It Takes a Little Time

I had a bad day last week. “Bad” is relative, of course. Someone else, somewhere, experienced a much worse set of circumstances. But, personally speaking, one day last week could have been better.

That day, the girls and I headed over to the Y for open swim. Swimming is such a fun, lifelong sport. Swimming with kids—that’s a whole other playing field, friends.

First, there’s the getting ready. Finding everyone’s swim suits, getting them on. Locating the heavy-duty canvas bag. Filling it with (clean, if possible) towels, sippy cups and snacks. Then outfitting yourself, which is usually a production.

“Mom, I like your blue bathing suit better.”

“Boo! Boo!”

“Girls, would you give me some privacy, please?”

“Mom, what a round belly you have.”

“Belly! Belly! Belly!”

“Girls…please give me some privacy.”

“Here, I’ll close the door.” Slam.

“Can you go outside the door, girls?”

“We love being with you, Mom.”

“MOMMY! Hold meeeee!”

So…there’s the getting ready.

On that day, we eventually arrived at the Y. The friendly staff checked us in. The girls and I slipped off our cover-ups. I secured a life jacket around Anna. Grace adjusted her goggles. We got into the pool.

Three minutes later… “Thunder! Everybody out!”

I looked at the lifeguard. “Really?” She nodded: Really.

“Why?” Grace wondered.

“Nooooo!” Anna protested. Roll of thunder, hear my cry.

“The pool needs to close,” I said. “I promise we’ll find another fun thing to do.”

“Really?” Grace asked, with the same disbelief I had just demonstrated to the lifeguard.

“NOOOOO!”

After leaving the Y, I began driving back home when another car, with a seemingly impatient driver, nearly made contact with us. The lady continued driving unsafely behind us for several miles. “Unbelievable,” I said.

It could have been a better day.

Glass Marbles 8-6-17

Luckily, the next day was. The weather was beautiful. Grace, Anna and I didn’t run into any unpleasant drivers on the roadways. We spent the entire afternoon swimming and splash-padding at the town pool complex.

After having a “bad” day, it was refreshing to have a good one.

I remember our first summer with Anna. She was about 3 months old; Grace was turning 4. Everyday life then was so much harder than it is now, this summer. I worried about having Anna outside in the heat, so instead of the pool, I took Grace to an indoor “jumpy place.”

She loved it, not minding the earsplitting noise of the machines that kept the inflatable castles, pirate ships and slides afloat. That white noise also lulled Anna to sleep against my chest. For me, though…my head throbbed, nonstop.

It takes a little time, sometimes, for family life to find its rhythm—for things to fall into place. I don’t know if anyone ever reaches the point where they say, “This is it!” and hang up an “Arrived” sign. Because often, there’s always something. Something to work through, or toward. Until things feel manageable, even good.

It just takes a little time, sometimes.

There’s a ‘90s song called just that, “Takes a Little Time,” by Amy Grant. I love this song; the girls and I often listen to it. (It’s on our morning playlist alongside Eric Church’s “Springsteen” and “Collide” by Howie Day.)

We’ve listened to it enough (and danced around the kitchen in our PJs to it enough) that we can harmonize pretty well on the chorus: “It takes a little time sometimes / But baby, you’re not going down / It takes more than you’ve got right now / Give it, give it time.”

Welcoming a newborn. Becoming a family. Earning a living. Building a life. Moving into a new house, making it a home.

At some point, maybe taking care of the person who once cared for you.

We fall into our roles, sometimes. Fall into our lives. Things don’t always make sense in the moment, right off the bat. We stumble; we struggle. We hold out hope for a rhythm.

You might know that my favorite book is “A River Runs Through It” by Norman Maclean. Mr. Maclean speaks to this rhythm of life in his book, especially when he writes, “To [my father], all good things, trout as well as eternal salvation, come by grace. And grace comes by art. And art does not come easy.”

It does not come easy, friends. It does not.

There’s an art to becoming a patient parent. An art to becoming a safe driver. An art to living life with grace—to choosing gratitude.

My Grace will be 6 this week. I remember the day she was born. I remember holding her, in awe of her. And I remember thinking, “I don’t know what to do.” What do I do?

I still think that sometimes. Maybe you do too. What do I do?

