Sunday, July 27, 2008

Another Loss of a Young Life

This has been a hard week. First, I heard about the passing of Katie B, the daughter of Shelley Burkett, a beloved scrapbook designer. Then I just got news that one of my daughter's friends, Monica Chao, was fatally injured in a car wreck Friday night. This girl was at our house on many occasions and we have so many pictures, you know ("Oh, Mom, you're not getting out the camera again"), and now those pictures are all we have.

I love how Erin, Katie, Casey and Monica hung out and had a great time in high school. It can be a tough time if you are not surrounded by girls who care for you and won't criticize you behind your back. These four girls had that kind of friendship. It was a joy seeing them together.

My heart goes out to Monica's parents who are now traveling down the road already pioneered by Shelley and her husband Mike. They all join the friends of mine: Theresa, Doug, JoAnn, Steve, and Anne who have had the sad duty of burying their children. As a mom, this just breaks my heart. I also grieve for her older sister, Frances, who is having the sad job of communicating to all of us the plans. I pray for her to have strength to put one foot in front of the other.

I would like every parent out there to hug their children a little harder, call them just to say, "I love you," and take all the pictures you can, despite the protests.

Blessings to all families...

Center of the Watermelon

Nothing says “Summertime” like a good watermelon. But not just any ol’ melon, it has to be ripe, red and sweet. I’m sorry, but no matter how much training I get (mainly from the produce guy or any other Wal-Mart employee who happens to be walking through the produce section at the wrong time) I just can’t hear the “thunk” that lets me know it is a good watermelon.

When I get home from the store with groceries and watermelon buying was part of the process, I immediately cut into the melon to see what I got. Ripe? Rotten? Pale pink? Mushy? All of these thoughts are racing through my brain as my ginsu knife is making its way through the rind. Anticipation while I’m holding my breath. Nothing is worse (ok, maybe it is not the end of the world) than opening up the watermelon and, darn it! Another bad watermelon.

But oh, get a good one, and that is the absolute best. And yes, I have been known to eat the center of the watermelon and leave the rest for later. And I have never had to share. John and Casey don’t care for it. Well, that was true until I heard bad news from Spain earlier this week. Casey is finishing up her Spanish minor while abroad. When we were talking about the foods to get, I was rattling off the list:

Apples (check)

Bread (check)

Jello (sugar-free, check)

Redi Whip (no-fat, check)

Chicken to be grilled (check)

And then she said, (gasp!)
"I want some watermelon, too." “You do?” I questioned weakly. “Yes,” she replied, “I have been eating it over here.” Darn!! What happened? How did my watermelon monopoly suddenly collapse? I should have seen the signs.

When I was pregnant with Casey (born in September) I ate watermelon everyday. You know how they say, “You are what you eat.” Well, that had to be true, because my stomach was growing like a watermelon. I can even remember very vividly a dream that I had while pregnant. I dreamed that watermelon became scarce and was being sold for $50 a pound. Further, the only way it was being sold was by the slice and and it was displayed under glass (like the kind that covers cakes.) My husband says I dream in amazing detail and that there is usually a storyline.

After Casey was a baby, I took her to the grocery store. After I finished shopping, I strapped her in her seat first and then surrounded her with the paper bags full of groceries. On the way home, I could hear scraping sounds against the sides of the bags, and I asked, “Casey, what are you doing back there?” I didn’t get an answer. In fact, I asked her three times with the same results. She wasn’t being stubborn, she just hadn’t learned how to talk yet, That, of course, didn’t keep me from talking to her because I had a captive audience and I wanted to take full advantage of the time in which I didn’t have to worry about her talking back.

When we got home, I opened the back door of the car. Lo and behold, there was Casey, sitting in her seat with red juice dribbling down her mouth. There was the watermelon half covered in plastic. The little stinker had poked a hole in it and had been scraping out watermelon with her fingers. That was the last time I remember her eating watermelon because she has always turned up her nose anytime I offered. I didn’t care, more for me. Until now. Darn.

