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Climb Every Mountain! Then Wait For Help.

September 22, 2013 8 comments
Country Playing

Summer 1971 Playing at the “country”
(L) Oldest Boy Cousin (M) Younger Brother (R) Older Boy Cousin
© 2013 Karen Szczuka Teich & TakingTheWorldOnWithASmile.com

Unlike the song in the title of this post, there is absolutely no inspiration in the following story.

Although, it is true.

My parents are immigrants. I’m first generation American. Growing up was interesting—to say the least. Our extended family were all back in Europe except for two, older, boy cousins who grew up about an hour north of where we lived in Westchester. Their house sat on 6-acres of rustic, rugged and crude land which we lovingly called the “country”. Abundant in fields, woods and streams it provided a whole host of exploratory (if not dangerous) opportunities for kids who were allowed to roam free in the wilderness, which they were. I loved it there. Complete with a full-size barn and chicken coop, I have some interesting memories of our play-time together there as I’m sure they do too, for the times they came to terrorize visit us. Our environment was the extreme opposite. We lived on the 4th floor of a 5-floor walk-up that offered dumb-waiter service and pick-up kickball games with random neighborhood kids in the concrete parking lot behind our building. Instead of hiking through woods and streams in the summers, we walked to the local beach or tanned on tar-beach which was conveniently located on the rooftop of our apartment building and also doubled as a laundry facility for hanging clothes to dry. My cousins were a little “rough around the edges”. They had NO FEAR of anything or anyone and always left a clear and decisive impression if not ABSOLUTE FEAR in the hearts and minds of the neighborhood kids they encountered in our neck of the woods. When gone, the other kids often referred to them as “your crazy cousins” which, they were. Crazy and my cousins. Not that we couldn’t hold our own of course, but truth be told, it wasn’t the worst thing for a gal growing up across from one of New York’s many “Projects” to be able to say,

“Oh yah? You just wait til my cousins come back!”     Ahh, family.

Back to Europe.

When I was eight, my mom took myself and my younger brother to Ireland to meet her family. My grandmother lived in an authentic two-room, thatched cottage that had a red front door. The living and kitchen area was dominated by a constantly burning hearth. Inside, a black iron kettle always seemed to be bubbling or brewing something. I wasn’t surprised to later learn that the townspeople often referred to my grandmother as the local witch doctor. During our visit my mom got sick one day and whatever my grandmother gave her to remedy her sickness blinded her temporarily for several hours. My six-year old brother and I were my mother’s walking guide back to the outskirts of town where we were staying with my aunt. Later during that trip, my brother took ill and whatever was given to remedy his condition caused him to have fierce hallucinations in where he saw leprechauns in his room and feared my dad would be an old man when we saw him next.  Ahh, family.

Three years after that European vacation, I took a trip to Germany to meet the rest of my clan. While my other friends went to day-camp or Playland or the Jersey Shore, I was sent went to Germany.

For six weeks.

Alone.

I was eleven.

Did I mention I didn’t speak German?

Giving Oma a Rose

1976 Giving my Oma a rose upon arrival in Germany.
© 2013 Karen Szczuka Teich & TakingTheWorldOnWithASmile.com

The upside of that trip was that one of my boy cousin’s from America was also going to Germany later that summer with his mom. At least I could look forward to some English speaking kin after a month of speaking very slowly and loudly and using multiple hand gestures to try to communicate. Why is it that people think people who don’t speak their language can understand them if they just speak slowly and loudly?  It was fun and tough and a whirlwind of meeting relatives before my aunt and 13-year old cousin got there. Sadly, my grandmother had Alzheimer’s and didn’t know who I was or why I was in their home. After a few weeks I began to understand the language much better than I could speak it and I could tell she was confused about the strange child staying in her house. I’d overhear my grandfather trying to explain to her over and over again that I was her son, Guenter’s daughter.

When my aunt and cousin finally arrived from the U.S., it was a welcome reunion. After a few days of re-adjusting, my grandfather took us on a tri-country tour. By car. Compact car, that is. The five of us (six if you count my Omi’s over-stuffed white handbag) drove from Germany, to Austria, to Italy and back again.

Me and Opa 76

1976 Me and Opa in Austria
© 2013 Karen Szczuka Teich and TakingTheWorldOnWithASmile.com

The most memorable part of my trip lies within the Austrian mountains of Tyrol near the city of Innsbruck. We stayed in a small village surrounded by mountains for a few days of sight-seeing. After a day or two of exploring the village’s architecture and taking a cable car to the snowy top of one of the mountains, my cousin and I set out for some play-time of our own. After all, he was used to roaming free in the wilderness. Why should that be any different in Austria? And why wouldn’t I follow him when he said,

Hey, let’s climb the side of this mountain.

You never really know someone until you climb a mountain with them.

Instead of taking the dirt path that wound itself upward, we — he, chose for us to rough it, climbing partly on the mountain’s side and partly on the concrete boulders that were wedged into the mountain every 50 to 100 feet or so. There were several of them, leading upwards. Their purpose was to slow the onslaught of a rock or mudslide that could come crashing down into the village below. They were several feet wide and about 5 feet high, massive to a girl of eleven and vertically challenged. As height was not an attribute of mine, it was necessary for my cousin to climb first. He’d haul himself up and then extend a hand to help me up to the somewhat smoother part of each boulder as we made our ascent. Every so often the dirt pathway appeared off to the side of one of the concrete slabs and our intention was to take the path down when we were done with all of our climbing. Soon after our adventure began, my cousin started collecting “rocks” and insisted they accompany us on our journey. As the cool morning hours turned into a warm afternoon, his rocks grew larger and heavier and by mid-day there were far more than I wanted to deal with. I was exhausted hauling them up to him one, by one before he extended his arm for me. I was thirsty and hungry and tired and finally sometime in the late afternoon, I refused.

No, I cried. I’m not carrying your stupid rocks up this mountain anymore!

Fine, he said, then I’m not helping you up the mountain, anymore.

With that, he jumped off the concrete slab and onto the side of the mountain. He climbed his way up onto the pathway and vanished. After hours and hours of climbing together, he disappeared in just a few short minutes, leaving me with his stupid rocks, stranded, atop a huge concrete boulder, on a mountain, in Austria.

Alone.

I was eleven.

It was nightfall and several hours later before I heard the dogs barking and the men shouting. Flashlights blinded my eyes when the Austrian patrol finally found me and lead me safely to and down the pathway to a frantic grandfather and somewhat hysterical aunt.

Austria76

My Cousin and I in Austria 1976
© 2013 Karen Szczuka Teich and TakingTheWorldOnWithASmile.com

Life lessons I suppose begin when life does. I’ve said it before and it’s warranted again:

If it doesn’t kill ya, it’ll make you stronger.