(Something else I think: Where did that time go? How did all that time get away from me…just like that?)

The truth is, each day is a leap of faith. You get up—you show up—you hope for the best, and you do your best. You work toward a rhythm.

Finding that rhythm may take a little time. So give yourself that time. And don’t give up.

Wishing you the best, friends.

Photo credit: Pixabay

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Like what you just read? Then check out Melissa Leddy’s newest short fiction e-book, “This Is Just a Story.” Fun, timely and thought-provoking.

Measures of Success and MUCH

Anna, our 2-year-old, has a knack for making Stanton and me smile. First, like many 2-year-olds, she’s a ball of energy, up for riding her new trike around the neighborhood one minute and practicing her t-ball swing the next. She’s a lot of fun. Throw in her big dimples and mischief-making grin, and we can’t help but smile.

We tell both girls, often, “I love you.” Grace replies with, “I love you too,” while Anna merely smacks her lips at us—kiss. When we say, “I love you so much,” Anna has her own shorthand for this expression too: “Much!”

In the morning, as Stanton is heading out, Anna scurries over to him, wraps her little arms around his leg and declares, “Much!” She accompanies her sweet farewell with a Cinnamon Toast Crunch-coated smooch to his crisp dress pants. Sticky kisses to clean clothes—the price we pay for the privilege of such wholehearted love.

As I was writing this piece, this Emerson quote popped into my head (bold emphasis mine):

“To laugh often and much; To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; To appreciate beauty, to find the best in others; To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.”

Anna’s “Much!” expression, and her good-bye kisses to Stanton, made me think of this quote. Here, Emerson is giving us his definition of success: laughter, strength of character, gratitude, positive energy, service. All these things, of course, can’t be measured—at least, not easily.

It’s easier for us to measure “success” with numbers (we think). When we’re young, we take tests at school that assign us grades, scores and percentiles—how well we did on the tests. When we’re older, we think in terms of hourly wages, salaries and project fees—how good we are, our value to a company.

Life requires some level of quantifiable measurement. Test scores and, later, salaries work toward that objectivity. Unfortunately, numbers leave little room for bigger pictures, so to speak. They can’t tell us when a student arrives at school on an empty stomach, thinking about hunger instead of multiple-choice questions. They can’t help us understand why firefighters earn an average of $47,000 annually, while political strategists can take home six figures.

Sticky kisses to clean clothes—the price we pay for the privilege of such wholehearted love.

Stanton volunteers as a coach for Grace’s preschool soccer team. Yesterday, I was scheduled to fill in for him at the weekly soccer practice because he had a work commitment. I joked with Grace, “You can call me Coach, all right?”

Grace smiled and said, “I’m going to call you Mom.”

Both my daughters teach me so much. In that moment, I realized that whatever we might accomplish in our lives—whatever titles we might answer to, whether Coach, or Doctor, or Mayor, or Pastor, or Professor—we’ll still answer to Mom, or Dad, or Aunt Jenna, or Uncle Brian to the handful of people in the world who mean the most to us.

And this handful of people, these kids of ours… Chances are, they’ll be the ones least impressed by our SAT scores (if we even remember them), diplomas and W-2 forms. In my experience anyway, this is just how life works.

Measures of Success Picture 6-13-17

When I was growing up, my dad won various awards from his company for his work. Once, our hometown newspaper featured an article about my mom, a teacher, for developing a “try other things besides TV” educational program. I have so much respect and appreciation for both my parents.

When my parents and I talk, though, what we talk about most are all the times we had together. The funny moments, the family vacations, the movie quotes that have become part of our family lore. (“Well, they say geniuses pick green. But you didn’t pick it.”) The awards and newspaper articles don’t come up.

I imagine the same, or something similar, is true for you and your family too.

A few years ago, I read this article on CNN’s faith blog, regarding “What people talk about before they die.” The article has stayed with me all this time. The author, a hospice chaplain, answers the question her article poses: “Mostly, they talk about their families.”

She goes on to add, “They talk about the love they felt, and the love they gave…They talk about how they learned what love is, and what it is not. And sometimes, when they are actively dying…they reach their hands out to things I cannot see, and they call out to their parents: Mama, Daddy.”

