Sunday, April 10, 2016

Catching Up On The Phone

My daughter just returned from an adventure.  She spent a week in Columbia, South America.  When they were young, I always told my kids that I wanted postcards sent from their travels all over the world.  That was before Facebook, emails, etc.  I couldn't understand why of all the countries in the world, she would visit a place that I felt was too dangerous.  I sent her off with a new backpack and prayers for her safe return.

Yesterday we were on the phone for the longest time.  She described her trip into the rain forest.  Her climb into a volcano ended with a mud bath.  She ate the, "most amazing seafood."  She spent evenings in the piazza and met warm, generous people. She bought an oil painting from a local artist and was on her way to have it framed. 

I smiled as she giggled.  Her spirit is so kind and bright.  It's nice to sit back and talk on the phone, while catching up on good news.  The phone won't click off if I go over my time limit.  Grateful that I'm free to speak.  Free to laugh out loud.   

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Sound of Spring Rain

It's raining.  Spring is here.  Last night I skipped television so that I could read in bed with an open window and listen to the rain.  It's such a glorious sound.  My son stopped in to say goodnight.  He said it's not just the sound of the rain, but the clean smell that rain brings that he loves. 

So grateful for my window.

Monday, March 28, 2016

It's Been Four Years In Prison. What Have You Been Doing?

Blagojevich lost his final appeal today.  He had yet another shot at having his sentence shortened.  However, the court decided not to overthrow the previous ruling.  And so it goes.  Maybe ten more years in prison.  Ten years.  He's been in prison four years.  His only chance at freedom is if Trump wins the Presidential election and pardons him. 

My daughter sent me a text tonight.  "It feels like he went to prison yesterday."  Just 4 years ago I told her about this blog.  She was the same age as Blago's youngest daughter would be when he gets out of prison.  At the time she rattled off all the events and experiences in her life that he would miss as a father.  I wrote back, "Enjoy every minute of your freedom."

Being grateful for what you have in your life sounds easy.  It's easy when things are looking up.  It's hard to find joy and gratitude when things aren't so rosy.  But I'm understanding that it's during those times that gratitude pulls you through.  It's a gift if you can pull it together and recognize the splendor that surrounds you. 

Start the day being grateful you're not Blago.  You're not in prison.  Look out the front door and realize you can step out and do whatever you want to do. 

I've been practicing this way of life for the past four years, since the minute Blago turned and waved before he stepped into prison.  I can honestly tell you that it has made a difference in my attitude on most days.  My bathroom is in dire need of remodeling, but the fact that I can stay in the shower as long as I want makes it a spa-like experience. 

I can't even imagine missing the next ten years with my family.  Embrace life like you've just been let out of prison!


Saturday, August 15, 2015

Don't Be Stupid!

My son has his driver's license.  He passed.  Ok.  He's 18.  I used every opportunity to keep him from getting that license.  Call me overprotective. I just didn't want to go through it all over again. 

I've had two daughters who drove as teenagers.  The phone rings and I can't move my feet.  One girl hit a parked car on her way to high school.  How does that happen?  Oh, that's right.  You have to adjust the radio.  She called and in a panic said, "get over here quick with your checkbook."  Another time she opened her door just as a bike messenger was passing her.  Thank the Lord he didn't get seriously hurt.  The car door though was a different story.  My daughter lives and works in the city now.  No car. 

In hindsight, holding off on getting his license might not have been the smartest thing to do.  I cut off his balls.  A guy needs to drive if he wants to take out a girl or meet his friends.  It made me sick the other night when I heard him pull up....on his bike. 

His dad waited with him at the DMV.  I rubbed my son's back when he walked in.  Part of me was saying, "I'm sorry."  Another part, "I'm proud of you." Part of me was saying, "Don't be stupid."  I had read that Blago's wife, Patti, was sad that Blago wasn't there when his daughter got her license.  He had missed out on that wonderful rite of passage.  I thought about that as I hugged my son.  So grateful to share this moment.

Next morning my son drove me to church and then he left for the first time driving on his own, driving a long way on the expressway to work out for baseball.  I gave him a simple wave.  Be safe.  Don't be stupid.

I turned around and walked into church.  A funeral Mass for a 22 year old cousin.  This young man never woke up Sunday morning.  Imagine.  No drugs or alcohol.  He worked for a sports company that drug tested employees.  He was an ice hockey star athlete in town.  His mother told me that she woke up in the middle of the night and happened to check on her three kids.  Her son was sleeping and the sheet was off.  She pulled the bed sheet up to his waist.  She heard him sleeping.  The next morning she came in with groceries only to hear the screams from her husband and younger son. 

Protect your children all you want, I thought.  Sometimes, it's just out of our control.

Years ago, a man moved in across from my old house.  His wife was living there.  I thought she was a widow.  Turns out that the man was a child molester who was returning after having spent 7 years in prison for raping two 7 year old girls.  My daughters were 11 & 9.  I freaked out.  I called John Kass at the Tribune.  "What do I do?  I'm a prisoner in my house."  He told me I couldn't do a thing.  "Get a dog."  I saw a woman leave his house.  Her blazer blew open from the wind, and I saw she was strapped with a gun.  His parole officer, I assumed.  "What do I do?" I screamed out at her. "Just don't do anything stupid" was her calm reply.  I got it. 

