Wednesday, April 15, 2015

The Mirror

I have never written poetry. I do not know the rules or the format or the syntax. Forgive me.

I see you
Face so fair
Body growing strong

I listen to you
The words are confident
Some of them a smoke screen
Covering a softness undetectable to most

I hear you
Sounds meant to strike
A false front is there
But only a few can detect the pain

I feel the sturdy exterior
Anger wells up too frequently
It seeks a target with uncanny precision
But it is acrimony young and misplaced

Grit is innate
Along with tenacity
No obstacle exists in the idyllic universe
All desires are achievable

Sensitivities are concealed
The extrovert always in front
Popular and amazing you are
Intellect and cunning together

The swings are epic
The capacity to love and be loved enormous
Fierce instincts to protect thyself lie in wait
It can feel like an abyss

Prodigiousness is not subtle
It comes at a wonderful price
Perhaps it is a privilege to share the space
With such a soul

I see you
The mirror is there always
I know you all too well

Monday, April 13, 2015

Swirling This Way and That

Oldest Son at the DMV ... the one in the grey baseball sweatshirt and white socks ... just moments from a life changing moment: the legal right to get behind the wheel of a car.
We are walking beside our teenage boys while standing back at the exact same time. How is this even possible?

The last few weeks seem to be an avalanche of teen life.
  • Oldest Son turned 15 and Youngest Son turned 13
  • Oldest Son showed his kid side by having a rollicking bubble soccer birthday celebration
  • Youngest Son showed his grown up side by choosing a girl/boy fondue birthday dinner party
  • Oldest Son got his Driving Learners Permit by barely passing the test
  • Youngest Son's Bar Mitzvah for early June (2015!)was changed from Israel to Lake Tahoe
  • Oldest Son made choices for sophomore year that make us both proud and anxious for him 
  • Youngest Son has presented us with interactions forcing us to rethink our parenting paradigm; he will ensure we become our best parenting selves for sure
  • Oldest Son has faced some tough decisions and responsibilities square on showing a maturing young man
  • Youngest Son is working with an organizational tutor (other than his mom - go figure) to help him make sense of deadlines, papers, projects gearing up in Middle School
  • Oldest Son is playing baseball
  • Youngest Son is playing select soccer AND lacrosse with the craziness of rescheduled rain outs
  • Oldest Son's mid-trimester comments made us smile because teachers are seeing his intellectual, direct self while also picking up on his humor 
  • Youngest Son is acting in an Upper School play with a lesbian theme (go diversity!)
  • Both boys tried out for the Maccabi Games (think Jewish Junior Olympics); Oldest Son will play 16U baseball and Noah will play 14U soccer 
  • Both boys started with a new Spanish tutor and there seems to be mutual admiration between students and teacher (the boys have worked with an amazing tutor since our return from Mexico to maintain their fluency)
Commuter Husband and I have been recalibrating how we manage all the above and the heightened emotional noise in our life from both the normal teen issues and the new challenges that are real and all around. For example, I attended a disturbing yet enlightening school meeting about teenage addictions to drugs and alcohol. I am still processing that whole topic. At the other end of the spectrum are conversations about colleges and SATs. Fill in the middle with all the other teen topics.

And we have hit a place where being a Commuter Family in two cities is an extra layer of hard.

So I am reading "Yes, Your Teen is Crazy! Loving Your Kid Without Losing Your Mind" by Michael J. Bradley. Books help me. Books are my friends. This Book is changing my parenting approach. It is tough but I am determined. 

This resonated from the Book:
" ... try to become comfortable with a new and uncomfortable parenting concept: Your goal is not to create perfect adolescent behavior. This is not possible, anyway. Your goal is to build unprecedented parenting skills so you can respond with discipline, strength, and love to your kid's imperfect behaviors in order to inoculate him against the greater insanities awaiting him in the world."

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Adventure Rabbi: Post #1

Youngest Son's study materials
I have added a new label to my blog: Adventure Rabbi

Commuter Family was planning a return trip to Israel for Noah's Bar Mitzvah. However, we have changed directions. I sent this out via email today:


Hi All,
We have had an exciting change of plans for Youngest Son's Bar Mitzvah. We have decided not to go to Israel in June this year - we are disappointed but anticipate going at a future time.

We will be celebrating Youngest Son's Bar Mitzvah on June 11th on a mountain in South Lake Tahoe, CA! 
Pretty sure it will include a hike too :)

Rabbi Evon who lives in South Lake Tahoe will be helping Noah and conducting the service. We are excited that Youngest Son's Temple Emanu-El Tutor will continue assisting Youngest Son with his Hebrew studies. If you are curious about Adventure Rabbi – more info here:

We know all of you will be with us in spirit and love. However, if any of you want to be there or will be hanging out in California around June 11th then you are welcome to join us on the Mountain Top.

