Time to Stop Being Jealous

Summertime is here, along with its pervasive supply of Popsicles—in our house, at least. One afternoon, the girls asked for their favorite ice-cold snack. “Please, please, please, Mom?”

It takes the girls roughly 10 minutes to finish a Popsicle, which translates into 10 minutes’ peace for me. Not quite eternity, but still somewhat heavenly for a mom (right, moms?). Thus, I said yes to Popsicles.

Grace chose strawberry, Anna lime. Lime is my personal favorite, summer’s virgin version of a frozen margarita. But I wasn’t sure Anna would like it.

“I love green, Mom,” my 3-year-old assured me.

“Hmmm, how about red this time?”

“I love green!”

Five seconds later… “Mom, green is bleh. How about red?”

I helped myself to the lime Popsicle, and gave Anna strawberry, like Grace…who had something to say, right away.

Lime is my personal favorite, summer’s virgin version of a frozen margarita.

“That isn’t fair,” Grace protested. “Anna got two Popsicles. That means I get another one, too.”

I willed myself to be patient. “No…”

“Red is better than green,” Anna announced, helpfully.

Grace glared at Anna. “You are so frustrating.”

Anna slurped on her red. “Don’t freak out,” she replied.

(My daughters spend so much time with me, they’ve adopted my predominant figures of speech as their own.)

“Mom!”

“Grace.” I sighed. “Anna made a mistake…”

“She always makes a mistake.”

“No, I don’t!”

“Girls!”

Oh…summer.

I wish I could share, at this point in the story, that the three of us, my dear daughters and I, sat down together on the front porch. Engaged in a no-raised-voices conversation about gratitude, and getting along with your sister, as an early-evening June breeze tousled our trio of ponytails. What happened in real life, however, is…

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“Life isn’t fair, Grace,” I snapped. “You have a Popsicle; be happy with what you have. Did you even say, ‘Thank you,’ for it? Worry about yourself. It’s time to stop being jealous of your sister.”

My 6-year-old pouted.

Anna, meanwhile, kept slurping. “Yeah, Grace.”

“And you…” I frowned at Anna. “No more green Popsicles for you. And you need to remember to say, ‘Thank you, too.”

The girls called a (somewhat grudging) truce.

As we grow up, somewhere along the road, we do learn the futility—the uselessness, the emptiness—in trying to keep track that the count is “fair.” One for you, one for me. Another one for you, another one for me. Life doesn’t work that way.

Sometimes you’re ahead; sometimes you’re not. Once in a while there’s a tie, but much of the time, there’s a winner…and there’s the rest of us. Or, we “win” in different ways, at different times. Everyone has their own vision of their blue ribbon, their pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

…somewhere along the road, we do learn the futility—the uselessness, the emptiness—in trying to keep track that the count is “fair.”

Stanton and I recently received the latest issue of our college’s alumni magazine. Now, there’s a lesson in humility. Flip to the back of your alumni magazine, where your classmates can send in news from their postgraduation journeys, and compare their biographical highlights to your own. (I never do this, of course. 😉 )

There are people my age, people I know, who have become law partners and head coaches, who have made Forbes lists, who have fostered children and fought for social justice and made big differences in the world…already. Moments like these, I sigh with face-saving relief that I didn’t email in a note about my newest self-published e-book release. Because when you start comparing one set of circumstances to another, finding parallels—and remembering what matters—become difficult.

Which is why the most fulfilling course of action is to focus on your life. What you’re holding in your hands. This is what I believe, anyway, and it’s what I hope to impart to my children.

A quote I’ve always liked is this one, from Willie Nelson: “When I started counting my blessings, my whole life turned around.” I don’t think you need to be a hippie, country-music fan or churchgoer to appreciate the truth in his message. The message of looking at the good in your life, really seeing it, and feeling gratitude.

I understand, though, if it may take a source more credible than Willie Nelson to make an impression. So consider this fact from Harvard Medical School: “In positive psychology research, gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness.” The University of California at Berkeley recommends writing in a gratitude journal three times weekly, as a practicable guide to cultivating gratitude in your life.

Count your blessings, not other kids’ Popsicles—the kindergarten version of this life lesson, perhaps.

The message of looking at the good in your life, really seeing it, and feeling gratitude.

Grace just finished up kindergarten. She loved kindergarten, and I’m deeply grateful for that, for her wonderful teacher and school. I’ve shared before that one of my favorite books is All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten by Robert Fulghum.

My undergraduate and graduate degrees in English obliged me to read all the classics, to discover and appreciate everyone and everything from The Epic of Gilgamesh to Toni Morrison. Still, I’m not ashamed to admit that Robert Fulghum’s little book of essays is one of the few pieces of literature I turn to (return to) time and again. All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten strikes a chord with me.

