Thursday, December 27, 2007

The Truth is ...

The moment a child is born, the mother is also born. She never existed before. The woman existed, but the mother, never. A mother is something absolutely new. ~Rajneesh


I dig solitude. I crave it. It's all I know.

As a child, I played alone most of the time. As a teenager, I sequestered myself into my room.

After tons of socializing at parties and everything else in college, I just wanted to be alone in my apartment.

Writing fits me for that very reason. I prefer to write alone. I prefer a quiet room and a computer to a whole host of chatty people.

I'd much rather read your thoughts once than hear them a dozen times, which happens in real conversations.

Just the other day, as I was bragging about how my girls love to pretend clean, a relative of ours who shall remain nameless for this story, said this: "You've mentioned that before."

Really? Had I? Perhaps it's because in my life that is about as exciting as it gets. My twin daughters, who I am home alone with for 60 hours a week, like to pretend clean. Still. It's their No. 1 activity. Sorry to be repetitive, but that is what it is like having two toddlers. Repetitive.

So, after one too many conversations like that in my real life in the last week, I withdraw back to my pen and my paper where I am free to repeat myself as often as I'd like because unlike the rest of my life I reign on this blog.

Mix writing with motherhood and, well, it can be rather toxic to your mind. Since I work from home, calls need to be made and received. Research has to be conducted. All of this in the span of a few hours a day.

But, I have chosen this. I am revitalizing an old career while building a new one. I do not speak of these endeavors for privacy sake. But, the truth is, I am doing very well for a newbie.

It also means that I am tied to this house more than I should be at the age of 33. Between the two tots, the writing career, one car, no extra money and no family to visit in the immediate area -- I live a lonely life.

But, I choose this over everything else and would do so again and again.

My point is that I am not pitying myself. I am not upset or sad or angry. I am just puzzled. Puzzled that this is the life I choose. Puzzled over the fact that making friends and maintaining them has become, in recent years, really challenging. Puzzled that motherhood -- despite what it seems from the outside -- is so very lonely and isolating.

Once you become a mom your life is world's apart from everyone else's. And that's what I meant to say in my last post, but didn't.

Schedules, ideologies, philosophies, places of choice ... it all adds up and keeps us separate -- world's apart.

And I can search all day on the streets by knocking on doors and attending playgroups, and attending church services, but I will never find better friends than all of you -- my blogging friends. Is it because we open up our souls the only way we know how -- by writing out the words? If it doesn't get written is it ever said?

Not in my mind. Maybe it goes back to my decade-plus career in journalism, where I took copious notes and then hardly had to look at them again because once I wrote them down, I knew them. They were already planted in my mind -- some of them forever.

The truth is that I don't have any more answers now than I did a week ago. I do know, though, that I am still working madly on some internal errors that even Norton can't help me with.

I have some writing resolutions due to one of my friends. I have some household maintenance issues to attend to. And, deadlines looming.




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Sunday, December 16, 2007

World's Apart

I've been writing this blog post in my head for days now ... not really sure how to start, not really sure if I want to even write it at all. Not sure if I'm just in a funk -- well, I am -- or if I am truly not sure if I want to continue.

Blogging, I mean.

It's not that I do not have plenty to write because I do. It's that much of what I want to write about now either isn't relative to this blog's title or it's for fear of hurting people.

Plus, a few personal blows to my ego late last week mixed with the reality that this house is going to be ours for a while longer because it is off the market and we do not have the money for a down payment on a new one.

The truth is I'm in a weird place -- and have been for a long time -- of not feeling connected to anything or anyone. I mistakenly began thinking that blogging filled that gap in my life, but it doesn't.

I have friends. I have relatives. But, these people float in and out my life much like the rain, the sun, the clouds and the snow do these days. Never certain of their intensity, never positive they will remain, or for how long. And with my hands full and my mind busy, I haven't really tended to these feelings. All of these people in my life are busy leading other lives and I always feel like I am on the perimeter, walking circles around them and never able to actually get close.

I have no connection with any of my in-laws, who are the only family within 90 minutes of my home.

And, my personal beliefs make it difficult to just befriend anyone. The location of my home, the church we attend, the liberal beliefs we hold all come into play each day with each person. This place -- Pennsylvania Dutch Country -- is uber conservative, and it is the same with its connections to new people. The few friends I do have -- who I see once a month tops -- are not natives either. Transplants, we're called.

Which leads me back to my post ...

Blogging, lately, has left me feeling a bit like living a Sims life. I've started thinking about other bloggers as the best friends I have in my life. The truth is my real life is lacking true, meaningful relationships. It has since I left home, and left my high school friends.

Now, even those friends who I left behind are less like friends and more like people on my Christmas card list. And many of the friends I made after that have since moved on or moved on from me when I left journalism -- because they were all journalists -- or they moved away from me when I left the workplace in general. As it turns out, career friends were my only friendships.

I do not miss working (in an office); nor do I feel like I made a mistake. But, a large part of my voice and social sphere was wrapped around my career. I'd like to say nothing changed, but the truth is everything changed.

From the time I was a young woman, my identity involved a bit of notoriety. My name meant something.

Now, it doesn't.

The phone hardly rings. Less and less cards arrive in the mail for Christmas, birthdays, etc.

This brings me back to now. This post. And my reflection on these people I thought were friends, but were not. People who when I was in the trenches of the hardest parts of my life -- as a new mother -- gave me space instead of support. People who assumed I was handling everything well, when I wasn't.

So ...

I'm going to take a break from blogging. I'm not quitting. Because I know once I hit publish for this post I will instantly regret that I said anything at all.

I will return, I just do not know when. Maybe in a day. Maybe in a week. Maybe next year. And, when I do, I might be different. The blog might be different. Or, not.

Who knows? Maybe I'll write that novel now. Or, maybe I won't write at all. Maybe I'll leave the computer and try and meet someone new in person instead of a new blog.

One thing is for sure: We will have the most Merry Christmas of all around here (unless it's like Thanksgiving) and all of my time and energy will be on that for the next week. I have bath toys to wrap. Boxes filled with favorites like fuzzy balls and clothespins need to be wrapped, too, just for fun. And, I'll be filled with joy as I place their butterfly wings on their shoulders and wrap pink and purple boas around their necks.

I will try to visit your blogs. I will. But, I'm also going to be tending my own garden -- raking leaves that have long fallen off their Cherry Blossom branches and blown away, revealing the nakedness of my soul.

I wish you all a safe and peaceful holiday and New Year!

Friday, December 14, 2007

Lessons of forgiveness -- toddler style

One of the hardest parts of parenting our girls right now is the fact that they are sisters. First, I didn't have any siblings until I was practically an adult. I was used to playing alone and having everything to myself. And, Dan's one of three boys who all got along very well.

Some of the tougher situations right now involve two little girls who want the same thing -- even if another is available. The result for the longest time was the younger girl, the softer one, the more easy-going one gave up easily when her sister bullied her.

But, now she is fighting back. With a vengeance, too.

