I’ve always loved the snow. I’ve written about winter many times and by now you should have a pretty good idea that it is by far my favorite season of the year. I’m not sure why it so gently pulls on my heart-strings but when I see the snow falling to the ground it always takes me back to a time long ago. My childhood.
Growing up in South Bend, IN, there was always an abundance of snow from November through February. Sometimes even into March. The snow was always piled high everywhere you went. It lined the streets and highways, which back then were mainly two-laned. It covered bushes and tree branches and lined yards throughout our neighborhood. Which in the winter would morph into a snowy blanket of soft white. A true winter wonderland.
It’s the beginning of March. March 3rd. As I sit in my cozy, warm kitchen looking out through the ceiling to floor window lined walls that surround me, snow if gently falling to the ground. It’s a very light snowfall. A snowfall that movies are made of. The ground is already blanketed and the grass is covered. So, the snow falling now is the icing on the cake.
As I look out at it and write, something catches my attention out of the corner of my eye. I turn to look at the tall evergreens that line the entire side of our yard and spot a bright red cardinal. It spot’s my movement as I walk over to the glass door. I stand there for a moment and look at it. Soaking in its beauty. It turns its head and from where I stand, it seems to be looking back at me. paralyzed. Both of us are completely still. We continue to spy each other for a few moments. And then, just like that, it fly’s off. I watch it as it quickly streaks through the sky. Over the top of the neighboring homes. Over the tops of the trees. Into the sky. And then just like that, it’s gone again.
It’s been said that when you see a cardinal, it’s a sign of someone you’ve loved and lost coming back to visit you. Last month marked two years since I lost my beautiful mom. Taken from us all so suddenly and too soon. I’ve written about her Here and Here. And, she’s sprinkled all throughout my blog.
Not a day goes by that I don’t think about her and miss her. She was the reason I started to write. Well, one of the reasons. My dear friend Bonnie, who I wrote about Here – was the person who encouraged me to start writing. But it was my mom who was my biggest cheerleader. She would say to me, “Peggy, you need to write a book. I’ll be your publicist!” And then we’d laugh about it together. Over the phone. If it was in the morning, we’d laugh together while on the phone and chat over a pot of coffee. If it was in the evening, we’d spend our long distance time together over the phone, both with wine in hand.
She was such a treasure to me. I realize that not everyone in this world is blessed to have a true friendship with their family, but I was given the special blessing of camaraderie with my Mom. We had a very special bond. I miss her deeply.
So, the red cardinal came to visit me today. As we sat there, frozen in time, looking at one another, I could hear the distant voice in my heart of my mom speaking to me – “Peggy, here’s that beautiful snowfall you love so much.”
Last year, just about this time, I surprised Clark with a puppy. It was a spur of the moment decision on my part to go out and get him (against the wishes of my dear, sweet hubs.) I saw no reason not to adopt a four-legged, fury friend into the family. My hubs could think of many reasons to just keep things they way they were. In the end, I decided to just go against his reasoning and take the plunge. So, I went out and adopted Duncan, our adorable 12 month old Puggle. And for that reason, I take full responsibility of my faithful companion.
Now nothing makes Duncan’s tail wag faster than knowing he is going for a car ride. If the destination at the end of that ride is anywhere near a park or woods, he is in heaven.
One of the most appealing things about living in Palos Park is that you are centered amid the forest preserves of Cook County. There are acres and acres of recreational land and open space where millions of visitors and residents alike can take advantage of hiking, biking, fishing, canoeing or simply relaxing and taking in the wonders of nature. And, spending time with their dogs on walks or hikes.
My youngest son, Brian, has been trying to convince me for the past 6 months that the preserves are by far a better place to go with Duncan than just taking him on our usual walks around the neighborhood. I’ve been reluctant to heed his advice because frankly, I’m with the little pooch all day long and have come to learn about his deep streak of stubbornness. In short, we have trust issues. I’m not so sure he’d stick close to me or would come if he got too far away and I called him.
Now, this past week, it was unusually warm for this time of year. I found myself standing at the sliding glass door looking out over what I had hoped was the end of the frigid, Chicago weather. It was gorgeous outside. The sky was clear blue. I looked down at my puppy who was sitting next to my feet, looking back and forth between his outdoor playground and up at me. His tail would wag every time our eyes met. It was as if he was speaking to me through his big brown eyes. In the back of my mind I could hear my son’s voice – “take him to the woods.”