A week later I drove past a house on the other side of town.  There was a "for sale" sign in front.  The best part is that there was a park and a creek right across the street.  I thought, "I don't care what this costs.  I will never, ever have to worry about who is looking at me through their window."  I'm grateful each time I pull up to my house. 

A Chicago Tribune columnist asked readers what advice to give our children as they leave for college.  Next week I make the long journey to drive my son to school.  I'm dropping him off 14 hours away.  He's going to be in a totally different part of the country.  The boys there go mud-running with their trucks.  They hunt. They tie up alligators.   Things my son has never even seen someone do.   I plan on turning to him and simply say, "Don't be stupid."  I hope he gets it. 

Grateful that I'll be able to drive with him.  To hug him.  To deliver my advice in person.  To rub his back.   Things Blago was never able to give his daughter.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Gardening In My Jammies

The weather is glorious.  I was outside in the yard early this morning watering and moving some plants around.  My neighbor peeked through the fence and said, "I always feel like an idiot when I'm outside in my pajamas."   It dawned on me that I was out there in my pajamas having just read the paper with my coffee.   There's nothing more joyful.  

One of my favorite things to do on my day off work is to take a shower in the late morning or early afternoon after working up a sweat in the yard while wearing my jammies.  I don't jog or go to the health club.  I dig.  Love it.  So grateful to have the time.  It doesn't matter that I don't have acres of land.  It's my little plot of heaven.

This afternoon I'm heading to the nursery.  I'm looking for a large flowering plant to fill in that gap in the fence. 

Grateful for my freedom....and privacy!

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Roses Are Like Children

Last night I was at the White Sox game watching my son line up with the boys chosen this year as the All State Team selection.  Each young man's name was announced and their image shown on the big screen in the park.  I was so proud.  So grateful to be part of his special honor.

A few minutes later, the woman in front of me turned to her friend and asked, "So what did you think of the Blagojevich set back?  You know they decided to uphold most of the charges."  I hadn't heard the news that the former governor would remain in prison and for now it doesn't look like his sentence will be shortened. 

I leaned back. The images of this past spring and summer came flooding.  So many happenings to be grateful for that I didn't make time to jot them down.   This morning the paper features a photo of Blago's wife, Patti, and young daughter, Amy, as they spoke with the press.  What haunts me is the image of his daughter leaning on her mother's shoulder as she sobs at the news. 

Is it the news about her father's fate, or is she thinking of all the events he's missed sharing with her?  All the events he won't be there for.  This truly brave young woman graduated high school without her father looking on.  She graduated from the same school that my older daughter attended.  She now attends one of the greatest universities in the world.  Kudos to her.  

It's the baby steps along the way that her father missed.  The baby steps that I just completed with my son that I'm so grateful for.  Parties leading up to high school graduation celebrate all the hard work families have put in to raising beautiful, successful young adults.  Pictures just don't capture the joy that's in the air. 

The college orientation trip with my son was the first time I actually broke down sobbing.  He left us to take his official photo I.D.  He walked away smiling and chatting with the other new students.  He never turned back.  Oh god...I was so happy for him.  He's starting his life.  

We've been working on his college dorm.  I'm not complaining.  Just happy to help him figure out what a mattress cover is. 

It's empty nest for me.  My daughters were cute.  After their brother's graduation, they played, "Dancing Queen" by Abba.  "Hey mom, no more kids."

At a graduation party, someone asked how I'm going to handle a house without children.  It's been 29 years total for me!    The reality is that they leave physically, but we all need each other. 

I think I'm going to grow roses.  I've always loved them, but I've never had the patience.  Roses are almost like children.  They're very expensive.  They need lots of love and attention.  Check out the volumes of books dedicated to growing roses in the garden section of the library!  Special soil. Special food.  Vitamins.  Thorns along the way.  Each rose is unique, beautiful.  Disappointment when they can't blossom.  But stand back and admire them when they're grown. 

Roses Are Red.
The Pinks Are A Gem.
Live Life With Gratitude
As You Stop To Smell Them.

....And Be Grateful You're Not Blago.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Don't Take Spring Break for Granted...Ever.

I'm not sure why, but I've never been excited about spring break.  The concept of leaving for a few days just to get away from the cold seemed like a waste of money.  I have to leave from O'Hare Airport which always makes you second guess your decision to travel.  Do I want to spend 4 hours, at best, in a terminal?

Last week I went to Florida to watch my son play ball with his high school team.  You know you've left the Midwest when you arrive still wearing a hooded parka.  Then you walk outside the airport and you're hit with the smell of sea breezes.   I honestly forgot what it was like to see flowers on shrubs and bare arms.  We were released from our igloos back home.

I had a great time eating key lime pie, walking on the beach and watching a ball game in the sun.  I soaked in every minute.  Hard to imagine why I didn't think this was going to be worth it. 

Our return flight was delayed.  The planes from O'Hare were late due to de-icing.  Funny.  It was fine with me.  I had a few hours to read and catch up on email.  No one was there to tell me how to spend those few hours.  I thought about that.  What a simple pleasure that we all take for granted.  Not being told what to do and when to do it.  Not having to ask permission to use the bathroom or go for a coffee.   No regimen.  No one watching.  So grateful for my freedom.