Feel free to pass this along or share the news with any one that has been a part of Youngest Son's 13 years. 

We wish all of you a Happy Passover or Happy Easter or a relaxing weekend!

We are excited to explore this new and progressive approach to Judaism with Adventure Rabbi. I will capture our thoughts as we go ...

Already it has been a new kind of experience. Last Friday afternoon, I submitted on online request to Adventure Rabbi to explore options for Youngest Son's Bar Mitzvah. Since then I have been on the phone with Rabbi Jamie Korngold (Adventure Rabbi founder) twice and exchanged 11 emails. One week later, we have a fully approved Bar Mitzvah plan with Rabbi Evon and I signed a contract for the June 11th service in South Lake Tahoe. Every decision and every discussion has been about meeting Youngest Son needs and making this important Jewish experience one that fits Youngest Son and our family. All this with Passover starting tomorrow!

Next Wednesday Youngest Son will schedule his 10 virtual sessions with Rabbi Evon. I will start working on logistics. And we will have this amazing opportunity to continue defining our Judiasm and learning about this synagogue without walls.

In that spirit, here is your invitation without envelopes, stamps or formal RSVPs. If you want to join, please do. Really.

CLICK HERE FOR VIDEO - 1.5 minutes

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Teen Days Are Here

I have sat with the blank screen in front of me for several minutes. I am not sure how to write about a topic in which I likely have nothing new to add: living with a teenager. Mothering teens is the same and different for all of us. It is a journey of giant highs and crushing lows and everything in between.

Of all my difficult journeys, this one may be the toughest thus far.

  • I need more patience which is laughable. Patience is something I have never had much of and it seems to lessen as I age. 
  • I like control - very much. Not sure whether to laugh or cry on this one because the battle for control is ON but the winning move is when I no longer need to be in control. This sentence may need to be read a few times to process.
  • I like to think about problems and solutions in a linear fashion. Laugh Out Loud! Teenager and linear thinking do not belong in the same sentence.
  • I am incredibly self-aware. However, that does not prevent me from making mistakes. It feels like an out of body experience. I see exactly what is happening and am often helpless to stop the motion.

This week has brought tremendous pride, mounting frustration, too many tears, genuine smiles, long-awaited break throughs, disappointing set backs, unwanted confusion, moments of clarity - notice a pattern of infinite fluctuations?

So today I am comforted by this quote:

"The women whom I love and admire for their strength and grace did not get that way because shit worked out. They got that way because shit went wrong, and they handled it. They handled it in a thousand different ways on a thousand different days, but they handled it. Those women are my superheroes."
- Elizabeth Gilbert 

Happy Teen Moment: Oldest Son turns 15 years old with our traditional breakfast in bed. Yes there is that awful syrup in which the males in my family keep bringing into the house! There is organic in the cabinet - I swear!

Sunday, March 22, 2015

An Aria of a Different Kind

What I woke up to on Valentines ...
 Commuter Husband and I celebrate 20 years of marriage in 2015. This morning our affair of the heart took a turn ...

As I awoke from a good night's rest, Commuter Husband says with both exasperation and humor "You had a snoring aria last night!"

And I groan loudly because no girl wants to snore! It is so unbecoming. I, of course, have no clue that I snore because I obviously cannot tell while I am sleeping.

I did say with sincerity to my sleepless Commuter Husband "You can go sleep elsewhere in the house when that happens, it is okay."

Commuter Husband responds sweetly and with a smile "I am gone all week and I want to sleep with you on the weekends." (and we really mean sleep here - really)

That is the definition of romance in my book.

Still the One by Orleans (CLICK HERE)
My valentines card to Commuter Husband was one of those play the tune cards ... Still the One!

Saturday, March 21, 2015


Gloomy weather gives us one more March day with fireplace ... so soothing to me ...
Back to Blogging ... The Scene: Fire crackling in new black granite fireplace, Oldest Son in Atlanta for 1st & 2nd Year National Debate Championships, Youngest Son & Commuter Husband in kitchen making Cauliflower "Polenta" with Mushrooms listening to 70s tunes discussing shallots and rosemary and Queen, Billy Joel and Journey songs and I am at my Apple writing ... 

I was driving home from Fort Worth after closing out my Granny's bank account; it was surreal and awful. I was reflecting on my relationship with Granny and my Sister-in-Law too. Death had ended my worldly relationships with them. Both of these women were troubled souls. Consequently, I had very defined boundaries with both that allowed me to interact with them at an acceptable level of turmoil. Boundaries are the chief tool in my survivor's mentality. My childhood was chaotic and unstable thus my survivor skills are fine tuned. My boundaries with Granny and my Sister-in-Law had existed for many years. And by many, I mean twenty plus years. How was that possible? How had so many years seeped by?

