December 31, 2013

New Year's Eve revelations ...

It all started with this photo. A photo that I settled on after taking probably close to twenty that varied only slightly by a shadow or a strand of hair. The expression was pretty much the same, the natural light working for and against me. The reason behind this "selfie"? A photo-a-day challenge prompt on Instagram.

I like the daily photo challenges posted by Fat Mum Slim - it gives me just enough structured creative freedom - if that makes any sense. So, yesterday's prompt was You. I didn't stretch very far with this one, I decided on a self portrait. Not as easy as you think. I think most of us have struggles with accepting our appearance. And well, an up-close and personal shot of your face is almost never a good idea. But I did it. A simple filter and a share button later and there I was - in first place in my gallery.

When I looked at this picture yesterday, sitting on the corner of my bed, I realized how much my face has changed with age. I saw the freckles and wrinkles, the sagging skin, the tired eyes that are a dead giveaway that I am raising a toddler. And then I received incredibly positive compliments on Instagram and Facebook that made me take another look. This time I realized that my freckles are the same ones that have been there since I was a child. And that slight, crooked smile has been a staple in almost all of my photos from elementary school going forward. Most importantly I saw kindness in my eyes. They say 'eyes are a window to the soul' ... I think it's true. You can sometimes look at a lunatic and know right away that you want to walk in the other direction. The same is true when you give to someone and see their true appreciation or compliment a humble person. Eyes don't lie. And while mine say Man, I'm tired - they also say that I'm good. I saw so much in this one little square photo. And thanks to the overwhelming positive response, it kept me reflecting all day and night.

I've lived a life. I've lived longer than many people have had the chance to. I have long roads behind me and hopefully long ones ahead. I've made mistakes that have led to regrets. I've been cruel only to learn the importance of being kind. I've been selfish only to learn how much better it can feel to make others happy. My teens were typical and my twenties were a train wreck. But now, in my thirties, I have finally become the person I am proud to be. I know that what you give is more important than what you receive - and that material things mean nothing. I'm not trying to be better than anyone. And I'm a great mom. I am so much better at being a mom than I ever dreamed I'd be. Gregg and Scarlett have given me everything that I need from others - now I just have to learn how to give myself the rest.

In 2014 I will try to:

Let go of frustrating issues: I can't control what others do and say so I need to just let it roll and find peace elsewhere.

Be content with my appearance: I have said this every year since I was a kid but I am going to try to accept that I'm not a size 4 and that I have wrinkles and strands of gray.

Get way more exercise: The most cliche one of all - but it's true. I feel like crap all the time because I just can't carve out the time to routinely exercise. It is such a mental thing for me. But I need it for so many reasons - this is the longest stretch I've gone without a regular routine in at least ten years.

Stop policing myself all. the. time: I talk myself out of lots of things that I want because there are things that I should be doing instead. I'm a jerk.

Be less anxious: for example, I'd love to not panic about going outside in the buggy summer. And spring. And partial fall. Wish it was simple.

Wear more of what I like: I bought a hat last week. A winter hat. Because I like winter hats now. And I'm going to wear them.

Tonight will be very low key for me. I hope you all celebrate in your favorite ways!
I wish you all GREAT HEALTH and HAPPINESS in the New Year.
Welcome, 2014 - Be good to us all!

December 19, 2013

annual Christmas poem - 2013

It's again that time of year 
that I thoroughly adore 
though there's traffic on every street
and lines in every store

I love the cold, crisp air
the abundance of green and red
scents of peppermint and pine
sparkly gold and silver thread

Our lighted tree is a beauty
though a calamity to my surprise
step anywhere near it
and watch the needles drop like flies

I'm not thrilled about it
sweeping and watering twice a day
this lemon better last til Christmas
or there'll be hell to pay

I love receiving Christmas cards
and have them hanging on my door
the pictures of all the children
increase my spirit all the more

I'm slightly disappointed
that Scarlett turns up her nose
at a most beloved tradition...
watching all the Christmas shows

She won't sit still for Rudolph
she's sick of Charlie Brown and his tree
she'll glance at Frosty for a second
but the sight of Whoville makes her flee

We're obsessed with Christmas music
I love almost every song
Scarlett also has her favorites
and likes to sing along

I burn scented tarts like a lunatic
from Yankee Candle every year
I buy thirty at every dollar sale
it's like the frigging North Pole in here

I'm looking forward to the holiday
and Santa's visit most of all 
I can't wait to see Scarlett's little face
at the first sight of her haul 

We'll enjoy our time with family
as we are lucky to do each year
Wishing you all a Merry Christmas
and holiday season filled with cheer!

With love,

December 12, 2013

Happy Birthday ...

Today, December 12, is the birthday of a very special man. A man who passed away ten years ago this month. And a hundred years too soon if you ask me.

His name is Paul and I've blogged about him several times. I wonder what he would have thought about that. I wonder what he would have thought about a lot of things.

He was a dear companion to my grandmother, who just turned ninety-two on December 9th. She lost her husband when she was just forty-nine years old and she met Paul a few years later. They had so many things in common, their love of dancing was just one of them. Paul became part of our family and an important influence in my life. He always came to our home for the holidays and it really made them so special. I remember waiting at the window for his black El Camino to pull up in front of the house - hoping for a rain-free forecast so we could take our beloved after-dinner hike. On sunny Easter Sundays he would take my brother and me to play tennis at a local college court. Holidays simply have not been the same without him. Those truly were the days. 

