Sunday, June 30, 2013

Happy Birthday Sweet 16!

Last night, as I do most nights, I walked down the hall to my teenage daughter Melissa's bedroom, in preparation for her daily hug and kiss goodnight.

This bedtime ritual has become, at times, the best part of my day.  For it is during these moments, as Melissa lies comfortably cuddled under the covers, that she decides to open the door, ever so slightly, and let me into her world.  I may get the chance to soothe her worries over homework and tests, or merely discuss the hum drum topic of weekend plans.  She may share the latest antics of both friends and foes, fret about balancing her hectic schedule, or describe the songs she has planned for her band practices.

I listen to each topic, give support and wisdom when asked, and relish in the wonderful, albeit brief opportunity to bond with my baby.

With the exception of last night.

I walked into her room only to be greeted by an empty bed. With a pang I remembered that my daughter and I were temporarily separated by hundreds of miles.  She had spent a week in North Carolina with her cousins and grandparents, a major first in her young life!  Of course, we had visited our family many times, but never had Melissa traveled south without the safety of mom and dad by her side.

Tomorrow my "baby" will turn 16, certainly old enough to travel alone.

But will she ever be old enough for me to let her go?

As Melissa's birthday approaches each year, I am drawn to the dozens of photo albums that gather dust on our living room book shelf.  Pages and pages of her sweet smiling face stare back at me as I progress from photos of the newborn who entered my life on July 1, 1997, to the beautiful young lady she has become today.

During Melissa's early years, I made a habit of writing her monthly letters, with the hope that someday, when she became old enough to appreciate and understand, she'd go back and read my words to fully appreciate how much joy she brings to my life.

The following is an excerpt from one such letter, written when Melissa had reached her 18-month milestone.

"You've become quite attached to me, and I affectionately call you my ball and chain.  I can't leave the room without you getting upset.  When I go to the bathroom, you pound on the door.  Even when I am doing the dishes, you cling to my legs.  But that's ok, I love the attention."

All these years later, I still love the attention........even though it comes far less often.  For at 16, other priorities beg for her time.  Yet, during those quiet moments when we are alone, at the end of a long day when slumber beckons, I am still the lucky recipient of Melissa's affection.

Melissa, I may have to accept that you are growing older, spreading your wings and becoming more and more independent with each passing day.  But my baby, I'll never let you go.

Happy 16th birthday my dear, sweet, beautiful, wonderful, talented daughter.

Thank you for making me the luckiest mom in the world!

Me with my beautiful "Sweet 16" Happy Birthday Melissa!

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Sunday, June 16, 2013

A Father's Day Tribute to My Man of Steel

Last evening, my husband Bob, 15-year old daughter Melissa, and I walked out of the movie theater after viewing yet another incarnation of the tale of Superman.  While the 2013 version took some liberties with the original story, there remained one solid aspect of the film that Melissa and I agreed was not up for debate.  The bottom line...........Superman is just downright HOT!

Muscular, sizzling, sexy HOT!

As my daughter and I engaged in an in-depth discussion of Superman's adorable attributes, my  hubby glanced over at us and declared, "Oh just cool it you two!"

I looked at him and smiled, taking his hand in mine.

"Not to worry sweetie," I said.  "You'll always be my man of steel."

And honestly, I meant every single word.

No, I'll admit, Bob is not faster than a speeding bullet.

No, I'll admit, Bob can't leap tall buildings in a single bound.

And no, I'll admit, Bob can't slip into a phone booth, don a cape, and fly from New York to Paris and back again in under 10 seconds.

But what Bob can do is be the most amazing husband and father in the world, and that makes him my Superman!

When I met Bob over two decades ago, he had been wearing the "daddy" hat for nearly 16 years, having raised his daughter Jessica on his own.

Today, Jessica, a union executive, lives in Washington, DC and is happily planning her wedding to our soon to be son-in-law Brian. Throughout her teen years, wild college days, and the uncertainty of young adulthood, Bob remained the rock in my step-daughter's life.  He imparted on her the value of hard work, commitment, and standing up for herself, as well as a deep appreciation of love and family.

Since I first entered Bob and Jessica's world, I have been in awe of their relationship. Their emotional connection has never wavered, despite the miles that separate them. She has always been able to trust him, to confide in him, to seek guidance from him, and to share with him. Although the next major role he will play as her dad will be walking her down the aisle, I know that his love for her is so fierce.......and he'll never let her go!

As Jessica evolved from a toddler to a young adult, Bob rarely entertained the notion of having another.  Being a single parent came with a myriad of challenges, something Bob didn't look forward to living through a second time.

That is...........until I came along.