The other challenge is that when they get mad they do not have words to use to fight. Only little fists, heads and, much to my dismay, objects. I used to think the head-butting was awful, that the punching was a sign of my bad mothering. I've stressed about how to handle these situations since they began around a year, not wanting to make a bad decision.

But this week has brought all of this to a new level.

A simple toy that was just that -- a toy -- for two weeks became a weapon. A metal tin with Santa Claus on the lid. They had been innocently putting little fuzzy craft balls into it, and putting on the lid. They had been banging the two pieces together as a drum or musical instrument.

I left them alone, which I try to do once or twice a day, in their playroom. But when I heard the bang and then heard the cry, I knew somebody had gotten hurt. Evidence points to the metal tin being the weapon. A cut and a bump were left behind on one very upset little girl.

And yet the assaulter in this case just laughed at my attempts to show her the urgency of the situation. Take the toy away -- OK, she'll pick up another. Go to the corner, OK, she'll stand there quietly and then come out laughing. Say your sorry, gladly. She knows it's a boo-boo and she knows what did it, too.

Meanwhile, I've discovered that in all three incidents this week -- the assaulter is trying to defend her goods from the sister who, until now, always got what she wanted.

My goal, I have to keep remembering, is that hitting of any kind will not be tolerated, no matter how frustrated you get. And, when it does happen, they have to make up with a hug, eventually.

All of this is hard to communicate with two almost 2-year-olds who are just learning about the powers they have.

Despite all of this, they teach me the biggest lesson of all by saying they are sorry -- in sign language -- and moving on a minute later as if what just happened wasn't the worst thing ever.

Now I have to cope with the decision to stop leaving them alone, which has been a great relief for my sanity a couple times a day and good for their sisterly bonding as well, or realize that sibling rivalry is a part of life and they have to learn to deal with it.


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Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Straight Talk with Santa

Dear Kris,

I know you get a lot of these letters and I just want to say up front that there is no way that I’m implying that my letter be put before all of those little children in Africa or Iraq. I’m also not suggesting that my problems are worse or even comparable to other human beings’ problems this year.

I’m simply suggesting that if your budget allows for it this year, if there are some extra elves working, that perhaps you could consider our Christmas wish this year.

We would like a new house. Or, rather, to find a new owner for this one.

First, let me start by saying I have always been amazed by that miracle you did on 34th Street. Very impressive. I’m not trying to kiss up. Really.

Second, I know that I haven’t been all good this year. I’ve yelled a lot. I’ve cried a lot – but not nearly as much as last year, I think you’ll agree. I’ve cursed a lot. I’ve been mean to my body. I’ve not been socially, politically active or engaged in my community, unlike past years. There are many things that you know that I haven’t written or talked about, too.

Truth be told – not like I don’t have to tell you this – I’ve just been living.

My daily good this year comes not in forms of what I’ve done for humanity, but for my family.

With that, I thought it would be good to remind you of the past year’s events – so you may keep those in mind as you review your lists in the next several days. My letter highlights particular dilemmas for why we need to move, as well as the challenges we faced this year and how we handled them.

Again, our troubles pale in comparison to everyone else’s so I understand if our wish cannot be met. We will muddle through as we always do.

I’d like to start with why we need to leave this house.

First, we are paying too much to live here. Second, the Da! is gone some very long hours with the commute. Third, need I remind you of The Dead Guy Who Wasn’t? Or the burglary? Or the car theft? Or, Mr. Gross? This doesn’t even count the crack houses that became our neighbors this year. (Oh, and while I’m asking: our police department could use a few more officers.)

To sum up: Moving will benefit our family in many, many ways.

And yet, Santa, I am proud of the mothering I’ve done this year. I learned to walk again after the Dead Guy Who Wasn’t. I have yelled, but I’ve followed up with I’m sorry and I’ve learned – am still learning – how to try and remain calm even when I’ve spent 11 hours on my own for the fifth day in a row and both babies are crying and fighting and throwing their food that I just cooked specifically for them. You know about that whole Zen and Yoga stuff, right?

All of this, of course, doesn’t count the trillion blanket dances I’ve done this year – you know, cover up one toddler, then she stands up as I go to cover up the other one, and vice versa for, say, 20 minutes.

I’d also like to brag about my immense amount of patience when the Play-Doh colors are smashed together. I’ve grown to like the green with the pink. And, while I realize I thought the mealtime issues were hard earlier this year, I now realize that I was just a dumb new mother. Those issues were NOTHING compared to what we deal with now.

Finally, I’d like to finish up by pointing out a few quick statistics: In 24 months, the Da! and I have had five dates. That’s roughly 720 days (17,280 hours) with very little fine dinners and movies or just getting lost in each others’ eyes. Now, I know you believe in the sanctity of marriage so you understand that five dates in two years isn’t much. Surely, at your place, some reindeer are willing to baby-sit for free now and then, right? Sitters – and it’s hard to find one to trust – are expensive when there’s not even a dime leftover for house and car repairs.

Plus, and I’m not sure how many multiples you’ve encountered, but it gets pretty darn stressful around here when both toddlers are fussing and grabbing everything but the kitchen sink off the counters and there is no break. There. Is. Never. A. Break. Santa.

And, you know we need a date when we’ve started saying night-night as we tuck ourselves into bed.

Finally, among those 17,280 hours, there were some tough moments. Like when Jadyn scared us. Or, when Liana's lymph node became infected and we thought she might need surgery. Or her goose egg.

And, Santa, do I really need to mention The Poop story to you?

So, you see, I feel that we deserve to sell this house and move on. And, since you know people, I figure you are our best hope to find a new owner for this house.

Oh, and Santa ... I need you to really consider this letter today.

Namaste.

Shawn

P.S. Just so you know we will probably not put the girls' on your lap this year. I think we're still a bit traumatized by last year's episode. Please do not hold this against us.



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Sunday, December 9, 2007

Lost in a sea of questions


If a mother who is running wild into the woods is screaming can you hear her?

And, if you do, do you ignore her, tossing her off as a weak woman, some mad, crazy witch of a woman?

Or, better yet, do you watch as she loses her mind, thinking rationally that she chose this life, that she made her bed ... but keep your distance? After all, no one helped you, right? You did it on your own, right? She'll manage. That'll teach her to want kids, to want a family.

It could be that you've forgotten how tiring it can be, those early days. And, in hindsight -- always in hindsight -- it seemed so easy back then, when they were little.

Or, do you remember and run after her, offering her a warm blanket and some hot tea? Maybe send her a note in the mail telling her she's done a great job this week.

I'm just wondering. What you would do?

Because there are plenty of mothers running and screaming every day, but so many are ignored, except for the ones that go screaming toward you with all their might, leaving you no doubt that you must help them, and now.

But, what about the rest?

I can't help wonder why their silent screams go unheard and unanswered.



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Thursday, December 6, 2007

Our Mama's Lazy ... and crazy

Yes, it's true. She hates snow that much that she brought it inside to us:

 


 


But, she's not cruel. Despite not being prepared, despite not having any winter gear, despite the freezing cold, she did give us one thing today: Our first snow-playing experience.



