A Little Robin Might Show Me

My father often said the two saddest words in the English language were, “if only.”  I grew up in a two bedroom apartment for most of my life.  It had one big window in each room and it overlooked a huge field.  We had lovely antique furniture and my mother’s beautiful mahogany baby grand piano, which fit perfectly despite how very small our place was.  Her parents bought it for her when she was ten and my mother studied classically for twenty years.  I would often come home from school to find her playing “Claire de Lune,” which to this day is my favorite piece of music for the piano.  Starting in kindergarten my mother tried to teach me to play.  I loved to sing but never enjoyed learning the piano.  As I look back I realize I just did not appreciate the riches I had in her which were literally at my fingertips.  She tried for years but I fought her tooth and nail.  I did excel in music, but vocally.  And I regret not being able to play the piano well to this day.  Right before my mother died she bought her namesake an electric piano for her third birthday; a smiling cat whose teeth formed the keys.  I know she held a quiet hope that her granddaughter might want to study and play classical piano one day.  Of her own volition, when my little one entered into kindergarten this year she asked if she could take piano.  Looking into the cost, I discussed it with her father.  He agreed and the next week she began taking lessons from a young woman who is in the Dallas Symphony Orchestra.  I have an upright piano and, as I have sat these past several months with my daughter at the bench, more than anything I wish I could apologize to my mother; if only.  Now I am the teacher and I see the unending patience she had with me.  I also see the same anger and frustration coming out in my daughter that I had as a child when I didn’t get it right.  It’s surreal actually … sitting on both sides.  Apparently she is a very good student for her teacher.  Perhaps that was part of why I didn’t value my lessons, since it was “just” my mother teaching me.  And I honestly do not know how the poor woman survived without wine; I find it fortifying before I sit down to practice with my daughter.  This picture is a still frame from a video I took yesterday at a retirement home, where our six year old played her first recital.  She was not nervous at all and sat straight and tall at the keys; her little hands positioned perfectly.  She played her entire piece without one wrong note.  Her father was grinning ear to ear and I was so proud of her.  It would have meant so much to my mother.  I have often wondered if our loved ones can ever visit us somehow.  I believe God sends us signs, if we only recognize them.  Earlier that morning as my little one played her piece before we left, a robin appeared outside our window.  While they are not uncommon, I have never seen one in our yard or pond.  Suddenly I remembered the first song my mother ever taught me to play on the piano.  It was about a little robin singing from her woodland tree.  I had not thought about it since I was in kindergarten myself.  The American novelist and poet Josiah Gilbert Holland once wrote, “God gives every bird its food, but He does not throw it into its nest.”  I do not want my daughter to look back one day and say, “if only.”  I suppose only time will tell if she has an inherent love for playing … or maybe, if I am lucky, a little robin might show me.

