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. 

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Touching My Son's New Shaven Head

My son left for a baseball tournament in Florida.  This morning I pulled him towards me and rubbed his freshly shaven head.  It felt so good.  Something we take for granted...the sense of touch.  Intimacy.  A hug. Grateful that the moment still lingers this afternoon.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Three Years Have Passed While In Prison. THREE YEARS. Where's Your Gratitude?

On Sunday I took my car for the first wash since winter started. You know that's your cue that the worst is over.  Here comes the sun.  You relish that feeling if you live in Chicago.  So much to forward to.  Family vacations, longer days, working in the garden, riding your bike.

On Sunday, Blago looked forward to possibly 9 or more years of the same old same old.  Three years have passed since he stepped through those prison doors.  Three years of banging his head against the wall. 

There's a new television show I'm watching called, "The Last Man on Earth."  It's a comedy starring Will Forte as a normal guy who winds up surviving a virus that wipes off everyone else and he's the last man on earth.  As I watch I can't help but think that his life is no different than Blago's in prison.  In one scene he celebrates his birthday.  A lonely candle shoved in a twinkie.  He's thinking of birthdays past, surrounded by family.  Hugs.  He laments about missing Breakfast Burritos, and "getting mail."  He masturbates...a compensate for the intense boredom. 

I watched Blago step into prison three years ago and I've tried to live each day with gratitude that I'm not the one sitting in prison.  It doesn't matter how low security it is.  It still means he missed his daughter's high school graduation.  Her first day in college.  The holidays.  Fresh sheets on the bed.  Cool breeze through the open window at night.  A fire on the patio.  I know most folks think it's crazy to be thinking of Blago, but in doing so I've learned that you have to put yourself out there.  You can't enjoy a beautiful day at the beach if you don't force yourself to get off the sofa and drive there.  You can't enjoy a fire on the patio if you don't force yourself to collect the wood and just do it.  You really don't know what you're missing until it's gone.  Watch your dog spin around the kitchen when he knows it's time to go for a walk.  Can you live your life with that kind of joy? 

It's a new year of gratitude.  Not taking small things for granted. Grateful NOT to be Blago. 

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Light at the End of the Day

Those of us who live in the Midwest can all relate to the feeling of a new day when we're driving home after work and it's STILL daylight.  Daylight savings means it's almost over.  It's melting away.  You can actually pull the Christmas lights off the frozen evergreens.  Happy Hour comes earlier.

I'm grateful for the simple joy of looking out and seeing sunshine at 5pm.  My son might actually get to play baseball next week if the snow on the field melts.  Spring is here. Enjoy life on the outside!

Sunday, January 25, 2015


I'm having a comfy Sunday.  It's freezing outside, so I have an excuse to stay in and catch up on work, purging the stuff that mysteriously sticks around after you no longer it, and watching basketball.  I've had a fun, busy weekend.  I planned to have a fun, busy weekend. 

On Friday, someone sent me a note that started with, "TGIF!" I thought about what that sounds like when you're sitting in prison. Who cares if it's Friday?  There's nothing to look forward to.  How sad. I didn't have anything to look forward to either.  But I'm not in prison. 

I called my mom late in the day and told her I'd take her to see a movie.  She was in shock.  We ended up picking up her friend who was looking forward to another Friday night watching television.  She raced out to my car as though she was afraid I'd leave her behind.  When she got in she said, "I can't believe how much fun it feels to go out on Friday night."  When did Friday night change from deciding what club to go dancing and now it's a hot bath and book? 

The movie was perfect.  On Saturday I worked, but called my daughters and sister-in-law to make plans to go out to dinner.  If I didn't plan it, I'd be doing nothing.  Such a great night.  I met my daughter's new boyfriend.  My other daughter looked so cute in her new coat.  We brought our own wine.  I brought my own corkscrew.  The waitress laughed and said, "Boy you came prepared." 
Yes I did.  I planned it! 

This is living.  Enjoying dinner and time with your family and friends.  A simple pleasure that I know eludes Blagojevich every Friday afternoon.  When the waitress asked about dessert, I told her to bring it on!  TGIF!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Blank Photo Album...Memories

I own a great little phone.  It takes the best pictures, even better than an old Leica.  I took it on vacation when I celebrated mom's recovery from heart surgery last year.  We climbed the rocks in Sedona.  There she was standing so proudly.  My brother joined us there.  I took video with the camera of his first reaction when he saw the Grand Canyon.  Photo of my daughter and my mom at her 80th birthday party.  Hugging my son after he signed his letter of intent to play baseball at a Division 1 college in the fall.  Oye.

Last week the phone wouldn't charge.  I'm told the photos can't be recovered.  New phone.   How did I let this happen?  Why didn't I just spend 2 minutes at the drugstore downloading these?  Why?

Over Christmas, my daughters watched videos from their days as little girls.  There was their grandfather dumping leaves over them as they squealed.  My son turned and asked where the videos of him are.  I had to explain that when he was a toddler, he took the video camera and smashed it on the front porch.  I just never replaced it.  What a pity.  All those little moments in his life.

