Outgrowing Dolly

IMG_3054 DolliesI was on a walk this morning with Mia, our puppy, when I discovered that her beloved Blue Cow, who she insists on bringing on every jaunt, had fallen from my pocket. It gets stowed there when she drops it about a block out from the house and it’s returned to her once we’re almost home.

This morning, we retraced our steps to retrieve Blue Cow.  When Mia saw it lying beside the path, she ran to retrieve it. She walked the five blocks home with it clutched in her mouth, no longer trusting her treasure to my care.

It reminded me of the many times we retraced steps to find a little stuffed doll that has been my daughter’s most cherished possession since my husband and I gave it to her on her first birthday.

Dolly, who was never christened with a more sophisticated name, has been a constant in our lives for the past 11 years. She has been cuddled, dropped, photographed, lost and shipped back, washed and re-sewn any number of times.  She has been on play dates, sleepovers, car and camping trips, stroller, airplane and boat rides …she’s one well-traveled toy.

We’re now on our third iteration of Dolly, the first two having been so well-loved that I tried to replace them with Dolly Number Three. This last turned out to be an imposter. She didn’t “feel the same” as the the prior two whose velveteen has been worn thin by love.

In the beginning, Dolly was a constant companion, never leaving my daughter’s side except for nursery school. Eventually, Dolly transformed into a nighttime-only companion. Until recently, Dolly slept under my daughter’s chin, to be caressed, mushed and fondled throughout the night, even as my daughter slumbered soundly. My husband often teased – never in a critical way – about having to pack Dolly off to college with our daughter.

Lately, I’ve seen Dolly and her almost-identical sister relegated to the foot of my daughter’s bed, anchored in place only by the footboard. Each of these steps attests to my little girl’s ever-increasing self-confidence. She no longer needs the reassurance Dolly once gave her.

As a parent, I am so proud of how far she has come… with her growing courage, burgeoning creativity, ripening sense of humor and blossoming personality that only comes with maturation.  She’s growing up…growing independent.  I wouldn’t change it for the world…But that doesn’t mean I won’t still miss the Dolly Years.

 

Originally published…it feels like a lifetime ago, and only yesterday….

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Father’s Day Tribute

Some of my fondest memories of my father revolve around reading.

Every Sunday morning, he gathered me into his lap and read whichever of the comic strips I pointed to. My father worked out of town a lot and was often home only on weekends, so these stolen moments meant the world to me.

On the nights that he was home, he would read to my younger sister and me from our book The Bedtime Book of 365 Stories. Once we outgrew the book, our younger brother had grown into the magic of these nightly tales. This book consisted of short stories and poems, amusingly illustrated by Richard Scary, that could be read in under five minutes. I  still recall the story about a lion visiting New York City that fell on my birthday, and the poem about kittens that fell on my sister’s.

In the evening after dinner, Dad always reclined in his blue rocking chair reading a detective novel or a western. It was reassuring to see him sitting there with his book. It meant life was as it should be.

I’m sure my relationship with reading, and even writing, was influenced by the relationship I had with books as a result of my Father.  I decided I wanted to be a writer early on. By sixth grade I was already crafting short stories. During my pre-teen and teenage years, I used my allowance to buy books that weren’t available at the library. It was rare that I had less than three going at once.

Years later, when we adopted our daughters, I went on Ebay and found a copy of The Bedtime Book of 365 Stories to share with my little ones. For my hard-to-buy-for brother’s next birthday, I returned to Ebay and found a second copy to give give him to share with his young children.

As he opened the package, tears welled in his eyes. I knew that, in that moment, my brother was five again, and Dad was sitting next to him on the bed reading. Of all the gifts he’s ever received, I think he would count that gift as one of his best, because of the memories that flooded back as he turned each page.

Written as Editor of BeyondtheNest.com and published in the June 15, 2017 newsletter issue.

Capture the Moment

It surprises me how often I’m talking with loved ones about an event or gathering we attended together where we each remember something different. It’s not that any of us has forgotten or remembered incorrectly. Certain things simply stand out more for one individual than for another.  That’s why it’s so important to capture the moment.

Although I am writer and videographer, my constant companion is my camera. For me, a video camera is for telling a story, the pen is for sharing feelings, but a camera… a camera captures moments in time, including emotion. Photos encourage us to revisit precious moments and savor them once again.

Although I’ve always enjoyed photography, which I first took in high school, many years lapsed before I picked it up again. I’ve really only redeveloped those skills in the past ten years or so years. That explains why my husband was chief photographer on our visit to China, where we adopted our twin daughters almost 17 years ago.

I recall being annoyed at times when it seemed his focus was on his cameras and taking photos, rather than on our new daughters. I remember one horrifying moment when I found one of our new infant daughters, parked alone in her stroller, in the middle of Tiananmen Square.

