Sunday, January 24, 2016

House for Sale

It felt right.

Everything about it felt right.

Well, almost everything. I'll admit, some repairs were needed. And yes, some updates were in store. But the oversized, cozy, eat-in kitchen more than made up for the living and dinings rooms, both decorated with wallpaper that perhaps had been in vogue when purchased circa 1971.

Despite the hideous wallpaper (which has since been torn down), the house met all of our criteria for that long-desired "dream home".

My husband Bob and I found this house thanks to my new job, which required my family to relocate from central New Jersey and look for living space two hours to the south in the spring of 2004. The sale of our tiny townhouse gave us the money we never thought we'd have to make a down payment on a single family home.  A small down payment, but a down payment nonetheless.

We moved into our dream home and two months later, I watched my 7-year old daughter Melissa board a yellow bus, enroute to start first grade in a new school, in a new town.

A new town with new friends to make! A new town with parks and playgrounds to explore! A new town with parades and festivals, quaint boutiques, and neighborhood restaurants where you'd be sure to run into familiar faces week after week.

Our home played host to holiday dinners and birthday celebrations, sleep overs and pool parties. Our home played host to many a night spent helping Melissa with home work assignments, rehearing for school musical auditions, planning youth group events, watching movies together, or simply talking about school, friendships, and of course, boys. Many a night we sat in comfortable silence in the living room, Melissa working on the lyrics to an original song, while I held the computer on my lap, working on yet another blog.

I knew that the days in our dream home were numbered. I knew we wouldn't stay there forever. I knew that the barbie dolls and building blocks that littered the living room floor would soon give way to video games and DVDs, backpacks and text books, and finally, college applications. And I knew that once my Melissa traded the safety and security of our dream home for a tiny dorm on some far away campus that Bob and I would be getting closer to trading  in our dream home for something smaller, more manageable.

I just didn't think it would happen so soon.

My heart didn't want to let go. My heart wanted to hold on.  My heart clung to precious memories of a place where Bob and I raised a sweet little girl and watched with awe and wonder and pride as she transformed into a beautiful, talented, smart, creative, ambitious young lady. A young lady in her senior year of high school. A young lady all too ready to take her rightful place this autumn as a freshmen at American University in Washington DC, three hours away.

My heart held on, but I knew better, and so did my much more logical husband. College came with a price tag, and Bob convinced me that reducing our monthly mortage payments by downsizing would certainly help.

So today, a "For Sale" sign adorns our front lawn and before long, new owners will make their own memories within these walls.

We plan to stay in or near the town we have grown to love. But no matter where we go, or where we live, the dream home where I raised my baby will always be mine. It will live on in precious memories.

It will live on in my heart.

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Thursday, January 14, 2016

Beatles Songs and Lullabies

The  "Meet Baby Miles" party had been a huge success. After five months of sharing photos and videos of our grandson with family and friends, my husband Bob and I finally had the chance to show off the world's cutest baby in person.

Thankfully, despite his usual protest at being cooped up in his car seat, Miles fell into a deep sleep while his mommy (my step-daughter Jessica) enjoyed the quiet, uneventful three-hour drive from Washington, D.C. to our house in southern New Jersey. (Her husband Brian was saddled at home with the flu.)

As soon as they walked in the door we were greeted with smiles from Miles (rhyme intended!), and those grins weren't only reserved for us.  He cooed and smiled and laughed and delighted in being held by nearly a dozen of his biggest fans.

At day's end, when the last of the family had walked out the door, Jessica decided to spend the night rather than tackle the long drive home alone during the late evening hours. She took Miles upstairs to my bed, and, with her sister (my 18-year old daughter Melissa) lying by her side, fed the baby,  read him a book, and then attempted to lull him to sleep.

Only one problem.

Baby Miles wanted no part of it.

I fought the urge to join them and instead stayed downstairs with Bob, determined to keep out of the way. I figured too many people in the room would serve as a hinderance rather then a help as they tried unsuccessfully to convince this adorable baby to enter a world of dreams.

From the downstairs living room I heard laughter. I heard cries. I heard cooing.

What I didn't hear was silence.