I am a bull, who is afraid of heights BUT not afraid of being alone in the dark.

It’s all good.

I’m not quite sure what happened when my cousin descended from the mountain without me that evening. I remember being given “medicine”  when I got back to my grandfather’s room. He fished a bottle of pills out of my grandmother’s big white handbag and gave me two, to calm me when I started to cry for my dad and wanted to call home. Whatever it was gave me a similar feeling to one I had thirty-five years later when I was prescribed Valium before having a dental procedure. Only instead of lasting a few hours, it lasted the whole next day which I remember as a haze, literally. I didn’t call my dad and my fearless, crazy, rock-loving cousin was much nicer to me for the rest of our trip. Things resumed to normal. As they eventually do, with family.

These days my cousin lives far-away in another state and I don’t get to see him much but whether it’s two years or ten that pass between meetings, it always resumes to normal.

I miss and love him dearly.

100 Days!

March 10, 2013 15 comments

Fun%20Children's%20Group

This week elementary children all over the country celebrated 100 days of school. Teachers asked students to show them what 100 looks like by bringing in 100 of something. 100 is a big number and it’s a big task for a 5, 6 or 7-year old. They spend a lot of time preparing; thinking, plotting and reminding their parents to help them find, make or buy 100 of something to show off to their teachers and classmates. In some cases like the school I work at (and the one my kids went to up until the 5th grade) exhibits are set up showcasing the creative way students bring 100 to the classroom. Always excited to see what they come up with, this year’s exhibit met the bar with such items as 100 colorful ribbons hanging from a branch, 100 Cheerios strung together on a necklace string, 100 pieces of macaroni spelling out a child’s name, 100 different Hot Wheels cars, beautiful buttons and gorgeous gems to name a few. It brought back memories for me from when my kids were at this school. That evening when I was telling my now 6th grader about the exhibits, it brought back memories for her too.

Do you remember what you gave me to bring in for my 100th day in Kindergarten? She asked.

Um, y-e-a-h. I said, like a peacock fanning it’s plume. “In fact”, I went on, “I think I still have that Tupperware lid that says 100 Kisses on it. I couldn’t help by pause to give myself a little mental pat on the mother-of-the-year-award back for the clever pun of sending 100 Kisses into her class. Hershey Kisses of course!

Those were the days when all I ever thought about was how to be the best-est mother ev-ah! Lost in my moment of motherhood glory I almost missed the scowl on her face.

What? Was that not the best 100 Days ever? Come on, I said. 100 Hershey Kisses! How clever?

Um, Mom, I don’t mean to ruffle your (peacock pluming) feathers but that was not my 100 days. That was Noah’s.

Don’t you remember what you did for mine?

cupcake holderI thought I had. Confusion set in. She was right though, that was for Noah and I was drawing a blank. I’m lucky if I can remember where I set my car keys down when I come home from work these days. Surely it must’ve been great, if not greater than the Hershey Kisses I quickly convinced myself and then a vague, blurred memory began to clear in my head.

Yes, I remember. “Cupcakes! I made 100 cupcakes for the whole school!” I said, beaming.

Mom! I was 5, so excited and that morning you must have forgotten. When I asked you about it, you went to the cupboard and took out cupcake holders. You gave me cupcake holders! You told me ‘No other kid will have these.’ 

Now it was all coming back to me — like a bad dream.

“That wasn’t even the worst part”, she went on. “I brought them into class and when Susan (the teacher) saw them, she told me to count them.”

There was only 54!

Okay, cupcake holders for the 100th day of school are lame and math was never my forte.  I guess I wasn’t the super-clever-mom my mind’s eye seemed to remember me to be either — that time.

What can I say? Parents try their best – always. Sometimes, we come up short.

Like, 46 cupcake holders short.

Sorry, Han.

Do you have a coming-up-short parenting moment you can share?

This Dark And Quiet Night

March 3, 2013 10 comments

darksnow

It’s dark outside. It’s late and the snow is softly falling. My son is watching basketball and my daughter has a friend sleeping over. Giggles echo up from the furthest corners of the house; one of my all-time, favorite sounds. Life is good, even though the week was fickle and unsettling. Actually, it was me that was unsettled it seemed, at some point, every day. Things just never quite fell into place. The flow of the week’s current pulled in unfamiliar, unsteady directions. Our usual groove was littered with bumps and unexpected twists. My patience seemed to wear thinner and thinner as each day passed. By week’s end I felt a slight rumbling within, leaving me with an unwanted feeling of restlessness.

Usually I have some kind of a thought or an “aha!” moment during the week that presents itself as the topic for what I’m going to write about in my once-a-week post. That never came. All week I had nothing but a blank page surrounded by frustration in my head. You can’t force words to paper. They come when they’re ready. And for me, they’re not always what I expect them to be. By Saturday afternoon my page was still empty and my thoughts too scattered. I couldn’t string together a sentence let alone a few paragraphs even though I felt the gnawing. Too persistent to ignore, something was there, tugging at me. I just couldn’t find it.

Maybe I didn’t want to.

Not until I sat down this evening, at this late hour watching the snow fall quietly and steadily leaving behind a fresh, clean coat of white; beautiful, untouched white, did it occur to me….

Two weeks ago Diane, the parole officer assigned to our case called asking if I would speak on her Impact Panel again this March. Yes, I said. Ever since she started the panel two years ago and every time she’s assembled it since then I’ve said yes.

I always say yes.

How could I say no? I owe it to her, to them, to my kids, to me. To me.

It helps me continue to put things into perspective, a little better, each time.

Yes Diane, of course I’ll speak.

When I hung up, I did what I do and I buried the call. Deep. I Sent it to the very back of my head and tucked it away. I went back to work, too busy to think about all that stuff, again. Besides, I’ve moved and moved on. Haven’t I? I let it sit and stew until today, until it began to wrestle its way to the surface while I tried to squelch it down with my scattered thoughts and blank page.

Now here I am at the eleventh hour thinking about it, writing about it, as it breaks free demanding to be heard on this dark and quiet night.

Kids These Days!

December 30, 2012 21 comments
momscrystallball

Mama’s Crystal Ball

Every parent strives to do better than the previous generation, providing for their children that which they lacked or missed out on in their own childhood.

Nowadays, the reviews are mixed.

Kids these days have it too easy! They’re spoiled with less required physical activity and way too much couch-potato-encouraging technology that keeps them inside exercising their thumbs rather than outside, exercising their whole bodies and minds.                                            

~ Any Random Adult 

It’s an on-going challenge for parents trying to strike the balance for their children; keeping abreast of what’s current, necessary and useful and making sure they don’t lose sight of what’s important for them to know how to do.