And so, I did.
I changed into my hiking boot and grabbed his leash and off we went. He bounded into the backseat of the car as if he knew where we were going. His tail was wagging furiously as he pranced from one window to the other, back and forth, all the way until we got to our destination.
When we pulled into one of Palos Park’s many beautiful forest preserves, I parked the car and grabbed his leash. I held it in my hand rather than attaching it to his collar, as Brian had encouraged, opened the back door of the car and out Duncan bound. He stayed close by my side, walking briskly through the parking lot and over the attached opened field, his nose to the ground the entire way – sniffing as if his life depended on it.
We took the path that wound along the tree line as far as we could see. It eventually disappeared into the woods – and so did we. And here, this was the spot that Duncan felt free. He started to run. He ran along the ravine, jumping over felled trees and their stumps and through the thick patches of roots and brush. I was walking at a brick pace behind him. He’d get just so far ahead of me, stop to look and make sure I was still there, and then wait for me. As I would catch up, he’d begin this routine again. He’d race down hills and then back up again, huffing and puffing and panting. Always keeping his eye on me to make sure I was there.
I was amazed! I Loved it! And, I knew he did too. It was beautiful out and so peaceful in the woods. There were leaves matted all along the forest floor and winding trickles of streams. If you stopped and listened carefully, you could hear the sounds of forest life all around you. I felt invigorated! And, Alive! And like, Pioneer Woman! Yes! I was keeping up and hiking deep into the forest and through muddy underbrush – (very unlike me!) I quickly discovered that I loved this part of Palos and wandering freely all through this peaceful, beautiful setting. It was a glorious afternoon.
Soon it was time to turn around and head back. So we did. Back along the ravines and the hills. Back over the felled trees and muddy earth. Duncan led the way, I followed.
When we got back to the car, he hopped up into the front seat as if he felt he had somehow earned that place today. I walked around to my side of the car, got in, opened up the windows of the stuffy car, turned on the ignition and slowly pulled out of the parking lot. We were hot and dirty. My shoes had mud on them. He had dirt all over his fur. And, I was sorry to see our time in the woods come to an end. It had been such a great first experience together out there.
I looked over at Duncan. He was standing sideways on the passenger seat, head sticking out the half-opened window. His ears were flying back in the wind. His big gummy lips were flapping in the breeze. His tail was wagging.
I smiled to myself as we headed down the road towards home. I thought back to the time one year ago almost to the day when I went against Clark’s wishes and brought home our new family member. I knew deep in my heart that my decision was the best one. And, Nope, not a single day had gone by since that decision where either of us have regretted adding him to our family tree.
My life has recently taken a 360 degree about-face. It went from spending every spare moment I could squeeze out of my day on writing, to journaling 24/7. Some might say that those are the same thing. I’m here to tell you that they are very, very different.
Think of journaling as the reader’s digest version of writing. It focuses strictly on the peaks and valley’s of your day, month or year. I stumbled upon this creative art form while lurking and posting on Instagram – (one of the very many addictions and time soaks of my day.)
In last month’s post I touched on this new fascination of mine. I mentioned that I had started an Etsy Shop at this address – Journal Creations – where you could view and purchase my lovely planners and journal books. <— another shameless plug.
I did not, however, mention at that time that some people consider it a place of online popularity as well as very competitive and highly lucrative business opportunities. I ignorantly neglected to mention this fact because until recently, I was not aware of it. I mean, c’mon! How was I to know that there were people out there looking to get rich off of the idea of planning and journaling those very special moments of your life. I was clueless to the fact that there were women slinkinkg around the dark corners of the internet, keeping their ever watchful eye on the total number of their competitor’s “Instagram likes & views” and growing online presence. Apparently, it’s a cardinal sin to rise above someone else’s popularity who happens to be peddling the same wares as you. Once someone rises to top spot of queen bee on IG, they plan on settling in and staying there come hell or high water. (Sheeeeesh – I had a lot to learn.)