This article speaks to what we remember on our last days. We remember our families. We remember “Much!”

I was reading the book “Fancy Nancy: Stellar Stargazer!” to the girls one day recently. In the story, the title character and her lovable little sister, JoJo, pretend to be astronauts and blast off to explore the moon. Afterward, Grace announced she would like to be an astronaut when she grows up.

“Sounds great,” I said. “You’ll be a wonderful astronaut.”

Maybe Grace will be an astronaut someday. Maybe she’ll change her mind, as 5-year-olds often do, and embark upon another path instead. Stanton and I will encourage the girls to do their best in whatever interests them.

I’ll also encourage the girls to make time for the ones they love. To sit down to dinner with their families. To celebrate their friends’ weddings. To take trips, just because. Because…I know that moon landing will be awesome.

And I’m pretty sure, too, that the moments they’ll remember with the greatest joy—the moments that will carry them through their darkest days, and give them peace on their final days—are the ones like when a little person wraps their arms around you, smears a Cinnamon Toast Crunch kiss on your clean clothes and declares, “Much!”

Photo credit: Pixabay

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Like what you just read? Then check out Melissa Leddy’s newest short fiction e-book, “This Is Just a Story.” Fun, timely and thought-provoking.

Do You Know You’re Lucky?

This past Thursday, the girls and I drove to our local Y, as we usually do. I practice yoga in a morning class there, while Grace and Anna play in the Kids’ Korner with other little ones and several sweet (and patient!) babysitters. The essential principle of yoga is breath—breathe deeply and consciously; be present in the moment—but, ironically, many Thursday mornings are a breathless rush to get everyone fed, dressed and packed up before banging out the back door.

On this particular Thursday morning, I parked the car. Slung my yoga bag and the diaper bag over my left shoulder. Hoisted Anna up in my left arm, grabbed Grace’s left hand in my right and clicked the car locked.

“Fun!” Anna yelled as the three of us hustled across the parking lot, the spring breeze tousling our hair. (Grace sometimes observes that she and Anna have “gold” hair, while, “You got some gray in yours, Mom.”) Anna flung her arms up in the air. I stumbled, then steadied myself. Anna, in pure Anna fashion, threw her hands around my neck and laughed, causing Grace to laugh, too.

An older lady was walking toward us. She smiled and said, “Aren’t you lucky to have your hands full?”

“Yes,” I agreed, smiling back at her. I am lucky.

Do you ever stop and remember you’re lucky, friends?

It might be hard to consider ourselves lucky. We think about the challenges of day-to-day life. We think about how things could be better. We worry about our aging loved ones—our jobs, our bills—the world we’re leaving for our children.

Do You Know You're Lucky

In the fall, I happened to hear a missionary speak. He quoted a news report (this one, I think) that reported that the world’s average salary, based on the data available, is about $18,000 a year. Another statistic: More than one-third of the world’s population lives on less than $2 a day.

I don’t know your personal or professional statistics. I do know, though, that you have Internet access. You can read; you’re educated. You have access to food, water, warmth. You have time.

You’re lucky, right? All things considered…the answer is probably yes.

Some of us use the words “lucky” and “blessed” as synonyms. I’m not sure they are. But I do appreciate this sentiment from Albert Einstein (who called himself agnostic): “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”

Life, we know, is more complicated than that—miracle or not; black or white; all or nothing. Whatever our life philosophies or spiritual perspectives, though, we understand the concept of “glass half full.”

Those of us who struggle with emotional or mental health can grasp for the glass half full, and not find it. I empathize with this struggle. It’s not always easy—not always possible—to simply “snap out of it” and “count our blessings.”

This is true as Mother’s Day approaches. Mother’s Day can be a difficult time for those of us who have lost our mothers, or our children, or a vision we once had of “family.”

I’ve shared before that my first pregnancy, before Grace, ended in miscarriage. I’d rather not bring this experience up in my writing anymore—I don’t want to exploit it for the purposes of telling a story, or making a point. I bring it up now, though, because I still remember, vividly, a time in my life when I felt very, very sad.

