Beautiful Ride

The somewhat self-indulgent rantings about the beautiful ride that is my life!

Just Doing What They Do June 15, 2011

Filed under: beautiful ride,Family,Home,Music,Pets — beautifulride @ 8:01 am
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One of my favorite things about being a Mom is watching my boys find the things that make them truly  happy…the things that  light a little spark inside of them, and then watching that spark turn into a passion and a fire that they feel deep down in their soul. I’ve been lucky, because my guys seem to have each found something that they love to do…something that they keep doing because, for whatever reason, it is so vital to them that they can’t NOT do it. In our home, at this moment in time, the breakdown is something like this. Grant, my youngest, has happy feet–can’t stop dancing, running, jumping. He has 5 years of dance classes under his belt at the tender age of 11, and although he plays football, and wants to add basketball and baseball to his list, he tells me those sports are “only the appetizer, dance is still the main course.” Aaron is 15, and he is also all about performing. He sings, he acts, he dreams of movies and television and stage. And he doesn’t just dream about it, he really works at it. He’ll audition for anything, take the smallest role and work it with everything he’s got. He practices, studies, takes classes. And when I see him performing on the stage, I can see that he is happy. Max, at 17, prefers to stay out of the limelight, but is no less passionate about the things that are important to him. A quiet, but avid activist, Max is the first to volunteer for something that could improve the life of another; whether it is teaching children, heading to Appalachia to improve homes, lending a helping hand in New Orleans, or doing a task for me at home. Even as a little boy, he would get so angry about  injustice and inequality–even if he was on the winning end of the stick. He questions the status quo, speaks out against intolerance and prejudice, and truly believes that we can BE better, DO better, LIVE better. Zach, my oldest at 20, has a real passion for music. Back in the day, when he would do crazy things like cut school, it wasn’t to hang with friends or get into mischief. He would come home and practice that guitar for hours and hours and hours, racing home to it like it was a Siren calling him to the sea. He practiced everyday, studied different styles, bought every instrument he could get his hands on…and telling him to put down the guitar would be like telling him to cut off his right arm.  

Now, before I come off as THAT Mom…you know…the one who is convinced that her children are  THE most beautiful, wonderful, talented, perfect, smartest, best thing since sliced bread, let me just say that I do TRY to keep my Mama Rose tendencies in check. It’s a difficult, fine line we parents walk when our children are passionate about something. As the Mother Hen, we want to protect them from criticism, hurt feelings, and rejection. We want them to always get the part, the lead, the gig, the job. We want to put them in a safe little bubble, where nothing can hurt them, where no one will challenge their opinions or destroy their confidence. BUT, we don’t do them any good when we tell them they are perfect at everything they do. So we try very hard to walk that line, reminding them to dance for the love of dance and to sing for the love of the song. Not to write a song with the hopes of winning an award, but because you have something to say–and lend a helping hand to those that are struggling and suffering through injustice and intolerance not because it’s the cause of the month, but because you know in your heart that it’s a wrong that needs to be made right. And we remind them again and again that if they really love it, to dig in and work hard and don’t take anything for granted.

I believe (in my crazy Mom mind) that is why my guys just do what they do…they sing and dance and act and write and speak out because they can’t help themselves. And Lord knows, their areas of interest do not necessarily lead to the most lucrative futures, but you know what, I would rather see them make a modest living doing what they love than make a fortune doing what they hate. I hope they always, always have the courage to chase their dreams!

*Ok, now the “Mama Rose” posting of the talent! Actually, Aaron just had a recital and he asked me to post these songs for his Grammie, especially his duet with his friend Marnie (whose voice is spectacular). I apologize for the video quality, the spotlights mess with the flip camera, but you get the idea! Aaron knows how much Grammie loves “Phantom of the Opera” and he also knows that she is not on facebook, but does read the blog. Actually, I think my wonderful and supportive Mother-in-Law is my biggest blog fan–how cool is that! So Grammie, get out the tissues, and have a seat–this is from Aaron for you!



The Legend of Lyle May 31, 2011

Filed under: beautiful ride,Family,Pets — beautifulride @ 9:27 am
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Rewind back to January 2002…the holidays over, the kids back in school, the decorations boxed up and put away. At the time, our children were 2, 5, 7, and 11. I had been up to my elbows in diapers and bottles and sticky fingers and sleepless nights for over a decade now. I had laundry to do, meals to prepare, school buses to catch. I had a toddler and a tween…life was busy and crazy, but great. We lived in a cute little house in a cute little neighborhood in Delaware, Ohio–had moved there from Pittsburgh, PA in May of 2001. I wasn’t working outside the home at the time, just hanging with my boys, having fun being Mom and Wife. In the previous 8 months, I had spent quite a bit of time feathering my nest. The boys were big enough that the toys were no longer strewn across the house like a landmine of colorful plastic; yet, they were young enough that I still had control over the chaos that their bedrooms have become now. At the end of most days, things were picked up and organized, neat and tidy…just the way we control freaks like it. After the first decade of parenthood, control (or the magical, unsuccessful quest for control — like looking for a unicorn, or a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow) was something I would strive for, every day. That’s why I said “no” when they would ask for a dog (we tried that, and a weimaraner + pregnant mom + three small kids + travelling husband = just too much — he was happy to be back on the farm with his original family!)

