Beautiful Ride

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

Remembering 9.11 September 11, 2011

Filed under: beautiful ride,Faith,Family,Service — beautifulride @ 9:30 am
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It was a day just like any other day. My husband left for work. My second grader and my 5th grader got on the bus and went to school. My 5 year-old and my 21 month-old sat playing on the floor of the family room, as they did every morning, waiting for me to finish listening to the morning news before we changed the background sound to Nick Jr. and Blue’s Clues. As I stood by my table, folding my laundry, the image on the television caught my eye and the tone of the reporter made me stop. It was 8:46 am on the most beautiful September morning. The skies were clear and they were blue. Perhaps it was an accident, a terrible, horrible accident. And then it happened again. At 9:03 am. It wasn’t an accident.

We had just moved to Delaware, OH the previous May. Our children had just started in a new school in a new town. We were settling into our new home and our new routine. It was just an ordinary day. And now it wasn’t.

I immediately called my husband at work, with an overwhelming relief that he wasn’t travelling that day. He travels so much for work and often leaves on Tuesdays. It was Tuesday. I told him what was being reported on the news. He said he would be home soon, and to go get the children at school. I did. By now another plane had flown into the Pentagon…and another had gone down in Shanksville, PA…close to Pittsburgh, the home we had just left.

I brought my children home, but wondered what to tell them, how much to tell them. When the second plane struck the tower, my 5 year-old son was watching. What do you say when big brown eyes look into yours and ask “Mommy, did all of the people on that plane die?” Our oldest was almost 11. He would want to know why I picked him up from school on what he still believed was just an ordinary day. I didn’t have any answers, I can’t even remember what I told him. All I remember is that I wanted them, all of them, in my house and in my arms.

As the day wore on, I remember having them play up in their rooms and setting up videos for them in our bedroom. I didn’t want them watching the news, I didn’t want to watch it myself. But I couldn’t turn it off, couldn’t turn away. The terror of the strikes, the terror of the collapsing buildings, the terror in the eyes of those wandering the streets looking for their loved ones. The terror.

Since we moved to New Jersey, just outside of New York City, I feel the anniversaries of 9.11 in a different way. My children know people who lost someone on that day. I know people who lost someone on that day. We know that the feelings and emotions of that day are never far from the surface for those who called this place home a decade ago.

I will never proclaim that I have felt that loss and that terror in the same way that those directly impacted by 9.11 have felt it. I did not lose a husband, a father, a sister, a brother, a son, a daughter, or a friend. I did not drive my loved one to the airport early in the morning, only to later realize that he wasn’t coming home. I didn’t search for days, weeks, months…holding out hope that I would get a phone call or open my front door and find that my love had somehow survived. I don’t have to hear a name read and a bell toll year after year in remembrance of a victim.

What I hope is that those who live with their loss each and every day, not just on these anniversaries, will also feel the collective embrace of a country that mourns with them, aches with them, cries with them, and moves forward with them. I hope they know we will never forget.

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If I Had a Hammer August 13, 2011

On a warm July morning, just a few weeks ago, my husband, my son, and 16 other volunteers loaded up a few trucks and vans with tools and toolbelts, divided up some road snacks baked and bought by friends and family, received a few last-minute medical instructions, reviewed their maps, and joined hands for prayers and blessings for a safe trip and a safe return. As I waved goodbye to Rick and Max and the others, lyrics to a folk song kept playing in my mind, over and over….

“If I had a hammer…I’d  hammer in the morning…I’d hammer in the evening…all over this land.

I’d hammer out danger…I’d hammer out a warning…I’d hammer out the love between my brothers and my sisters….all over this land!”

Why this song? Because that, in sense, was the mission of this group. To hammer out the dangers of an unsafe structure, to hammer out a warning to those who think these conditions don’t exist in our country, and to hammer out the love for our brothers and sisters by bringing them the helping hands they needed in order to live in the warmer, safer, drier conditions that most of us take for granted. This very special group was heading to West Virginia  to do just that!