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The Tooth Fairy

On Thanksgiving morning our little one woke up and declared she had a lose tooth.  Asking me to check, I meticulously went through each tiny one and all seemed firmly in place.  At her insistence I checked again and, upon closer inspection, I thought that maybe one of her bottom middle teeth might be the most infinitesimal bit loose.  Squealing with glee, she skipped off to check in the mirror.  She began wiggling it and I encouraged to her to keep it up during the day.  A little after noon she came up to me and asked me to test it.  Sure enough, her tiny tooth was indeed moving back and forth!  I asked her if I could try and move it and reluctantly she said yes.  I got one good, hard yank in … pulling it down toward the ground.  “OW!” my little one screamed, but I noticed her tiny tooth was surrounded by blood.  After admonishing me not to touch it, I had to endure it protruding out like a jack-o-lantern’s the rest of the day.  Finally, after our meal, I pleaded with her to let me try and move it again.  Following the same thing I did earlier, I got in one good downward pull before I saw her looking at me with complete and utter shock; her mouth hanging open and her eyes wide.  Looking back at her, I was stunned to see the hole that was now in her still open mouth.  “DON’T SWALLOW YOUR TOOTH!” I hollered.  She recovered enough to say indignantly that she did not.  I could still remember being so proud when she got that first tiny little tooth and now I held it in the palm of my hand.  It was another one of motherhood’s bittersweet moments.  HER FIRST BABY TOOTH!  And it came out on Thanksgiving night!  I could not believe it!  Suddenly grinning, my little one shrieked with the unbridled glee and innocence of youth and ran to look in the mirror.  She came back looking somehow older, with a tissue delicately swabbing at the blood, saying, “Mama I cannot believe I lost my first ‘toof!'”  “You sure did,” I said, my heart breaking just a little.  “I have something for you,” I said, going off into another room.  A couple of weeks earlier I discovered they had “tooth fairy pillows” in our church bookstore and I just a feeling.  I knew at some point she’d need it anyway.  “For ME?!” she squealed in delight, clutching the tiny pink pillow.  “No,” I said, “that is for the Tooth Fairy!” looking very serious.  “See?  It has a felt pocket shaped like a tooth.”  “And that’s where I’ll put it for her!” she exclaimed with glittering eyes.  The hardest part was getting up in the middle of the night to gently remove the tiny tooth from her tooth fairy pillow without her waking up.  The tooth fairy paid her a dollar!  When I was a kid it was a quarter.  The next day, as a family, we all proudly went down to the Dollar store where she made her first ever Black Friday purchase.  Her Daddy kicked in the eight cents (which she did not know about) for sales tax.  The American Major League Baseball manager of the championship New York Yankees, Casey Stengel, once said, “The trick is growing up without growing old.”  Both of my folks always maintained a youthful spirit; I believe Burk and I are the same way.  He and I still need childhood magic, but we do not need any more visits from the tooth fairy!

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Becoming A Marshmallow

I do not think I have very many pet peeves.  I cannot STAND price tags on ANYTHING — including cleaning supplies under the sink, and, as I have previously and recently mentioned, people who start holiday seasons too early.  Despite its origins, I love Thanksgiving.  With each year that passes it seems to diminish under the weight of skeletons and Christmas trees.  It was a chilly night this Thanksgiving and I love a nice fire; particularly a piñon one because of its heavenly scent.  It transports me straight to Santa Fe.  I had a fire blazing and had given in earlier and bought marshmallows for my little one, particularly since they’re gluten free.  So, when she asked if she could have some, I thought why not roast them in the fire?  I got a long stick and wet it before placing the giant, spongy confection of sugar on the end of it and holding it above the flames.  My little one was in awe.  I never got to be a Girl Scout and I only went camping a few times in the summer with my church youth group.  So essentially I had no prior marshmallow roasting memories, having grown up without a fireplace.  The result was an unexpected culinary delight, and I was immediately asked to make more.  The next thing I knew my little one wanted me to sing Christmas carols.  We were all still digesting my gluten free pecan pie and already I was pressed into singing my favorite hymns.  “Once In David’s Royal City” melded into “What Child Is This” (my two favorites) and then I found myself being requested to sing every Christmas song I ever knew.  No “Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer” though.  I do enjoy some secular songs but for Christians it is a sacred time leading up to and commemorating the birth of Christ.  On the secular side, however, my little one began wondering when her scout elf from Santa (Noel Magique) and her reindeer Chestnut Jingles would arrive.  (Yes, I named them and yes, I snicker a little every time I use Chestnut’s full name.)  I had already decided they were not going to be returning to our home until December 1st.  (I cannot possibly maintain that Martha Stewart level of creativity past 24 days.)  However, I had just broken down and bought us a new tree this year after a decade of our rotten cats housing themselves in our old one.  By the end of last season it stood drunkenly and swayed violently — plus the bottom half of the pre-lit lights decided to just give up about three years ago.  I looked for a new one online early; just checking to see if there were any good deals.  Turns out there were and we got a lovely tree that looks like our old one (silver and pre-lit with white lights) for half price plus no tax and free shipping!  Woo hoo!  So there I was, looking down into the fathomless, deep brown eyes of my only child, so much like my beloved’s, and I thought about the magic of Christmas.  It is one of the few times as an adult I still feel the giddiness and wonder of childhood.  The American actor Edward Norton said, “The more you can create that magic bubble, that suspension of disbelief, for a while, the better.”  In that moment I decided we could all use a little more magic and so we put up the new tree early — amid glass-breaking screams of excitement from our little one.  The Holy Family is not going outside though until the start of advent; I’m not becoming a marshmallow.