I minced no words sharing my anger with my husband at his having wandered off to take a photo, leaving her alone in her stroller. He countered with, “We may never get back to China again, so I have to get these photos now!”

He had a point. This moment in time would never come again, and it was important to capture it – for them and for us.

Our solution was to agree that when he wanted to photograph something at a distance, he would first entrust both daughters to me.

Now, as our daughters approach their 18th birthday, I’m ever so thankful he captured those memories. They were preserved (on film, at that time) and we have those first days of our life together to share with our daughters. They are part of keepsake adoption books for each daughter that has become part of our family story.

So whatever your choice of media is to capture and commemorate special times — and we now have so many options — DO IT! Pick up that video camera or phone, that pen  and journal or computer, and record the moment. Those sweet memories are part of your life story, and part of your family’s shared legacy.

Written as Editor of BeyondtheNest.com and published in the June 8, 2017 newsletter issue.

Choose to Twinkle

About a year ago, Neil DeGrasse Tyson was a guest on CBS This Morning. This man should be every child’s teacher, because he has a way of making science fascinating.

One of the things he discussed was the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). He shared that this telescope is so much more powerful than the Hubble Telescope, that it will be able to “see earlier in the universe than ever before.”

The JWST website explains that “The longer wavelengths enable JWST to look much closer to the beginning of time and to hunt for the unobserved formation of the first galaxies, as well as to look inside dust clouds where stars and planetary systems are forming today.”

I guess because I’ve never taken an astronomy course, I never before thought about the fact that, when we look up at the sky in the present, those stars are so many light years away that by the time their light reaches us, we are looking back in time.  Some of those stars and planets may no longer even exist.

I began to think about this concept in relation to people.

When you meet an individual, you’re seeing the person he or she is today. But in reality, that individual is a culmination of all that has come before…all the people he or she has ever known, all his or her past learning and experiences – good and bad – even all of the decisions and actions of his or her ancestors.

The next time you look out across a crowd of people at a festival or a concert, think about how similar it is to gazing up at the stars at night. At first observation, it’s simply a sea of people, or a sea of stars. But think about how that vision holds the key to so many amazing secrets of the past!
Now, think about yourself. It’s easy to see your past when you look in the  mirror each morning. Maybe you have your father’s hair or your mother’s perseverance. I know I have my grandmother’s body type and my grandfather’s creativity. I see persistent resilience and a complexion that burns, inherited from British Isle ancestors who came over on the Mayflower.

The thing about the person you’re seeing today is, tomorrow this person will be someone slightly different, molded by the experiences of today. Recognize that you have some control over what those experiences will be, what you’ll do today and how you’ll enrich your own life and those around you. Today, you can choose whether your light will fade a bit, or shine a bit brighter tomorrow. I recommend you choose to twinkle.

 

Written as Editor of the BeyondtheNest.com newsletter and published in the May 4, 2017 issue of the newsletter.

The Season of SSAD

Everyone’s heard of Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, that hits you in the winter when it’s dark and gloomy. Did you know that there’s another little-known type of seasonal disorder that’s equally distressing and depressing? It’s called SSAD – Swimsuit Shopping Affective Disorder.

It’s almost Memorial Day which means swimsuit season looms like a Dementor.  I don’t know about you, but I get about as excited for it as a clam awaiting a clam bake. Inevitably, I pull my prior-year suits out of my dresser and discover they have all shrunk two sizes. I don’t understand how, just sitting there alone, they could shrink so much. I wish my laundry pile would learn that skill.

So it’s off to the department store I go…and it darn well better happen before Memorial Day, or all that will be left will be thong bikinis and suits that appear to be gym bloomers, outlawed by fashionistas in the ‘70’s.

After an hour and forty-seven minutes of rummaging through every mismatched and inside-out swimsuit on the rack, as well as  those that have flung themselves to the floor in despair, I gather up the suits in my size that are even dubious contenders, and head for the dressing room.

“Excuse me Ma’am. You can take three in with you. Just leave the rest here. You can come out and exchange them,” a size negative-three sales minion tells me.

What?!! Does she not know what it takes to disrobe, shimmy into each rubber-glove-swimsuit, then re-robe all this über-voluptuousness to make the exchange. not once, not twice, but thrice-and-a-third times?

As I step with my three suits, into the room I’ve apparently been assigned (because a word that looks more like “Caraway” than my name is affixed to the door), I realize this store did not get the fitting room memo. Joan Lincoln, Tony Infantino’s Fashion First consultant on the WARM 101.3 morning show, advises retailers to use peach-colored lighting tones in dressing rooms. Soft white lights with a gentle peach tint give a most pleasing and flattering effect. Pleasing and flattering is not what awaits me in my dressing room mirror. I look a lot like Mrs. Shrek on a bad bathing suit day, thanks to the gracious green glow of the lighting.

