Auld Lang Syne

Well I got me a fine wife, I got me old fiddle
When the sun's comin' up I got cakes on the griddle
And life ain't nothin' but a funny funny riddle...
Thank God I'm a country boy!

In search of Andy Williams I found John Denver. A typical scenario in my household because attempts to entice dwellers, ranging in age from 7 to 46, to put CDs back in their case of origin have proven futile.

On this particular December night with a glass of fruity relaxation in hand, a fire roaring nearby and my littlest man setting up a board game, it seemed only fitting to listen to an old timer wax sentimental. But the Andy Williams case led me to Mary Black who led me to Sara McLaughlin who led me...nowhere. I was about ready to give up or call a family meeting about the absurdity of our inability to return CDs to their rightful cases, when I spotted it. Out of the corner of my eye.

A strange orange case with handwriting I didn’t recognize but a playlist that was all too familiar. John Denver was the soundtrack of my young life. I named my first cat Sunshine because of the song Sunshine on my Shoulders. I’d sung Take Me Home, Country Road at the local Fiddler’s Festival. While a great friend, Brad Lovenguth, sang Grandma’s Feather Bed.

I immediately put my accidental find in the player and cranked the volume. Will, fixated on our game, hardly noticed as I sang my way through each tune, sweet and twangy. 
Until Thank God I’m a Country Boy came on. It’s impossible to sit while that song plays (I dare you to try it). As I attempted to recount the square dancing moves of my Upstate NY youth, with my seven year old partner, John and Rob walked in. “Oh boy,” was all Rob could say.  

I’d quickly run out of steps. “Do you remember any square dance moves?” I asked, motioning his way. 

“Bostonians don’t square dance,” he said. Lucky for him the song was almost over. 

Still we, the country girl and the city boy, danced (or something like it) for as long as it lasted. 

Andy Williams was missing, but it hardly mattered. I’d found Auld Lang Syne, courtesy of John Denver. 


I found this piece recently, tucked away in a notebook from my “early Mom days.” When I wrote it many years ago, our days were filled with board books, endless feedings and tummy time. Life is very different now. My little ones aren’t so little, their arms and hearts are bigger. My desire to hang on is too. 
Watching last Friday’s horror unfold was mind paralyzing, a stirring of our deepest darkest fears. It was also a reminder. To hold those dearest even closer.

We owe it to the parents and children whose lives and dreams were cut short, to hug, more.

I hope hugs are a little like advanced degrees and golden high school memories. Larger in the mind than in the moment. Plucked out like little diamonds of self-confidence when the world starts to chip away.

When it comes to parenting, the list of things I don’t know is endless. But I do know about hugs. Hugs are crucial. I never let go first. I’ll ask for one, but never require it. My favorite hugs are the ones that seemingly go on forever, although in truth probably last just a couple of minutes.  

My eleven month old is a ferocious hugger. The other day as I unbuckled him from his car seat, he threw himself around my neck and dove to nibble on my shoulder. Through the reflection in the car window I could see his eyes were closed. There he clung, momentarily soothed, soaking up my love.

It was an after nap hug that let me know I was on the right track after my oldest was born. Haggard and a little blue, as I scooped my son out of his crib he looked right through me with his chubby cheeked smile. Hanging on for dear life I couldn’t help but marvel, that it was me, a vision in postpartum sweat pants, that he so lovingly craved. With the same passion of someone dangling off a hundred story building in the climax scene of the latest thriller, I was the right-on-time heroine saving his day.  

I have a feeling these moments are fleeting. Stages move quickly and so will the hugs. And so, I am counting on these hugs to store easily, for them and me. Safe and intact in a little down deep soul bank. Fertilizer for the dreams growing inside. 


Practice may make perfect BUT the process is anything but. 

My youngest has been taking piano lessons for six months. He took right to it. Mostly he loves mastering things...anything. Give him a challenge and he’s ready. He also comes from a long line of musicians. Scores of ancestors run through his veins. It’s eery and fun.

I never have to remind him to practice, because he “practices” all the time. Piano is his space filler. Like after he’s been told he can’t play anymore video games and dinner is still ten minutes away. Or, when the whole house is running around in the morning filling backpacks and lunch pails, he sneaks off to play the piano. It’s hard to yell at a kid who’s playing the piano. Even if his bed’s not made. 