Despite the difficulties, I LOVE being a mom. Always have. For many years I enjoyed being a stay-at-home-mom, eagerly performing what others might consider mundane tasks for my kids, like painstakingly working out ketchup stains from their favorite dress or shirt, making sure the same favorite dress or shirt (or batman costume) was constantly clean so it could be worn several days in a row or making extra portions of a home-made dinner so I could freeze them for my son who refused to eat a cold lunch at school up until the 5th grade.  I didn’t mind the endless task of picking up their toys and returning them to places they could easily be found the next day during their pre-arranged play-dates and I’d spend many hours searching and experimenting with new recipes I thought they might like to try. Even though my daughter is in 6th grade now, I still enjoy making her lunch for school every day.

These and so much more were—are, to me still, labors of love.

eyes

The eyes in the back of my head are blue. What color are yours?

As my kids enter their tween and teenage years however, the tasks are changing and I’m starting to focus more seriously on the notion that it’s my duty to prepare them the best I can, for (real) LIFE.

Parenting is unique to each unique child.

Babies don’t leave the womb with a ‘here’s how I specifically operate and what I’ll need to know, mom’ guide and even though the long-held myths about moms having eyes in the back-of-their-heads and a-future-seeing-crystal-ball hidden in their bedroom closets are absolutely TRUE, our eyes and crystal balls are often clouded and not exactly all-seeing. I’m not always quite sure, how to make sure, my kids have the life-skills and tools they’ll need to become high-functioning, productive, kind and considerate citizens of our future communities.

In short, much of what we put forth is a bit of a crap shoot, flung from instinct.

For example, myself and four other mothers of my 14-year old son’s basketball-playing school mates recently hired a culinary chef who has a school in New York City to give our teenage boys some professional training in the kitchen. Sure, they know how to boil water for Ramen Noodles but what do they know about using a knife or picking fresh produce, making their own salad dressing, gravy or apple-crisp? Not much and my crystal ball predicts the women they’ll eventually end up with 10-years or so from now will not be as interested in devoting the same amount of kitchen and laundry time me or my mom did while raising a family.

It’s a new era and they’ll be out forging new paths and making lives of their own.

rabbitfromahat

Easy access to information.

Our boys need to know how to cook and keep house.

Now that he’s been schooled, will he happily whip up a roasted chicken dinner complete with a fresh vegetable side and dessert when his future significant other informs him she’ll be coming home late from the office? I have no idea. BUT I continue to have faith and blindly put forth my efforts and babble, babble, babble on, hoping that somewhere in their premature brains my kids are processing what I say or make them do and will be able to pull out what they need, when they need it, like a magician pulls a rabbit from his hat.

Still, I can’t help but wonder how my kids will act or react when they get caught in a jam or circumstance that really requires them to step-up and take responsibility.

Thankfully, every once in a while however, the gods are good and toss out a bone, giving us insight as to whether or not we’re on the right track and we get a glimpse of what kind of an adult our child is going to be.

A few weeks before Christmas, I very suddenly and unexpectedly came down with pneumonia. I’ve never had pneumonia before. In fact, I rarely get sick. For the most part, I’m a Type A personality, leaving little time and patience for illness that would keep me from doing, let alone out of work. It’s not in my make up but this was out of my control. I had no choice but to succumb and was completely laid out for nearly two full weeks. With the help of a few family members and friends however, I was checked-in on, and my kids managed to get fed and brought to where they needed to be, including school each morning while I lay incapacitated in my third floor bedroom.

For days, I was completely unawares of the goings-on below and could barely hear my daughter moving about in the evenings.

note1

What’s this? A note?

I finally passed through the fever-delirium period and made it to the tolerating side of a hacking cough that cut like a knife in my chest. As much as I love my secluded bedroom, I desperately needed to make my way downstairs, if for nothing else but to reassure myself that I could still walk. It was sometime mid-morning on a weekday, when I took the last step down and rounded myself toward the kitchen for the first time in several days.

I saw a small piece of white paper taped face-down to the counter.

Reaching out, I flipped it over and this is what it said….

notes2

The gods are good.

Yes, the first word in the fourth item on my 11-year old daughter’s List after ‘work on gifts’ (because she hand-makes Christmas gifts for each member of our extended family every year) is sew and even though I don’t, apparently she does.

It’s the second to last item however, that stopped me cold in my slipper-laden tracks.

Take care of mom

Thank you, good gods.

And as if that wasn’t enough to bring an already weepy mom to tears, on my way back up to Never-Never-Land, I glanced down the short flight of stairs to the front door. One of the last statements and only instructions I recall making from my sick-bed to my daughter before literally entering the Twilight Zone in the first 24-hours of being laid out was …

You’ll have to buy lunch at school.

BUT like many other kids these days, she had her own ideas about lunch and apparently, made it herself.

Every day.

Even reminded herself, not to forget it from the fridge before leaving in the morning.

note3

Kids these days.

They’re pretty awesome!

Photo Credit #1-3 Google Images

Photo Credit #4-6 KarenSzczukaTeich&www.takingtheworldonwithasmile.com

My Boy is a Midget

October 28, 2012 18 comments

In 1929, the owner of a new factory in Northeast Philadelphia enlisted the help of a young friend, Joseph J. Tomlin with a recurring problem. Over 100 of the factories’ ground-to-floor windows were shattered in one month’s time by teenagers hurling stones from a nearby vacant lot. Since other factories in the area were also being affected by the same type of vandalism, Tomlin, a sports enthusiast, recommended the building owners join together to fund an athletics program for the city’s youth. Although it wouldn’t be officially titled Pop Warner until the 1934 football season, that was indeed the beginnings of this long-standing organization.

Today Pop Warner is the largest and oldest non-profit, youth football organization in the world with over 400,000 participants ranging in age from 5 to 15. It is also the only youth organization with an academic requirement. The program is divided into four separate age/weight categories referred to as Jr. Pee Wee, Pee Wee, Jr. Midget and Midget.

My boy is a Midget.

His team, The HudsonValley Knights just won the Eastern Region Mid Hudson Conference. They are the League Champions and are now in the Regional Championship. They are undefeated and three games away from playing in the Pop Warner Super Bowl in Walt Disney World this December at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex.

For 83-years Pop Warner Football has been keeping its participants out of vacant lots, off the streets, off the couch, off the internet and on the playing fields. Over the years its basic philosophy that athletics and academics go hand-in-hand has remained the same, propelling its success. Kids are taught the value of dedication, hard work, practice and teamwork. They are given countless, hands-on opportunities to learn what it means to be responsible, have respect, integrity and loyalty.

These are the character traits of champions.

The Other Side of Bullying

September 23, 2012 15 comments

Fathers, be good to your daughters
Daughters will love like you do
Girls become lovers who turn into mothers
So mothers, be good to your daughters too 

~John Mayer

We have an awesome job as parents to guide our children. We often do that by example. Children watch what we do and say, all the time.