Finally, I gave in and joined my daughters and grandson on the bed. The baby sat quite comfy in his Aunt Melissa's arms, smiling and cooing and doing nothing that indicated he would ever fall asleep.

Taking advantage of my arrival, Jessica decided to leave us alone for a bit so she could get herself ready for bed.

As his mother closed the door behind her, I cradled the baby in my arms. Melissa snuggled under the covers next to me, giving big smiles to her nephew, who returned her affection with giggles.

Sleeping baby Miles
Drawing on the motherly instincts that sat dormant for nearly two decades, I picked up baby Miles, placed his head on my shoulder, stood up, rocked him gently, and sang him a lullaby. The same lullaby I sang to my newborn baby girl nearly 18 years earlier.

When Melissa had entered my life, I never knew, I never realized, I never imagined that I could love someone that much. I never thought that my heart would burst when I held her in my arms and rocked  her to sleep, singing a Beatles song called "I Will" that I claimed for my own. A lullaby that would forever bond my daughter to me.

Who knows how long I've loved you
You know I love you still
Will I wait a lonely lifetime
If you want me to I will

For if I ever saw you
I didn't catch your name
But it never really mattered
I will always feel the same

Love you forever, and forever
Love you with all my heart
Love you whenever, we're together
Love you when we're apart

And when at last I find you
Your song will fill the air
Sing it loud so I can hear you
Make it easy to be near you
For the things you do endear you to me
Oh you know I will
I will

I instinctively sang those words to my grandson as I rocked him gently in my arms. And as he slowly closed his eyes, I looked over at my 18-year old daughter cuddled so comfy in my bed.

She too, had drifted off to sleep.

The lullaby still worked. An unbroken bond held together by love.

My 18-year old daughter Melissa at 4 months.The lullaby that worked then still works now!


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Sunday, January 3, 2016

The Call From the College

The hospital room in the maternity unit had suddenly become quite crowded. My husband Bob, 18-year old daughter Melissa, and I surrounded the bed occupied by our daughter Jessica and her husband Brian, who cradled a tiny miracle....their newborn son, Miles.

Although we could have easily stared at our grandson's sweet face for hours, logic dictated that this labor-weary couple desperately needed rest.

While killing time over sandwiches in the hospital cafeteria, Melissa asked a question, that, little did we know at the time, would forever change her destiny.

"Dad, how far is American University from here?"

Predictably, Bob whipped out his trusty iPhone and repeated the query to Siri, who informed us that travel time to our destination consisted of a mere two miles.

A few minutes later we arrived at the Washington, D.C.-based school with the goal of simply running into the Admissions office to pick up a few brochures, then returning to the hospital. As luck would have it, we stumbled in at the start of a campus tour, and although we lacked a reservation, the sweet woman at the registration desk invited us to come along.

By the time we showed up again in the cramped hospital room, American University had moved to the top of my high school senior's "must apply here" list, a compilation that also included colleges in Philadelphia, Boston, and New York State.

Everything about American University felt right for Melissa, and the close proximity to her sister and newborn nephew came as an added bonus. (I won't mention that the three hours from her parents didn't seem to bother her one bit.)

American University only accepts about 7,000 of the 17,000 plus hopefuls who apply each year, daunting statistics that did not deter my daughter one bit. We attended seminars hosted by admissions counselors, watched videos created by current students, and digested every word on the school's website. Through her research, Melissa carefully and methodically made the choice to apply Early Decision. This type of application is a binding agreement, meaning, if accepted, Melissa must agree to enroll.

So while my offspring began the arduous process of completing the application and responding to 3,974 essay questions, Bob and I began the arduous process of responding to the 3,974 questions on the financial aid forms.

1. Do you own your home?
2. Do you own a car?
3. Do you own any vacation properties?
4. Do you own a business?
5. Do you own a lawn mower?
6. Do you own a blow dryer?
7. Do you own a toaster, a microwave, a television, a computer, a food processor, a waffle maker, a popcorn machine, a DVD player, an exercise bike, a kitchen table, a dining room table, dishes, silverware, mugs, shoes, skirts, dresses, sweatpants, underwear, etc....
8. Would you be willing to sell all of the above to finance your child's college education?

