When it rains… trees come down

So we apparently live in storm alley.

Every time it blows anywhere it seems there’s trees and limbs down, shingles blown up or off and – in at least one instance – a chicken coop blown away.

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Yesterday’s storm was no exception. But I’m not complaining (well, yes, I’m kind of complaining, it does suck!) Lots of people had it much worse than us. Right next door, our incredible neighbors had a big tree come down on one of their cars. It managed to bust three windows and damage quite a bit of the body of the car. We are 24 hours post-storm and still without power.

Citywide there’s still thousands without power. And Vectren isn’t sure when it will all get restored. The last worker that stopped by our neighborhood said they “hoped” today but could make no guarantees… It isn’t looking real good though it seems.

At our place we had some giant tree-sized limbs down and some minor roof damage (some shingles popped up, some blown off and some flashing torn down). I’m mostly annoyed by the inconvenience factor.

You see… For about two months I’ve been plotting about Saturday. I have a two kid free 24 hour period. Mani/pedis, fancy restaurants, shopping, movies, romantic date night with my hubby – NOPE! I’ve been planning this 24 hour period meticulously.

My plan is to clean, organize and get rid of stuff! While not impossible to do those things with my kids it is difficult. And doing it in their rooms – two of the rooms that need it the worst – is nearly impossible. So my mom and sister had agreed to each take one of the boys for this agreed upon 24 hour period.

The first shoe that dropped in my perfectly made plan was boot-sized… the mobility-sized variety. My bad luck and clumsiness struck again as I sustained a stress fracture in my left foot. I’ve been booted. So my ease of getting around to speed clean in my limited 24 hours was already hampered. And now this…

We may not even have power.

But, I keep reminding myself to focus on the positives!

Our amazing neighbors who were dealing with their own storm calamities were out helping Michael chainsaw up the debris in the backyard. And then today, with the electricity still out, they let us plug our fridge into their generator so we didn’t lose all the food inside. We are pretty lucky.

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And thankfully my mom has opened her home to us allowing us to crash as long as we want to. Because two kids afraid of the dark with no electricity … not an easy task. And today, my aunt Janice is watching the boys so Michael can go back over to the house to work on getting more of the debris hauled back out to the street for pick up.

So, here’s to reminding myself to be grateful… Grateful to great friends, family and neighbors who help in tough times. And heck, I’ll still get a bunch done booted and by lantern-light. I’m determined!

 

Good job, mom

Opening up the mailbox as a kid brought such joy.

Would there be a package? A brightly colored card? A handwritten letter with stickers from my friend who lived down the street? Or maybe a thick envelope with five pages of folded up yellow legal pad paper from my church camp pen pal?

I didn’t mind those long, white envelopes with the clear windows. I know my mom and dad used to sigh when I’d bring them in; I didn’t care though. I was looking for the good stuff.

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Fast forward 20 years.

Opening up the mailbox doesn’t quite give me that same airy feeling of joy as an adult. Honestly, there are some months when those long white envelopes with those crinkly, clear windows cause dread and anxiety. I now get why my mom and dad weren’t so thrilled to see what I’m sure seemed like heaps of bills.

But the corners of my sometimes-grouchy mom mouth always turn up when I catch the glimpse of a colorful envelope in that bill-keeper of a mailbox.

Usually they are for the boys. My mom is awesome and sends a card to each of them for every imaginable holiday. Michael’s parents are amazing too, sending cards for the holidays along with aunts and great-grandparents. The kids love it, carrying the cards around the house opening and closing them and making the little bears, leprechauns or Cupids dance around the living room.

But when I popped open the mailbox Wednesday there was one lone envelope inside — fuchsia and addressed to little ol’ me.

I recognized the handwriting right away — my mom. Never mind the fact that I’d seen her three days before and I’d see her on Friday and Saturday and maybe even Sunday. She knows how touched I’d be to receive it in the mail. Also, never mind the fact that this not-together-at-all mom hadn’t picked up a gift or a card for her amazing or thoughtful mom yet.

