Glory Days

Lately I’ve become rather entranced by a popular song on the radio. I can’t seem to get enough of it. And no, contrary to the title, it is not a Springsteen song. On my drive to and from the office I frantically search the stations hoping to catch it right at the beginning or that it will be coming on any second.

If I switch to a station and find that it is already playing I am immediately thrilled unless it is at the very end. In which case I inevitably pound my fists on the steering wheel and let loose a blue streak of R-rated language. I begin the desperate search all over again and miraculously, on occasion, I catch it just as it starts.

It is completely possible that in the span of less than one mile my mood will go from bitter disgust to absolute delight. I know… I have some moderate to severe mood issues… but whatever.

Wondering what the song is?

It is Someone Like You by Adele. And although I love the entire song musically, there is really only one verse that grabs me personally by the gut and doesn’t let go until long after the final notes have resolved and faded…

You know, how the time flies.

Only yesterday, was the time of our lives.

We were born and raised in a summer haze.

Bound by the surprise of our glory days.

What a perfect way to capture the sentiment of the passage of time and the disappearance of childhood hopes and dreams. The concept that our youth is as fleeting as a summer is so true. I remember vividly the infinite hope and excitement that filled my younger years as I waited with bated breath for what was to come. In those years… I was sure it would be nothing short of spectacular!

For me, the verse conjures up images of crystal clear water rushing over young feet and legs — browned by the sun… Lazy summer afternoons lying in the grass, the sound of a friend’s laughter mixing with my own and filling the air… Long drives to the middle of nowhere surrounded by the flashing of fire flies… Endless talks about boys and what “HE” would be like… Hearts full of the knowledge that whoever he was, wherever he was… he would be perfect.

The older I get, the more aware I become of the brevity of youth. But I know in my heart that although life is short like a mere summer haze—in what remains of my song—I hope there are still plenty more glory days.

Old Friends – Part II

My parents wanted me to take a smaller cardboard box of my stuff with me but I resisted. My reason for resisting wasn’t because I didn’t want an extra box sitting around the house. I resisted because I was fearful of the emotion being stirred within me.

Why on earth was I getting so emotional over some old box of stuffed toys!?

But they insisted and I picked it up and carried it across the street to my house joking that I was quote: “Taking my dollies and going home.” But as I made my way up the sidewalk and into my grown-up house where I pay all of the bills, I couldn’t help but feel like I was holding the past in my hands. A past never to be visited again… A time now relegated to the confines of a cardboard home.

I set the box in the living room and stared at it for a while. Drawn to Stephanie’s blue eyes, wide stitched smile and yarn ponytail, I felt uneasy. I couldn’t bring myself to take them to the basement or seal the box and pack it into the closet with the others. So I just stared at it… completely awestruck not only by the amount of time that had passed and how much had changed, but also by the giant presence that the tiny box had in the middle of my floor.

After a couple of hours I was tired of staring at it and walking around it as I went about my business. So I hoisted it onto my hip and decided to carry it up to the loft in my bedroom. I couldn’t put them away, yet I refused to be that girl… the one who still keeps stuffed animals lying around her bedroom… in her thirties.

Once in the loft I had two choices, put the box in the cabinet up there — which is much more accessible than my storage area in the basement thus allowing me to feel less guilty as I had not actually PACKED them away. Or I could remove them from the box entirely and place them on one of the loft’s shelves.

I deliberated for a moment, considering my options. Sitting cross-legged on the floor, I picked up each one and studied it, gently wiping away a light layer of dust that had accumulated on their faces, clothing or fur. It was then that I decided to go for the latter. I am the only one who goes up there save for my nieces and nephews on occasion so it’s not like everyone who comes into my home would think I WAS “that girl”… the one who still keeps stuffed animals lying around her bedroom… in her thirties.

Seeing them out of the box and propped up on the shelf made me feel a little better. They were no longer boxed up and hidden like a past to be forgotten. They now had a place in the present. A place to be remembered when I wanted or needed to remember these great, old friends and probably more importantly… the person I was when I held them so dear.