Bullying is no joke. When an adult labels a child a bully,  they need to make sure they have all the facts. Other children are watching.

Sadly, most of us adults have experienced bullying in one form or another, at some point of our childhood or adolescence and fully understand the hurtful mark it can leave.

I never took a school bus as a kid. My Dad drove me until I was old enough to walk on my own. I went to catholic school. I wore a white blouse, red sweater, pleated skirt, navy knee-socks and a sturdy shoe, every day. No sneakers. Sneakers were for gym class, worn in the gym; only.

School was a long walk, about two miles from the apartment building I grew up in. I was ten or eleven when I remember clearly, two girls who followed me home daily. They were also from my school. One was in my class, the other was a year younger. The route I took included a shortcut through a wildly-overgrown, empty lot between two residential streets. The lot had a path that cut right through the streets but concealed its foot bearers. The girls kept a fair amount of distance from me until I entered the lot. Once I stepped onto the pathway, there was no turning back and as soon as I stepped onto the pathway the taunting from behind began. Each day for several days in a row they’d make hurtful remarks about how fat or ugly or stupid I was, all-the-while, using their own sturdy shoes to take turns kicking up my pleated skirt from behind. Kicking up my skirt high enough of course to reveal whatever underwear I was wearing that day.

I was embarrassed. I was humiliated. It was painful.

So painful, that on the on the fourth or fifth day of “the following”, I finally summoned up enough courage to turn and face my “tormentors”.

Everyone has their limit and sometimes you need to let people know when that limit has been reached.

It surprised me as much as them when I abruptly turned and told them to “Stop!

They laughed and continued. I warned them again and told them to “STOP!”

They didn’t.

Instinct and impulse stepped in.

There was a full-force push to the ground, a stunned look from both ends of the assault and ultimately, freedom. The younger girl ended up on the ground, crying but they never bothered me again.

The question is, who’s the bully here? Maybe to some it’s debatable. Not to me.

I know what bullying is.

I would never endorse violence but I don’t believe in allowing yourself to be taunted either. Sometimes you have to tell people to stop and when they don’t, when they keep pushing or poking or pulling at you and you give them fair-warning and they still don’t stop; you need to push or poke or pull at them back; even if you are bigger than they are.

That’s not bullying, that’s setting boundaries.

Moms and dads who fail to see (or ignore) the whole picture and mislabel this as bullying are doing their sons and daughters an injustice, not to mention, sending a dangerous message.

As parents we have an awesome responsibility to teach and guide our children.

So, Mother’s — be good to your daughters.Teach them not to push, or poke or pull at other kids because they might get pushed, or poked or pulled on– back –and that’s not bullying; that’s setting boundaries.

Photo Credit #1 Mother/Daughter Silhouette

Photo Credit #2 Sturdy Catholic School Uniform Shoe/Google Images

Relax, Recharge, Repost #2: Sticks And Stones May Break My Bones But Names Can Break My Heart!

August 26, 2012 7 comments

Week #2 of taking a blogging break in August. For a few weeks, I’ll be Relaxing, Recharging and Re-posting some of what my stats say are YOUR  favorite reads.

Here’s one from January 2011….

Sticks And Stones May Break My Bones But Names…. Can Break My Heart!

“You know Mom, he’s lucky I didn’t SQUASH him like a bug!”

That’s what my 9-year-old daughter came home saying the other day after spending an afternoon at a birthday party. The “he” who is lucky “she”, didn’t, squash him like a bug, is a 10-year old classmate who was also at the party. “He” is her pal, her chum, her friend. He is her partner at school when pairing needs to be done. He is also the boy who tried to hold her hand when the lights went out in a Star Lab dome, but that’s not why she wants to pummel him.

There are some things you never forget: getting an award, your first sleep-over, punching a fella in the mouth for asking you to marry him (in first grade!), the soft, warm lips of a shy boy’s sweet and gentle kiss during a game of spin-the-bottle and of course, the first time someone embarrasses you in front of a group of friends by calling you a name. For me, it was buoy. And in 4th grade, I didn’t have a clue. So in a naive and unsuspecting way, I asked the boy who had just referred to me as a “buoy”, what that was.

You know, he said, it’s that round thing that bounces up and down, bobbing in the water. A buoy!

That was followed by what seemed to me, to be a roar of group laughter.

Painful. I forced a smile and walked away. I’m sure I could have flattened him but my heart had sunk to my knees and I was too hurt to react. I never forgot that feeling.

Like her mom, my girl is made of hardy stock. She is strong, confident and independent. She’s out-going and adventurous. She loves to laugh. Also like her mom however, she happens to be very sensitive.

He called me fat in front of all my friends at the party, she said. He embarrassed me. We were laughing about who would make the best Pińata and he said, ‘Hannah would, cause she’s fat!’

My heart immediately sank to that familiar place by my knees only this time, it broke.

He’s lucky I didn’t squash him like a bug! And you know I could, were the next words out of her mouth.

She’s right. She could.

Well then, I said, maybe next time, you should.

Okay, maybe that was wrong.

Sticks and stones may break my bones but names…..

Honestly, I would have preferred if he threw the stone. That wound heals faster.

We spent a long time that evening discussing potential reasons why her friend might have said that about her. Insecurity. Bravado. Maybe he was trying to look cool in front of the other boys. Perhaps he didn’t mean it and it was just a poor choice of words. Most likely, he like, likes her. No matter how much we dissected it though, the result was always the same. She could get past the word. She knows she’s bigger and taller than the other kids in her class. She accepts that her body is changing and maturing faster than theirs.

It was the betrayal she had a hard time reconciling with. He’s her friend.

It was after midnight when she came into my bedroom and crawled into bed with me that night. She snuggled up close and whispered,

Mommy, why did he do that? I thought he was my friend?

Cue the breaking heart again. She slept with me for the first time in years. And it was a big wake-up call to me as a parent and an adult, just how omnipotent words can be. Life is hard enough without us hurting each other with the things we say. And I’m reminded of how critical it is for me to set the example, practice kindness, show compassion and be forgiving.

Words may not be able to break a bone but they sure can break a heart.

The flip-side of that however, is to know that words also have the great power to fill a heart! So in the end, my advice to Hannah was to have, an open heart.

We are after all, only human. We all make mistakes and good friendships are worth keeping. So, when the boy came to school the next day and said,

Hey, I was only kidding. I didn’t mean it that way. I can’t believe you thought I was serious!

That was all she needed to hear to buddy-up again and put it behind her.

Besides, she told him that if he EVER does that to her again, she is going to SQUASH him– like a bug!”