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“From the time you were a little girl you’ve given me so many reasons to admire and love you. And watching you as a mom has given me even more. You’re understanding and loving, dedicated and hardworking. Not only that, you’re a fun mom, too. In fact, hearing the kids laugh with you is one of my favorite things in the world. No matter what you’re doing with them, I can see that your kids come first and you’re always giving your best, even on days when it isn’t always easy. I can’t tell you how proud of you I am. I love you for being the amazing daughter you’ve always been and the wonderful mom you are today.”

“It’s the perfect card,” she wrote.

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And it was. It was what I needed to hear. The tears were streaming hot down my face. My mom is still proud of me. I’m doing a good job. I’m doing OK. I’m not screwing this whole mom thing up.

Because, let’s be real, even at 35, I still need to hear that.

Don’t you? Don’t we all need to be reminded that we are doing a good job? That someone is proud of us.

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In life we can get bogged down with the responsibilities, the stress, the scary — the bills of life. It gets so easy to forget about those brightly-colored envelopes filled with encouraging messages. One way we can help balance that out is by sending more of these “cards” out into the world. We can do this by literally sending cards out or by just letting people know that they are doing a good job.

When I’m at the grocery store and my kids are being … kids … and the person in line behind me gives me a knowing “been there, it’ll get better” encouraging smile, it makes that 5-minute wait a lot easier than when the person behind me glowers with their disapproving look or critiques my parenting skills with the person behind them in line.

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Parenting is hard stuff. Find a mom — your mom, your mom friend, a random mom at the park — and tell her she’s doing a great job.

Momma, you’re doing a great job. Thanks!

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Listen To Your Mother

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Do it, listen to her, she probably knows best.

But really…

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I didn’t know much about this national show when I first heard about it last year in a professional sense. Someone I’d come to know through work had sent me a press release asking for people to audition with stories of motherhood — stories about their own mom, about being a mom themselves, watching their wife or partner be a mom… I instantly thought, “Michael should do this!”

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Right then he was elbow deep in intense momming. Miles was going to preschool for just three hours a day four days a week and Owen was just a few months old. I had only been in this new position for a few months and was working way more hours than any one person should along with being gone a lot of Project Reveal and other various commitments. He was doing a lot of the momming. I say “momming” because that’s how the outside world saw what he was doing.

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Really what Michael was doing was being a parent. He wasn’t being Mr. Mom; he wasn’t “babysitting;” he certainly wasn’t doing me or us as a couple any favors. If the roles were reversed and he was working 60 hours a week and helping run a nonprofit not a single eye would bat.

Am I right?

But there was some batting. There was even some finger wagging. And I’m sure some gossiping as well if we are to be completely honest here.

Anyway, back to Listen To Your Mother… I sent him the press release and blurbs about the auditions no less than 28 times. Perhaps that’s an exaggeration; it may have only been 18 times. But I thought he would be great. Michael is a genius writer; so much better than me (or is it I, see, he’d know.) And he’s hilarious. I am only ever funny unintentionally. I mean, I can be funny but it is typically at my own expense like I’ve fallen or am clueless of some well-known pop culture reference.

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But alas, he refused to apply.

“There’s no way I’m getting on a stage. NEVER!”

The second year rolled around. I tried again. And again. And again.

On try 33 he said, “OK, if you’ll do it with me and you’ll finally leave me alone I’ll do it.”

But this was about 10 p.m. the night before the last audition. We hadn’t prepared anything. He was working until midnight. We hadn’t arranged for childcare the next day for the auditions.

All keys to success. Right?

So, we essentially wrote the piece back and forth over Facebook messenger while he worked (don’t mind us Courier & Press bosses) and read through it one time around 1 a.m. when he got home.

The next day we packed up our crazy, heathen children hoping for the best thinking the bribe of “really awesome, fun, exciting stuff” after the audition would keep the quiet for five minutes.

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“Five minutes, please,” I begged of Miles in a sincere whisper.

