With this ring…

Though I’m a writer, I had no interest in writing my own wedding vows. It was partially my preference to utter the same words that our parents and grandparents did, following tradition. Another part of me was scared I would be too emotional, and I would be sniffling through the whole thing. Or that, in true writer form, I would want to edit what I wrote, after my deadline had passed. So, we went with traditional wedding vows.

Since that day, 11 years ago tomorrow, parts of those vows pop in my head at random times. Lately, it’s been “with this ring, I thee wed.”

I’m not a big jewelry person, but was thrilled the day we went out on a boat ride, and Chase asked me to marry him, with a diamond ring in hand. It was fun to pick a wedding band to match. One of my favorite wedding photos is of me looking up at him as he slipped the ring onto my left ring finger. At the time, I saw the rings as a physical symbol of marriage, but I didn’t spend a lot of time thinking about the meaning of the rings – or those words. I liked my new jewelry and went about married life.

Last year for our 10-year anniversary, I mentioned to Chase that I’d like a second band to go with my engagement ring and wedding band. He tricked me while I was having some work done on my rings and had our jeweler make me one. He surprised me on Christmas morning. It was beautiful, I was excited about the extra sparkle but still wasn’t that focused on the symbolism of it. If only I knew.

Before Chase bought me the new ring, I took my rings off each night for bed. I didn’t bother putting them on to exercise. Didn’t wear them at the pool or beach. Turns out having them fused together made my rings tighter, and I’ve since changed my routine and wear them all the time. It changed my habits, as well as my attitude toward the rings. They’re more important to me now than they’ve ever been.

The rings are now tighter. Unmovable. Part of me. A constant reminder of the of the vows we made 11 years ago – for better or worse, in sickness and health. We’ve had our share of all of that the past few years. As we travel though life’s ups and downs, the rings represent the promises we made. To be here, together. Wearing these rings. Riding the waves. We’ve had many days of work stress, sick parents, strained relationships around us and so many kids’ activities that we have no time for ourselves. But we’ve also had days of pure joy. Family, friends, vacation, work success, watching the kids grow into good people. Life is a f-ing roller coaster, but as these rings tightened around my finger, I strengthened the grip on my marriage.

11 years is something to be proud of, but it’s just a start. We have a long way to go, but I have no doubt we’ll get there. With this ring…

 

Seasons

I’ve had people tell me they couldn’t live in San Diego because we don’t have seasons. It’s true that our seasons are all fairly mild, but throughout the year we do see a change from my perfect temperature (77 degrees), to a little too hot or a little too cold. Occasionally (especially this past winter) it rains. It’s often cloudy at the beach. So despite what you see on TV, it’s not always perfect.

Kind of like the seasons of life. I’ve found myself comparing the two a lot this week, with the blooming of my favorite (So Cal) tree, the jacaranda. I remember May 2004 when I was finishing grad school in D.C. and coming to California, with the hopes of moving here. I landed in L.A. for work meetings, where I first discovered the jacaranda. I was staying in Pasadena, where they lined the streets. They weren’t quite cherry blossoms, but I found myself drawn to them. They were blooming at a time in my life that, like it was for the tree, seemed like a time of renewal. A time of opportunity and change and a fresh start.

Each May, these trees bloom in a season that for me, personally, has historically brought so much change. In 2006, I was planning my wedding. In 2008, Clay was born at their full peak. In 2010, as their flowers popped up, I was trying to keep my act together after giving birth to my second child and losing my dad in a two-week timespan. The next few years were a blur. But I always noticed the jacarandas as we spent time at parks and ball fields, in a different season of life. In 2013, on Clay’s birthday, I lost my job. More change. A few years passed, relatively uneventful. Now as I’m driving or walking past my favorite tree, it’s another season of change. Transitions at my day job. Huge growth in my business. Family health concerns. Unexpected challenges. Big kids.

Seasons are unpredictable. So is life. Sometimes it can be so good you’re pinching yourself thinking how lucky you are. And then quickly followed by one change that can literally send you to your knees, wondering what’s next.

So what does this season hold? I don’t know. It could be 60 and drizzly, like it is today. Or 80 and sunny like it’s supposed to be next week. It could be a day where everything in life seems perfect or a day that absolutely nothing goes right.

I do know one thing. Those jacarandas bloom every May, regardless of what’s going on in life. We can’t control the seasons. Or life. So enjoy those pretty purple flowers. It’s their season. And yours.

Halfway there

Today my munchkin is nine. At close to five feet tall, I guess he’s not really a munchkin anymore. The name fit better when he was a scrawny preemie, or even as a 1-year-old whose pants fell down because he was so skinny. Now he’s the biggest kid on his baseball team, even though he’s one of the youngest. When I look at him now, I don’t see a little boy. He’s a big kid.