Photo credit:  Squashed Bug, Broken Heart

They Open at the Close

June 24, 2012 10 comments

They open at the close.

Yes, this is stolen borrowed (in part) from the magical inscription found <Spoiler Alert> on the snitch that Harry Potter caught in his mouth at his very first Quidditch match in The Sorcerer’s Stone and is returned to Harry six years later in The Deathly Hollows and yes, it’s true, I am an overtly mildly obsessive, freaky Harry Potter fan and yes, last weekend I spent four fantastic days in Florida with the primary purpose of visiting The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal’s Island of Adventure but NO, this is not a post about Harry Potter.

It’s about doors; the opening and closing of doors. And the inscription fits nicely.

Doors: They open at the close.

This is a crazy time of year when people are in constant motion, what with all the barbeques and pool parties; weddings and graduations as well as Stepping Up and Stepping Stones ceremonies to attend. I feel like all I’ve been doing over the past several weeks, is going in and out of doors and it got me thinking about all the many different types of doors we pass through in a lifetime.

There are doors that lead us to happy places and doors that don’t.

Doors we’re prepared to go through and doors we’re not.

Some doors are closed off temporarily and others are left ajar with the knowledge that it’s not quite time to close or open them fully. Something is still lingering. Something is left undone. You don’t have the strength or courage to close it or walk through it just yet and every once in a while a slight draft comes through reminding us that we need to get back to that door someday. Maybe.

Sometimes it can take years to pry-open a door but through patience, perseverance and determination, we manage to get through.

At other times, it takes only seconds or a few harsh words to close a door — forever.

Then there are swinging doors, the ones we rush through without thinking, only to get smacked in the butt by them before we even reach the other side, reminding us, it might have been wiser to take it slower and proceed with caution.

Perhaps then, we wouldn’t have gotten hurt so badly.

There are doors too, that we walk through willingly with other people, doors we are guided through as we follow another in trust, doors we enter, arm-in-arm with the one we love.

And of course, there are those doors we’re meant to go through completely alone, even though we have no idea what lies beyond them and despite the fear of the unknown, we continue on, making it necessary to trust ourselves and all we know we can be.

In the end, there is The Door, the one that leads us to the other side – assuming there is one.

As long as we’re living however, I think one thing is for certain: there will always be another door and the most important thing to remember is not to shut yourself out – from living life that is.

Try to make the most of what you find behind each door before going through the next.

But keep moving forward and always reach for the next the door.

What kind of door are you passing through?

//

A Thousand Miles

March 25, 2012 9 comments

The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. — Chinese Proverb

Last week’s post sent me into my own kind of time and space continuum, reflecting on all that has occurred and changed in the span of one year; my job to a certain degree, my car, where I live and so much more, including how I approach things and what I find important to me now. Feeling like I’ve traveled a thousand miles since then, I’ve realized it’s true, it all began with a single step; literally putting one foot in front of the other and often they were baby-steps.

After taking so many steps, it became apparent that the road isn’t always a straight course. Sometimes, even a path with heart gets side-tracked by unexpected twists and turns. At times, it’s necessary to take drastic measures to get to where you need to be. But in doing so, you increase the possibility of opening the doors to where the power of your soul exits. There are no limits to what can be achieved when you tap into the power of your soul. You discover that with a little perseverance, that which once seemed insurmountable, is not. I’ve learned to Let Go, a lot.

I’ve also learned that anything is possible when you are true to yourself and your beliefs.

People have tremendous power to change their conditions.

                                                                                                    ~ Anonymous

Life truly is an adventure and every adventure begins with one single step, forward.

Photo Credit #1: Footsteps

Categories: Lessons, Life Tags: , ,

Confessions of a Catholic School Survivor

March 4, 2012 19 comments

Bless the beasts and the children
For in this world they have no voice
They have no choice

Bless the beasts and the children
For the world can never be
The world they see

She was tucking the light-yellow and blue plastic container of Vaseline Intensive Care back into a drawer of her desk and we had barely returned to the hardwood chair that uncomfortably attached itself to our desks, when over the PA system came the voice of doom. The announcement demanded that all the girls who’d been to the third floor bathroom in the last ten-minutes come to the school’s auditorium, immediately!

The pock-marked, red-faced teacher who’d just finished slathering cream all over her angry face and whose first words to me after reading my name on the roster for the first time in her 7th grade math class were,Oh, no! Not another one. You’d better not be like your sister!” eyed us suspiciously. Without a word she nodded toward the classroom door and myself and the girl I’d just been excused with immediately rose.

I will never understand why teachers who don’t like children teach. They seem to enjoy being mean or hurtful. It’s sadistic and kids can always tell who they are.

This girl and I were quite different and while I wouldn’t say we were the best of friends, we were, friendly. Confusion and fear ran through my 12-year-old body as we came upon the two fifth-graders whose entry into the girl’s room only minutes ago, prompted us to quickly discard the evidence. My heart was racing and my brain was in overdrive. Did they say something? They couldn’t have. They wouldn’t be called here with us if they did. Besides, like two little kittens cornered by a pit bull, they were clearly shaking with fear. It was all I could do to keep my fear from being as transparent as theirs.

The auditorium was dark and empty of people although we stood at the back of what seemed like endless rows of gray, metal folding chairs that stopped right in front of the big black piano that rested itself off to the side of the stage. In the distance came the echoing of footsteps clapping steadily over the hard, cold, stone floors. The door swung open and she walked in. With an ever present “gotcha” attitude and a permanently stern look on her face, she glanced us over in one terse swoop as we stood nervously in a row, all wearing the same white collared blouses beneath regulation sweaters and plaid skirts that varied in length, above and below the knee.

I think you know why you are here, she said, confidently. Can anyone tell me what was going on in the third floor bathroom? Does anyone have anything to say?

No one spoke.

Okay, maybe this will help, she said and she pulled from her pocket as only a vice principal in charge of being the heavy can, a white tissue, neatly folded into a rectangle. Do you know what this is? She asked.

Of course we didn’t know! How could we know? We were scared, witless to her antics and worried about our fates for crying-out-loud! We stood there gaping at her treasure as she slowly and quite dramatically unfolded the tissue. In her Perry Mason moment she revealed the evidence we had discarded only minutes ago.

Full props for her unexpected display of shock and awe. Her quick reaction and immediate response brought the perpetrators directly to her lair.

We had immediately discarded the evidence. Actually, my friend threw it out the window in a panic when we heard the bathroom door opening and the two fifth graders came in. Now, here it was before us, stained with the glaring, red markings that obviously pointed to at least one of us. I wasn’t allowed to wear make-up to school and the fifth graders were too young, but there she stood, my friendly schoolmate, smiling her deep, red, shiny smile, as we viewed the incredible, half-smoked cigarette butt that held the imprint of my friend’s lipstick-laden, lips.