I became personally aware of this nasty side of the competitive nature of Etsy Shop owners last month. I was logging into my account feed to see if anyone had noticed anything that I had posted since late the night before when my eyes about popped out of my head. I could not believe what I was seeing on my ever so virginal feed. Someone had not only posted rude comments directly under one of my journal photo’s, but also, viciously abusive remarks as well. I sat dazed and a little offended and surprised. Did this kind of stuff seriously exist? Was it an acceptable and normal practice for an online community to speak to each other in this fashion?
I got a creepy feeling. I looked over my shoulder as if I was being watched. I could feel my heart start to race a bit. Looking back at the screen, I reread the vicious words again hoping that I had misunderstood their meaning the first time.
Nope. I had not misunderstood. There they were staring me in the face. And, if that wasn’t bad enough, they were big and bold because just that morning I had changed my usual discreet font to the more popular Comic Sans Size 12 Bold Font.
What in the world? I again looked over my shoulder. Then quickly up at the small dot of a camera on my laptop screen. I wondered if I should cover it up with some thick masking tape in case the culprit was somehow spying on me. (And, if they were, did I look all skewed and bow faced like you see on TV when someone is peeping at someone through a peephole in a door??)
My first instinct was to quickly log out of my account, turn off my pc and hide it under something heavy… ( like my hubby’s fully lined arctic suit which he keeps in the back of the basement closet in case we ever get stuck in a blizzard and can’t get out of the house and he has to trudge slowly across the neighborhood through the chest high snow for milk and bread…..)
Oh this was ridiculous. This new journaling interest of mine was just a little hobby I had become interested in doing during my free time. The last thing on my mind was that I’d suddenly become rich and famous and the bread-winner of our humble household because of my popular online presence and business talents. Sheesh!
I was no online newbie with my head in the sand. I had heard all about online confrontations and these kind of unpleasant things happening. I wanted no part of some foul-mouthed, super scary cyber world, popular wanna-be. I didn’t want some online tough guy (or, in this case, tough girl) finding out where I lived. Or worse yet, muddying up my good online fake name to all of my online virtual fake named friends whom I’ve never seen or met or talked to and probably never would!
So, I ended up doing what most middle-aged women would do who found themselves in this unsettling situation. I called my hubs.
Me: sounding a little sulky – “…hi clark….”
Hubs: loud, hectic noises in the background – “Hey, honey bunny!!”
(Hurray! That salutation was a sure sign that he was in a good mood. Otherwise I would have gotten a distracted grunt.)
Me: still sulking – “….are you busy?”
Hubs: “Nope, I was just thinking about what to have for lunch”
(It was only 9:30am)
Me: silence & a little annoyed that he did not notice the distress in my voice.
Me: continued silence and a big sigh
Hubs: “Is everything ok?”
(Ding ding ding!!! OK, that was better. Now we were getting somewhere.)
I went into every gory detail of what had turned my usual happy morning coffee and online lurking time into an unpleasant experience. I told him about how nervous the entire incident had made me. I told him that I was going to give up painting and journaling forever because there was an online bully that was after me!
He listened intently and gave a audible sigh of relief realizing that this time it was not him that I was perturbed with this time.
After I finished relaying all the gruesome facts to him, he scoffed. He told me that the entire thing was uncalled for. He said that the online browbeater was out of line! And then, for good measure, he tossed in that if he found out who it was, he was going to kick their ass for upsetting me! (My hero!!)
I felt better about the situation after emptying my troubled soul to Clark. He called me frequently in the next few hours to make sure I was ok. I think he was so relieved that he was not the subject of my dismay (this time)…that he went full on caveman.
That evening when he got home, we looked into it together. And, together we found out that the source of the online intimidation was a loud mouthed, 20-year-old punk who was trying to get me to walk away from what was sure to be heavy competition for her.
Good Grief!! I was being bullied by a snot nosed 20-year-old? It was laughable! After getting my nerve up and wiping the moisture from my sweaty, nervous palms, I fired back a mildly mature, rather annoyed reply to her through a private message. (After-all, I didn’t want to scare off any of my possible future customers.) I told her to watch her language and attitude. I also told her that I was very sorry if she felt she was the only Etsy shop owner that had the right to sell this type of product, but that I fully intended to continue to sell mine.
Then I cowardly put her on ignore and blocked her from my account. And, wallah!.. just like that, my world was all roses and sunshine again.