I’m often reminded how quickly the time with our children goes by. People say it all the time, but I know now how true it is. The time you have with your kids is fast and fleeting. We’re halfway done. Nine years from now, Clay will have just made his final decision on where to attend college, and he’ll be planning that next step. Getting ready to leave me and Chase and Avery, to go onto his next adventure.

Until then, I’m soaking it all up. Every moment. When he grabs my hand walking through the Target parking lot. When I hear him say to his sister, completely out of the blue, “I love you, Avery.” When he tries to fit his huge body onto Chase’s lap at a party. When he comes home from school and immediately goes to hug the dog. When a friend makes a great play in a game, and he’s as excited for them as he would be if he made the play himself.

This kid. He’s so even-keeled, much like his dad. I know he gets disappointed and angry like all boys his age, but he (usually) handles it well. Also like his dad, he’s a good communicator. I hope this never changes. When that sweet boy is mad or sad, I hope he will always talk to us, the way he does now.

I hope he’ll always defend his sister. And continue to be nice to everyone. Not just his close group of friends, but all of the kids. I hope he’ll always be a good teammate. A strong leader, driven to do the right thing. I hope his favorite things will always be family vacations and a good meal together.

The funny thing about working with teenagers is that I watch some of them and think, “I want my kid to be like that kid.” And the beauty of this halfway point? I think Clay is well on his way.

Happy 9th birthday to my munchkin!

Lucky #7

I started this blog five years ago, on Avery’s second birthday. In many ways it feels like an eternity has passed. An eternity that’s gone by in a blink of an eye. For years I wrote regularly, but as life took its twists and turns, blog posts became less frequent. But I’ll never miss a birthday post. It’s the way I document my kids growing up. Celebrating the little people, who’ve become big people so quickly.

Today is lucky #7 for my Avery. Oh, Avery. She takes my breath away sometimes. Her beauty and independence. Her passion. I often just watch her, sometimes frustrated, but always proud. She’s a strong little girl. She never tires, she’s up for anything, at any time. She has so many interests I can hardly keep them straight – dancing, singing, painting, soccer, swimming, dolls and animals. Her “favorite thing” changes with the wind, with the exception of the stuffed sea turtle that she’s clung to tightly to since her brother picked him out for her first birthday (and this year, she finally stopped sucking her thumb when sleeping with “Turtle”).

She’s one of those kids who is good at most things she tries. The type of kid I envied when I was young, wondering why everything came so easily to them. Besides some natural athletic and vocal ability (which she did not get from me), the reason Avery is good at things is because she’s willing to try anything. She gives 100 percent to all that she does. She’s not worried about what others think. She puts her heart into everything. She wants to do well. Good things happen to her because of that positive energy and hard work. I can only hope that continues with age.

As much as she loves being active, she values relationships above all else. She’s a good friend and sister. She has many “best friends” and a “boyfriend” and more than once I’ve seen her come to their defense. Kids can be mean, so watch out if you’re mean to one of Avery’s friends. Her brother is her true best friend. They still share a bed and on most Saturday mornings, we wake up to find them cuddled together on the couch. Even if they’re watching different “shows,” they’re under a blanket on the same couch cushion. Messy hair and sleepy smiles. For each other and for us.

We’re in a hotel room in L.A., after a fun birthday celebration at the American Girl store yesterday. We’re taking off to Florida today for our first-ever spring break trip. Beach time and junk food and family and friends. What a great way to celebrate lucky #7, for our very special Avery Gracie. Happy birthday, baby girl. We love you.

 

Things we take for granted

img_7676I’m the first to admit, I’ve done my share of complaining the past couple of weeks. I got sick on what was supposed to be a fun business trip, I worked a really long week last week and now we’re living in a construction zone because of work we’re having done on our house. Like every fall, when things are NUTS at work and home, I’m tired. I’ve missed out on activities for my kids. But really, how much do I take for granted? A LOT.

So that work trip? It was in Las Vegas! I saw amazing friends and business partners. I attended fantastic business sessions put on by a company that I am proud to represent, knowing we are on our way to becoming a billion dollar brand. So what if I puked (repeatedly) in my lovely hotel room bathroom? I’m healthy now. Some are not so lucky.

And work. Nearly 30 hours over two days is a lot. But how many people would take my place in a heartbeat? How many families are struggling to pay the bills while I put on a cocktail dress and chat with fascinating alumni of the amazing school where I am fortunate to work? I followed that event up having drinks with wonderful colleagues before spending the night at my in-laws’ beach house, so I could get a good night’s sleep. Though exhuasting at times, it’s hardly a rough gig.