“Of course,” he said, with an evil, little glint in his eye.

We started and not 30 seconds in they started bouncing off the walls. I see chocolate scattered about the table for those auditioning. I grab for it blindly, still reading our piece, maddeningly unwrapping the crinkly foil and the boys scream and prance about turning into howler monkeys in mere seconds literally pounding on the windows.

I start tossing the chocolate on the floor hoping for just a few seconds of silence. I don’t think twice about the sugar, the artificial whatevers, the germs… none of it matters. There’s a few moments of peace.

Who knows if our piece is any good. The true reason we made it in the show was the chocolate tossing.

Thanks boys!

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Come hear for yourself as we are joined by 12 other incredible women telling stories about motherhood. Part of the proceeds go to benefit 4C Play and Learn. It is 7 p.m. Saturday at AIS Diamond (Old North High School on Stringtown.) Tickets are available at the door for $20 but online for $15 by visiting www.brownpapertickets.com/event/2505159.

 

Be nice, seriously

The lessons learned as a child are endless. And while as a third grader I didn’t always understand them (especially any of them involving math) or realize how they would impact me well beyond childhood, I’m eternally grateful for the things my parents taught me.

Kindness was one of the most valuable lessons. But this idea of “kindness” is kind of (see what I did there) nebulous. I mean, if I were to tell Miles, “Make sure you’re always kind,” his immediate 4 year old response would be, “What’s kind mean momma?” Because this kid, ever a journalist’s kid, is FULL of questions.

So, in my never-ending quest to be 1/10th of the parent to my boys that my mom and dad were to my sister, I’ve been working to instill the importance of kindness. One way I’ve tried to illustrate it is by including EVERYONE.

I remember as a kid when we had a birthday party we would have two choices — we’d invite every girl in the class (because, ewwwww, boys!) or our two closest friends. It was an all or nothing kind of thing. If you invited seven of nine… now that’s just mean. Or even worse, eight of nine. Imagine being that ninth little girl without an invitation!

Guess what guys, I’ve been that ninth little girl. And woman. Yep, apparently everyone didn’t have awesome parents like mine. Nope, they didn’t have parents who taught them the importance of kindness and including everyone. No, you don’t have to be every one’s best friend. Heck, you don’t have to be everyone’s friend. But would it kill you to be kind?

Let me help you out… the answer is, “No.” Not only will it not hurt you to be kind, it will also help teach your children the importance of that lesson. We may think we are teaching our children something by telling them to do it, but if we ourselves aren’t modeling it… well, it’s just not all that valuable.

OK, my tree-hugging, kindness-loving self is going to go meditate in my office. Go do something kind now.

 

You can’t use my kid to cover up your hate or fear

I bite my tongue a lot. I’m afraid of offending friends or family or possibly sources. But what good is this blog, my blog about MY opinion and thoughts if I don’t get a little controversial every once in a while.

So I’m done. Please stop using your kids as an excuse to be hateful.

Here’s what Target said, among other things, in a recent statement that is causing the good ol’ world of Mommy blogs and the far right (among other extremes) to call for a protest of Target:

“Inclusivity is a core belief at Target. It’s something we celebrate. We stand for equality and equity, and strive to make our guests and team members feel accepted, respected and welcomed in our stores and workplaces every day.

“We believe that everyone—every team member, every guest, and every community—deserves to be protected from discrimination, and treated equally.”

I’m struggling with finding the danger in this. Let’s all hold our breath and quiver as we read about the scary, scary world of acceptance. A world where we respect and welcome people. OH NO!

Specifically, Target says they welcome transgendered team members and guests to use the bathroom or fitting room that corresponds with their gender identity.

Naturally, many are under the assumption that these transgendered guests or staff are all sexual predators just waiting for Target to loosen the reigns on their policy and are just waiting to grab up our children to assault them.

So of course… let’s protest! I hate it for Target because it is bad for their bottom line. But I’m happy to not be rubbing elbows with people filled with such hate.

