Photos from Christmas Past: The Gifts of the Season

Wishing you a renewed sense of wonder

 

 

christmas ironing

and hoping you enjoy the fruits of your labor

 

Keep those you love close

May your days be spent with those you love

 

holiday excitement

and may those days be merry

 

the joy of the holiday season

and all that you dreamed 

 

 

especially if all that you dreamed includes your teeth

 

gifts of christmas past

and may your memories be good

 

 

Wishing you and yours joy and peace this holiday season!

Happy Monday!

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On Crushes, Rejection, and Daring Greatly

 vulnerability_opt

Last week one of my kids asked me how they could get the courage to talk to someone they have a crush on.

Now I only have one high school Crush Story where I exhibited bravery. It was at a high school graduation party and I approached the boy I’d been crushing on for two years and asked him to dance.

He said no.

On the surface, it’s not such a great story.

Except for the part where I actually asked the boy I’d been crushing on to dance.

That was huge. Major bravery. And yeah, while I know all my kid wants right now is for this other kid to like them back, there is value in vulnerability.

Being vulnerable is how we open ourselves to the good stuff.

Okay so the good stuff doesn’t always show up, and risking emotional exposure can be terrifying. It’s not easy to be ALL IN.

But I know that the times I’ve risked rejection, disappointment, and embarrassment, it’s because I’ve been listening to my heart. Being me. And I don’t know, my arms get tired holding up those walls of protection.

Sure, there are days (lots of them) when all I want to do is hide, but eventually what I end up wanting to remember, is that it’s not the win or the loss that counts, but how we listen to our hearts, and allow ourselves the opportunity for joy.

 Roosevelt daring greatly_opt

 

How do you muster courage? Do you have any crush advice?

HAPPY MONDAY. 🙂

 

 

Capturing the Wish: When Visions of Happy Things Swirled in our Heads

When I was growing up, birthdays were always festive.

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 Check out the wrapping paper–the comics!

 

My mom usually made an ice cream cake, and decorated the birthday girl’s/boy’s bedroom doorway with streamers. Sometimes we celebrated at the dining room table with the “fancy” blue china.

And we took photos like this:

 Patrick blowing birthday candle Collage_opt

Capturing the Wish

 

Looking at these pictures, I realized we captured the secret wish moment.

A wish (or two), a deep breath, and then hopes are launched…

Easy Bake Ovens, ponies, unrequited crushes turning requited,

love, health, and peace…

Our heart’s desires

some found

others suspended, floating in a moment

where visions of happy things swirled in our heads.

birthday candle blow Collage_opt

And the tradition continues…

 

What are your birthday traditions? Have you ever wrapped a gift with the comics?

Happy Monday!

 

 

 

 

* This post is dedicated to my daughter who turns 228 months this week.  🙂

 

 

 

 

 

The Heart of the Matter: What Grounds You?

 

So all last week I found myself thinking about a button.

button heart_opt

 

 

My son decided he wanted to go to prom (a week before prom, mind you), which meant a last minute run for prom tickets, a boutonniere, a corsage, and a tux.

My husband suggested he try on his tux. His twenty year old wedding tuxedo.

 

 

 

The tux fit. It was a tad roomy, but all it really needed was a new button.

I put mending on my to-do list, but the button stayed on my mind. Somehow that button represented happy nostalgia: twenty years of marriage, family, and kids being almost all grown up.

Of course, all this symbolic button thinking took place amidst the back drop of crazy, tragic things happening in Boston and all over the world.

But I had the luxury of thinking about that button.

And then this weekend we had our own bit of crazy to deal with, when some neighborhood kids thought it would be funny to rig up what looked like a homemade bomb on the steering wheel of my daughter’s car.

My daughter drives a retired Crown Victoria police interceptor and while we wondered if this thing in her car was a stupid prank, we also couldn’t help but worry whether this contraption rigged not only to her steering wheel, but attached to the door and the outside mirror, was some threatening message aimed at the police.

So we called the non-emergency police line and an officer came to the house. He was perplexed, cautious, and called his supervisor…

Who then called the bomb squad.

And then began the process of securing the roads around our neighborhood.

And then an officer asked us if we wanted to leave our house because this could be a very dangerous situation.

