Friday, November 14, 2014

On Being a First-time Grandparent

Since June, I've thought many times of writing on the subject of becoming a grandparent, but each time I sat down to share my thoughts, I was overcome with emotion.  You see, holding my first, tiny grandchild in my arms was only part of the story.  The whole tale began back in August of 1983.

I was twenty-two years old, married for two years, a college student, holding down a full-time job.  When the doctor announced in the delivery room, "It's a girl!" my whole world changed…for the better.

I spent the night at the hospital holding my darling, rosy-cheeked, baby girl, counting her toes, amazed at the perfection of her tiny limbs, her rose-bud lips, her beautiful, blue eyes gazing up at me while I nursed her.  It was during those hushed hours, when the lights were low and the nurses came and went quietly from the room, checking vitals and showing me how to swaddle my sweet baby, that I began to make promises to my little girl.

"I will always love you," I whispered.  "I will always protect you."  "I will always be there for you."

"I promise."

I spoke gently to my child throughout the night, making plans.

"We're going to have such fun."

"I promise."

I whispered sweet somethings all night long.  All my emotions were heightened, everything became clear, and even though I was young, I felt calm and certain and wise.  I knew everything would be okay, as long as I put my baby first and did my best to care for her and love her forever.

Two years later, I was a single mom juggling a toddler and new job in a new city.  We called our apartment, 'The Bachelorette Pad'.  My daughter regularly told people at the grocery store, "We're sorta poor, but we're rich in love."  We lived on a very tight budget, most of my salary going to the best daycare I could find.  She was the first child to arrive each morning and the last to be picked up, since I had an hour commute each way.  But, the teachers were so loving and kind, it was worth every penny.

We didn't have cable for our grainy-screened, 10" television, so we'd tweak the antenna until The Dolly Parton Show would appear and then sing along, pretending to be country-western singers.  Every penny was accounted for, but somehow, each month, I scraped enough money together for tickets to the ballet, ribbons for her pigtails, new stuffed animals, double-scoops of ice-cream and Disney movies.  We had our favorite parks, where we'd run and chase birds together, and we'd use our library card to check-out books for bedtime.

Our life was small, but happy and I don't remember feeling like we struggled, even though I know I did, especially when I had to say good-bye to her at daycare and for an excruciatingly long month each summer when she stayed across the country with her dad.  But mostly, I just remember how soft her cheeks were when she'd climb into bed with me in the middle of the night, to have 'cuddle time' with Mommy.  I remember her giggles and her artwork and her squeals of excitement when she'd spot a rainbow.  She could tell me the brand of every car we passed by on our daily commute.

"Toyota, Mommy," she'd say, her rosy cheeks glowing in the review mirror, holding tight to her baggy full of Cheerios, strapped into her car seat in our red, Chevy Sprint.  The same car she'd help me wash every other weekend with the hose.

We went to Mommy and Me swim classes and playgroup.  The test always being, to find a balance, but oftentimes, I felt like I came up short, that my little girl might be suffering somehow.  But, here's the amazing thing, she grew up to be a beautiful, kind, hard-working, ambitious, creative, smart, funny, perfectly lovely, young woman.

So, inside a different delivery room, thirty-one years later, when my daughter announced, "Look, I had a baby!" my eyes filled with tears knowing how lucky she was, how her whole world had just changed…for the better.

I stepped forward and glanced down to see the delicate newborn lying against her chest, big, blue eyes and rosy cheeks, tiny fingers and toes, and my heart nearly burst with joy.  My baby girl was holding her very own baby girl.  Over my shoulder, I saw my son-in-law shaking hands with my husband.  We married when my daughter was four-years-old.  Then, in came our two sons, my daughter's brothers, the proud uncles, all four men beaming with happiness, embracing each other.  I glanced back at my daughter who was whispering sweet somethings to her little, baby daughter -- her own promises, her own plans.

A short while later, a nurse came by to check on my daughter.  Nearest to the bedside, I was handed my precious, little granddaughter for the first time and my heart overflowed with joy.  Her perfect little nose and rosy cheeks were so familiar, yet she was a whole new person to know and love, and my whole world changed again…for the better.  I held my freshly swaddled granddaughter and spoke to her gently as she held my gaze.