Two evenings ago, I watched the FRONTLINE/NPR documentary on “Poverty, Politics and Profit.” Maybe you saw it too. The lead journalist reported on several families’ struggle to find affordable housing. She also reported on corruption within the low-income housing industry—corruption within both federal agencies and private companies. The documentary ended with an image of several elementary-aged children watching as their mother’s minivan was repossessed because she had fallen behind on the car payment. When these kids and their mom weren’t able to find space at a homeless shelter, or stay with family and friends, the minivan was where they slept—until that moment.

It can be hard, for all sorts of reasons, to feel lucky.

But I am.

And if you’re reading this, you probably are too.

Be well, friends.

Photo credit: Pixabay

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Like what you just read? Then check out Melissa Leddy’s newest short fiction e-book, “This Is Just a Story.” Fun, timely and thought-provoking.

The Art of Letting Go

Stanton, the girls and I moved into our new house here in New York about two weeks ago. About half of our belongings—possibly more than half—remain in boxes in the basement. We’ve broken in our new home, though. The girls’ favorite books cover the coffee table; various pairs of sneakers and flip-flops clutter the back porch; and loved ones’ greeting cards, along with Grace’s preschool artwork, adorn the refrigerator.

The first few days here, I cleaned the kitchen, made the beds, unpacked the girls’ clothes (how do they have so many clothes?). I thought I could get everything “all set up” by the end of that first weekend. Ha…ha…ha.

The delivery guys for the washer and dryer needed more time than they originally estimated to maneuver the appliances downstairs. A customer service manager from a local utility company stopped by to share information. And the girls called for my help in collecting dandelions for their backyard tea party.

Interruptions to my grand plans. Distractions. Or…life.

There’s a quote I like, and you may have heard it too: “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans” (credited to John Lennon, and Allen Saunders). As I picked dandelions with my daughters, I acknowledged that I needed to let go of my “all set up this weekend” plan. I needed to be realistic, present, flexible.

The art of letting go.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve become better—more practiced—at letting go. Letting go of unrealistic expectations. Letting go of past hurt, and loss.

Dandelion

The other day, I saw several deer—a family, maybe—walking through a neighbor’s yard. Big, beautiful deer. I thought of my Poppy, a hunter.

Four years ago, when Poppy passed away, I would have felt a pang in my heart. Today, I still feel that hole in my life—that emotional and physical absence—but time has tempered the pain, and has helped me feel, first and foremost, gratitude for all the time we did have together.

Everyone is different. Everyone feels differently, heals differently. People become who they are based on their unique blend of nature and nurture.

For many of us, we decide how we approach each day. We can endeavor to meet all the action items we bullet-point for ourselves, no matter what, possibly becoming impatient and irritable in the process…or we can roll with the punches, grace under fire.

We can keep mourning disappointments and heartaches…or we can find silver linings in those experiences, those lessons learned.

For many of us, we decide how we approach each day.

After Grace was born, I began recording my first-time-mothering “lessons learned” into a newspaper’s parenting blog, which I later turned into my first e-book, “Diaper Bag, Coffee, Let’s Go! 237 Tips for First-Time Moms.”

That’s right, friends: 237. It was an earnest effort, my hope to provide all the encouragement and positive vibes I could to new moms who maybe were uncertain and overwhelmed as I had been.

Years later now, I’m glad I wrote that book. Other moms still buy it and let me know it’s a helpful resource, which makes me happy. And personally, “Diaper Bag, Coffee, Let’s Go!” is almost a scrapbook of that season in my life, first-time motherhood. I’m glad I wrote that book, but I probably won’t write more tip books, especially related to parenthood. Because as I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned to let go…of trying to do everything perfectly.

And, simply, of trying to do everything all at once.

Babies need food, diapers and a warm body to fall asleep against. Basically, that’s it. (Newborn Grace didn’t care that I’d spent hours researching the best crib mattress for her color-coordinated nursery, or the top-rated baby monitor that year.) And older kids don’t care that you haven’t yet hung up the window valances in their rooms. What they say instead is, “Mom, help us pick these yellow flowers!”

(“They’re called dandelions.”

“Dan-de-lions? Like lions?”