 


We will say, though, that she looked very tired, and frazzled afterward. We didn't thank her, per say, but we did play nicely inside for a solid 30 minutes while she fixed dinner.
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Wednesday, December 5, 2007

The Law According to ... Final Day

Here is the final Next Great Writing Project list of entries for the second LTMD group writing project. Thanks again to all of you who gave the time to this one. It required some thought. And, if you wrote a list that isn't included, send me an e-mail and I'll add it as long as it was written before today.

The Law According to ...

Final Day

Susanna from Mama's Village has a sweet list you should check out, especially since her e-mail letting me know got caught in my spam filter.

Holly from Into the Great Wide Open has her list up and ready to be read. Check it.

Alesia also participated, and her e-mail also got dumped in the spam folder.

Lindsay from Blossoming Soul writes her list that includes "be gentle with yourself."

jlo from Zany life + Crazy Faith has a great little list here.

Randilin from Between the Ticks gives us 10 rules to write by. I think Randilin goes way off the deep end, personally, by saying he -- or we -- should CRAVE REJECTION!!! You mean ... don't sob for hours on end and then drink a bottle of wine? You mean just get right back up in the office chair and write, again? Yeah, right, Randilin.

Finally, you can read my little list here.

10 Rules to Live By entries -- Day three

Onedia from Onedia in the Ozarks

Marta from Writing in the Water

Shannon at A Writer's Journey

Jordan at MamaBlogga .

MPJ'a list of tools for your toolbox.

Brandy from The Mysterious Mrs. B Roth

Danielle from The Bipolar Diaries

RocketMom from Exploring New Worlds.


Day Two entries:


Kelli at The Zen of Motherhood

Momma Zen's Zen in Ten

Sarah at That's Life v 2.0 writes about the Number 10.

Moanna from Desperately Seeking Serenity and her 10 Rules

And, from Day One

Shelli of Mama of Letters

Bella

And, for Gary's list go here.

Edited to add a few new lists.


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Tuesday, December 4, 2007

The Law According to ... ME

You didn't think I'd keep my big mouth shut now did ya? Here you go ... my two cents. I hope this list isn't too repetitive; I hope it's not too personal.

*Be original: Worry less about what went on before you, or what goes on down the street, and more about how you and your family can set itself apart. It’s OK to be different. It’s good to travel in unchartered territory. It’s just fine to try something and realize it’s not right for you. Find comfort in taking the long way around, if that is what you choose to do in life. Be proud that you took the risk.

*Work at something: To sit and watch TV is not enough. You need to have goals. Whatever your passion is, stay with it and make sure that the flame doesn't die until you say it's time.

*Be forgiving: To yourself, that is. It’s OK to not be a perfect wife, it’s OK to not be a perfect daughter, it’s OK to not be a perfect mother. The sooner you realize this the sooner you will find happiness, again.

*Be forgiving: To others, too. Forgive the uncle who left, the father who left, the grandparents who left, the mother who left and the best friend who left. The only one left standing with the pain is you … it’s time to let go. You’ll feel lighter when you do.

*Feel the emotions: Truly. If the day is bad, say it’s bad and feel it and then let it go. If you feel rejected or lonely or scared, let the feeling rise and fall with your breath and understand that emotions make up the human experience. Soon, the happiness and joy and rejoicing will ebb and flow back into your life.

*Be compassionate to the earth: Carefully watch your footsteps as you walk more, drive less; buy local, buy fresh; recycle; buy used. Whatever you do, think of Her. She is sustaining you.

*Don’t assume: You know what they say .... Don’t assume that people have what they need. Don’t assume that people are busy. Don’t assume that people have plans for Thanksgiving or Christmas. Don’t assume a new mother is happy. Don’t assume a friend is handling life fine.

*Ask questions: Dig deeper – into people’s lives, the news, God, the labels on the foods you buy, the small print on the documents you sign, all of it. Be conscious of what you are accepting into your life as the truth because it just might not be anything of the sort. Once you get the information, make up your mind as to what is true, for you.

*Stay awake
: Sure, you know the book by heart, the drive to work by heart, the lyrics to "Silent Night," but are you listening, are you really looking, and are you paying attention?

*Be OK with silence: Silence is space, and it’s OK to let a little come between you and yours. It’s OK to just wait for the words to come. That’s how our thoughts build, that’s how we reflect, that’s how we suddenly see what we’ve been missing.






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Sunday, December 2, 2007

A hero of her own life

I recently watched the movie, The Holiday, starring Kate Winslet and the very hunky Jude Law. I, personally, loved the movie because one of the leading characters was a dad in the trenches trying to pretend he wasn't. I also loved the movie because of the theme that women need to be the star of their own life -- that they need to have gumption.

When I think of the intersection of those two ideas -- being in the trenches, yet being a leading lady -- I wonder if it's possible.

In a recent post of hers, called Family Cancer Tree, Bella from Beyond the Map, showed me -- no, proved to me -- that she is a walking example of a mom -- a woman -- in the trenches of motherhood who is also the leading lady of her life.

Like many of her posts, this one was perfect. So perfect that I'm awarding her with a Perfect Post Award.

The Original Perfect Post Awards

In that one post -- of 30 for the month of November -- she helped me find some forgiveness in my own heart, forgiveness that is long overdue. She helped me weed out some clutter that had been sitting in front of my eyes so I could see more clearly.

She wrote, "I am not a victim and in taking responsibility for my own life, I no longer must take responsibility for that which is not mine: my parents and their choices, my husband and his own quest for freedom, my sister or my friends or the women I serve. Knowing this, living this, does not separate me or close my off behind walls of protection but allows me to be more fully present. It’s not my job or within my capacity to fix them or heal them or live for them."

"When I try to do so it is no longer about them, but about me. They get to be the hero of their own life, as I am mine, and I get to be present to them: bearing witness, hearing and listening, holding the space, honoring the birth that is their own," she continued.

Bella writes so passionately, so soulfully, so brilliantly and offers so much wisdom and inspiration. This post is just one example that makes me feel like Bella is among the last few compassionate people in America. I hope to know her the rest of my days.

You can read Bella's Perfect Post here, and other Perfect Posts here or here.


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'Twas the Night Before ...

The magic of Christmas had been missing for so long I didn't even know it existed; I didn't know what I was missing. Marrying a little later in life has so many advantages, yet so many disadvantages. Living alone, I grew used to holidays being about one day, the single moment of the year when the spirit comes alive as family gathers.

Then, during my Infertile Years, Christmas became especially difficult; we didn't even put up a tree the second year.

And, while we celebrated our first Christmas as a family last year, there was no magic -- it was just a regular day of cleaning up spit up and changing diapers. I was still sleep deprived. I was still achingly new as a mother, as a woman with children. I wanted to see past the hard work and find the magic, but it escaped my fingertips.

I started to think that no holiday, birthdays included, were ever going to be magical again, that every day was just going to be hard, emotionally draining work.

And then something magical happened a week ago.

Overnight on November 22nd, the spirit of it all came alive within me.

