Tuesday, December 29, 2015

You Should Be A Writer #SOL15

"You should be a writer," she says, hugging me through the tears as we stand outside the church on a crisp December Monday morning.  She was my Grandma's neighbor for many years and the daughter of one of her best friends, who passed away on another December day a few years ago. 

Moments earlier, I had bowed by the altar near my Grandmother's casket, climbed the steps, paper in hand. I adjusted the microphone and saw the faces of my family and some friends who made the journey.  It was not a packed church. There was silence. And I began, with a composure that must have been a gift of courage from above, as I am rarely composed in the face of such sadness. 

It was a special honor to write about my Grandma, to honor the beautiful life she led and the love she gave to so many.  To write something and then to stand in church and read it to the family and friends gathered.  It was one small kindness I could give back to her after a lifetime of kindnesses she gave to me. 

In Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott talks about being a writer, even if you're never published, even if you're never famous or rich from your writing.  At the end of the book, she writes this:

"So why does our writing matter, again?" they ask.

Because of the spirit, I say. Because of the heart. Writing and reading decrease our sense of isolation. They deepen and widen and expand our sense of life: they feed the soul. When writers make us shake our heads with the exactness of their prose and their truths, and even make us laugh at ourselves or life, our buoyancy is restored.  We are given a shot at dancing with, or at least clapping along with, the absurdity of life, instead of being squashed by it over and over again. It's like singing on a boat during a terrible storm at sea. You can't stop the raging storm, but singing can change the hearts and spirits of the people who are together on the ship."

"You should be a writer," she says and in my heart, I know I am. 

Monday, December 21, 2015

A Pal and a Confidante #SOL15

"Thank you for being a friend,
Travel down the road and back again.
Your heart is true, 
You're a pal and a confidante."
-"Golden Girls" theme song

When I was a little girl, my sister, Christine, and I would sometimes sleep over our grandparent's house.  We called it staying at the "hotel" and it was a treat! Often we would first go out for Chinese food (I would drink too much tea and eat too many noodles with duck sauce- my favorite!) and then go back to Grandma and Grandy's cozy "hotel." We would change into pajamas and Grandy would open the bed tucked away in the sofa in the den.  Then Grandma would put fresh smelling sheets on the bed and at 9:00, we would watch "Golden Girls" together. 

My childhood is filled with memories of my grandparents- their porch in the summer, Christmas Eves around their sparkling tree, Sunday dinners, and celebrations of all kinds. Being picked up from half-days of school by our grandparents and going to Burger King. School concerts and awards nights with them beaming in the crowd.  

When I was 20 years old, my Grandy passed away. It had been a horrible summer where he got sicker and sicker laying in the hospital.  Everyone was working but me, a college student, so I would pick up my Grandma and drive her to the hospital to be with Grandy.  We drove through Eisenhower Park and ate frozen yogurt in the hospital cafe. I kept trying to see the silver lining and believed Grandy could get better, but Grandma knew he wouldn't. They had such a beautiful love story and losing him was so painful for her, but what I will remember always is her courage and the way she kept on going and kept on seeking out happy times.  Right before we walked down the aisle at my Grandy's funeral, when the music started and the tears welled and we almost lost it, she said that we had to be strong like Jackie Kennedy was strong when the President died. She walked down the aisle like a lady. 

Sixteen years my Grandma lived without my Grandy. In those years, I graduated from college and graduate school. My sister graduated from law school. There were engagements and weddings and babies born and christened. My Grandma got to be a Great Grandma to three children. There were weddings and parties and birthdays and holidays. There were Wednesday dinners, with delicious salads to start and something different to eat each week, lovingly prepared.  There were countless phone calls and chats on the porch.  There was advice and guidance and wisdom. 