Old Friends – Part I

Some days I find it impossible to believe that Time is only marching forward. Despite the daily reminders that surround me, at times I refuse to accept it. I live in constant denial that all of us are getting older… Shoving the notion to the back of my brain like pushing a hideous, itchy sweater to the back of the closet.

Some of the reminders are harmless and precious like witnessing your niece go off to her first big dance. Some of them are not so great such as the discovery of a few grey hairs, new laugh lines or a pain where there never used to be one. Worse yet, some of them are downright cruel in witnessing loved ones succumb to the disease of time.

On occasion reminders of relentless forward motion catch me by surprise, as do the emotions that accompany them.

This weekend my parents were doing some serious house cleaning in order to make room for their new furnace to be installed. When I stopped by for a visit, my dad slid a large blue plastic storage tub in my direction and removed the lid, asking me if the stuffed animals inside belonged to my sister or me.

Immediately I was taken aback at the instant recognition of some very old, very faithful friends. I slowly bent down and began sifting through the soft synthetic fur and yarn discovering one by one an old familiar face. I held back tears as I lifted old dolls and plush critters from their resting places and held them in my 36-year-old hands for the first time in easily two decades.

The first one I noticed was Stephanie, an oversized, homemade doll made for me by a close family friend at the request of my parents one Christmas. She was made to look just like a Cabbage Patch Kid either because my parents couldn’t get their hands on one due the insane demand for them that year or in trying to give my sister and I both a very nice Christmas, they didn’t quite have the money. It didn’t matter. I loved that doll. She was different from all of my other friends’ factory dolls because she had been made JUST for me.

Then there were the couple of Cabbage Patch dolls that came a year or two later, a stuffed penguin that I’d bought at Sea World with my very own money the summer my mom, grandmother, aunts, sister and cousins all went together and had a picnic before seeing Shamu. I still remember the stupid 80’s outfit I wore that day. There was also a HUGE pink Easter bunny with big floppy ears and an Easter picture stitched on its belly. I can’t remember exactly where it came from or when I got it… but I do remember it being special to me.

I didn’t recognize each item in the big blue storage tub, so I assumed that the others must have belonged to my sister. My parents wanted me to take a smaller cardboard box of my stuff with me but I resisted. My reason for resisting wasn’t because I didn’t want an extra box sitting around the house. I resisted because I was fearful of the emotion being stirred within me.

Why on earth was I getting so emotional over some old box of stuffed toys!?

To be continued in tomorrow’s post…

Unrecognizable

I look in the mirror and do not know her.
This woman starring back at me. Who is she?
Where did all those lines come from?
Features completely foreign…
I search for explanation.

Answers swimming  in a sea of silver…
Revelations in the reflection…
Facts and figures float just beneath the surface…
of the glass.

Between the lines there is a story.
Some of the parts are good. Some of them are sad.
Some of them are silly. And a few of them are mad.
All of them are worthy
of being written down…
to be always recorded
before I’m all curled up and brown.

Where once there was a twinkle…
now emptiness prevails.
It wasn’t always like this…
but the colors now are pale.

Kicking Up the Leaves

In a little red raincoat, jeans and sneakers her blonde hair bounced as she ran. The sun was glistening on her golden locks and there was a look of pure joy on her face when she plopped down in a pile of crispy, brown leaves. With both arms outstretched she gathered as many leaves as she could and scooped them toward her lap. She then proceeded in kicking her legs back and forth and back and forth watching and listening as the dried leaves flew about and crunched while she did this.

Total abandon. Total happiness. Totally in the moment.

I both delighted in and envied her. Why couldn’t I feel that way anymore? Why couldn’t I be free from worry and concern as she was? I wanted so badly to be able to flop right down beside her on the ground and mimic her actions. To me, this precious child who couldn’t have been more than 4 or 5 years old, looked like she was having the time of her life! And all I could do was sit by and watch and worry about my bills or my deadlines, my laundry or my dirty house, my weight, my relationships, my health or the orange flashing light on my dashboard indicating the car’s dangerously-low level of windshield-wiper fluid.