“Kind of…”)

Grace is 5; Anna’s 2. They play well together now and sleep (fairly) well at night. Stanton and I have powered through those early, oh-so-tiring years of parenthood. We’ve walked through some difficult times, together, and have made the journey through intact, with a deeper appreciation for each other. This chapter in our life feels so good, so refreshing.

Yet the thought flickered across my mind. When might the next tough thing, that we need to overcome, happen?

Just as quickly, I had to remind myself to stop. Enjoy. Live.

And let go of trying too hard, of worrying and fast-forwarding too much.

“Mom! We need more dandelions!”

Photo credit: Pixabay

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Like what you just read? Then check out Melissa Leddy’s newest short fiction e-book, “This Is Just a Story.” Fun, timely and thought-provoking.

Can You Make Me a Paper Airplane?

At the table adjacent to ours, a trio of high school girls was studying for an anatomy test. I know because they were quizzing each other, loudly, on the finer points of the skeletal system. For the first time in about 20 years, I heard the words “metacarpals” and “tibial tuberosity.”

As I sipped my chai tea latte, only one word flickered through my science-challenged brain: brutal.

“Mom.” I glanced over at Grace. She was holding out a page from the coloring book I’d brought. “Can you make me a paper airplane?”

I smiled. “I’m sorry, honey, but I don’t know how.”

“You don’t know how?”

When we’re little, we think of our parents as superheroes. There’s nothing they don’t know, or can’t do. This perception probably peaks around age 7 and then plummets by 16, when we’re full-fledged, omniscient teenagers. 😉

Grace, and Anna too, stared at me in horror. I shrugged. Paper airplanes are Stanton’s forte, not mine.

“Well, ask someone,” Grace suggested.

I glanced around the back parlor of our coffee shop. I wasn’t going to interrupt the intense anatomy test study session, that was for sure. Two other women were huddled by the oversized window, deep in conversation and their second 16-ounce cups of coffee. A man was nearby, a portfolio of papers splayed in front of him. Another gentleman was chuckling at his phone.

“Not right now, honey,” I said.

“Why?” Grace asked.

“Why?” Anna repeated.

I tilted my head at them. “I’m feeling shy right now.”

Anna tilted her head back at me. “Aww,” she empathized.

I love my coffee shop dates with my daughters. Just sitting together, hanging out…

“Mom! I have a great idea!” Grace’s brown eyes were sparkling. “You can ask your phone!”

Indeed I could. “OK,” I agreed, digging my phone out of the diaper bag.

I Googled “how to make a paper airplane.” Grace slid the coloring page across our table. Anna licked pumpkin chocolate-chip muffin from her fingertips.

Paper Airplane 3-13-17

A few minutes later, I had transformed that coloring page into a paper airplane for my 5-year-old. You would have thought I’d hung the moon, Grace was so happy.

“You did it! You really did it!” Grace said.

“Yay!” Two-year-old Anna clapped.

And from the table adjacent to ours, the high schoolers were now debating true ribs, false ribs and floating ribs.

In all honesty, I really enjoyed my high school anatomy class. I had an excellent teacher, Mr. Smedley, who made the subject interesting and relevant. Anatomy is one of those subjects where you actually can use the information in everyday life when you grow up.

But then you do grow up, and what most impresses your children—at least one afternoon in a coffee shop, anyway—is that you can make them a paper airplane.

Paper airplane making was one of my Poppy’s finest skills. He served as an airplane mechanic during World War II and later flew airplanes as a hobby. He loved all things aeronautical.

When I was a freshman in college, Poppy mailed me a letter. I was homesick during those first few weeks away from our Pennsylvania hometown, and I loved hearing from my Poppy. Appreciated that memento of home.

I saved Poppy’s letter for a long time, but don’t have it anymore. It got misplaced, or lost, or recycled when I moved from my freshman-year dorm to my sophomore-year one.

But then you do grow up, and what most impresses your children—at least one afternoon in a coffee shop, anyway—is that you can make them a paper airplane.

That’s, possibly, the hardest thing about moving, whether across campus or across the country: You can’t take all your stuff with you, so you have to rely on your memories of what the stuff meant.

Luckily, I do remember. I remember that Poppy had drawn an airplane after his signature on the letter. He loved all things aeronautical, right? Yes. And the letter, and the airplane, meant he loved me.

