Tag Archives: family

Resolutions

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Resolution by USA-Reiseblogger via Pixabay

The new year inevitably brings with it the resolution to do something different with our lives. We resolve to lose weight, exercise more, manage our finances better or be a better wife/mom/person. The Thesaurus lists the synonyms for resolution as courage, perseverance, pluck and tenacity. So why do most of us give up our resolutions by January 2nd? I believe it’s that exciting feeling that we truly can turn over a new leaf just as we can the pages of the calendar that spurs us to make resolutions in the first place. That all of our past transgressions and sins can be washed away with the new number of the new year. And that the comfort of the space we are in already convinces us to let go of those resolutions almost as quickly as we have made them.

20180117_164448The truth of the matter is that resolutions are never the quick fixes we hope then to be. That, in actual fact, a true resolution takes all the time and tenacity and courage and pluck that the word explains it to be. One of my favorite gifts this season was a piece of an amber glass pane that was taken from my childhood church before it was torn down. The window belonged to and was a tribute to my paternal grandparents. My cousins salvaged this gem of our family history and divided it into pieces for each of us to own.  These pieces of glass have bonded together my cousins and my siblings stronger than that glass could ever be. That glass is a reflection of the resolve my grandparents had to possess to be immigrants in a new land, raise their family in an unfamiliar town and navigate an unfamiliar language. The resolution they made with themselves was to start over in a new country that had the promise of a better life than the one they left behind. Or if not better, then at least different. Both my husband and I followed separate paths then my grandparents but to the same end. We each left our home to look for something different in another country. And when our paths crossed we started our own family, raised in unfamiliar places, navigating the language of marriage and parenthood.

What gets me through the night sometimes is the belief that only the best things will happen. To get through the hard times and believe we will be okay once we do is the true resolution I have made with myself. To have the courage to stay in the present through the turbulent times. My role in life changes constantly from wife to mother to sister to advisor to friend and I am trying to work it out along the way. That is a recipe that leaves me with no small degree of doubt, a decent quantity of confidence, mixed with a good dose of fear and a strong dram of faith. I can only resolve with as much courage as I can to keep moving forward no matter how hard the road might become. Giving up on day 2 is not an option. When I look around me, it sometimes appears like other’s lives seamlessly follow a perfect trajectory. From birth on it seems their path is blessed, lucky in love, fortunes and friendship. Yet we all realize that is just an illusion and no person’s path is preordained. Life gets in the way. In fact, it’s through hardship and adversity that we learn our greatest life lessons.

I’ve always loved the expression “looking at life through rose colored glasses”. I know it is meant to mean that one who looks at life through those fantastical lens refuses to acknowledge the pain and ugliness of day to day living. Yet it can also mean that life itself can be rose colored, that it can be awash with that kaleidoscopic color of pale red. Why is that so bad? If we are taught that the best life is one of balance then what better balance then rose colored glasses reflecting the bad and the good of life? Or maybe for me it’s reflected in my family’s amber colored glass. When I look through that glass I see back a couple of generations to a strong man and a strong woman who had the pluck and tenacity to carve out a different life than the one of their own parents. In the face of such courage can any resolution fail? In essence that is the question only an individual can answer. The resolution is never static. It changes and shrinks and grows with time and experience. Which goes back to that morning of January 1st when all of our resolutions are no longer a promise for a future date but right here and now. Halfway through the first month of the year, my resolutions have already changed with time. But the resolve to keep moving forward one step at a time never will.

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Beach Walk by sasint via Pixabay

 

Traditions

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Snowfall by cocoparisienne via Pixabay

December is the month that reminds me most of traditions. Traditions are the maps we create as individuals and as families to guide us through the days, months and years of a life together. They are signposts for those who are coming behind us to teach them the legacy and the stories of a family’s history. Traditions come in all forms. They can be food or the preparation of food or rituals or trips to special places. They can be secular or they can be religious. In fact between mid November to early January practically every world religion celebrates one ritual or another, making it a true holiday season. Traditions also remind us of our humanity and keeps memories alive.

When celebrating weddings, Christmas, birthdays or milestones, certain rules should apply! They are traditions after all. That word has always had a weight and a gravity, a suggestion that something momentous is about to come around and we don’t just pass it by. Traditions give life structure and we look forward to them eagerly each year.

One of the traditions of my large extended Italian family is making homemade ravioli to eat on Christmas Day. The eating itself brings us all together but for me the actual tradition happens weeks earlier when the women of the family get together to make the ravioli. There are mothers teaching daughters, sisters exchanging tips across the miles, cousins using the old recipes as we all strive to make the tradition our own. The preparation of the dough and the filling and the meticulous sealing of each little meat filled dumpling has a certain reverence to it and is often accompanied by several glasses of wine as the hours long process takes patience and energy. Yet on the day of feasting, the work and the love put into the effort is all worth it. And yes, wine must accompany that too.20171217_115048

So many families have special traditions. They recreate old family recipes for special cookies or treats, they decorate their homes or trees like they remember when they were young while adding something new for their own children. It’s the way of traditions. They strive to stay the same but they must grow and evolve with the people who are recreating them.  When I had my own children, it was time to create our own traditions. We made it tradition to open one gift on Christmas Eve and after we would get the plate of goodies ready for Santa and the reindeer. A favorite Christmas story was read with the warmth of two small bodies tucked up against me. Then as they slept, I kept the fantasy alive by leaving nibbled cookies and chewed carrots on Santa’s plate (with a thank you note from the jolly old elf himself), special writing on Santa’s gifts and full stockings by the chimney. It was as much a tradition for me as for them and Christmas morning was always magical and joyful.

