View from My Sleigh

 

 After multiple years of forcing my children to deliver Christmas presents, this year I did it myself. Because they disappeared just about the time they heard the empty tape dispenser hit the garbage can. And … because I wanted to. First time for everything. I’m not the door-knocking, visiting sort. Just a overage elf, sneaking up to the front door and leaving the goods. Made a few observations while tearing about town.

  • Say everyone living in your house at this moment (i.e. home from college, rehab, prison) has a driver’s license and a car. If there are more than two of you, the outside of your home looks like a garage. The mechanic kind – where you take cars to be fixed. Gives sort of South Bronx veneer to the very nicest of  neighborhoods.
  • Am convinced the recession skipped this area. (Not me, but everyone else). I have not seen as many mansions – serious housing – under construction, ever. I find this very confusing. Maybe some “numbers” type can straighten me out. Wow. Double Wow.
  • I LOVE those giant Christmas bulbs hanging everywhere – makes me feel like I’m on the set of BIG. Happy fun.
  • I noticed some homes that had been decorated to the hilt in prior years are void of any gay apparel. The homeowners are elderly now and I guess it’s too much to for them to festivate. Sniff, sniff. I would have helped them. There’s always next year, I guess.
  • It is unsafe on the streets during the day. Have almost been slaughtered too many times to count. By people who have no business behind the wheel. Some would say that would be me. But some can stick it up their nose. <meant in nicest way>

Better get back to the paper-tape-bow situation. More deliveries to make tomorrow. Please, please, PLEASE have a wonderful holiday. Really. Eat a bunch of food. Drink gallons of …whatever you please. Laugh as hard as possible. Remember the lonely and unloved. Enjoy the best way you can.

MERRY CHRISTMAS AND HAPPY NEW YEAR TO YOU ALL! MAY PERFECT PEACE DWELL INSIDE YOUR HEART AND OUTSIDE YOUR DOOR.

XO IZ

*p.s. Don’t be getting the notion I’ve gone all sappy here. Just bought The Snark Handbook and The Snark Handbook, Insult Edition. Brushing up for the new year, I am. *

Later.

 

Letter to My Daughter

Dearest Sweet Pea,

You will always be my baby. When I was pregnant with you, I was fearful. Fearful because I’d already had your sister and I didn’t know how I could love another baby as much as I loved her. Those worries evaporated the moment I first saw you. There is no measure for the love I have for you, my beautiful child.

As you know, this letter has been requested because you will graduate in May. And, as you know, I’m prone to whimsy. With that and this request in mind, I turned around and invited my amazing blogger friends to offer tips and advice for a young woman preparing to make her way in the world. Much of what you read here was graciously offered by these fine people. And so we’re off….

  • If it takes five minutes, do it.
  • Two words:  duct tape.
  • Always keep your eyes on your own paper.
  • Say, “I don’t know” when you don’t.
  • Live BIG. Paint your life with broad strokes using bold colors.
  • Keep your words soft and tender as you will have to eat them sometimes.
  • Don’t dig a debt hole and jump in.
  • You always have a home with me.
  • When you need to scream, go somewhere appropriate and do so.
  • Soon you will soon wake up – not go to bed – at 6 am.
  • You always have a choice, even if it is only a choice of your attitude.
  • If a man tells you that you are too good for him, believe it!
  • Skills to learn: change a tire, unclog a drain, drive a stick shift.
  • Know the difference between spontaneity (good) and impulsivity (not so much).
  • The ground is level. Don’t judge anyone unless you go to law school, pass the bar, get elected, and have a gavel.
  • Two people can look at the exact same thing and see something totally different.
  • “Just because someone doesn’t love you the way you want them to doesn’t mean they don’t love you with all they have.”
  • Every rule has an exception.
  • Albert Einstein said, “God does not play dice with the universe.” There are no coincidences.
  • You have a million dollar smile. Go to the dentist regularly so you keep it.
  • “Men are like Government Bonds; they take soooooo long to mature.”
  • “Having it all doesn’t mean having it all at once.”
  • Trust your instincts. Period.
  • Always try to be present. And take deep breaths.
  • When you are hungry, eat. When you are tired, sleep.
  • Laugh as much as possible.

Enough for now. You are beautiful, bright, wise and kind, all wrapped up in a unique package of loveliness. Do not fret about the new world you will step into. I assure you, the best is yet to come!

You love me and I love you more. You will understand this when you have your first child. It would be nice if you married beforehand. But not right this minute as the money tree has been reduced to a weed.

