The Color of the Fence

The Color of the Fence

When my daughters were little girls and I would tuck them in at night we played imagination games together so I could get them to fall asleep.

Many times the bedtime readings were not enough…and Dr. Seuss usually got them more excited than relaxed at bedtime.

One day I invented a game that worked for me for years in helping get them to sleep and just last night when I found myself wide awake at 2 am I thought of the game again…and sure enough, it worked!  I fell asleep within 5 or 6 minutes.

This is how the game went.  I would ask them a series of questions meant to help them visualize a pasture with sheep, and then we would count the sheep.  I know…not very original…but it was…because each night we played, the pasture and the sheep would change.

First I would tell them to close their eyes and think of a field with short grass.  And then the questions would begin:

  1. What color is the grass?
  2. Let’s build a wooden fence around the field.  What color is your fence?
  3. We left all the sheep outside the fence!  What color are the sheep?
  4. How many sheep do you think we have?  Let’s count them as they jump over the fence…
  5. and so we would count…slowly, until they fell asleep.

My oldest daughter loved this game and she was very imaginative with her sheep.  Her grass was almost always pink when she was very little and later it was always green because “there is no such thing as pink grass mom!”  Her sheep sometimes had stripes and polka dots and once they were all rainbow sheep.

She, being the oldest of course, outgrew the game first–one day announcing “I’m sleepy mom, I don’t want to build a fence.” And soon after, this little game was not needed for her to fall asleep. She has always been straightforward and logical.

The youngest also enjoyed this game but always tried to outsmart me. I would ask her the game questions and she would answer with a question of her own.  I would ask her what color is your fence? and she would ask me why the fence had to be made of wood?

It always took me a little bit more time to get her to sleep and I have to admit a few times I think she put me to sleep because I would wake up sometimes an hour later, still in her bed beside her.

She outgrew the game when she decided one evening that she did not want the sheep to jump the fence and come poop in her field. She has always been curious and practical.

And so the game was forgotten.

Until last night I had not thought of it in a long time…but in my mind I thought of long yellow grass, surrounded by a short white wooden fence.  I thought of white and gray sheep and as I visualized them jumping over the fence into the field I started to count…1, 2, 3, …. I was asleep before I knew it. The game still works.

What color is your fence?

Making the Most of Marriage

Making the Most of Marriage

Marriage is hard work. Some people make it look easy.

I’ve been reading a few books lately about people with successful, happy marriages and their secrets.

I have also spent some time thinking about people in my life who have had long, successful marriages and what have made it so.

There are two things that are present in all these examples: Trust and Communication.

Sounds pretty easy and foundational right?

I was amazed when I asked a few friends what trust and communication looked like in a marriage to find how many struggled to come up with a definition or example.

Here are my thoughts. Trust in marriage is simple to define if you have it. It means that every aspect of your life is safe in the hands of the other person.

That means that each half of the couple looks out for the other physically, emotionally, financially, and spiritually.

And here’s the best part of trust in successful marriages: this trust is given and received automatically by both parties without having to discuss it, measure it or ask for it.

It just is.

Communication, likewise, in loving and successful marriages is almost a natural extension of the marriage itself.

It means the couple is willing to communicate about anything and everything. It does not mean the couple has to agree.

But both are free to express themselves verbally or non verbally and know that the other will respect and accept their opinion.

It just is.

That is what makes it not hard to define, but hard to achieve. It takes time to develop and it takes practice and work to keep it consistent so that a marriage will stand the test of time, trials and testaments.

Making the most of your marriage is a worthwhile effort and looking back years from now to see the success and strength in your relationship is a blessing.

And it all begins and ends the same same way: with trust and communication.

Countdown to Christmas

Countdown to Christmas

I know, I know…it is shameful to think of Christmas right after Halloween with still 2 1/2 weeks until Thanksgiving…but today markes 50 days to Christmas and I have still not gotten one Christmas gift!

Some of you may think that I am over-reacting but if you knew me you would know that usually I begin my Christmas shopping in July and by Halloween the only task I have left is the wrapping.

In years past starting early and having everything taken care of way before the blessed day has helped me reduce the holiday stress and spread out any expenses over several months–which of course further helps reduce the holiday stress.