So many worries… so little time. It seemed like only yesterday I was playing in the leaves like her. Watching her I remembered a photo in our family album of me at just about the same age, jumping in a pile of freshly raked leaves and tossing them in the air without a care in the world. And I wondered: Where did all that time go? And more importantly… Where did all these worries come from? Then I couldn’t help but consider, if the woman I am today could meet the little girl that I once was… what would they say to one another? Would the older me warn the younger me of the pitfalls that lie ahead and how to avoid them? Would the older me counsel the younger me about future mistakes or poor decisions?

Of course not.

How could I burden that little one, so full of hope and promise and zest for life, with the concerns of adulthood? That wouldn’t be fair to say the least. But I also gave some thought as to what the younger me would say to the older me… and that, my friends, was an entirely different story. With her inability to even relate to the future and such things as “mistakes” or “poor decisions,” she would tell me that today… right now was all that mattered. That right now the weather is nice and there is a big pile of leaves just calling my name. That right now she has everything she needs to get from this moment to the next. That right now there is nothing more important than running at full speed and diving head first into the heap before its all gone for the winter.

There is a favorite verse of mine that reads: Who of us, by worrying, can add a single hour to our life? So I ask myself then: What am I sitting around here worrying for? Why am I NOT out there gathering and kicking up the leaves?

Friday Night Lights

The season is so brief, maybe that’s what makes it so special. In northeastern Ohio, football is king. After all, The Pro Football Hall of Fame is only 20 miles away from my little hometown. Professionally speaking, we may have one of the worst teams in the NFL… but that doesn’t stop us from loving the sport. It may infuriate us and cause people to occasionally fly into fits of rage and throw things… but that’s OK. It just demonstrates how much we care.

However on Fridays, we tend to forget how terrible our pro team is and turn our attention to a different set of heroes: The local high school football teams. They don’t play for fame or money… they play for their schools, their towns, their classmates and teammates. And more importantly… they play with their hearts.

There is something magical in the air on Fridays. It’s as if the whole community is anxiously awaiting the upcoming battle that will happen later in the evening beneath the bright stadium lights. Businesses show their support by placing signs in their windows and merchants display and sell all sorts of items that carry the local mascot. Homes are adorned in bright school colors with flags and banners. Students wear jerseys, t-shirts and face paint to demonstrate their allegiance. And by early afternoon the pep-rallies are in full-swing.

At 7 p.m. it’s as if there is nowhere else in the world to be than at the stadium. The town is empty and the only sound you’ll hear for miles is that of the marching band and the voice of the announcer. The stands are packed and so are the fences that surround the field. Everyone has found a spot to settle in and watch their favorite high school hero for the next several hours. The younger kids run through the crowds tossing the football, no doubt imagining the day when they will be on that field and all eyes will be fixed on them. The adults are likely arguing about the official’s call or even more likely reminiscing about their own glory days… when they too were charged with the energy of youth, fueled by endless possibilities.

It lasts for just 10 weeks, a little longer if you’re lucky. And in that brief time the world around us will transform from the warmth of summer, through the brilliance of autumn and into the colder grasp of winter. The grass on the field turns brown and frosted, the bleachers stand cold and empty, the loud speaker is silenced and the Friday night lights go out. All grows quiet as the world retreats indoors and a few stray snowflakes start to fall across the faded white lines of a vacant field.

Until next year…

The “But” of Consequence

Life gets a whole lot less interesting the moment you’re able to comprehend consequence.

When I was about 2 or 3 I was in the tub with my sister who was 3 years older. My mom trusted my sister with me because she knew that a responsible big sis wouldn’t hold her little sister’s head underwater or smear soap in her eyes. What my mother didn’t foresee was the potential threat that this arrangement posed for my sister.

I distinctly remember my sister lying on her stomach in the tub and me looking down at her little peach bum sticking up out of the water. Now I don’t know what possessed me to do this, but I do know that I still laugh hysterically when I think about it.

I very intentionally laid my washcloth across her butt and then proceeded to bite her as hard as I could. Like I said, I can’t tell you why because I have absolutely NO idea what was running through my mind. But, I CAN tell you that for some reason, I thought it was necessary to place a washcloth over her first so as to bite her THROUGH the fabric. I’m not sure if that cloth barrier was for her or for me. But that’s the way it went down.

