Showing posts with label Family. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Family. Show all posts

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Time in a Briefcase

Ever since my children can remember, there has been a locked briefcase in the house. Each time they rediscovered it tucked away on a closet shelf, they pulled it down and spun its lock wheels, trying countless  combinations, always in vain. Over time, it had became one of the most excruciating mysteries of their young lives. Years ago, my daughter dubbed it 'The Briefcase That Would Not Open.'

The black leather case was rather heavy. When one side was lifted higher than the other, the contents slid against the end with a suspicious thud. The kids' imaginations were wild with speculation. What could be inside?

I knew the briefcase was a remnant of the days my husband and I lived and worked in Central Africa. It had carried important documents while we traveled. That was circa 1996, three years before our oldest child was born. A dual combination lock system required two three-digit codes to open the case. We'd wracked our brains, but neither my husband nor I could remember the codes. This maddened our children.

Two days ago, daughter Sidney spied the briefcase in its dusty corner. Her passion for opening the case appeared more emphatic than usual, if that was possible. She pressed her father to remember the combinations. And one of us said something that turned a key in hubby's brain. He looked at me with large eyes and said to the kids, "Try Mama's birthday."

1-0-0 on the left and 3-6-6 on the right. It didn't work. The kids' shoulders slumped.

But wait! In France, a date is expressed with the day of the month first, and then the month followed by the year. So the French would write October 3, 1966 as 03/10/66.... When the kids spun the wheels again and set the combination to 0-3-1 on the left and 0-6-6 on the right....the mechanism sprang open. They were in!

We have all really enjoyed discovering the briefcase contents.

Most exciting for the kids were the dinosaur-models laptop computer and printer. The Olivetti is a whooping 2.5 inches thick and weighs about 8 lbs. It runs Windows 97 on MS-DOS. But the kids don't care. Luckily we had a converter on hand and were able to plug the battery charger into the wall socket. I was surprised that a fifteen-year-old-plus computer actually powered up! The keyboard is French, so certain letter keys are in different places and automatically type the accents over the letters, when applicable. The kids are fascinated by it.

Also in the case were documents that reminded us of the lives we were living back in the mid-90s. There were several telephone cards. These cards, we explained to the children, one bought at le Tabac (newspaper vendor's shop) to use in French public telephones back before everyone had cell phones. We found letters we'd received from family and friends in the States, including one from a friend telling me about a bike trip around the perimeter of the US that he was planning to take. In the letter, he mentions a mutual friend of ours was joining him for one leg of the trip. That trip would go on to spark a romance between the two. Today they are married and have a son.

The Briefcase That Would Not Open turned out to be an unexpected time capsule.

This discovery gave us a wonderful project idea. We're going to create a family time capsule!

Each of us is going to contribute several items to the time capsule. We want to include things that represent who we are as individuals in 2012. What are our passions? What makes us tick? Sidney wants to write a letter to her future self. Brilliant!! (I think I'll do that too.)

We also plan to add photos of ourselves. We'll put in our favorite recipes ('cause food is very important to us and we all cook together), and mementos from our family vacations and everyday life.

We won't bury our time capsule in the backyard, for a very simple reason: I don't plan to be in this house for the long term. We'll seal up the capsule and put it in the corner, maybe that dusty corner where The Briefcase That Would Not Open once occupied.

Twenty-five years from now, no matter where in the world we are, the four of us will come together for a family vacation to open the time capsule. I imagine Cody and Sidney with their spouses and children, explaining the significance of the items they put inside as children. Once again, life will be a representation in stories, many significant moments in time. Thinking about it gives me goosebumps.

We can't wait to get started!

Have you ever contributed to a time capsule? Has it been opened? I'd love to hear your stories!


Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Pumping Legs and Arms, but Gaining Speed Slowly

I have a New York hangover.

As some of you know, the weekend plans to attend my nephew's baptism changed last week when my cousin Ryan passed away from a brain tumor.  He'd outlived his 2-3 month prognosis and survived 18 months past the initial diagnosis.  One of the many blessings throughout his journey.  Being reunited with my extended, Upstate New York family was one of mine.