During one season in his life, Robert Fulghum was a minister. He writes, “I am sometimes amazed at what we did not fully grasp in kindergarten…I was always taken aback when someone came to me and said, ‘I’ve just come from the doctor, and he told me I have only a limited time to live'” (page 6).

He goes on to recall, “I was tempted to shout, ‘What? You didn’t know…Where were you the week in kindergarten when you got the little cup with the cotton and water and seed? Life happened—remember? A plant grew up and the roots grew down…a few days later the plant was dead…Life is short. Were you asleep that week or home sick or what?'”

Life is short. Time is limited. The little cup, the water and the seed.

Anna actually got her cup, water and seed this past school year too…in preschool.

From a very young age, we all understand that our time here has an expiration date. We don’t know when, exactly. But we know life is not for forever.

Why would we ever choose to spend…the precious time we have…being jealous of someone else? When right in front of us, more often than not, we have abundance upon abundance upon abundance?

The past couple of years, I’ve been lucky to be able to spend some good time with my grandmother. She turned 90 earlier this month, as I shared last time. My Grandma lives in a personal-care facility now. Do you know what I’ve noticed, friends, when I’ve gone to visit my Grandma there?

I’ve noticed that pictures—lots and lots of pictures—adorn the walls and decorate the desktops of my Grandma’s room, and others’ rooms too. Pictures of family and friends. And I’ve noticed that that is what perk up nonagenarians like my Grandma: visits from those people whose pictures provide their current wall decor.

That’s what these older folks spend a lot of their time—their very precious, limited time—talking about too. Chitchat about family and friends is right up there with the day’s menu (everyone likes the baked ziti) and upcoming bingo night.

…we have abundance upon abundance upon abundance…

I’m speaking from my narrow personal experience, of course. I am fairly certain, though, that around age 90, people don’t bring up childhood Popsicle squabbles; the size of their once-upon-a-time paychecks, cars and homes; and the highlights they sent in to their alma maters.

Time to stop being jealous. Time to remember what matters.

And beyond that…why not be downright happy for other people, when they have good news to share? When they accomplish something they’ve worked hard for, something they’re proud of? Or when they make a mistake, and they get the gift of a second chance?

Who among us made all the good things in their life happen completely on their own?

Can we all acknowledge that, at one time or another, each of us accepted a helping hand (or two)? And maybe we even owe some of our good fortune to a random roll of the dice—a lucky break or total fluke? And possibly, just possibly, we find ourselves sitting where we are today by the grace of God and nothing more—nothing we can take any credit for.

Stop being jealous. Remember what matters. Be happy for others.

Lend a hand if you can.

Photo credit: Pixabay

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Like what you just read? Then check out Melissa Leddy’s newest short fiction e-book, “What Happens Next.” A story that’s heartfelt, relevant and can’t-put-it-down good.

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You Made It Home Just in Time

Friday, about 5 p.m. I spooned freshly pan-fried slices of chicken, still hot, into plastic, pink dishes for Grace and Anna. I added another spoonful, this time of four-cheese macaroni and cheese, into each dish.

“Girls!” I called. “Dinner’s ready!”

The girls burst into the kitchen, and I ushered them into the breakfast nook to eat. From the basement, I heard the dryer beeeeep. Before I could run downstairs to grab our clean clothes, the front door creaked open.

“Dad!” Anna said, in between a mouthful of mac and cheese.

Grace ran to greet him. “You made it home just in time!”

Stanton hugged her. “Just in time for what?”

“Food!”

“And it’s good!” Anna yelled.

Beeeeep.

“Figure out what you’d like to eat”—my greeting to Stanton. “We’re almost ready to go.”

My maternal grandmother had just turned 90, and that weekend, my three siblings and I were gathering at my parents’ house to celebrate this milestone birthday. Stanton, the girls and I would make the drive that evening, about a three-hour trip south from our home. A manageable excursion, although traveling with kids is never easy, per se.

“Can we get McFlurrys before we go?”

“Honey, you and Anna just had ice cream.”

“Mommy, can I have more ice cream?”

“Mom! Anna just spilled her water, again!”

“Stanton! Where did you go?”

Traveling with kids. (And we were still in the house at this point.)

About an hour later, the four of us were on the road to my Pennsylvania hometown. The drive through the Hudson Valley and Catskills is panoramically beautiful; we watched the sun set, softening from orange to yellow, near the New York/Pennsylvania border. In between the girls’ eventual snoring in the backseat and Ed Sheeran’s bring-you-to-your-knees voice on the radio (“And darling I will be loving you ’til we’re 70”), the thought that runs through all moms’ heads mid-road trip ran through mine: Did I forget anything important?