I mean, what are you scared of? Do you think Target telling people they are accepted all of a sudden makes your kids at risk?

“The left has always won on gay marriage, and now they are slowly making more perverted things acceptable.

It should be left up to private companies, and not state governments, to set bathroom policies. But why would anyone feel safe in Target… especially women and young ladies? How can parents feel comfortable sending their daughters into the Target restroom?” From thepoliticalinsider.com

There are folks protesting on Target’s Facebook, and LOTS of blogs and angry, indignant Facebook posts. Here’s one: “Will never spend another dime at target as long as Targett supports men in women’s restroom. Way to promote Pepping toms and perverts” (spelling is not mine.)

The thing is, that little placard with a straight-legged stick person or a stick person with a triangle bottom outside of it before wasn’t going to protect our kids. Nope. So this new policy — a policy of acceptance, tolerance and equality — doesn’t all of a sudden make our kids in mortal danger.

And for people who are scared of things they don’t understand or know, or even worse for people who don’t like it or hate it, to use the excuse “but I’m protesting out of fear for my child (or your child/wife/daughter/sister’s) safety” …. NOPE! Big, fat NO.

You can’t use my kid to cover up your hate or fear.

Lifetime of memories just starting to be made

These days, it seems like every little moment with the kids is one of those things that makes me understand just how fast they’re growing up.

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And just how little time we have to soak everything in.

It can be hectic having two little kids — especially when both of them happen to be boys. The noise, the messes, the half-eaten dinners, the refusals to go to bed — it can absolutely be overwhelming at times. There are moments where I’m so exhausted I could cry.

But then there’s the first tee-ball practice, a kindergarten orientation, even an after-school dentist appointment (no cavities, thank you very much) that make you understand just how important it is to take stock in the moment and count your blessings.

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And that was just with one kid, just last week.

At tee-ball practice last week, Miles stepped up to the plate with his brand-new green bat — he’s very proud of his green bat — and smacked a ground ball between first and second base. He stood there as everyone cheered and shouted for him to run for first.

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After a few seconds he remembered to run, taking off for first base — then, halfway there, took an abrupt left turn, diving on his own ground ball, reminding us all what it’s like to be a kid — grass-stained pants and all.

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Michael was so proud.

“He totally sold out for that ball,” Michael said. “He’s like the Pete Rose of tee-ball.”

That’s the kind of story parents tell about their children for a lifetime.

Other people often tell me when I’m out and about with the boys, “Make this time count, it goes by too fast,” and it seems like that has become extra true lately for some reason.

It seems like just yesterday we were bringing Miles home from the hospital for the first time, going 20 miles an hour the whole way, excited, nervous and in no way prepared for what being parents was all about.

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Suddenly, that little boy is nearly 5 years old and is preparing to start kindergarten. We toured his new kindergarten. I feel like if I keep saying it, somehow it will seem more real and less scary. I just can’t believe how the time has gone by just like that.

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Owen turned 18 months just about a week ago. He’s already making couch cushion forts in the living room, dancing and singing along with Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, getting into anything and everything he can. We know that it won’t be long before we can’t (or at least shouldn’t) call him “the baby” anymore.

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And as bittersweet as it can be to see them growing up so fast, I am incredibly lucky.

There have been — and still will be — moments of frustration, tantrums and tears, from them and me. And in those moments I may be counting down the minutes to bedtime. What I’m choosing to focus on is the lifetime of memories — mostly amazing — yet to be made. There’s a world of firsts ahead.

And knowing that is the best blessing of all.

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Ready for kindergarten?!?

It can’t be possible.

Just yesterday I was encouraging him to walk.

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Wasn’t it last week that he was smearing a peanut butter sandwich in his baby soft ringlet-filled hair?

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But it is… and I have to.

Today, this afternoon, in about three hours I’m registering my kid for kindergarten.

I CAN’T BELIEVE I JUST TYPED THAT OUT. I still haven’t been able to say it aloud. That makes it real, right? It becomes a thing if I verbalize it, right? (And we all know what happens when it becomes a real, live thing, right? I cry. I cry a lot!)

