The Little Caesar’s Girls

fullsizeoutput_3c64We fit each other into crowded lives that have gone in many different directions.  Our interests and life experiences are not necessarily the same. Decades of adulting has a way of twisting and turning each individual path.  But at one time, many years ago, our paths converged and we found ourselves working at the same college job.  The five of us were waitresses at a Little Caesar’s restaurant in the early 1980s and that seemingly uneventful kid-job resulted in a friendship that spans decades of growing up and growing old.  We’ve witnessed each others’ idealism and doubts, successes and disappointments, and basically LIFE in all of it’s glories and difficulties.  The Little Caesar’s girls as we call ourselves: together we’ve seen a lot.

What is it about this group of girls, (in our minds, when we are with each other we are always girls, never women), that has carried on through 7 marriages, 2 divorces, 13 children, 4 grandchildren, 1 out of state move and too many jobs to count?  All of us can point to other friendships that have come and gone with the ebb and flow of life. The seasons of our lives change and so do the people who share them with us. We have our work friends, our neighbor friends, our work out buddies, our parenting friends.  The Little Caesar’s Girls are none of these to one another yet have stood the test of time when other friendships have faded away. We expect everything and nothing  of each other all at the same time and somehow that has caused us to be there for each other through all of life’s joys and sorrows.

Maybe it’s the fact that when we are with each other we ARE the girls, never the women.  We give each other a free pass to be ourselves, to let our guard down.  This is the group more than any other in my life to laugh with uncontrollably, commiserate with unabashedly, and be myself with unapologetically.  They’ve seen all my layers. The successes and proud moments, but also all the faults, insecurities, mistakes and missteps. And they show up anyways.  When we are with each other, we are the collective of who we were at 18, at 28, at 40 and now at 55 and somehow that gives us a free pass to often act like 10 year olds around each other and not blink an eye.

This tribute does not de-legitimize the other really good friendships we all have outside of the Little Caesar’s Girls. I see many of them lasting for years to come. But at the end of the road, in my quirky imagination, there we are, the 5 of us, sharing a table at the senior care facility dining hall telling the same stories over and over again and laughing just as hard with each subsequent telling.

Like sisters, the Little Caesar’s Girls started out together quite young and we have been in the background of each other’s lives ever since.  There are times we tire of each other, complain about one another and wonder how our friendship has stayed the course; but then we always circle back in no time with an evening of group texting, a dinner party, a night out, a weekend away or a celebration.  Others proclaim how lucky we are to have one another.  And they are so right. 37+ years of memories is a lot to stand on.  Our children all look back on the soundtrack of their growing up years and hear the laughter coming from the kitchen hours after they were supposed to be sleeping.  Recently one of them saw one of our silly facebook posts and her comment was #friendgoals and that one acknowledgement of what we have in each other is the very reminder we need to be ever so grateful for this unique and lasting friendship. The Little Caesar’s Girls have been a part of my adult life from the very beginning of it until now and I know I can count  on them to see me to the end. And THAT is a friendship like no other.  Version 2

 

 

 

 

The Power of One, Part Two

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Photo by Chait Goli on Pexels.com

Dear Amanda,

I don’t know you.  You don’t know me.  But if I met you today I would shake your hand, reach in for the hug and spend a lot of our first conversation falling all over myself thanking you.  I am thanking you because you are the one.  The one who changed the trajectory of little-girl-grown-up’s life.  The one who saw in her what I knew was there all along.  The one who decided to take a chance on an inexperienced post-grad from a small town in Ohio. The one who believed in her as much as I do.  But your belief in her counts more than a mom’s belief. My belief meant phone calls and texts and letters filled with encouragement and inspirational quotes.  Your belief means that first job, that start to a career, that big city dream coming true. 

So thank you.  Thank you for seeing it.  That passion, that spark.  Thank you for seeing it even though she’s young and not as experienced as so many others you could have chosen.  You won’t be disappointed.  At the risk of coming across as a helicopter mom I can tell you that she is truly amazing.  And you are the one who will be credited with giving her the start she needed. They say it takes a village, but sometimes, sometimes,  it just takes one.