I flew to Syracuse on Wednesday night, arriving at my parents' house after midnight.  The funeral was the next day, and the reception that followed took place at another cousin's restaurant, which was closed to the public for the night.  As dusk fell, the sound system cranked, and Ryan's favorite band, Tragically Hip, blared through the speakers.  Drinks flowed, lyrics were shouted, glasses were raised over and over, to Ryan.   Perhaps not a traditional send-off, but one Ryan would have appreciated.

The next day, two of my sisters and I hung out, looking at old family photos and enjoying my nieces and nephews.  On Saturday morning, my sister and her son, and my parents and I boarded a plane for New York City.  The regularly scheduled weekend program kicked in, and we celebrated yet another sister's baby's baptism.  (For those of you wondering, I am the oldest of five sisters.  No brothers.  Yep, estrogen and drama -- we have plenty of both in our family.)

The most excellent story line for fiction is playing out in one of my sister's real life.  One day, I hope to write it.  Now isn't the time, of course.  Inner conflict is no laughing matter.  But I took notes...just in case.

I arrived home at 1:30 Monday morning.  Needless to say, I took a couple naps yesterday.  Today, I'm trying to get back into the swing of things, but it seems no matter how hard I pump my arms and legs, I feel like I'm trudging through water.  Leaning on caffeine to carry me through.

I'll leave you with a pic from the baptism of my beautiful sisters:

Natasha (the christened baby's mama), Noelle, Nadine, Natalie, and me

Have a wonderful day, all!

Thursday, April 15, 2010


My sister and I were almost Irish Twins. Eleven days after I turned one, she was born. We were raised like twins, though, for the first couple years of our lives. Mom dressed us in matching clothes, cut our hair in identical styles. But as we grew into our personalities, we learned how different we were. How different were the things we coveted in life.

We left the family nest on opposite roads, in search of our desires. For several years, we hardly spoke.

I wrote the first "Sister" poem during those angry, silent years.

Just before last Christmas, my sister cried out. For help. For her life. I answered. That week, I wrote the second "Sister" poem.

My sister is starting a new life. Clean. I'm so proud of her. She's (always) on my mind, and since I can't seem to concentrate on much else today, I'll share my "Sister" poems with you.

A Sister Lost

ges ago we shared our lives, but now.....

adness tortures my soul when I think of you
mmersed in glamorous audacity, skin and ego
troked by countless people, but none who really love you. I see you
rample down fields of flowers in reckless pursuit of nothing that matters
ager to finger that golden horizon.
eaching, insatiable, for the jewel-encrusted platter

aden with unrestricted choices, you are
blivious to the pewter chalice you've knocked to the floor
pilling my love, unnoticed, under the
able of your life.

By Nicole Ducleroir 10/2008

A Sister Found

ging accusations became brittle with time

iphoning the last of my stubborn resolve
nto the abysmal void where what matters not is
ilenced, forever.
ime is touted as the healer of all pain, but
veryone knows it takes more.
eaching out from your fractured world, shaking the family tree, you

orced me forward, frightened, until the gap between us snapped shut and
rder returned to the universe in my heart.
nwritten chapters await our pen; across the first pristine page I write:
Never, ever again will I accept a day of my life
evoid of your precious light.

By Nicole Ducleroir 12/2009

Author's Note: Due to width limitations of blogger post columns, some of the longer lines of these acrostics fell to the next line. Arg.

Artwork by Linda Wilder

Friday, March 12, 2010

Life (In)Balance

The duality of life is inescapable. There is nothing that's all good or all bad. As a Libra, I appreciate the light and the dark, the joy and the sadness, life and death. I'm earthbound, unable to focus on only one side of the scales. Some days, finding the sacred balances in life prove more challenging.

One sister, bursting with joy, lies in hospital today awaiting the arrival of her first baby. I wish I was there with her.

One sister, her heart in ribbons, checks into hospital this morning, her first baby now nine years old, taken from her. If only I could be there, too.

Angels and demons teeter totter on my scales.