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A Cut Above

My husband really needs for his hair to be clean-cut at all times.  Fortunately he does not insist upon a buzz cut, but he will freak out if one curl starts to form at the base of his neck.  I say this without bias:  my husband has hair most men would kill for.  He is 44 and it’s still not grey, it’s not receding or thinning, and it is incredibly thick, dark brown, and with a slight wave.  For years I have begged him not to cut it every two weeks.  Hair does not even grow that fast!  It has taken an entire decade, but I have gotten him to go from two weeks to three and now (drumroll) to four!  His bangs no longer look like “Dumb and Dumber” since I’ve convinced him to stop going to cheap, walk-in places where he did not get the same stylist twice.  I have forbidden the use of clippers on his glorious hair and I have actually gone down to police whatever girl was making the back of his head look cheese shaped.  The trouble is, by the time he got an actual trained stylist, in my opinion it was way too much for us to be spending.  I knew how important his hair is to him so I’ve just tried to budget for it.  He never loved the place but at least he also never came out butchered.  (Cue the sound of angels singing.)  And then I discovered an “upscale barbershop.”  They’ve got old white guys, younger black men, clients with beards, no beards; you name it.  We decided to give it a try and I fell in love.  All the place needed was cigars!  Our little one did not have school that day and the receptionist, who was beautiful and sweet, led our six year old into a lounge/TV room and proceeded to put on My Little Ponies.  “May I get you something to drink?” she asked as I felt my eyes widen when I noticed the bar.  I whispered to my husband that men had finally cracked the code.  It’s the go-to-the-salon-and-have-a-glass-of-wine-so-you-can-relax-secret.  Only they had my kind of drinks — vodka, whiskey and gin that I noticed.  Burk had a gin and tonic (I call it the anorexic white ladies’ drink) and I had a whiskey with 7up.  They even had an orange juice for our little one.  Lounging in the big, leather recliner my little one peeled her eyes away from the television long enough to remark, “Now THIS is the life!”  “Kiddo, you have no idea,” I said, thinking of the special mother/daughter spa days we would have when she is older.  I knew I liked my husband’s stylist instantly.  She was sharp and I had no doubt he was in great hands.  When I booked his appointment the receptionist had actually taken notes!  Now that’s impressive.  Back in the TV room my little one remarked, “Mama they have massages here,” and I explained they were only for men.  I felt so comfortable sitting there, drink in hand, inhaling the gentle aroma of sandalwood.  It reminded me of my Daddy.  And I was so thrilled they let us stay!  As he was being shampooed my husband was treated to a steaming hot towel wrapped around his clean-shaven face.  I watched him visibly slump in the chair.  That is really saying something, because he doesn’t unwind very easily.  Other than his hair, he is highly concerned about his shoes looking nice.  Imagine our surprise when we discovered members can sign up and have their shoes shined for free at any time!  “He’d like to sign up for the year” I proclaimed as I watched my husband emerge actually relaxed and happy.  And here’s the kicker:  it is HALF the price of the salon he used to go to!!!  I appreciate the details and this place had it in spades.  Most importantly, his hair turned out great.  I think the American writer Greg Behrendt was on to something when he said:

“I do think that you can dress yourself out of a problem.  The way that a haircut and a new pair of pants can make you feel is better than any therapist, because when you look in the mirror, you see a different person – you are a different person.  It’s superficial change that can lead to real change.”

His two best girls were proud to see him looking so confident and handsome.  I have decided to go with him from now on … not because his stylist needs any supervision; I just want to relax and enjoy a drink!  This place is definitely a cut above.

