy-making because you can never have consistency. It’s a new norm, this consistent lack of consistency, and it doesn’t lend itself to consistent parenting. For those of you who either are going through this now or have gone through this with an ex, you know what I mean.

It’s becoming the norm in our society to ask our friends, “do you have your kids this weekend?” When did that become commonplace?

Yes, well we have our kids EVERY weekend. We can’t always plan ahead, and our lives are ruled by game schedules every day, not just monday thru wed.

No, we do not have any privacy. Our now 13 year-old stays up past our bedtime. She’s entered the Twilight zone and will be there a good 8-10 more years, staying up into the wee hours and then sleeping as late as possible. One good thing that’s happened this year, is that we can now leave the 2 littles with her at home and go out for a short time at night without worrying too much. They fight but it hasn’t come to punches yet!

This week I’m feeling like a mother duck whose ducklings have all wandered off. I’m searching in my mind to pinpoint all of their locations, reassuring myself that they are fine, wherever they are. My oldest is off in a mid-western state and calls me once a week. My next, college student daughter is working at a camp in the Berkshires this summer. My middle child, is at a soccer tournament with her team minus either parent and away from home for the first time on a multi-night trip. She’s making grown-up choices and experiencing new worlds.

I thought I’d be home with my both of my 10 year-olds tonight, but after attending my nephew’s graduation and birthday party, my son jumped for joy at a chance for a few days of individual attention with her Aunty and family. Meanwhile my wife is representing us at her nephew’s wedding and staying over with a relative. Tomorrow, we leave early to take our “little, little girl,” to her first week at sleep-away camp!

So what’s this all about anyway?

It’s about reminding myself to enjoy my life while it’s happening. Back when my “first” family fell apart, I was mourning the loss of my everyday connection to my children. I eventually reconciled with it, but I was acutely aware everyday what the impact was on them as children. It shaped their lives, and it’s shaping all of my friends’ kids lives now. Early on in my present relationship, my wife and I grew to relish in our alone time when the kids were not there. It gave us an appreciation of how much a relationship needed to be nurtured and how as individuals, we needed our alone time as well. Guilt-free time, I suppose, when one knows that the kids are getting enough attention from someone else.

Now that we have three more, we see how important that time is still, and have always tried to build “date night” into our weeks, but we can also see that the time will soon be upon us when they are all grown and have moved on, only to arrive home on holidays.

Enjoy your kids. Before you know it they’ll be all grown and working it all out in therapy!

Pessimistically optimistic at the seashore…

I’m in Florida this week with my family minus my two big girls, enjoying a resort with a pool, a bay side view, and a nice white, sandy beach. “Life is good” says my T-shirt, and it is. Thanks to a generous gift from my father-in-law, we can enjoy this time together while the kids have school break.

All would be blissful if everything had fallen into place on the Friday before we left. I had expected a call back about a job – one that I’d interviewed for on Wednesday and had a call back on Thursday for a second interview. The job, a 30 hr/week position which barely paid a living wage, was exciting and challenging, and would evoke all of my creative talents. I was optimistic that it seemed I was the only person called back for a second interview, as the director was headed out-of-town right after our 8am meeting. I was feeling good, thought we had a great rapport, and was eager to get going on the job. All I thought she had to do was to check my references, which I was confident would be superb. Friday came and went and still, knowing that she hadn’t reached them all, I was disappointed to not hear over the weekend, but excused that fact and then again for the Monday holiday. By Wednesday, I finally got a call and was shocked to hear that she had given it to someone else.

I could have gone spiraling into a downward mope of depression and self-pity, and even though I did feel sorry for myself for a moment, it just wouldn’t  last. What I felt predominantly, was anger- at myself(again)for letting any job get into my psyche that much before I got it! I think that I’m going to get it, and I know that if I don’t stay positive, it could affect my interview, and if I say to myself, “you probably won’t get it anyway,” or “that interview really sucked” for various reasons,” or if I keep telling myself  “if you get it, it’s a bonus!” then I am casting self-doubt. That will never get me a job. Either I’ll get it or I won’t. In one case, I’ll be happy(I think), and in the other case, I’ll be upset, sad, and depressed. How long will and can I stay that way? We’ll see.