Last spring an old southern tradition was recreated the morning of my son’s wedding. In the south, where the wedding took place, the women of the bride and groom’s families gather that morning to celebrate the bride’s wedding day. It was an amazingly beautiful and spiritual event. It was a time for us to welcome a new woman into our fold. I have been blessed with the women in my life: sisters, daughters, nieces, cousins, friends. My sisters and our daughters were there with me and we symbolically and truly brought my daughter in law to be into our family with lovely food and champagne and the blessings of the women who were already married and those who would be future brides. The women of my family had all come to stand for my son and to bear witness to this joyous union.

But Karma is a harsh mistress. This Christmas our son will be starting his own traditions with his new wife. Their first Christmas together, our first Christmas apart. I left my home when I was 22 and have only ever been back for Christmas one time since then. I think of my own mother now that I too will have an empty seat at the dinner table. It’s never easy letting go of your chicks but it is the right thing to do no matter how conflicted emotions might be.

And yet I feel at peace. I have to trust that things are as they are meant to be. This weekend my husband helped me make the ravioli we will eat for our Christmas dinner. Some traditions never change. We will have another mother’s child who is far from home, our daughter’s friend, stay with us and celebrate. We will honor traditions new and old and look forward to a new year of possibilities and challenges and indescribable joys. We will give thanks as we celebrate yet another tradition. And yes just maybe we will start a new tradition that is waiting for us in the wings. I will welcome that one too.

May your own traditions bring you and yours comfort and joy this season. Merry Christmas.  Aid Moubarak. Happy Hanukkah. Blessed Solstice. Happy Kwanzaa. Peace on Earth. Namaste.

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Candlelight by Myriams-Fotos via Pixabay

Dads

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DSCN1081I live with a pretty great dad. He’s so great that sometimes I forget that not all dads are like this. Even though we now have an empty nest, this dad stays in touch daily with his children. He shares jokes and stories and texts to show he is thinking about them and to let them know he is there whenever they need him. Like me, he has had to learn diplomacy when often what we really want to do is rush into a situation they are dealing with and take over, not because we don’t think they can handle it but because that is what we do as parents.  Dads, like Moms, know that parenting never stops.

Dads sometimes get a bad rap. Often when we hear the word “dad” it is joined with negative words like “deadbeat” or “authoritarian”. But just like motherhood, fatherhood does not come with a training manual. My own husband grew up where only women tended to babies and children so changing a diaper was uncharted territory as was bottle feeding a baby. But he was willing to jump in and do it if it meant more time spent with his children. I recall joining the first baby sitting co-op I was in and sitting around with other mothers who commented on how devoted my husband was with our children. I jokingly asked “aren’t all new dads, this is the 90’s after all!” My comment was met with incredulous silence as they looked at each other and then one of them said “no, it’s not”.

That’s the moment I realized how lucky my children were. They not only had a dad who was a good provider they had a dad who would prefer to spend all of his spare time with them. We took our children everywhere with us because we were a family but also because we lived far from our extended family and we didn’t trust our babies with anyone else but ourselves (no offense to the amazing women in my babysitting co-ops!) What that did was expose my children to a myriad of life situations like music festivals, sporting events, camping and road trips exploring art and nature. And lots of time with their hard working dad.sunset-934865_1280

I have been fortunate to grow up around some pretty great dads although I lost my own when I was 17. I was given a gift however. I had always felt as a child that  I could not please my dad or make him proud of me for who I was. But the summer I was 16 found the two of us home alone together for two weeks as my older siblings left for school and jobs and my younger siblings traveled with my mom. Suddenly we had common ground and things to talk about. I confided in him about teenage joys and concerns for the first time and he listened. Little did we know that was to be his last summer. He was a good provider to his family so we always had food and a nice home and clothes. But this was a different thing. This was his time and his attention. After his death I could not have been more grateful to have had those two weeks to myself.

I then had the great fortune to have another man step in to be a father figure. A beloved uncle with whom I was blessed to spend more years with and who always had time for me and my siblings and then for our husbands, wives and children. He was the consummate dad, full of life and wicked humor and love, love, love. It was because of his example that I learned what qualities would make a good husband and a great father. We lost him last year in his very august elder years but were lucky to have a had a strong father figure in our adult years. Not only my children but my nieces and nephews have some pretty great dads as do my cousins children and my friends as well.

silhouette-1082129_1280But now I look at my children’s dad as we grow older. Our hair is getting grey and we have aches and pains that were not there 10 or even 5 years ago. Our children are adults now and parenting becomes an ever evolving thing.  There are times we want them to listen to what we say even as we realize they may or may not. We worry over them. This great dad still jumps into action whenever he is needed; at our son’s wedding he was full of pride and joy and was on hand for whatever task needed to be addressed; when our daughter moved to her new place, he was the first to schedule the U-Haul. He showed up with his tools and ideas to help her furnish her own little nest.  He will always be a pretty great dad not matter what age they are. And for that I am grateful.