At this point, one of the kids responsible, came over and confessed. My daughter instantly burst into tears. She was relieved, but very hurt someone wanted to purposefully scare her like that.

I was mad. Because while it may have been a joke–and everyone was safe–our fear had been REAL.

You may think what I did next is a strange reaction, because while the bomb squad took the stupid contraption out of my daughter’s car (they still had to consider it a threat until they knew otherwise), I went inside the house and sewed the button on that tux jacket. I didn’t know what else to do with my confusion, my anger. Maybe because I’d been thinking about that button all week, that button somehow become some sort of fastener for my thoughts. It helped to ground me.

I mean what do you do when you get tangled and tripped up by the web of someone else’s stupidity?

You can’t control it. You can’t change their thinking. All you really can do is control your own actions (and somehow resist a response that might make you a contributing member to the spectrum of stupidity).

So I shifted my focus to the things that ground me.

Turns out, one hand me down tuxedo, plus one button, equals lots of love and support.

prom smile borrowed tux_opt

My son wearing his dad’s wedding tux.

 perfect troll face goes to prom_opt

The “perfect troll face” goes to prom. 🙂  My family grounds me, but also lifts my spirit. 

 

And because I couldn’t find a great quote for this post, I’m sharing this absurdly funny one.

funny quote computer beat me at chess_opt

 

What grounds you when your world gets shaky? 

Have a great week,

A Toast to Fun, Food and Men in Skirts

 

fun is good seuss_opt

 

In the spirit of holiday, food and fun, I want to wish you all a happy Thanksgiving week via photos from the local Celtic festival.

 

First, a toast to FUN.

 

And to YUMMY food. 

 

And Music! 

 irish dancing_opt

To dancing.

 

To hanging out and playing games.

 men in kilts_opt

And to dressing in your holiday best.

 

And last but not least, to tradition!

I don’t remember my Irish grandmothers mentioning this Celtic delicacy, but I leave you with–

Ye Olde Fried Oreo . 

 

Enjoy yourselves this week!  Thank you so much for taking time out of your day to stop by. Huge heaps of gratitude. 🙂

What are you thankful for this week?  Do you have a favorite festival food?

 

 

 

 

NaNoWriMo Inspiration: Life is for Enjoying

It’s National Novel Writing Month and I’m participating again.  It’s so exciting starting a brand new project.

Although, I have to admit, I’ve never juggled this many writing projects at one time.  I’m thinking about buying brand new outfits–one for each story.  Then I could just change wardrobe when I open a different Word document (I assume my brain will make the transition as well).

Totally makes sense, right?

Even without the new outfits, I’m having fun.  This NaNoWriMo quote sums it up for me:

 

“Thirty days and nights of literary abandon”

national novel writing month

November 1st-30th

Literary abandon.  For me that means locking my inner editor in the tool shed outside–and really enjoying the fun of just making something up.

Last year I blogged about my NaNoWriMo inspiration–about how my brother inspired me to not only pursue my writing, but really enjoy my life.  The information still applies. 🙂  So here’s that post.

Life is for Enjoying

I first heard about NaNoWriMo five years ago, and used the general principles to write my first middle grade story.  I’d been filling notebooks with stories for years, but I did it strictly for the fun of it.  But I wanted to do more, and NaNo seemed like the perfect way to launch that spark.  So I started writing with more of a purpose.  The only person I told at the time (other than my husband) was my brother.  I remember him being fascinated by the idea of writing a thousand plus words a day.  He was a creative type–he drew, wrote, cooked (even went to culinary school), so he was the perfect person to understand the need to do a writing marathon in a month.

When I finished that first draft, I put it away to read it at a later date with fresh eyes.  Then, when the time came to go back to it, I decided I didn’t really want to write.  So I went out and got a job, leaving the story behind.

I was afraid.  Afraid to read the rough draft.  Afraid of what it would mean to move forward with my writing.  So I went about life and work without it.

And then a couple of months later, my brother died.

It was sudden–a brain aneurysm.  He was 31.

My brother was so funny.  He did the best Chewbacca impression ever.  He was also incredibly kind.  Maybe it’s the sharp finality of death that smooths away the rough edges of a life, but I truly can’t remember him ever being anything but nice to me.