Love you to the moon and back, Sweetie.

Mom

P.S. All “borrowed” jewelry, purses, shoes, dresses and anything else I don’t know is missing yet may be returned in June, which we’ll call “Amnesty Month”.

P.P.S. I’m sorry we called you “Cousin It” and “David Letterman” when you were little.

P.P. S. S. Did I tell you how much I love you?

A Backward Glance While Moving Forward

Reading a number of blogs this morning, I was struck by one headline. “Sometimes your decisions are not yours to make…” by The Reluctant Mom’s Blog. While I love reading all the funny pieces, I also appreciate those that provoke thought.

You decide to have children. Maybe you will, maybe you won’t, maybe you can, maybe you can’t. This decision absolutely changes the course of your life.

You decide to marry, divorce, be a star, buy a house, go to church, take a huge risk, never make any decisions. And, although you believe you know what you are getting into, you don’t. So I think we make choices, which turn into decisions after the fact. Some good, others great, bad, and middle of the road.  Going a bit further, perhaps decisions are the consequences of our choices.  And, regardless of the outcome, those of us who have the freedom to make choices are the lucky ones.

It would not seem so, if we only focus on the mayhem induced by a bad choice or three. But I believe in scale, yin and yang, reasoning. So I have to say that although the end product of our choices can be our worst nightmares, we still had a part in it.

When I made the choice to divorce some years ago, I had no clue what I was getting myself into. I was acutely aware of what I was getting myself out of. And no matter what anyone else thinks, divorce is, to quote a friend, “like being in a bad car wreck every single day”.  Those days, whether they span a week, a year, a lifetime, are indescribably atrocious. Individually and collectively.  I would not wish divorce on any couple I know. But sometimes it is necessary.

My ex is a good person. We have two daughters, two very bright stars, to mark the absolute best that came from our union. And I will never, ever be sorry for getting married because these two girls make the world a better place to live in. 

It has been my experience, personally and from observation, that when the woman initiates a divorce, she is the bad cop. Of course there are many exceptions, but I’ve not witnessed more than a few. As the saying goes, “it takes two”, but, in an effort to make sense of it, most friends and frenemies feel they must choose sides, fuel the rumor mill, and unintentionally make the aftershock of divorce so much worse than it needs to be. Choices, all. My exposure.

To make a long story short, the personal gains have far outweighed the losses. And I am not the same person I was. During, after, and since my divorce, I chose to be misunderstood. I am a private person and the inability to remain married was strictly between me and my ex. The toll was heavy in every way. But everything comes with a price to pay. And I wouldn’t change a thing.

Divorce scares the hell out of couple friends. It forces them to look at their own situation. And they don’t want to catch the disease. After the implosion of family, I think the hardest, most heartbreaking consequence was the loss of lifelong friends. Individual and couples. While they remained at the top of my grid, they quickly filed me in their “out” boxes. No longer a “couple”, a member of their clubs, a part of their gatherings.  After my family, my friends have always been the most important people in my life.  I was naïve. Loyalty is a given if I’m your friend.  Had no idea they would divorce me.  But good always comes from terrible.

There were the handful of friends who did not waver, who will always have my back. And, I have made so many new and strong alliances with amazing people I might have missed along the way. I now know what it’s like to be truly loved. I am not naïve about people any longer. While I still enjoy the occasional celebration with “the old gang”, I must admit that afterwards I usually wonder why I spent so much time mourning their disappearance. And it always comes back to the same conclusion: I believed them to be people they weren’t. My bad. But my good, because my life now is richer because of the people who are in it.

There will always be those days when my heart sinks, just for a minute. And that is awesome. Hearing about the activities and stirrings of my old life, still raging like a freight train with a full tank of gas, used to send me to bed for … however long. Getting that puppy down to a minute is progress, folks.

Even if it’s made one tiny step at a time. “Sometimes your decisions are not yours to make ….”. But it’s what you do with the consequences. This, in my mind, is what determines the wiggly course of your life. Dealing, learning, overcoming, changing, trying … all survival buzz words.

Later.

 

Watering Dead Plants

Sitting on my patio, I looked over to see three dead plants. The same three dead plants I’d meant to throw out for … months. Just lazy. Nevertheless, someone waters them every week. They are dead. Water is wasted. While it is an incredibly optimistic action – feeding something that will not eat in hopes it will magically spring back to life – it is, in the end, futile.