I’ve not had any trouble since. My business has grown and the ideas are flying out of my head at a pace faster than I can keep up with.
I think about that bully every now and then. I feel sorry for the youth today. I feel badly about how the virtual world plays such a significant role in their lives. It’s disturbing how caught up in all of this online stuff people get. How they keep track of their “likes”…and how many followers they have…and how well-known they have become to the swarms of people that they don’t even know in real life. It’s sad and disheartening.
Ok, and if I were to be honest with all of you and confess full disclosure, I’d admit that I peek at her account from time to time………..just to make sure I’m more popular than her.
I’ve always had a beef with New Year’s. Not the actual Eve or Day, exactly. But all the other hoopla that surrounds it. There’s that depressing song for starters. It’s so bittersweet. As if you’re supposed to reflect on the could have beens, instead of the thank God there was’s. And then the expectations. Oh, the expectations!
My normal new year routine is to go to the mall when the holidays die down and shop for bargains with the other 2 billion people out there looking for bargains. I bundle up in a lightweight outfit (because lord knows the malls are steaming hot and between that and my menopause, I tend to sweat ) and fight the traffic and the weather and head out.
Because I usually get all kinds of nifty kitchen gadgets and candles and lotions from Clark and the kids, (which I LOVE!) I tend to veer towards the women’s clothing department. Last year (and the year before that and the year before that) I learned a valuable lesson.
I went to the mall (surprise, surprise!). I didn’t need anything, but of course that wasn’t the point. One of my favorite stores was having a “70% off everything in the store!” sale. I shopped myself silly and avoiding the glare of other shoppers waiting in the dressing room line behind me, I stepped in with loads of bargains piled high in my arms.
It wasn’t long before I realized that none of the clothes I chose, fit. I tried on a red dress two sizes too small and stared in the mirror.
Wow, my mom was right! Red really IS my color!! I guess it’s kind of tight, but, it’s still a great price. I could wear this, Yeah! …Or maybe…maybe in May for Mother’s Day it’ll fit…
I closed my eyes.
Stop. Just, Stop.
There’s some insistent force that tells us buying our goal weight outfit will make us feel better, when in fact all it does is make us feel like a pile of crumbled up rice cakes and diet seltzer.
I was 50-something years old, and there was a lesson I needed to finally take to heart.
Dress for the body you have today.
I carefully lined up the five tops, one dress, and two pairs of pants that didn’t fit. In another pile, I placed the one top and one dress that did. I took a deep breath and headed for the register. With only two items.
And yet, in 2016, I want to learn to finally and forever learn to live a healthy lifestyle. I want to lose 20 pounds, instead of celebrating the thousand (this might be a slight exaggeration) I’ve already lost. In 2016, I want to celebrate all of the blessings I’ve been graced with in my life. In 2016 I want to remember that beauty is skin deep and that it’s what’s inside that truly counts.
So I’ve got this fab idea! Maybe instead of focusing on our shortcomings in 2016, why not stand on the mountain top and send echos off into the distance that we are fabulous – Just.The.Way.We.Are. Sound good?
As the Month of November leaves us and December lands on our doorstep, chaos ensues. Busy and hectic days are upon us. It’s hard to find time to sit down for a moment and think, let alone, find the time to pound out a well written blog post.
As is my usual habit, December posts tend to fall by the wayside. This year, rather than taking a small holiday hiatus, I’m going to concentrate on writing just a few original posts. In between those posts, I’ll be sharing articles and essays and interesting tidbits that I run across from a variety of venues.
So, Enjoy!! Take time to savor the month of December. Slow down when you can, look around, open your eyes and really see all that this magical month has to offer.
25 Things Every Woman Should Be Able To Do By Age 25
Here are 25 things you should aim to learn how to do by age 25 — or whenever you get around to it.
1. Negotiate a raise. Women –especially women of color — earn less than their male counterparts If you don’t think you are being paid what you are worth, know how to ask.
2. Whip up a signature drink.Bees Knees, anyone?
3. Give unwelcome news with tact and compassion. There are times when brutal honesty is OK — and times when it is not. Learn the difference, and practice being an effective communicator.
4. Put together furniture. You’ll feel so proud every time you sit on that IKEA sofa that took you three hours, two beers and one private temper tantrum to assemble.