Writing soothes my conflicted soul. Today, I'll remember each character has in her both good and bad, the capacity to succeed and the ability to fail, talents and shortcomings. But above all else, they need love in their lives. No matter what they've done or what they plan to do. All of Life's characters, fictional and real, need love.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

In Suspension of (Dis)belief

I raised an eyebrow when I turned down the hallway at six a.m. this morning and spotted the light spilling out from underneath my daughter’s bedroom door. Usually, waking my kids for school is like rousing a couple cadavers, (corpses who, to my chagrin, effortlessly self-resurrect before sunrise on Saturday and Sunday mornings). Sidney had complained about a tummy ache yesterday, so I half-expected that a campaign to miss school was underway. When I pushed open her door though, I encountered a smiling little girl.

She stood in the middle of her room, her belly button peeking out beneath a too-short pajama top, and her long braided hair bent into a pair of boomerangs flanking her shoulders. In her hand she held her diary.

“You’re up early, sunshine,” I greeted her. “Is everything okay?”

Her eyes sparkled. “Mommy!” she began. “James-y woke me up.”

James was our sweet kitten who passed away from feline-leukemia a few weeks ago. As Sidney's declaration sunk into my pre-caffinated brain, a smile remained fixed on my lips but my eyebrows knitted a little closer together. “What?” I asked.

“James woke me up, but it was still dark. So I peeked out my window and you know what I saw?”

She didn’t wait for me to answer. Drawing in a deep breath that sent her belly button a little further into the room, she said, “Down by the tree, I saw three black cats! They were so cute, Mommy, and they came right up to my window.” She held up her diary. “I’m going to write about it!”

That’s my girl!

Our reality is dictated by our beliefs. Sidney believes James woke her up so she wouldn’t miss seeing those cats. Why not? (I hope it’s true!) One of the goals I embrace as a writer is drawing my readers into my brand of reality, suspending their disbelief. It comes down to the level of authenticity in the writing which can be achieved many ways: through the logical chain of events in the plot, believable dialogue, realistic characterizations, etc.

What’s your favorite device for creating authenticity in your writing, or for suspending your readers’ disbelief? Can you think of a time when you were the reader or viewer, that your disbelief wasn’t suspended? (Think Clark Kent hiding his Super Identity behind a pair of glasses!)

[Artwork at the top of this post by Joied6]

Monday, February 15, 2010

Jungle Love

[This was my Valentine's Day post, that I didn't get a chance to post yesterday. It's the story of how my husband and I first met. I hope you enjoy it!]

The sound rumbled like sudden thunder, shattering the still African night. Vibrations coursed through my mud brick house with fingers that stripped me of sleep and forced me upright in the bed. I knew my searching eyes were open, but I was blinded by the inky air, devoid of light. In my confusion, I couldn’t get my bearings. Then I realized what I was hearing. The sound, coming in waves of intensity, was a car engine being revved on the dirt road in front of my house. Not a car, I thought, a truck. And then I heard a man’s voice call out.

“Pascal! Ouvres-moi toute suite!”

My heart, hammering in my chest from being shocked awake, skipped to a new tempo. Christian! Christian was here. I sprang into action just as I heard Pascal respond with a sleepy “Oui, Patron.” It would only take him a few seconds to open the wide bamboo gate and emit the Land Cruiser. I scrambled across the lumpy mattress to the edge of the bed and groped for the mosquito net. Clumsy, misjudging hands pushed hard against the coarse openwork, knocking a candle to the floor from its perch atop the three-legged stool outside the mesh, pushed up against the bed frame. No matter, I thought. I knew besides the candle and the book I was reading before I blew it out, there was a flashlight on that stool. At the edge of the mattress, I grasped two handfuls of the netting just as the engine cut outside, and silence rushed into the darkness around me.

I yanked up on the mosquito net and it came untucked from the mattress. I paused, heard Christian speaking in a muffled tone to Pascal, the Central African employed by the Peace Corps to guard my house each night. I wondered if Christian was scolding him for sleeping on the job. Christian was a Frenchman employed by an Italian construction company, working on a World Bank funded project to resurface the country’s dirt roads washed away each rainy season. Unlike me, he hadn’t been sent to the Central African Republic on a grass root mission. He was a boss man, un patron, a kota zo. Someone the Africans respected without question.