It’s all about change, isn’t it? Watering dead plants is symbolic to me. Resisting what you know to be true. Refusing to acknowledge what is, hoping what isn’t will resurrect itself. Change is inevitable in every inch of our lives. Feeding what was, what we knew and were comfy with, is at the very least, a waste of time. And energy. And emotion. Yet we do it sometimes, because change means … something new, something we haven’t welcomed in and snuggled up to. Miracles and epiphanies (small, medium, large) do not happen on demand. And watering the dead plants is a roadblock to anything happening. Life blockage.

When I was raising my daughters, many of their little peers had daily schedules that would rival – and exhaust – the busiest of executives. I opted out of this for a number of reasons. I knew there would be plenty of time for them to be overwhelmed and unprepared. So, when they would ask me what we were doing on any given day, my answer would usually be the same:  “Let’s see what the day brings.” And roll with it.

 I cannot for the life of me remember much – if any – bad coming from this “program”. But I do remember many days filled with surprises, relaxation, and activity. We didn’t water any dead plants. Because my girls trusted me. Because they knew if I was willing to roll with it, then certainly they could as well. Because they trusted me.

I’m not watering the dead. I will not honor the impossible by blocking the possibilities. It’s all about trust. And I am firmly convinced – even though I waver/stand steadfast – that a power higher than me has, once again, showered me with possibilities. My job:  trust. Keep eyes wide open.  The result?

 

Later.

Please Kick Me … Gently

I’m in a pickle. Call it mental paralysis. Not a pity party. A swift kick in the butt is not going to get me going again. I find myself back at square one, for the 2376th time and am feeling all the items listed in photo. Baby steps. Haven’t been able to take one. Want to. Have done everything I can think of to get this little engine started. But often times, better ideas come from others. That could be you.

What inspires you? What tiny or giant “thing” creates that “aha” moment? I live by the credo, “fall down 7 times, get up 8” yet I am having difficulty getting up. Any and all suggestions will be thoroughly considered and most appreciated. Two things you should know if/before responding: I am harder on myself than you could ever be (all things medical, therapeutic, etc. are under control) and I am interested in what works for you, what you do and how you do it.  If you so choose:

Bring it on!!!!!!

Ready, Willing, & Able Do Martha’s Vineyard

Hydrangea Heaven

Several weeks ago, I went on the perfect vacation. It was perfect because I was afforded four amazing days with Cowgirl and Lady Di.  Many years ago, we found that we play very well with one another. We think we are collectively hilarious, therefore, we are. At one point, we all lived in the same city. Today, I am still a city dweller,  Cowgirl lives on the rolling range, and Lady Di is a citizen of the world, our own Carmen Sandiego.  She presented Cowgirl and me with a Most Awesome Invitation back in March, inviting us to her home on Martha’s Vineyard. Oh, my … what a glorious backdrop for our reunion. 

A view from the porch

Another view from the back porch

Looking up from the edge of the water; so beautiful until I lost my balance and fell into swampy sidelines in my flipflops

Our ride for the week, compliments of Little Didi

When we weren’t laughing ourselves silly, we were eating. And laughing ourselves silly. 

Party favor from dinner the first night

First of all, the word “charming” applies to this island. It is lush, it is green, there are no traffic lights. The towns are delightful, the temperature is divine, and when driving around the countryside, you would swear you were in rural England. And the food is FRESH, FRESH, FRESH.  Evening One, we had dinner at Saltwater, 79 Beach Rd., Vineyard Haven. Di and Cowgirl had halibut, I went for fresh corn chowder topped with fried clams (perfection) followed by a fried green tomato with lobster salad. Have never tasted a better bread pudding in my life, and I’ve eaten A LOT of bread pudding. Do stop by. 

Lunch Day Two

Truffle fries at Atlantic

Atlantic,2 Main St., was the perfect lunch spot as we “did” Edgartown on Day Two. The ambience was so great; the restaurant is right on the water. All I remember is the enormous platter of truffle fries that arrived at our table perfectly crispy and hot and divine. I’ll have lobster, again. 

Don’t have a photo for Dinner Evening Two but I promise it was miles past delicious and, of course, charming at State Road, 688 State Rd., West Tisbury.  Didn’t hurt that we were seated next to Amy Brenneman; television does not do her beauty or delicacy justice. But I digress. Fresh snap pea soup, not thick but incredibly savory. And I hate peas. I know the lobster was delicious because that is what I ordered… again. Di had halibut, Cowgirl went for a house made fennel apple seitan imposter sausage something. The desserts were beyond. Upon leaving, we were given a box of muffins left from the morning menu. I told you everything is fresh. 