And then…one sunny, cold winter’s day, I heard this crying sound. I ran up to check on my napping baby boy…sound asleep. Back downstairs, I heard it again…and again…and again. Finally, I opened the door that led to the garage and there he sat…this tiny little orange and white cat. Cold and hungry. Crying for attention, just like the boys. Now what was I going to do….

I really did not want a cat. They shed. They make messes. They need to go to the doctor. They need brushed and fed and cared for…and I was already doing that for a whole house full of needy little darlings. I honestly wasn’t sure I could care for one more thing. I didn’t want any harm to come to the little fuzz ball, but I didn’t want to add one more thing to my list either. So I called a no-kill shelter. They were full. Could we please just tend to the cat for 5 days or so, then call back and check for an opening. Really, 5 days. Like the boys weren’t going to get attached in five days. Ok, fine. So, couldn’t let the cat starve, and I opened the only thing I could think of…a can of tuna. Who knew that if you fed a cat tuna, they would never leave! Next, I called a vet. I had babies in the house and he was a stray. What if he was sick? Who knew if you spent $250 at the vet for neutering, shots, and a good once-over, the cat would never leave! My husband, my sons, the vet, the shelter–they all said the same thing–“couldn’t you just keep him? He’ll be no trouble. We promise.”

What is a woman to do??? Compromise. Yes, we can keep him. But he will be an outdoor cat. Our youngest was suffering quite a bit with asthma and eczema issues at the time, and I didn’t want to make it worse by adding a possible cat allergy.  The vet said we could make a lovely home for him in the garage. We got food and water bowls and a litter box and a bed and a heater. He had a really warm and cozy spot out there. The garage door would stay open a bit during the day so that he could come and go, and we made sure he was “home” every night, safe and sound and snuggled in his bed.  He loved roaming the neighborhood, lounging in the garden and chasing after the kids. He didn’t mind having his tail pulled, and he loved having his chin scratched. He came home every day, and they fell in love with him. He really was a great cat, really no trouble at all. He would come in the house and play for a short time most days, but he seemed content and happy to be in his little home in the garage.

In 2003, we moved to Arizona. I couldn’t believe how quickly he adjusted from garden cat to desert cat. He had the same set up (except we couldn’t leave the garage open during the day–scorpions, rattle snakes–just not a good idea! So he would come in the back door and go to his food, water, litter box and bed in the garage. I think this is where he gained legend status. He travelled in the back of the van across the country, survived adventure after adventure in the great southwest, and came home every night to tell the tale! A white cat outside at dusk in the desert–let me just say coyotes and owls–but they never got Lyle! He was a master hunter, bringing us “gift” after “gift” and he was tough–got into many cat fights–but NEVER lost!

Things changed when we moved to New Jersey in December of 2004. Our garage was detached from the house, so I had to finally give in. He became an indoor/outdoor cat. Litter box and food moved to the basement, but he still loved to be outside. And like all the other places he lived, he became king of this neighborhood. We would find him lounging on lawns and porches up and down the block, clearly in charge of all the other outdoor cats! The other families loved him and told us they thought it was great that he felt comfortable enough to lounge where he pleased. He wouldn’t wear a collar, but eluded the animal control van that goes up our street every day. He never lost a fight in Jersey either. He spent his days lounging in the sun or the garden, chasing bunnies and catching mice, and every night, he would tap on the family room window when he was ready to come in for the night.  The kids created a facebook page for him, and he made friends outside of the Park Road block. He was a superhero. A rock star.

Lyle and I had our own special relationship. I didn’t want him to shed on my furniture or cause me any extra work. He got that. He respected my space–didn’t tear up the sofas or the curtains. If I walked into a room and he was on a table or a counter, he would get down right away–I didn’t even have to ask. He sat on laps, but not the couch; he slept on beds, but only in the one bedroom he was allowed to go to. He didn’t get sick–never. Only had to go to the vet for fleas once, and regular shots. He really was no trouble. And over the years, the last one in particular, my heart softened a little and our little understanding grew deeper. We were friends, without a lot of pomp and circumstance. We had a mutual respect and fondness for each other. And sometimes, when no one was watching, I would talk to him and scratch his little chin.

Three weeks ago, Lyle was lounging in the garden and killing mice. Two weeks ago, our fuzzy little friend got sick. Really sick. But in true Lyle-style, he let me take care of him and he didn’t cause any trouble. I gave him his IV fluids and he sat still for me. I gave him his pills, and he would just open his mouth and swallow them. No trouble. And as he became physically weaker, he was still no trouble. He sat on laps and had his chin scratched. And in true Lyle-style, he didn’t want it all to end in the vet’s office, where he never had to go, because he was never sick. Nope–not for him. In true Lyle-style, he picked a morning when everyone was home. He laid down, and drifted off. In his own house, in his own bed, in his own time.  After just a few hours of “love rubbins” and farewell wishes from his favorite friends, he just drifted off. No trouble at all.