But make no mistake, listening to him practice is a perfectionist’s hell. He runs through the songs at warp speed. Testing himself to see how fast he can play something. Or, he plays songs that he learned months ago instead of the ones on this week’s “to-do” list. I am quite sure if there is a book about how to help your kids practice (and let’s face it there must be!) he/we are breaking every rule. When it comes to practice my little guy does exactly what he wants to do.

A few weeks ago I sheepishly asked his piano teacher for tips. I put it all on the line, my parental laziness that is, and admitted, “I don’t really keep track of what he is practicing. But he plays a lot.” To my amazement (and relief) her response was simple: “Don’t change anything. Whatever he’s doing is working.”

Take that Tiger Mom. 

My oldest is a different story. He is, to put it plainly, a lot like me.  Creativity soars through him in waves, all day, every day, exhausting everyone in his presence. He is “working” on a new idea at any given moment, on any given day. Sitting still, doing nothing, is not in his DNA. Every moment has a purpose. But practice is painful. Too linear. Too stifling. Where is this going? What is this for?

In an attempt to help him learn about the power of practice (and make the hefty monthly rental fee worth it) I’ve instituted a “you must practice your baritone for fifteen minutes a day” rule. He reels, he objects, he erects an almost daily soap box about how unfair I am, how I have no idea, and on and on and on...

Until he finally, practices. The first round he plays in regimented tone. A sort of “take this” to any nearby listeners. Then about five minutes in, he’s making up his own song. Off happily in his own private ba ba ba bum land, creating music or something like it. Twenty minutes later he usually announces that he’s going to do a little extra practice time, to impress his band teacher. The push, the pull, the torment is over. Until tomorrow.

And then it’s my turn. To sit at my computer. At the coffee shop I call home. Willing myself to tap tap tap at warp speed, to keep the thoughts moving, to get it down. To trust that twenty minutes here, thirty minutes there will get me where I want to go. But where am I going? What is this all for? 
Mahatma Gandhi said, “An ounce of practice is worth more than tons of preaching.”

And so I practice what I preach. Willing my own butt in the chair day after day. Finding the courage to spend time on what matters, to me, in the hope of reaching something close to perfection, or more importantly, happiness.

The Magic Cliff

It is a late fall night. Feels like midnight, but it’s only 5:15 pm. We, my sons and I, are making our way home.

I’m mentally preoccupied with dinner. The boys are discussing a download...a video game, I think? The guy on the radio is daring to dangle off the impending fiscal cliff.

“Mom, I have a problem.” Will’s words cut like crystal through a sea of extraneous chatter. I turn the radio off. This sounds serious.

“What’s wrong Will?” I ask.

“I don’t believe in Santa,” he says.

I am ready for “So and so says there’s no Santa,” or “Mom is there a Santa?” 
But: I don’t believe in Santa. It’s clear he’s mulled the facts and arrived at an outcome. 

Lucky, for me, John the older brother chimes in.

“What do you mean? Of course there’s a Santa!” he says.

“Really John?” Will replies. “A guy flies around in a sleigh with reindeer and drops presents into chimneys? And he makes it to every kids’ house in the entire world in one night?!”

“I don’t believe in that part either. I think it’s a real guy who flies around in a plane and there’s a system for shooting packages down the chimneys,” John says. 

He is backing off from his firm resolve but resolute nonetheless.

“You think someone applies for the job of Santa?” asks Will. 

“Yes, the guy who gets the job has skills,” says John. He says the word skills like he’s talking about a basketball game.

“Who would want that job?” Will asks.

Um...that would be your brother, I want to say. But, John beats me to it.

“Will, you’re just going to have to deal with it, there is magic in the world!”

“He’s right,” I say. You’re both right, I want to say.

It’s clear we are, once again, dangling off our own magic cliff. The gig’s just about up. I think John already knows. I also think he’ll make an excellent Santa someday. And Will, well, he'll eventually be satisfied to have his hunch verified. He’s a realism kind of guy. 
Still it can’t hurt to keep it going for just a little longer. Until I’m sure they have the find the real magic. 

Post Sandy

Sandy came and went. 

On Monday, the day she arrived, we watched the wind whirl and random sheets of rain move rapidly through, leaving a trail of branches and leaves strewn across yards and streets. 