With Gratitude,

Lisa

 

 

Meeting Little Boy Blue

 

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Truth be told, I wasn’t sure that I was ready to be a grandparent.   When our daughter told us that she was expecting our first grandchild back last July I was, yes, joyful, but it was also confusing.  Her big announcement about her changing life status meant that my status was changing too. It was a hard concept to wrap my brain around.  I try very hard to be the “young” (!) 55 year old in the room, and so attaching  “grandma” to my name just didn’t seem to fit.  Despite my best efforts to dismiss age as “just a number” this pregnancy  would create a fourth living generation in my family and push me closer to a finish line I’m not ready to approach.

I have several friends and acquaintances who are already grandparents and all of them had the same message:  “Just you wait, this is a love like no other.” After hearing this from several people I started to panic a little bit on the inside. I secretly told myself, “What if I don’t feel this joy they keep gushing about?” and “I’m not ready yet.”  I am at a crossroads in my life.  Newly retired from a job of my own making and getting used to the empty nest,  I was so looking forward to some carefree years of travel and some, I’ll admit it, selfish pursuits. I really thought grandparent status and the changes it would bring was a year or two out and I would have little in my life to compete with the bucket list in my head.

Fast-forward 8 months. Today marks the one week mark.  Little Boy Blue is already one week old and I am only now wrapping words around these past seven days.  But that is because words have failed me.   They have failed to fully describe how in awe I am of his incredibly smooth skin, the surprise of his delicate red curls, his tiny little hand next to my big wrinkly, (grandma-looking!) one. Just watching the expressions that pass by his face as he sleeps in my arms is something I could easily do for hours.  I cup my hand over his perfect little head and can’t believe how tiny it is. His little brain is in a perfectly unaltered state. He knows that loveVersion 2 fills him up and comforts him when he asks for it and that right now, that is enough. It is this innocence and my knowing that it is a brief moment of his life that is drawing me in like a magnet. I look at him and I see humanity stripped down to its purist state: a person before the world eats away at who a person was meant to be.

Words can’t fully describe this tiny little boy and how much I love him already.   My friends were right. This time is like no other and is worth putting every other piece of my life on hold.  It took knowing him to realize that being a grandparent is exactly who I want to be right now.

 

Thank you Lady Gaga

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I am filled with gratitude for Lady Gaga.  And this is odd because despite her fame she has not been on my Spotify short list, at least not until recently.  I, like many others, fell in love with with her in A Star is Born.  Since then I’ve been interested in learning more about her.  I’ve become VERY familiar with the movie soundtrack, watched a documentary about her on Netflix, listened to more of her music,  and watched some interviews on Youtube.  She intrigues me.  This woman who is known for her wild costuming and theatrics seems so very down to earth.  She appears to be a genuine family focused person and she seems so very gracious.

But why am I thankful for her today?  I am thankful for Lady Gaga because she stood up in front of the world and owned how difficult following a dream is. Here is an excerpt from her Oscar acceptance speech that moved me to tears:

“And if you are at home, and you’re sitting on your couch and you’re watching this right now, all I have to say is that this is hard work. I’ve worked hard for a long time, and it’s not about, you know…it’s not about winning. But what it’s about is not giving up. If you have a dream, fight for it. There’s a discipline for passion. And it’s not about how many times you get rejected or you fall down or you’re beaten up. It’s about how many times you stand up and are brave and you keep on going.”

My little girl grown up is going through a hard time.  That move to the city to follow her dream has not been easy.  In fact it has been discouraging, overwhelming and confusing.  Never did she expect following her dream to be as difficult as it is turning out to be.  Never have I believed so strongly that she is talented enough to make her dreams come true.  But it breaks my heart to see her go through the hard work of making it happen.