It started as we drove through a special Christmas Lights Display on our way home on Thanksgiving. The girls were impressed by the colored lights on the trees -- blues, purples, red, white, green.

After four hard days, I woke on Monday morning feeling different. I didn't know it then, but later, while driving in the car with the tots bundled up in their seats behind me, Christmas songs were playing on the radio. I didn't turn them on, but there they were.

I turned up the music, and Jadyn and Liana started dancing and smiling.

A Monday, a regular day, suddenly was filled with magic. And, despite some terribly bad moments that this mom with twins endured, we've had similar moments since, and most involved putting on Christmas carols and singing and dancing.

Yesterday, as we put up our tree -- with help from my visiting mom, grandmother and aunt -- I started to understand that the spirit may have always been with me, but I never saw reason to bring it out, to help it come alive. Until now, I always felt like I was pretending, playing out a character in a movie that never made it to the theaters.

Last night, as Dan hung the lights on our tree and the girls danced around, touching each and every one, something else happened.

"I finally see the purpose in this holiday," I told him. "Do you?"

"Yes, it's dancing around the tree right now," he answered.

Then we proceeded to do what we've never done before in our lives.

We hung lights on our windows. Later today we'll display our newly discovered spirit, publicly, for the first time ever by hanging lights on our balcony.

Letting the world know that the magic has returned to us.

That we believe, again.



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Saturday, December 1, 2007

The Law According to ... Round 3

Shew, this has been great! So great, in fact, that I'm going to extend the deadline for three more days. The next and final Next Great Writing Project list will be published on Wednesday.

A big thank you to everyone who has really gone above and beyond with their list. These are not easy, I know. Just think, though, at least you are not me, the host, who decided early on to publish last. What's left? Hardly a thing. I think all of you got the whole wide world covered here, yet, each list is just as relevant to me as the rest. Amazing.

I'm so proud.

This blog will return to its typical three-posts-a-week format now that National Blog Posting Month is over. Of course, that doesn't mean it will just be three posts ... you never know what will happen around here that's blogable.

10 Rules to Live By entries -- Day three

Onedia from Onedia in the Ozarks writes 10 Rules that include some kissing ...

Marta from Writing in the Water gives 10 great rules about writing. All of us can always freshen up THOSE tools.

My girl Shannon at A Writer's Journey has outdone herself with 10 Rules filled with passion and purpose such as "Pay attention to the reoccurring themes in your life." She writes, "These are quiet lessons being whispered to us every day in the form of an overheard conversation, a book flipped open to the right page, a photo on a passing bus." And, that's just Number 1!

Jordan at MamaBlogga gives some very sensible tips in her 10 Rules.

My other girl, MPJ, has created a fabulous list of tools for your toolbox. She writes, "Not everyone needs the same toolbox (my wrench set may be metric and you may need English measure), and not everyone's tool box "has to" come from the same place (it can come from the hardware stores of religion, 12 Step, therapy, life experience, some other little shop down the street or a combination of all of them).

Brandy from The Mysterious Mrs. B Roth created a great list that stresses the importance of time outs -- for adults!

Danielle from The Bipolar Diaries has a great list posted. I especially dig her Number 6 ... about embracing routines.

Finally, RocketMom from Exploring New Worlds, who has quite the life experience to share, has written her list of 10 Rules as well.


Day Two entries:


Kelli at The Zen of Motherhood has written a fantastic little list that will make you laugh and cheer. Happy Belated Birthday, Mama Zen!

Not to be confused with ...

Momma Zen's Zen in Ten, which is a powerful list, simply stated. What I love about this list, and everything Karen writes, is that it's just the obvious that somehow, some way, gets lost in our cluttered thoughts.

Sarah over at That's Life v. 2.0 finished her A to Z project, and is now tackling numbers. That's right, she's written a post on the Number 10.

New to the party, I'm proud to introduce Moanna from Desperately Seeking Serenity and her 10 Rules, which I found to be extremely humorous and right on. I, personally, love Number 2. And, she's dedicated to world peace ... how can you not visit her blog?

And, from Day One

Shelli of Mama of Letters

Bella

And, for Gary's list go here.



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Thursday, November 29, 2007

The Law According to ... Round 2

When we're young, we take risks because we do not know better. As we age, we stop taking those risks because we know better. Which is more important? To live freely, without worries or to be comfortable, but running the risk of complacency?

I am not able to take risks anymore, at least not physically. These days, a risk for me is starting a MySpace page, deciding to tear down wallpaper, or ordering a great piece of art for art's sake.

When I was young -- and Mom Mom, don't read this -- I didn't always follow the rules. I did things to my body -- both physically and emotionally -- that now, in hindsight, I realize were not particularly healthy or productive.

But, the people, those places, that lifestyle helped me become who I am now. It all led me here, to this place, this cozy, beautiful, chaotic life ...

Where I set the rules and watch them be broken a million times a day, often with a smile, usually with a smirk of hope. From me. From them.

I see it in them ... at almost 23 months, they understand the world around them. They know the rules, they like them even, but they test them. They walk right up into the rules faces and taunt them with their pumpkin preserve-covered lips and sticky hands. They pump their chests like little gorillas at the rules. They pull the rug right out from under the rules. They drag the rules all over the house.

And, 98 percent of the day, I let them.

****

The Great Writing Project -- Day Two

The newest entries for 10 Rules to Live By are listed at the top of this list. The others, below, are those I have already told you about here.

Kelli at The Zen of Motherhood has written a fantastic little list that will make you laugh and cheer. Happy Belated Birthday, Mama Zen!

Not to be confused with ...

Momma Zen's Zen in Ten, which is a powerful list, simply stated. What I love about this list, and everything Karen writes, is that it's just the obvious that somehow, some way, gets lost in our cluttered thoughts.

Sarah over at That's Life v. 2.0 finished her A to Z project, and is now tackling numbers. That's right, she's written a post on the Number 10.

New to the party, I'm proud to introduce Moanna from Desperately Seeking Serenity and her 10 Rules, which I found to be extremely humorous and right on. I, personally, love Number 2. And, she's dedicated to world peace ... how can you not visit her blog?

From Day One

Shelli of Mama of Letters

Bella

And, for Gary's list go here.

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Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The Law According to ... Round One

You might have noticed a new person taking my comments section to a whole new level the last couple of days. Gary is a new reader by way of Shannon's blog. Since she hasn't been posting a whole heck of a lot lately, he's pestering me. Thanks, girlfriend. And, as I've learned, he will fit right in here. We'll call him the token writer dad.

His LAWS were the first to arrive in my in-box. Down below, you can read his list, which coming from a dude, turned out to be incredibly insightful, overflowing with heart and full of wisdom. There's a little humor tossed in for comedic effect as well.

Also up on Day One is Shelli of Mama of Letters, who wrote a lovely list that includes the simple things in life like learning to love music, reading and drinking wine. OK, I used a little poetic justice there and mixed some things together because those are a few of my favorite things. Read her list of 10 Rules to live by and tomorrow will be a little brighter for you.