5. Read and think critically. Don’t believe everything you are told. Know how to read between the lines and analyze something for yourself, whether it’s the morning news or someone’s convoluted Facebook post.
6. Spell properly. If you don’t know something, look it up.
7. Be a good houseguest.And for the love of god, write a thank-you note.
8. Understand your finances. No, your student loans won’t magically go away. Yes, you should put money into your 401(k), especially if your company matches it. And so on. Financial literacy isn’t something you learn in school, so you’ll have to take matters into your own hands. It’s worth it.
9. Have fun on your own. Not everyone is built for traveling the world solo, but being able to entertain yourself is a seriously underrated skill.
10. Make at least one simple, nutritious meal.
11. Trust your instincts. Constantly second-guessing yourself is exhausting.
12. Walk away. From a friendship, a job, a relationship, an argument, and anything else that you know in your heart just isn’t right.
13. Advocate for yourself. Ask your doctor for a second opinion if you really think something is wrong. Ask that manspreader to move over so you can sit down. And don’t let anyone steamroll you into making a decision until you’re ready to make it.
14. Perform simple repairs. YouTube will teach you how to sew that button back on or use a power drill to re-hang that badass feminist print.
15. Say “no.” It’s a complete sentence.
16. Cut yourself off when you’ve had enough to drink. Enough said.
17. Stick to a budget.Apps like Mint and You Need A Budget make this easier than ever.
18. Take rejection well. This one is easier said that done, but as Aaliyah famously said: “If at first you don’t succeed, pick yourself up and try again (you can dust it off and try again, try again).”
19. Use the items in your toolbox. Because the days of paying your friends down the hall in beer to hang your pictures are over.
20. Argue without losing your cool. If you can stay logical when you are angry, any conversations you have in the midst of conflict will be far more effective.
21. Speak passably in public. Be prepared for that future work presentation, maid of honor speech or casual toast at a party.
22. Tell a totally inoffensive, hilarious joke. Bonus points for clever puns.
23. Apologize with sincerity.No matter how old you are, you’ll mess up and get things wrong sometimes. But how you react after the fact is up to you.
24. Go a full day without complaining. You’d be surprised at what you learn.
25. Make a new friend. The squad goal of #NoNewFriends can’t last forever. You can do it! After all, you’re a grown-ass woman.
Right, so Im not so sure that Norman Rockwell’s famous print, Freedom from Want, is an accurate portrayal of what Thanksgiving truly is.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve romanticized the ability that the Holiday’s have to unite the family. Especially Thanksgiving. In my head, it’s a time when we should all gather ’round the table together, enjoy an old-fashioned specially prepared meal, and recognize all that we have to be grateful for.
As you walk through the door of the of the home where you’ll be celebrating the big day, you immediately notice a blazing fire in the fireplace as you shake off the cold and bits of snow that stick to your wool jacket. As your host helps you with your scarf, gloves and dish that you’ve brought to share, your senses are assaulted from the aroma of pumpkin pies, cinnamon pinwheels, or maybe even the pine tree scent of a live tree. (for those of you who jump the gun on Christmas!!)
You look around and spot a children’s table set up somewhere in a discreet corner where chaos is sure to break out. The women are gathered in the kitchen, each with an assigned duty to help make the meal flow – All the while catching up on news from each other’s family’s. The men, all gather in a room with a giant screen TV watching some must-see football game. In good nature, they slap each other on the back and laugh loudly at something just out of your earshot. They debate and argue about whose favored team is best and sure to go to a bowl game.
All of this activity leads up to some fantastic meal that you’ll all gather around, while celebrating the pilgrims landing on Plymouth Rock. This is Thanksgiving!!
Or, is it? Is Thanksgiving really all about this festive scene that’s been planted in our heads with the help of the media and storybook tales and long-lived family traditions?
Let’s face it: as wonderful as the holiday may be (a day dedicated to football, gluttony and awkward family moments) maybe Thanksgiving is about something deeper. Something deeper than this gluttonous tradition that we’ve all been raised to treasure. A tradition with a very questionable beginning might I add.
