Happy 50th Birthday, Sister!

In honor of my sister Lauren’s milestone birthday    happy-birthday-1305615-s

Just eighteen months older than me, I am right behind you.

As a little kid, you often finished my sentences, which worked out well because you liked to talk while I preferred to listen.

You were older and stronger, and I may have endured moments of sibling torment, but woe was another who dared cross me. They would have to answer to my big sister; you always had my back.

the-earth-1-1049879-sWhen our baby sister was born, you wanted to be one of the caretakers because that’s how you are. Even if you had taken on the world, you were ready for more.

As a teen, you played the game of school and parental rules so well it was almost maddening. The one and only time I remember you coming home intoxicated, I put you to bed before you were caught, thus preserving your goody-two-shoes reputation.

But you reciprocated, that night you woke me up to warn me that my disgruntled boyfriend, the one I wasn’t supposed to date, was outside our bedroom window, serenading me with ear splitting music.

The next day, when we learned he had been arrested for disturbing the peace, we exchanged a knowing glance; but you never told.

And the one time we got into trouble together, I had the luxury of taking less of the blame. You were older after all, the ring leader. I would’ve gone anywhere, done anything, with you in the lead. The punishment was lighter in your shadow.

When you infuriated me, I had to be creative with my revenge-like the time I put the toenail in your Twinkie (it was your toenail after all). I heard you screaming and spitting and was silently satisfied. When I confessed years later, you laughed and thanked me for your repulsion of Twinkies. What are sisters for?

In college you met the perfect man for you, on Halloween night of your freshman year. You dressed as Mini Mouse and he as a baby; you’ve long since dropped the disguises and enjoy true love.

With your flair for decorating, you transformed your home into something stunning, a talent you barely recognize. Together you created a beautiful family; you love them fiercely and they know it.

As a kick-ass teacher, you’ve been able to touch the lives of so many students, year after year, and still care for your own kids as if you had all the time in the world. Plus stay in shape. Sometimes I think you do more in one day than I do in a week.

Some may say we are opposites. I am blue eyed and yours are brown. You are spin class and I am yoga. You are Coach and I am Hemptress. You are the rollercoaster and I am the teacups. But deep down I know we are the same.

So today you turn fifty.  It’s a milestone, but also just a number, an age, another label. If you stripped that away, along with everything else that you have and all that you do, you would be left with just your essence; love, beauty and ageless perfection.

Childhood, marriage, motherhood and middle age; this journey is full and life moves forward. I’m right behind you Sis, and I’ve got your back.

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The Grey matter

I feel I should write about Fifty Shades of Grey  because it’s dominating the literary scene; it is playing  in movie theaters now, and is also live on stage.  Also, it seems everyone else is writing about it.

What can I say?  I have not read this New York Times best selling book, nor do I plan to see the movie or the musical.  I’m just not that interested. I am a bit interested in how this author’s writing career took off- how she had a fantasy, an idea, and just went with it and shocked even herself with its success. Clearly, she was on to something. Now that is interesting to me. Good for her! I am mildly interested in E.L. James.

The Fifty Shades of Grey story itself, however, not so much.  From what I gather, the main stud, Christian, is an intimidating sociopath whom the damsel Ana falls prey to, or madly in love with, or something like that.

Ana is a college student. I have daughters  in college, and the thought of a young girl getting sucked in to a relationship with a man with a personality disorder and a limitless need to control- well, yuck.  Just not my kind of fantasy.

There actually are narcissists like Christian and there are victims like Ana, so taking pleasure out of this story line, which is some women’s’ story line in some fashion, feels just a little bit unappealing  I guess.

Fun doesn’t have to involve brutality and fear. Just my two cents.  Fun with trust and safety and respect and long term love- now that is sexy to me. That is abandon.

I’ve heard this theory of why so many women have gone crazy for this storyline: we are tired of being in control of so many things in our lives and like the fantasy of a Christian character taking complete control. I get it. But if some women are this desperate for reckless abandon, doesn’t something need to change?

Surely there is a more substantial solution than hiding rigidity and overwhelm behind the cover of a sadistic book.  Shaking things up before this point would’ve been a good idea. Better late than never though, and for some the book is a bit of a gateway. So be it. I’m just pondering.

I’m no Taliban. People should read or view what they want, and many women are having a good time with this story.  It’s entertaining, I know.  We’re a nation that wants to be entertained. Look no further than the popularity of the NFL. Fifty Shades is a fun distraction for millions.  It’s just something I’m passing on.

So I chose the 80’s hit Flashdance over Fifty Shades to see at the theater tomorrow with my daughters.  Sixteen brand new songs have been written for the musical.  I don’t know if anything will top the original music though.  In the words of Irene Cara:

 What a feeling
Being’s believing
I can have it all
Now I’m dancing for my life
Take your passion
And make it happen
Pictures come alive
You can dance right through your life

Now I hear the music
Close my eyes, I am rhythm
In a flash, it takes hold of my heart..

