Friday, February 27, 2015

A Successful Season

Baseball is JT’s first sporting love.  He’s been dreaming of being a part of our school’s baseball team since he first began playing Little League.  That’s a lot of time to dream and the arrival of the baseball season seems a bit unreal.  Unreal or not, baseball practice begins next week.  This week, in preparation for the season, gear was distributed.  Yesterday, he came home with his uniform, complete with his name and number on the back.  He took it directly upstairs and hung it is his closet.  That is the first time he’s hung an item of clothes in his closet without a specific order from me.

The baseball season is already a terrific success.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Your Weekly Amaryllis: Week Eight

Each morning when I get up, the amaryllis awaits me at the foot of the stairs, sitting on a plant stand facing the window.  When the sun begins to pinken the sky, the amaryllis will have a first glimpse of the light.  The sun is coming up sooner and sooner each morning, a welcome sign of Spring.  We are tantalizingly close to a bloom on the bulb.  Even as the cold tightened its grip on us this month, the flower determined to show itself.

One morning soon the bulb will bloom, a most welcome development as this bitterly cold Winter considers releasing its grip on us.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

On Willpower and Winter

Because of my well-established aversion to pants, my Winter wardrobe requires a collection of tights to keep my legs warm.  I stock up in September and eagerly await the first cool weather in November.  When temps in the low 50s arrive, I happily pull out my tights and feel toasty.

As the Winter drags on, the tights and I have a love-hate relationship.  I love that they keep me warm and match my skirts and dresses.  I hate the way that they sometimes feel uncomfortable and binding.  Invariably, there are a few mornings when I get them on twisted and spend an entire unpleasant day with an uncomfortable tight feeling behind my knee.  By January, I no longer welcome a morning wrestle with my tights.  In February, I start counting down the days until I need not wear them again, blaming them for the time they take from my morning.  It’s worth noting that while I take account of the weather in the Fall and don’t pull on tights until the temperatures are cold enough to require them, come March, I don’t give a damn about the weather.  In my tiny mind, March means Spring and Spring means I don’t have to wear tights anymore.  

By mid-February, I have my eye on the calendar in preparation to give up tights for the season.  We have Spring Break for the 2nd and 3rd weeks of March and during that time, I will pack up the tights and switch over my closet to warmer- weather clothing.  No matter how cold late March is, I will not wear tights again.  In the Middle School, sneakers are allowed and so I will bridge the chill gap with sneakers and socks.  Sometimes, they will match my blue legs.  But the tights will be gone, no longer tormenting my mornings.  

Should the days remain a bit chilly, a likely prospect considering the last few months around here, there’s always my pride to keep me warm.

Sunday, February 22, 2015


I know that it’s temporary, but after last night’s 6 inches of snow finished falling, sunlight and warmth drifted our way late this morning.  It’s 42 degrees as of this writing and a day that started covered in icy white has begun to mellow.  However temporary, the melting on our streets and sidewalks is a welcome reminder that this winter can’t last forever.  

When I lived in rural northeast Nebraska, and a slightly warmer wind came blowing our way toward the close of Winter, we called it the Chinook and it generally signaled warmth to come.  I know today’s Northeastern Chinook won’t last because I’ve seen the forecast for our next 10 days.  But right now it feels lovely, as if Spring is just around the corner.

We’ll take it.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Pantone Color of 2015: Marsala

Pantone’s color of 2015 is Marsala, known to the rest of us as maroon.  If you want to be more bold, we could go with dark red.  Pantone, of course, is hoping you don’t take my simpleton’s approach.  They want you to embrace the color and the idea of Marsala.  And they want you to head right out to the mall and buy truckloads of Marsala clothes, Marsala accessories, Marsala appliances, and Marsala furniture.  Seriously, what in hell are you waiting for?  BUY SOME MARSALA.

Pantone is stepping up its press release game this year, as you can see for yourself.  However, if you’re the type to loll about while others gather facts and do the hard work for you, I can sum it up.  Marsala will enrich your mind, body and soul and help you to exude, “confidence and stability.”  It’s “dramatic” and “grounding.”  I don’t like to point fingers, but that’s a damn sight more effective than the therapist you’ve been seeing for years.  Imagine how many Marsala-hued goods all those co-pays will buy you?