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The next morning, Saturday, Stanton and I went for a rare walk together while my parents, brothers and sister entertained the girls. We took a route of back roads that my childhood best friend and I called “the monster walk” years ago.

“This is the monster walk?” Stanton asked, holding my hand as we trekked down a hill. (Kate, if you’re reading this, we were on Church Street at the time.)

“This is it,” I said.

Later, back in my parents’ kitchen, I told my family that I wanted to write a blog post (this is that post, friends) based on Grace’s quote from the evening before. “I love the idea of making it home just in time,” I said. Then someone said something witty, and I noted that that quote would make for a good post too.

My sister raised her eyebrows. “You’re just sitting here, waiting around for us to say something to inspire you.”

“That’s not…completely true,” I told Jenna.

Jenna and I began looking through a box of our Grandma’s mementos, which our mom had brought out of storage. Grandma had saved a drawing of a teddy bear I made for her when I was 6 or 7. “Awww.”

Jenna showed me some old family photos. We both agreed I had had some awkward years. I texted snapshots of some of the photos to family who weren’t able to be with us that weekend; we all shared some laughs (or, more accurately, LOL’s and smiley-face emojis).

Despite some cringe-worthy blasts from the past, I really appreciated having someone to share these memories with. I hoped, not for the first time, that my own daughters would stay close all their lives too.

On the subject of memories, my siblings and I had each come up with five memories of Grandma, that Josh typed up and then collected into a keepsake box—a “memory box” of sorts for our grandmother. One of Josh’s memories made us smile: When we were little, on half days from school, Grandma would pick all of us up (our parents would be working) and take us to Burger King for lunch. And every time, on our way out, Grandma would say, “Refill your cup before you go.” I’m not sure if Burger King still offers free refills (I haven’t been there since those half days from school with Grandma), but “Refill your cup before you go” isn’t bad advice, would you agree? 🙂

Jared remembered needing a ride to his after-school job at the Y. He was running late, and he called Grandma. “You got me there in 5 minutes,” he wrote for the memory box—and it should have been more than a 5-minute drive. (Grandma had a bit of a lead foot, back in her driving days.)

Despite some cringe-worthy blasts from the past, I really appreciated having someone to share these memories with.

Jenna had a sweet memory of coffee breaks with Grandma, going up to Grandma’s house (she lived just one block from us) for regular afternoon caffeine fixes and chitchat.

I remembered calling Grandma to tell her I was expecting Grace, and she would be a great-grandmother. Then I said, over the phone line from San Antonio to Northeastern Pennsylvania at the time, “Thank you for everything you did for Josh, Jared, Jenna and me,” to which Grandma replied, “You kids were my life.”

I remember that phone call, that conversation, where I was that day, and that was exactly what my grandmother said: “You kids were my life.”

When I was growing up, my family went to a local Italian restaurant, Perugino’s, for special occasions. We did not branch out; we went there all the time. Stanton’s parents also hosted our wedding rehearsal dinner there, which I may have shared here before. Perugino’s is very special to my family. Thus, we had to have Perugino’s for Grandma’s 90th birthday celebration.

We did not branch out; we went there all the time.

We got takeout this time—easier to eat at home. My mom ordered our old favorite, Chicken a la Andy, along with manicotti and pasta e fagioli. (Side note: If you go through life without trying Perugino’s Chicken a la Andy at least once, then I’m sorry to say, you have missed out just a bit, friends. 😉 )

Finally, we all sat down—my parents, my three siblings, Stanton, the girls, myself, and the guest of honor, my Grandma. My dad said grace, and then he and my brothers encouraged Grandma to say something. “Speech, speech!”

Grandma looked up from her spot next to Jenna. She has thin, gray hair now, and soft, wrinkled skin. She looked around. She isn’t used to being the center of attention, at least not these days. But she smiled and said, “It’s great to see everyone, and I’m happy to be here.”

Her words touched my heart.

My grandmother grew up humbly, the daughter of Southern Italian immigrants. Her life isn’t my story to tell, and I want to respect her privacy. But I will share that, like all of us, she had moments of sorrow and struggle, as well as those of joy.

So for her to say, very simply, that she was “happy to be here”—that was beautiful to hear.

What Grandma said also made me think about the journey we all travel. Life.

“It’s great to see everyone, and I’m happy to be here.”

The truth is, many of us (most of us?) will live fairly ordinary lives. When we reach age 90, if we’re lucky enough to do so, whatever big box of mementos we have probably will hold keepsakes of fairly ordinary moments: family dinners, high school and college reunions, weekend soccer and softball games, summer vacations at the beach, the occasional red-carpet night out memorialized with a tattered ticket stub. We won’t actually have walked that many red carpets ourselves.