And, Bella ... Ah, Bella ... she has outdone herself once again. She is easily climbing the great big blogging ladder with her purity and grace in writing. Her list is soulful and poetic, but you have to read it to see just how beautiful it is. Grab a cozy chair and sit back for this one, as always. Then again, most of you have already!

Now, for Gary's list. You can learn more about Gary's private self by visiting his MySpace page, where you would need to be accepted as a friend to view his blog and writing.

The dreaded list

Ah, ‘tis the season for… the list. The dreaded list. As perhaps the only “not a mama” in the group, I would be remiss not to let you ladies in on a little secret that you may or may not already be aware of: as a general rule, men hate lists. Personally, I am not of that male persuasion, however, and I find that lists get me quite nicely where I want to go in life, whether it be a Honey-do list, a Gary-do list, or even my soon to be infamous how to become dictator of the world, starting with Fiji list. I’m most fond of that one, though it seems to be the most difficult one to check anything off of!

Oh, it’s not a matter of being forgetful, mind you, though I have unfortunately been a victim of that circumstance at various points in my life, too, but give me a list, and I’m one happy camper. There is just something about being able to draw a line through what you have accomplished in a day and experiencing the satisfaction that comes with seeing such a visible progression. Perhaps that is why I chose to become a carpenter. In fact, I’m sure that it is.

So, what are those things I would recommend as vital gear on this journey we call life? Well, since you ask, I would recommend that a person:

Believe in God. Even if you don’t know which version of his story to subscribe to, believe in God, first and above all. If you do, one day, the rest will come to you. Too, I have personally always found suspect, and never fully been able to trust the intentions of, a human being that had no greater recourse to accountability than that which lay no further than the flesh of their own skin or the cleverness of their own intellect. Unsold? Then, consider Pascal’s wager. (This one should piss a few people off, huh? Woo-hoo, look at me! I’m pissing folks off everywhere I go! I must be the president).

Be willing to break the rules. If someone asks you for a list of ten things, give them twelve, pressed down and shaken together for good measure. And, though what follows should be a matter of course, I think, I find that it rarely is: if you’re going to break the rules, you really ought to first learn what they are to begin with. So, learn the rules. This is the surest-fire way to alleviate yourself of undo criticism, and perhaps the real heart of my advice.

Subscribe to the irony of life. This is the reason God gave it to us. Realize that no matter how much your rational mind suggests a thing ought to behave this way or that, know that, often, it won’t. But, by letting yourself go to the wonderment of this anomaly, you’ll not only find life to be more entertaining, you’ll find, at the end of it, you’ve lived longer and died with less stress as a result.

Read the book. One of the most powerful marketing ploys of our day, and one to which I am too often a sucker, is an attractive cover. On some you might have a picture of nothing but a woman’s legs, on another, some beau-hunking stud-muffin baring his chest as he swoops down and rescues some maiden or another, but eventually, the cover wears off. Then, what are you left holding? So, read the book.

Never lie to your spouse. Lie to your employer, lie to your friends, lie to the world, even, but never, ever, ever, lie to your spouse. You share a bed with this person, and they can kill you in your sleep.

Love. Wholeheartedly and without reservation, love. It is the investment in life that pays the greatest dividends. So, even if you’ve fallen off this horse a thousand times—and been kicked in the head on at least half of those—pick yourself up, get on the next one that comes along, and give everything you have to the effort. You will be crushed for doing so. You will be made a fool of. You will be terribly, dismally, irrevocably, horribly scarred for life—aw, aren’t I the hopeless romantic—but do it anyway. Sometimes, the ride will be quicker than others, sometimes you’ll be at the far side of the pasture before you hit the fence, but love anyway… until it sticks, because one day, it will. It always does. So, love. But… love yourself first, because you’ll never succeed with love of another human being until you do. Love.

Draw. Write. Paint. Whittle, even. But create something, even if your masterpiece is nothing more than your own children and the next burgeoning generation of young capitalists. Create something. This is the third highest endeavor of man, and one that will seldom leave you unrewarded.

Dream BIG. When you aim the arrows of your dreams at the moon, they may not reach it, but how much farther will they have traveled than if you had chosen a more terrestrial target than she. Want to write? Then write for a Pulitzer or the New York Times bestseller list. Want to build? Then build with your eyes set on subdivisions. You may not accomplish, either, but I bet you’ll go further than had you chosen to not to.

Confront your fears. Whatever they are, own them, because if you don’t, they will own you. Confront them, repeatedly, if necessary, until they have been over-come. Fear is the leading cause of failure in the United States, today, according to the Surgeon Corporal. So, own your fears, and remember that practice, practice, practice makes perfect.

Live unrepentantly. Make your share of mistakes, but learn from them when you do. To assist you, remember that everybody else is going to, too, and yours will rarely be the most egregious of embarrassments or errors. An unembarrassed life is an unexamined life. I have only ever heard of one man that was perfect, and his was still a life of embarrassment… over us.

Laugh. More importantly, still, learn to laugh at yourself—and often—because I promise you, the world is more than ready to laugh for you, and you will diffuse the power they have over you, if you’re the first to initiate the laughter. I spent the better part of my young adult life trying to be cool, and though it looked good, perhaps, I found it a most dissatisfying fit. Rather, letting go and learning to laugh at myself proved the infinitely more comfortable wear… and I don’t believe anyone that has worn both shoes will disagree with me.

Love. What? Have I already mentioned this one? Well, it bears repeating. Love. With all your heart, with all your soul, with all your might, love. Find a girl and be willing to make a fool of yourself over her. Love. Nothing you do will ever leave you as accomplished, and nothing you can do without it will ever leave you as fulfilled. Love.

These are the things in life that I struggle with most sometimes, but that are just as reciprocally the things I find that bring me the most success to me as a human being—the things that are worth the struggle that often comes from exacting them as a personal discipline. Who knows, give them a try. Maybe you will find them to be as cantankerous and fulfilling as I have. If not, at least I can laugh at you knowing you took anything I said to heart! So, feel free to enrich the life of your fellow man, you buggers! And a Merry Christmas to all, and to all, a good life.



I've learned that my blog is showing an error at times so if you have experienced this please let me know because I do not have a clue as to what is happening.

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Twins and more twins

I had to laugh this morning watching the news, which is only a very new part of my morning routine since every other morning of the last two years has been chaos.

I sat, with my coffee cup in hand, listening to four sets of parents talk with The Today Show about the odd coincidence that four sets of twins were born in one 24-hour period. That's right, you heard me: four sets of parents with newborn twins that are only three days old were up early, dressed, and doing interviews on television with Matt Lauer. Of course, that's not the funny part, that's just the annoying part.

The funny part was as they described the miracle of it all, the amazement they had, the double blessings ... my twins were head-butting each other, pushing and fighting over breathing the same air or over the same speck of dust.

Twins certainly are miracles, aren't they? It's a wonder they live to see Age 3.

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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

LTMD's Group Writing Project Take 2

With time ticking on my daily break which allows me to work, it's time to unveil the Next Great Writing Project.

I want this to be fun, or serious, or a little of both. It can be insightful. It can be political. It can be related to kids -- or not. I want it to reflect who you are as a person. I want it to reflect what you believe. Your passions. Your humor. Your pet-peeves, even. The topics are endless.

