Showing up at Gigi’s House

Thanksgiving 2018
We gather around my dining room table to eat our turkey dinner with urgency. Unlike other years, the turkey is not the main event. My daughter, who is 5 months pregnant with our first grandchild, has decided that on her favorite holiday, surrounded by family, she will find out the gender of her baby. We all take our guesses and video them for prosperity. She opens the envelope from the ultrasound technician. It’s a boy! Cheers all around! This first grandchild of the family is a grandson and we are one step closer to imagining his place at this table.

Christmas Eve 2018
Next year’s generational shift will give us new titles: Mommy, Daddy, Aunt, Uncle, Gigi, Poppy and four Great Grandparents. But this year, for one last time, we are simply who we have always been to one another and it gives our gathering a certain preciousness. I assemble my grown children on the staircase for the annual “waiting for Santa picture.” They have outgrown this tradition but for nostalgia’s sake I insist. We move to the family room for drinks, appetizers, conversation and the leisurely opening of gifts. We reminisce about when they were the babies in this room and wonder how this new child will make our gatherings different.

Thanksgiving 2019
It is all different, but in ways we didn’t see coming. The loss of one of those four great-grandparents this summer feels like an open wound as we gather for a holiday meal without him for the first time ever. The sadness of seeing that empty place at the table is softened by the smiles and laughter of an 8 month old in a high chair, oblivious to our pain.

December 2019
This year the decorations dragged down from the attic are assessed for possible risk. At my daughter’s house, this is what leads to a gate bungee corded around a fireplace and a Christmas tree placed behind a couch. It’s less of a compromise at Gigi’s house. I place all the decorations in their normal locations and then allow him to explore with me. I keep a close eye on his hands as I watch him take in all that sparkles and glows.

Christmas Eve 2019
I take the staircase picture. It is more crowded this year. Everyone seems a little more enthusiastic about it, mostly because they are coaxing smiles from a 9 month old. We proceed to the family room. We are most excited to show off to one another the gifts we bought for the baby. He is most excited by a random box amidst the torn wrappings on the floor.

The Holidays 2020
All the grown people are eager to gather with the 1 year old this holiday season. His innocent joy reignites our sense of wonder. We smile more, we laugh more, we get down on the floor and play. We shake off the chill of December and are drawn to the warmth he radiates when our little one shows up at Gigi’s house.

Christmas Morning, Circa 2004
Christmas Eve 2019

Notorious for Me

Opinion | Ruth Bader Ginsburg's Advice for Living - The New York Times

I’ve had a girl crush for a while on Ruth Bader Ginsberg. Like many women I have been caught up in the wave of appreciation for her since seeing the 2018 documentary “RGB” and the feature film, “On the Basis of Sex.”  These films taught me that while I was busy living my life, she was busy making sure I had the opportunity to live it to the best of my abilities. Her untimely death on September 18  should be just one more “shaking my head” reaction to the “top this” national news of 2020 and yet, I mourn.  

I mourn because she reminded us that you can ”disagree without being disagreeable.” I mourn because she fought so very hard to outlast a president she didn’t trust to replace her and lost the race.  I mourn because she spent her life’s work fighting to give me more opportunities. I mourn because I see the impact of her influence on my daughters’ lives, careers and relationships.  I mourn because as a national figure she made a difference in a way that feels personal to little old me. 

When Ruth began fighting the gender discrimination she came across in her own life, I was a girl growing up in the 60s in a very traditional household.  Dad worked, Mom stayed home with us and cooked our meals, sewed our clothes and occasionally drove Dad to work so she could have the car to run her errands. If there were households out there that did family life differently I was not aware of them.  

I grew up. I went to college.  But, while Ruth was working to draft equal opportunities for me, I was rather unfocused. I was too immature and unworldly to understand all that was laid before me. I wanted to be a writer, but shrank away from the unknown world of journalism and instead got a teaching degree.  Through it all I fell back on what I knew worked for my mom: a home, a husband, a family.  I married 6 months after graduating and soon after became one of the last of the housewives.  I gladly stopped teaching full time when I started having babies and turned my focus to raising children.  

Ruth became a Supreme Court Justice the same year I had my second child.  The year I had my third child she led the court in deciding that college doors must be opened for women in the same way as they are for men. During the 90s her circle of influence stretched across a nation, mine across a family room.   

Now I will never say I made the wrong decision.  I have truly been blessed with an incredible life, marriage and children.  For me and my family,  being a stay-at-home mom worked. But as I grew older, I grew restless and focused a bit too much on the “what could have beens.” 