I listened to Lady Gaga so passionately articulate how hard she has worked to follow her dream and it was as if she was looking right into that television camera and saying those words to my little girl grown up. The timing couldn’t have been more perfect. As my daughter approaches month 6 of her job search she is feeling as if the stars will never align to lead her to that elusive first post-grad position.  She’s not one to give up but I hear the discouragement in her voice each time we talk.  This is hard work.

And so….thank you Lady Gaga.  Thank you for not sugar coating the path to success.  Thank you for encouraging the discouraged and making them feel that they have a kindred spirit in you – a woman who through her hard work and discipline found unbelievable and inspiring success.

Click her to see Lady Gaga’s Oscar Acceptance Speech

 

The Search for Imperfection

I am on the beach and I am looking for the broken shells.  On any other shell-seeking search my eyes would be scanning the piles of shells for the perfect spiral, the smooth surface, the symmetrical shape.  But not today. My husband and I are on our annual vacation to Marco Island and have walked beyond the buildings and umbrellas and chairs to the northern end of Tigertail Beach.  Our destination is a point of the beach that juts out into the surf.  There are some wind whipped mangrove trees there that have seen better days but add to the beauty of the landscape.

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Amongst them is what I am calling a grassroots, public art collaborative.  For the last 2 years I have trekked down the beach to see it.  It is ever-changing due to wind and weather, but it also changes daily due to the beachcombers who pay homage to it. The medium for this art installation? Dead mangroves and broken shells. The shells are gleaned from the surf and then thoughtfully placed on the branches as if those who visit have placed ornaments on a Christmas tree. And all of a sudden something dead becomes beautiful because of brokenness.     IMG_2075.JPGWho was that first person to search for the imperfect shell with the hole with the specific purpose of placing it on the weathered branch?  Who started this project? Did it begin organically with a hurricane or purposefully with a beachcomber? When did it turn into a collaborative?  How long has it been here? How long will it remain? I don’t know the answers to these questions but I do know that, for me, this pop-up art speaks of the promise of the imperfect.

img_2149It’s such a simple message for those of us conditioned to chase perfection.  I’ve spent years searching for the flawless shells. I have a bowl of them displayed in a sunroom back home in cold, gray Ohio to remind me of the many perfect beach walks I’ve taken.  I love the wonder of them and the memories of the solitary, peaceful searches for their perfect completeness.IMG_2074.JPG

My quest for perfection has taken me both on and off the beach, but today my trek to this solitary stretch of sand is gently nudging me towards a more forgiving search for what is beautiful in my life.  Take something that’s no longer perfect or probably never was, pair it with something that’s seen better days or is simply struggling to survive. Repeat and repeat and repeat and before you know it, it becomes a new kind of beauty.   Beauty from brokenness, thoughtfully paired imperfection.  A reminder that beauty takes many forms and what might not, at first glance, be good enough, can become, in the right set of circumstances, just right.IMG_2097

 

 

 

 

 

 

Little Boy Blue

downloadLife feels quiet right now.  But it is the kind of quiet before the noise. It’s the pause you feel when you know something big and momentous is coming soon and for us that something big is someone small. Our first grandchild is sweeping into our lives in about 3 short months and a couple of weeks ago we found out that it is a he.  And all of a sudden, there are little boys everywhere.  At the grocery store, on TV, at church, in restaurants.  Everywhere I look, I see little boys and I wonder….”Will he look like this? Act like that?”

It took me awhile to wrap my brain around the fact that he is indeed a REAL BOY.  Your first-born daughter tells you she is pregnant with your first grandchild and that event, that memory, takes on a dreamlike quality.  “Wait, what?” “This is you, MY little girl, (she’s 28), telling me that YOU are the one having a baby?”,  “I’m a GRANDMA?”, “Are you old enough?”, “Am I?”,  “How are we here already?”, “Wasn’t it just a few years ago that this was happening to me?”  “With you?”

