Celebrations, holidays, and unfortunately deaths are what bring families together. This week my family is experiencing all of the above. My daughter who is not living with me in California and attending school in Connecticut, is celebrating her admittance into UCLA. My family, two daughters, parents and siblings are celebrating Easter together with a day long celebration on Sunday. My Mom is mourning the death of her two dear friends, one of which she grew up with from age 12, and the other she romantically shared her life with for over 20 years, both in the same funeral home, at the same time. I am not there for any of this. I am 3,000 miles away.
In the past, I have written columns about these events assuming that people all lived close to the ones they love. Now, I know differently. Life is filled with adventures and to experience them, you have to jump on your magic carpet and go for the ride. What the fairy tales don’t tell you are the many bumps that carpet must go over in it’s journey, and that sometimes you raise your hands in exhilaration while other times you are leaning over the side, sick from the ride. Like every journey, it has its rewards. Change and adversity go hand in hand with growth and at the end of the trip a new day begins, a metamorphosis takes place, and a different person emerges.
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In California, I live on a tree lined street with sidewalks. On a street where the houses almost touch, my fourth grader can out at any time and have 2-3 playmates readily available. It is a big change from our Connecticut home with 2 acres in the front and 2 acres in the back. I can remember getting a cup of coffee at our local diner and bumping into to someone when I reached for the creamers. In a friendly exchange we said our apologies and as I walked away I sensed that I may have seen them before. Ironically it was my neighbor two doors down. I lived on my street for 5 years. Over time, I had programmed myself to believe that I could pick my friends and they didn’t have to live next door.
Since I have moved, I have learned differently. My buddies are all my neighbors.When I came I quickly connected Gravina Place with Wysteria Lane. The girls came with wine, cookies, and other goodies to say hello and welcome me. Every Friday I was invited to join for lunch for the Knitters Group where Yen would teach all of us to knit and we would have lunch and perhaps a glass of wine. Immediately I was asked to join a tennis group. Birthdays would be celebrated within the group with lunch, cake and gifts.
Halloween I was told to get 1000 bars of candy. We brought our grills into the street and set up a table complete with cocktails. Most of the larger homes in our development ended up at our cul de sac.
For Thanksgiving we all received letters:
It’s time for the 10th Annual Ruby Hill Turkey Bowl!
10 years ago, the boys were discussing the upcoming Thanksgiving Holiday, and how to fill the time before the meal was served and football was on TV. More importantly, how do we get out of the house so we aren’t asked by our Wives to put our hands in the turkeys butt looking for the giblets, whatever the heck they are?
After pondering this very serious of dilemmas over a couple of Pints at the club, one of them shouted “Eureka! I have an idea! Let’s create a fun, family atmosphere on Thanksgiving day, where the kids can run off some excess energy and hone their creativity by doing arts and crafts, where the Moms can get together and discuss the kid’s education, and where the Dads can provide gridiron tips to the young ones while discussing current events with their friends”. Or maybe it was, “How about we get drunk and throw the football around?” Regardless of how the brilliant idea was hatched, the Ruby Hill Turkey Bowl was born!
As if you need any more reason to attend, this year we had several boys who have been attending the Turkey Bowl since they were in elementary school play on the High School Freshman Football team. We would like to think they got their start at the Ruby Hill Turkey Bowl!
Hope to see you there,
Andrew and Robert
Now it isn’t unusual to see my son zipping up and down on his skateboard, a pickup game in the cul de sac or me in the middle of the street stopping the neighbors for a daily chat. Since we couldn’t be together for the holiday, the girls and I filled a piñata for the kids and toasted our friendships with a glass of wine.
“This year for Thanksgiving” I proclaimed loudly, “when we go around the table I know what I am most thankful for….friends like you and neighbors I will never forget.”