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Cars and keeping the journey light

Cars have long been a universal theme explored in literary works such as The Outsiders. Do you remember the two groups of teen rivals, the Socials and the greasers? The Socs had cars which represented power, protection and mobility, while the greasers had to travel on foot and were therefore much more vulnerable.

stock-photo-30594346-hands-of-driver-on-the-steering-wheelAnd who can’t relate to feeling vulnerable when our car doesn’t start up, or it stalls on the side of the road? Maybe this is a distant memory of our younger years when we had less control over our lives, or perhaps it happened yesterday. We’ve got somewhere to go and this is our mode of transportation. To lose it is unnerving.

Or how about the elderly driver who has to give up driving altogether? This denotes a loss of freedom and independence. How could it not? They’ve crossed over to having to depend on others to move them from one place to another.

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Dreams of cars symbolize how much control you have over your own life. Are you in the driver’s seat or are you along for the ride as a passenger? Do you know how to navigate from one place, or stage, to the next? Or are you lost?

And just like any other area of life, clutter in a car can take an emotional toll. It’s restricting, slows us down, and in the case of a moving vehicle, can even be unsafe.

Cleaning a car is a simple and symbolic way to take charge of our lives. It’s so much more pleasant to take the journey free of clutter and crumbs. Cleaning out one’s car is a step towards traveling with mental clarity and space. It is moving forward with both hands on the wheel, free of the stuff that bogs us down.stock-photo-36568830-driving-on-an-empty-road-towards-the-setting-sun

Some February highlights

We have so much snow in Massachusetts right now-many feet of snow and more on the way.

I was happy my husband was not traveling for the last couple snow falls; though I now know that I can snow blow my way out of the driveway, I don’t particularly want to make a habit of it-or like my father-in-law used to be fond of saying, “I don’t want to make a career of it”. Plus my husband shovels our little dog a pathway to the woods and he shovels the front walkway and even clears off the grill in case we want to run out onto the deck and throw some food on there for dinner (I don’t, but he might).

But the other day, just before my husband was able to get the dog’s pathway cleared for the third time that day, I decided to let him out into the driveway which was already clear (or as clear as it could be when it is still snowing like crazy). I had my indoor clogs on and didn’t bother putting boots on because my plan was to stand in the garage while the dog ran into the driveway to do his business.

But he got a little more adventurous than usual and trotted right out of our driveway and into the street. It was getting dark out. I was terrified a plow would run him over (plows were coming through our neighborhood at an impressive frequency). I ran back into the house to grab his leash and throw my boots on so that I could go retrieve him.

As I was running full speed across the kitchen tile floor, I slipped and went down with a force that took my breath away. At the sound of my loud crash, my husband came running to find me lying on the tile floor holding my knee (which turned out only to be badly bruised). Still very panicked that our dog was loose and in danger, I urged my husband to find him asap.

Once I convinced him that I was not in need of immediate medical attention, despite still being on the floor with no immediate plans of getting up, he was on his way to save Max from the plow. When he got to the garage door, our dog was standing there, covered in snow and wagging his stub of a tail, as much as a stub wags. There’s no place like home.

Note to self: Put boots on before bringing dog out with leash even when it looks as though an eighteen inch tall dog can’t possibly venture out into three feet of snow.

Despite the snow and the frigid temperatures (which has greatly impacted Boston), we went into the city to the Moth Story Slam this week.  This is an open mic format, sponsored by WBUR. I love the combination of literature and the human condition that is storytelling.

We had a little walk between where we parked our car and where we ate and then another walk to the story slam and back to the car afterwards. To say it was cold is an understatement, but it was worth it because it was great fun.

I entered a story and it went very well and I can hardly wait to do it again. My husband, ever my biggest supporter, told me that he thought just getting up there and doing it without fainting would be impressive (it’s not as if I do this sort of thing every day). And then we lowered the bar even more and decided that even if I faint, he could simply come get me off the stage and he’d still be impressed that I tried.

But alas, it went much better than that and so I was thrilled. Plus I was left knowing what I wanted to do to make it better for next time.  The winners from each slam get to compete against each other at the grand slam later in the year. I’m not typically a competitive person, but I really want to win one of the story slams. Just sayin’.

And I really love the in-and-out of this; the quiet, reflective writing time, contrasted with the time of bringing it out into the world through voice.

Another February highlight that I look forward to is my youngest daughter’s birthday; it happens to fall over the long weekend when she will be home from college. I’ve planned a surprise outing that I’m excited about and both of her sisters will be able to partake. I can’t write what it is in case she finds time, in the midst of her busy social and academic schedule, to read her mother’s blog. One never knows.

20150127_161044I refuse to count the days until spring, because last year there really was no spring to speak of. We had winter, winter, and more winter. Then summer. So March 20th is really just an arbitrary date; we could have snow! We could have cold temperatures! And sure, we could have spring. But I’m just not going to count on it. It’s sort of like a pregnancy due date. We can estimate, but it happens when it happens.

Instead, I will trudge through the snow and the slush and the freezing temperatures when I have to, to get where I am going, and be thankful that I can do this, bruised knee and all.