As the Early Decision application deadline approached, Melissa received an invitation to come back to American for a more in-depth experience, including another tour (during a cold October rain storm) and the opportunity to sit in on an actual classroom session conducted by one of the school's esteemed professors.

The day also included a helpful seminar on financial aid options, where the prospective students  gave their full attention struggled to stay awake while their parents popped Xanax and planned how they'd live out their golden years inside a cardboard box atop a city street grate.

Finally, the day arrived. The essays were written, applications were complete, financial aid forms were turned in.

With little fanfare, Melissa hit "submit".

Next on the college search agenda?  Wait.

And wait.

And wait.

And wait.

First we were told a decision would be forthcoming by December 31, 2015. Then we were told a decision would be forthcoming anytime between December 15 and December 31. Either way, those dates seemed like 4,375 weeks aways. So all we could do was wait.

And wait.

And wait.

And wait.

December 15th came and went. Same for December 16.

On December 17 my cherub called me at work. Seems a friend who had also applied Early Decision to American had already posted about her acceptance on Facebook. Yet Melissa still had not heard a thing.

No acceptance letter came in the mail that day, leaving Bob and me fearing the worst.

"Let's check your portal page on the school's website," I suggested. "Maybe it will tell you if the letters have been mailed."

As luck would have it, moments after a peek at the portal page, which revealed absolutely no information whatsoever, her cell phone began to ring, indicating a call from a Washington, D.C. area code!

Bob and I tried to listen in, but all we could make out was a man's voice on the other end of the line. In the meantime, trying to focus on the conversation and get away from her meddling parents, Melissa walked into the kitchen, then the living room, then the dining room.... (her efforts were for naught as we followed her through the house, clinging to every word she said, which sounded something like this:

"Yes."

"Yes."

"Ok."

"Yes."

"I think so."

"Yes."

"Thank you."

Finally, she:
1. Ended the phone conversation.
2. Looked at her parents.
3. Shouted "I GOT IN!"
4. Burst into tears.

Happy tears! Tears of joy! Tears of relief!

And I cried right along with her.

Tears of joy! Tears of pride! Tears of sorrow and loss as the realization hit with full force....my baby will be going away to college.

My baby will be leaving home....leaving me.

But for now, I will treasure every moment as she experiences all of the "lasts" of senior year and prepares for the next, exciting chapter in her life.

Congratulation Melissa, American University Class of 2020!

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Sunday, December 13, 2015

Getting Tossed off the Cruise Ship

After nearly 22 years of wedded bliss I am happy to share that my husband Bob and I never bicker. All of our moments are filled with sunshine and roses and smiles and laughter.  We skip through the house, singing silly love songs, proclaiming our love for each other 24-hours a day.

Yeah, right.

The love is there, in fact it's always there.

But do we bicker?  Of course we bicker!

We bicker over the usual things that cause many a marital rift - money, chores, or his insistance on driving like a homicidal maniac every time he gets behind the wheel.

Yet in the end, the love is always there, and we tell each other so every time we part ways, whether it's leaving each day for work, or before hanging up the phone.

My Bob is kind and caring and affectionate. Whether he is giving me a much-needed hug, or soothing away my stress with a well-timed back massage, his touch is always sweet and gentle.

Except at night.

In the middle of the night to be exact.

I usually start my bedtime routine a bit earlier than my hubs, preferring to wind down by snuggling in bed, curled up with a good book. Bob, on the other hand, watches TV to lull him to sleep, which works quite well.  He typically conks out on the family room sofa, only to wake up in the wee hours of the morning, stumble up the stairs, and join me in bed.

Most nights I don't even wake up when he crawls under the covers, I just take comfort in knowing that in the morning I'll always find him there by my side.

Except for last night.

In the middle of the night to be exact.

Seems my darling husband had what one might describe as an unusual dream.

He worked on a cruise ship and had the strange assignment of throwing people overboard. In fact, his strange dream came with intricate details. He had to toss one respresentative from each of our country's 50 states off the luxury liner and into the sea. (Imagine the odds of a representative from each of the 50 states being on the same cruise ship. That must have been some dream.)

Unfortunately, seems like I was the chosen cruise ship passenger from New Jersey, or at least that's the only thing I can think of to explain my husband's behavior.