Unbelievable! How was this possible? What are the chances of throwing a half-smoked cigarette butt out of a third floor bathroom window only to have it land on the concrete ledge of the vice principal’s open window, while she was sitting in her office?

A gazillion to one, maybe?

Evidently pleased with herself, she carefully re-folded her prize and in another dramatic moment, told us she was going to leave us alone for a few minutes and let us talk it over.

Slaughter to the altar.

I can’t speak to Catholic School these days but the one I went to thirty-years ago reveled in discipline and there was without doubt, a constant, underlying movement to instill the fear to behave in otherwise good kids. As a child functioning under those conditions, you tend to find yourself in a perpetual state of “survival-mode” knowing that anything you do or say could be deemed bad. When it’s evident that the truth will not set you free but possibly get you expelled or left with a permanent mark on your record or worse, a tarnished reputation, you make another choice.

For right or for wrong and without a single word being uttered between us, in her two-minute absence, collectively, we made a decision on how this was going to go. When she returned, it was apparent that she fully expected the culprit(s) to have cracked and step forward or be offered up by the others so that she could swoop down and usher the fallen-soul to the next level of punishment.

Instead however, we presented her with a force she was clearly unprepared for.

There was no crying or finger-pointing. On the contrary, she was met with silence.

Well?  She said, impatiently

Nothing.

We said nothing. We were silent, the four of us and the vice principal who sometimes wore two different shoes to school and whose forehead was now growing red with frustration, didn’t know what to do. Clearly the evidence pointed to at least one of us but there were in fact four of us in that bathroom and no one was giving the other up.

After several minutes of agonizing silence, she reluctantly dismissed us and never a word was spoken about it again, by anyone.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t step up and take responsibility for your actions but I don’t regret the decision we made that day not to speak up. We were all pretty good kids who were often treated in a not-so-good way by some of the adults in our lives.This was after all, the same school that called my parents in to convey their concern for my then six-year old brother after he drew a black Jesus Christ. Aside from the fact that because of the climate we know Jesus lived in there’s no doubt he was a brown-skinned man, when asked by my parents why he drew Jesus black, he said it was the only crayon he could find.

Bless the beasts and the children
Give them shelter from the storm
Keep them safe
Keep them warm

~ Richard Carpenter & John Bettis

Photo Credits #1-4 Google Images

All About Football

February 5, 2012 10 comments

This week, it’s all about football. As it should be.

Super Bowl Sunday after all, boasts more than 100-million viewers. And that’s not including those who will for the first time, be able to get the game streamed-live through their computers or on their androids through Verizon’s NFL Mobile app this year. Many viewers will tune in simply to catch the commercials that are selling for upwards of $3.5 million dollars for a 30-second spot. Others will gather in front of their screens or phones, to watch Madonna during half-time, in hopes of witnessing something spectacular. Super Bowl Sunday has something for everyone.

Like baseball and apple-pie, football is a staple of Americana.

My 13-year-old son played on his first football team this past fall and admittedly, I entered the season with a fair amount of trepidation and skepticism. I had my doubts to say the least and even cried foul! on parental interference after witnessing arguments amongst parents and overhearing less-than-encouraging remarks spewed from a dad’s lips to his son’s ears from the stands during a scrimmage. And of course, there were those few pre-game injuries that left “worry” all over me. But it wasn’t about me. It was about letting go and supporting my boy’s passion. Thankfully, the drama was quickly squelched when his three coaches gathered parents and players together and put forth a team “code-of-conduct” that had the distinct air of –if you don’t like it, you can leave– attached to it. This, for the most part, put the ka-bash on future parental outbursts. These men meant business and would stand for nothing less than 100% from everyone. Parents included.

I’m okay with accountability.

As a parent you try to teach your child to take responsibility, be fair, honest and work hard to achieve their goals. For the first two weeks of practice, my boy came home bruised and swollen, dirty and tired. He endured grueling 3-hour practices everyday during the month of August and three days a week from September until the end of November. He was expected to maintain a passing grade average and had to submit school reports to his coaches for review. The integrity of his coaches gave me a new-found appreciation for the game, overall. Along with game-play-strategies, life lessons were taught and there was an in-your-face demand on each player, to show up ready to give it their all, every time.

I am also okay with placing high expectations on kids who are capable.

Knights @ Marist College against White Plains. My boy is center #22.

The emphasis was on the team and while they absolutely protected their quarterback, they also hailed the guys that ran, blocked and threw for him. Maybe this isn’t news to you all but it sure was for me. The best part is that while I had my suspicions that I was liking what this sport was doing for my son’s overall character, the real evidence surfaced in December, when the football league gave him an award for maintaining a 92% or above, average during the season and later that month at his parent/teacher conference. Students participate in their conferences at his school and after his adviser acknowledged his ability to keep-up his schoolwork while playing soccer for the school and the town, as well as Pop Warner football, simultaneously, he asked my son what he felt football did for him this season. I was pretty blown away, not to mention proud when he came out with something that closely resembled this:

When I started to play football I wanted to be the one to get the touchdown but I realized that even if my part in a play is small, if I don’t do my best to execute it, it could effect the whole team and whether or not we win. If we all do our part, we all will benefit from it because we’re a team.

Coming from the boy who proclaimed he would be playing for the NFL long before he every wore his first pair of shoulder pads, I was impressed that the importance of being a team-player was one of the values he came away with. He got it.

He’s since changed his mind and no longer wants to be an NFL player but he will always be a superstar to me.

This year I’ll watch the game with a slightly different eye, one that sees beyond the price of a 30-second commercial spot or the half-time glitz and glamor. I will actually watch the game and the players and hope to see some of the determination and heart that I saw these young boys display week after week last fall, to where their efforts propelled them into the NFC Pop Warner Conference Championship. This year, I’ll look for strategy behind the play and know that it wasn’t achieved without hard work and pain, camaraderie and trust. There’s more to it, I’ve learned, than just running a ball from one end of the field to the other.

Whether you’re a Patriots or a Giants fan, sit back and relax!

Enjoy the game and may the best team win! Whomever that may be…..

What We’re Made Of

January 29, 2012 17 comments

The memory of the ice-skating shop I referenced in last week’s post and the brilliant recall of its name, The Skate Exchange, which was revealed to me in a conversation I had this week, stirred-up some childhood memories that will no doubt come in handy.

Tell me a story, mom.

Every night when I lay with her for a few minutes at bedtime, my ten-year old daughter still asks me to tell her a story. She’s not looking for Little Red Riding Hood or Goldilocks, she wants to hear about my childhood, like how we used to jump fences when we were running from Dobermans in the gravel yard and whose kiss was the best when I played Spin-The-Bottle in the 7th grade. It’s fascinating to her and very different to how and where she’s being raised. Nestled neatly in the suburbs, an hour-and-a-half outside of the big city, there are no sidewalks for her to walk to school on, no empty lots to take a shortcut through, no bicycle to ride to a friend’s house. She doesn’t hangout on the street corner where the local deli is or come home when the sun goes down. She gets driven everywhere.