Being a very visual person can be a curse, you see, because I can see myself projected into a role easily, complete with my work attire, organized desk area, daily routines, and even the lunch I’ll pack. When I ‘m called for an interview, I diligently research the job, finding out about everyone involved in the organization, policies, staff, website, publications, history, business trends, innovations in the industry-you name it, I know it! So when I don’t get a job, it’s like a nice dream I just awoke from and discovered it didn’t really exist. It’s a major let-down and hangs with me for days or weeks, during which time I also rationalize every possible reason I might have not succeeded: “Too old”, “over-qualified, will probably leave for a better job,” “too gay,” “too strong and self-assured,” “really wants to take my job,” “won’t fit in with our style,” and the list goes on.

Am I pessimistically optimistic or optimistically pessimistic? I used to believe that I was a perpetual optimist. I could find the good in anything and always believed that things would work out for the best. “Whatever will be, will be,” is my motto, and I truly believe in the will of my higher power, but lately, I’ve got this she-devil sitting on my shoulder, saying “I told you not to get excited over that job.” “No one wants to hire you,” “you’re a threat to them,” “you’re too eager and want it too much!”

So here I am, at the beach, knowing that instead of jumping feet first into a new, exciting job on Monday, I’m still searching, sending off resumes to jobs that I mostly don’t want at places I can’t imagine working. That rare special job has eluded me again and I just need to believe that a better one is waiting for me. It just needs to come soon!

I went out for a walk on the beach alone today, heading out for some exercise and thinking time. While I could have collected shells, admired the surging waves and water fowl, I kept to my intentions and tried to just keep up a good stride and think about my feelings. I thought about one of my favorite books, Gift from the Sea, by Anne Morrow Lindbergh, and the beauty and life lessons she extracted from the nature around her. I won’t pretend to have found anything as profound as that, but I did come to cherish the importance of my time here with my family and the memories that we’re creating. I picked out a few shells on my way back, snapped some interesting photos, and now am sharing them with you. Everything happens for a reason!

SAD Spring Smells

It’s no secret that this “winter” has been one of the warmest on record for us in Western MA so it didn’t surprise me at all to hear birds chirping outside and to see buds on our Rhododendron bushes this week. I should be happy that we haven’t been hit by any significant snow since Halloween, thus lowering our heating and plowing bills, which I am, but it comes with the black cloud of global warming hanging above me and the world.

I have been a bear this week, not only in my (non-employed) isolation, but also in my mood. I don’t want to dwell on the negative, but suffice it to say that my waning hormones and waxing moon have wrought havoc on my psyche in the last few days. I’ve been short with my loved ones, barely tolerant of any shortcomings (yes, even more than usual), and would like it if everyone would just leave me alone to do what I do best, which right now is to just take things as they come.

I know it’s getting bad when my wife has to ask me(not in a sweet, but in more of an obligatory way) before we go to bed “would you like a goodnight kiss?” Normally, there’s never a question, but after living through 16 years of my mood swings coupled with her cycles as well, we’re lucky if there’s one good week a month between us! If I say “no,” then I’m going to piss her off, and if I say “OK,” and lean over to give her a kiss, I can’t help the running narrative in my head that’s saying “why is it that I always have to be the one who has to sit up and give her a kiss?!”  Yes, I know it’s petty, and at the same time, it flickers through my mind like it usually does when I’m in a pissy mood and don’t really want to kiss, dammit! Kissing really shouldn’t need that much processing!

It’s doubtful that many men are reading my blog, except possibly a few relatives who are probably not learning anything new about me, so if hearing about hormones and cycles is distasteful, you guys can sign off now. For us women, by the time we start our periods as girls, we’ve already experienced raging hormones for a while even if it’s gone unnamed. My wife and I joke all the time and have for a year now that our 10 year-old daughter is raging hormonally when she gets on a rampage. At least we can recognize it!

All of my life, the women in my family have been credited for having an extraordinary sense of smell. That’s right, and we got it from our mother and I have passed it to my kids. It’s a curse really, because unless it’s served us to protect from fire or explosion, most other smells need not be heightened. Yet, as I teeter closer and closer to full-on menopause, my sense of smell has gone up 5 notches from “super sniffer”  to the level of unbearable. I can smell  cigarette smoke coming from a driver in a car 5 cars ahead of me at a stop light! Imagine how I react at a friend’s house who owns a dog that never gets a bath, or nasty smelling soccer shin guards as my daughter changes her clothes on the way to basketball practice, burnt popcorn at a game, that chemically smelling bad men’s cologne. I’m one big sponge to those sickening smells and unfortunately it makes me react in a way that feels like I’m trapped in a locked room with biting rats if I can’t get away from the smell!