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My dad and my mother in law are in town this week , and no we didn’t plan on the matching outfits. They were kind enough to fly in from Florida for my son’s communion. I love the visit. The thing is that my family is very social. Ok cut to the chase, I have been partying for a week. Every day is an outing, a lunch (as seen here), a pizza party, a dinner here and a drink there. I’m not used to this retired lifestyle. I think I may need a detox and a good nap. If this is any indication of what my retirement years will be, I better get my rest now.
My tip for when your retired parents come to visit is to :
#1) Drink lots of water ahead of visit
#2) Lose about 5 pounds before they arrive.
#3) Clear the calendar.
#4) Get lots of rest.
#5) Be ready to see who your parents used to be before they had you.
I am on party overload. In the UK we hosted one party. We were invited every weekend to a different event at a much larger home, and I had a blast. Here with a house that is built for a party, here is my party list since I have returned:
- Superbowl party- Go Giants!
- My brothers birthday party
- My daughters Sixteenth Birthday Party- limo with girlfriends to New Haven pizza party and sleepover after
- My daughters’ Confirmation Party-
- Hosted guest from UK for one week
- PreEaster Party with out of town family – cooking baking, Easter Egg Hunt
- Easter Dinner ( made 10 Easter Baskets, leg of lamb and ham with trimmings)
- My Son’s 13th Birthday Party (Bronx Zoo and party after)
- Cohosted Baby shower (not at my house)
- Prom Pictures/After Prom Party- (barbecued at 1am for group of 8)
- My Son’s First Communion Party- (Made 7 racks of ribs and 50 pieces of chicken)
I love having everyone here and I love my friends and family, however what I don’t love is the constant pressure of having a new deadline and other things in my life that have fallen short. Cabana Girl is retiring. She is tired and she wants to go anywhere BUT home.
Thirteen days until we return home for the holidays and we are all counting down. At first I have to say that I didn’t miss home. I didn’t miss the day in, day out routines, the endless to-do lists, and the chores that seemed to appear faster than I could check them off. I loved the fact that I was in another country and was able to travel to places that I couldn’t even pronounce. I loved the fact that my house was big enough to feed my family and my pub down the street was three times the size. I loved learning how to cook foods I wasn’t familiar with – ha ha ha, fresh foods. There are no Dunkin Donuts here, no fast food, no super sizing of any kind. When a Brit wants a large beverage they will say “give it to me American style…extra large.” I even got used to recycling and putting out one trash bin for a family of six every TWO weeks. [pullquote]Believe it or not, one dented fender and $5,000 bill later, I even got used to driving on the wrong side of the road. [/pullquote]
Now I am ready to go home. I miss my family, my friends, and I miss my dog and cat. I was afraid to open that door in my heart. I didn’t make too many phone calls home to tell people I missed them. I looked forward and never looked back, until now. The last month I have had a dreaded cold, probably pneumonia. In the absence of sunlight our average time we get up on a Saturday is somewhere between 10:30 and 11:30. Am I regressing back to college days?
When the trip is over I am sure I will be refreshed and tired of the phone ringing off the hook. I am sure I will want to get out of the freezing cold. I am sure that I will look forward to the trips into London and the outings with my new girlfriends. For now, I will count the days and open that door to everyone I love so much.
While I am not yet a parent, I have certainly observed my friends’ working through their first years as parents. [pullquote]The day that was once a celebration of being a couple or a target date to find a boyfriend by, is now filled with parental obligations, fatigue and kid time. Some have forgotten how to be a loving couple without their kids.[/pullquote] Others have forgotten that they are allowed to treat themselves to time away from their children.
You may ask how this relates to organizing. It is a big deal! If you get burned out, stop taking time to regroup and never remove yourself from your daily stresses, it is near impossible to be the best you can be in any aspect of your life. You will feel out of balance. Life will snowball from dealing with clutter on your counters to straining your relationships with those around you.
Before you get completely distracted by baking the cupcakes and hunting for the last minute cards at the drugstore, focus on your own needs and plan some you time on this special day celebrating love. Here are some thoughts:
- Schedule a Babysitter ahead of time! Make the day about you and your spouse/partner…away from the kids. Planning ahead will give you that freedom. If you can’t find one for Valentine’s Day itself, try to plan something the day before or the day after.