This was Max and Rick’s second Appalachian Service Project Trip with St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church. Imagine my pride in knowing that my husband gave up a week’s vacation to work alongside our 17-year-old son in a program that means so very much to him. Imagine my pride in knowing that my son feels compelled to crawl under a stranger’s home during the hottest week of the summer and help steady a foundation. Imagine my pride in each and every one of the volunteers that travelled with them and did their absolute best to make things right, or at least a little more right, for a handful of souls that swallowed their own pride and asked for help. Imagine the pride of a work crew that stopped a home from slipping into the creek, added indoor plumbing to a home where there had been none, or built a ramp for a man confined to a wheelchair because he lost both of his legs to diabetes and the use of his arm due to a stroke–a man who was now able to come outside of his home on his own for the first time in years.

Imagine.

We live in a country where both sides of the political spectrum spend so much time trying to prove they are right and our own citizens are  living with no plumbing, no heating, no way to see the outside world. We spend billions of dollars nation-building in countries that don’t want us and we ignore the problems right under our own noses. I am not trying to be political here–not trying to wag my finger at one side or the other–in fact, I try to keep politics out of my writing, because that’s not what I want my blog to be. But it’s hard to remain quiet and still when you see what these volunteers have seen. Despite your political views, it’s hard to dispute that we live in a country where every day the wealthy are given the gift of opportunities and the poor give up one more dream. We talk about the growing gap, we talk about the growing inequality, we talk and we talk and we talk and we are so exhausted from all that talking that we forget to DO.

Force your eyes open to see the poverty and the inequality; force yourself to see that sometimes it just isn’t possible for another to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps; force yourself to see that we all have a responsibility to DO what is right, not just preach what is right. Offer a hand of help and hope. Do it in the spirit of love for your brothers and your sisters and watch how things can change…all over this land.

*Become a fan of Appalachia Service Project on facebook and see how you can help–there are links on the information page for volunteering, donating and shopping their general store. You can also visit their website for more information at http://www.BuildANewYou.org.

*Photos from St. Johns Evangelical Lutheran Church’s 2011 ASP Trip courtesy Rick Braden. Group shot at beginning of blog courtesy of Susan Colby

St. Lukes Lutheran Church in Beckley, WV hosted our group on the way down

Orientation at the ASP Center in Brenton, WV

Picking up supplies at the hardware store

Taking a break!

ASP Center in Brenton, WV

Sleeping arrangements at the Center--NOT the Hilton!

The ramp Rick's crew built

Rick giving a thumbs up on a job well done

I am so proud of our son, Max

Dam at the park where they had a final gathering with the families they helped

The hand of God in the beauty of a sunset

 

Any Dream Will Do July 22, 2011

Filed under: beautiful ride,Family,Home,Music — beautifulride @ 8:51 am
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Last week, I had the pleasure of watching our son, Aaron, perform the lead of “Joseph”  in the musical, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. And as I sat on the edge of my seat, nervous for him, yet beaming with pride, I was taken aback by his ease on the stage, his comfort with the other actors, and especially the expression on his face — the one that said to me “I’m living a dream!”

If you’re not familiar with the show, you should know that “dreams”  are an overriding theme.  The musical is based on the Biblical story of Joseph, Jacob’s much loved son, you know — the one with the beautiful colored coat. Joseph was a dreamer — in the literal sense of the word — meaning, he had amazing dreams of his own, and he was able to interpret the dreams of others. These skills came in handy when Joseph found himself sold into slavery by his eleven jealous brothers, and when he was imprisoned by his irate master for unwillingly messing around with the lady of the house. Interpreting Pharoah’s dreams are what got him out of “the joint” and led to his dream life as Pharoah’s right-hand man. When his brothers show up to beg for food during the famine, Joseph’s own dreams of eleven stars bowing down to his finally made sense. The family is happily reunited and Joseph sings a reminder to the audience — a reminder that “Any Dream Will Do.”