Today, I woke up knowing that after I made 5 lunches and  took my 12-year-old to school, that I’d come home to an empty house. Yippee! I love to have the day alone in my house! Yesterday, my wife didn’t work, so we shared the space for 6 hours, and she had the nerve to ask me questions and disrupt my routine. You see, I don’t like to have to explain where I’m going, what I’m doing, how I’m doing it, etc. Unfortunately, when she’s around there’s much more of that dialogue and it messes with my day.

So, after my work-out buddy cancelled, I decided to brave the colder than the “new” normal temperatures and exercise outside. It was bright sunny, cold but not too harsh, and very invigorating! After about a half-mile, I realized that I already felt better. I’ve unofficially diagnosed myself with Seasonal Affect Disorder (SAD), so I purposefully don’t wear sunglasses if I don’t have to, exposing my pineal gland to as much light as I can. I’m sure that physiologically, it doesn’t happen instantly, but nevertheless, my mood brightened sharply! I was ready to take on the day, knew what I wanted to make for dinner, planned my shopping excursion, mentally jotted my to-do list, played a couple of rounds of WWF’s and outlined my blog post-all before I got to my first mile. I was so ready to be done with it and get home that I almost turned around with excitement and energy and a renewed outlook on life! But I didn’t. I stuck it out, observed the nature around me and a lone gummy worm discarded on the bike path, and made it home an hour later.

Soup’s made, shopping is done, and I’m ready to take on life, and Spring? If it’s going to come early, I sure hope everything’s died off from winter because I count on that cleansing of the earth process. It’s like taking a shower and starting all over again with sweetness and regeneration, and I really need to smell some swell smells!

Thank you Alec Baldwin!

I haven’t met Alec Baldwin or talked to him or even seen him on the street, but he’s been a big part of my life’s “work” or should I say “play,” in the last month. Since I was laid off from my job on December 13th, the behavior for which he got thrown off an airplane has now transformed most hours of my waking life into a less-boring non-job, playing “Words with Friends!”

I’ve always been a competitive scrabble player, but this really brings the game into my everyday life instead of a “friendly” game now or then with certain friends. I now know that there are 16 two-letter words that start with “A,” and was surprised to discover there are no 2-letter words at all with a “C,” “V,” or “Z” in them. There are also many more words with a “Q” and no “U” than I ever imagined, and I don’t pretend to know or use more than a few of them. Exciting life, right?

Mainly, what I’ve learned from becoming unemployed again, is that unless I have something to do, a job or a daily to-do list (that I’m getting compensated for), I get little to nothing done with my day besides a bit of brain stimulation!

Yesterday, I got outside to exercise after being cooped up for at least 3 weeks (only by my own lack of motivation to be out in the cold). I scuffed along and slipped over the black ice on the sidewalks, alternating between the crusty snow, the sides of the road near traffic, just to “enjoy” the frigid yet invigorating fresh air. I had managed to survive more than half of my trek without falling, even playing a few rounds of WWF, until “boom!” I went down with barely a nanosecond to recover, landing me on my butt and slightly injuring my wrist. For years I’ve been saying, to no one in particular, that “after 50, we’re just a fall and a hip-break away from losing all independence.”

My wife doesn’t want me to talk about our house because we hope to move someday soon, and having been a Realtor, she knows that any (even imagined) negative review of a property will hinder its sale. I trust that y’all either aren’t in the market for my house nor will you squeal. The problem is, we live on a hill. It’s not the worst hill ever, and since we have a neighbor uphill from us, we know he has it worse, but it’s steep enough that a thin layer of ice will prohibit our vehicles from reaching the top of the drive, causing us to have to slide back down, as we pray that we can move the car out of the way enough to not block other vehicles from reaching the neighbor’s house. We then must cautiously attempt to walk up the dangerous terrain!