On my third trip to get three of the four remaining suits, I discover they are all missing from the rack.

“Oh, were those yours?” Miss size negative-three asks in a bemused and ever-so-slightly apologetic tone. “I’m so sorry. I put them back.”

With a sigh, I decide fate has spoken.

As I leave the store without trying on my final four choices, I realize I just might appreciate a return to bloomers.

Written as Editor of BeyondtheNest.com and originally published in the May 25, 2017 newsletter issue.

In Our Mother’s Steps

In our last newsletter, I wrote about how, when you look at a person, you can look into their past. They are a representation of all the events and people that have come before and influenced their looks, their skills and interests, even what country they live in.

Mother’s Day is a wonderful time for each of us to reflect on our own past and think about the women from whom we inherit aspects of who we are, and who we turned out to be.My mom has been gone 15 years now, and while she and I had a fairly contentious relationship, I loved her, and there are many skills and traits she gave me for which I am thankful.

Mom didn’t graduate from high school – she went back years later to get her GED, for which I was always proud of her – yet she was one of the most talented and creative women I knew.

She grew up in the shadow of the recession to which her parents lost the family house. As a result of that devastating blow, she gained a resourcefulness that served her well her entire life, and that she passed on to me.

When my sister and I were little, she earned extra money by sewing dance costumes for some of the girls in our neighborhood who took ballet. As I watched her carefully sewing the delicate beads onto the intricate costumes, I desperately wanted to dance, which finances and distance from the dance school made impossible. I promised myself I would learn both to sew and to dance. That Christmas, she asked what I wanted as a gift, and I revealed my wish. I could barely breathe when I opened the box and found my heart’s desire – a red ballerina costume, complete with little red hat, made lovingly by my mother.

And of course, there are hundreds of other fond memories…of making ornaments and cookies for multiple holidays, of camping trips and watching fireworks, of concerts when I knew she and my father were proudly watching from the audience.

There are also the many questions I wish I had asked her…about her childhood… about our relatives and ancestors… about being a parent and how she managed it, especially after my father passed away.

On this coming Mother’s Day, if your Mother is alive, I invite you to pick one memory or one trait and share with her how she influenced you to walk in her steps. If she is not, why not pick one of those favorite memories and share it with friends or family so her legacy of love lives on.

To all our readers, I wish you a Happy Mother’s Day.

Written as Editor of BeyondtheNest.com and originally published in the May 11, 2017 issue.

Reflections on Buffaloes and Berries

The other night my husband shouted from the kitchen, “Hon, where’s the tartar sauce?”

“In the door of the fridge, top shelf.”

“I looked. It’s not there.”

“It was when I was making dinner.”

“Not there. I checked.”

“Trust me. It’s there.”

I hear the refrigerator door open a third time.

“Nope, not there.”

I sigh, open the refrigerator door and pull the tartar sauce from its place of honor… on the right side of the refrigerator door, top shelf.

“The label’s different,” he mumbles as I hand it to him.

I can hear many of you women nodding your heads in agreement. I bet there are few women who haven’t had this experience. It goes along with the chapters on “Why Real Men Don’t Ask for Directions,” “Why Real Men Don’t Use Calendars,” and “Why Real Men Don’t Tell You Your Hair Looks Like It’s Been in a Cotton Candy Machine.”

I finally realized that it all comes down to evolution. You know… buffaloes and berries.

You see, waaay back at the dawn of humanity, men were hunters of very big, roving things (Buffaloes), and women were gatherers of very small, stationery things (Berries).

Basically, that explains it all (including differences in communication styles).

Don’t believe me? Well, think about a group of hunters out on the plains, stalking a herd of wild buffalo that will provide food and clothing for their clan for weeks to come. They follow the herd for miles upon miles, days upon days. They identify their target and fan out, waiting for just the right moment to strike.

Now imagine the guy who turns to his fellow hunters and shouts, “Hey, guys, what direction do you think they’ll move next?”

He’d, no doubt, be victim to the slings and arrows of outrageous misfortune.

If you find it hard to understand why your guy can’t seem to find household items that seem to be staring him in the face, it helps to understand that the fine-tuned, small-object “search and secure application” has become a recessive trait, bred out of Male 6.0. It also explains why guys will notice any high-end sports car anywhere on the road, no matter how far away, but won’t notice when you’re missing one of the earrings you had on when you left the house.

Yup. Good thing those buffalo never figured out how to disguise themselves as berry bushes.

P.S. Can’t you just hear the woman in the photo saying, “There! There’s the tartar sauce!”

Photo Credit: Lasceaux Field Museum

Written as Editor of BeyondtheNest.com and published in the July 27, 2017 Newsletter issue.