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Yardsticking My Way To 60

8 Aug

This is a two-part blog post related to the fact I turned 60 last month.  I find that fact almost incomprehensible.  I’ve lived fully and forever, but wasn’t I just 40 a couple of years ago?  60 is definitely a milestone birthday.  Frankly I’m not sure why every birthday isn’t a milestone birthday.  Birthdays serve as yardsticks, measuring where we are and where we’ve come from.   It’s funny how we have assigned the most significance to decade birthdays.  But, like the rest of society, I’ll give this decade birthday its due. 

 I’ve been yardsticking (yes, that is officially now a verb) the amount of love I have in my life as compared to my younger years.   I’m a little stunned by the outpouring of love and affection my friends and family have demonstrated.   The blog post immediately preceding this one was written by my friend and Be Brave. Lose the Beige business partner, Jackie.  I’ve probably read it 20 times, more and more awed each time by her description of me as an “angel on earth”.

 My friends Susan and Suzan whisked my husband and me away on an all expense paid weekend retreat at a Ritz Carlton.  The lunches, spa treatments, cards, facebook posts, and gifts from dear friends, family, and my 20 year poker pals have made me feel rich in so many ways. 

 So, in spite of the “Sixty Sucks” mug made for me by my dear friend, Suzi, the six decade notches on my yardstick measure wealth well beyond what I could have imagined as a 20 or 30 year old- that of the love from fabulous friends and family.

60th Birthday Party

60th Birthday Party

 

Susan, Suzan and Liz in Amelia Island

Susan, Suzan and Liz in Amelia Island

 

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#11 of Santa’s Tips for Celebrating the Holidays- Enjoy Your Family

27 Dec

#11 of Santa’s tips for celebrating the holidays is – Enjoy Your Family–  Pause amid the Christmas chaos and spend precious time with those you love.  (My Dad died this year.  I’m thankful I spent Christmas Eve with him last year and many years before).

Clay Santa and Mrs. Clause

Enjoy Your Family

Remembrance of Things Past

7 Apr

I just attended a family reunion in South Georgia, my mother’s family homestead.  (Homestead is a bit of an overstatement.)  My mother’s paternal grandmother extracted her from this tiny town when she was eight, taking her to live in Orlando.   I, nor others in my family, ever learned why she left, a mystery which will remain unsolved since my Mom died almost 30 years ago.

My brothers and I returned to Omega virtually every summer, visiting our grandmother, aunts, uncles, and cousins.  We stayed in the “projects” a brick three bedroom apartment building where my grandmother lived.  We loved it.  My brother and I loved the wide-open spaces; the elderberry jelly canned by my grandmother, which spread deliciously over buttered toast each morning.  We loved the old ringer washer she used to launder her clothes; we loved the homemade vanilla ice cream hand cranked on the back stoop on Sunday afternoons; we loved the fact we could make $1.00 an hour cropping tobacco.  That seemed like a lot of money to me, especially since babysitting only paid $.50 an hour.

Harkening all the way from Florida, boys thought I was exotic.  They wanted me to be their girlfriend.  This was intoxicating to a gangly fourteen year old who had few such prospects awaiting her at home.   At one point I told my parents I wanted to move to Omega to finish high school (secretly I just wanted a prom date since I thought my options were limited back in Florida).  To which my mother replied, “Over my dead body”.   It was kind of ironic my mother moved away from this rural environment, yet her daughter wanted so desperately to return to it.  These memories were as rich as the red clay imbedded in the Georgia dirt roads on which I learned to drive as a teenager.

My brothers and our respective families traveled back in time this past weekend.  It was fun sharing memories with spouses and children.  We visited the cemetery in which family members are buried.  My heritage and that of my children lay in those plots.  My great great grandmother Spinks died at 104, when I was nine.  Family legend has it she and her siblings hid in the fields when Sherman marched through Atlanta.

Much had changed- family owned independent stores were now owned by chains; the demographics of the residents have altered considerably, but much remained the same…the beauty of the open spaces; fields readying for planting; the smell of boxwood shrubs; my uncle’s sense of humor, and my aunt’s giant heart.

We spend so much time running from meeting to meeting, checking off to-do lists.  This reunion provided an opportunity to pause in the midst of schedules and stress to contemplate our history.  Recognizing and acknowledging our origins is an essential component of understanding who we are and who we will become.  I recommend these pauses.  It’s so easy to resist them.  I hope you can find the time periodically to pause even for a minute, an hour, a day or weekend.