Fast forward to an empty nest and I sometimes feel as if I am hurtling towards the Golden Years.  I also feel as if I am on deadline. There’s too much to learn, too much to pursue, too many gaps to fill in my own story. 

Few have the drive to be as notorious as RBG. I cut myself some slack but I don’t let myself off the hook either.  There is much in me that can be fine tuned and improved upon, even as I bump up against the realities of a calendar that just keeps turning to the next week, month, year with alarming speed. I realize that Ruth’s tenure on the Supreme Court started when she was 3 years older than I am now and that feels like the gift of inspiration. I turn to some favorite RBG quotes, (yes, I have a list, it’s that girl crush piece of this story.)  “Real change, enduring change happens one step at a time” and “You can’t have it all, all at once.”

Ruth Bader Ginsberg wanted more for me when I didn’t even know what I wanted. Her  legacy isn’t as outwardly evident in my life story as I wish it would have been, but it is trickling down through my daughters. They are both stronger women than me in their own ways. I am a late bloomer though and thanks to her it is easier for me to continue to shape my legacy now, after raising them.   

So, thank you Ruth.  Thank you for your example.  Thank you for dissenting with grace and dignity, never compromising, never settling.  You are a great example to me, the last of the housewives. 

Here I am flanked by the two strong women I raised! Their paths can go in any direction they choose because of RBG’s commitment to them!

Sunshine on the Gray Days

It’s always the same now.  No longer being carried in by a parent, a smile lights up my one year old grandson’s face as he walks in the door on his own two feet. And then, he gets busy. IMG_4385He says hello to the little ceramic bird figure that sits on the shelf at eye level, (his), opens the cupboard I store his toys and books in, (and then ignores them), plays with the switch on the cable box underneath the TV, (because a blinking blue light is more interesting than toys), walks into the dining room to open and close the door that leads out to the sunporch, (because that feels powerful), walks over to the piano to play a few notes, (because he can reach them), and then begins to climb the stairs, (because they are there).  It’s like he is going through a checklist in his head; “These are the things I must do when visiting my Gigi and Poppy.”

IMG_4236Hanging out with a 1 year old during a pandemic is a lesson in perspective.  The macro of life becomes micro.  News headlines and updates that come at me in a confounding disarray are replaced by board books that tell the same, comforting story with every turn of the page. We work together on learning the theory of gravity by throwing rocks, the biology of insects by observing the tiniest bug crossing the sidewalk and cause and effect by seeing what happens if food is dropped from a highchair tray to the dog waiting patiently underneath it.  If only research were this simple in the realm of observational information vs randomized trials and vaccine development for the masses, the world outside these doors would heal a lot faster.

In a one year old’s day there is no room for cumulative counts by zipcode, the confusing intersection of science and politics or the self doubt when deciding how much to venture out of the cocoon of quarantine.  The many problems of the world melt away when you get down on the floor to play with a baby. Naively, I thought I would be teaching my grandson during the days I spend with him but I am pretty sure the lessons he is teaching me are of more value.

IMG_4023He is teaching me that even when times are hard there is room in daily life for love and laughter, smiles and giggles.  Staying in the moment and only concentrating on what is right in front of me, (the block tower, the bouncy ball, the cuddly stuffed dog), keeps the unknowns of all that is outside these four walls from messing with my head.  In a world that is screaming for attention from every platform available, his barely perceptible nod when I ask him a simple question is worth celebrating.  We are communicating!  We understand one another! Oh if it could be that simple in the comments section of any social media platform.

At times it can be worrisome to think of the world awaiting our grandson as he grows up and ventures further than Gigi and Poppy’s house. When those thoughts crowd my head I take his lead and believe that, one way or another, his needs will be met. At my most optimistic moments I look at his innocence and lean on a faith that 2020 will be the beginning of a reset for a world that seems like it is off the rails.  Years from now I hope he will hear our stories of how when he was 1 something unseen unraveled life as we knew it and pointed us toward a re-boot that made the world a better place for him to grow up.  He will be astonished at what we went through, relieved he has no memory of it and grateful we are all together on the other side of it.

Until then, we read another book with a happy ending, (he turns the pages), and then I sing “You Are My Sunshine” to him, (like I did to his mommy so long ago).  I linger on that second line and say a silent prayer of gratitude that this little one is in my life in 2020 to “make me happy when skies are gray.”