Human beings are resilient, I’ve been told. And I believe that’s true. Every day, I make a conscious effort to, simply, “choose happy.” To focus on the good. Leave people and places better than I found them. That sort of thing.

But there are times when I’m feeling sad, or stressed, or shy, as I was in the coffee shop that afternoon.

During these times, I give myself a moment to acknowledge these emotions. Sadness, stress, shyness. For example, I wish Poppy could have met Anna; he would have loved her. I acknowledge that sadness, that sense of loss.

After I’ve had my moment, I do my best to move forward. To refocus on the good. Celebrate all the good things.

You can’t take all your stuff with you, so you have to rely on your memories of what the stuff meant.

As we journey along, we face all kinds of assessments, from high school anatomy tests to mortgage applications to annual physicals. Someone tells us if we’ve passed or failed based on theoretically objective standards.

Were we good enough? Or do we not get to pass “Go”?

I don’t know, but I suspect, that as we near the end of our journey, we give ourselves a self-assessment or sorts. We reflect on the path we carved—the choices we made—the affection we gave, or withheld. What we’re leaving behind.

“What’s the difference between true ribs and false ribs?”—our end-of-journey self-assessment almost certainly doesn’t include questions like these.

No, more like… “Did I do good work? Did I choose love over hate? Did I do the best I could for my family? Did I take walks, and watch the sun set, and play Marco Polo in the summer and build snowmen in the winter?”

Did I make paper airplanes?

Photo credit: Pixabay

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Like what you just read? Then check out Melissa Leddy’s newest short fiction e-book, “This Is Just a Story.” Fun, timely and thought-provoking.

36 Things I Want to Tell You

One afternoon recently, Anna was uncharacteristically cranky. I had a cold, Stanton was traveling for work, and Grace kept telling me she was bored.

“I am so bored, Mom.”

“Waaahhh.”

“Everything is boring.”

“WAAAHHH!”

I closed my eyes.

“I wish Dad was here. Everything is fun when Dad’s here.”

“DADA! DADA! DAAADAAA!”

“OK, that’s it.” I tossed two granola bars, two sippy cups and my cell phone in the diaper bag. “Let’s go.”

Grace peered at me. “Where are you taking us?”

“For goodness’ sake, Grace…” Anna yelled as I buckled her into her car seat. “We’re just getting out of the house for a little bit.”

A few minutes later, we arrived at our local library. The library has a spacious children’s section that the girls love: a reading corner, lots of toys, an aquarium. Best of all, we usually bump into other kids and parents we know from around our community—instant play dates for the girls, and grown-ups for me to chat with.

Sure enough, that afternoon the girls built train tracks and worked on puzzles with other kiddos. I didn’t want to spread my germs, so I hung back but very much appreciated everyone’s improved moods.

At one point, Grace gave me a hug. “I’m happy we came here,” she said. Then she added, “You just have to walk out the front door, right, Mom?”

I blinked. “Grace—that’s something I say.” Whenever the girls, or I, are feeling cranky or a little down, I usually say, “Walk out the front door”—by which I mean, we’ll feel better if we get out, get some fresh air, interact with the greater world.

“Yeah,” Grace agreed, “that’s what you tell us. Walk out the front door.”

I’ve known this for a while now, that 5-year-old Grace hears everything I say. What I didn’t realize, though, is that these things have started to stick with her. And that they could make a positive difference in her life as she grows up.

“Walk out the front door” is one of my biggest philosophies. Experience life. Make the best of everything.

Here are some other things I want to tell my children. What do you want to tell yours, friends?

Girls, in case you’re still listening…

2) Say yes to new adventures.

3) And don’t be afraid to say no. Respect what’s right for you.

4) Be thankful. You have plenty.

5) Say, “Thank you,” especially to people who are serving you.

6) Ask for help when you need it. Don’t be ashamed.

7) You never have to pretend with me.

8) Reach out to the kids who are alone at the sidelines on the playground, or in the school cafeteria. Smile. Say hello.

9) If you don’t like the way something is, don’t whine. Fix it. Solve the problem.

10) Exercise daily. You don’t necessarily have to run six miles, or go to the gym for an hour. But move. Stretch. Dance.

river

11) Drink lots of water. Eat whole foods. Save room for dessert.