On Tuesday, we connected with family and friends, many of whom were without power. But thanks to last year’s streak of storms, most had generators. The all to familiar post storm dance began.

“Do you have power?” “I hear your neighborhood is next.” “Sure hope school is back up and running tomorrow.” 

By Wednesday, Halloween, all the schools in our town were back except for two, one was the school my sons attend. Turns out our fifties era structure, with it’s evolutionary additions and improvements was providing challenges of an electrical nature. A flurry of texts and e-mails flew. And finally in the late afternoon hours official word arrived: the kids were indeed going back to school in the morning!

I traipsed back to CVS, in search of the required portable sugar, before heading home for pizza with friends and taking my post at the front door.

As soon as the automatic doors opened, I bee-lined for the mass of brightly colored bags. But in their former place of Halloween glory, were rows of empty shelves. A shift in seasons was taking place. Sandy or no Sandy, retail was moving on.

Where was all the candy?! 

I once again made my way past the toilet paper and batteries (now stocked) and paper towels and decks of cards, to find three straggler boxes of candy bars near the cash registers. The leftovers for deadbeat shoppers like me who’d left trick or treating to the twelfth hour. I shoved ten bags of delinquent scraps into my basket.

Thanks to a steady stream of ghosts, goblins, Angry Birds and my personal favorite three pre-teen girls dressed as the 70s, 80s, and 90s-- a few short hours later our candy was gone too. Leaving us to pick up the pieces, the random candy wrappers of life. 

This morning, ten days after Sandy, eight days post Halloween, we woke to a blanket of snow. Not a one inch lightweight summer blanket but a several inches deep covering foreshadowing what is to come, or already here. 

Yes, Sandy came and went, so did Halloween and apparently fall too. Time stops for no one, or anything--not a hurricane or Halloween or me. 

Thank goodness there are the little things that rarely ever change. Like how In a few weeks, I’ll make it back to CVS for stocking stuffers, just in time for the display of rotating sunglasses to arrive.

For all the people still reeling from the devastation left in Sandy’s wake: our thoughts and prayers are with you.

On Her Way

Sandy is on her way. Exactly when she will arrive is a bit vague. But she is coming and the world, at least my world, is preparing for her arrival. 

At the hardware store there are batteries, flashlights, wood, and candles stacked high. The generators and propane are gone.

Oddly enough most people, including me, are buying things completely unrelated to the impending storm. The guy to my left is buying grass seed. The woman to my right a shower curtain. I am scouring the isles for a tea kettle. Ours broke last week and I’ve neglected to pick one up until now. I find tea comforting on rainy days, and it appears we are in for a steady stream.

I’ve already bought batteries (still I tuck more in my basket.) The non-perishables were purchased yesterday. Cans of soup, bags of chips, crackers, raisins, and peanut butter line my cupboards. Water and wine are in reserve. My husband cleaned the gutters, the neighbor trimmed the tree. 

Now what? Wait.

“This could be bad, really bad,” our Governor warns. It’s like waiting for surgery or the phone to ring when a loved one is ill. There is an air of dread, inevitability.

Random items secured, I walk next door to CVS, the real reason I am killing time in the holy name of preparation. I’m filling my son’s inhaler in case we are stuck in our basement for weeks and he has an asthma attack. If you think that sounds a tad dramatic, you’re not alone. 

When I suggested I make up beds in the basement, in case we needed to live there for a while, my husband asked, “And why will we be living in the basement?” 

“Because a tree will have fallen on the house and upstairs will be unsafe, not to mention covered in leaves.”

I was being funny, kind of. I am a firm believer in “Worst Case Scenario” planning. If I’m prepared for the worst, I’m just fine when something smaller, less sinister comes my way.

As I walk through the store, closing in on the inhaler, I pass a massive display of Halloween candy. Normally by now I’d have purchased ten bags of little nuggets and chocolatey gems. But last year we were piled high with sweet temptation for months after Halloween was canceled due to a snowstorm. Not this year, I tell myself. Should we make it out of the basement by Wednesday, there will still be candy on the shelves. 

On second thought it can’t hurt to get a bag of Butterfingers.