This, of course, got me thinking about dreams. Not so much the kind that happen when your head blissfully falls upon the pillow and you drift off to peaceful slumber, but the dreams you hold in your heart and in your soul.  The kind of dreams that are so unique and personal to each and every one of us that we share them only with our closest confidants, and usually with great hesitation, almost afraid that to say it out loud will cause them to not come true. The kind of dreams that get us out of bed at the crack of dawn and keep us up until the wee hours of the morning — working, and waiting, and hoping that our dream will come true. And what I love the most about Joseph’s message is the idea that ANY dream will do. Sometimes I think we don’t give our own dreams enough validity…we tell ourselves that our dreams are too small to matter or too big to achieve. But we’re wrong. Even our smallest dreams are worth something…because they come from that place in our heart that drives us to better ourselves, our situations, our environments, our relationships…do you EVER hear anyone say they dream of a messier home, worse grades, a demotion at work. No, we dream of strong relationships, professional achievements, peace in the world, love in our hearts. And big dreams are really just the result of a series of little dreams coming true, one at a time, step by step, moment by moment. So keep dreaming those dreams that speak to you. Dream of mending broken relatiohnships, dream of doing the best job you can do, dream of changing the world for the better, dream of singing your song and dancing your dance…dream YOUR dream…ANY dream…ANY DREAM WILL DO!

 

Thanks for the Memories…But I’ve Had Enough! June 21, 2011

Filed under: beautiful ride,Family,Home — beautifulride @ 8:34 am
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I remember the first time I laid eyes on you, nearly a dozen years ago. I was standing alone on the lot…my husband at work, the children divided up between school and a friend. I was in a rush, no surprise there…and wasn’t quite sure what I was looking for…and then I saw you…the early autumn sun shining down on your body of steel…and I knew I had to have you. I loved your deep bordeaux color, and the fact that it was named after a favorite wine didn’t hurt! I loved that you could accommodate my expanding figure–7 months pregnant behind the wheel is never pretty and always a tricky fit. I loved that you could easily carry 2 car seats and a booster and your automatic sliding door, well, what a treat that was for someone who always had a bag of groceries, a bag of diapers, and scads of babies dangling from my shoulders, arms and hips. But all of that was just icing on the cake. You had me at 5-star safety rating. Hook, line, and sinker!

Over the years, you treated me well. You safely brought a new baby home from the hospital. You carefully took many trips back to the hospital over the years, spending countless nights in the parking lot, waiting for boys to get well and get home. You’ve taken us to beautiful destinations, crossing the country more than once–east to west and north to south. You’ve lulled your passengers to sleep and your sound system has helped keep your drivers awake. You were strong and brave, taking the hits more than once to protect your precious cargo. Remember the time the dump truck in front of us just stopped, and started moving in reverse, oblivious to the sound of your horn and the screams of your passengers. The sound of your crunching front end stopped him in his tracks. You were damaged, but we were all safe in your cabin. And I’ll always be grateful for the time you put your front end between a new teenaged driver and the hit-and-run menace that ran a red light. Another ding in your fender, but I was glad it was you and not the smaller, weaker car that he could have been driving.

Yes, over the years, you were there for me…for us. A  home away from home as we travelled to weddings and from funerals. You were a sweet ride for 6 as we headed to family gatherings and celebrations, to visit friends, to move to new homes in new states. You’ve witnessed joyful homecomings and tearful goodbyes, heated arguments and heartfelt apologies, tender moments and difficult conversations. You’ve been filled with spilled soda and squirted with juice boxes. You have had mud tracked on your floors, cheerios stuck in every crevice, papers strewn on every surface. You’ve been the “recipient” of many a carsick child’s “gifts.” And we’ve shared music and singing and laughter…so much laughter. Yes, for many years you were very good to me.

But then things changed…you changed. You started to become unreliable. You were no longer the trusted friend and knight in shining armor that you once were. I forgave you when you left me standing on the corner in Winslow, Arizona. I thought it was a fluke…that you were expressing your love of the Eagles and just giving me another story to tell from my cross-country trip that I made with 4 children aged 4-13, while my husband waited to greet us in New Jersey. But things slowly went south from there. You started to leave me standing alone more and more. In parking lots, on major highways, on city streets. Dead batteries, blown tires, burnt transmissions…the list goes on. I felt betrayed…abandoned. But, like the girlfriend that runs back to her man every time he says “Baby, I’m sorry…I’ll be better, I’ll try harder,” I took you back. Well, first I took you to the mechanic via the AAA tow truck that I had on speed dial…but then I’d take you back. And you’d fail me again, and again, and again. Would you start when I needed to go pick up the kids…maybe, but only if  I could successfully slip you into neutral. Would the reverse lights ever guide me safely down my driveway again…probably not. Would the sliding door ever close and latch again without leaving the front door open…doubtful. Would the driver side window open when I needed to pay the tolls on the Garden State Parkway or the Pennsylvania Turnpike…no.