And as the recent sad news about Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain has showed us, even years of red-carpet walks doesn’t promise contentment or fulfillment. (For those who may need it, the number for the national lifeline is 1-800-273-8255.)

Rod Stewart, himself a living rock legend, noted, “You go through life wondering what it’s all about, and at the end of the day, it’s all about family.”

There’s a lot of beauty in living a fairly ordinary life, I think.

In looking around a table when you’re 90, seeing people you love and lived for, and being happy to be there.

In having a big box of tattered ticket stubs, old family photos and drawings your grandchildren made you—in finding joy and meaning in those seemingly simple things.

In taking a walk, watching a sunset, walking in a front door and getting a hero’s welcome home.

You made it.

You made it home.

Photo credit: Pixabay

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Like what you just read? Then check out Melissa Leddy’s newest short fiction e-book, “What Happens Next.” A story that’s heartfelt, relevant and can’t-put-it-down good.

Last Call: Tell Me Everything

Every night, I rock my 3-year-old daughter, Anna, to sleep. Stanton thinks she’s old enough that my rocking her isn’t necessary. Just lay her down, tuck her in, he says.

It isn’t necessary, I agree, night after night. I just love doing it; she loves it too.

This isn’t efficient, he adds, as I sink into the old recliner, and Anna folds herself into me. “Squishes in to get cozy,” she calls it.

I’ll see you in about 30 minutes, I often say to Stanton. And he—he of adept efficiency—says he’ll see me then.

Sometimes we, as moms, can’t help wanting to hold our children just a little bit more. Especially if we have an older child, or older children, whose first instinct these days isn’t to reach for us, but to make requests and issue directives. Can I have a play date with Sophia? I’m tired of eating turkey-and-cheese sandwiches for lunch. Don’t walk me all the way, Mom.

At the end of the day, with my little girl, I’m unapologetically inefficient.

The recliner we have is almost seven years old. Stanton and I bought it a few months before Grace was born. It’s worn; creaky if you lean too much to the right; and the most comfortable seat in our house.

Sometimes we, as moms, can’t help wanting to hold our children just a little bit more.

The other night, I was rocking Anna. She wasn’t tired just yet. She was talking to me about Lizzy, my brother- and sister-in-law’s dog. She was saying she loved walking Lizzy, which she had done this past Thanksgiving when we were visiting them.

“Wow,” I said, surprised at her enduring memory. (I barely remember what happened yesterday.)

“Lottie and D-Daddy were there,” Anna went on. “And we walked and walked Lizzy. It was fun.”

“I’m so glad you have happy memories,” I said.

Anna nodded. “I have happy memories, Mom, but they don’t glow like in Inside Out.”

I smiled at Anna’s point of reference. “That’s OK, honey.”

Anna looked up at me with wide eyes. “There was a scary part, and Grace gave me a pillow and held my hand.”

They hadn’t watched the movie together in a while. Again, I was surprised at everything Anna remembered. “Because Grace loves you so much.”

“Yeah, I know that, Mom.” With the abundant self-confidence of a child. “Bing Bong is my favorite,” Anna added, laughing.

I laughed too. “I love all your memories.”

“But they don’t glow, Mom,” Anna reminded me. She snuggled against my chest. “And that’s what I remember.”

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As we go along in our lives, certain memories stick with us, for whatever reasons. Chance? Or maybe something scientific (a process involving synapses perhaps).

I have a clear memory of Anna, and that old recliner. Mostly clear, anyway. I’m not positive of the date, but I believe it was the day Stanton and I brought Anna home, or the day after. So Anna was three or four days old.

It was nighttime. I was in the nursery, holding Anna in the recliner. I had had a cold when I gave birth to Anna (it was February), and now she had the same cold. She could only breathe well if she was held upright; otherwise, she got congested, and coughed and sniffled. I held her upright all the time, for two weeks until she felt better. At that point, though, we were at Day 3 (or 4).

I was holding Anna against my chest, all seven pounds, eight ounces of her. Three years later, I can still almost feel her soft, newborn cheek against my chin.

Stanton walked into the nursery. He asked how I was.

I remember telling him, “I’m so happy.”

I remember that because it’s not something I say very often (which you may find surprising). I say I’m grateful all the time. Another popular self-description is frazzled. But happy—despite my glass-half-full nature, I reserve happy for moments of joy. Deep, conscious-of-something-beautiful joy.

That child was (is) my something beautiful, just like her big sister.

Stanton stayed near the door, looking at us. I remember thinking he looked oddly serious. “What?” I asked.

“I’ll take care of you and the girls,” he said.