Last September, something joyous happened in our family. My husband and I were having Sunday breakfast with my son and daughter-in-law. They told us about a shopping trip they went on in which they found a little something for us. It was an early “Christmas gift” but they wanted us to open it together that morning. Lauren handed me the bag and I peaked inside. I saw a gift along with a homemade note. I pulled the paper out and read it aloud. On it was written – “Only the best parents get promoted to grandparents.” *blink* I had not even made it through the end of the note before I started squealing in happiness. I turned to my hubs and he was tearing up. I continued to squeal, ran to the kids and hugged them. They were giggling. I was squealing. Clark was crying. It was a beautiful scene! We were going to be Grandparents!!
Fast forward thirteen weeks. Fast forward past thirteen weeks of my beautiful daughter-in-law, Lauren, being cautious and keeping the pregnancy on the down low until just the right time to make the announcement. I couldn’t wait to share the news with my sisters and friends and relatives. Lauren and my son Bruce were doing everything right. They went to the Drs’ appointments together. There were ultrasounds and multivitamins. They were eating healthy. There were checkups. Everything was moving along perfectly.
And then, the phone call. This past week, Thanksgiving week, I woke early to a text… “Hey Mom, txt me when you get up. Bruce left for work already so it doesn’t matter how early it is.”
As a mother’s intuition goes, I instantly got a knot in my stomach. I immediately called Lauren. It was before 6am. Something was off. I could hear it in her voice as she answered. And then her words hit me like a brick. “Something’s not right.” She had phoned her Dr and was told to take her time but to meet her at her office when she had a chance that morning. They would check things out.
I threw on some clothes and raced through the Chicago rush hour traffic to her apartment. Ninety agonizing minutes. And then we drove to the hospital together. Bruce was waiting for her there. My hub was there. Clark and I watched as the kids walked into the exam room. An hour later our worst fears were confirmed. Lauren had lost the baby. It was heart wrenching to watch their world fall apart.
Outside the downtown office, it was cold and windy that day. Clark and I looked at this young couple who had just gotten the worse news of their lives delivered to them. In the span of a few days they were catapulted from cloud nine to a state of agonizing devastation. It was more than any of us could bear. Our hearts were broken.
The days to follow were solemn. Everyone tried to hold each other up. My boys, who would have been uncles for the first time, were heartbroken for Bruce and Lauren. Devastated, Clark and I kept a close eye on the kids to make sure they were processing this tragic loss. They came out to stay with us. It was open-ended. They wanted and needed to be with family. And so, we gathered and just stayed together. It was without a doubt the hardest thing that both Bruce and Lauren had ever gone through in their lives so far. And, they were right where they needed to be for the time being.
The day before they were going to leave to go back to their own apartment, the news stations were warning people about an early snowstorm that would hit the city. We don’t usually get snow in November. We rarely even have snow on Thanksgiving. But, we were being warned over and over again that we were about to get hammered.
I woke up very early that morning after that predicted snowfall. I pulled the drapes back and l looked out my window. The outside world was lit up from the glow of the moonlight. The predicted snow had come. The ground and streets were covered with a deep blanket of undisturbed white that stretched from one yard to the next.. There were no tracks on the streets yet and no footprints across any lawns. It was beautiful. And, peaceful.
My eyes were drawn to our driveway which had four cars parked on it. Those were my kids cars hidden under those mounds of snow. Cars that last week would not have been parked on that driveway. Cars that were there that morning because we, as a family, had gathered together to hold each other up while mourning the loss of something so precious to all of us.
I thought about the timing of it all. It was Thanksgiving week. I smiled to myself and got a feeling of warm love inside.
This…. This is what Thanksgiving truly was. Family. Love. We feel each other’s pain. We celebrate each others victories. And I’m so truly thankful for the blessing of Family.
Wishing you and your loved ones a truly Happy Thanksgiving and a Joyous start to your Holiday Season.
It’s Monday morning and normally I’d be pulling the house back together from the weekend. Instead, I’m having coffee with one of my besties, Jeri. She and I have a standing coffee date that I wrote about here. Thursdays are our day! We meet come rain or shine, snow or hail. It’s written in stone and nothing comes between us and our coffee dates.
Except Dr’s. appointments. More recently because of repairmen who seem to only be able to make house-calls on Thursday mornings. What gives!