I used to be the best photographer and no one was more organized at keeping photos in order.  I even worked at a photo lab when I was a teenager.  I couldn't wait for the roll of film to be complete so I could have it developed.  Then these "scrapbooks" came along and with it came "scrapbooking clubs" where you would get together with friends and clip photos.  Instead of a cute picture of my daughter in the tub, I felt compelled to take 10 pictures of her in the tub, so my scrapbook page would have a theme.  Those books involve ducks....around your daughter in the tub.  It was just too much.  So I stopped taking pictures. 

One of the best Christmas traditions in Chicago is scoring a table for lunch under the Christmas Tree in the Walnut Room at the old Marshall Field's store, now Macy's. On the last Sunday before the end of the holidays, and the day before the tree was going down, I called my mom and told her we were heading to the city for lunch in the Walnut Room.  That morning I was happy to just tidy up the house, but remembering Blago in prison, I knew what had to be done.  Create a new memory.  I had yet to miss a Christmas in the Walnut Room.  Why start now. 

The shock of the day was that no one was standing in line.  The wait is usually over 3 hours.  We were escorted to the BEST table in the room.  We had a great lunch.  We were so happy to end the holidays on such a high. The tree was gorgeous.  I took a picture.  It's gone. 

I'm trying to make sense of it all.  From now on I'll process the photos.  But those pictures mean so much.   I have vivid memories of those special moments, but I realize it's just not the same.   Take your photos.  Cherish them.  Put them in a simple album.  You don't need stickers! Get them off your computer.  They bring you happy thoughts.  If you're Blago, your album is blank.  No memories. 

Monday, January 19, 2015

Snap out of it! Exploring Through the Eyes of Youth

The other night I found myself leaving an art exhibit at Northwestern University and on my way to the Ed Paschke Art Center in Chicago.  My son needed to visit art galleries for a school assignment.  Of course the assignment was for over a period of weeks, but leave it to him to hold off until the last day.  Not funny.

We mapped out the best route, picked up coffee, and left with open minds and a, "we can do this," attitude.  It was later when we arrived at Northwestern.  I wasn't expecting much, but there in the middle of this small student gallery, was an extraordinary exhibit.  Even better was turning to see the look on my son's face. He was clearly thrilled.  When we stepped outside, he pointed out the beautiful view of Lake Michigan.  He told me to look at the architecture of the buildings on the campus.  I've been there.  I've seen it.  I realized I had taken for granted how beautiful our city is. 

We drove to the Ed Paschke art center.  I smiled when I told him to go on ahead.  I would park the car.  I knew when he stepped inside it would be the first time he would ever have experienced true modern art in such a small setting.  I had never been to the gallery, though I've always been intrigued by this late Chicago artist.  I loved it.  He loved it. They moved Paschke's original art studio and recreated it at the gallery, down to his odd notes and phone numbers tacked to a door.

There was one last stop and that was back in our own small suburb.  We didn't care if the gallery was closed.  It couldn't come close to what we saw.  Yet, we walked in and the walls in this gallery were covered in unique graffiti art.  We never knew this gallery was even here. 

I thanked my son for this day.  Had we not gone exploring, I would have been perfectly content staying home.  I had no idea there was so much to see that I had not seen.  If I was traveling to another city, I would have managed to see all the sites, but here at home, not so much. 

After the holidays, we went to visit my daughter who lives in an older section of the city.  There's a traditional German restaurant that's always been popular.   Our daughter walked in and said, "god, no.  Follow me."  A new restaurant opened down the block.  We had the best burgers ever.  

I'm getting older.  I can feel it.  I didn't think this would happen.  Me being complacent.  Waiting in line at an old German restaurant because I had been there before.  Not looking for the new place in town.  Settling in at night instead of visiting a gallery.    I didn't realize it until I watched my son react to everything around him.  I had an inkling when my daughter dragged me out of that old restaurant!    Time to snap out of it.  I'm grateful that I still have the freedom to explore.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Grateful Not To Be Teresa Giudice ...New Jersey Housewife.

I love a good drama and nothing makes for better drama than The Housewives of New Jersey.  It's what junk television looks like.  My husband walked through the room once while I was watching.  An hour later he walked through and I was still watching.  "Are you still watching that crap?"  Yes.  I. Am.

The housewife that I love to hate is leaving the show to go to prison on Monday.  Teresa Giudice will spend a year without her extensions or a decent manicure.  All because she and her husband came up with an almost brilliant plot.  They faked their income and income sources so that the banks lent them millions of dollars.  They built a mansion in Jersey.  They threw lavish parties.  She was always at the spa.  She was filmed paying over $100,000 for furniture.  In cash. 

At the end of that first season on television, Teresa declared bankruptcy, claiming that the income dried up.  Jobs lost.  (There were NO jobs.) 

It turns out that the I.R.S. was watching the show and wondered how this Jersey housewife paid so much cash for furniture.  Caught. 

On Monday, January 5, she will kiss her 4 young daughters bye bye and will spend 2015 in prison with women who either love her or hate her. 

I always resented Teresa for handing over $100,000 for new furniture.  But on Monday, after I watch her step into prison, I'm going to head out and buy a new sofa. I've needed one forever. Sure.  I might pay cash just for the heck of it.  Then on the way home, I'll be grateful that I'm on the way home.