Beacon Hall ~ The building I grew up in.

She has no idea what it’s like to live in a five-story apartment building, in the summer, on the 4th floor, with no elevator. I’m not sure she even knows what a dumb-waiter is or can imagine how we used it to send garbage from our apartment to the basement or pulley-up groceries and kids occasionally. Nor can she fathom the advantages of apartment-living, how great it can be for trick-or-treating and getting a game of kick-ball together, on the fly, with the gaggle of kids that resided within. Her entire class of 3rd, 4th and 5th graders combined don’t make a whole team. Woods with trails where deer live is her backyard. In-door pools and lakes are where she swims. She’s never seen a beach laden with tar that could only be found on the rooftop of an apartment building.

Tar Beach. It’s where we carried heavy, wet loads of wash to, two-flights-up because we had no dryer and because that’s where our and all the other tenants’ clotheslines were. It’s where you could go to escape from your crowded apartment and find solace for a while, maybe even meet up with a neighbor and chat a bit.

In the summer, the sweltering heat would leave a steamy haze over the roof’s flooring, partially melting the sticky-gooey-black glue in the uneven lines where the tar was laid extra thick to patch up cracks or small holes. If you were foolish enough to go up there barefoot, which we so often were, you’d quickly scorch the bottoms of your feet, leaving them blackened and raw, after a desperate attempt to find a shady spot somewhere across the rooftop to rest and cool your toes on. Sometimes we’d bring a towel and a bottle of Johnson’s baby-oil up with our load, choosing to fry for the hour it took for the clothes to dry. It was a fast but painful way of getting a “tan”, as we always ended up red instead of brown at that hour’s end. Those were the worst of burns.

Tar Beach was where we brought our lawn chairs to watch the fire works on the 4th of July. It was the temporary home to Secret Servicemen and government snipers when President Nixon’s motorcade drove down Main Street, right passed our building in 1972.

President Nixon's Visit to New Rochelle in 1972

And it was from our Tar Beach that a woman in her early 40s purposely plunged to her death, landing in the same asphalt parking lot behind our building where we played our kick-ball games. Her name was Virginia Coombs and her mom was the Bubble Gum Lady who lived on the 2nd floor. All you had to do was knock on her door and when she opened it, she’d hand you a piece of Bazooka bubble gum from the drawer of a little wooden table she had against the wall near her apartment door. No words needed to be exchanged, expect  “thank-you,” of course. She knew why we were knocking.

I didn’t know the Bubble Gum Lady had a daughter who’d been married.

I was eight or nine-years old when that happened. A few hours after her death, two men came and shoveled her remains into the bed of a red pick-up truck. I know this because I watched them do it from my bedroom window. I had to figure out how to process what I saw, myself because no one ever explained to me what happened to Virginia Coombs that day.

I chose to pray for her.

I still do, which is why I remember her name.

 Tar Beach. It was from there that if no one was home when we got home from school, my siblings and I would climb down the wrought-iron fire-escape to a 4th floor, bedroom window in order to get into our apartment when we forgot our key. I remember doing this and being petrified while doing it too. I’m afraid of heights. It’s only a miracle that none of us fell and perished, ourselves.

Maybe there really is something to the old saying, “If it doesn’t kill you, it will make you stronger.”

I think it’s the experiences of our childhood and how we process them that help define what we’re made of; the good, the not so good, the scary, the sad, the joyful. All these things contribute to who we are as adults. Our childhood helps build our character. It’s there, where we learn to use humor to protect ourselves, where we learn about compassion and empathy and most of all, love. Sometimes the purest kind of love can stem from that spin-the-bottle-kiss that you remember so fondly. The kind that lasts a lifetime.

My daughter will never have the same kinds of experiences I had. She’s not meant to.

She has her own.

But she loves to hear about mine and through them, some of them anyway, I hope she’ll get a glimpse of what helped me, make me, who I am.

Photo Credit #1 Beacon Hall

Photo Credit #2 Clothes Line

Photo Credit #3 Nixon in New Rochelle 1972

The King of Birds Has Come To Stay

November 20, 2011 10 comments

There’s an American bald eagle living on my fence. He’s brown and white and has an awesome wing span. He is also made of wood and appeared a day or two after Halloween.

I have NO IDEA how he got here.

At first I thought, maybe this is a mistake, he’s lost and somehow got left in front of our fence. Someone picked him up and hung him here so his owner would see him and could retrieve him.

He is after all,beautiful.

But it’s been nearly three weeks now and no one has come to claim him. His wooden presence is beginning to feel very deliberate and I’m starting to think this is not a mistake. He is not lost.

In fact, I believe this king of birds is here to stay.

Life is a journey, a constant learning experience. I seek meaning and reason for the people, places and circumstances I encounter. I always have. After the second week of “no sign of this bird leaving his new nest”, I started to try to make sense of him. I couldn’t seem to get him and how or why he came here out of my mind. I don’t know much about these birds of prey or what they represent so I decided to see if Google could enlighten me.

Maybe, I thought, there is a connection between this raptor and my life.

Here is the first thing I found, leaving me with no need to look further:

Eagles and the God Jupiter
“Jupiter believed that the Eagle could look directly into the sun, and many stories link Eagles to both the Sun and to Jupiter, as a symbol or sign of strength and courage. Images from the ancient Near East and Iran show the sun with an eagle’s wings, a sign that the bird was linked to the sun god; as well as other symbols in various cultures-usually divine associations showing strength, power and freedom.”  ~ Squidoo

Karma? Coincidence? Fate?

It’s Ironic that a few weeks before I begin the trepidatious process of moving, this lion of the sky has come to rest on my fence.

I’m certain of it now; it’s a good sign and it makes me feel much better about taking Edward. There’s a replacement; something else to watch over this house that no longer feels like a home to me. The eagle stays.

What is the message?

It takes strength and courage to spread your wings and fly but with that, comes freedom.

Photo Credit #1: Karen Szczuka Teich & http://www.takingtheworldonwithasmile.com

Photo Credit#2: Jupiter (Zeus) King of the Gods

Photo Credit #3:  Rolt Hicker

Categories: Comfort, Eagles, Lessons, Life, Mystery

Kids Really Do Say The Darndest Things!

November 13, 2011 9 comments

This week I’m taking a cue from a blog I follow where the genius mom actually documents her kids’ quotes! Brilliant, cause kids really do say the darndest things!