I pushed my legs out and let them dangle off the edge of the bed while I pulled the bottom of the mosquito net behind my head. I was naked. At just four degrees north of the equator, there were exactly twelve hours of daytime and twelve hours of night. At six in the evening, the sun slid below the horizon during a five-minute-long dusk that reminded me more of God simply hitting the wall switch. Darkness as black as midnight reigned for the entire twelve hours, but the intense heat absorbed by everything during the day radiated long into the night. Inside my stifling bedroom, pajamas weren’t an option.

There was a quick succession of raps on the door that I felt in my chest. Christian called my name through the rough wood. I shouted, “Just a minute.” My toes felt around for the flip flops on the floor, and my hands fumbled for the flash light on the stool. I was more awake now, and suddenly nervous as hell.

I’d met Christian the week before. I was riding my Peace Corps issued mountain bike back home, from the little town ten kilometers away where I’d chosen to launch my project. The day had been brutally hot, and no shade reached me as I rode along the wide, dirt road. Periodically, a bush taxi the size of a yellow school bus lumbered past. Each time I had to stop, straddle my bike, and cover my nose and mouth as a choking two-story-high cloud of red dust engulfed me. It clung to my sweaty skin, and I looked redder and redder as the day wore on. New rivulets of perspiration left tracks in each subsequent layer of dust. To add to my less-than-alluring appearance, my long hair was pulled into an unattractive ponytail, and I wore my glasses since the dust was certain torture for my contact lenses. I shudder imagining what I smelled like.

Christian pulled his Land Cruiser up alongside me. Through the open passenger side window, he introduced himself in French and commented on the heat. He asked where I was headed and I told him I lived in Bambari. I still had about seven kilometers to go, so when he offered me a lift I took it without hesitation. Plus, I thought he was pretty cute.

The conversation was surprisingly easy, considering my French was so bad. We laughed easily, and the ride was over too quickly. He lifted my bike from the back of his vehicle and propped it against the gate in front of my house. My smile stayed on my lips long after he drove away.

The next day, I saw him again on the road, and he asked me to lunch the following Sunday. I’d been in-country for almost a year at this point, and I hadn’t felt excitement like this since leaving the dating game behind in the States. I even pulled out my dusty make-up bag, vainly included when I packed but not taken out of my luggage since arriving. The mascara was clumped from the humidity, but I managed to coat my lashes just the same. We spent an amazing time together, and I didn’t make it home until Monday morning.

That was three days before, and I hadn't seen Christian since. In a world with no telephones, there was no way to talk to someone unless you were face to face. Those days following our date were torturous. I wondered if I’d ever see him again. I worried he’d lost respect for me, or that I’d lost respect for myself. As the days went by, I second-guessed every conversation, every look, and every touch. And now, in the dark of night, Christian was here, knocking on my door.

My heart pounded. Every nerve was alive. My hand closed over the flash light and I pressed the button. Nothing happened. In the dark, I jabbed the button over and over, but the flash light remained off. Shit.

“Nicole? Tu es lá?”

“J’arrive!” I called out. Goose bumps covered my body now. Reaching under the mosquito netting, I pulled the queen-size sheet off the bed. I stood, wrapping the cool, white cotton fabric around my suntanned back and under my arms. I held the whole thing about me like a giant bath towel; gathered fabric excess fell over my arm like a train. I could feel my long, bed-mussed hair drape across my bare shoulders and fall down my back. Shuffling across the gritty cement floor, feeling my way through the gloom, I made it to the front door.

When Christian tells this story today, he says that when I pulled open the door, I was the most beautiful thing he’d ever laid eyes on.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Weekend Family Fun

I'm in Long Island, New York this weekend, celebrating my youngest sister at her Baby Shower. I was thirteen when she was born; I remember it so well. Seeing her with that gorgeous belly makes me happy, proud, and so very excited for her and her husband!

The rest of the family is en route, including parents, three more sisters and four nieces and nephews. I can't wait :))

What are you doing this weekend??

Monday, January 11, 2010


This weekend set in motion my focus for the week to come.

Mornings are my best time of day. I'm energetic, happy, and look forward to participating in the unfurling day. An habitual early-riser, I was at my computer before the sun came up on Saturday morning, my fingers flying across the keyboard, giving life to an inspired stream of thoughts. I jumped at the voice of my daughter standing at my shoulder. I hadn't heard her come in.