That was encouraging to hear, considering I had just given birth to our child. Nice to know he wasn’t plotting a midnight escape, three (or four) days postpartum. 😉

My memory of that night is being happy (though exhausted), and hearing Stanton recommit that he’d stick around.

So many memories that stick with us center on people who’ve stuck with us too. Just as many are random—a motley crew of people, places, blink-and-you-would-have-missed-it moments. Walking a dog, Bing Bong, the hand of someone who loves you.

Lately, after both girls are asleep, Stanton and I have been watching Cheers reruns on Netflix. (Welcome to our cheesy life. 😉 ) Cheers may come across as unsophisticated for today’s sitcom standards (the laugh track! Rhea Perlman’s over-the-top Carla Tortelli! Coach!), but it’s sweet, classic.

I get this, Stanton said recently. A local place. People who know you, people who care.

Who wouldn’t want that? I agreed.

Although, thinking back now, some of us wouldn’t want that. Some of us may prefer living more anonymously, adventuring far and wide, footprints in the sand and memories as picturesque as postcards. I’ve been reading The Female Persuasion by Meg Wolitzer, and I love this line from it: “There was no perfect way to live” (page 302).

So many memories that stick with us center on people who’ve stuck with us too. Just as many are random…

However each of us lives, whatever differences there may be among us, I do hope everyone has a good share of happy memories.

Crazy how our minds can speed along a train of thought, a far-reaching railroad track of time, history and memory. Books, TV shows, favorite places, milestones like the birth of a child…nighttime.

The end of the day, with dark outside and lamplight glow in, often offers us the ideal setting for honest conversation. No rush. Tired so that we don’t finesse language, but speak from the heart.

The end of the day is a last call of sorts, whether we’re toasting at a Cheers-like place, winding down the day (the adventures, or the minutiae), or snuggling a child to sleep. Tell me everything…be here next time.

Photo credit: Pixabay

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Like what you just read? Then check out Melissa Leddy’s newest short fiction e-book, “What Happens Next.” A story that’s heartfelt, relevant and can’t-put-it-down good.

I Only Know What We Need for Today

Tuesday afternoon, two Tuesdays ago. I was picking up my younger daughter from preschool.

“Mommy!” Anna exclaimed, opening up her backpack to show me her latest arts and crafts projects. The paint on one of them was still a little wet; a feather was falling off another one.

“How about we look at everything at home?” I suggested, stuffing the masterpieces back in. Then I overheard some of the other moms talking about the upcoming field trip. “Field trip?” I repeated, looking up.

The moms smiled at me.

“What field trip?” I tried again, adding, “I may have missed a note…”

One of Anna’s preschool teachers shared with me that the next class (there were three classes left, before the end of her school year) would take place at a local lake. The kids would hike around the lake, playing “I Spy” as they looked for birds, fish and other wildlife. A picnic would happen afterwards—and every child needed a parent to accompany them.

(That would be me.)

Anna beamed at me. “I have my very own field trip, Mom!”

I smiled weakly. “Mm-hmm, I just found out,” I said. “Yay.”

“I may have missed a note…”

Because I had been planning to write, as I do when both girls are in school. I was thisclose to finishing a story, and submitting it to a magazine. I would just finish it a little later than hoped for, I told myself, as I buckled Anna into her car seat. No problem.

Thursday morning, the day of the field trip, arrived. Stanton had headed out the morning before for a business trip. So that morning was a little more hectic than usual, as I packed up everything Grace, my older daughter, needed for kindergarten that day and gathered everything Anna (and I) needed for our hike/picnic. Water bottles, sandwiches, hoodies…

“Anna, there’s going to be a horse named Anna for you to ride at your field trip,” Grace was saying.

“A horse! Named Anna?!”

I reached for my coffee. “Grace, stop lying to your sister.”

“…no horse?”

In other school news, Grace’s class had started an “alphabet countdown” for the remaining 26 days of the school year. A was for stuffed animal, B was for brain buster… I scanned the countdown sheet to see what today, C, was for.

Aha, there it was: C was for candy.

“I want candy too, Mom!” Anna said. “I want candy on my field trip!”

I began opening and shutting kitchen cabinets. “I don’t think we have any candy.” Maybe there was something leftover from Easter…

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“Mom.” Grace raised her eyebrows at me. “You always have chocolate.”

My daughter spoke the truth: my hidden stash of good-quality dark chocolate that I—judge me if you must—prefer not to share with my family. Stanton’s got his chips and salsa; the girls have snacks galore: ice cream, Teddy Grahams, pretzels and Nutella, Girl Scout Cookies (still)…and raw veggies and hummus, of course (of course we have healthy snacks too…). Just leave me my chocolate, people.

But desperate times call for desperate measures. I broke off some of my last dark chocolate bar (with caramel and sea salt—arguably the most satisfying flavor combination!) so that my beloved firstborn could participate in C Is for Candy Day.