Plan one special event for your kids on the holiday so you don’t feel that you have abandoned them selfishly. If baking cupcakes is your special time together for Valentine’s then do it, but don’t let the entire day be consumed by your child’s activities.
- Do something special for yourself. Whether it is buying a new color lipstick, getting dressed up or going to get your nails done, treat yourself to something that is going to make you feel good about yourself. Most importantly, remember that you are an adult in addition to being a mom.
- Plan something special with your spouse/partner. If you both enjoy uninterrupted time doing crossword puzzles together then schedule it for that day. It doesn’t have to be a dinner, or the movies to make it a special date together, just time quality time alone. Setting boundaries such as not answering cell phones or no television for the night can help you focus on each other rather than the world of distractions that you are used to.
- Taking the time to step away from the ordinary this Valentine’s and let go of the supermom syndrome for one day might be just the reminder you need to get back to loving yourself, your spouse and being an even better parent to your kids.
Tune in next week for more real-life stories on how to simplify and organize your life from Kristin & Wendy, The Imperfect Perfectionists!
Kristin Mastromarino is a Professional Organizer, owner of Livable Solutions Professional Organizing (www.livablesolutions.com) and The Organized Lifestyle Store (www.theorganizedlifestylestore.com). You can e-mail her your questions at email@example.com.
[pullquote]Right off the top I am admitting it. I AM NOT A GOOD VALENTINE MOTHER.[/pullquote]
The good news about Valetines Day this year is that my youngest can finally sign his own Valentines. I have had 15 years of picking between Scooby Doo, Star Wars, Fun Dip, Sponge Bob and Cinderella.
“Mom I want Scooby Doo.”
“Now are you sure, absolutely sure, because once we leave we aren’t coming back.
Ten minutes later in the car……
“Mom, we have to go back! I wanted Sponge Bob not Scooby Doo. The girls won’t like Scooby Doo.”
Initially, we would get the cards home and I would have this great idea that my five year old would sign all thirty of their own valentines. This way they could show off their printing prowess. It didn’t take long to realize they had no printing prowess, they were 5.
The first one usually went ok.
“Good Job honey. No no, I am sure they will know who it is from. The next time you might want to sign on the side without the picture and put all the letters in your name. ”
By the second one, ”OK now remember, Mommy said you have to put the B before the i and write it on the side that is blank.”
The third, “Listen, are you stupid, what is so hard about B comes before i?”
By the fifth, I was banging my head against the kitchen table thinking that special ed classes were in my future.
Inevitably, I would take over and finish trying to make it look like they signed them and by the end I was just ripping them off in cursive, thinking hey they never care who they are from, just as long as candy is attached.
Then we would attach a treat and move on to make the 75 cupcakes (25 per class) decorated with hearts and candy. When I had my fourth, I decided to let all the other clever moms bake the cupcakes. After all, who was I to steal someone else’s thunder?
Years later, I have reverted to persuading my older kids how much fun it would be to help their younger sibling with their valentines and I use any prepackaged treat.
Ahhh, liberation at last…..
Several years ago, my family started a tradition sending out signed birthday cards to the special people in our lives. We hunt for the perfect card, take turns signing personal messages, and then send it out with a scratch lottery ticket adorned with large Happy Birthday stickers.
Life comes once. Turning 45 comes once. I was born in the dark during the largest blackout in the history of the US, but I have found the light. I have never loved life more than I do today. The twenties were a bit reckless, the thirties were spent being remorseful for bad behavior in my twenties, and the forties, come here me roar. Aside from the fact that I went from one vitamin to 14, I can’t see very well to read, and I pee when I skip rope, I have the confidence and support to do all those things I only dreamed about. Today is a great day, and when it is over, I will look forward to next year so I can celebrate life once again.