As I drove down that highway, I started to contemplate ALL my boundaries. I started a list. I was truly surprised as I realized just how many people for whom I had created my own personal rules of interaction. The next shocker was how long many of these boundaries had been in place.

The boundaries were necessary. I am not sorry I established any of them. Boundaries are healthy and appropriate for certain relational situations.

However, my epiphany is that not all boundaries require a lifetime application. The boundary I may have needed at age 30 is not the same when I am about to turn 50. People evolve. Circumstances change. Life is finite. I am now safe and loved unconditionally.

Methodically I started a risk analysis of each person and the associated boundary. I literally thought through each of the impacts of opening up myself and my family. Since that time I have made phone calls and opened doors. I still try to maintain a "expect nothing, appreciate what I get" guiding principle. Hey, I am not ready to abandon premises that have keep me emotionally stable (for the most part anyway.)

The results are positive ... so far. Reconnecting is good for me and great for Oldest Son and Youngest Son. Relationships are the most interesting and important part of living. They can change in an instant ...
The Teen Relationship is in full force with Youngest Son. APPRECIATE listening to Commuter Husband and Youngest Son spend the afternoon banter about cooking and music - their shared passions ...

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Social Media Break - Feb 17, 2015

Too much. I need a change. I need to catch up or least feel like I am moving forward.

I need to get back to meaningful human interaction with real voices and faces. Perhaps it is a generational thing.

I enjoy the "keeping up with others" part of Facebook but I need a break from looking at that iPhone screen so much.

I love to blog write. I like to think. I enjoying sharing ideas. I thrive on the writing process. So I will come back to writing and perhaps it will be in the blogosphere.

I need to overcome "death by email." I have many thousands of emails in each of my four accounts. Always.

That is a whole lot of "I" statements.

Bye for now ...

Sunday, January 25, 2015

A Love Letter ... Sort of ...

In 2015 ...
  • I will celebrate my 50th birthday as well as many of my closest friends
  • Our Youngest Son turns 13 thus we will officially have two teenagers in the house
  • Commuter Husband and I will mark being married for 20 years
  • After four tough years, we are hoping for good health and happiness 

And in 2015 I find myself, dare I say it, falling in love with my Commuter Husband ... again. Marriage is not linear for most people, it weaves this way and that, and many have a moment when they choose whether stay on the twisted path ... or not. 

Commuter Husband and I have tested our vows these last four years:
  • be true in good times and bad
  • for better
  • for worse
  • for richer
  • for poorer
  • in sickness and in health
I have found love to be the most important thing after all. The love will be there when kids are gone and the body ages and death invades our lives too frequently. Loving someone should be simple but it is complex and textured .. at least for me.

Commuter Husband and I have both been brought to tears by Ed Sheeran's song Thinking Out Loud. 
And so the music gives voice to our emotions ...

Thinking Out Loud Lyrics

When your legs don't work like they used to before
And I can't sweep you off of your feet
Will your mouth still remember the taste of my love
Will your eyes still smile from your cheeks

And darling I will be loving you 'til we're 70
And baby my heart could still fall as hard at 23 (well actually 30 for me)
And I'm thinking 'bout how people fall in love in mysterious ways
Maybe just the touch of a hand
Oh me I fall in love with you every single day
And I just wanna tell you I am

So honey now
Take me into your loving arms
Kiss me under the light of a thousand stars
Place your head on my beating heart
I'm thinking out loud
Maybe we found love right where we are

When my hair's all but gone and my memory fades
And the crowds don't remember my name
When my hands don't play the strings the same way, mm
I know you will still love me the same

'Cause honey your soul can never grow old, it's evergreen
Baby your smile's forever in my mind and memory

I'm thinking 'bout how people fall in love in mysterious ways
Maybe it's all part of a plan
I'll just keep on making the same mistakes
Hoping that you'll understand

But baby now
Take me into your loving arms
Kiss me under the light of a thousand stars
Place your head on my beating heart
I'm thinking out loud
That maybe we found love right where we are, oh

So baby now
Take me into your loving arms
Kiss me under the light of a thousand stars
Oh darling, place your head on my beating heart
I'm thinking out loud
That maybe we found love right where we are

Oh maybe we found love right where we are
And we found love right where we are


Sunday, December 28, 2014

Leaving Kentucky

Talented Niece #1 draws Commuter Family on Crayola Drawing Board.
We are driving out of Kentucky Sunday morning. We had a truly wonderful holiday week with Brother, Nephew, Niece #1 and Niece #2. One of the complexities of living life after losing a loved one is feeling happy AND dealing with grief at the exact same time.