Grace gave me a thumbs-up.

The three of us began filing outside. I was carrying a bunch of stuff, and some of it was falling from my arms.

At the same time, my retired neighbor was pulling out of her driveway. She smiled and waved through her window. I would bet a huge amount of money, friends, that she was thinking, I’m glad that’s not me—and I’m not a betting woman.

Anna and I dropped Grace off at her bus stop. Then I realized I had left the directions to the lake in the breakfast nook. “Ugh.”

“Just use Google Maps, Mom,” Grace said.

“You know…”

“I know you like directions on paper,” Grace acknowledged. (She knows me too well.) “But you can do it.”

I looked at Grace. Then I looked at Anna, who smiled at me. “You can take me to my field trip, Mom,” she encouraged. “You can!” Ah…our children’s blind faith in us. 

Grace’s bus pulled up.

“Mom, one more thing.” Grace tapped my arm. “What’s tomorrow?”

“What?”

“Today is C Is for Candy—what’s for tomorrow?”

I had no clue. “I only know what we need for today,” I said. “Bye, love you, have a great day!”

I would bet a huge amount of money, friends, that she was thinking, I’m glad that’s not me—and I’m not a betting woman.

As I made my way to the lake, Google Maps confirmed for me why I prefer to look at a map and plot out my own route beforehand. There was road construction on one street. Another street had become one-way only since the last time Google Maps checked. And now Google Maps was rerouting me onto a highway during morning rush hour. (I excel at what you might call small-town, wide-open-spaces driving.)

“Merge onto NY-85…” Great.

Meanwhile… “I have my very own field trip,” Anna sang in the back.

Anna and I did arrive safe and sound at her field trip, thankfully. We actually were the first ones there, which worked out wonderfully, because parallel parking is another skill I’m not particularly strong in…so I was able to pull right into a great parking spot. Hallelujah.

The two of us took in the beautiful nature around us as we waited for others to arrive. Anna slipped her little hand into my big one. “I love my field trip, Mom.”

“Awww, I love you, honey.”

Everything with Anna’s field trip ended up being OK—really nice, actually. Later that day, Grace informed me she loved my dark chocolate. She also mentioned that she was excited about Family Math and Science Night at her school the following day, Friday (which also happened to be D Is for Favorite Drink Day).

Family Math and Science Night… Right. I had almost forgotten about that.

The early childhood years are fun. 😉

On Friday evening, my neighbor friend texted me. We were walking over to the school together with our kids. Would 5:45 p.m. be a good time to meet up, or maybe too early? she asked. (The event started at 6.)

I looked around the kitchen. I was in the process of making dinner (not ready yet). The counters were covered in unopened mail, Shopkins and, randomly, our birth certificates (an identity thief’s jackpot, should one happen to wander into our home).

(I’ve been meaning to organize all our important documents, under which “birth certificates” fall, into a filing cabinet. I’m optimistic this will happen…sometime soon.)

Another text, this time from Stanton. I read this latest piece of information: “Home between 10 and 11. Sorry so late. Ferry delayed due to weather.”

Stanton was on Martha’s Vineyard for work.

“Mom! We’re hungry! And it’s Family Math and Science Night, MOM!”

Maybe one day I’ll be stranded on a secluded island somewhere.

“5:45 might be a teensy bit too early,” I confessed in my text back to my friend. She kindly understood. In the end, we all made it to Family Math and Science Night, and everyone had fun—all’s well that ends well.

As last week wrapped up, I realized what a, well, not-smooth week it had been. I discovered important information about my children’s lives at the last minute (if field trips and C Is for Candy Day fall under the universal definition of “important”—but let’s not split hairs 😉 ). I still haven’t submitted my story. I did move the birth certificates to the master bedroom, but a determined identity thief might still find them.

We also lost Bernelly and Harriet last week, you might remember.

Oh, and there are no secluded islands in my near future.

I was thinking, though, that our family did make it through the week, one day at a time. And I was thinking that there are times in our lives, maybe even whole seasons, where that’s the philosophy we simply must work with, or make work: “I only know what we need for today.”

No shame in “one day at a time.” Maybe it’s not as impressive as a “five-year plan,” or as profound as a “big-picture approach.” But “one day at a time” can get the job done.

Something I’m very conscious of is that no matter how harried life may seem sometimes, what I’m so lucky to have now—my family, all of us healthy and here together—is what I hoped for so much (prayed for, really) years ago.

…”one day at a time” can get the job done.

It is such a gift to have people in your life who love you, and whom you love too. Even when you’re winging it day to day. (Maybe especially when you’re winging it, and trying to stay on top of all the stuff.)