So we’ve adjusted and tweaked our schedules a bit. Monday’s are now the day. (At least for the immediate future.) Our coffee dates have turned an ordinarily dreaded and hated day of the week into a day that I now look forward to. Hurray!! Monday’s are fab!
This morning, while catching up with each other and everything that’s happened in our lives since last week, we decided that we’d make this upcoming holiday season super special and go see a play in the city. There’s nothing we love more than to spend time downtown. The people, the lights, the beautiful river walk, the restaurants and lively bar scenes make for such fun.
So, a play for the holidays it is!! It was all decided! After discussing it for a while we settled on Mamma Mia!! YAY!!
I was put in charge of looking for good seats. No problem! I love this kind of task. I’m a self-declared event planner. I could plan, coordinate and execute events like there’s no tomorrow! A regular party girl, that’s me! Now that I think of it, I probably should have been a concierge at some big, swanky city hotel or high-end specialty retail store because of my love for (a) events, and (b) all things swanky!!
After coffee, I raced home and got out my computer. I looked at the seats that were still available for the date that we had agreed upon. Lots of availability popped up. Hurray!! I carefully studied the seating chart (just as a professional event planner would do!) and chose two seats where I knew there would be nothing obstructing our view. We were on our way!! Great!
Or, so I thought. I went from the “select your seat” page to the “security” page” when things started to go awry. What is with these security pages that pop up all over the Internet when trying to purchase any kind of venue tickets? They’re annoying. And, impossible to read.
The security screen that popped up informed me that in order to help “fight bots” I was to type the letters that appeared on the image in front of me.
Huh? It was like trying to decipher Russian. No, it was worse than Russian. The image I was staring at was like a big mass of scribbles. Who could read it? Not me. And worse yet, there was a timer counting down the number of minutes I had to complete the purchase before I would lose the seats. It was making me nervous. It had big red flashing letters that said “You’ve got 3 minutes before you lose your selected seats.” YIKES! I quickly typed out random letters that I thought I was seeing. Nope. Wrong letters. Nuts! A new combination popped up. It was worse than the first set of letters.
I glanced up at the timer.. “You’ve got 1 minute 32 seconds before you lose your selected seats.” Good Grief! I was going to lose my perfectly thought out seats if I didn’t guess the right combination.
I noticed a large button next to the alien image. It said to click if you wanted a new image. YES! I want a new image! An image that people can actually read! I clicked the button. Nope, couldn’t read the image either. I was starting to sweat. My fingers which normally sailed over the keyboard effortlessly now felt damp and clumsy. I think I was making typo’s but what did it matter? I was randomly guessing and typing any old letters in hopes of hitting the jackpot.
And then – “ding ding ding” – the page went black. My shoulders slumped in defeat. My hands fell off the keyboard and down to my sides. I had lost our seats. I stared at the blank screen. What had just happened? If these sites have an option to press a button for a new image, then they must be aware that nobody can read their STUPID IMAGES in the first place!
Well! I was going to give somebody a piece of my mind! I was going to call the theater and demand to talk to the manager. I wanted those seats that just two minutes ago were in my online cart. I was going to tell them that no normal human being on the planet can decipher what that secret scrambled image says. Ever.
I quickly googled the number of the theater and called it. It rang a few times and then was picked up….. by a recording. Oyyyyyy! Another pet peeve! I listened to a mechanical sounding voice on the other end and was given a list of prompts. I pressed the number associated with talking to an agent and was transferred. The phone rang again. One ring…two ring…three ring… BINGO! The line was picked up…by a recorded voice. It stated that tickets could only be purchased at the box office and that the box office was only opened during performances. Some good that would do me!
Okay, it was on to plan B.
Or, plan A revisited. I went back to the theater’s website. This time I was prepared. I knew what was coming. I plugged in all of my information. Our seats were still there. Hurray for small miracles!! I added them to my online cart. Andddd, there it was. The crazy security image. I stayed calm and stared at it. I plugged in some letters. Wrong. Tried again. Nope. And one more time. YES! It worked!! I had no idea what letters I had plugged in or how I got them to work but I wasn’t going to question it. I hit “purchase” and Wallah!! The tickets were ours! Mamma Mia here we come!!