My house. It’s a mess because I’m getting new floors. Something I’ve wanted since we moved in six years ago! It took some time to pick up for the installers, and the dust in there will make it feel like we’ve moved to the desert, but it’s going to look amazing, and we are lucky to have a roof over our heads, in a great neighborhood, in America’s finest city.

Missed kids’ activities. I missed three weekends of sports. Military parents and those with other work commitments miss out on far more. Others are not healthy enough to attend their kids’ games. I’ll be fine – and so will my kids.

I’ve written about this before, but as we are in this crazy fall, coming upon a season of thanksgiving and gratitude, I needed to write to remind myself to not take all I have for granted. For those who are struggling, in any aspect of your life, know that I’m thinking of you. And for those of you who get overwhelmed like I do – even though deep down you know how lucky you are – I understand. Let’s get through this crazy season together!

You’re here – for once

FullSizeRenderThere is no greater range of emotions than those felt by parents on a daily basis. “I love her so much my heart could explode” can turn into “that child is a f-ing lunatic” in a matter of moments. Multiple times per day. Only someone you love this much could make a non-bipolar person feel both the highest of highs and the lowest of lows.

I had a work retreat yesterday, at a resort north of town. It was finished early, so I surprised the kids by picking them up right after school instead of from after-school care. I hid under a tree near Avery’s classroom, and her little face when she walked out and saw me could have lit up a room. She shrieked and jumped into my arms. We spun around and had a minute of pure bliss. I put her down for her to grab her backpack, and as we were walking away, she nonchalantly said, “You’re here – for once!”

FOR ONCE?!?

She might as well have punched me in the stomach. I wanted to respond, indignantly. I wanted to shout: “I pick you up at 4:00, it’s not like you’re here all night!” “I’m at every special event at school!” “I took a vacation day to dress up as the Statue of Liberty’s for your brother’s class!” “I took the job I have, so I could have flexibility for my kids.”

Coincidentally, “active listening” was the topic in our sessions that morning. So instead of responding, I bit my tongue.

The truth is, the school year for me is just as busy as it is for them. So it’s true – I’m rarely there at 2:30. She was just stating the obvious, not intending to hurt my feelings.

So while my initial reaction was sadness and feeling defensive, I had to remind myself that Avery doesn’t care how often I’m there right at 2:30. She knows I’m there when it matters. She knows I do work I love and when she grows up she will remember me, like Chelsea Clinton remembers Hillary, that “regardless of what was happening in her life, she was always there for me.”

I hope both of my kids find passion in their careers. I hope that passion is strong enough to keep Avery in the workforce, even when she has children (assuming that’s what she wants to do). I hope that when her daughter says something flippantly, in a moment of excitement, that she doesn’t take it too personally.

At the end of the day, I know she knows I’ll be there for her forever, not for once. Forever just might not start at 2:30 on weekdays.

Perspective

55171_20130823_211126_tumblr_mrykh5NxST1qh77fdo1_500When things go just a little bit wrong in life, it’s so easy to feel sorry for yourself – or to complain about it. For some reason, minor life challenges have bothered me lately more than they should. Maybe it’s the post-vacation blues. Maybe it’s the pending start of another school year, which means craziness at home and at work.

I’ve told myself to have some perspective. But telling yourself to do something and actually doing it are two very different things.

Yesterday morning, a friend finished up her last breast cancer treatment, after a difficult year. Her best friend (who is also my friend) recently started chemo to treat the same terrible disease – and faces a year of challenges ahead.

Later in the day, a friend had skin cancer removed, at the same time she is dealing with a family member’s health issues.

Today, my boss called me at 6:30 a.m. When you work in communications, early morning phone calls from the boss can only mean one thing: crisis communication. A beloved teacher at our school passed away suddenly last night, while on vacation with his family. I felt physically ill as tears came to my eyes. He has two teenage children and my heart breaks for them.

The past two days have been a slap in the face, helping me to find the perspective I lost in a sea of stress over little things. Life is good. We are all healthy. Happy. Some aren’t so fortunate. For them, I pray. For myself, I’ve found the perspective I needed.

Back to school…the busiest time of year!

School books with apple on desk

It’s August. How is that possible? What does August matter, you may ask? Well, in most places in the country, it’s the start of a new school year.

Yes, I realize the calendar year starts in January, but for people who have school age kids, August is the month when everything starts fresh. A new school year is exciting and fun – and overwhelming and expensive, exhausting and hard!

People complain that the holidays are busy (and I agree), but in direct comparison, I think the start of a new school year may be worse. It may very well be the most expensive – and time intensive – time of the year.

The expenses, oh, the expenses! New clothes. New shoes. PTA memberships. Classroom supply donations. Sports registration. After school care annual fee. New football and soccer cleats. School foundation donations. Hair cuts. Huge Costco bills. New back packs. Another set of new backpacks when the kids don’t like the first ones (I’m hoping this one doesn’t come true).

