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!

May on My Own Terms

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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

The Power of One, Part Two

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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

 

 

And Now the Wait

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It’s now turned into a waiting game.  Today is March 1 and to my family that is particularly important because in March our roles are changing.  In March everyone adds a new title to their name.  Parents become grandparents, grandparents become great-grandparents, a brother becomes an uncle, a sister becomes an aunt, and a daughter becomes a mom.

The wait is a quiet kind of wait. For all of us with the exception of the expectant mom it is a wait that simmers below the surface.  We go about out lives and daily commitments as if the normal weeks will just roll one right into the next.  But sometime, ANYTIME, a couple of weeks before or after March 14, our family is entering new territory.

I wish I could tell my daughter that this is the worst of the waiting but it is really just the beginning of it.  As a parent, the waiting never really ends.  I reach back 28 years to when I was first a parent and think about what I waited for back then.  I waited for the  nightly feedings to end, for my body to feel like my own again, for a fever to break, and for the teeth to finally pop through those pink little gums.  I waited for milestones like rolling over, sitting up, crawling and walking. I waited for the crying to end and the talking to begin, for nap-time, no more diapers and of course that elusive time to myself.

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The years rolled on and I waited for school to start and then for it to end. I waited in school hallways and parking lots, dance studios, ball fields, gyms and friends’ driveways.  I waited to hear about slumber parties, birthday parties, school dances and first dates and the results of tests, tryouts, auditions and college applications. I waited for the headlights to shine through the living room windows as a car pulled into the drive just after curfew and for one of hundreds of names to be called during a commencement ceremony.

The college years brought the wait for phone calls  and then the wait to hear if the voice on the other end was filled with excitement or despair. I counted the days until school breaks and trips home and waited with anticipation for life decisions to be made, majors to be declared and careers to be started.

Parenting is a waiting game.  It is exhausting and exhilarating. It is tedious and fascinating. It fills up the hours, days, weeks and years of your life in a way that you never could have imagined before anyone ever called you mom or dad. Now, I wait for the phone to ring and the familiar voice on the other end to say, “Mom, I think I might be in labor.”  I think of the amount of waiting this child of mine now has ahead of her and all I can tell her is that it is well worth the wait.

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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

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