I visually scan the remaining isles. Toothpaste: check. Toilet paper: got it. A woman carrying an armload of dish soap passes. Did I miss something? I don’t remember reading anything about stocking up on dish soap. Instead I grab a deck of cards. Never hurts to have an extra deck of cards.

I finally reach the pharmacy and take my rightful place in line. I am surrounded by familiar strangers, people I don’t know but kind of sort of recognize from running the errands of life. 

“Are you ready?” a man asks, just as the pharmacist hands me the inhaler.

“I think so,” I say. 

We exchange nods and knowing smiles. 

And finally I head home, prepared as I’m ever going to be. To drink tea, eat Butterfingers and play the basement.

Fellow East Coasters~ stay safe and dry!

(Dis) Engaged

This morning I was out for a jog on a long country road, a picturesque route with barns and farms along the Connecticut River. Smack in the middle of a straightaway I saw a woman speed walking in front of me.  As I approached her, I said “on your right.” Two seconds later, I passed, on the right and the woman jumped out of her skin. “You scared me,” she mouthed barely cracking a smile. It was then I noticed she had ear buds in.

How is someone supposed to warn someone who’s wearing ear buds anyway? 

An hour later I’m at a four way stop on Main Street in the town where I live. I watch a mother, head tilted slightly, pushing a toddler in her stroller with a second child walking by her side. The scene seems normal enough until I realize the reason her head is cocked to one side is she’s talking on the phone.

What possible conversation is so important that it needs to be had while crossing in traffic with two kids? And if it is so important why not stay on the side of the road, finish the conversation and then cross?

Two errands later on the same busy street, I sit idling, this time at a four way stop light. I look to my left to see a man on a motorcycle helmet-less, but that’s not the worst part, he’s texting. That’s right, texting while seconds from having to hit the gas and plunge into an intersection with cars and trucks and buses and me.

What is wrong with people?

I’m not saying I’ve never done it. Check texts at a stop light or take a phone call at an inopportune time...but I have this feeling that what used to be an exception reserved for a family member giving birth or “did we get the house?” is now simply status quo.

Every e-mail, text, tweet, every last thought, message, inclination is tended to moment by moment day after day. And nothing, not driving or walking or crossing the street will get in the way. 

I find it exhausting! Partly because I don’t understand it and partly because if every one else is engaged...well than maybe I should be too. 

What is the threshold for information overload? 

Ten years from now will families still talk at dinner or will everyone be texting each other in silence? Will workplace meetings be replaced by looking into a screen...oops, that one has already happened.

Lately I find myself feeling like the parents who once shuttered with disapproving shock watching Elvis gyrate his hips at screaming teenage girls.

“What is this world coming to?” they wondered.

“What is this world coming to?” I wonder now too.

Several hours later, with errands complete and the kids successfully tucked away with friends, my husband and I hop the 5:15 Metro North train headed for NYC for a Friday evening wedding. Within ten minutes of leaving New Haven, Rob is fast asleep. 

While he sleeps I make my way visually around the train. People-watching is one of my favorite past-times. I’ve been known to listen in on a conversation or two. 

But to my displeasure, on this night, the dozen people in my immediate space aren’t having any conversations. They hold empty stares, transfixed by their phones.

People watching is supposed to be a silent incognito act. My fellow passengers are clearly not playing along. I have the urge to yell: 

Where are you going? What is your story? Do you even have a story? Or are you waiting for your phone to tell you what time it is, who likes you and what tomorrow will bring? 

Instead I take out my own smarter than me phone. And engage myself in a game of Words with Friends. Using words I barely know with friends I cannot see.

Step by Step

Twelve years ago, I would watch my now sister-in-law, drop and do ten each time she passed the fireplace in her bungalow living room. Often times she’d have to put down the laundry basket or a kid to complete her regimented sit ups, push ups, or jumping jacks.

“There’s no time for the gym but if I do something each time I pass the fireplace, by the end of the day, I’ve had my workout,” she’d say.

I thought she was crazy. I chalked it up to her days as a captain in the Unites States Army. Maybe that routine was hard to let go of.

Still there was no arguing she was in great shape. She was almost ten years my senior, had four small children, and was in much better condition than the twenty six year old me. There was something to her madness, I just wasn’t sure what it was. Working out had never been my thing and doing it in five minute spurts throughout the day was just plain depressing.

