5 Important Life Lessons I Learned While My Dad Taught Me to Drive

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My oldest in 2004. She’ll be driving for real in a year.

“Ready?” he asks.

“Um, yeah. I think so,” I say. I shift the car into drive and gingerly lift my foot from the brake.

“Give it a little gas,” he says. I do and the car lurches forward like an overly ambitious toddler taking his first steps. I quickly slam on the brakes and we both whip back in our seats, our seat belts yanking tight.

“Rule number one,” says my dad. “Always wear a seat belt. Okay, let’s try again.”

Growing up in St. Louis, Missouri, in the mid-’80s meant I was eligible for a full driver’s license at 16. A few months before my birthday, my dad and I embarked on a series of weekend driving lessons, commandeering empty lots and deserted side streets. As an overly eager teen, I figured a few quick tutorials were all I needed to hit the road. Turns out I had a lot to learn. Here’s what my dad taught me about driving—and life: Continue reading “5 Important Life Lessons I Learned While My Dad Taught Me to Drive”

Comfort Food: Remembering My Grandmother

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Grandma Helen with my nephew Ben and my daughters Ruby and Ella in 2007.

Leaning forward in the backseat of the taxi, nose pressed against the window, my breath fogging it up with each exhale. No car seats, no seatbelts, the bare-bones car rattling along FDR Drive, the East River black and glassy on the left, the enormous red and white Coca-Cola sign forever winking just across the water. The mid-morning sky is wintry gray, solid and low – nothing like the sun-kissed blue of my now home thousands of miles away in the southern hemisphere. Apartment buildings rise high one after the other. Green and white streets signs whip by: E. Houston, Delancey, Grand.

It’s 1975 and we are back in the States on Home Leave, the official company term for the six weeks we take at the end of each year to travel the world and visit family back in the U.S. Home. Leave. We are both coming and going, leaving and arriving, traveling between our temporary and forever homes, each anchored at one end of the world. Continue reading “Comfort Food: Remembering My Grandmother”

Making Room on Mother’s Day

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My people, minus Josh who was still in the kitchen.

I woke up dazed and confused: this was not my pillow or my comforter. A Playmobil queen and her entourage stared at me from the other side of the room while a ginger-haired mermaid gazed sweetly down at me from the wall. Even more unsettling was the glowing yellow-faced clock that announced it was 9:04 a.m., two hours past my typical wake up time. Where the heck was I?

Then I remembered: I’d stumbled into my youngest daughter’s room sometime in the early morning when she’d come bouncing into our bed, awake for the day. Without saying a word, I’d padded down the hall, slipped into her slim twin bed and fell soundly back to sleep. Isn’t sleeping in what moms do on Mother’s Day?

Continue reading “Making Room on Mother’s Day”

The Life I’m Living: Car Accidents, Job Descriptions and Making Turkey Meatballs

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I am wrist deep in raw eggs and ground turkey, basil, rosemary and thyme. The peach-colored meat squishes through my fingers as I mix it with the homemade breadcrumbs I just pulverized out of gluten-free pretzels. It’s 1:30 in the afternoon and I am standing in my stinky morning workout clothes making turkey meatballs for dinner. I am telling you this because I do not like to cook. I do not enjoy the thinking up of a meal, the shopping for and prepping. I do not like managing the timeline of dinner, serving up various dishes nice and hot. I do not like begging my kids to please come to the table, not in a minute, but now. The day-long journey into dinner distracts me, pulling me away from a million other more important, more interesting, more pressing thoughts, endeavors and pursuits. It’s that annoying fly that won’t go away no matter how many times I swat at it.

Except somehow, today, it isn’t. Continue reading “The Life I’m Living: Car Accidents, Job Descriptions and Making Turkey Meatballs”

What I Learned On the Last Day of the Year

Found TreasuresAlmost a month into the new year and finally 2015 is a soft blur, a whirl of high emotion spinning over a constant, blinking beat of down lowness. I grappled with sadness and grasped at spurts of wonder, wanting to hold on to them, pocket them like found treasures: the smoothest amber stone glimmering in the creek bed, the tiniest acorn dropped too soon from the oak, the downiest gray feather clinging to the rose bush. Talismans. Augurs. Omens. Somehow they always slipped away.

I wanted so badly to make sense of each day, drop into bed satisfied and yawning, emerging each morning shining and whole, ready for Joy because – and this is true – Joy is everywhere. It’s right here in the kitchen in the buttered up frying pan, in the sizzling egg. Oh, and here it is again, in the sweet, firm kiss from my husband as I stand against the sink, dirty dishes piling. Now for some more Joy from the tail-wagging dog, her head in my lap, and in the gap-toothed grin of my four-year-old when she comes running to me after putting on her socks by herself. I sweep her up into my arms and…and…and what? I am fleetingly happy in the glow of others’ happiness, but Joy does not seep through my skin, douse my heart and stay. Continue reading “What I Learned On the Last Day of the Year”

Lists and Prayers

IMG_7747The Little One wakes in the middle of the night. “Mama, I’m scared,” she says. She is pressed to the side of my bed, her face inches from mine. I can just make out her tousled outline in the gloom. She is clutching her Elephant Lovey, wide-awake, restless, needing. I am sluggish and groggy, but not entirely asleep.

This is the fourth night out of the last five she’s come padding down the hallway before daylight. After the second night, my body reset itself to match her wonky circadian rhythm and I stir just seconds before I hear her door open. Each night before I click my light off, I plead to whatever divine power is in charge of slumber: “Please let her stay in her bed tonight.” My prayer is for me as much as it is for her. Once again my petition has been denied. Continue reading “Lists and Prayers”