Christmas Eve day included the endearing smells and activities of preparing a holiday dinner:
- Fragrant cooked onions for Commuter Husband's family favorite dressing 
- Pumpkin pies prepared by Youngest Son and Niece #2 with my help
- Greenberg Turkey carved and plated by Brother
- Cranberries simmering with sugar and orange zest
- A table set with Christmas China and holiday napkins

Niece #1 and Niece #2 lit the new Advent Wreath candles and we shared a lovely Christmas Eve dinner. Then the kids opened one gift each as has been their tradition. 

We prepared for Santa next as Brother's family had done for many years. Niece #2 helped me make the sugar cookie dough and Niece #1 rolled it out between floured sheets of parchment paper. Both Nieces and Youngest Son used Christmas cookie cutters to create cookies for Santa. Niece #2 set out oats decorated with colorful sprinkles for the reindeer. And off to bed for Niece #2 so Santa could arrive!

The evening took some new turns as well. Brother, Commuter Husband and I organized gifts and wrapped those that went under the tree. Niece #1 (age 13) and Youngest Son (age 12) snuck downstairs to help us complete the preparations. And Elf on the Shelf was busy creating a hilarious scavenger hunt while Santa finished building a Green Machine. The whole crew finished by 2am or so - whew!

Christmas Day was spent in our holiday PJs opening gifts, playing board games and fierce competition in 42 (dominoes.) Nephew lit the Advent Wreath candles including the final special white candle. That evening we peeled off our comfy PJs and went to the movie, Into the Woods. 
Gift from Santa for Niece #2 - the purple Green Machine!
Playing Family Challenge while drinking hot chocolate
We were there at 1900 hours. I loved it but musicals are not a favorite for all.
It was about this time that family bonding took an unexpected turn. Nephew had been diagnosed with flu on Christmas Eve and Brother had not felt well either. Within 24 hours, five of us were running a fever and on Tamiflu. Only Niece #1 remained symptom free. Friday was spent sleeping, popping pills and watching television - oh my.

On Saturday, we managed to get to Louisville Sluggers Museum and Factory which was an interesting factory tour and we got free souvenir minibats! Commuter Husband's and Oldest Son's energy level faded quickly so they went back to Fort Knox afterwards. The rest of us played Laser Tag where Niece #2 and Youngest Son were victorious - SO fun! Back at the house, our last night was a late one playing spades and more 42 - not sure any of us wanted the week to end.
Arcade fun between Laser Tag games - Nieces and Brother.
Bats and smiles for all ... Well except Nephew who stayed home with sick girlfriend.
And now it is Sunday morning which brings me back to the complexity of this time. Throughout the week, I know that my late sister-in-law was constantly in my thoughts and there were tearful moments. Driving away, my heavy heart is back as I think of Brother's journey to lead his family to healing. I wish we lived next door or the same town or the same state. Thank G-d they will they will be moving permanently to Stephenville, TX next July.

My Brother is the bravest, strongest person I know. My heart beats with his every minute of every day.
Together Family Strong.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

8th Night in Fort Knox

Shortly after midnight, we arrived at Fort Knox, Kentucky for the first time. Brother and Nieces waited up for us while Nephew was running a fever in his attic bedroom. We unloaded our belongings and holiday gifts into this different house but exceedingly familiar contents. I could feel my late sister-in-law everywhere. Heavy heart was exactly the right description for my grief manifesting itself both physically and emotionally.

Then today began. Oatmeal and coffee was delivered to me by my sweet Commuter Husband while I finished a conference call. By late morning, we were out the door to make the trek to Mammoth Cave. We enjoyed our outing together but the cave itself was disappointing (hard to beat NM Carlsbad Caverns and TX Sonoma Caves spelunking.)

And then the 8th Night of Chanukah arrives! And the eve of Christmas Eve!
Tonight's gifts were worth every penny! Who does not love footie PJs?
Our 8th night reflected many of the traditional happenings: Commuter Husband frying latkes, Brother laying out the meats for dinner, kids playing dreidels and me reading the Chanukah story.
A double frying method employed by Commuter Husband. He first cooks in the skillet and then drops into pan for a deep fry crunch. They were great served with apple sauce and sour cream! 
Niece #1 was a mighty dreidel spinner. Niece #2 was concerned about losing her gelt! 
We kindled very special lights tonight. The five Chanukiah we transported included the unique and artsy black iron one given to us many years ago by my brother's late wife. We also lit the Advent Wreath candles given this year to my brother's family by the wise and caring Aunt D in Waco. Aunt D is my late sister-in-law's sister.  What a lovely way to respect our interfaith families and introduce a new tradition ...
Shimmering lights of the Christmas Tree, the Chanukah candles and the Advent Wreath.
We are a colorful crew this year! And we are Together.