Sunday, February 22, 2015

A Valentine's Day Like No Other

One of the best things about living in the southern part of New Jersey is that we can fill up the gas tank, hit the road and be in my home town of Philadelphia in 30 minutes, at the beaches and casinos of the Jersey shore in 60 minutes, in New York City in 90 minutes, and in our nation's capital in three hours.

However, when it came to planning a Valentine's weekend getaway, my husband Bob and I were stumped.  We had the choice of all of the great places listed above...but we've been to every single one of them, over and over and over again.

We wanted to escape the cold and mundane that had defined our winter. We wanted something new. Something different. Something romantic. Something fun. Something within a few hours drive from home.

The weekend held an extra incentive for us to get away.  Our 17-year old daughter Melissa would be boarding a plane to Atlanta for a leadership conference sponsored by the B'nai B'rith Youth Organization (BBYO).  We could pack our bags in search of adventure without having to worry about leaving her home alone.

But where to go?  Where to go?

Bob, an American history buff, had long sought to take a vacation visiting civil war battles sites (yawn).  But this time, unless we wanted to brave arctic tempertures, touring historic outdoor battlefields would have to wait until the warmer months.

So where to go, where to go?

A quick google search revealed an indoor civil war museum about two hours away in Harrisburg, the capital of Pennsylvania (yawn). Not romantic. Not really fun.  But it did count as something different, within a few hours drive from home.  We booked a hotel near the museum, made dinner reservations, and looked forward to a getaway, no matter how potentially boring it might be.

Come Valentine's morning, I jumped out of bed in preparation for our mini "vacation".  An hour later, with my hair curled to perfection and my suitcase packed, I gently encouraged my sleepy honey to rise from his slumber.  He sat up, put his feet on the floor, and attempted to lift his body into a standing position, only to fall back onto the bed.

He tried to stand up once more, only to have the same thing happen again.

"I feel dizzy and nauseous," he said in response to my look of concern.

"Give it a few minutes," I replied. "Maybe you're just groggy."

My advice proved useless, as an attempt to walk across the bedroom nearly caused him to fall flat on his face.

I made him some toast, hoping beyond hope it would be the miracle he needed to get past the nausea and start packing for our trip.

"Lisa, I am really sorry but there is no way I can go away feeling like this," he said.

"It's ok," I lied, trying to hide my disappointment.  "We can go another time."


One of the best hair days I ever had would be wasted on another cold, mundane weekend at home.

I changed out of my "going away" outfit, put on comfy sweats, then poured myself a bowl of cereal while Bob tried to sleep off his sickness.

An entire day with no plans stretched out before me.

A Valentine's Day with no plans.

What to do?  What to do?

I decided to use the gift of unexpected time to work on a scrapbook I was making for a friend's birthday.  As I dove into the ardous task of scouring through 2,479 photo albums, the realization hit me.  Here I was, sitting on the living room floor, knee deep in photos, while my poor husband lay upstairs in bed, sick as a dog.

Ok, so we wouldn't be spending Valentine's Day learning about the Civil War. We wouldn't be going to the hotel, or eating at a great restaurant.  But certainly, we could still be together!

I picked up as many photo albums as I could carry, heaved them upstairs to my bedroom, and plopped down next to Bob.  Together, we looked at picture after picture, the images taking us back to first days of school, vacations, holidays, and birthdays.

As the hours passed by, we watched TV.  We laughed.  We cuddled.  We hugged.

And slowly but surely, he started to feel better.

By the end of the day, I no longer longed to get away.

By the end of the day, life no longer seemed quite so mundane.

I had the love of my life, right next to me in bed.

It was a Valentine's Day like no other.

It was the best Valentine's ever!

My Bob...the best Valentine ever!

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Sunday, February 1, 2015

Jessica, You Were My First

I entered the maternity unit on the evening of June 30, 1997, ready to push out the bowling ball-like bulge that had me wearing my hubby's clothes for the better part of two months.  That "bulge" had been pretty darn tootin' comfy all tucked up in my tummy.  Her arrival date had come and gone, and now, a week later, the OB/GYN felt it best to fill me with drugs that would entice my little cherub to enter the world.