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A Change

The pre-Socratic Greek philosopher Heraclitus once said, “There is nothing permanent except change.”  I have always tended to be a feast or famine type of person.  If I’m in I’m all in.  For almost two years I have tried to post daily.  When I started, my little one was four.  She is now six.  I feel I need to be spending more quality time with my family, more time purging things we no longer need in our house, and cooking more meals.  Between those things, my business, and blogging every day I have neglected myself by not exercising.  I strive to be better and, I hope that will come through in my writing as well.  Beginning today I will be posting once weekly on Sundays.  I hope everyone will enjoy reading a little less of me for a change.  😉

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All The Paint We Can

My little one requested a “paint party” to celebrate her sixth birthday.  They have an instructor that guides you through how to paint, which brush to use, mixing the colors, etc.  You can select different images and my little one chose a sea turtle.  I was thrilled because my mother adored turtles and in Native American culture it is the symbol for long life.  Growing up my father was a painter and I used have to explain he was not an artist painter; rather he painted houses inside and out as well as huge buildings.  I used to come to work with him as a kid and I loved it.  My father, who has walked on, and my only child share the same birthday.  I know how very happy that would have made him.  And so I thought it was fitting that turtles and paint were involved; my child was unwittingly carrying on with what my parents both loved.  Almost her entire class showed up and I liked that the boys were just as into it as the girls.  I truly think everyone had fun and beforehand I was admonished not to help her; that she wanted to do it herself.  I must confess I have never been a fan of modern art.  I believe I have said here more than once I find it to be soulless and just plain weird.  Her painting came out looking like something that belonged in the Museum of Modern Art in New York.  It did not resemble a sea turtle in any conceivable shape, form, or fashion.  The best I can say is there was a pretty dark blue and green on the canvas.  My little one stubbornly proclaimed her turtle was camouflaged.  Now THAT I could believe.  Striving for something positive yet truthful to say I told her, “Well, you did a GREAT job!”  She looked up at me with various colored smudges of paint on her little arms and beamed.  I felt guilty; hers was the worst one there — possibly ever.  So I elaborated with, “You know that’s actually quite smart, as most animals — particularly in the ocean — camouflage themselves both to avoid other predators as well as to be able to eat themselves.”  The American actor Danny Kaye once said, “Life is a great big canvas; throw all the paint you can at it.”  I love that.  I want to view my life in this way, and it is my wish that my husband and little one will, too.  And we are going to use all the paint we can.

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Back To School

Yesterday I got to visit my little one and her kindergarten class for her birthday.  First I read them all a book called, “There Was a Coyote Who Swallowed a Flea” which elicited lots of giggles.  Then I sat down to eat lunch with my daughter and her friends.  Our round table was filled with little girls and I reflected upon how calming it was to be listening to relaxing music while watching autumnal nature screens flicker across the high-tech whiteboard.  Outside there was an expansive view of the playground and everywhere I looked it was cheery.  I was asked to tie shoes and open wrappers and it filled my heart with joy.  Afterward we got to go outside and enjoy popsicles in the afternoon sun.  Oh, to be so carefree again, where your most pressing dilemma of the day is which flavored popsicle to choose — cherry, tangerine, or grape.  I sat in the shade as I watched them play and I found myself grateful once again for the extraordinary opportunity my little one has being in this school.  My mind wandered to other countries where educating girls is not even allowed and I counted our blessings twice.  At this age kids still want to hug and I gladly accepted any that came my way.  I think they were all from my little one’s girlfriends.  There is something incomparable about the small arms of a child wrapped around you.  Things are so different then when I was in kindergarten, and I am glad.  Kindness toward all is emphasized as importantly as any other subject.  I have always loved to learn, and still do.  The American comedienne Carol Burnett said, “We don’t stop going to school when we graduate.”  I realized that now I get the chance to sort of relive a happier version of my academic days through my child by going back to school.