12) Don’t stare at people or situations you don’t understand. But do ask me or Dad or someone you trust to help you understand them.

13) Tell the people you love that you love them. Call them. Keep in touch. Send cards, and make time to get together. One day you may not have the chance.

14) Don’t have regrets. Mistakes, yes—although I like to call them “learning experiences.” But regrets—no.

15) You will have “learning experiences” long after you think you should be done with all the learning. 🙂 That’s OK, though.

16) You aren’t better than anyone. Maybe you’ve had better luck. Or made better decisions. But you are not better than anyone. Treat everyone respectfully.

17) Believe in the goodness of people, and in the goodness of life.

18) Believe in something bigger than yourself.

19) Do your best.

20) Any goal that means something to you will take longer to achieve than you think it will. And it will be harder than you imagine. Hang in there.

21) In general, transitions are hard. So ease into them. Take your time.

22) True love is not spring break sex, or beautiful jewelry, or big houses. It’s sacrifice and sticking together—all the things that happen after every romantic comedy and wedding reception ends. It’s taking care of each other. It’s visiting your 89-year-old grandmother with you on New Year’s Day. True love is deep, quiet moments of joy.

23) Don’t make fun of anyone.

24) People have more in common with you than they do different from you. Seek out the common ground.

25) Be cautious with credit cards.

26) Just because you can afford to buy something doesn’t mean you have to, or should.

27) If you want to sleep well at night, live well within your means.

28) When you hear your favorite song on the radio, turn it up. And sing along.

29) Turn off the TV. Put your phone down. Open your eyes to the world around you; be present.

30) Go to your doctor and dentist for regular checkups. Preventive care is less expensive, in the long run, than treating health issues.

31) Things I know about money: It comes. It goes. You need a certain amount to be comfortable. You can’t take it with you.

32) Things to splurge on: Good food. Experiences. Travel. And things not to: Stuff.

33) Some of my favorite places I’ve ever been: the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia; La Jolla, California; Capri, Italy. If you get the chance, visit them too.

34) The best boxed brownie mix: Ghirardelli Double Chocolate. I’ve tried them all, girls, from generic brands to top-of-the-line organics. Nothing’s as yummy as Ghirardelli Double Chocolate.

35) It’s hard to say goodbye. Try saying, “Until next time.”

36) Basically, what I know about life is…it’s beautiful. It’s humbling. It goes on.

Keep going on, even during your most difficult moments.

Because life is beautiful.

Photo credit: Pixabay

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Like what you just read? Then check out Melissa Leddy’s newest short fiction e-book, “This Is Just a Story.” Fun, timely and thought-provoking.

18 Signs You’re Home

Earlier this week, I was at my neighborhood Hannaford, a regional grocery store chain in upstate New York and New England. Anna was sitting in the shopping cart, munching on Goldfish (contentedly, but not for long), while I zipped us up and down the aisles, finding what we needed and tossing everything in the cart. Clementines, green beans, tortillas, red enchilada sauce, macaroni and cheese (always macaroni and cheese).

Stanton, the girls and I have been living in the Albany area for six months now, and after these six months, I have a pretty good feel for this grocery store—where everything is, which cashiers are fastest, the girls’ new favorite deli meats (who knew Grace would discover she loves salami?).

I was feeling more and more “home” every day. Then in the soup aisle, I recognized a familiar face: one of the pastors from our church. “It’s great to see you,” I told her—and it was.

One of the hardest things about moving to a new city is not knowing anyone yet. Not having friends, or people you can turn to for doctor recommendations, or any sort of community—yet. So for me, that morning at Hannaford was special, in its extraordinary ordinariness. 1) I knew my way around the grocery store aisles. 2) I bumped into a new—dare I say—friend.

I was home.

Here are a few more signs, friends, that you’re home.

3) You have new local favorites at “your” grocery store. These days, I can’t imagine not having Against the Grain Gourmet three-cheese frozen pizza, which I discovered at Hannaford, in my freezer, or Dominick’s Gourmet Pasta Sauce in my pantry.

4) You have usual orders at some favorite local stops: your neighborhood coffee shop, the pizza place, the deli outside your office building. You don’t need to study the menu before you walk in or call ahead; you already know what you like.