If you happen to be winging it for people you love…let me assure you you’re not alone. You’re not the only one who is. And although it may be hard to realize in the moment, you’re very lucky.

Cheers to TODAY.

Photo credit: Pixabay

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Like what you just read? Then check out Melissa Leddy’s newest short fiction e-book, “What Happens Next.” A story that’s heartfelt, relevant and can’t-put-it-down good.

Ready (or Not) for Some Quality Time?

On Monday afternoon, Anna and I walked to the bus stop to pick up Grace, as we usually do. During our walk back home, Anna told Grace that earlier, I had let her eat the last of the rainbow sherbet in the freezer (half a cup, tops—nothing worth bragging about, nothing to get upset about). But of course…

“What?!”

“Come on, Grace,” I said. “Didn’t I pack you a special treat in your lunch box today?”

Grace remembered, and smirked at her little sister. “Guess what, Anna,” she said. “Mom gave me the last juice box of pink lemonade.”

I groaned. “Was that necessary? Did you have to say that, Grace?”

Meanwhile, Anna had flopped onto the sidewalk, tears sparkling in her eyes. “I love pink lemo-lade!” she cried. “I want pink lemo-lade too, Mom!”

I tried to be reasonable. “Anna, you have nothing to cry about…”

“WAAAHHH!”

Why doesn’t reasonable ever work? “Stop having a fit, or…or you lose TV.”

Anna sniffled one last time. “I love TV.” I helped her back up, and the three of us continued walking home.

Why doesn’t reasonable ever work?

My hope, every weekday afternoon, is that the hours between 4 and 6 p.m. will be good quality time before the end-of-day rush of dinner, baths and bedtime. (Ahh…quality time.) That was my hope that Monday afternoon, after the pink lemo-lade meltdown. We got home, the sun was shining…

“Let’s play outside,” I suggested.

Now it was Grace’s turn to behave disagreeably. “There are bugs outside,” she informed me.

“They won’t bother you,” I said.

“No, they do bother me,” she replied, sighing. “I wish it were winter again. There are no bugs in winter.”

“Please, let’s enjoy this beautiful day,” I said—practically begged. “Let’s have some quality time!”

“Mom.” Anna was tugging at my arm.

I glanced down at her. “Yes, honey?”

“I want to build a snow girl, Mom.”

You’re killing me, Smalls.

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My vision of good, old-fashioned afternoon quality time never materialized. In fact, it would be accurate to say the afternoon spiraled downhill…almost immediately.

When the three of us got inside the house, I saw an email from Grace’s school, requesting that we return a bag of 10 books we had borrowed from the school’s reading program (two months previously) ASAP. I found nine of the books quickly, but the last one—Bernelly and Harriet: The Country Mouse and the City Mouse—remained elusive. I began thumbing through bookshelves, peering under couches and beds, searching through various junk drawers…

Then I received another communication, this time a phone call from my better half. “Something came up with work,” Stanton said. “I’m not sure when I’ll be home.”

“Do you have any idea?” I wondered.

“No, I have no idea,” Stanton confirmed.

“Mom.”

I turned my attention to Grace (multitasking!).

“Did you find Bernelly and Harriet yet?”

“I’m still looking…”

“I have to go, Mel.” Click.

“MOM!” Anna dashed into the guest bedroom (where the 9th out of 10 books wasn’t). “There’s a bug on top of the TV!”

Grace peered over Anna’s head. “There is! You have to kill it, Mom!”

“AAAHH! Kill it, Mom!”

(In case, at this point, you’re wondering…no, I did not make up any of these details. No, I did not embellish anything for dramatic effect. This is, unfortunately…a true story.)

Anna dashed into the guest bedroom (where the 9th out of 10 books wasn’t).

Every good story has the reader, or listener, wondering what happens next. So if you’re wondering, friends…what happened next was, I did indeed kill it (the bug). Then I heated up some meatballs for dinner, and boiled water for pasta. Next, I emailed Grace’s school to apologize for temporarily misplacing or possibly permanently losing Bernelly and Harriet (“Will you have to pay for a new book, like when you lost the book from the library?”), and requested advice on next steps.

Around 6:30 p.m., the girls and I sat down for dinner.

Now, these meatballs I heated up—we all love them. They’re store-bought, from my local grocery store, but they give any Italian mamma’s homemade, love-is-the-secret-ingredient meatballs a run for their money.

“I want another meatball, Mom,” Grace said.

“Me too,” Anna added.

“And what do you say, girls?”

“You’re welcome,” Anna replied.

Grace and I looked at each other and smiled. “Please, Anna,” Grace said. “And thank you.”

Anna looked at Grace. “You’re welcome,” she repeated.