There are moments in your life that have a way of accenting the passage of time and this is certainly one of them.  I am so excited for this little guy to sweep into our lives, but seriously, it feels so, so surreal that I am the grandma in this story.  For 28 years I have been the mom!  THAT is my role!  But this? How do I do this?  I’ve ruled the roost for so long.  I’m, at times, bossy and somewhat controlling.  I like to run things the way I like them to unfold.  And this is NOT the description of the grandma role!

I’ll learn.  I learned to be the mom, so I will now learn to be the grandma.  My friends who already do this can’t stop talking about how wonderful it is.  I believe them but there is a part of me that is a little taken aback.  This little guy will soon sweep in and change our family’s lives in a big way and I will not be the decision maker, the fixer, the main character, the protagonist.  I know what’s ahead for my daughter more than she does right now and I want to sweep in and make it easier for her and smooth out the inevitable rough patches.  But then I remind myself that this is HER motherhood journey, not mine.  In this new cast of characters, I play the supporting actress role.  And like an Oscar nominee, I can make a big difference in the overall story without being the leading lady.

So, little boy blue, come blow your horn. Disrupt the balance, change our lives, make some noise.  I can’t wait to hold you close and watch my daughter transform into your mom. Because of loving you, we will all figure out our roles in this new stage of being a family.   grayscale photo of baby feet with father and mother hands in heart signs

Photo by Andreas Wohlfahrt on Pexels.com

Where Are You Christmas?

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It’s the first week of December and I swear I am trying.  I really am. I so much want to feel that infectious enthusiasm that Elf shows over and over again on cable TV, but every year, I  fight my natural inclination to be way more like King Theoden.  I’ve never been one of those people who rush to turn up the holiday music and decorate the tree.  I drag my feet.  It could be because I was a musician for so many advent/holiday seasons that I just saw it differently…from the backstage point of view instead of from the seats. Surely if Christmas had to wait for me to throw myself at it’s feet, it probably wouldn’t happen.

Where are you Christmas?  For me, this year, it isn’t in planning a Christmas concert, a musical,  advent anthems or cantatas. And this is a pretty big change for me.  It’s also opening up some time in the month of December to seek it out in new ways and places.  And what I discovered is that Christmas, as it turns out,  is a PRETTY BIG DEAL 200 miles west of me in downtown Chicago.

Now I’ve always enjoyed visiting Chicago but I must confess that in the 6 months since my daughter moved there I have fallen in love with it.  My visits to her are my way of trying on the big city life.  The people!  The skyscrapers!  The trains! The noise!  The food!  The entertainment!  I am like a girl in love when I am there and I find everything about it so very exciting and beautiful!  And Christmas…as my husband and I were about to find out, Christmas, is simply bigger there.

And so, we pulled on our winter coats and made sure that we brought along our hats, scarves and gloves and we set out to find Christmas in the windy city.  It was cold, but it was beautiful.  So many Christmas trees to exclaim over, so many beautiful and clever store windows to shop. The Christkindl Market at Daley Plaza even made us feel as if we were in a German marketplace. The Chanticleer Christmas Concert at the Fourth Presbyterian Church on Michigan Avenue was simply perfection.  Christmas surrounded us and was as much a part of the landscape as the many people on the street, the tall buildings, and the traffic.  We had found Christmas and it was in Chicago.

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Window shopping ^

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Tree spotting ^

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Macy’s, Peninsula Hotel, 4th Presbyterian, Chanticleer ^

We brought it home. Christmas, that is.  On the drive home we switched Sirius/XM to a holiday station. We started our shopping list. After we unpacked our bags, we dragged the boxes out of the attic and started decking the halls. And….it was fun and it felt right. I was feeling a bit more like Elf and a little less like King Theoden.  So it begins…Christmas: that often frantic, sometimes poignant, but ultimately beautiful and promising season.  It won’t be perfect in my household; it never is.  But it can be good enough. A reminder to spend a little extra time with family and friends. An opportunity to revel in the beauty of what we can create when we put up a Christmas tree, give that one special gift, make those delicious cookies, prepare that meal with extra care. A time to pause and reflect on why we work so hard every December to light up the darkest time of the year.