Paul was an artist. He owned and operated a sign shop in Providence for many, many years. He hand-painted everything himself. {I cannot imagine what he would think about graphic design}. He painted plaques for my brother and me with our names on them - I still have mine tucked away for forever-keeping. He made us walking sticks with our names painted on them - I'm certain I'd still have mine had my brother not tossed it into a river when I was little. He also gave me a set of very nice paintbrushes and numerous sketch pads when I was growing up. I recently used those very paintbrushes to paint the mural in Scarlett's room.

When Paul visited he always asked to see what I'd been drawing or writing. He offered his thoughts, critique and positive feedback. And he urged me to continue doing what I love - to keep sharpening my skills, to keep learning, trying and bettering. Mostly, to keep enjoying.

I admired Paul so much. He was smart as a whip, up to snuff on all current events and could spit the newspaper back to you. He loved to watch hockey and tennis. He loved to go dancing and watch real entertainers like Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. He was active - exercising everyday - walking, jogging, playing tennis. He was creative - a very talented sketcher and painter. He was a sharp dresser, always classy and neat. He was kind. The most wonderful gifts that he gave were not wrapped in paper or tucked in an envelope. They are the gifts that last much longer than a doll or a fifty dollar bill. He gave me insight, inspiration, encouragement and love. He instilled a drive in me that will last forever. He was like a grandfather to me, a mentor and one of the most special people I've ever known.

Sometimes I feel like I should stop trying to sell my rinky-dink artwork. Or quit spending so much time trying to create a Christmas card that people will glance at just the same as a store-bought one. It's in that moment when I'm about to pull the plug that I feel his encouragement. It's like I can hear him saying Why give up doing something you love? Do it because you love to do it - don't worry what anyone else says of it. He keeps me moving forward. He gives me that little nudge, letting me know he's always in my corner.

Oh, how I miss him and how I wish he could have met my daughter. He would be so amazed by her. He had a genuine knack with children - he was never upset or impatient with us - and he was always smiling.

Rest in Peace, dear Paul. And Happy Birthday.
 (an ode to Paul Marzullo - forever in my heart)

December 7, 2013

The Scarlett Letters: Little Miss terrible two

Dear Scarlett,

I'm so glad you are much happier today than you have been over the past few days. You've become very defiant, resistant to change and hard to read. We had our annual visit with Santa and you did GREAT! We were so happy that you weren't petrified or shy. When he asked you what you would like for Christmas you replied, "Mickey toys! A tree! A wreath! Presents!" ... yeah, it was pretty adorable. You love our Christmas tree and have been pretty good about not touching too many of the ornaments. You're having a blast finding the elf, "snoozy" every day too. I'm a little disappointed that you aren't interested in any of the Christmas specials that I'm DVR'ing like a freak. Sorry, Mama is semi-North Pole obsessed. I'm sure you'll enjoy them another year - and if you don't that's okay, I watch them anyway.

Here are a few "Little Miss" nicknames we could give you right now:

You are pretty set in your ways, you are. You just like things to be a certain way. Every figure has a specific car, they can't swap cars or you will spin off the planet. Mickey cannot play with McCoggins - it's simply not allowed. You play how you want to play - you don't seem to enjoy many other ways right now. We keep coming up with new games to play and new arrangements and places to keep toys. We try to change things up as much as we can to keep you straying from that one favored path. We want you to have many paths as much as we want you to do what you like.

This age is by far the most challenging of all. You are constantly pressing buttons, pushing limits and testing waters. We have our daily ups and downs. I'm tired. You're wearing me out, little girl! It's okay, I know you are growing and learning every second of every day. As long as you remain healthy and happy I'm thrilled. You're still my little pig-tailed sweetie bo-beetie pants. Although I have been known to call you my sour-bo-bower face from time to time. ;o)  Love you to pieces!


December 2, 2013

Scarlett's Christmas excitement begins...

Yesterday morning we headed out on our annual trip to the Christmas tree farm to cut and haul home our prized pick. Scarlett and I waited in the car while Gregg and "the man" took care of the cutting, bailing and strapping. We got it home in one piece and made room for it in the living room. (My busted recliner is finally on the curb!!)

It was tricky (frustrating) trying to keep Scarlett on the couch and watching a television show while we tried to get the tree into the stand. For some reason it just kept falling over. We've never had that problem before - the trunk was straight but the tree was much heavier than we're used to. After about twenty minutes the tree was up and anchored for security. We swept up, vacuumed and had lunch.

Scarlett had her playtime and spent her "nap" yappin away while Gregg put the lights on the tree. It was so cute when we later showed her the lighted magic by flipping the switch. She said, "ohh wowwwwwwwww." Like a little old lady.

When the time came to decorate the tree we weren't sure how it would go. To our surprise Scarlett dove right in - choosing ornaments at a lightning pace! She had clustered about twenty in one small spot on the front of the tree - we were dying. She ooh'd and ahh'd the whole time. She loved all of our weird little plush ornaments, the shiny ones, the novelties and of course the vast selection of Plutos, Goofys, Tiggers, Hello Kittys, Strawberry Shortcakes, Woodstocks, Charlie Browns and Grinches. We took lots of pictures to capture the adorable moments. I love looking through old Christmas photos, don't you?

Gregg and I prettied everything up once Scarlett was done with her handiwork and we stood back to enjoy our creation. To our surprise it's a much larger tree than we usually choose. And it sure looks pretty.