Finding the Good

Yesterday the doctor said “Go live your life.”  No more surgeries, no more chemo. Some regular screenings, but the healing and moving on officially starts today.  A colon re-section, as a nurse anesthetist friend told me, is MAJOR abdominal surgery but that is now in the rearview mirror.  Mild chemo is a misnomer.  There is nothing minor about the poison that my husband infused and swallowed. The saving grace was that it was short-lived.  Right now, tests are saying that 3 months did the trick and there is no sign of cancer. He is one of the lucky ones.  We are on the other side of this unexpected disruption to life.

IMG_3797 Cancer makes you feel small in an incredibly large and unfamiliar landscape.  The first days of knowing the diagnosis felt surreal. Life was buzzing all around us yet we had a secret that was making our world stand still. There was a wall between us and everyone else in our lives and we were pressed up against it’s cold hard truth.

After a couple of weeks of processing the shock of a diagnosis,  my husband and I made a conscious decision to share this news.  I look at generations past and how they were more apt to keep the hurt, the sadness, the struggle private.  To put the cloak of hush around your shoulders as you face the world outside your front door sounds incredibly difficult, especially in 2019. The world has changed a lot in the last 20 years. It has walked in that front door and taken a seat at our kitchen tables, our family room sofas, our favorite chairs. We are connected in so many ways to so many people that, to us, it seemed like it would be an added layer of stress not to share our news.  So, we told our world, either in person, on the phone or through social media that we are now fighting cancer.  And that led us to a conversation with a long lost friend who we happened to see at a holiday party.

Because he saw a Facebook post update, he shared that he is a 4 year survivor and looks back on his cancer as a blessing.  I’m not sure that we are quite there yet, but hearing him so sincerely proclaim this gives me hope that we may be able to have that outlook someday as well.  He also helped me reevaluate.  For weeks we had been saying we are ready for 2019 to be over; but an honest accounting of the last several months reveals many blessings indeed. So many of them have to do with the friends and family who have been there for us in so very many ways.  I have learned the importance of an encouraging word on social media, a text, a phone call, a card in the mail, a kind word in person.  All of the ways people reach out nowadays have helped us power through the last several months.  After we started sharing this we have never felt alone in it and for that we are grateful.

My husband looks forward to the day when his news isn’t the news that prompts a person to start  a conversation with, “We think about you all the time”, or “You are in our prayers.” Feeling surrounded by so many thoughts and prayers is both humbling and extremely touching.  I am certain even just the knowledge of those prayers have helped both of us through the bad days and kept our eyes on the prize of the end of chemo and the beginning of recovery.

IMG_0806As my children were facing the hurdles of growing up I would often tell them to find the good in a bad situation.  Discovering your spouse has cancer feels like no kind of good. It is the worst kind of fear, a lonely vulnerability and permeating sadness all unexpectedly dumped on your doorstep. The script of your life suddenly flips and ready or not you are taken down a path you never planned to travel. But there is goodness in the friends and family in our lives who are willing to show up and walk a piece of that path with us.

We are now on the other side of this time in our lives.  It will take us a good part of 2020 to unravel what we unexpectedly went through in 2019.  But as we emerge changed from this experience I am clinging to my friend’s declaration of cancer’s blessing and grateful for the gentle reminder to continue to focus on all that is good.

The Rather Late Wedding Anniversary Post

Anymore, so much of who we are is tangled up in each other.  5 years of dating and 33 years of marriage pushes the clock incredibly close to 40 years of us.   I’ve been with you so much longer than I haven’t. Through the years there has been a part of me that has become lost in that. At times I’ve fought it, but more and more I’ve accepted it.  Love is a tradeoff and I’ve traded some independence for an awful lot of comfort.  It hasn’t been perfect, but it’s been close enough.  It’s been surprising at times, this marriage of ours, but it has also been consistent and predictable.

In some ways we couldn’t be more opposite.  You’re the practical, reliable one. I’m the dreamer. You are generally quiet, I could talk for days.  I push you, you pull me back in.  There are interests and talents we do not share, but have learned to appreciate in one another throughout the years. The seasons are  interesting with someone who can always teach you something new. To me, the best part of my evening is bouncing ideas, opinions, stories and news back and forth with you. But like I said….I could talk for days.

We’ve got a lot of time for that now. It’s just us. For real. What was once a loud, busy and chaotic household is now only sometimes filled with their voices, the voices of our children, and then only for a few hours at a time.  Our kids have grown up.  All three are solidly entrenched in the lives that sent them beyond our front door and this house has permanently become a dwelling for two.  At times I miss the chaos, but often I don’t. We can both be filled up and content with the quiet.  I like where we are at and I still like that it is with you. In fact, I can’t imagine it not being with you.