I have always done very deliberate planning for the holidays so that I do not fall into the consumer trap of over buying or feeling obligated to gift people that are normally not on my list.

I also have made it a point, in the last 10 years now, to purchase a few toys and clothing items to donate for kids that have less than we do. It’s what I believe the season is for.

I don’t know how this year has gotten away with me…but it did.  I love Christmas, but I do not love the added rush around craziness that comes with it.  Here are a few tips to help you have a stress free Merry Christmas.

  1. Make a list of the people you would like to get gifts for–and check it twice.
  2. Understand what your budget is for the season and stay true to your limits.
  3. Think of unique ways to “gift” the people on the list.
  4. Shop as early in the day as you can when you go out to shop.
  5. Consider online shopping to avoid traffic, long lines, product shortages and frustrations.

Ultimately, Christmas should not be about the presents under the tree but the people around it.  Spending time with those you love–family and friends–is much more important than finding the perfect coffee maker, 45 tools in one, trendy toy of this year.

50 days to go folks!  Make them count and enjoy the season.

No Place Like Home

No Place Like Home

No Place Like Home

Just like Dorothy in the Wizard of OZ  sometimes I just want to click my heels and be instantly transported away from wherever I am to my little safe haven–my home.

I may not be dealing with the Wicked Witch of the West or the Flying Monkeys (although sometimes I am!) but thinking of being home will often lower my anxiety immediately because I know once I am there I am safe from the world.

We all have a basic need to feel safe–from danger, from criticisms and even from the judgements that others pass on us–although the older I get the less I care about those judgements.

These safe havens are what we make of them.  It is the one place in the world where the stresses of life can be lessened and the burdens put to rest–at least for a little while.

I have always taken pride in my home and love to decorate it with things that reflect my personality and that represent my family.  I am not the best housekeeper but I do try to keep things as neat and clean as I can.

The key to this is organization.

In our busy runaround lives though especially during on the workweek, shoes get left next to a favorite chair, the newspapers and magazines along with the mail begin to pile up, plants go unwatered and more often than now there are a few dishes in the sink.

Nonetheless, I always find the time to put things to rights.  I have also been on a decluttering journey this year and that has helped a great deal.

Having a place for everything and putting every in its place.  My decluttering has taken me much longer than I expected it to take but I have accepted that it is a process.  And once the decluttering is done–the upkeep is a much simpler chore.

One way I keep my home inviting and that helps me feel welcomed to it each day is by doing my 15 minute cleaning.  I basically tackle a task for 15 minutes and then stop. This can be done in the morning or in the evenings or in between TV shows.

If  you don’t have 15 minutes, you can still organize the things in your house in 5 minutes.  Take 5 minutes to go through the mail for example and put everything that has to be shredded on the shredder.  Address the items that need to be addressed or put them in your planner for the next day.

Do a walk through your house and pick up newspapers that are read, empty water bottles and any other things that belong in the recycle bin.  It quickly declutters and cleans up your area–making your home more pleasant to be in.

There really is no place like home–the one place in the whole world where you are always welcome and where your space is defined by you. Keep your home a haven that is clean and safe and that hugs you when you walk through the door.

How do you keep your home a haven?  

Liberation Day

Liberation Day

Some of the most important things I have learned in life I learned from my parents.

I have been very fortunate to have parents that were always present, involved and encouraging .

They taught me to depend on them while I grew into my own independence.

Likewise, it was my goal, as a parent, to be present and guiding but to make sure my children could stand on their own two feet.

And like my parents, we did a good job because just like I became stubbornly independent in my 20s, so too have the girls become independent.

My dad calls it Liberation Day! It truly was liberating for all of us.

The girls now liberated were taking those first scary steps into adulthood and we, the parents, are also liberated to continue with our lives, goals and dreams outside of parenthood.

But it does not end there. My father in declaring Liberation Day shows his pride in the passing of the torch to the next generation.

So today I celebrate that we have made it to this point in time, with gratitude and high hopes for the future!

Happy Liberation Day!

Of Weddings and Funerals

Of Weddings and Funerals

Nothing seems to mark the passage of time more than the weddings and funerals in our lives.

The weddings are always happy occasions when we have the chance to get together with family and friends to celebrate the beginning of a couple’s life together. At least for me.