But I think he was hard on himself.  He had unrealized dreams.  He had physical obstacles, like when he stopped working in restaurants because he couldn’t be on his feet for that many hours (he battled Type 1 diabetes starting from the age of 11).  But I think maybe some of his biggest struggles were more internal.  He got bogged down by dark moments, the kind that show up to shadow your plans and leave you filled with self-doubt and fear.

I know that fear.  I think we all do.

I have one of my brother’s journals.  In it there’s the beginnings of a story, some sketches, and some personal notes he wrote to himself.  One of those notes stays with me:

“Write damn you! Write! Anything, something, Please!”

My first instinct is to feel sad at that personal plea to his self, but then I realize that goes against what he wrote.  Because he didn’t want to get stuck in those paralyzing fears.

In fact the first line in the journal he wrote is: “Life is for enjoying.”

I remember my aunt said at his funeral that she was sad because she couldn’t learn anything more from him and I get that because I would love to know what he would have thought of the LOST finale (our last conversation happened to be about the beginning episodes of season three and the oh so random subject of peanut butter).  I also am curious what his thoughts would be regarding Twitter, the Kindle or his take on the whole new world of publishing.  I would love to hear his opinion on all of this crazy writing stuff I’ve been pursuing. Plus I wonder if he too would be blogging, putting his writing and drawings out there. Tweeting.

my brother daniel patrick opt

My brother Daniel 

But then again I know now, five years later, that I am still learning from him.

I am learning not to be afraid.  I am learning not to worry about regret.

And I am learning to enjoy my life, from random peanut butter moments to marathon writing months.

What are you enjoying this week?  Are you participating in any of the creative marathons this month?  Do you think I need to go shopping to keep my writing projects straight?

Have a great week!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Teen Interview: It Ain’t Over Until the Perfect Troll Face Sings

 

It’s summer–schools are empty, teens are scarce–on vacation, at camp, or watching YouTube videos working summer jobs . . .

but Reader Paparazzi ~ my Q & A series featuring teen readers ~ must go on.  I spend a lot of time inside the mind of fictional teens–writing and reading, so it’s great to get a little real YA world perspective to help with character inspiration or simply if you want to see what holds a teen’s interest.

 

what teens read interview

It’s research, not stalking.

 

If you missed any previous interviews, click here or on the tab in the header above.

For this interview, I’ve cornered a teen close to home.

Meet Gavin, or as I have a habit of calling him, “G.”

G is sixteen.  He runs cross-country and track, sings in his school’s chorus and a capella club and is famous on the internet.

Well, sort of.

Have you heard of trolling, or better yet seen this face before?

 

gav perfect troll face t-shirt_opt

G is the number one image on Google for the perfect troll face.

 

perfect troll face boy

  A face only a mother could love . . .

but it’s hard to catch him NOT making faces:

troll face collage_opt

 I’m partial to this one:

g perfect troll face smiles_opt

A big hello to G!

So G, what makes you want to pick up a book to read?

It’s got to have something I can relate to.

What are you currently reading?

Moby Dick, for school.

Anything you relate to?

I don’t know, but reading this book is becoming AHABit.

I’m not sure if I believe you, but props on the pun.

What was the last book you read that wasn’t for school?

Try Not to Breathe by Jennifer R. Hubbard

Do you ever re-read books?

Yup.  I like to flip through the Guinness Book of World Records and the World Atlas.

What was your favorite book when you were younger?

Captain Underpants and Harry Potter

Favorite subject in school?

Spanish

Least favorite?

History

What would you like to learn how to do—that you don’t know how to do?

Learn more languages—like Swedish and German.

Okay, I received some questions from YA writers curious about teen relationships (ie dating).  What do you think is the most challenging thing about relationships?

Being yourself.

What was the last movie you saw?

Jeff, Who Lives at Home

Favorite tv show or movie you can watch again and again?

The Invention of Lying

Tell me three songs you’re listening to on your iPod:

The More I See You ~ Michael Buble

The Way You Look Tonight ~ Michael Buble

Flavour ~Bare Noize

What’s your favorite snack?

Veggie straws

What did you eat for breakfast?

Nothing because I’m fasting for the Jewish holiday of Tisha B’ Av, but yesterday for breakfast I ate Frosted Cheerios.  

I’m so hungry can we please not talk about food?

Okay, no more food talk. 🙂

Some quick-fire fill in the blanks:

I fear change.