Marsala is “sophisticated”, “stylish”, and “natural.”  You could do worse.  Much to my dismay, Marsala doesn’t take a hit on last year’s color of the year.  I guess that time-honored act of Pantone passive aggressiveness has gone the way of 2014 and Radiant Orchid.  That’s personal growth, Marsala, the kind of growth that can only be achieved by your “embracing warmth” and the “radiance” you exude.  Good for you, Marsala!

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Your Weekly Amaryllis: Week Seven

Mardi Gras was this week and that means only six weeks until Easter.  The calendar promises that Spring will officially arrive in four weeks.  In two weeks, we spring our clocks forward, adding more sunlight to the end of our days.  Today, pitchers and catchers report for the start of Spring training.  Despite these very promising signs of Spring, this morning dawned a cold 13 degrees.  It's supposed to drop below 0 tonight.  We’ve had snow on the ground for more than a month and one of the coldest Februarys in New Jersey history.  On a day like today, it’s rather hard to believe  Spring will ever arrive.

Thank goodness for the amaryllis, which is faithfully seeking the sun and growing taller each day.  The promise of a bloom looms large.

That’s happy!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015


Fifteen years ago today, JT was born.  At 7 pounds, 9 ounces and 20 and a 1/2 inches, he seemed awfully tiny.  So tiny that we marked ounces and inches.  But tiny can be quite demanding and his needs quickly reorganized my world.  Back then, I was the center of his world and he was the center of mine.  

Things have changed over the last fifteen years.  Today, he is 5 foot, 10 inches; 175 pounds of mouth and energy.

What is most remarkable about the transition from then to now is how quickly fifteen years flew by.  It was just the blink of an eye before my sweet-smelling baby turned into a chatty five year old.   

The five year old was eventually replaced by a charming ten year old.  

The baby has vanished; the five year old is long gone.  The ten year old has disappeared.  In their place I have a tall teenager who shaves and looks a lot more like a man than a little boy.  More than anything else, the transition to high school and the 9th grade has revealed to me how rapidly time has passed.  In less then four years, he’ll head out the door of our home to college and the world beyond.  Such independence seems an unthinkable development from the small bundle that I once held all day and night.  But unthinkable as it is, the years march by quickly.

JT & Tiger

JT & Lucy
More than ever, I’m aware that these days my job as a mama is to send him forth in the world to be his own person.  High school has a way of urgently driving home that point.  We spend a lot of time in the car together, driving to the next early morning athletic practice or coming home from a late night game (or meet….the language varies by season).  Things in our world are planned week by week; athletic season by athletic season.  Once home, he retreats to his attic space.  The toys from what we used to call the playroom are gone and it's now a place to study, complete homework, rest with a cat by his side, and laugh with his friends.    We’re a long way from five and even further away from the baby who once needed me for everything.  

Where we once spent every minute together, I’m now involved in the deliberate process of preparing him to be away from me and on his own.  That means that his school and team obligations often come first.  I don’t complain about 7 am Sunday practices or team busses that return long after dark.  In this way, I show with my actions that I believe in him and his choices.   

I am mindful now that my job is to prepare him to leave the nest and soar.  His need for safe independence grows daily.  Step by step, I am preparing myself to let go.  This year, I’ve began to truly absorb how fleeting JT's childhood has been.  He’s the very center of my universe; the core of my being.  His birth made me the the person I am today.  That I am systematically preparing him to leave my side seems like a self-inflicted wound.  But that is what a mama does.

Happy Birthday, JT, you’ll always be your mama’s baby.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Earning My Spring

My first real experience with an actual Winter was the season of 1989-1990, when I spent my first year outside of California, living in Nashville, Tennessee.  There was ice and measurable snow and, for the first time in my life, owning a wool coat was actually a good idea.  I enjoyed the cold and especially welcomed the arrival of Spring, which began in late February when the sunny, yellow daffodils began to emerge.  That Spring, I felt like I had actually earned the blooms, the green, and the glorious warmth.