"I will always love you," I whispered.  "I will always protect you."  "I will always be there for you."

'We're going to have such fun."

"I promise."

My Life On The Lane is once again filled with diapers and squeaky toys and soft, little hands and nothing could be better.      

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Let It Snow!!

Today, in Northeast Ohio, the temperatures are hovering in the mid-thirties and the clouds are heavy and light grey.  Not quite pink.  Pink? Um, yes.  If you live where it snows, you know what pink clouds mean.  The frozen sky will sometimes appear slightly pink, like pale-colored coral.  This, people, means SNOW!  There's a fancy scientific explanation for pink/light red clouds.  Something about the result of light traveling from the sun through the atmosphere and reflecting on to the fresh snow.  The more dust particles in the air, the deeper the color, especially at sunset or sunrise.  But that's just science.  I like to think of the rosy cast of a winter sky as MAGIC.  It's one of the reasons I'm happy when it snows.  Who doesn't love a magical day?  The other reason I love snow, is because I grew up on the west coast where snowstorms were carefully staged and kept in the mountains where they belonged (according to some folks).  Especially in Southern California.  We would 'visit' the snow a couple hours away, then return to our sunny, snow-free neighborhood in Orange County.  Up in Northern California, dustings of snow would sometimes blanket the lower altitudes, and even further north in the Pacific Northwest, they counted on some snowy days, even along the Puget Sound.  I was born in Oregon, and lived a short time as a kid in Washington and Northern California, but grew up mostly in Southern California, where the only time it snowed in Irvine was when I was in the 7th grade.  Needless to say, as the snowflakes fell, they melted immediately upon impact.  Growing up near the beach, snow was something that usually happened in the mountains only.  I stayed in Orange County (behind the Orange Curtain) until my early twenties.  I lived again in Northern California, during my mid-thirties.  And back in Southern California in my early forties.  In between, I lived all over the country with my husband and family, in places like upstate New York and New England, Wisconsin, down in Atlanta, even out in Seattle and now, we (me and hubby) live in Ohio after returning from an expat assignment in Belgium.  And yes, if we're counting, I'm in my fifties.  Each of those places got a fair share of snow.  And even after living through several winters with record snowfall, I still love the stuff, and just like when I was a kid, it's still a treat.  I like to build snowmen, shovel any chance I get, and I LOVE walking in the snow.  I'm hoping to try snowshoes this year.  They resemble small tennis rackets, you attach to your boots.  Snow falling outside my window, wasn't something I had as a child, so I absolutely cherish the first snowfall of the season.  Believe it or not, I enjoy the colder weather, unless, of course, winter decides to hang around through spring -- then like most people, I get a little irritated.  But if that happens, I try to escape somewhere warm until nature comes to its senses (luckily, I have two kids living in Arizona and California).  So, in this neck of the woods, where Ohio touches eastern Pennsylvania, as well as, New York and Michigan is just over yonder, I'm one of those 'happy' winter people, which to some winter-haters, might be annoying.  I don't care.  I just keep smiling through winter and get excited with each storm moving in from the Great Lakes.  Snow is an amazing part of nature.  And if the leaves are going to fall from the trees, and everything goes dormant, shouldn't we get something for it?  Like snow?  Otherwise, it just feels bleak.  Believe me, bare trees and half-dead shrubs look much better flocked with snow.  So, I appreciate Mother Nature sprinkling (and even sometimes, dumping) fluffy, fresh snow across the empty fields and wooded pathways, that otherwise, would appear quite dreary this time of year.  I Say --  Let it Snow!  When the clouds turn hazy pink, I'll be ready.  And maybe this year, there will be enough snow for an entire front yard of upside down snowmen.  My Life On The Lane is a bit chilly today, but with winter on the way, I'm feeling hopeful and bright and even a little merry.