This project is open to everyone, even those without blogs. Just e-mail me your entries. There is no winner with this project. You will get nothing but links. Every other day or so I will link to all of the entries up to that point. The earlier you post, the more links you will get. Get it?

The rules: Have fun with it and be sure to link to this post in your post.

So, without further ado, here's your prompt:

The Law According to You
Make a list of “10 Rules to Live By” that are based on your own experiences, not someone else’s.

Once you have your entry posted, e-mail me your entry at ubertwins at gmail dot com. Last day to post will be Saturday. A final list will be published on Sunday. Please do not post your entry here.

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Raising daring girls

When my Mom decided to move to Georgia after living nearly 50 years in the same county in Maryland, it was quite a shock.

Daring, risk-taking, adventurous was just something she wasn't.

While she's never held me back for trying to take risks, she was definitely not actively teaching me to seek out adventure.

If anything, she taught me to be extra cautious, extra careful --- qualities that I still hold deeply to heart, especially now as a mother.

It truly is a fine line with wanting to give your daughters the world, but protect them, too.

Right now, my daughters are fearless in the most crazy, crowded places, yet cower between my legs in small, intimate situations.

I know I will struggle with pushing them to take risk, while holding them back from trouble and pain and getting hurt.

I know I want them to make their own mistakes, and learn from them. Yet, I feel, it's my job to at least warn them of the mistakes I made and how I learned from them or maybe even changed because of them.

Yes, raising girls -- daring ones, at that -- is a scary thought.

That's why when MotherTalk offered me a chance to review the new "The Daring Book for Girls," by Andrea J. Buchanan and Miriam Peskowitz, I jumped at the chance. I knew enough about the boy version, "A Dangerous Book for Boys," to know that the girls version would be a great book to hold on to for Jadyn and Liana.

Inside, the pages are covered with amazing information that taught me interesting things. Some of my favorites:

1. Rules of the Game: Basketball: With a husband who is pretty into sports, and basketball in particular, I have always felt at a disadvantage for not knowing anything about the game. I love that now I'll have some insight to offer the girls when they get started in sports. Of course, their Da will teach them everything they need to know. He's already commenting on Liana's natural form and throw.

2. Building a Campfire: It's not enough to just sit back and enjoy the campfire. A girl needs to know how to build it, and sustain it. This book gives that information.

3. What is the Bill of Rights: Much more than the fact that I want to raise daring girls, I want to raise politically smart women who aren't afraid to question what is happening in their government and speak their minds about it.

4. Finance: Interest, Stocks and Bonds: This section of the book could be longer and more detailed, but what is provided is good. I believe this kind of information needs to be taught to young girls as early as possible. It's not enough to use just a savings account anymore.

By the time I finished reading this book, I felt satisfied and plan to buy a copy for my niece, who is a tween. My biggest problem with this book is not knowing what age group it is best for. An eight-year-old might have fun learning some of the more basic things in the book, while a teenager might have interest in the more advanced. And yet it would be perfectly fine for a 30-year-old or an 80-year-old woman.

I guess it's a book that a girl can grow into as she reaches each stage in life.

Regardless, "The Daring Book for Girls" should be sitting on her bedside table, and parents should be reading along, too. Especially about the Bill of Rights, part.

Stay tuned: The LTMD Group Writing Project topic will be announced today. Get your keyboards ready!

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Monday, November 26, 2007

Monitordropping

"Man, you guys are relentless when it comes to peeing," Da! said as I listened over the monitor. He's just given them a bath.

"If you have to go that's what the potty is for," he said. (me smirking)

"Wait, I have to clean up your puddle.

three seconds later

"Liana! I have to give you the same lecture as your sister. If you have to go to the potty ..."

Smirk.


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Sunday, November 25, 2007

A birthday tribute

If you were to read my journal from fourth grade, you would see that every other entry, at least, mentions my Mom Mom.

"Spent the night at Mom Mom's house," I wrote.

"I can't wait to go to Mom Mom's house tomorrow."

The entries continue much like that through the whole year.

To explain what this woman has meant to me is very hard to put into words.

She is the sun.
She is the moon.
She is the stars.

Today, she celebrates her 75th birthday.

My grandmother -- and grandfather -- have helped make me who I am. We lived with them for a few years after my parents' divorce. Beyond that, they whisked me away every summer for several years for two weeks of road trips and camping across the east and south coasts.

Because of them I saw states like Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, Texas and all of New England. I even bartered for goods in Mexico with them. They've taken me to see mountains, the coast, the South of the Border and to Lake Champlain, where I learned about Champ, the mythical aquatic monster that supposedly lives there.

But, my grandmother gave me the world at home, too. She played dress up with me. Serious dress up, too. She kindly let me put make-up on her, too. She went all out for tea parties with nasty fruit cake that no one wanted and all of my dolls and stuffed animals.

Jadyn and Liana are already starting to get her. She's easy to get. She still has the gumption to pick them up when they ask, carry them to the window to peek outside when they ask, to play games with them.

She, who lives roughly 65 miles away, sees them less than she'd like, but they know her.

I realize I am lucky, to have a grandmother in my life and for her to be so special. I am even luckier to see my daughters learn to love her as much as I do.

I am sorry that this blog post may make her cry on her birthday. It's bringing me to tears to write it. But, all of this needed to be said. In fact, I could write three days' of posts just about her.

Funny, I didn't even know how young she turns today until I asked my Mom. To me, she will always be ageless, cracking jokes and answering questions with, "I don't think that's any of your business." She will always be the Mom Mom who got up early and stood in line to buy me one of the very first Cabbage Patch dolls.

She will always be the one who never visits without something in hand to offer:


Her house will always be home:


Happy Birthday, Mom Mom!


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The evolution of language

I remember the days when I would sit at my computer in the morning, listening to the monitor, as the girls woke up.

"Da!" they would say for everything.

One would say Da, the other would respond with Da.

Now, words -- intelligible, wonderful, glorious words -- come out of their mouths as they sit in waiting for their Mama.

"Hi," they say in whispy voices to each other.

"Mamadadamamadadamamadada," follows, probably with some sign language intermixed as well.

Sometimes they say Dodo, which for you laymen means dog.

Sometimes it's wawa, which means water.

And, the latest, which happens to be my favorite.

"Elmo."

Let the fun begin.

Thank goodness for the English Language and the creation of the word Elmo.

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Saturday, November 24, 2007

Martinis and canapes for all!

I've been waiting for the perfect moment to hand out some awards, and today seems like a great day.

I plan to go back to my archives to see just how long MPJ has been hanging around my blog. It's been a long while, and she was one of my very first avid readers. It's funny how I just don't know how we came upon each other's blogs. That's just the way the blogging weave is wove, I suppose.

Anyway, MPJ at A Room of Mama's Own awarded me with some very nice awards about a week or so ago. First, she gave me a Be the Blog Award, which is "for bloggers who "make [a blog] their own, stay with it, are interactive with their readers, and just plain have fun."