Our hearts are broken, but we know the legend of Lyle will live in our hearts and our family lore forever. We placed him in a special spot in the garden, with his favorite things. There will never be a cooler cat, and I’m sure that he’s already become king of the neighborhood in his new peaceful place, chasing mice and chillin’ in the sun. When Grant was 7 or 8, he wrote a little card that still hangs in our kitchen. It said, “To myself, from myself. Peace is a cat. Meow.” Now we are sure that Lyle is not just a peace cat, he is the peace cat. You were a good cat, Lyle, really no trouble at all. And I bid you farewell, my fuzzy friend…farewell.


The Truth About Cats and Dogs April 11, 2010

Filed under: beautiful ride,Obsessions,Pets — beautifulride @ 12:59 pm
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For the record, I am not anti-dog or anti-cat, not really.  I know that many who know me know that I am not a huge fan of pets, but in my defense, I have four sons, which in my opinion is quite enough to take care of.  Why, in heaven’s name, would I voluntarily chose to add one more “dependent” that needs to be fed, cleaned, brushed, walked, taken to the “dr.”, and oh, my very favorite–“diapered” (ok, not literally, but think pooper-scooper or litter box)!

Now, this post is not meant to offend the millions who are pet owners and advocates (including some people who I dearly love and respect). I know how much you adore your pets and I’m cool with that.  I’m not an animal hater—I think anyone who abuses animals should suffer in the same way that they caused the animal to suffer. And I’ve read all the studies that remind us pets are good for our health–lowering blood pressure, releasing “feel good” hormones—and I think that is all fine. But…I have to say that I don’t quite understand this latest level of “gaga” over our little four-legged friends.

Here is a recent example.  I’m walking through the Short Hills Mall one lovely spring afternoon. It’s a weekday and I’m searching for some props for a window display that my friend and co-worker, Joan, and I are designing for the Easter season. So here I am in a relatively upscale mall, enjoying the weekday outing free of children and crowds, and I round the corner excited to catch the always interesting window display at Willams-Sonoma when I see it….and I can’t really believe it…but Joan sees it too…so I have to believe that it’s real.  Yes, you guessed it…a dog.  Not a seeing-eye dog, but a tiny little wiener dog, on a leash, being led around by Mrs. New Jersey herself (not really Mrs New Jersey, but the stereotypical Mrs. New Jersey, thanks to “The Sopranos.”) There she was in her velour track suit finery, perfectly accessorized with bleached-blond hair, oversized designer bag, and gold flip-flops that screamed fresh pedicure. And she wasn’t walking the little wiener schnitzel either, instead, she was barking orders at her young teen-aged son about pulling him this way and that.  When did people decide that it was ok to walk their dogs inside of public places?  I’ve seen it at Penn Station too.  On our way home  from some cultural event like the Ballet or Opera, I’m standing there with  my husband waiting for them to call our train when I witness a college-aged boy pull a fuzzball with four legs out of his duffle bag and proceed to let it lick him all over the face…please explain this to me!

And cats, well, what can I say.  My own husband and children conspired behind my back to create a facebook page for our very own “Lyle the Cat.” The main purpose of this page is not to discuss the adventures of a stray cat (that would be weird enough), but to see if the “little beast” can friend more people than me! What is wrong with them. Not that Lyle hasn’t led a seemingly charmed life—he has survived moves from Ohio to Arizona to New Jersey (by car and plane—a story for another day!); outsmarted numerous other cats, hawks, owls, coyotes, rattlers, scorpions, and maybe even a javelina; and is king of our street, napping on lawns and in gardens up and down the block. Great—but now my guys are as crazy as the mall dog walkers.  Lyle now has rules of engagement, curfews, mood swings, and a growing list of facebook friends.  Tomorrow he will probably start a blog!

Instead of walking them and petting their little heads, we schedule play dates for them at upscale pet stores. Then we proceed to shower the upscale pet stores with scads of cash for items like clothes, boots (rain and snow!), jewelry, hats, and gourmet food created by Chef Michael….for the animals! I understand a dog sweater for a small animal in sub-zero temperatures, but can’t we leave it at that?  We dress them in silly accessories and little  hats and put them on youtube and greeting cards! And then crazy people like me, who believe this is absurd behavior, go out and buy those cards for my goofy, pet-obsessed children! 

So what do I think is the real truth about cats and dogs? I think they are honestly a great choice for people with the time and energy to care for them, and that for those that want them, the rewards are great. And I think that for those of us who don’t, we should be able to express our rage at hairballs on the carpet and furrballs on the furniture. And we should all be mindful of the marketing wizards that have come to convince us that they need playdates and raincoats, instead of some milkbones, a squeaky toy, and a pat on the head.