I need clarity.

I hate homework.

I love singing. 

So here’s a tiny snippet of G doing what he loves:

Thanks G!

Do you have any questions you want answered by teens in future Q & As?  Or a question for Gavin?  Let me know in the comments. 

If nothow would you answer this quick fire fill in the blank?  I need _____.  (Seeing as it’s now Monday morning, I NEED COFFEE!)

Thanks! I love it when you comment. 🙂

Have a great week!

 

For the Love of Vacation: Family, Fun and Some Bison Slobber

 

 School is out.  Summer is here.

And that means vacation time!

car packed vacation_opt

“Those that say you can’t take it with you never saw a car packed for a vacation trip.”

 

I love family vacation for the break from routine–and the change of scenery.

 ireland road _opt

Ireland

 san francisco vacation view_opt

 San Francisco 

 

Niagara Falls

 

I love vacation because you can sleep in–or take a nap.  Anytime.  Anywhere.

 VLUU L210  / Samsung L210

My son sleeping on an airplane shuttle

 

I love vacation because I don’t have to make dinner and travel offers opportunities for new experiences.  Curious what 55 degree water feels like?

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It’s cold, really cold.

Stony Brook State Park, New York 


And of course, when you travel, there’s always the fun of meeting new friends.

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That’s a bison.  In our car.  

Oh, the slobber.


But the thing I love the most?  Spending time with my family.

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Are you travelling this summer?  What do you love about vacation?

 

**I will be on a blogging break for the next couple of weeks (although I’m sure I’ll be blogging in my head).  See  you all when I come back–hopefully with lots of cool pictures and NO bison slobber. 🙂

 

The Quest of Fatherhood: Fun and Avoiding Parasites

 

Children learn to smile from their parents.

~Shinichi Suzuki

children learn to smile parents

See what I’m teaching my kids?

 

I’m simply passing on my version of the funny I learned growing up–thanks in big part to my dad.  He is a master at telling a funny story, and watching him, I learned the value in being able to get people to smile, to laugh and to share joy.

And I learned other things.

Growing up, my dad was big on safety.  He made us wear sunscreen (thank you Dad!), and after a sudden stop in the car, he always threw out an arm in front of whoever sat in the passenger seat–even after our car had seat belts.  Plus, he did not allow us out of the house without shoes.

No skipping around barefoot for me.

Why?

Because of hookworms.

You see those little suckers could burrow into tender kid soles and make their way up and  . . .  well, I don’t remember the rest.  He had me at hookworm.  It was all I needed to know–and believe me when I tell you, I had the softest, callous-free feet in my neighborhood!

I have done zero research on hookworms, so I cannot tell you if this is true.  The only thing I know for sure is that as a parent, protecting my kids is of utmost importance.  I will never forget the first time my husband and I left our kids home alone.  On one hand it was exciting that they were finally old enough, but as we moved to walk out the door, my husband turned around and said:

No eating! 

Because apparently as I showed my oldest the list of phone numbers, my husband had worst case scenarios running through his mind.  By decreeing no food, he felt he eliminated the choking scenario.

 

 “There’s a lot of ugly things in this world, son. I wish I could keep ’em all away from you. That’s never possible.”

~Atticus Finch, To Kill a Mockingbird

 

So maybe it’s not possible, but dads will try.  Because like moms, dads like to dispense advice too:

 

“This is life.  So go and have a ball. Because the world don’t move to the beat of just one drum. What might be right for you may not be right for some. You take the good, you take the bad, you take them both and there you have … my opening statement. Sit, Ubu, sit. Good dog.”

~Peter Griffin, Family Guy

 

You never want your kids to see you scared. You want to be that rock that they grab a hold of in a stormy sea. Actually, a rock would sink. So a floating rock.

~Phil Dunphy, Modern Family

 

Dad = floating rock.  Oh, and let’s not forget dads can be FUN:

 “This is no longer a vacation. It’s a quest. It’s a quest for fun.”

~Clark Griswold, National Lampoon’s Vacation

 father's day dad advice _opt

Me, my dad and one of my sisters.  It’s possible she’s checking the ground for hookworms.

 

HAPPY FATHER’S DAY!

 

I’d love to know–what is your favorite Father’s day gift to give or get?