We’d go to a farmer’s market here and there.  Little flower stands, featuring whatever was picked in the morning, lined the lanes wherever we drove. Did I mention “charming”? I do believe we made it to every little shop on the island. First stop, Midnight Farm in Vineyard Haven; it is a boho-groovy-urban Anthropoligie-On- An- Island sort-of-place; it’s also famous because Carly Simon is a partner. 

Very cool magazine

Picked up the early summer copy of edible VINEYARD; published four times a year, this magazine is full of great articles, information, recipes, and design.  You can check it out at http://www.ediblevineyard.com 

My favorite shop was Nochi in Vineyard Haven where I found great vintage silverplate “reclaimed” from old hotels. 

Flowers like these are in front of most shops

The last evening we went back to Edgartown, with its cobblestone streets and great buildings (promise not to say the “c” word again).

Roadside fence with ROSES

Historic place next to historic church (?) and roses, of course!

Dinner at eight at Alchemy,71 Main St., more good food. The menu was interesting and adventurous in a very Episcopalian way (later about that). Cowgirl found the cocktail of her dreams, a magic lemon gimlet, Di went halibutting again and I had the strangest salad ever. Billed as “The Salad the Chefs Eat”, it was described as having all sorts of great veggies tossed in red wine vinegar with a blob of buttery mashed potatoes on top. What? Yep, and it was the best! Couldn’t face another lobster, but of course, we had to have dessert. Waddled out, stuffed ourselves into the MINI and shot off for home. We were quite sad to think we were leaving this heaven the next day, but of course, once home, we found everything  panty-wetting(?),  pant-wettingly (?)  damn funny. So we had to stay up and laugh more. 

The next day, after great coffee and more laughing, Lady Di, the ultimate hostess, ferried us to the airport. Cape Air runs nine-seater planes up and down the coastline. Cowgirl turned green again (she was green on the way over, too). I jumped in the copilot’s seat. 

It is really hot sitting up front

The view is pretty good

Cowgirl remained green until we hopped onto the tarmac at Logan. We hooked it through terminals to meet our next flight home.  It was a perfect trip, you know the kind, where you don’t want to ever leave but you have to. And the memory stays perfect. 

Lady Di - LOVE YOU, MEAN IT!!!!!!!!

LATER……….

Pages for JULY

While I was a guest in Lady Di’s Enchanted Kingdom,

View from the terrace

I noticed some books on her coffee table.  They were wonderous. I ordered them, adding a few of my own choices, and here they are:

Lovely pages

  • The Principles of Uncertainty by Maira Kalman: brilliant, delightful
  • The Elements of Style illustrated by Maira Kalman: see above
  • Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Foer: Di says you either get it or you don’t – I’m digging it so far ….
  • The Laws of Harmony by Judith Ryan Hendricks: her books make me cozy
  • This Is For You by Rob Ryan: have adored this man’s paper cut masterpieces but never knew about the book. Way past cool and 17 miles beyond wonderful!

I wish I could read these new books back in Lady Di’s piece of heaven

Beautiful, beautiful everywhere you look

but I can’t.  So I will have to settle for my own cozy spot

Painting by PBailey that resembles my surroundings

and wallow in paper bliss!

Later.

Crop Circles of Life

It’s been a Joni Mitchell week.

My head is spinning and my heart is beating, breaking, soaring.  Don’t know what to think … but a few lines from Joni Mitchell’s The Circle Game keep looping through my mind.

“And the seasons, they go round and round.  And the painted ponies go up and down.  We’re captive on this carousel of time.  We can’t return, we can only look behind.  From where we came.  And go round and round and round in the circle game.”

My young colleague had a beautiful baby girl.  My dad made a sad journey home to Alabama, to bury his dear friend from childhood, “the Atticus Finch of Birmingham”.  Walden’s niece is pregnant.  A family friend, younger than me, lost her husband.  My eldest daughter and I are prepping for a bridal shower honoring the first of her lifelong gang of girlfriend’s upcoming marriage. I just opened an email from my childhood friend-her precious mother died in her sleep last night. While trying to process that, another friend calls with a hilarious story and we laugh till we cry.  Sometimes you feel like a nut …

Death, birth, marriage and everything in between … all in overdrive. 