It doesn’t matter what age the happy couple is or if this is their first or second (or third) marriage. It is a beginning, a fresh start with the expectation and promise that it holds. It is a celebration of life.

It is the clock of life that ticks off to these moments. We often think of our own lives at weddings–sometimes remembering our own weddings or those of others. The life lived before and after such events. The choices we have made and how that defines us–in reference to time passed and time yet to come.

As we get older, funerals also give us an opportunity to see friends and family although for a more somber occasion. This too is a celebration of life.

This is a time when again we hope for that new beginning with the promise of everlasting life in heaven.

But it is also a reminder of our mortality, of the fact that our time on earth is limited.

When a friend or family member passes away, regardless of their age, we think about the impact they had in our lives–sometimes big and sometimes small–but an impact nonetheless.

And we think of our lives at funerals, before that moment, and what it will be after that moment. It is a time to be grateful, to appreciate and to take advantage of the time we have left.

So always remember to celebrate life–those of others–and your own! These milestones, weddings and funerals, help us remember to slow down from our hurry up run around life and enjoy everything we can.

I hope your life is full of joy and rich memories!

Going To The Dogs

Going To The Dogs

We are dog people.  Although we had a dog growing up–and I loved him–when I left for college, I left the dog behind with the folks. It seemed natural that it would be mom’s dog.

As I grew older–I always felt I was not a pet person, a pet is just so much work!  I enjoyed other people’s dogs, but was just not ready to commit.

After I had children, my kids wanted a pet so we started small.  The fish, of course, all died. The girls were crazy about their hermit crabs… until they died. The hamster we had for a while bit one of the girls–and it eventually died. We had a rabbit–that, you know, died.

So when they started asking for a puppy–I was NOT on board. Clearly we were not good with animals. But they pleaded and promised and finally we struck a deal.

I promised I would buy them a puppy, if they both got straight As in school that semester. They were both good students–and usually made good marks–but I could tell they were getting “bored” with school, so I felt pretty secure that everything would not be an A, maybe a high B.

God, of course, had other plans–not only did they both get straight As, they got very high As, excelling at everything!  And a promise is a promise.

I bought a puppy.  A white, female, toy poodle we named Cici. She was the runt of the litter, but was certified–and so darn cute. The girls adored Cici!  They carried her around and spoke to her and fed her and took her out to train her to do her business. And everything as they say was perfect–a happy ending.

Until the 4th day.  On the 4th day that Cici was part of our family my youngest came to me and was sad.  I–in my ignorant bliss–asked her why she was sad? She said she was sad because Cici was sad.

Alarm bells started going off in my head.  I went to the dog’s bed and there was Cici, completely lethargic, she could barely raise her head and did not want to eat or drink.

I called my mother to please come watch the girls while I ran off to the Veterinarian–praying the whole way that we were not about to lose another beloved pet.

The Veterinarian took charge right away, thank goodness, and gave Cici an IV and ran some blood tests. After about 3 hours, Cici was back to normal–playful and happy.  

The diagnosis: Cici was hypoglycemic and would need constant care until she was bigger, stronger and able to level out her blood sugars with food.  I had no idea what this meant–because at that moment, I was also handed the bill–$1200.00!

Her “constant care” turned out to be a feeding schedule that we had to maintain, making sure she ate every 2 hours and also had a teaspoon of Nutri-cal paste which came in tubes that were $15.00 a pop!

Mom had to help me on several nights when I just could not get up to do the 2 hour feedings–and the feedings during the day when I had to go to work! It was a nightmare…and then soon enough it passed…Cici not only survived but thrived for years with us.  Until she ran away or maybe someone took her—she was a very pretty dog!

Since that time we have had several dogs in our lives.  When the girls left the nest to go to college–they left the dogs behind with me.  It seemed only logical that now they were mom’s dogs.

Me–the reluctant dog owner–who was afraid to get too attached to these animals that I knew would one day break my heart. Yet here I am, the dog owner.

I have turned into the strangest version of myself talking to these dogs and having complete conversations with them. They are my friends. And they are fiercely loyal.  And while I like to play at being tough–I love them to pieces.

The youngest daughter–in college now–recently adopted a new puppy! The family’s newest addition! (pictured above)  I don’t know how they are faring in that small apartment but they both seem very happy with the other. 

We are dog people. It seems that this family has completely gone to the dogs!