And the time. Buying the shoes and clothes. Back to school night. Practices. Sorting through 100 forms to fill out, per kid. Homework. Foundation board meetings. Costco shopping. More practices. More homework. More late nights and dark circles. More time applying eye cream (thank goodness I get this at wholesale cost).

Gone are the days of lounging by the pool every afternoon. Gone is the chance to make a 4:30 p.m. barre class with time to spare. Gone is the wiggle room in our budget for regular happy hours and family trips (see expenses above). Gone is drinking beer at the pool while the kids swim because you don’t have to drive anywhere else for the rest of the night. Gone are the days of calling grilled hot dogs “dinner” because you have them leftover from a weekend barbecue.

It’s all over, soon enough. But you know what’s here? Hopefully another great year for our munchkins. We’ll get back to normal and back on track with time and money soon enough…just in time for Christmas!

 

 

 

 

Still my favorite

Yesterday, my Facebook memories reminded me of this post, from five years ago as we were approaching our fifth wedding anniversary.

marriage

I wrote a blog post about it then, but I just came across an article about marriage in the New York Times, where Dan Cole of the Gottman Institute said, “40 years of research on couples has taught us the difference between the ones who make it and the ones who don’t. There is an emotional connection that occurs when couples like, admire and respect each other. They talk to each other. They laugh together. When they speak to others about their partner they tend to brag about how great they are.”

Nearing our 10-year wedding anniversary, while I still think Chase is the right person for me, I now realize it’s because after all this time, we still have that emotional connection. There is no one I’d rather spend time with.

Full disclosure: like every married couple, we have our issues. I tell him what to do. He tells me (often in frustration) to leave him alone. He gets sleepy when he drinks. I try to wake him. Sometimes that works, sometimes he spends the night on the couch – and I’m secretly relieved. We aren’t always on the same page about which parenting issues are worth a battle and which ones aren’t. We don’t always agree on how to spend our money. We annoy each other and disagree, but…

There is no one I like more.

We spend every night talking in bed, like it’s the first time. We regularly stay up too late chatting and laughing, like we did when we first met 13 years ago – but back then it was on the phone. Last night we had a last minute dinner with friends, then came home and drank beer and talked for hours on the couch.

We have no secrets. And lots of mutual respect. We can agree to disagree. And clearly, I’m okay bragging about him. (I should probably apologize now for the razzing he will get from his friends for this post.)

I remember a quote from my matron-of-honor’s speech, who wished us the best on our wedding night and said it would be the night, “we loved each other the least,” which at the time I thought was odd. I get it now. I’ve never loved him more than I do now. Life changes – for the good and for the bad. People do too.

He’s still my favorite.

 

The last day of kindergarten – ever

IMG_5743Tomorrow I’m sending my baby off to the last day of kindergarten, and I’m surprisingly emotional about it. In the early (and exhausting) years of parenting, you just hope you and your children will make it to kindergarten without a trip to the ER or the psych ward. That the Goldfish crackers smashed into the floor and the shitty diapers will magically disappear. And they do. Well, the diapers anyway. And when they hit five, your little prince or princess gets dressed and heads out the door for the place that will change them forever.

They learn to read and write, and add and subtract. They learn the same stuff we learned 30+ years ago and have since forgotten. It’s both amazing and humbling, to learn “new” things from a kindergartner.

They make new friends. Pack their backpacks themselves. Make good choices. Stand up for their friends. They get excited when they see an older sibling or neighbor in the cafeteria. Find new passions. They run to you when you pick them up at the end of the day, jumping into your arms, while they’re still small enough to do so.

I’m relieved our school does not label the completion of kindergarten as a “graduation.” Mostly because I don’t think it’s a huge accomplishment – they all should finish kindergarten. Don’t get me wrong, kindergarteners look adorable in mini caps and gowns, much cuter than they will at 18, but kids are rewarded for every little thing these days, so I think it’s a bit much. I’m also glad that Avery won’t be wearing that regalia because I’m not sure I could handle the finality of it.

My baby is done with kindergarten. She’s off to first grade, where she’ll probably learn to drive and get a tattoo. Kidding, of course, but working with high school parents, they tell me all the time how fast the time goes. Before I know it she’ll be wearing the real cap and gown, be taller than me, and drive her tattooed self to the ceremony.

In the meantime, we’ll celebrate the end of the school year the way my family always did – dinner out at a restaurant of their choice. And I’m going to remind myself to just slow down. Enjoy the hell out of summer, spending time with these little people who each year learn and grow so much. It’s our last day of kindergarten, ever, but the start of so much more.