"Mommy," Sidney began. "I want--"

Donuts, I thought, as the word sailed out of her mouth a nanosecond later.

My son, Cody inherited a lot of my genes: my looks, my temperment, suseptibility to headache and teeth-grinding, and my love for writing. But Sidney got my sweet tooth. In fact, she got Cody's share too. Double dose.

While the boys slept, Sid and I headed to the grocery store. I'm clinging to the diet wagon and refuse to fall off before my trip to New York at the end of the month, so we only picked out a couple donuts for each of the three of them. When we got home, Sidney tiptoed through the silent house like an elephant crashing through the brush, and within minutes the boys were awake. The promise of fresh donuts brought Christian and Cody to the kitchen in time to see the last bite of Sidney's first donut disappear behind glaze-smeared lips.

Cody chose one of the two donuts his sister announced were "his," a blue-iced affair with a face of gummy ring eyes and a red licorice smile. He ate it slowly, putting it down on his plate between bites. By about Cody's fourth bite, Sidney finished her other donut. She eyed him suspiciously when he declared he was full and excused himself from the table, leaving a half-eaten donut behind. He shouted "No!" over his shoulder when she asked if she could eat his second one.

The next day when I asked the kids what they wanted for breakfast, Cody was all smiles. "I'll eat my donut!" he said cheerfully. I looked over at Sidney, her arms hanging at her sides like a cut flower's wilted petals in a five-day-old bouquet. She was staring half-heartedly at the short row of cereal boxes on a pantry shelf. Cody followed my gaze.

"Little S," he said, "you can have half my donut, if you want."

Sidney and I both said, "Really?"

I was so proud of him! He wasn't prompted or goaded, except by an innate desire to do the right thing. And the look on Sidney's face was priceless. She went from partly cloudy to sunny in less than the blink of an eye. I hugged them each tight.

When I came back to the kitchen for a second cup of coffee an hour later, the kids were playing a collaborated game involving Bionicle robots and Littlest Pet Shop bobble heads. Their voices trilled with genuine happiness as the bizarre cast of characters interacted with indiscriminate ease. I stood there a minute, in awe of them. As if I'd made a sudden noise, they both looked up.

"What's wrong?" they asked.

I told them how wide my heart smiles when I see them getting along so well. And I pointed out that Cody's act of kindness in sharing his donut with Sidney started them both on a path of friendliness and high spirits. After all, if Cody had been stingy and not shared his donut, Sidney would have watched him eat with envy and resentment. She'd probably have delighted in needling him at every turn, irritated him to the best of her ability all morning. The day was more enjoyable because everyone felt the positive effects of Cody's action.

I was interpreting a life lesson for them, but I was teacher and student at the same time. Once again, my kids were a mirror reflecting life in its purest form, reminding me how we should act. The power of kindness overwhelmes all else; its light douses the darkness. You may not see all its effects, but if you tune in to the world around you, you will feel it.

Lesson learned, again. Thanks, kids!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

My Kids Are Smarter Than I Am

I had a fantastic evening with Christian and the kids. After working every day straight since Christmas, with not one day off (including New Year's Eve or New Year's Day), Christian took us out for dinner at LongHorns. A few years ago, this was a regular, bi-monthly event. But it's been a very long time since we splurged on dinner in a steakhouse, and we enjoyed every minute of it.

The conversation was lively as we waited forty minutes for a table. In an attempt to ignore the tantilizing smells emitted from the adjacent dining room, the four of us played word games as we sat crammed into an entryway bench fashioned to remind us of the rustic Old West. One of us would think of a fruit or vegetable, announce the color of its peel or flesh, and the rest of us made guesses until someone guessed right. We moved on to animals (the hint had to be its habitat) before our pager finally went off and we were shown to a booth.

By then we were starved; the waitress was on the ball, and in no time we were eating. The food was delicious.