If you follow my blog, you probably know I have two kids (that I love and adore) but I will only be quoting one today, my 10-year old daughter. Besides, if I were lucky enough to even overhear a conversation, let alone have one, with my 13-year old son, the entire quote would most likely consist of these three words:

Um, Yeah and Nah.

There. 

I’m a good mom and have just documented my boy’s quotes for the past six months.

My girl on the other hand, is a non-stop chatterbox. (I think it’s a gender thing.) Ever see the Volvo commercial where the Dad puts his 5-year old daughter in her car seat, closes the door, gets into the driver’s seat and takes her to school, all the while, she is non-stop chatter, going on and on about who knows what?

That’s my Hannah and at age ten, not only do I get the non-stop chatter about who knows what, I  get the added bonus of her opinion!

Here are a few recent ones….

On The World’s Status

My daughter goes to a progressive school and we do not practice any formal religion. I of course went to Catholic school and was a practicing catholic until I went to college, receiving many of the sacraments up until that age, including confession of my sins.

Not too long ago, my girl came home from school and asked,

Mom, what’s a sin?

Me, in freak-out mode responded, “A sin? Why? Why do you want to know what a sin is?”

I heard it was bad. My teacher doesn’t teach us about sins or war or anything. She pretty much teaches us that the world is perfect but I know it’s not perfect.

You’re a super sleuth, Hannah and you’re right, the world is not perfect.

On Getting A New Car

At the onset of having to get new wheels, I admit, I had a brief moment of panic at the thought of having to bring the car I loved so dearly back to the dealership it was leased from, knowing, now, there would be no way I could afford to lease the same car again. Myself and my girl were driving around town when it hit me and without really thinking about it or looking for a response, I tugged at the steering wheel and said,

“Hannah, how am I going to keep this car?”

Not a full minute passed before my girls’ wheels started turning and she sprung into solution mode……

Here's my Billboard Baby scooter-ing throughout the neighborhood, drumming up sales for our yard-sale earlier this year.

Mom, I got it! From tomorrow to the end of the summer, I say, we go out in the middle of the median and sell like there’s no tomorrow!

Sell? Sell what, Hannah? Lemonade?

Lemonade AND ice-pops mom, lemonade AND ice-pops!

Turns out, I LOVE my new car but Thank you, Hannah!!


On Edward

A year and a half ago, I brought Edward home. My Edward is a creepy but important part of me being able to live life on life’s terms and while we sometimes bring him out to participate in various family activities, his primary function is to keep a watchful eye on my 22-year old punk neighbor.

Edward does an excellent job!

My Edward. Doing his job.

In a few weeks we will begin the process of moving from the only home my daughter has ever known.

Mom I think we have to leave Edward here.

Why?

At least until we get to meet our new neighbors.

Why, Hannah?

Well, if we put him in the window before we meet them, they’re going to think we’re freaks and they won’t bring us cookies or cupcakes (cause we’re the new neighbors) and I want the cookies and cupcakes.

Point well taken, Hannah. I  want the cookies and cupcakes too but Edward comes with us.

Hannah & Edward, just hanging around.

Besides, we both know you love him just as much as I do!

Aside from the funny stuff, there are also great pearls of wisdom and insight, as well as profound statements that often come from this blessing of a child, leaving me stunned but mostly, extremely grateful for the gift of her life in mine.

Those I’ll save for another day.

Meanwhile, for more adept quotes from other skilled and clever kids, visit the Young American Wisdom blog — the inspiration for this post!

For happy thoughts from a happy kid, visit Hannah’s blog, I’m Thinking Happy!

If you have an endearing or humorous kid quote, feel free to leave it with me!

Photo Credit #1: Sin

Photo Credit #2: Super Sleuth

Photo Credit# 3-5: Karen Szczuka Teich & http://www.takingtheworldonwithasmile.com

Oops! I Think The Universe Was Listening!

October 30, 2011 10 comments

When I stated last week that I had gotten my, second wind and was ready for whatever else should happen to come my way, boldly telling the universe to “BRING IT ON!”, I wasn’t exactly talking about the Nor’easter that came full force, literally blowing me and millions of others away this Halloween weekend!

No, No! This is not what I meant at all!

My blog is all about striving to live life on life’s terms and handle its unexpected events with as much grace and decorum as I can but I’m afraid the unexpected event of having a foot of the white stuff covering my front lawn in October, is nearly enough to send me over the edge!

Seriously, doesn’t Mother Nature know my son was supposed to have a championship football game this Sunday?

Or was it Old Man Winter who was awakened from his slumber?

Doesn’t he know he has at least four to six weeks left of snooze time before having to blast down on the North East?

Could it have been <GASP> my doing?

Perhaps this was an early, Halloween trick conspired by the two heads of nature?

Major tree damage, downed limbs and widespread, rampant power outages was the prediction and By-George, that’s exactly what we got! We lost power at around 5pm Saturday. By 7:30 our county was declared a “State of Emergency”.

Hurricane Irene and the rains that followed left our Hudson Valley grounds sopping to the roots! Throw in the seasonal fact that many trees still carry their fall leaves, add heavy, wet snow and gusty winds and you have the disaster that we got; two days before Halloween! It was a cold, long night but thankfully, we got our power back at around 10am this Sunday morning. Considering what I’ve come to see and hear, I think we’re among the luckier lot who got their power back as soon as we did. No doubt, some people in our and the surrounding areas will be in the dark for days!

My girl, surveying the snow right before we lost power, Saturday.

Ugh. I’m bummed! I’m a huge fan of this and all holidays. I love to decorate and celebrate. Who will see our graveyard now that it’s buried under a foot of snow? I want to hear the rustling of leaves beneath sneakers as the ghosts and goblins approach my door, not the squishy-squeaky sound of snow boots sloshing their way up the footpath!

My boy, who is going as a Cheer-leading girl, is gonna freeze his hairy legs off!

On his way to the Halloween dance at school Friday evening. When there was only leaves on the ground!

My girl, who is going trick-or-treating as a Sponge-Bob, is going to, well, be miserable!

Friday's pre-Halloween parade celebration at school.

It’s too early, too soon for this freezing nonsense! I’m just not prepared to be wearing my winter coat in October. It’s something I prefer to ease my way into, not be abruptly forced into! I’m not even sure I know where my snow boots are!

BRING IT ON!

I said it. It’s true. I put it out there.

I’m sorry.

Next time, I’ll keep my declarations to myself!

I don’t ever recall snow, let alone a full-blown storm in this New York area before Halloween. Do you? Were you affected by the storm?

Have a safe and happy Halloween everyone!

Photo Credit #1: Mother Nature

Photo Credit #2: Old Man Winter

Photo Credit #3-5: ©Takingtheworldonwithasmile.com & Karen Szczuka Teich

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