The definition of empathy – your hurt in my heart – is what I feel for my dad and the new widow. So, so sad.  Alternately, I’m delighted about the new baby and the one on the way.  Am thrilled for the bride-to-be. And my funny story friend is literally a major phoenix rising from horrible ashes; laughing with her is truly miraculous. And now I want to hug my motherless friend, but she is in a different city, gathering her troops from all over the country to mourn her mom … and watch her son marry next weekend.  And, once again, another Joni Mitchell song, Both Sides Now, begins looping…

“I’ve looked at life from both sides now, from up and down, and still somehow, it’s life’s illusions I recall.  I really don’t know life at all.”

Surreal, sitting here on the sidelines … cheering, weeping, clapping, wailing. And, while well-versed in most things life, I still don’t get it.

But there is one thing I do get. Love.  Life begins and ends with love …  crazy, sad, joyous, mad, wiggly, mysterious love. Give it, take it, shove it, shower it, push it, pull it …  but make it the most active verb on the journey.

 My cooking partner once said, “You end all of your phone calls with “I love you”.  How can you do that?

My reply, then and now: “How can you not?”

Later.

You Are Not

Read a post this morning.  It was written by a very accomplished woman.  She feels invisible.  I knew that feeling at one time.  It is a pisser.  I don’t know how she feels when she feels invisible; to me, it felt like I didn’t matter to anyone.  Of course I did, but I couldn’t feel it.  And I feel deeply.  Had to turn that around, find my true north, and change my perspective.  Instead of waiting for someone/anyone to come along and define me, I had to do the work – it was my problem.  This woman is not invisible, she just thinks she is. She will have to change her thinking in order to feel visible again.  I left her a comment, “You are not invisible.”  When she’s ready to get down to the nitty-gritty of it all, I hope it will make her feel better.

To become visible, I knew it began and would end with me.  Looking out, instead of uber-focusing inward.  It’s most certainly not all about me, thank God.  It is all about doing the best I can with what I have to work with.  Loving through.  Helping through.  Laughing through. Attempting to give others more hall passes than I give myself;  I know my story but I have no idea of the intimate details of others. Be accountable to everything and everyone I hold dear.  Respect  boundaries. Fall down seven times, get up eight.  Lighten up.

Have had a strange feeling for a week that I may lose my job tomorrow.  Could be wrong, we shall see.  Have lived long enough to know that if it happens, I won’t be homeless, without food or running water, on the street, or even uncomfortable.  How lucky is that? I choose to believe that when good goes, it’s only to make room for something better. If still employed Tuesday, then my vibe is just another kooky mindjob to add to the pile.  Whatever. I matter.

Am not a therapist, but I’ll listen.  Am not a nurse, but I’ll put a band-aid on your hurt while speaking soothing words.  Am no saint, so I’ll tell you the truth, straight-up and dirty.  And if you’re really lucky, I’ll cook for you. I was blind and now I see.  You.  The person to your left.  The guy across the street.  The woman whose words I read this morning.  We all matter.

You are not invisible.  You matter.  I see you.

later.

Keep Your Eyes On Your Own Paper

How many times did you hear that when you were in school?  I heard it ALOT because my eyes were anywhere but on my own paper.  Academically and socially.  Mercifully, my academic copycat issues ended when school did.  As for the social, well, it’s taken me a lot longer to care more about what I think than what others do. 

Can’t imagine my life without my friends. LOVE. But it is not my job to weigh in with my opinion on any choices they make.  It’s about respect.  This does not mean I can’t be a grumpy little snark .  Happens.  I don’t want to hear bad stuff about others unless there is a way I can be of help to them.  We have all been adults for a good while.  I respect the choices my friends make.  I might not choose the same for myself, but that is exactly my point. 

My learning curve came when I had a giant life transition some years ago.  Just living through it took all my mental and emotional strength.  I was strong, but so weak.  People I didn’t even speak to weighed in on my personal choices – lifestyle, hair color, men.  And I listened to them, because I couldn’t think clearly.  A dear friend who had been through what I was going through at the time told me, “You”ll be old news by next week.”  And she was correct.  Once I got my mojo back, finally learned to stand on my own two feet, and value my choices above comments from the peanut gallery, my life really changed.  For the better. 

I try to avoid throwing stones; I slip, like a recovering addict, but I get right up and screw my head back on, hopefully a little bit straighter. Mercy replaces misery, grace over gossip, love trumps fear.  The beautiful details of each life are the differences.  At least to me. I’ve learned the ground is truly level; life may not be easy all the time, but it sure beats the alternative.   And that’s why I try like hell to keep my eyes on my own paper. Every. Single. Day.