Fast-forward to more than 25 years later and I am in the midst of a daily bargain with Winter whereby I put up with day after day of unusual cold for the pleasure of Spring.  Unlike Tennessee, Spring will arrive more toward the end of March around here.  But that’s a little hard to believe on a day like today, which began with temperatures hovering around 0.  The forecast calls for snow tonight, which will bring a temporary warm up —— highs in the low 30s before another plunge into the cold.  As I wrap my scarf around my neck and pull on a hat, coat, and mittens just to go outside to take out the trash, I remind myself that Spring will eventually arrive.  This year, I really will have earned it.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Real Life Texts with T: She’s Perfect for Me edition

The backstory:  A few weeks ago, I took the whole of the 7th grade to the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia so that they could see the Bill of Rights and other assorted American things.  On the way back from the field trip, I texted T with an update.

Me:  Headed home from Philly with the Constitution tucked into my bra. Don’t tell anyone.

T:  You are just copying National Treasure…I’m pretty sure Nicolas Cage wears a bra too.

I think this perfectly explains my attraction to her.

Friday, February 13, 2015

The Inevitable Bad Ending

A few years back, as T and I were getting to know one another, I mentioned that I dislike wearing pants.  T immediately quoted Homer Simpson, who comes home from work and takes off his pants proclaiming, ‘Don’t you hate pants?” as he does so.

Though I realize he’s not an ideal role model, I totally understand Homer’s point of view.  When it comes down to it, it’s not just that I prefer to wear skirts and dresses (though I emphatically do), it’s that I really hate wearing pants.  I find them constricting, uncomfortable, and all-together unpleasant.

Some of my animosity toward pants is a function of the fact that they aren’t flattering on my body.  Some of my dislike is driven by the sheer volume of hours I have to shop in order to find pants that I can bear to wear.  The rest can be squarely attributed to the fact that pants are dreadfully uncomfortable when compared to skirts.

Despite years of poor relations with pants, I am still tempted by their false promises.  In the midst of a long winter when I grow wary of pulling on tights each day, pants seem like they would be terrific.  Evert few years, I yield to the idea of pants and after an endless search, I buy a pair.  This always ends the same way: I get them home, put them on, look at myself in the mirror, recoil in horror, and return them at once.  In this way, my occasional purchase of a pair of pants is rather like a hobby, albeit an utterly dysfunctional one.

As this winter drags on and I am more and more weary of dealing with winter tights, I find myself thinking about pants.  Naturally, they are my fantasy pants: flattering, comfortable, and flexible enough to be worn with all my favorite clothes.  My head knows that these pants do not exits.  But my heart is weak and hopeful and plans to buy them in every conceivable color when I find them.

This won’t end well.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Your Weekly Amaryllis: Week Six

Our weekly allotment of sunlight grows by a few minutes each day and I am embracing the earlier sunrises and later sunsets.  We’re no longer driving to and from school in inky darkness and despite the bone-chilling cold that has wrapped itself around us this week, the light feels hopeful.  And speaking of hopeful...

… amaryllis  grew by inches this past week.  The results are impressive.  At six weeks, the bulb has taken off and each morning when I come downstairs it seems like I can actually see its daily progress.  That’s happy!

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

A Stern Talk with Winter

Winter has taken things to a new low this week, with two days of ice, increasingly frigid temperatures, and overnight lows headed toward the single digits.  I am getting close to being over it: walking like a penguin on the ice, the heavy coats, the scarves, the mittens, the hats, the constant vigilance to ensure that no skin is exposed.  Even worse is the tiresome part of each morning when I must tug on tights.  If Winter were a middle schooler, we’d be having a conversation about making an effort to get along.  I’d be gently explaining to Winter that it’s unfair, but his scowls and unkempt, dirty presence might be adding to his current status as the least popular season.  Consider this:

Seriously, Winter, this is no way to make friends.  

Tuesday, February 10, 2015


Sometimes, you have to make your own damned summer.  At Sassafras House, a few of these Coronas made the last cold snap less chilly.  That’ll show you, Winter.