My sister yelped and cried and my mom pulled me out of the tub. And our whole family has laughed about it for years … save for my sister, who I suspect is still harboring some bitterness over the whole thing. To my knowledge, I never got in trouble for that. I think my parents probably thought I was just an innocent child who was “exploring her world” by biting her sister’s butt. I never did it again. And that’s all I remember. So you see, no consequences = pure, unbridled joy and fun!

My first exposure to suffering consequences for my less-than-stellar behavior came in kindergarten. It was a day just like any other day as I carried my lunch tray to my spot at the table and sat down. I saw my friend Kristi coming to sit next to me and I remember that in a split second a brilliant idea flashed through my deviant, little mind…

Wouldn’t it be interesting if Kristi—with her tray of steaming-hot food—comes to sit down next to me, fully expecting a chair on which to rest her butt, and it isn’t THERE? That would be kind of a funny and unexpected surprise! I think I’ll yank her chair out from under her as soon as she tries to sit down.

So I did.

And she fell.

Hard.

I remember the visual like it was yesterday. Not because it was funny, but because I hadn’t thought my actions through. I didn’t connect the dots that my friend might get hurt or feel embarrassment or have hot food spill all down the front of her. Nor did I connect the dots that within 15 minutes of the “incident,” I’d be sitting in “time-out” in the kindergarten room while the rest of the kids frolicked on the playground and my teacher paced back and forth in a state of utter shock and confusion at my violent disruption and my parents searched frantically for child psychologists and clergy to help make some sense of their crazed, demon-possessed daughter.

OK, I made up the part about my parents searching for psychologists and clergy. But the rest is genuine fact. You can ask Kristi. She is somehow, by the sheer grace of God, still my friend. BTW… Thanks for still being my friend, Kristi!

I learned that day that an impulsive, ill-conceived action on my part had the ability to cause some rather large ripples afterward—like throwing a boulder into a tiny, shallow pond. Sometimes people get wet. But the other valuable thing that I learned was that because of “consequences” and “ripple effects” life would never be the same.

It would NEVER be as much fun as it was “pre-chair-incident.”

The Mysteriously Missing Section in the Cosmetics Department

There is a section missing in the skin care aisle of all cosmetics departments. I’m serious. Check it out next time you are in one. It goes straight from the teenage pimple creams, gels, cleansers, exfoliators, toners and masks right to the anti-aging serums, lifting lotions, wrinkle creams, eye illuminators and lip plumpers.

During a recent trip to the drug store, on a quest to find something that would clear up my skin, yet NOT suck out every ounce of moisture—thus causing my face to look and feel like an old catcher’s mit before I’m 40—I discovered this suspiciously absent section.

WHERE I ask, is the section for the women in between puberty and menopause? Are you with me on this, people? Because many of you are here with me now, or you remember having been here, or you will one day GET here. You’re barely beginning to see some laugh lines and little “chick’s feet” (not yet full-blown crow’s feet) yet you still break out once a month like you did back in high school. Now I ask… What is up with that?! I thought we outgrew acne and blemishes? But no… apparently these 2 delightful skin conditions are going to OVERLAP. Wrinkles PLUS acne. Score.

So I ask you, skin-care manufacturers, where are the products for me and my pals deeply submerged in the throes of the Thrisis?

Do cosmetic manufacturers think women go suddenly from sweet sixteen to senior? Because it sure looks like they do by simply cruising down the aisle. Their marketing message initially goes a little something like this: “Hey, look at you! You’re a teenager! You’re skin is disgusting! You suck. Use our product and you will have beautifully-flawless skin just like the pre-pubescent 11-year-old girl in this airbrushed photo.”

Then you walk a few paces, and the message totally changes. It goes a little something like THIS: “What-up Grams! You’re a hag! You have wrinkles, crater-sized pores, dark circles under your eyes, age spots, sagging lids and thin lips. You suck. Use our product and you will have beautifully, wrinkle-free, airbrushed skin just like the surgically-altered-mature-woman in this doctored photo.”