At one point in the night, someone made a reference to physics, or outer space, I don't remember which. Eleven-year-old Cody began contemplating his different theories for how mankind could break the time-space continuem ( is that even how you spell it??). Christian made a remark about Einstein, which prompted our son to declare he agreed with Einstein's theories on all points but one: Cody feels Einstein was incorrect when he claimed gravity pushed us rather than pulled us down. I tried to contribute to the conversation by saying how goofy the Star Trek series was, with everyone walking around up there in space like their spacecrafts were full of the Earth's gravity. Cody agreed and said he had an idea for how to address zero gravity in space travel.

I interrupted him and said, "Weighted shoes?"

My son rolled his eyes at me and said he hoped I was joking. I guffawed; of course, it was a joke....

I realized then I was about Cody's age when I was a big Star Trek fan. One of my first crushes was on Captain Kirk...

As I smiled at that thought, I was struck by how big the kids are getting. Just yesterday I was a 'tween' and dreaming of adventures I'd have when I was grown up. Moments like tonight are precious and fleeting. Cody's mind is so sharp; I'm enjoying watching him grow and mature. The sky's the limit for that kid.

And so the close of another wonderful day has arrived. I'm off to dream about Captain Kirk, going where no man has gone before, in his weighted shoes.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Enjoy It, It's Free

The sun dazzled me this morning and the sub-zero air made me fully aware of my lungs. With each gulp of it I felt more vital, more alive. The grays and browns of winter's landscape dissolved in the technicolor brightness beyond the windshield. I smiled all the way to the gym.

In many ways, today felt like the New Year. The kids were back in school, and our daily routine replaced the loosy-goosy, time-has-no-meaning lolly-gagging of vacation. Don't get me wrong, I love staying in my jammies all day long. But after a couple weeks, this schedule-oriented woman was ready to get back on track.

Into the second mile on the treadmill, a personal trainer new to our gym arrived with her client. The trainer is a tall, muscular woman whose stature and gait make her more handsome than pretty. Her client was a doughty woman in her early fifties, quite possibly attempting to fulfill her newest resolution. I give her snaps for the effort, and I wish her luck sticking with a program. But she wasn't my focus as I jogged along.

The trainer was awesome! She kept the woman moving from exercise to exercise, huffing and puffing through each set. The woman didn't look happy, but the trainer stayed upbeat and wouldn't indulge her in laments. She counted out the reps, added "Come on!" and hand claps between numbers. "You can do it" became her mantra, and each time she said it, she used her voice like a musician uses his instrument, changing keys and altering tones, until the client was laughing, in spite of herself. I wanted to tell the trainer she rocks, but I worried she'd use the introduction as an invitation to sell me some sessions.

I'm no personal trainer, but I know my way around a gym. I've been working out regularly for a long time, and the last eight years I've trained with my workout partner and best friend. Even if none of that were true, I still wouldn't find money to squeeze out of our well-wrung budget for something like that. As I ran past the 2.25 mile marker, the trainer started me thinking about a play I watched Sidney's class put on last month.

Two classrooms of fourth grade children participated in the production of "The Baker's Neighbor." It was an adorable story with a cast of ten, and each of the three acts starred another group of children, cast in those same ten roles. That way, everyone had a chance to be on stage. I cracked up when a girl played the role of the baker in the second act, donning a large black mustache cut from construction paper, scotch taped to her upper lip.

Briefly, the story opens with the baker selling his famous sweetbread goods. A local named Pablo arrives, like he does every day, and simply stands in the shop, smelling the cakes. The baker realizes although Pablo isn't eating his baked creations, he is enjoying them, without paying anything. The baker tries to charge Pablo for sniffing the air.

I thought about this play while I was watching the trainer, feeling motivated by her energy, wanting to copy all her exercises. I didn't want to pay her, but I figured if I worked out near her, I'd get many of the same benefits as if I had. I was Pablo!

I spent about two laps on the virtual track worrying I was a terrible person, until I realized something else. The trainer was so inspirational because she was totally committed to what she was doing. She was joyful, living out loud, making the room brighter with her presence. That's what I wanted to emulate, not her workout routine, but the way she approached her life.

She left before I finished my three miles, but when I see her next, I'm going to introduce myself -- and not as Pablo, either!

Friday, January 1, 2010

Welcome 2010

Here are some pics from last night!