Why did we ever buy such a property, you ask? Because, in our excitement to have the many other “good” qualities of this property, we erroneously(or stupidly) believed that owning a snowplow already for our then business would uniquely qualify us to be able to care for our own plowing needs. Five winters, (the first one In which I quickly abandoned all hope in the truck we owned), and four snow plowers later, we’re no better off. We’re either waiting for the plow guy, waiting for a thaw, or throwing caution to the wind and sliding sideways down our drive in an attempt to get our kids to school on time. Yes, and winter has barely even arrived yet!

So back to Alec Baldwin, (who I also love in his character on 30 ROCK), and my love for Words with Friends… I truly am thankful. I may be an addict, and I may be a bit over the top when I try to maintain 7 or 8 games with various people simultaneously, but I’m keeping my mind active, warding off Alzheimer’s, even if it’s only imaginary, and I’ve got virtual company to pass my boring days while I search for a job. It could be worse, I could be addicted to something stupid like The Sims! Please, I have enough drama around me in real life!

So, with a month between my last post and this, I can tell you that I’ve learned that in the Yuan Dynasty, surrounded by my cortege, I might savor tea from quays but probably not from a padouk while I ponder the grok of life and may measure it in okas and pay for it in jias to a yenta while I learn to skate a triple lutz! What have you learned this month?


	

Changing Tides and Good Tidings!

My youngest children, my twins, turned 10 last week. I don’t believe that I’d thoroughly prepared for that milestone as it had gotten shuffled between the craziness of life, sports, school schedules and the harried holiday season. Sure, I’d remembered presents but it has always been a flurry of gift-buying at this time anyway for the large family and extended family, so it wasn’t like I was totally unprepared. It was more an emotional wake-up to no longer having kids under 10, which put me in a different parent category. It may just be in my paranoid mind, but there seems to be less sympathy for parents who have older kids vs. younger. It’s as if other parents think that we somehow lose our memory of how hard those years were and that we can’t possibly “really know” what parents of toddlers are going through. Again, maybe just my imagination,but as a parent of twins, let me tell you that those young years are indelibly etched in my mind!

At ten years old, the gifts have moved quite a ways from crafts and toys, to clothes  and whatever’s new in electronics. When we had the family birthday party, minus both of the older sisters for the first time in their lives, it was different, for sure. There were 4 minor things for them to each open, one after another of mostly clothes that they had picked out themselves. Before they had received their main present, my wife decided to play a bit of what seemed like emotional torture on them as she asked our daughter if she had a nice birthday. “Yes,” she beamed, which made me even more uncomfortable for her. What if she was secretly hoping for something she hadn’t gotten but was afraid to seem disappointed? I could wait no longer and instructed their 12 yr. old sister to fetch their surprises. I had worked hard to find them both gently used iPod touches on eBay, outfitted them with new cases, and wrapped them up tightly and repeatedly so that the suspense would be prolonged. The excitement and surprise were beyond my imagination and their thankfulness made me proud. Of course they were from both my wife and I, but I also knew that electronics aren’t her thing, so the blissful time then (in my mind) would probably not last long(in hers)!

Several days later and we’ve got app addicts. After we give them a week to work out their excitement, they will need them confiscated every day before school, before meals, and before bed. They may even go to a reward system sign-out sheet if after a week this drug-like desire does not wane. “No, I do not want to FaceTime with you while I’m making dinner.” “Yes, I’m an adult, when you get to be an adult you can take your itouch into the bathroom with you too, but right now, it stays out here!” And, “yes, I’m coming up to put you to bed soon but just let me finish down here before you text me again!!” We’ve created monsters. A new generation of soon-to-be adults who will no longer be able to communicate without abbreviating!

Ten years ago, on the day that my wife gave birth to our twins, the most vivid memory that I have was in the pre-dawn hours when she woke me to say that her water had broken and she was in labor. We were ready with a bag packed and contingency plans in place for our then 2.5 yr-old who was asleep upstairs, but we had not planned on a snowstorm that night. I got up like a flash, ascertained that my wife was capable of getting ready to leave by herself, and dressed to go out and get the car warmed up. At no time the previous day were there warnings of an impending snowfall, so imagine my surprise when I opened the garage door to see at least 8 inches of white stuff blocking our exit. I quickly ran back into the house to tell my wife, call the neighbors for help, and to quiet my panic. No answer across the street. No other friends would be able to get to the house to assist unless they had a plow. Did we have a plow company to call? I didn’t handle that job, my wife did. I didn’t want to panic her… “Honey, I’m just going to go back out and shovel us out a bit.” “No, it’s not bad. I’ll be done lickedy split!”