Sunday, February 08, 2015

Tiger and Sunlight

February seems prepared to wring the most chill out of its short 28 days.  Another cold snap is headed our way this week.  It will start with icy rain and sleet tonight and the forecast promises single digit temperatures by the end of the week.  Tiger isn’t fretting about any of this, sure in the knowledge that his kibble bowl will stay full and confident that somewhere in the house, the sun will shine in to warm him.

I’m jealous.

Thursday, February 05, 2015

Your Weekly Amaryllis: Week Five

Just as I expected, the last week of amaryllis growth has been enormous.  

Once that stem takes off, it grows quickly.  We are mired in an extended dance mix of icy, snowy, cold.  Earlier this week, the groundhog called for six more weeks of Winter.  So the flower is an especially welcome sign of the warmth that is on its way.

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

Reflections on Motherhood

The backstory:
I’ve been thinking about motherhood of late.  What follows is the last in a few entries on that topic.  I caution that these opinions are mine alone and reflect my experience as a mother.  My goal isn’t to offend but is to share my point of view and lay down on (digital) paper some things about motherhood that I have come to believe.  

Looking After Solitary Moms
None of the thoughts of in these posts on solitary moms are meant to suggest that no one can help mom-on-their-own.  In fact, she needs help and even if she isn’t quite ready to welcome it, the offer will be appreciated.  So offer to help.  Keep offering.  One day she’ll say yes.

Affirm what is right and good in her world.  When you see her happy children, tell her.  She thinks they are happy; she prays that they are happy.  But in the darkness of her nights, she fears that they aren’t.  So tell her when you see it.  She and her family need that affirmation.

Solitary mom can and does appreciate your family but it wouldn’t hurt to be gentle when you speak to her about your own challenges.  Sure, your life is sometimes a struggle.  But if in the midst of your struggle, if you have the help and support of a life partner, that difference matters .  Appreciate what that means for you and be aware of what it means for her that she doesn’t have help in that same sure way.

Above all, let’s take care to value everyone’s families, even those that are not in the traditional mode of our privileged world.  We are stronger for one another and it doesn’t hurt to remember that.

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Icy Path

Sunday night, a Winter storm blew our way and by Monday morning, the world was frosted in sparkling white snow and ice.  We had a snow day off from school and so I did some shoveling of the front walk early on Monday morning.  More sleet soon covered up my labors.

The rhododendron that guards my front steps dropped and shivered under its layer of ice.

The evergreen bushes seemed no better off.

As I write this morning, it’s 11 degrees and the sidewalks and roads are shiny with patches of ice. The cold will linger and more snow is expected on Thursday.  Six more weeks until Spring is the mantra that will get us through the next few weeks.

Sunday, February 01, 2015

February 1: Peach Tree

There was a point in January when a windy storm had brought down some tree branches and my back yard was soggy with ice and rain that couldn’t be absorbed by the frozen ground.  As I looked out the back window on that rather dreary day, Winter seemed like it stretched endlessly in front of us.  Today, the tree is surrounded by snow dropped by the storm from earlier this week.  The powder has stuck around thanks to the frigid cold which followed.  More snow is expected tonight and it will surely cover up the bunny tracks seen here in the snow.

I must confess that February’s status as the shortest month is always welcome in my world because the March that follows seems filled with promise, thanks to both the time change and the official arrival of Spring.  Of course there are still 28 days to be managed on my way to March.  Happily, I find February rather comforting despite the cold.  By the start of the month, the sunset is at 5:15, with light lingering after that in a way that fills me with hope.  In mid-February, we celebrate JT’s birthday and from there the month flies by, each day with just a bit more sunlight than the next.  

In my mind, I know that March won’t move as quickly toward warmth and blooms as I might like.  But in February my heart begins to think daily about the green shoots that seem like they are just around the corner.

This month, my peach tree remains patiently still, soaking in the moisture and sunlight it needs to bring forth its blooms.  It knows that there is more sunlight and warmth in its future.  That’s happy!