Her birthday was also her “birth day”

7 Feb

I’m full of the day I just experienced.  My niece is 29 today.  Typhannie is one month older than my son, who has just completed the coursework for his Ph.D.   Our family was heart broken when we found out she was pregnant again this past year (sans husband).    Last fall, however, a miracle happened.  My brother, with whom she resides, called me with a question- “What would you think if Typhannie put this baby up for adoption?”  Since I was driving, I had to pull off the the road in order to adequately express my enthusiasm at the prospect.  Michael was uncertain since Typhaniie’s mother was so opposed to the idea.

This is a girl who wants more for herself and her five year old son.  She wants to finish school and longs for self sufficiency.  She had concluded, as she disclosed in our many subsequent conversations, this could not be achieved were she to be saddled with yet another child out of wedlock.

Now to today….My sister-in-law Nancy (married to my other brother), Katie (my marriage and family therapist almost daughter-in-law) awoke at 4:30 this morning to travel to Lakeland, Florida for the birth.  We were greeted by the adoptive father nervously pacing the waiting room.  The controlled excitement on the faces of these hopeful, soon to be parents was palpable.  They desperately wanted this baby but knew they had to navigate carefully through this morass of hormones and emotions.  And it was emotional as Typhannie gave birth to a beautiful, healthy, eight pound baby boy.

Typhannie’s mom, a dysfunctional narcissist, could not have been less helpful or more hurtful- a consistent pattern of hers in the life of her daughter throughout the past 29 years.  She demanded the day be all about her and her needs.  She sorely underestimated the fearsome threesome sitting in that waiting room next to the soon to be parents, however.

I don’t know the end of this story right now.   I, along with my two compatriots, am emotionally and physically exhausted.  We gave this girl presents and praise today, so filled with pride were we at her incredible bravery.  She has six weeks during which she can change her mind.  We are organizing an army of family support through Facebook and other social media sites.  Let’s hope Collin (the newborn) remains nestled in the arms of his new family and Typhannie embarks on a journey toward self esteem and self sufficiency.

I know this will not be a day I’ll ever forget.

Thankful at Thanksgiving

29 Nov

I spent the week before Halloween carving pumpkins with my adult children. These fall fruits gave us a contemptuous cat, glimmering ghosts and a Buffalo Bills football mascot. Our driveway was alight with jack-o-lantern luminaries.

This weekend, for the first time in six years, we hosted Thanksgiving in our home. Twenty-three of my favorite people joined us for a day of games, gorging, and grace. Preceding this day, my kids and I shopped for colorful tableware, and spent hours sculpting pumpkins and pilgrim hatted turkeys which served as place setting holders. I don’t think I can remember having more fun anticipating a holiday.

My daughter, son and his girlfriend are here for a few more days over the Thanksgiving holiday. My Tracy set up our Christmas village and funky ceramic nativity scene to the tune of Kenny G’s Christmas album. This will be the first time in many years my kids are home long enough to pile into the SUV for our annual pilgrimage in search of the perfect Frasier fir. My husband and I are typically the two responsible for performing these holiday functions.

The cycle of life dictates that our kids grow up, leave home, and develop their own traditions and rituals. My son is headed to make his way in Chicago; my daughter has been a resident of Baltimore for seven years. This Thanksgiving, my heart has been filled with gratitude at this increasingly rare opportunity to share in these holiday rituals with the people I love most in the world.

The Cat Isn’t the Only Winner in this Game of Tic Tac Toe

10 May

My previous post mentioned spending the weekend at a b’nai mitzvah for twins of my poker pal.  The weekend festivities also included a Sunday brunch in honor of the 60th birthday of Paul, the father of the twins.  I was reminded of a story I heard at his 50th birthday party.  Paul and his sister have shared a single birthday card dating back to 1974.   For almost 40 years the two have mailed this greeting card with its game of tic tac toe, back and forth between Orlando and Nashville.  Needless to say the blank spaces have diminished and been replaced with mini post-it-notes containing strategically placed Xs and Os, along with news of successes and sadness, children and changes.  The current condition of the card is amazingly good.  It has been lost and found a few times throughout its history.  While the envelope changes from year to year, it is evident the sentiment has not.  While this is no ordinary family document, it nevertheless has been a semi annual record of the lives of a family, which makes it…yes, let’s say it together …priceless!