I returned to the task, which seemed insurmountable at the time, but resigned myself to making quick work and getting to the hospital safely. I surely didn’t want to deliver them at home and knowing that a C-section was pending gave even more fury to my shoveling!

As I looked down the street, my eyes seemed to be playing tricks on me. I saw one golden light haloed by the falling snow. It was moving towards me ever so slowly, quietly, but coming nearer until I could see the outline of some sort of tractor. It was our new plow person, a farmer, apparently, who my wife had just the day before arranged to plow us that winter! I didn’t know him then, but he will be forever known as our angel who guided us by plowing the entire 2 miles to the main road. We still don’t know how and why he was there at that time with that singular purpose, but we are grateful that our treasured spirits were watching out for us and got the message to him!

We attended the annual family Christmas at my in-laws the other night. It has been a zoo every year for 16 of the years I’ve attended as the 8 children, 24 grandchildren(probably more…) and increasing numbers of grand kids and great nieces/nephews under 3 were underfoot in the small house. It seems that every year at this festivity, we mark the day with the memory of one who is no longer with us. It is a reminder to me of my own pending mortality as I imagine the day when these new parents will be seasoned parents and maybe even grandparents, mourning the passing of us middle-agers.

New babies arrive, older relatives die, and the cycle goes on. At the other end of the spectrum, my wife’s dad, who in his mid-eighties is the oldest and the patriarch of the family. He has been spiralling downhill in the last year and will likely be the next to go. The loss of a friend or relative near a special holiday or occasion seems to leave a permanent damper on one’s soul. I/we could use to get through this season with no more sorrow to add to an already emotion-filled time.

As the Christian holiday approaches, and those who are religious as well as those of us who either practice another religion or cling to the residual effects of an upbringing laden with spiritual overtones, I hope that we can all remember the joy as well as the memory of those who have passed and who will forever be in our hearts!

Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanza, Mele Kalikimaka!

Thanks, for What?

I was thinking today, with Thanksgiving coming up, that this is a time that I often reflect on what I’m thankful for. I can give you all of my cheesy answers, my family, my health, a great life…but I’m having trouble today, getting images out of my head, ones that no one could be thankful for. My son saw the news this morning and said “mommy, this police officer just sprayed pepper spray at these people!” Why would he do that?”

Why…

What could he have been thinking before he did such a thing? Did he think that passive protesters, sitting peacefully on the ground, arms linked and silent posed a danger to him? Was there ever any violence that would have prompted such a response? Had he ever personally been sprayed with pepper spray and if so, was it so benign that he would equate it with the way he would spray the ground around his house to protect against ants? Are passive protesters like pests, just there to damage “his” precious domain that he has vowed to serve and protect? Is he even a real police person or law enforcement officer or just a guy with a uniform? Does he have a daughter or a son and would he want them to be subjected to such a punishment for no harm done to anyone?

I have been sickened and extremely saddened by such overt displays of power and injustice. Whether you agree with the 99%’ers or not, such an act is despicable and wrong.

What did I say to my child? “Yes, it’s awful. And it’s wrong!”  What else could I say?

So THANKS for all of the budget cuts that are forcing people to ignite the fire that lies within! If the politicians in Washington can’t get it together to find cuts in our budget that don’t further affect the poor,  and find ways to raise revenue by making the rich pay their fair share, the rich will continue to get richer while more and more of the 99% get poorer. How long until we find some common sense and morals in this country? How many more people need to die because they can’t get medical help for problems that a one-time congress person’s “government-run” insurance policy would cover for the rest of their lives?

Luckily, in this age of technology, those of us who may not have the time, energy, guts, or gumption to join the 99%’ers in person, still have ways to respond to the cause. Propelling the news of injustices, personal stories, responses by politicians and law enforcement is important. Facebook, email blasts, twitter, blogging and any other way of sharing is vital to keeping these issues alive and energized. This isn’t a fringe movement. It is reality, so please help do your part. None of us is immune from the ramifications of losing anymore funding. If it doesn’t affect us directly, it will certainly affect a friend or loved one. Now is the time to continue to energize the movement to highlight these discrepancies. It’s awful, and it’s wrong!

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