For the fourth year in a row, we hosted a New Year's soiree at our house with our friends who live on the street. None of us wants to be out there driving on a party holiday like December 31st, and we have such a blast when we're all together -- and last night was no exception!

Here were those in attendence:

My awesome husband!

My daughter, the lovely Sidney

My son, rocking out!

Yvonne and Bill are great friends!  Yvonne's laugh puts a smile in my soul, and Bill's hilarious, dry sense of humor keeps us all laughing.  Our political conversations are always some of my favorite moments because the positions people take, whether from their personal belief platform or devil's advocate soap box, never fail to be interesting and thought-provoking.  I had a blast with them last night!!

Shely and Frank are fab friends!  Shely's a better hostess than I am (LOL).  I feel kinda bad for giving Frank such a hard time last night about not asking a certain famous person for his autograph -- I loved seeing the pics of the memorabilia basement on his laptop, though.  I always have so much fun with these two, and last night was no exception!!

And, all our wonderful kids:

Sidney and Miles


Terry and Alex

Cody and Sidney

Girl Power!

Me, Shely and Yvonne

New Years is always a time of reflection for me -- a time to look back and look forward, but I'm happy to say I don't have near as many resolutions this year as in the past.  I have a super family, wonderful friends, good health -- what else is necessary?  In the spirit of always improving my life experience, I plan to concentrate on the positives in my everyday life.  I want to wake each morning with intention, deciding how I will seek out the happiness and beauty around me.   One day, for example, I'll notice every smile I see, directed at me or elsewhere.  Another day, I'll spend more time listening than talking.  I want 2010 to be the year I focus on the little pleasures that are oftentimes ignored in the throes of everyday bustle.  That's my resolution.

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Relative Importance

Cody and Sidney, Christmas 2009

Last night, a mixture of rain and sleet slapped at the windows, but I heard above the racket the sound of her sobs. A mother's instincts are sharp, and as I strode toward Sidney's bedroom I heard the rational part of my mind reassuring my instinctual self that nothing truly threatening could have happened. Afterall, I'd just tucked Sidney's purple comforter under her chin and splattered her face with silly kisses a couple minutes before. Still, I made it down the hall in three strides.

When I got to Sid's room, her light had been turned back on. Cody was leaning over her in the bed, stroking her face and asking why she was crying. The look of concern in his eyes when he turned them on me made my soul smile. Growing up, I always wished I'd had an older brother, someone who would take care of me. I realized I'd been imagining Cody all those years ago.

I hugged my son and thanked him for being him, and sent him back to bed. By then, Sidney was on her feet, her head tilted slightly back, her body wracked with sobs. I took her in my arms and just hugged her, realizing I'd have to wait until she calmed down a little before I'd learn what the problem was. The rain pelted the windows at a faster pace, but Sidney's tears finally subsided.

It turned out that as part of the Gifted Program at school, Sidney was responsible for reading a 300-page book over Christmas Break. I remember her complaining about the story a couple weeks ago, which she described as boring. I guess the craziness of holiday activities and cram-packed schedules made both of us forget all about the reading assignment. Until last night.

I clicked off the light and followed Sid under the covers when she crawled back into bed. We worked out a plan to get as much of the book read between now and Jan. 5th when school resumes. We're going to partner read, her reading two pages silently, then I'll read aloud for the next two pages. Every couple minutes, Sidney's little face would scrunch up again and the tears would leak from her swollen eyes. She is a child devastated when she feels she hasn't done all that she expected of herself. We whispered in the dark through each meltdown relapse, promising ourselves to do better and remind each other of the project. Eventually I felt her body go limp and her breathing deepen.

I lay there a couple minutes longer, listening. The sound of Sidney's breath, the rain on the window, and the muffled noise of the television in the next room gave me an incredible feeling of childhood nostalgia. I used to lie in bed and dream about the future. The memories were so close; it seemed like just yesterday. And then I looked through the darkness at Sidney's angelic profile. Now for my future, I want to be more like my daughter. She cares so deeply about what's happening in her life. Her commitment to the present is absolute. She reminds me of how I can be a better me.

I should sign off here......we have a book to read.