PS: When Casey scraped out the watermelon, wouldn’t you know it was the center? Like mother, like daughter.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Randy Pausch, You Will Be Missed

I was thinking about Randy Pausch during my yoga class today. If you've missed Time Magazine's 100 Most Influential People or the Oprah show where he appeared, you need to start the hunt for information on this man. He was a professor at Carnegie Mellon. But he would be quick to tell you that he was a husband and father first and then a professor. He also has pancreatic cancer. Put away the hanky because he chides those who feel sorry for him. His motto was probably: Don't cry for me, Argentina, or any other country for that matter. His goal was to live his life to the fullest.

I frequently dedicate my workouts to him as a way to remind me to be thankful for having a healthy body. Because I know that he is dying, I know that he would have loved to have been sweating. He definitely would not have been complaining about having to exercise.

I have been closely following Randy’s progress and have been checking his blog for months and scouring the internet for information on how he was doing. What I found was almost no news. This let me know that he was engaged in the right thing: concentrating on his family during his last days and putting the rest of us to the side. Good choice. Another good lesson for us.

I returned home from the Y and a dear friend let me know that Randy died today. I would love to say that my intuition was at work and that is why I was thinking about him. But the truth is, he has been present in my thoughts for a long time and I have told every single class that I have taught for the last few months about Randy’s story. I wanted everyone to catch his joy and gusto for living.

I have personally purchased 30 copies of his book and give them to friends or acquaintances who needs a boost or simply as gifts. “The Last Lecture’ is a wonderful read and I, for one, feel that Randy left words that will help his children really get a sense of their dad. The rest of us just happened to be the lucky bystanders. If you haven't read this, run, don't walk to your near bookstore (or go online) and get it (or even download it INSTANTLY from iTunes if you are the 'instant gratification type.) You won't be disappointed. Trust me.

And I cannot forget his wife Jai. She stands out in my eyes as a woman who loved her husband to the end and honored her vows of “in sickness and in health.” Randy picked a jewel when he set his sights on winning her heart. She certainly personified grace under fire as she gave a way a lot of her privacy to share her dying husband with the world. I only wished I lived down the street from her so I could make her a dinner or two.

Which reminds me: I may not know Jai, but I do have other friends and acquaintances that are hurting and could use a dinner or two. Thanks, Jai, for this lesson.

Tonight I raise my glass to Randy, Jai, and their adorable children. I love you all and thank you for letting us in the final days of Randy’s life. Randy, your words will live on. And I promise to be more conscious of where my time is going. Time to get off the computer and snuggle with my wonderful husband. Amen.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Happy 4th of July!!

4th of July is one of my favorite holidays. First, because it is my grandmother's birthday. None of those dainty, old lady cards for her. I get to make cards with pop ups with fireworks and cool flag stuff. Great way to use up all my Mrs. Grossman's stickers that I bought, well, by the gross. This year is her 99th birthday and she is likely to be a candidate for Willard Scott's 100 year birthday list sponsored by Smucker's. If she makes it to 100, her card may have to have real live sparklers that ignite upon opening. Stay tuned!!

There's even more to love. One of my favorite memories of the 4th occurred in Charleston, S.C. John, Casey and I visited a ton of forts that day (John's idea of a dream day.) We then went to the Yorktown air craft carrier. We were supposed to see the symphony on the flight deck, but the driving rain caused a change in plans. We ended up in the hangar area. The director of the symphony was unforgettable. She emerged in a striking strapless red sequined dress with a tall Uncle Sam's hat. She had salt and pepper hair and looked like the character Maude. She was elegant and one heck of a director. She had the entire crowd eating out of her hand. The music was beautiful. The audience was not only the folks in the hangar but also small boats that gathered around the large ship. Each had tiny lights and looked like stars on the water.

The rain finally stopped and we went on the flight deck to see the fireworks show. It was a duel of the best kind. There were majestic fireworks and then fantastic lightning would web the sky in the distance. Man. God. Man. God. God won.

Another cool 4th took place in Boston, one of the cradles of the Revolution. We began the day by taking the Freedom Trail and walking all over Boston. We loved each glorious step. We then returned back to our hotel room because it overlooked the park where the Boston Pops were playing. We had the best seat in the house! But wait! There's more! A Stealth bomber flew over the area and the pilot tipped his wings to his mom who was in the park. The bomber flew right by our hotel window and gave us a sight few have ever seen.

As Tim Russert would say, "What a country!"