5) You know where the light switches are, and which lights they’re for.

One of the hardest things about moving to a new city is not knowing anyone yet. Not having friends, or people you can turn to for doctor recommendations, or any sort of community—yet.

6) You have some tried-and-true “things to do” with out-of-town visitors. We’ve been lucky that already, quite a few family and friends have come to visit us in our new hometown.

We’re still learning the ropes, but we feel pretty good about taking summer guests to the nearby Five Rivers nature trails and TwisT ice cream shop; folks in fall to one of the many beautiful surrounding apple orchards; and winter travelers to the New York State Museum downtown for a ride on the historic carousel.

We have yet to experience spring, but look forward to the annual Tulip Festival in Washington Park and whatever else may be in store.

You have some tried-and-true “things to do” with out-of-town visitors.

7) You’re home when you have a driver’s license and corresponding license plates for your current state.

8) And when you can enter your ZIP code at the gas station from memory, rather than consulting a Post-it stuck on the back of your credit card.

9) You’ve figured out other logistics: your primary care physician, your kids’ dentist, your older daughter’s dance studio, your younger daughter’s library story time, an auto repair shop you can trust (thank you, Broadway Auto Clinic!).

10) Your wallet contains membership cards for some of these places (e.g., the local library, fitness center, figure skating club).

11) You can get around without needing to Google Map every move.

12) A place’s roads are cool symbols of local culture, I think. I see a lot of Vermont license plates in my community, reminding me that the border of the Green Mountain State is just an hour’s drive away. Along with these license plates come bumper stickers with sayings such as “Eat, Sleep, Ski, Repeat” and “Go Vegan.”

Back in my San Antonio neighborhood, on the other hand, I saw many Nuevo Leon license plates (Nuevo Leon is a state in Northeastern Mexico, about 250 miles from the Alamo City). In my seven years there, I’m pretty sure I never saw a “Go Vegan” bumper sticker in South Texas. 🙂

Your mental pictures have readjusted.   

You can get around without needing to Google Map every move.

13) You can chat in a semi-knowledgeable manner about local life. For example, I was happy to pass along to another “new-to-here” mom that kindergarten registration is happening now, which I had heard about from my dance studio mom friends. It really does take a village.

14) You have new local websites to check in on (www.timesunion.com, www.alloveralbany.com, New York State Writers Institute).

15) You have a feel for the local lingo. When people tell me they’re going “downstate,” I now know they’re referring to New York City—which is worlds different from “upstate” (although there seem to have been conversations about what exactly “upstate” entails). And in winter, when neighbors mention they’re spending the day at “Maple Ridge,” I know they mean the local ski ridge as opposed to the local park of the same name.

16) You know your mail carrier and UPS guy. And they know not to ring the doorbell around 2 p.m., when your toddler is napping.

17) You’re stocked up on gear. By which I mean, I haven’t owned a pair of snow boots since before age 22, when I graduated from the University of Richmond and then spent the next 11 years in Virginia and Texas. Neither has Stanton. Thanks to L.L. Bean, however, we’ve got new winter gear, and we’re prepared (hopefully!) for everything from snow shoveling to sledding and snowman-building this season.

Your mental pictures have readjusted.

18) Stanton, the girls and I were lucky to have a wonderful holiday season, and I hope you did too. We spent Thanksgiving in Texas with his family, and Christmas in Pennsylvania with mine. We got to catch up with lots of loved ones—share happy times together—everything was great, and very special.

Late on New Year’s Day, we got the girls to sleep. We had just driven back to Albany that afternoon. So after the past few weeks of holiday traveling and several rounds of bedtime stories, we were alone together in the living room.

We got comfortable on the couch. Stanton opened a bottle of Saratoga lager. I had my evening cup of tea. We turned on an old episode of “Parks and Rec.” Lamplight glimmered across the TV screen, and on the beer bottle.

Stanton stretched. Sighed. “It’s good to be home,” he said.

It made me happy to hear him say that.

And I agreed.

couch

Photo credit: Pixabay

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Like what you just read? Then check out Melissa Leddy’s newest short fiction e-book, “This Is Just a Story.” Fun, timely and thought-provoking.