In addition to not feeling like it is possible that my little guy is growing up, I also have conflicted thoughts. Is he ready for this? I’m a planner (shocking I know) and in my head he was going to be in preschool another year.

That was the plan. Well it wasn’t always the plan…

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The original plan was for him to start preschool at 3 (he started nine days after his third birthday actually) and to go two years, the first just a few days a week and the second on a more fulltime basis to prepare him for Kindergarten.

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It was all planned out in my own head. But then the outside world weighed in.

“Oh, you can’t start him in school this young!” “Boys need more time to mature before starting school.” “You’re setting him up for failure!” “Let him have more time to just be a kid and play; there’s plenty of time for school.” “He’ll never be ready for kindergarten that young!”

Shhhhhewwwwww….. (that’s the sound of the wind releasing from my sails.)

So, I did some Googling (I know, it’s a terrible idea) and found all kinds of articles to support the idea that boys who are a “young 5” struggle with the adjustment and are better off being “held back” a year. Miles’ July 20 birthday puts him just 11 days before the cut off.

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I was convinced. He CAN’T possibly be ready for Kindergarten. The new plan was hatched.

Fast forward nearly two years… I stop by the office at my son’s preschool asking about registering him for next year.

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“Won’t he be 5 by the cutoff?” the secretary asks me.

“Yes, but we’re choosing for him to stay in preschool an extra year,” I respond plainly… doesn’t she get that that’s the plan? It’s already been established.

“You can’t do that. It’s not an option.”

CRASH. SLAM. BOOM.

There goes my plan.

Several panicked phone calls, some more Googling and a few tears. I learn she’s right. We could choose to enroll Miles in private preschool but if we want him to stay in the public school system he will be starting kindergarten this year. GASP.

I once again opened myself up to advice and insight. Some of the same folks who two years ago thought it would be a terrible idea gave me encouraging thoughts. They knew Miles and said he was ready. His current preschool teacher was supportive, other family and friends calmed my fears as well.

And guess what, the good ol’ Google found me several articles supporting the fact that my kiddo actually will survive. And maybe, just maybe, mom will too.

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So… moral of the story, heck I don’t know. I’m too worried about registering for Kindergarten to make any sense today!

Treasure life, it goes so fast

It went so fast.

Each day he was robbed of something. One day he was walking fine, the next he needed a cane. The day after that a walker. And after another day a wheelchair.

My dad rarely did anything small. He negotiated traffic like a half-crazed lunatic. He once fearlessly pretended to be a roadie at a Buddy Miles concert just to get himself backstage — and totally pulled it off. He met my then-boyfriend for the first time ever wearing a child’s tutu on his head.

Now, this larger-than-life man was losing his battle with a monster — the cancer that had started in his liver less than a year earlier and had spread everywhere.

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We knew what was going to happen. The hospice people had explained to us that death was a process and that by being with him in his final days we would help him accept what was happening, and in turn be able to accept it ourselves.

Still, it went so fast.

I left work on a January afternoon with plans to be gone for a few days, spend some time with him and then go back to work. I never made it back to work before he died.
It went that fast.

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Me and my dad

Me and my dad

Yet when it did finally happen, those last breaths … it went so slow.

That morning we sensed it was coming so we all piled into the hospital bed in his makeshift room — the office space that had for so long been his sanctuary. He was surrounded by all of his music and sports memorabilia, family pictures like the one of my sister Sarah and I hanging baby faced from the monkey bars at the park, his pet lizard Cassidy, tchotchkes from family adventures.

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None of us had slept much in days. The hours all kind of ran together. My mom hadn’t left his side, afraid even to blink lest she not be there for him. It had been a rough morning; his pain was intense. The hospice aid had just arrived, helping us convince our mom to take a few minutes, brush her teeth, change her clothes, have a moment.

It went so fast.

