Sunday, June 29, 2014

Melissa's Surprise Party!

Birthdays are usually met with much fanfare in my family.  To be more specific - birthdays for my daughter Melissa are usually met with much fanfare.

With each 12 month cycle, I threw out all of the stops to celebrate yet another milestone in my young daughter's life.  A family party when she reached her first birthday, a clown to entertain the toddlers at age 2, a Chuck E. Cheese party at age 3, a swim party, a bowling party, a mini golf party and so on.

As she approached the teen years, the milestones became less monumental.  Movies with a few friends...a day at the beach, until this year, her 17th birthday, when Melissa thought we had planned no celebration AT ALL.

I understand why she held onto that misguided assumption.  On the day of her 17th birthday, July 1, she will board a plane en-route to a two week leadership camp sponsored by B'nai B'rith Youth Organization, (BBYO), an international organization for teens that focuses on community service, friendship, leadership, and Jewish heritage.

Since her departure date coincidentally fell on her birthday, she did not expect a big deal. In fact, she did not expect anything at all.  And because of that lack of expectation, she spent the past week somewhat bummed, convinced that nobody would even remember her special day.

Unbeknownst to my baby girl, the covert operation "Surprise Melissa" had been in full swing for three week's time.  In partnership with some of the best teenagers I have ever known, we devised a top secret plan to have Melissa spend the day at her friend Erica's house.  My husband Bob and I nonchalantly told her we were going to a nice dinner to celebrate her birthday. Ho Hum...couldn't get more boring than that!

When my offspring finally walked out the door this afternoon, I sprung into action.  Her friends came over, grabbed the decorations that had been safely tucked away from inquisitive eyes in the back of my closet, and turned my house into a party zone.

When Erica texted her secret code, "The eagle is flying", 10 teenagers stood at the ready, anxiously awaiting Melissa's reaction to a party she had no role in planning.

When Melissa opened the door, 10 teenagers shouted SURPRISE!

Mission accomplished!

Melissa, you are the most wonderful thing to ever happen to me.  On July 1, 1997 when  I held you in my arms for that first magical time, I fell in love.....and that love grows ever deeper every time that I wake up and look at your beautiful face.

You have evolved into an incredible young lady, a gifted musician and a natural born leader who has an oh so compassionate heart.  Happy 17th birthday my dear, sweet daughter.


Celebrating a successful surprise party are (from l to r) Devon, Maggie, John, Erica, Tabitha, Gabby, Nick, Melissa, Sarah, John, Micaela, and Hayden (kneeling)

If you like my stories please tell me in the comments section below

Monday, June 16, 2014

Getting Melissa into the Car

It has become an annual tradition for my small family to pile into the car each year on Father's Day weekend for the three hour drive to Washington, D.C. to visit my step-daughter Jessica and her husband Brian.

It is also an annual tradition for my small family to pay homage to the numerous rest stops along the way, and this trip proved no different. After tending to "our business", we walked slowly back to the car, only to find the passenger side door blocked by the occupants of the mini van in the parking space next to our's.

My 16-year old daughter Melissa and I watched patiently as the mom climbed into the back of the mini van, buckled two toddlers into their respective car seats, then made sure they had snacks, drinks, and toys to last throughout their journey.  Finally, the harried yet apologetic mom took her rightful place in the driver's seat and went on her merry way.

As we returned to our rightful places in the car and went on our merry way, my thoughts turned to the scene we had just witnessed, and to the 10,735,254 times I had performed the same car seat routine with my daughter.

"In many ways, it's so much easier now than when Melissa was a baby," I said, sharing my melancholy thoughts with my husband Bob.  "But in many other ways it's even harder now that she's older."

"What do you mean?" asked Melissa, a hint of hurt feelings in her casual tone.

I thought long and hard before answering, wanting to choose my words wisely, lest I let her think that being her mommy has been difficult.

I thought about then.

I thought about now.

I thought about that eventful day in July, 1997, when we brought Melissa home for the very first time.  Bob gently lifted our bundle of joy from my protective arms and placed her into the car seat, which we had haphazardly attempted to correctly install.

"How do you hook up this $%@# thing?" asked Bob in exasperation.

"Let me try," I said, climbing into the back with him.

After several minutes we were no closer to safely securing our child, and absolutely convinced that that state would bestow the title of "unfit parents" upon us even before we got our infant home.

Thankfully, some wonderfully kind hospital employees came to the rescue, and with our newborn in tow, we headed onto the highway of life as Melissa's mommy and daddy.

The following summer, more exasperation greeted my husband as he tried to install a bigger contraption to tote our ever-changing cherub.