She also gave me a Nice Matters Award, which was given to me a while back by Kasie, but I never did anything with it. I'm sorry, sometimes I just forget things. Sometimes I just don't know what to do. I've been mixed about what to do with awards, and how to hand them out without hurting anyone's feelings.

Also, about a week ago, Momma Bean gave me an Excellent Blog award. Thanks, Jean!

So, now it's my turn to spread the link love.

My picks for Be The Blog Awards are ...

That's Life v 2.0: If you haven't been reading In the Fast Lane's A to Z list of thanks this month, you're missing out. She is really going all out with thoughtful topics and well-written posts.

Momma Bean: Momma Bean always has something quirky and fun going on at her place. Her twin daughters are just adorable, too.


And, Excellent Blog awards go to ...

The Whole Self: I just love reading Nina's words and about her life. She always has great ideas, great insight and great inspiration to offer.

Beyond the Map: Bella's blog is just, well, you all know ... perfect. Enough said.

Mama of Letters: Shelli and I are newly acquainted in the world of blogging, but her blog has become a top read on my list. We share that love of writing and mothering.



Finally, Nice Matters (and everyone who visits my blog daily deserves a Nice Award)

Bastet at Parenting Tales - for being a great reader here and at my OTHER blog.

Shannon at A Writer's Journey: Well, you see her comments here all the time, but what you don't know is what a great friend she has become as we travel the toddler twin road together.

Laura from Laura's Mommy Journal: Because she always has thoughtful things to say and did you read how giving she and her family are each Christmas in the comments of my traditions post? Wow. That's nice!

Candace from And then What!? because she needs to know that she is nice and deserves something very special every day -- even when it doesn't seem like it.


Many of the readers on my list are moms who write and I'm so grateful to have such an awesome blogging family. So thanks to all of you.

In honor of that, let's gear up for the Second Letters to my Daughters Group Writing Project, ya'll! Stay tuned for the topic, but it will be a lot of fun. It will begin Tuesday, Nov. 27 and continue until Dec. 1. This time, however, I will post the links to your entries every couple days instead of all at once at the end to help build awareness.

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Friday, November 23, 2007

Unhappy Holiday Moments

I'd like to lie and say that our Thanksgiving was perfect -- storybook perfect. And, yet, the climax of the day -- the middle of the book -- was much like that, with a game of tossing acorns in the air and running to catch slippery, evasive leaves in the windy air. That part of the story includes a lovely dinner with wonderful relatives, and many happy moments while at my daughters' great-grandparent's house.

And yet ...

There have been some brutal moments, too. Like endless crying, a toddler wanting only Da, then me, then Da, then me. Food refusals. Lots of food refusals. Bedtime disasters. Early rising. Lack of interest in anything but being held. Me losing my temper. A fight. Guilt. Lots and lots of guilt. Making up. A messy, chaotic house. A headache. Shopping nightmares both without a stroller, with a stroller and in a cart.

But, we all love cheesecake, and that seems to make us all a little happier.

Here's to hoping that this Thanksgiving becomes the Year of Cheesecake, and storybook endings.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

When it's OK to steal ideas

I love reading about other family's traditions. Here are a few great reads along that idea. Enjoy.

Family Fun Magazine

Family Fun Traditions blog


Cafe Traditions
(I really like the idea of the Family Gratitude Journal for Thanksgiving, which relieves bashful people from speaking their thanks aloud.)


If you know of a better link, please leave it in the comments. If you decide to do one, let us know.

Or, if you are bored with this topic, go here instead and watch this video, again. It speaks to my humanitarian heart that I'm still thankful for despite feeling a little jaded lately.

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Traditions -- from scratch

Part of the beauty of blogging is the conversations I have with so many of you who I am able to e-mail in response to your comments (If you don't know about this; you change your email setting preferences in blogger). I love visiting your blogs, yes, but I also love learning a little more behind the scenes.

The past week or so has been enlightening as we correspond about the spirit of the holidays and our take on what family and celebrating means. As it turns out, I am not alone in trying to figure out how to give more meaning to this season.

For the better part of my life, I always spent Christmas Eve at my mother's house and Tommy and I, once he was born, would get up early to open presents. My grandparents would arrive not long after. Breakfast became a ritual, too, with egg casserole and fruit salad. Tommy and I would play the rest of the morning.

Sure, the presents were great, but the spirit of it all is what makes Christmas, or any of the holidays you celebrate.

But, all of this is different now that I'm the mom, that my Mom doesn't live close enough for us to drop in for an early morning breakfast, that everyone wants to be at their house -- not ours -- for Christmas, unlike when I was a child.

For the last two years, I didn't even see my family on Christmas Day. Our celebration happened the day before and, while nice, it wasn't the same for me and I've been mourning the season as I knew it as a child and young woman.

Since I do not work, and now Da's company holds after Christmas parties, which I think are ridiculous, we don't even have any party invitations this year. In fact, as soon as we became parents of twins I swear all of our invitations to everything stopped coming in the mail.

Also in past years, we had a little -- not much more -- money to put into gifts and glam, especially to throw parties ourselves. This year, many of our gifts will be homemade and parties are just out of the question.

The hand-made gifts will be thoughtful and cute and sweet. I love the idea, actually, and yet ...

It's all new to me and I'm trying to feel my way as we start to build memories for Jadyn and Liana. They, of course, are still too young to understand any of this, but I'm sure they will have a blast regardless.

I've been busy thinking hard about what traditions I want to start from scratch since we have this unique vantage point of being a blank slate.

I'm looking forward to finding resourceful, unique ways to enjoy the whole season and not just one day with my daughters and with my husband, and with some close friends who also want to share the spirit with us. We even bought a book last year on this topic and got some great ideas.

So, right here, right now I'm unveiling our two new-to-me traditions.

The first is an advent of books. Each day will offer one book to be unwrapped and read. Most will be holiday-related; many will offer glimpses of traditions around the world. As the girls grow, those books will be the start of that day's meal -- perhaps Mexican or French, and discussions. I never want them to feel as if American traditions are the only traditions.

The second will be a moms and kids holiday party. This year, and probably years to come, will be a cookie decorating party. The cookies my girls make will be given as gifts this year.

I know that as Jadyn and Liana get older, finding new ways to make Christmas and Thanksgiving and any other holiday our own will get easier.

In the meantime, these ideas will have to do.

How about you? Care to share a unique tradition that you've come up with on your own either to celebrate with your children or your special person?



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Sunday, November 18, 2007

Seventeen years younger ... and, yet

Dear Tommy,

I was just 17 and preparing for the prom with my senior boyfriend the day you came home from the hospital with mom.

For all those years, I had never had a sibling, never had a playmate and suddenly I was a teen-age mother-like person. Of course, I had no real responsibility over you other than to entertain you. I can share this with you now. This does not mean I didn't suffer growing pains watching you grow up.

You were the first person to show me what unconditional love feels like. When you hurt -- like the time you fell in the basement and got a goose egg bump on your head or when you got that raging fever at the beach -- I hurt. When you cried, I cried. It was common for me to play with you on the floor or outside when you were a baby and a young toddler. I remember teaching you to say, "Play ball!" I can still hear your sweet, innocent baby voice perfectly.