Today my Grandma passed away.  She went into the hospital last Tuesday and less than a week later she has passed away.  She was 89 years old.  She had shopped on QVC for our Christmas gifts and had wrapped them before getting sick. I wanted to go after work today to say goodbye but by the time my class holiday party had ended, she had already passed away. Here's what I would have said to her if I had the chance:

Grandma, thank you for being my friend. Thank you for being there for me through everything, for having a happy nature and being so kind and generous to everyone. Thank you for all the sleepovers, all the dinners, all the chats, all the love.  Thank you for adding so much joy to my life.  I will always be grateful for you, always love you, never forget you.  I hope that you are dancing in Heaven with Grandy and surrounded by all your family and friends that you had to say goodbye to in life.  I can't imagine how happy you would be to see your parents again and your grandparents! Your brother, your cousins, your best friends. They surely missed you the way we will miss you every single day. 

Monday, December 14, 2015

A Black Cloud Kind of Night #SOL15

It's a black cloud kind of night.

My beloved Grandmother is facing some health challenges.  At almost 90, nothing is to be taken lightly. 

It is the horrific anniversary of the shootings at Sandy Hook. All of those precious lives gone in an instant. Grief so unimaginable.

Country singer Joey Feek, who is dying of Stage 4 cervical cancer, attempts to play and teach sign language to her baby with Down Syndrome. The pictures make me cry.

Sadness envelopes me tonight. Such a sad Slice of Life, but I guess the truth is, some slices are just sad. Some slices cannot be sweetened by platitudes and promises of brighter mornings. I won't stay here for long, in this place of darkness, but tonight I reside. 

Tonight I am angry about a world where a child is dropped off at school and gunned down moments later. 

Tonight I'm gutted by the unfairness of a new mother to a child with special needs dying of cancer. Why some lives are cut short.

Tonight I'm worried for my Grandma. 

Tonight I feel so far behind in everything, in every way. 

It's a black cloud kind of night. 

Monday, December 7, 2015

The Tale of Molly Mouse #SOL15

I first met Miss Molly Mouse when my son, Alex, was 4 months old.  Play Hooray, a group that provides entertainment for children through birthday parties and other venues, was running some sessions for babies at my local library.  I was anxious to get out and meet other moms and provide stimulation for my 4 month old.  He wasn't as interested in being stimulated. I still remember "Dancing Queen" blasting, maracas shaking, and Alex sleeping away in my lap.  

The star of Play Hooray, however, is the puppet Molly Mouse.  Molly has skirts for every holiday and season and she lives in a box that resembles the Dunkin' Donuts munchkin box.  We discovered that an elderly mother of the Play Hooray entertainers hand sews all of Molly's skirts! 

When my daughter, Megan, was born, I knew Molly Mouse would be in her future.  I was back to work, so my mom would take Megan to her Play Hooray class.  Here is Megan, a couple of years ago, enjoying her time: 

For Megan's first Christmas, I knew we needed our own Molly Mouse to live at our house! Lucky for us, Molly was for sale, in addition to her munchkin box house and additional skirts for purchase.  I bought her flag skirt, balloon skirt, ladybug skirt, Halloween skirt, Christmas skirt, autumn skirt, and heart skirt. Before Megan could talk, I knew how smart she was because I would just mention the name "Molly Mouse" and she would crawl away, determined, and come back holding Molly! For a while, Molly was Megan's favorite friend.  In time however, she was replaced by the princesses, especially Elsa. 

Alex and Molly have had their ups and downs. Molly has taken to calling him "Buster" which aggravates him to no end.  When I say Molly is talking, please don't misunderstand- it is me talking, with Molly perched on my hand.  My children fully believe that Molly is speaking and even ask me to tell her things, which is pretty hilarious, really. 

Most recently, Molly has been providing lots of laughs by asking incessantly for cheese.  One of the games Alex and Megan like to play is asking Molly what she wants and when she replies gleefully, "Cheese!" they laugh and try to find cheese for her. The game can go on and on.  After a long, exhausting teaching day, there are times when the very last thing I want to do is put that mouse on my hand and make her beg for cheese.  But, it does make them smile and laugh so mostly I do it.  Alex has asked me to inform Molly Mouse that he does  not like to be called Buster.  Molly has since taken to calling Megan "Busterette" and to date, Megan has not issued a complaint.

I never thought a stuffed mouse would be so near and dear to my heart and hold so many memories but Molly Mouse has become a fixture at our house with her sassy skirts and cheese loving ways!