When I was in grade school we were expected to memorize the poem Trees, by Joyce Kilmer. It was during 4th grade, I think. I sat at my desk reading the words over and over. Then I would close my eyes and try to recall one sentence at a time, peeking down at my paper each time I needed a prompt. Silently starting at the beginning of the poem again each time I had mastered a new line. Closing my eyes over and over and mouthing the words silently until I had memorized the entire poem.
In 4th grade, when I was 9-10, the emotion behind these words were lost on me. The poem was strictly an assignment. A task that I needed to work through until complete. When I was finished, we moved on to a different assignment.
Today, the words and the meaning behind the words are not lost on me. Especially at this time of year. In autumn when the trees are so full of beauty and rich color, the words to this poem wash over you and fill you with a feeling of gratitude and appreciation for all of God’s wonderful gifts to us. I’m so grateful for the beauty of autumn and for the sense of renewal that goes hand in hand with this beautiful season.
The trees seem to be at their peak color in the Midwest right now. My favorite season. Fall. It’s like floating over a carpet of bursting, vibrant colors every time you walk out your front door.
It feels a bit like cheating. But, some words are worth repeating.
I woke up this morning thinking about this exact post and knew it was worth re-posting. For those of you out there whose hearts are tender – to the new readers to my blog since I last ran this piece, I dedicate this to you.
Where were you on October 2, 1998?
You probably have no clue. If you racked your brain trying to remember, you probably would not be able to recall. But, if I asked you where you were on other significant dates in history, chances are you’d probably not only recall where you were, but what you were doing and who you were with.
Where were you September 11th, 2001? Where were you when Kennedy got shot? Or, when Pearl Harbor got bombed? Some of you may recall where you were when Nixon resigned. Or, when John Lennon got shot. Or, when Elvis died.
These significant days in history act as markers on the timeline of our lives. Because they were so catastrophic and life altering, we can remember exactly where we were and what we were doing in that specific moment in time.
We can also recall our specific whereabouts in our times of personal crisis and joy. When a baby is born. When a loved one dies. When a best friend calls us up and tells us they are getting married.
October 2, 1998 – a significant day in my life.
You may not recall where you exactly were then, but I know exactly where I was. That was the day my Dad lost his battle with Cancer. I was with him. My Mom and one of my two Brothers were there, too. 16 years ago today. (That’s so hard to believe!!) I was sitting on the side of his bed holding his hand. It was the first time I was with someone when they took their last breath. It was the first time I held someones hand and felt them go completely still and feel their life end. It was surreal. And sad. And at the moment, something I could not wrap my brain around. Even tho I knew he was near the end of his life, nothing quite prepares you for that moment when your parent actually passes away. Breathing in life one moment – and in the next instance, complete stillness. Their soul moving towards Heaven. It was a powerful moment in my life and a precise moment on my personal timeline where I will always remember where I was and what I was doing.
I’ve lost both of my parents now. My Dad 16 years ago and my Mom more recently – just 20 months ago. February 14th – Valentines Day 2014. I did not have the privilege to be with her and tell her goodbye when her time to leave this earth arrived. But I’m confident that she knew exactly how I felt and how much I loved and respected her. I’m confident that she knew how much all of my siblings loved her.
While I’m still adjusting to life without my Mom, the old saying really is true – “Time Heals All Wounds.” You start to come out of the fog gradually and learn to smile and laugh again.
My Dad was Irish. He was hardworking and funny and sentimental. He liked sports, Notre Dame and beer. He passed his sense of humor and hard work ethic on to all of us. Thanks Dad!! When my brothers and sisters and I get together, all we have to do is say one word to each other or give each other one look that was his and we all start laughing. And we laugh long and hard. And we remember him with fondness and joy and with the sentimentality that he unknowingly passed on to all of us. Time heals all wounds.
We remember and speak of our personal experiences and that helps to keep those collective memories of history and personal tragedy and triumph vivid and fresh. And then, suddenly, 10 years have passed. Or, 20. Or, 50
I miss my Dad. Especially today. I miss my Mom, too. I will never quite get used to them being gone – or not being able to pick up the phone to talk to them. And, I’ll never get used to no longer being able to just get in the car to take a road trip to see them. But I am grateful for two such loving, selfless parents who showered me with unconditional love. I’m grateful for the memories of their laughter and smiles. And kindness.