Antwerp, Belgium
Snow Along Schelde River
Ridgefield, CT
Belgium/Germany Border

Chagrin Falls, OH
First Snow Last Year
Chagrin Falls, OH
Pennsylvania Border
Ridgefield, CT
Chagrin Falls, OH
Autumn Still Showing 

Thursday, May 15, 2014

On Graduating...

"Go confidently in the directions of
your dreams!  Live the life
you've imagined."
Henry David Thoreau
There are graduation ceremonies happening all over the country this month.  From preschool to college, young and old will be receiving academic degrees and diplomas…there will be Pomp and Circumstance, inspirational speeches, tears of joy, warm embraces, handshakes and pats on the back, pictures snapped (and plenty of selfies), raised glasses and toasts repeated, bouquets of flowers and caps tossed into the air.  It's a great feeling to know you've accomplished the requirements to graduate, to move on to the next step in your life, whatever that might be.  I have two nieces who are sisters graduating from kindergarten and high school, and their brother is graduating from middle school -- now there's a party.  Several friends have sons and daughters graduating from colleges and universities, basic training programs -- even graduate, law and medical schools.  Hip, Hip, Degrees!  We are in-between degrees at our house this year.  Our youngest son will graduate next year with a bachelor of science degree in mechanical engineering.  Our older son and daughter have already graduated from other universities and are thriving in their careers.  There's something to be said about putting the time in and working hard toward your future, earning a degree.  With each of our kids going off to college, we watched them grow and mature over the years, figure out who they were and learn to work hard -- on their own.  Sure, we were there to answer their calls and cheer them on, but earning their place on the stage, accepting their diplomas, well, that was all them.  My college boy is home for a week before heading across the country for a summer internship in aerospace.  He said he really appreciated being able to call home and vent about all the hard work he had to do this year in his program.  "You guys were always calm and listened and oftentimes, talked me down from the ledge."  Sometimes that's all he needed, just a calm voice in the middle of the storm, a beacon for when things got tough.  We knew he'd be fine, because he had a plan and we taught him to keep an eye on the bigger picture. There's a difference between what you 'want' to do and 'how' you'll do it.  We all want things, but the trick is to make a plan for how you'll work towards getting what you want.  The list can be as simple as:  I'll go to every class, I'll complete every assignment, I'll study for every exam.  If you do that, you'll graduate.  It's tough though, when an instructor seems insane, or your roommate is driving you crazy, or you have a boss who is relentless -- you might feel like quitting, but don't -- go back to the plan and look at the bigger picture, work around the obstacles, keep your cool, and continue to move forward.  "Go confidently in the direction of your dreams."  "Never, ever give up."  There's always a way.  For all the graduates out there, the road you have travelled has been rough at times, and you've faced many challenges along the way to stand where you are today -- so wear your caps and gowns proudly, you deserve your diplomas, you've earned them.  Now go, "Live the life you've imagined."

My life on the lane is about looking to the future, making plans and working towards all of life's dreams and goals and diplomas.  Cheers!      

Thursday, March 20, 2014

March Madness

Mr. Madness 
I married my husband during March Madness and so began the life of a Madness Bride.  He never missed a game that first month, checking scores all day, everyday.  Even on our honeymoon (Kansas took the title that year).  The games played throughout labor and delivery, while I was giving birth to our March baby (North Carolina won for the third time) and WE never missed a game while living in Belgium (ESPN-USA is quite expensive).  I can't remember the first time Mr. Madness got me to fill out my bracket, but once I did, I was hooked. We now have a family bracket competition, the winner keeping the coveted Madness Trophy for the year.  It's a fierce battle with intense ragging and constant text-jabs.  Every year, I'm certain I will win.   I do my research (top-secret, but let's just say I know people), talk to the experts (guys on airplanes reading the sports section), listen to sports radio shows (that was a secret till now) and fully commit to my team, hoping they'll win, cheering them on, biting my nails throughout every game.  It's fun being a Madness Bride (if you can't beat 'em -- join 'em).  In fact, March is now one of my favorite months of the year.  My Life On The Lane is Madness for the month of March...(Go Wichita!)