So I beg of you Roc, Olay, Garnier, Biore, Mary Kay, Noxema, Neutrogena, Clearasil, Clean & Clear and Oxy… please get together and create something for us Skinbetweeners,” because right now, as it stands… you are the ones who suck.

Get It In Writing

“If you love a thought, set it free. If it comes back to you… It was meant to be.”

There’s more to this quote but I don’t remember what it is.

It has begun. Forgetfulness. I am only 36 years old and I am asking myself… how can this BE?! Of course, if someone has told me the answer, I already forget what it was so who cares. The point is, it is happening… whether I like it or not.

I used to make fun of my parents for their uncanny ability to “misplace thoughts.” Or laugh hysterically at my mom while she furiously searched for her reading glasses when they were right on top of her head. But I’m NOT laughing anymore.

I am amazed at my relatively new ability to think of something while in one room and then completely forget what the hell it was by the time I get to the other room to take care of it. I will literally walk into the kitchen and NOT remember WHY I am there.

I would love to think that this is happening because my head is SO FULL of valuable information, ideas, facts and figures, but alas, I know that it is not due to a brain that is bursting with priceless knowledge. It is because I am (gulp) getting OLDER.

Now, I CAN still remember stuff. If I write it down. That is why I write everything down. I keep notepads, pens and slips of paper tucked away in every nook and cranny of my house like an 85-year-old. For example, if I am in the bathroom and notice that I’m running low on toilet paper or lotion or soap… I do not trust my brain to remember this. So I write it down then and there—in the bathroom—even if I am dripping wet from the shower and wrapped in a towel.

I also write everything down at the office. Especially the office. Where there are frequently impromptu meetings, shortened deadlines and frantic phone calls… and I do NOT want to be the one to drop the ball simply because I FORGOT something critical that someone told me while I was getting my morning coffee.

I take some serious heat for my constant note taking from another woman that I work with. She is 23. Need I say more? I remind her that MY mind was as sharp as a tack when I was 23 too. I guess this is payback for making fun of my parents when their “forgetfulness” started to set in.

Oh well, I have no choice but to accept this as another reality of The Thrisis, and move on. But to little miss Twenty-Three and her flypaper memory I say: Watch out… I am what you have to look forward to. And when I retire, I will hereby bequeath to you my sharpie and extensive collection of multi-colored Post-Its.

Waters of Change

A young mother in faded rolled-up jeans, is resting on a flat, wet rock. Feet buried in the depths of the cool brook, the summer sun dances on her golden hair as water rushes swiftly by. Two small girls with pudgy bare feet and equally golden hair cautiously wade in the waters around her making their way to her out-stretched hand. She is holding something small in the center of her palm and her daughters inch closer and closer to inspect the curious find.

It is a priceless moment that my father captured on film. A rare opportunity to freeze time. The young mother is my mother and the girls, my sister and me, no doubt on a mid-summer family adventure. I can’t recall it specifically, and yet I swear I can hear the water gurgling around me and feel the chill of it lapping at my ankles. The rocks beneath my tiny toes are moss-covered and smooth… and I haven’t a care in the world.

If I had to guess, I’d say the year was probably 1977 and my mom was younger than I am now. Every time I stop and take time to look closely at the photo, I marvel at my mother’s youth and beauty. And I gaze in awe at the two innocent and precious little girls, sheltered from pain, suffering, disappointment, heartbreak and the weight of responsibility. All of those things are out there waiting in the not-so-distant future. Looking back now, knowing what I know, I might have frozen time right then and there.

But the pages on the calendar fly as the years pass by and time has its not-so-friendly-way with us. Experiences etch their marks—forever transforming us into the people we are becoming. Nothing stays the same, its true. But if we look closely through the veil of time—we might still recognize the remnants of what once was. The goodness and the innocence, the curiosity and pure unbridled passion for all things fun! Today I occasionally catch glimpses of the barefoot girls with the golden hair… knee-deep in what I now know to be the rushing waters of change. And although our outward images are constantly being altered by the passage of time—like the rocks beneath a rapid, endless current—I am grateful for all we have managed to hold onto despite the years. Easy smiles and hearty laughs, curious spirits… and hope in tomorrow.