As we witnessed the evolution from toddler to preschooler, her non-stop growth resulted in yet another sophisticated car seat that required a master's in engineering to set up.

Then came the elementary school years, and with it an oh so easy to use booster seat.  Finally, my "baby" had reached the milestone of sitting in the back seat with no supporting apparatus at all, except of course the seat belt.  And before long my preteen sat in the front with me, rejoicing in her new-found freedom to control the radio!

In the not so distant future, my daughter, the proud recipient of an official, state-issued learner's permit, will make the transition from  passenger seat to her rightful place behind the wheel, and go on her merry way.

Away from me.

Away from my loving arms.

With that thought I realized why being a mommy to Melissa is so much harder today.

For today, tomorrow, and the years to come, I will no longer be able to shield her from harm by the simple act of strapping her in.

I looked at my beautiful, self-sufficient teen who'll turn 17 in two week's time.  My daughter is blessed with an inner beauty that radiates through her dazzling smile.  She has a strong moral compass and is a natural born leader. What's more, her compassionate heart coupled with an innate thirst for perfection leaves me bursting with pride.

But will that be enough for her to battle the unknown obstacles that will most surely create unexpected road blocks on her journey called life? Will it be enough to keep her happy, to keep her smiling, to keep her safe?

I just don't know.

But what I do know is, no matter where life takes her, no matter how far away, I will always be here to strap her back in.

My "baby" has grown from needing a car seat, to taking her rightful place in the driver's seat!

If you like my stories please tell me in the comments section below.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

When Will I Feel Like Me Again?

A trip to the local mall is a fairly routine occurrence for my family, and last week's visit proved no different.  After landing a rare, perfect parking spot, my husband Bob and I strolled hand in hand the to the entrance.

Our first stop, a visit to the Men's section of one of the four department stores that anchor the mall.  Bob, whose stocky frame has withered from a size "XXL" to a welcoming "Medium", needed a new wardrobe.  I helped him pick out some designer duds, and gave him a reassuring thumbs up as he modeled shirt after shirt.  However, by the time we stood at the sales desk to pay for his polos, I felt my body starting to give out.  Indeed, the familiar exhaustion that has plagued my bones had begun to rear its ugly head.

Against my better judgement, I ignored the warning signs to stop and sit down, opting instead to go on a quest to dress for success by searching for professional business attire in the Misses section, a short distance away. While Bob found an uncomfortable bench to wait, I set my sights on the selection of the bright summer styles that beckoned from beyond the perfume, handbags, shoes, and lingerie.

Would I be able to reach my destination?

The answer? A resounding NO.

Bob's expression of surprise greeted me as I plopped onto the bench beside him.

"Why are you back so soon?" he asked.  "I thought you were going to try on dresses."

"I got too tired," I responded, ashamed of my lack of energy.  "Do you mind if we go home?'

"Of course not," he replied, his kind smile showering me with love as we strolled, hand in hand, out of the mall.

The reason for my frustrating fatigue?  Major surgery to correct problems with my "plumbing", which involved a partial hysterectomy and pelvic floor prolapse repair.

What I have discovered since leaving the hospital a mere seven weeks ago is that nobody - not the doctor, not the nurses - nobody tells you what to expect.

Nobody tells you that your favorite jeans will gather dust in the far reaches of your closet, thanks to the swelling and bloating that make them impossible to put on.

Nobody tells you that you'll need clothes with extreme elasticity to avoid putting pressure on your tender tummy.

Nobody tells you that you'll need a nap every few hours, or that a trip to the mall may as well be a climb up Mt. Everest.

 Nobody tells you that when you steal a quick glance in the mirror, a stranger with a strange body will be staring back.

Nobody tells you that as your body heals, you'll just feel, well....different.

Fortunately, a strong, steady presence in my life has kept self-pity at bay.  My sweet, selfless, oh so wonderful Bob!  Not a day has passed since my discharge that my husband doesn't tell me, assure me, and remind me that I am beautiful.

I must learn to believe him.

I must learn to accept who I am....a woman who has now entered the last phase of her 40's, armed with the unfortunate knowledge that a week's worth of dieting will no longer result in the loss of five pounds, as it did during her 20's.  In fact, these days, a week's worth of dieting has the strange potential to add more weight, thanks to swelling and bloating.


So, while I wistfully stare of photos of a 25-year old me, I will no longer do so with the longing to look like I looked back then.  I will heed the predictable, yet beneficial advice echoed by experts by the thousands - eat healthy and get plenty of exercise.

After all, I want to enjoy every moment with my sweet, caring husband, and give him the pleasure of telling me I'm beautiful every day, for 50 more birthdays to come!

My wonderful husband Bob and me.
If you like my stories, please tell me in the comments sections below.