There's nothing quite like being in a deep, deep restful sleep when all of the sudden the fist of your betrothed hits you square in the jaw.

I have read articles about the body's reaction to being attacked. In that instant, the brain decides to either:

1. Fight

OR

2. Flight

I could have chosen Option 2,  jumped out of bed and allowed him to throw the pillows overboard. (There are 4 pillows on the bed, he could've easily knocked off Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, and Arkansas.) But instead I chose Option 1, figuring if I didn't attempt to wake him up, who knows how many bruised body parts I'd have before he got down to tossing the rep from Wyoming off the ship.

My poor Bob, obviously unaware of his actions, awakened to find his wife beating the crap out of him and screaming, "What the hell is wrong with you!"

Of course, having no control over his dreams, he felt absolutely terrible for his actions and apologized more times than you can imagine.

Nevertheless, I think I'll encourage my love to simply stay on the sofa tonight.  Either that or I'll wear body armour to bed. Because you never know when that cruise ship will sail again.

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Sunday, November 29, 2015

Mornings with Melissa

Each morning, My 18-year old daughter Melissa's iPhone alarm rings at 5:45 am.  As for me, I enjoy those last few moments of precious sleep until my clock radio shakes me awake a mere 15 minutes later.

As I stumble into the bathroom to embrace my routine, she's already downstairs eating breakfast.

Ocassionally, our fiesty feline will try to convince me that his favorite human (Melissa) neglected to serve his morning friskies.

"Did you feed the cat?" I croak, standing at the top of the stairs, barely concerned that this question has replaced the much more loving, "good morning sweetie" as the first words spoken to my teen at the break of day.

"Yeah," comes her barely coherent response.

Satisfied that the cat has simply feigned starvation, I ignore his plea for more food and force myself into the shower.  It is here that thoughts of the day ahead fill my mind.  Work deadlines, errands to run, appointments to make....all while washing and rinsing my hair.

It is when I am finally toweled and dried, standing in my robe, blowdryer in hand, that I actually see my teen for the first time each morning. She pops in and gives me a hug, yells goodbye to her still sleeping dad, and as the echoes of my "have a great day" wishes reverberate down the stairs, she closes the door behind her and gets in the car, ready to start another day of school.

Our mornings weren't always this devoid of emotion.

As a newborn, Melissa's days were met with diaper changes and bottle feedings followed by snuggling with mommy for her morning nap. Kisses and hugs were in full supply as I unwillingly got her ready for daycare a few months later and made the transition to working mom.

The toddler years involved picking out outfits and getting her dressed and combing her hair and squeezing her tight.  The elementary school years came with more independence, yet I still helped her
pick out her clothes, fed her breakfast, smoothered her with kisses, and watched as she climbed on the bus, waving goodbye as she started her day.

The middle school years found me hiding in the living room, a paranoid mother peeking out the window to make sure she safely boarded the bus.

Now she is in high school.

Senior year in high school.

And our morning interactions are nearly non-existent.

But we make up for it at night.

For it is bedtime when my daughter seeks me out, hunts me down, and tells me about her day. We talk about homework and teachers, tests and college applications,  friend drama and boy crushes, youth group meetings and school play auditions.

I realize that these days are fleeting, and the nearly non-existent interactions that provide the foundation for our days will be all but gone by this time next year, as she'll be getting ready each morning inside a dorm room instead of the bathroom down the hall.

But if my cherub needs to talk, to seek me out, to hunt me down, I will always be there....just a phone call away.

Melissa and me at her Junior Prom, March 2015


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Sunday, November 22, 2015

The Birthday Card

I walked towards the mailbox, tentative in my approach, a sealed and stamped birthday card in hand. If I dropped the card in the box, I ran the risk of an uncertain response. She might send me a polite, albeit, brief thank you text, or I could be on the receiving end of a nasty diatribe warning me never to contact her again.

But in all likelihood the response would be, quite frankly....nothing. She'd ignore my good wishes altogether.

Our friendship had lasted nearly four years when it came to an abrupt end last summer.  Thanks to Facebook, it's now easier than ever to cut emotional ties by simply clicking on the "unfriend" button.

And that's exactly what she did.

Trouble is, I never knew why.