Being "induced" should have rapidly set the childbirth wheels in motion, however, the evening and overnight hours passed without incident.  There should have been something going on.  Some type of action. Some indication that this appendage wanted to exit my body.


No dice.

The baby had not budged, and the tiny opening that was somehow going to play host to her GIANT head did not grow any bigger.

So the doctor gave me more "induction" drugs....and we waited.

In the mid-morning hours, my husband Bob arrived with our  daughter Jessica in tow.  Although the age difference between Jessica and my soon-to-arrive baby daughter would be 21 years, she couldn't wait to become a big sister.

Jessica had come with the package. A wonderful bonus that transformed me into an insta-mom of a teen the moment I said "I do."  Sure, there were some rough patches in the beginning.  I had deluded myself into thinking we'd be the very best of friends.  But the "Keep Out" sign on her bedroom door, complete with a photo of a doberman pincher, brought me back to reality.

Thanks to our mutual love for her father, unending patience, and a willingness to make it work, the walls of skepticism started to melt away as Jessica realized that her new step-mom had become an ally and friend....not a foe.

Eventually, we did become the best of friends....and so much more.  That's why I so desperately wanted her there when her little sister Melissa finally decided to come out and play!

By 11 am the morning of July 1, 1997, the drugs had started to take effect.  Mild cramping that started in my lower back made its way 'round front to evolve into full blown contractions. My doctor suggested a medication that would take the edge off  and make me a bit drowsy, an offer I readily accepted.  As the nurse injected the welcoming drugs into the IV, the effect was instantaneous.

Within seconds, I fell into a deep, pain-free slumber.  But before succumbing to the effects of the drugs, I looked at my husband and daughter, worry sketched across their anxious faces, and uttered these now infamous words...........................

"Jessica, you were my first."

Despite the contractions and despite the drugs, I wanted the daughter who had "come with the package" to understand that even though another offspring would be entering our lives....she still mattered and I still loved her because, after all....she was my first.

 Melissa, the baby that arrived on July 1, 1997,  is now a junior in high school, plays in a band, sings in the school chorus, and is on the board of a local youth group. Jessica and her husband Brian live in Washington, DC.  She is an executive with a national union, fighting for workers' rights.

During a recent call with Jessica I tried to no avail to give her advice that would help ease the pervasive nausea that has become a permanent fixture for the past 12 weeks.

Yes, that's right. Jessica is pregnant!

And even though her baby bump is still barely discernible, Bob and I simply Can. Not. Wait.

You see, I never knew Jessica as a baby.  By the time Bob and I went on our first date (chinese food and ice cream), Jessica had been out of diapers for 15 years.  I had pictures, of course.  Treasured images of a toddler with dimpled cheeks and banana curls stared at me from pages of faded photo albums.

Bob and his precious toddler Jessica!
Bob raised that precious toddler on his own, and thanks to grandparents, aunts, uncles, and friends, she never lacked for love.  

Her child will not either!

Melissa, Bob, and I are ready, our hearts full of affection. We are ready to share our love with a beautiful child, ready to embrace this extraordinary new chapter in our lives.

Jessica, I know you and Brian will be wonderful parents.  However, please allow me to share with you words of wisdom from a neurotic, over-protective mom who somehow managed to get Melissa to the age of 17 emotionally unscathed (At least I think so!)

Trust your instincts.

I will say it again.

Trust your instincts.

There are no scientific studies to back me up, but know this.  There is nothing, NOTHING stronger than a mother's instincts.  You'll know if your baby's tears necessitate a doctor's visit, or if a loving embrace will do just fine.  You'll know if the baby is hungry, thirsty, gassy, tired, or if the baby just needs some affection.

It is ok to dry your baby's tears, to jump every time your baby cries.  There is no such thing as too much affection.  There is no such thing as too much love.

For, before you know it, the baby will be boarding the bus for kindergarten. The baby will be stressing over the 5th grade science fair.  The baby will be smiling for a driver's license photo. The baby will be going off to college.....

So hold on to every precious moment.

And all I ask is that you let me shower my grandchild with the warm hugs and kisses I never got to give to the little toddler with banana curls.

I promise I will love that baby as much as I love you, for after were my first!

Me with my daughter first!
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