You have provided in a way that has given me the chance to live life on my own terms and that has been a huge gift.  At my best I have embraced it and at my worst I have squandered it away. I’d like to think that I have given you as much, but feel that I have fallen short.  I do an inventory of our life together and many pieces of it I have not been brave enough or devoted enough to tackle. I am still banking on the fact that there is plenty of time left to accomplish all the undone things, to DO more, THINK less. I do cook though and I joke that your gift of time to me has paid off for you because it gives me the time to nourish you with sustenance, (sometimes welcomed, sometimes eyed suspiciously),  and all good things, (like my opinions and trivial facts, and interesting stories).

Recently we were challenged with a really hard few weeks. I’ve always told the kids to find the good in a bad situation.  There certainly isn’t much good in the death of a parent, but having each other to lean on as we faced illness, decline, mortality, and the emotion of watching a life in this world end was something to cling to when the days felt impossibly hard to get through. And the aftermath…well we will get through that together too.

IMG_1170There will be more hard times.  I’m not brave so I am scared of them and long to dream them away.  Our incredibly good life will be visited by the sadness, sorrow and pain that is just as much a part of a life-well-lived as the joy and laughter.  I’m big into gratitude lately and want to believe that that is the best way to get through the trying times.  And so, I start with being grateful for you, for the life we’ve made together, for the absolute promise of “for better or for worse.” and for our unending devotion to us.




May on My Own Terms

accomplishment ceremony education graduation
Photo by Pixabay on

For years the month of May has had it’s hold on me like no other month.  In fact, it’s frantic pace has earned it the “busiest month” superlative for a good part of our family life.  Field days and field trips, talent shows, concerts and end-of-the-year school parties turned into confirmations and proms, commencements, and graduation parties.  The college years brought the shuffling of stuff.  Who was moving where and when?  Dorm rooms were emptied, bedrooms were filled up again. And always, the garage out back was filled with the overflow of their lives. Summer study abroad trips were planned, college summer jobs were found and started.  Family birthdays, Mother’s Day, flowers and vegetables to plant, spring cleaning and all those tasks of opening up a life to the summer months were squeezed into the already full days of May and somehow accomplished year after year.  Even so, I never felt as if I had the upper hand with May.  May….it called the shots every year.

Until this year when all of a sudden May gave me back the control. And of course, because this is the way life goes….I miss the old kind of May.  I miss the tearful goodbyes, the sighs of relief and the excitement about moving up a grade, the shopping for prom dresses and ordering of corsages, the celebrations on the lawn outside the commencement venue and in the backyards of the graduates. I miss the excitement and trepidation of a child moving home for the summer, the school friends re-united around the firepit, the too-full house, the filled-to-the-brim days.

Time has a way of softening the edges and helps us forget the stress of those years when children are doing the business of growing up.  I only have to look back in my journals to know that while I was living it, I often felt totally in over my head in the month of May.  The nonstop blur of activity and feeding of hungry people, the constant comings and goings, the worry over young drivers taking the wheel, the push and pull of older teenagers becoming young adults, the call from overseas that started with “Mom, I’m ok but….”  Truth be told, May often beat me up.  But sitting here on the other side of those chaos-filled years, during an unusually cold and wet May, I look at a calendar that is more empty than it is full, and I feel nostalgic about all that May used to throw at me.

fullsizeoutput_3cb9If I had the choice though, I probably wouldn’t go back.  There are things about this life I’m living now that I wouldn’t want to trade away.  The mornings that often start with a cup of tea and the time to write, evenings that aren’t held hostage by chauffeuring children here, there and everywhere, the satisfying view from here as I watch all three of my children create their own life stories, the promise and absolute delight of an infant grandson figuring out his world bit by bit.

My favorite saying as they were all growing up and moving through the childhood years was “This too shall pass.”  It helped me through the days that were just too much and gave me the gentle reminder to pause and take in the beautiful yet fleeting moments of family life.  But this, THIS too shall pass: these days of being older but not too old, of feeling perhaps a bit achy but not yet broken.  In another twenty years I will most likely look back on this kind of May with nostalgia and longing. And so I remind myself that this May, with it’s sometimes too quiet days and slower pace is a season to savor and lean in to before it is simply another season that has come and gone.   fullsizeoutput_3cba

Meeting Little Boy Blue



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

Lady Gaga

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


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