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The Power of One

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Photo by Nate on Pexels.com

Little girl grown up is looking for a job.  Having graduated from college in May and completing her third and final internship in August it is time to spread her wings and find that first big-kid job.  She has decided to do it in Chicago…alone…200 miles from home and her hometown university.  Since I’m not brave I am in awe of this child of mine and the bravery she is showing.  While others her age are taking advantage of the safety net called “my parent’s home” during this stage of life, she is choosing a different setting – a small studio apartment high up above the streets of downtown Chicago.  This is ground zero for her.  The launching pad to the life she is dreaming of.  When I was her age I dreamed of doing exactly what she is doing but that’s all it was…a dream.  I never had the courage to follow through.  But her….she is living it.  The tiny apartment, the walk to the redline, the total anonymity in the sea of faces.  You could look at this and say wow, that is awesome! Or, right now, 3 months in, you could look at it and say it is not going well.

So far, she has learned about rejection.  That job that she was advised to go to Chicago to find because there are so so many more opportunities there has not materialized.  With every rejection one more layer of resiliency is formed but when is the time that it begins to erode and wear thin?  As her parent I want nothing more than to protect her from the hurt that is chipping away at her confidence.  It is making me realize the importance of one.

Little girl grown up needs one person – just one person in that big, big city of many to take a chance on her.  She’s had many who have encouraged her and empathized with her.  They’ve told her not to give up, they’ve told her how difficult that first job can be to find, they’ve counseled her on strategy and helped her fine tune her portfolio of work. I am grateful that they are keeping her afloat. But…. they haven’t hired her and this is what she needs.  Somewhere out there, and hopefully soon that one person will emerge and say, “Yes, let’s do this. I believe in you enough to launch your career.”

I believe in good mojo, karma, good vibes.  Since I am left to only advise from afar in this situation, I am left wondering what my power of one can be in my own world. Who can I impact in the way I am hoping someone will impact my daughter? What positivity and hope and momentum can I facilitate or give to just one other person?  Can I be the one for someone else who is struggling to keep their head above water in any of a number of ways?  I want that one person for my child – some stranger who will swoop in and save the day for little-girl-grown-up.  Time for me, in my mid-sized town, 200 miles away from her daily search for that one person, to see what I can do to impact someone’s life. Perhaps I can give to someone here what I so desperately want little-girl-grown-up to receive.

 

 

 

Let Me Introduce You to my 10 Year Old Self

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

She sits at the table in the tiny kitchen of the house she shares with her parents and two little brothers. Books and notebook paper, colored pencils and crayons clutter the table in a colorful array.  “I am writing a book!” my 10 year old self declares.  This is my first memory of wrapping the writer persona around me.  I look back on that innocent 10 year old little girl and I simply love her.  I love her ambition, her confidence, her belief that this is something that is do-able and all it needs is the doing.

It is 45 years later and I sit on my sunporch.  My laptop and cup of tea in front of me.  My little dog at my feet.  It is quiet here and the clock ticking is the biggest sound.  That book did not get completed.  There were poems written by an angst-ridden high schooler, there were starts of songs written on scraps of music paper throughout college. There were journals.  Several journals, (maybe a dozen?) chronicling the life and times of a young wife, mother, middle aged housewife trying to figure it all out.

Life took a different direction.  Throughout high school I told myself I was going to be a writer.  My friend Mary and I wrote poems and exchanged them.  She was the better writer and that may have eaten away at my confidence a bit, but I still had a plan – I would go to college and enter a creative writing program.  There I would figure out how to write that novel!