When you and mom moved away last year, I was devastated for a trillion reasons; the loss of you being the biggest.

You've changed a lot since the days when you used to stay the night at my house and watch movies and eat good food.

It takes roughly 12 hours for regular folks to get to your house in Georgia from Pennsylvania. But, for my family, with two toddlers, it might as well be 12 days. Just going to the grocery store seems to take an eternity, and yet the time and the money never seem to fall on our side to make a visit work out.

But, when we do you'll be close to 17 years old and this is what I'll find ... A very tall boy who is 17 years younger than I and who still fills my heart with great joy.



I'm so grateful you entered my life, Tommy.

Love,

Sissy







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How NOT to buy a house

Dear Prospective Home Buyers:

As you glide from room to room, taking in all of our cheap furniture and hand-me-down accessories, please consider that despite everything it is our home, that we feel comfortable in these four walls, that we have given everything we could to it. No, it doesn't have top dollar anything. We never gathered enough Top Dollar to give it anything more than what it had already save for that bathroom faucet and the stainless steel refrigerator.

Please understand that our motivations were simple.

We chose this house for its walkable destinations, which at the time included a growing number of retail shops and restaurants that have since closed their doors.

We chose this house because of the richness in racial and ethnic diversity in its neighborhood, but that decision didn't reap the lasting friendships we had hoped for. In fact, all we've ever been is the white family in the nice house. Perhaps you can be more than that.

We chose this house for the active neighborhood association that appeared to be full of warmth and love for a city struggling to find its identity. Little did we know that most of the neighbors would be anything but warm and kind. In fact, it's taken four years for some of them to even talk to us.

We chose this house because research and statistics showed that violent crime rarely, if ever, happened outside its four walls. We honestly didn't realize that that meant other things wouldn't occur nearby like Just Plain Dumb People who know how to push my buttons.

We chose this house because it was the right thing to do, because we were young professionals and small cities like this need people like us.

The mistake we made -- the only mistake we made -- was thinking we could make a difference. Maybe we did. It's hard to tell. Our eyes are fogged over with the pitter-patter of tiny feet running across these hard wood floors.

It takes more than just one person or one family to make a difference. Every one must work together to save urban cores. State officials around the country need to find ways to change the vicious cycle of high taxes, poor school systems and economically challenged students who don't even get to take home text books to study for math tests. It is no wonder that the life of crime on the streets draws them in; its easier than learning algebra equations.

Someone -- maybe you? -- needs to have time to devote to turning the poverty rate around, to revitalizing blocks, to helping young women realize that there is something better beyond the life they've known.

It will take all of you and many more people after us to make a substantial difference.

We are un-choosing this house not because we have given up, though, perhaps we have, but because we sincerely can't do our share any longer. To live in a city like this, you must be able to put forth a great deal of effort -- effort that we no longer have time or energy or money for.

Hope is not lost. It continues with you.

Consider this a passing of the torch ... it's your turn. Just choose it for your own reasons, not ours.

Sincerely,

The Seller

P.S. Please realize that we are grateful for everything this house has offered; the glimpses into a life and reality that many people couldn't dream up in a fiction novel, the fresh, local produce that is just a short or even shorter walk from our doorstep, the smells of heritage mixing in the Sunday air and, of course, the family we created here.

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Saturday, November 17, 2007

Say ... duck!

I had heard horror stories. Just awful stories.

OK, not really horror stories. But, rather, complaints about photographers not being very good with their young twins.

So, I pretty much avoided having them done. Between that and the mere fact that it is nearly impossible to get two of them in a decent mood, dressed cute and out the door on time for anything.

But, we did it today thanks to our Unitarian Universalist Congregation who scheduled the days for members to have their family photos taken.

And it went off without meltdowns.

Everyone, including me, smiled. The photographer, and his stuffed duck, were very good.

It was beautiful.

I'm no longer afraid of professional photographers. Just the opposite, actually, I might be a tad addicted after seeing just how cute the pictures turned out.

Sure, we spent too much money, and we could have probably gotten a better deal and cuter pictures elsewhere, but can you say, "Christmas presents?"

Just wait until you see them.

I'm one Grateful Mama today.

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Friday, November 16, 2007

Yes!!!!!!!




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Thursday, November 15, 2007

A feminist housewife

Dear Jadyn and Liana,

"What will you do?" your Da! asked me one day, not long ago.
"You know, when they start school?" he continued, with caution and perfect-Da! thoughtfulness.
I will continue writing, I immediately snapped.
It is my mission to never have to return to another office-like setting again unless it's my own business.
It is my purpose to make sure that I will always be home when you get home from school.
Just because these early years pass too fast and I don't want to miss them doesn't mean I want to miss any of the rest.
Just the opposite.
I want to be there when you get home to offer you a snack, to help you with your homework, to find some form of physical activity to engage in.
Perhaps more than anything, those days will be most important to me of all.

****

As you grow into girls and then adolescents and then into teenagers, I want you both to take a hard look at what makes you most happy.
It could be that, at this moment, a boy makes you happy.
That is fine.
Follow your dreams.
But, never give up on the fact that you might change your mind, you might discover something bigger, brighter or more heavenly just ahead, around the curve.
And when you see it just stop and enjoy it.
Find the peace in that moment.
You will know when it's time to move on.

****

I hope as you read these blog posts on some crazy archiving machine in your college library that you aren't hurt or sad by my words, that you don't pity me for becoming Just a Mom.
Rather, I hope that you will take the time to search through that same machine all the words that I typed over the years as a writer and journalist.
Sure, I cooked your meals, brushed your hair and helped you make crafts.
Now and then, I even folded your clothes or baked cookies.
Those are just jobs that all moms do and much better than I.
Just like you, I followed my career dreams. I lived that world -- and it still feels like I spent a lifetime doing so.
All along I was dreaming of you, though.
When my career-life was over, just like a great novel, I just knew it was complete, for me.
Perhaps you will find a profession that will lead you all over the world. One that will bring you satisfaction and peace.
In the end, you may decide to become Just a Mom yourself.
Or not.
That's the beauty of being an American woman.
The choices.
They are yours to make over and over.

****

The day may come for me when I wonder why I chose a life that keeps me more housebound than ever. I may suddenly miss being that working woman who gets coffee breaks and chats with co-workers.
I may keep wondering that. I may always reevaluate the decision.
But, for now I am truly at peace with believing that the family unit needs to be protected. That it is, indeed, a dying art form that even our stupid government can't protect with dumb laws.
Family meals, discovering traditions, gatherings of relatives -- these are things I value more than a paycheck, more than whose car is bigger or who has the nicer title.
I don't even care about a Pulitzer. Not that much, anyway.
The truth is I hardly do laundry. Your father does it.
I don't see myself as a housewife or a housekeeper.
Just a Mom.
With a purpose.
And that purpose is you.
The two of you.
That's my choice.

Thank you. Thank you so very much.





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