I debated the pros and cons of calling, or texting, or sending a heart-felt email, but kept coming back to one final truth...she no longer wanted me as a friend.

So I moved on.

That is, until I stood at the mailbox, birthday card in hand.

I didn't tell my family or friends of my plans to acknowledge her birthday, not so much because I knew they'd tell me not to send the card.

But because I knew they'd be right.

Yet I wanted to try.

I wanted to send an olive branch of sorts in the hopes that perhaps, just perhaps it would serve as a catalyst for a conversation. Not to rekindle the friendship, but to learn why it had ended.

Two days passed after the card had been placed in the box, and as predicted, I heard nothing. Three days passed, then four, then five.  Still nothing.

I felt like a fool.

A fool who needed to confess to my husband Bob in the hopes he would share words of comfort.

And that's exactly what he did.

We were walking hand-in hand, enjoying nature's autumn splendor when I built up the courage to tell him.

He took me in his arms and held me tight. "Lisa," he said, as he looked in my eyes, "you have the biggest heart of anyone I know."

We lingered for a moment, while I took solace in his warm embrace.

Sometimes I need Bob to remind me that having a big heart is not such a bad thing. Yes, it means opening myself to hurt at times, but it also means opening myself to the love of a husband who has stood by my side since we said "I do", to my beautiful daughters Jessica and Melissa, my grandson Miles, my extended family, and to the incredible women in my life who took the reins of friendship decades earlier and will never, ever let go.

I'm not sure if I'll ever get a response to the birthday card, but as I stood in my husband's arms I realized, it no longer mattered.

I have more than enough love to fill my big heart.  And that's all I need.

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Sunday, November 15, 2015

Game Night

In the early 1980s, a new type of board game landed in neighborhood toy stores across the country. A game where mindless bits of meaningless data burried deep in the recesses of your brain suddenly became the key to earning the title of smartest player in the room.

A game where the correct answer to a question earned you a "doo dad" which fit snugly into a circular token which looked very much like a pie. Fill in your pie with all 6 multi-colored "doo dads" and you held bragging rights forever, or at least until your opponents begged you to play again.

I am talking, of course, about the Trivial Pursuit craze of the mid-80s, when shoppers across the nation gobbled up an estimated 20 million copies of the game, giving them the chance to demonstrate that they knew exactly who lived at 221B  Baker Street in London (if you answered Sherlock Holmes, give yourself a brown "doo dad"). 

My college friends and I, circa 1985, jumped right onto the Trivial Pursuit bandwagon.  A typical Saturday night would find at least eight of us squeezed around my parent's kitchen table, munching on chips while desperately trying to out-wit each other in this tried and true trivia show down.

Thirty years later, I no longer remember who claimed the title of the smartest in the room...but memories of the resounding laughter that filled my parent's kitchen during those innocent Saturday nights has stayed with me through the intervening years.

While I can't pinpoint an exact reason why our weekend Trivial Pursuit challenges came to an end, I can blame a likely suspect....life.  You see, we graduated college, found jobs, planned weddings, and all too soon, our days were filled with soccer games and dance recitals, and PTA meetings, and last minute trips to the store to buy poster board for the science project due the next day.

We attempted to find those few fleeting moments to connect by phone or social media...and sometimes we even managed to get together for a rare Saturday lunch.  But our weekend Trivial Pursuit parties had become a part of our treasured past...never to happen again.

That is, until last weekend.

Since our college days we have collectively survived first marriages and second marriages, toddlers and teens, new jobs and lay offs, health scares, and money woes.  But there we sat, munching on chips, sitting comfortably around my friend's kitchen table, teamed up with our spouses, roaring with laughter, and once again reaching into the deepest bowels of our brains to remember which two actors starred in Gone With the Wind. (If you answered Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh give yourself a pink "doo dad".

I left my friend's house that night with a feeling of love and warmth that I had so desperately missed....but had never really gone away.

While my husband Bob and I didn't earn enough "doo dads" to fill our pie, I'm confident that the winner won't hold onto their bragging rights for long.  Because now that, 30 years later, we have resurrected game night, I can't wait for a re-match so I can try to fill my pie with "doo dads".....

and fill my heart with the love and laughter of good friends once again.


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