Seven years later, carrying some extra pounds and two babies of my own, I sought the advice of a nutritionist to get myself into shape.

Her recommendation was a novel one: eat less, exercise more. The eating less part, was a struggle but doable. Exercise more? With two small children in tow, how the hell was I supposed to do that?

“Forty five minutes of cardio, six days a week,” was what the nutritionist prescribed. I laughed. 

Week one I decided I’d do twenty. Usually between 7 and 8 at night, after my husband was home, dinner was done, and the kids were cozy in their jammies, I’d hop on the treadmill and huff my way to the day’s end.

By week two my husband set up a little black and white TV in eye shot of the treadmill. By the end of that week, thirty minutes was not that big a deal, the length of a Seinfeld re-run or a cooking show.

By the end of that first month, I’d worked my way up to forty-five minutes which often became an hour to finish whatever program I’d started. Exercise was quickly becoming something I looked forward to. It made me feel good and I was seeing the difference.

Last summer, while sitting around the pool, a friend asked me if I wanted to go for a run the next day.

“I don’t run,” I said. Sure I was still doing the treadmill most days, but that was only a kind a sorta run. My friend was a real runner the kind that did marathons. 

“We’re going tomorrow morning at 7, just join us.”

“Okay,” I said, fully planning to cancel by text around 6:45. 

But the next morning I found myself more curious than tired. So I went. Three women, all runners, and me. For the first mile I talked non-stop. If I could wind my way through a conversation, I might forget that I was not on my treadmill. By mile two, I was feeling okay, good actually. And by the time we reached the coffee shop that was our finish line, I felt like I could keep going. 

I did it. Until that moment I wasn’t even sure I wanted to do it. Running long distance had never been a stated goal of mine (of which there are many). But slowly, step by step, jog by jog, I was a runner. 

This morning out on my now daily jog, I thought of my sister-in-law and her crazy regimen. I get it now. 

Life happens in increments. It’s daunting, impossible even, to “get into shape”, “lose twenty pounds”, “find the love of your life” or “write a novel.”  But if you do it carrot by carrot, date by date, word by word, most things are possible.

You just have to be willing to drop and do ten. 

My God

My God

When grappling with the usual calamities of youth, things like heartache, injustice, bullies, not making the cheerleading team, my mother always had the same response. “Pray about it,” she’d say with intense ease. Her words relayed comfort, but her eyes had a “this is important” demeanor. And so even though I felt like saying, “I didn’t do well on a test, I’m not flunking out of school altogether!” Generally, I’d say a quick pray for good measure.

I always knew my mother’s intentions were honorable. I was also fairly certain that the spiritual leader of the universe did not have my misguided attempts at being junior high cheerleading captain on his 1984 priority list. Despite any efforts my mother made to convince me otherwise, this was something of which I was sure.

I was also fairly certain at an early age, that God, my God, was a good guy with an acute sense of humor. I don’t know why I never thought God could be a woman. Maybe because early on it was mostly me and my mom and I felt the need for a guy in the equation. 

Or, more likely because the figure pictured in the literature of the liberal, for a Catholic church, we attended was a Bohemian looking twenty something man. Somehow I knew that he, God and Jesus, was with us. And, I hoped he was patient since my mother conferenced him in a few dozen times a day.

I recall thinking of prayers, and probably religion in general, as a sort of equalizer between what could happen and what actually did. Like the time when I fell down our rather steep stairs and my mother quickly garnished the all white bottle of holy water from the pull down desk she had inherited from her grandmother. Within seconds of easing my tears, each of my scrapes and would-be bruises were blessed with dabs of water. And since nothing but a few achy muscles resulted from the fall, I remember thinking that the stuff must work. No broken bones or gashing head wounds. Just some routine pains.

As I got a little older, I naturally began to question. Was all this praying really necessary? Somewhere in my early teenage years the questioning turned to sarcasm and then round about sixteen a healthy hostility set in. My mother’s faith in God and his ability to cure anything and everything began to simply make me mad. It occurred to me that she was wasting quite a bit of her time, and therefore mine, in deep prayer about situations that she should just plain take control of herself. And so, as she’d recite her “pray about it” mantra, I began rolling my eyes at her blatant disregard for reality.  