Sarah and I were still lying next to him in bed when what had been labored breathing suddenly turned into fighting, struggling breathing.

“Mom,” I shrieked up the stairs.

She came running down, toothbrush still in her mouth.

It was time.

We all huddled together crying and telling dad we loved him. It was OK. He could go.

And he did.

It went so fast.

It’s so hard to describe that moment. My grief was unbearable. We were devastated. The idea of going on without dad seemed impossible, unfathomable. But — and this is that thing no one feels like they can say out loud — there was relief.

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Watching someone you love suffer is excruciating. I know our pain couldn’t hold a candle to what dad was going through. But it was so difficult. I was grateful his pain was gone. I was thankful that I could be there with him, along with my mom and sister, in those final moments, helping him say goodbye.

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The past five years have zoomed by. So much has happened since Jan. 28, 2011.
I’ve had both of my boys, my sister her own son. Michael and I bought a house. Mom bought a house and moved to Newburgh. I’ve taken a new job. Sarah became a CPA.
There are the little things — we’ve taken family vacations, created new and silly family traditions, sent Miles off to school for the first time … things that I never imagined doing without my dad.

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Although we’ve lived the last five years without dad here, he’s continued to impact all of us. When faced with difficult decisions, I’ve often asked myself what dad would do, what advice he’d give. I’ve talked things out with him, listening for and looking for signs of his thoughts. It’s hard to get together as a family without laughing and sharing stories about dad. We miss him so much.

And my 30 years with him, well, they went so fast.

Never alone; thanks mom

This time of year is tough.

In just 15 days it’ll be five years since we lost dad.

This day a couple decades ago (I won’t say how many) my amazing, strong, resilient and rock star mom was born.

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It’s so hard to look at any of the days this month without having the countdown to Jan. 28. And, selfishly, I hate that amazing days — mom’s birthday, my sister and I’s birthday, my nephew’s birthday — are almost marred with this terrible, unimaginable thing.

But that’s life, right?

I fear sometimes that in my desire to honor and keep my dad’s memory alive — because let’s get real, he was an out of this world, over the top, loving, caring, awesome dad, husband, friend and advocate — that the stellar, shinning status of my mom is overshadowed.

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So, today, on the anniversary of the day of her birth, I’d like to shout from the rooftops — MY MOM ROCKS! I, without a doubt, would not be here today without her. And when I say that, I’m not talking about the fact that she birthed me (which she did, along with my twin sister in natural birth super star style.) What I mean is, I wouldn’t be the functioning successfulish adult that I am today. I wouldn’t be the loving, caring, trying to be patient, fun and rock star in training mom that I am today. I wouldn’t be a committed and passionate community advocate/volunteer.

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Yep, without her I would never be where I am today with my amazing family, a great job and an over-committed (but great) life. She’s been an incredible example for me showing me what it takes to be a powerhouse in the workplace and supportive, loving mom at home. She’s shown me the importance of having hobbies and passions and following through on them. She’s shown me how rewarding a life of service is and always modeled an accepting and tolerant sensibility.

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Without her unending support — emotional, financial and physical — I would have never graduated from college, become a peace corps volunteer, have a rewarding marriage and amazing children and countless other things.

Phone calls, tear-soaked shoulders, boxes and boxes of “just because I believe in you and love you” cards, silent but clear signs of support and encouragement… I truly have no idea what life would be like without her.

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I’m lucky. I celebrate. I love.

So as these next few weeks drag on, and I’m flooded with the memories of those last days with dad that I simultaneously want to never let go of and also bury far away, I’m going to try to remember that this month isn’t all bad. It gave me a lot, and most importantly, it gave me my momma.

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This note in a card — the woman has single-handedly kept Hallmark and the U.S. Postal service in business — sums up her never-ending support and dogged belief in me, even in my jerkiest of childhood/teen years:

“Nothing would be the same without you being in my life. Be the special person that you are. Let everyone see what I see! Love Mom”

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Blast from the past

My mom called me a while back, talking through fits of laughter.