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Boogie On Down

We were at Walgreen’s the other day when we discovered Fred here.  As I took his picture I remarked the Skinny Popcorn must be working.  At first my little one was afraid of him until I named him and had him shake hands with her.  Nervously, she giggled and by the time we got home she wanted to help untangle Fred from the passenger’s seat.  I like spooky Halloween stuff but not demonic looking things or gore.  Fred here is just about my speed.  I want my little one to be “good scared” versus scared out of her mind.  This was also the first year I involved her with putting up the decorations.  I think it helped her realize they were just inanimate things and hopefully it allayed her fears somewhat.  She said she had the best time decorating and I was so glad I just didn’t do it all myself.  This morning on the way to school she said, “Good-bye Fred” and absently patted him on the head as she went to the car.  I can also now joke that without digging I have a real skeleton in my closet.  I love what the Irish critic George Bernard Shaw once said:  “If you cannot get rid of the family skeleton, you may as well make it dance.”  He may be X-ray thin, but I’ll bet Fred can move his old dry bones to the Silly Symphony of “The Skeleton Dance” and boogie on down.

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Carpool

Coming from the ’70’s, I always thought to carpool meant to ride-share.  These days I think it just means a great pool of suburbans idling in line to pick up their kids from school.  I don’t mind waiting, as the campus is located on a creek and I enjoy seeing the serenity of the crosses, Japanese maples, and the flowers you see here.  Generally there are bees buzzing around them, butterflies pausing prettily to land, or dragonflies zooming about.  It is a rare few minutes out of my day to savor the quiet without the distraction of a cell phone.  I still get tickled thinking about the scene in the movie Mr. Mom where the dad goes the wrong way to enter taking his kids to school.  He’d never done it but his wife was now the one “working.”  It IS true, you can always tell the dads because invariably they go the wrong way, garnering glares from the moms who are desperately trying to get their kids to school on time.  The “other parents” are essentially attempting to cut a very long, winding line.  At our school there is a police officer who directs traffic.  Last week no mom would let the Wrong-Way-Dad in so the cop had to pull out his whistle to halt the bumper to bumper turning cars; essentially forcing them to stop and let him in.  At first I was afraid of the carpool line but it really is no big deal.  I have attempted several times to explain it to my husband, on ride alongs, who still cannot seem to grasp it.  *SIGH*  The American businesswoman and transportation entrepreneur Robin Chase said:

”Transportation is the center of the world!  It is the glue of our daily lives.  When it goes well, we don’t see it.  When it goes wrong, it negatively colors our day, makes us feel angry and impotent, curtails our possibilities.”

I believe that to be true.  Get to where you’re going on time and your day goes smoothly.  Run late and you’re behind all day.  I can tell you one thing, I strive to always be on time for the carpool.

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Nailed Down

The American journalist Frank Reynolds once said, “Let’s nail it down, let’s get it right.”  My Daddy was just about the best at everything … but he was a horrible grocery shopper.  If Mama asked him for bread, he’d come home with milk.  God bless him, he just almost never got it right.  My husband, on the other hand, is an excellent grocery shopper.  He is incredibly specific and will call if he cannot find exactly what I have asked for.  However, on this fateful occasion, I asked him to please pick up some nails when he went to the store.  “Sure thing,” he said as he made his way to his favorite destination (the grocery) to eat unchecked.  He knows if I go I police the amount of sweets he consumes before he even checks out.  I cannot tell you how many times I have seen him hand over crumpled up wrappers for the cashiers to scan.  He gets home and says, “Your nails are on the bar.”  “Where?” I ask.  “On the kitchen bar” he replies.  All I can see is a box of French tip press ons and I yelled back upstairs, “The nails aren’t here!”  A few minutes later he comes trudging down the stairs.  Handing me the box of fake fingernails he says, as if I am simple, “Here you go.”  I felt my eyes widen in disbelief.  “I ASKED YOU TO GET NAILS SO I CAN HANG SOME PICTURES ON THE WALL!” I found myself shrieking as I shook my late father’s hammer at him.  “Oh,” he relied.  “And when have you ever known me to use press on nails?!” I exclaimed as he stood there looking genuinely perplexed.  I do in fact get a French manicure so I guess he must have paid attention to SOMEthing.  We both stood there looking at this box of nails and then started laughing.  This time Burk didn’t quite get it nailed down.

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