Surprisingly, though, I never stopped praying myself. Sometimes, like before a test, I’d find myself doing a safety prayer. The kind that just can’t hurt. But, mostly I really prayed and believed that he was listening. 

I vividly remember a moment in college when a friend asked for my advice. After describing all of her options, she looked to me and asked, “What would you do?” Without a moment’s hesitation, to my slight embarrassment, I said, “I’d pray about it.” It was probably the first time I acknowledged my own faith in prayer, no longer just an extension of my mother’s.

Once, early in our marriage when faced with an important decision, my husband and I decided to pray.  Together.  It was an awkward moment.  Between the two of us we had several decades of praying experience, but neither one was particularly comfortable with the public prayer approach. So after a few seconds of  “you go, no you start” I just launched in.  

As I began outlining all the details, telling God that we weren’t sure of our next step, that we appreciated the options, but needed his guidance, I looked over at my husband who was clearly trying to contain laughter. “Then you say the prayer!” I blurted. 

“It’s just a little more free flowing than I am used to” he said, still trying not to laugh. And then I began laughing because I knew exactly what he meant. I talk to God like I am talking to a friend not an almighty being that big statues are built to or wars are fought over.
The God of statues and rosary beads has never been in sync with the being to which I pray.  I’m not sure that guy would’ve been well suited for the early on journey, with my mother and me. That God always seemed a little too organized.

I grapple with that God and my God, and with the endless litany of rituals associated with my religion. I avoid disgruntled Catholic conversations at all costs. I refuse to defend my religion. I’ve never relied on other human beings to interface with My God and I’m never quite sure what to say to people who do.

Last week in church my eight year old leaned over and in a half whisper asked, “Has anyone ever met God? How do we really know he exists?”

I thought about punting the question until later so that I could better formulate my response. Instead, I said in half whisper, “That’s where faith comes in. You have to figure out the answer to that question for yourself. That’s why we’re here.”

He stared straight ahead. I worried that I was too vague or not emphatic enough. My response was a far cry from the “pray about it” mantra I’d been handed at his age. I was ready for him to ask me what I thought. To give him the comfort that his Mom believed. But instead he turned to me and whispered, “My faith tells me it’s 50/50.”

I smiled. And I was pretty sure My God, the long haired hippy God, was smiling too. 

In The Garden
by Holly Howley

At the end of summer, just as the nights turn crisp and mums multiply, I make my ceremonial sauce. Forty juicy tomatoes that’s what it takes. Trial and error has gone into that number. It’s enough to make sauce for a few meals with some left over for the freezer. After all, these are not just any tomatoes. They are tomatoes from the garden. 

Growing up we had a garden. I recall few details of the actual planting but I remember checking daily for progress and cheering when the vegetables miraculously sprung from the ground. So, thirty five years later when my husband and I bought a house that came with a backyard garden plot, I couldn’t wait to share the experience with my own kids. 

I soon realized, though I had no idea what I was doing. That first year we, my two sons and I, did a lot of research. And then we planted way too many seeds, way too close together. Second year, we sowed half the seeds and everything farther apart. It was one of the hottest summers on record. The entire garden grew with rapid speed. Most nights July through September we enjoyed something from our homegrown harvest.

This year, a little more confidence has settled in, along with a healthy respect for what  lies before me. It has taken me a while but I now know that even the weeds have their place.

This morning as I poured over the past prime plants, picking the late blooming tomatoes for my ceremonial sauce, I felt the familiar struggle of the changing season. In the garden, in me. The garden has come to mean much more to me than the produce it provides. I’ve learned a lot, over the last few summers, in the garden. 

Space. Plants, like people, need space. When they are crowded they either get power hungry or topple from the weight of others around them.

Balance. Plants also require water and sun. But too much of either is, too much. Balance is important.

Timing. Never water in high heat. The water bakes the plants and makes everything droopy. It’s the same as trying to reason with a tantrum throwing toddler in a grocery store. Let the intensity subside, and things will work out just fine.

Imperfections. Get rid of weeds before they’ve fully taken root. If you wait too long, it can be difficult to tell which is the plant and which is the weed. After a certain point, it’s better to have some weeds growing side by side with the plants than to kill the vegetables trying to destroy the interloper. And sometimes, it turns out, the plants and weeds grow just fine, together.