I thought you would change, with enough money and enough attention, but I was wrong. I tried everything I could think of to make it work, after all, we’ve been together for 12 years. We’ve shared a history, we’ve shared memories, we’ve shared 154,000 miles. But I’m older and I’m wiser than I was when you drove into my life all those years ago. I’m not willing to put up with that kind of bad behavior anymore. So I’m kicking you (or towing you) to the curb and moving on…to a sweet ride that will treat me right…at least for the next 3 years and 3 month. Don’t be sad, 2000 Ford Windstar Minivan with auto sliding doors and seating for 7, I’ll cherish the memories, but I’m moving on. I could say it’s not you, it’s me…but it’s you.  I’m not making excuses for your poor treatment anymore. I deserve better! So 2011 Ford Flex with 5 star safety rating, Microsoft Sync, leather upholstery, seating for 7, retro white roof and a body of shining silver like Sir Lancelot himself–I’m all yours baby…let’s hit the road!

 

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.

 

Giving Them Wings May 9, 2011

Filed under: beautiful ride,Family,Home — beautifulride @ 12:27 am
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As Mother’s Day draws to a close, I’m thinking about how lucky I am to be the Mom that I am. I don’t say this to imply that I’m the be-all-and-end-all of mothers; instead, I say this because when I look into the faces of my sons, I know how blessed I am. What they have given me reaches so far beyond the flowers, cards, and gifts they shower me with every year. They have given me twenty years of love and laughter, tears and joy, hugs and kisses, worry lines, gray hairs, the proudest heart. Not every day is easy…and, let’s be real, some days are really no fun at all, but I wouldn’t trade it. Not even the bad days. It’s all part of the mother-child package. Like runny noses, dirty hands, peanut butter kisses, teenage angst, and leaving the nest. Yes, leaving the nest.

As Moms, we all know that the day will come when our children will leave the safe, comfortable nest that we’ve created for them. In fact, we start preparing them for it almost as soon as we bring them home from the hospital. We try to get them to go to sleep on their own, to feed themselves, dress themselves, tie their own shoes. Soon we are letting them walk to school alone, we teach them to drive, we help them select a college. We hope that they learn manners, and confidence, and inner strength…but all the while we are teaching this, our Mom instinct tells us to hold their hands and hold them close, take care of them, do for them, and protect them from the dangers and uncertainties of the big, bad world. The psychologist/philosopher Erich Fromm said “The mother-child relationship is paradoxical and, in sense, tragic. It requires the most intense love on the mother’s side, yet this very love must help the child grow away from the mother, and to become fully independent.” He was right. As a Mom, we love so deeply. Our children are our world. We cry when they cry, hurt when they hurt, laugh when they laugh, dream when they dream. They are an extension of who we are. And I think it’s that closeness, that connection, that makes it so hard for us to let them go, and why it feels like a piece of our heart is missing when they are gone. And I also believe that it is this intense love and connection that gives our children the strength to fly away.

Last week my oldest son left the nest. It was hard, but I know it was the right time. I could feel my heart break when he drove away after packing the moving van, and I could feel my stomach knot when I walked into his empty room. I could feel the lump in my throat when he stopped me from putting his groceries away, gently putting his arms around me and saying “Mom, you don’t have to do everything anymore.” And I could feel the tears flowing when it was time to say good-bye.  For twenty years, he lived in my home, and now he has his own home. He’s taking a chance, spreading his wings, and learning to fly. Am I ready? I’m not sure. But he is, and that means that I’ve done the job that I was supposed to do…I gave him his wings. Yesterday, for the first time, I got a Mother’s Day card that he sent through the mail, instead of placing into my hands. And inside was a hand-written note. It read “I will always be grateful for the one who taught me how to fly. I love you Mom.”

I love him too. I love them all–my fine young men. And I know I will have to watch them all fly away someday. And I hope they all know that no matter how old they are or how far they go, I will always be with them…holding them close when they need my strength, cheering for them when they need my encouragement, loving them when they need their Mom.

“If ever there is tomorrow when we’re not together.. there is something you must always remember. you are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. but the most important thing is, even if we’re apart.. i’ll always be with you.”  Christopher Robin to Winnie-the-Pooh