I chose journalism instead.  I was trying to be practical.  But back in 1981 that wasn’t very practical.  The kind of journalism I wanted to do was the kind that you went away to New York or Chicago to do.  I dreamed about it but I just wasn’t brave enough to leave my comfort zone.  It seemed overwhelming.  From what I remember, my intro to Journalism class seemed to focus on the business aspect of journalism.  It seemed so cut throat.  I just wanted to have the freedom to express myself!  I should have been brave enough to stick it out.  Maybe even just one more semester would have given me the confidence I needed to see it through.  But….i didn’t.  I looked at my class check sheet and it looked scary and I ran.  I ran to the one thing I felt successful in in high school.  I ran to the music building.  I switched my major to Music Ed and delved into the world of choirs and sight singing and music history and voice lessons.  My plans to write a book, an article, a story were placed on the shelf.

The decisions we make when we are a scared 18 year old put us down a path.  Sometimes it is an unintended path, but seriously, there are so many paths!  This writer became a musician instead.  And it kind of makes sense.  Both music and writing are creative pursuits.  I was still honoring that creative self that was so important to me, it was just with the other love of my life…music!

I became a choir director.  It was actually a pretty hard gig.  Music done well can be a very demanding pursuit.  You realize early on that perfection is a muse that can never be totally attained. I directed high school choirs, church choirs, community choirs and musicals.  I started my career rather mediocre and ended it with what many said was a successful community children’s choir program.  Its hard to believe that with my retirement a few months ago I am now at the other end of that journey.

Music is something that easily fits into retirement.  There are always community groups that need the wisdom of a trained musician. I could fill my days with practice and my evenings with rehearsals, but my 10 year old self is calling out to me saying, “Remember when we were going to write that book?”

I read once that if you are trying to find out who you really are you have to look back on your childhood to see who you were before life started layering its influences and opinions on you.  Back in the early 70s there was a little 10 year old girl filled to the brim with stories and the confidence to tell them.  It’s time to look her up, spend some time with her and see what she can teach me.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I’m Not Brave

 

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This year I found myself squarely in the middle of my fifties.  I attach the “mid-fifties” to my name and it sounds strange.  I am pretty sure on the inside i will always remain mid thirties or mid-forties, but mid-fifties? That sounds awfully close to what I would have considered old a couple of decades ago.

But…here I am and I guess there is no changing that.  What CAN change though is my perception of what mid-fifties can be.  Mid-fifties can be an awakening, a re-set and carpe diem all at the same time.  I am trying to make it all of these things despite the fact  that my half century plus is showing up as a saggy neckline, a pudgy middle, and a sometimes foggy brain.  Lucky for me, it is also wisdom and perspective and a confidence that I never had as a younger person. Most days those benefits outweigh the frustrations.

Throughout my life I would never have been considered the brave one.  I have always kept it safe, to a fault really.  Being the only girl and the firstborn to parents who were pretty strict, I learned at an early age that you can get hurt if you push past your boundaries.  Whereas this is true, and truly who knows what they may have saved me from, I kind of wish I hadn’t taken that lesson to heart so much.  I have lived a cautious adult life.  It has been a good, very comfortable life, but in looking back I wonder if it wasn’t a bit too comfortable.  Getting out of that comfort zone has always frightened me.  But I sit here, in the middle of my fifties, and wonder what did I miss?  What adventures and game changers could have been had in that first half of that first century if I had been willing to take a few more risks?

So, as you see, I’m not brave.  I never have been. But maybe in this next half century I can learn to be.  I can push myself to do the things I never thought I was smart enough, talented enough, skilled enough or pretty enough to do.  Life can be filled with brave moments, some that manifest themselves in small private triumphs, and others that are worthy of sharing with your whole world.  Being brave can be as large as facing a serious health issue or as small as deciding those cute boots are worth the purchase so stop being so indecisive! It can be speaking your truths at a social gathering or gathering the courage to move forward with a writing project that you’ve been dreaming about for years. This blog is about facing fear, moving forward, checking those items off the bucket list and figuring out the most fulfilling path into the second half of a life journey.  Let’s walk it together and see what we can find along the way!