I offered no negotiations on this topic.  Our life together had to include children.

Three years into our marriage, as I stared at the positive symbol on the over-the-counter pregnancy test, I unabashedly rejoiced, while Bob greeted the news with fear in his heart. Nine months later, when our bundle of joy arrived in all of her glory, Bob took this miracle into his arms and gave me an "over-the-top, ecstatic, jubilant, euphoric" smile that I had only witnessed one time before - on our wedding day.  As soon as he scooped Melissa into his loving, big, strong, daddy embrace, our baby daughter became one with his heart and his fear simply melted away!

As we guided Melissa through each phase of her young life, I became the over-protective parent, while Bob challenged her to spread her wings.  She learned to ride a bike thanks to his willingness to trust her, and let her go (and by ordering me into the house).  She spent hours cuddling next to him on the couch, watching cooking shows or concerts.  As Melissa entered the preteen years, he dusted off his old guitar, placed it in her gifted hands, and never looked back. Today, music has become an incredible bond between them...drawing them together with a shared passion for learning, exploring, and creatively growing together both as musicians, and as father and daughter.

This Father's Day, along with a family lunch, home made cookies, and greeting cards from the two girls who have brought such joy to his life, Bob received an unexpected gift from two teenage boys.

Their card held this simple yet heartfelt message

"You have been a father figure to us.  You rock!!!"

The sons of my dear friend Angelica, we felt that Chris, 16 and Brandon, 14 needed some extra love, support, and attention in their lives.  "The boys", as we affectionately call them, have spent countless hours at our home, bonding with Bob through their shared love of Zombie movies and Superheroes.

I did not believe that the simple act of spending time together, asking about their lives, showing interest, and sharing our hearts could truly have such an impact...but it did.

So, to my Bob, my Man of Steel, my Prince, my Night in Shining Armor....thank you for your compassion, your patience, your strength, and your love.  You are a fabulous, loving father to Jessica and Melissa. You are a caring, fun, strong father figure to Chris and Brandon, and.........


Happy Father's Day Bob!  
I love you!

Super Dad Bob with our daughters Melissa and Jessica

Bob with Brandon and Chris (and Spiderman!)

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Sunday, June 2, 2013

The Seas of Change

I sat in the driver's seat, two hands on the steering wheel, one eye on the road, and one eye in the rear view mirror watching my 6-year old daughter  Melissa, whose non-stop tears fueled the overpowering ache in my broken heart.

As we drove onward down the road to change, the newly formed leaves on the trees served as a reminder that this right of passage had happened two months too soon.  Bidding a fond farewell to childhood classmates is a ritual that should take place in June....not April.

A bag full of sweets and home made cupcakes, remnants from the well-intentioned goodbye party, sat ignored on the seat next to Melissa, who clutched a small scrapbook filled with heart-felt notes and smiling faces of children I suspected she would never see again.

Onward we drove, towards our new home, my new job, her new school....our new life.

I reassured Melissa we'd come back, we'd make plans, we'd visit....longing for her to believe my lies.  For although the next chapter on our life journey was merely an hour to the south, new friendships would form and time would be scarce, making trips to our former home seem highly unlikely.

Sure enough, my husband Bob, Melissa and I settled in... and never looked back. Yet, nearly a decade later, the pain of hearing my baby's sobs as she reluctantly said goodbye to her friends still echos in my heart.

Melissa's tears were a solemn reminder that my daughter does not like change.

The truth is..........neither do I.

When things are comfortable, and safe, and familiar  - I long for the stability that will keep change at bay.

I approach change as if standing on the deck of a rickety old boat lost in a squall.  The rollicking waves prevent me from standing up straight on equal footing, and I'm not quite sure if the seas will ever transition to the peaceful calm that defined my life before the storm.

Of course, the seas did eventually relent, however the calm that greeted my family came not from the familiarity I had left behind, but the wonderful new life that beckoned from a different shore.

Today, my daughter sits at the dining room table, diligently working on a Shakespeare essay for her honors English class.  High school will soon come to a close, and summer, with its promise of no homework for two full months, is almost within reach. Then it's off to college, and more change for both Melissa and her mom.

I often wonder, had I chosen not to accept the new job that took us on that tear-stained drive so long ago, would Melissa, now 18, be privileged to this life filled with family, friendship and love?

Change can be full of wonder and delight, yet those concepts can be difficult to grasp while you are standing on deck, holding on for dear life.

But thanks to my decision to embrace the seas of change, Melissa is happy.

The truth am I.

My daughter Melissa (with flowers) is pictured with a group of friends.  Would she be so happy had I not embraced the seas of change over ten years ago?

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