Freedom. Let plants roam. I try to plan out the flow of the garden so that the rambling summer squash vines don’t invade the more controlled eggplants and tomatoes but in the end, the plants do what they want. I gently nudge them and tie them together on sticks and cages. Plants like people need direction, support. But don’t give them too much instruction. They’ll find the warmth they need, after they figure out which path is best for them.

Share.  There is nothing like the taste of juicy homegrown tomatoes or the tangy punch of garden leeks except the glory of sharing something you’ve grown with an unsuspecting friend.  

Letting Go. There is no perfection in the garden. I love getting my fingers dirty, tending the baby plants, sowing the growing fruit. But it isn’t orderly or pretty. I am usually a sweaty, buggy mess after I’ve spent time in the garden. And despite my best efforts in May to pristinely plant seeds in perfect rows, by July the garden is a twisty, twirly magical mass of green, ready to burst with the season’s bounty. 

Then just a few short weeks later, the vines wither, the fruit is picked, and even the weeds grow weary. Summer ends. 

And that’s when I make my ceremonial sauce--to remember--summer in the garden.


The house is still, strangely quiet. I am writing.

Rob sits in “his room” otherwise known as the living room, reading.  

Me writing, him reading, this is not unusual. 

But on this day, no one is asking: “Mom can I play the Wii?” “Dad what’s for breakfast?” “Have you called Parker’s Mom?” “What are we doing today?”

Instead I ask the question: “Want an egg?” 

Rob shakes his head, “Already had cereal.” 

When did I miss that? Surely the crunching should have pierced the deafening silence.

Our boys are with their grandparents this week. Off on adventures of an amusement park, historic site, summer nature. 

And we are home, living life. Going to work, eating, reading, sleeping, watching TV. In the past when we’ve had the odd occasion of being kidless for a series of days Rob and I would quickly schedule our own adventures. 

But this year is different. We just took our family vacation. I’ve just started a new job. And we are years into sleeping through the night, no longer in the “hunker down” stage where babies and toddlers muck up the ability to eat, sleep and shower.

We are in the middle. Of a week without kids. Of our lives.

I could tell you that I am lost without them. That I have no idea what to do with myself. That my husband and I are strangers rattling around in a house too big for two. And that would be sort-of true.

BUT this week when I clear the coffee table of the usual scraps of paper, abandoned drinks and day old newspapers, the next morning it’s still clutter-free. Wow.

Three days after going to the grocery store there is still food to eat and some of my favorite lemonade left. Cool.

And come to find out my husband and I still enjoy talking, to each other. Amazing.

It is all very wow, cool and amazing until I think about the fact that this is it. The future. 

Someday, with any luck, our kids will make it through higher education and find gainful employment. And this is what’s waiting for us

A clutter-free, silent, refrigerator filled house, together. With plenty of time to read and write and eat cereal. Weird. 

Sure this is many years off. Our kids are only 7 and 9. But this moment is strangely familiar and becoming more frequent. The realization that nothing stays the same, ever. 

I had a similar moment the day before my youngest started kindergarten. It was a Monday. What was supposed to be prep-day. Rationally, I knew not all that much would change. Will had attended half-day pre-school, now he would attend half-day kindergarten. But emotionally, I could feel it. A shift was underway.

So, with lunches to pack, back packs to ready I announced: “Let’s go to the beach!” 

“Doesn’t school start tomorrow?” Rob asked. 

“Yup,” I said, loading the car.

When we got to the beach, forty miles away, the kids ran on to the sand, leaving me to carry all the paraphernalia. I was feeling and looking a tad ridiculous. Not only was it the day before school but it wasn’t exactly a beach day. The sky was overcast, a chill hung in the air.

But to my surprise, as we approached the water, I was not alone. Four other moms I knew were there with their tribes too. There we all were. Holding on.

It is now two years later, and I am two short weeks away from having a 2nd and 4th grader. I’ve adjusted to the seven hours that used to be filled with Mommy Music classes and trips to the local library. They like their “new” life and I like mine too. Still, it’s different than it once was.

With any luck, someday I will adjust to this too. But I am decidedly not here yet. 

Apparently Rob isn’t either. 

“Want to call the kids?” he asks.

“Yup,” I say, getting the phone.