“I found this box of yours that said, ‘Do not open,’ with threats of death if I did. Of course I didn’t open it, but I really want to know what’s inside!”

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It turns out, she exaggerated a little — the box threatened a surprise attack by a cow (what was I thinking? It wouldn’t be much of a surprise with the warning proclaimed in purple marker.) I was kind of a strange kid. In addition to the cow warnings (which I put in three separate places) I had drawn my childhood dog Molly, a giant rainbow, two hot air balloons, a unicorn …box

Inside was an amazing collection of items dating back to at least 1991, though I suspect many are much older.

There were silly things like rocks, a plastic spoon (still in the plastic bag) and two straws from McDonald’s, buttons cheering on my alma mater, postcards I’d collected since elementary school, letters from friends at church camp, memorabilia from church youth trips, newspaper clippings mentioning my name, a hospital bracelet, my first-ever hair color box (Glints, gingergold), a papier-mâché bracelet I made from a cereal box, pictures from a million years ago including some terribly embarrassing prom pictures, stickers from every imaginable environmental group (I was a tree hugger even then) and a Biore pore strip (unused, thankfully) with Lilith Fair branding. Those all made me laugh, a lot, and cringe a little. box4

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But under all those silly treasures and memories was some incredibly important stuff — things I thought I’d not ever have again.

It’s been a year and a half since we lost many of our belongings in a fire. I was frustrated and angry about the loss of furniture, clothes and other valuables. But I was devastated by the loss of memories — photos, keepsakes from my adventures overseas, cards and letters (including from my dad who had passed away three years before then), photos, my son’s baby book and all of the mementos from his first two years of life … None of that can be replaced, and emotions were intensified by the fact that I was about six months pregnant with Owen at the time of the blaze.

So this treasure trove of unrelated items of “junk” is the best Christmas gift I could have ever imagined. I’ve been given some physical reminders of my amazing childhood memories.

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In the box, there were about a dozen cards and letters from my mom and dad. Some of my favorite tidbits from the letters and cards from my dad: 10/31/91 “Hi honey. I have been very busy at the workshop, but not so busy that I don’t have time to think about you. I realize how important you are to me when I go away. I realize how much I love you. Remember, it is who you are that I love and am proud of, no matter what you do.”

In that same envelope — written on stationary from an Omni hotel — was a nomination letter: “After long and careful thinking, the board of directors and I have decided that you would make the best choice as Daughter of a Lifetime. We decided this based on how frequently and effectively you prove how wonderful a girl you are. Your honesty, sensitivity, intelligence and beauty set you apart. Your mother and I are lucky; we love you. Respectfully, Daddy, co-chairman of the Brown Family Board.”

Card upon leaving for camp: “Show those girls what you’re made of, play tough, be fair, have fun.”

A just because card: “It’s amazing to me how often I tell somebody else how lucky I am, how great you are, how you are more adult and responsible than I am, how I wouldn’t know what to do without 1/3 of the best family a guy could have. You’re special, you belong here and I do love you.”

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I am incredibly lucky. I was, and still am, so loved. And, thankfully, my parents were willing and able to illustrate that love. The impact of these cards on me now — decades after they were written — are more powerful than I think can be imagined. And obviously they affected me when they were first written or I wouldn’t have had them tucked away and protected by an imaginary attack cow.

These were a reminder of how important it is for me to do the same for my boys. I heard my mom and dad tell me how special I was, how loved I was. And I truly heard those words; I felt their hugs. But reading it, being able to turn the cards over in my hands back then, today and decades down the road — it’s an incredible reminder of those facts when real life self-doubt and hate inevitably creep in. I am special. I am loved.

In this digital age I need to be sure I’m putting these same kinds of things onto something my boys can squirrel away in their room. So 20 years down the road I can give them their metal Paw Patrol lunchbox sealed shut with duct tape and a “do not enter” message.

And they can have those same laughs, tears and cringes and be reminded just how important they are to me, their dad and the world.

They are special. They are loved.