I don’t remember much more of our conversation that evening. I do remember that at that moment, Grace laughed. Then Anna did, and soon I joined in too.

I also remember that I got each of us a second serving of meatballs. And I remember that I really appreciated sitting there with my daughters, around the table…just being together.

Sometimes quality time happens when we least expect it—when we’re in the moment, in communion with the ones we love.

It’s shortsighted for us to think we can say, “This is when it gets good. The good stuff is going to happen…now. Go, quality time!”

We have no way of knowing what, exactly, will happen next. We’re writing our story moment by moment—sometimes, imperfect moment by imperfect moment. We can try really hard and plan really well, but we don’t know what happens next…not in our real-life story.

We can try really hard and plan really well, but we don’t know what happens next…not in our real-life story.

Sometimes, quality time isn’t a perfectly planned, sunny afternoon, but a thrown-together dinner featuring store-bought meatballs (which you dig into after killing a bug…but before looking, one last time, for Bernelly and Harriet).

Photo credit: Pixabay

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Like what you just read? Then check out Melissa Leddy’s newest short fiction e-book, “What Happens Next.” A story that’s heartfelt, relevant and can’t-put-it-down good.

You Deserve It

I had a rare moment to myself. So I did what I usually do when that happens. Yes, you guessed it, friends: I went to my local coffee shop.

Most of the time, I’m at the coffee shop with one or both of my daughters. With my cross-body bag stuffed with coloring books and crayons, and my don’t-know-what-else-to-do-with-it hair in a ponytail, I look the part, to a T, of the cliched “mom in need of caffeine.”

That day, I had my cross-body bag once again, but this time, it contained a book I was reading, “Writing Down the Bones,” a writer’s handbook. I was yet another coffee-shop cliche that day: “hasn’t-given-up-yet writer.”

Sometimes you have to acknowledge the fact that you may have become a cliche (or two). (I acknowledge this fact in my life.)

I knew the lady behind the counter. We said hello, and I asked about her son. Then I joked that I was there without my kids for once. “I even brought a book,” I said.

“Enjoy,” she said. She handed me my coffee. “You deserve it.”

You deserve it—she was kind to say that. I think she even meant it.

Sometimes you have to acknowledge the fact that you may have become a cliche (or two).

I don’t live my life thinking I “deserve” things. Sometimes, this perspective is healthy, and helpful. I consider every good thing in my life a gift. There but for the grace of God—or, luck of the draw—depending on your take of the world. Whatever one’s perception, my “gift mentality” enables me to live each day, pretty much, with gratitude.

Living with gratitude is, for me, invigorating.

On the flip side of that coin… The very definition of “gift” is “something voluntarily transferred by one person to another without compensation” (Merriam-Webster). The matter of money enters the conversation.

That day in the coffee shop, I overheard bits and pieces of the conversation between the two older gentlemen at the table next to mine. One of them mentioned his recent Chinese takeout, and the fortune-cookie fortune that came with it. “That was a good fortune cookie,” he told his friend.

We have lots of fortune-cookie-type quotes related to money. Time is money. A penny saved is a penny earned. No such thing as a free lunch. All of these are off the top of my head—the list goes on.

Many of these adages are true. For example, time is money.

We have lots of fortune-cookie-type quotes related to money.

A while ago, I asked a high-school girl I knew to come over to our house to babysit Grace and Anna. I needed to finish a freelance project, and Stanton was working himself. She came and took care of the girls while I worked; they had fun; at the end, I handed her the cash we had agreed upon earlier.

“Oh, you don’t have to pay me,” she said. “I loved playing with your kids.”

Usually, I’m patient and easygoing. (If you ask my siblings, they’ll probably tell you differently, citing various disputes from childhood that they still remember… 😉 ) In that moment, though, I was a little impatient, a little contentious.

No, I told her. I do have to pay you. What you did—taking care of my children while I worked—was work too.

You deserve it.

She did end up accepting the cash.

The irony in this story is that what I (and my husband) paid her to babysit my (our) daughters, combined with what I (we) paid for previous child care, about amounted to my fee for my freelance project. Some folks may consider this a wash. Others may view it as an investment in the long run of a career.

It all depends on perception, right?

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It would have been easy for me to take advantage of this young woman, but I didn’t. I didn’t, partly, because I believe in what I said: Taking care of children while their parent(s) work is work too. And I didn’t take advantage of her because when I was younger, some people exploited me in that way.

In a few professional experiences I had, people in positions of leadership—power—paid me less than we all knew to be fair. Looking back on these experiences now, against the backdrop of current events such as Time’s Up and workplace equity, what is most disheartening to me is that the people who took advantage of me were women themselves.

We can’t advocate for women, publicly—equal economic opportunities, health and safety, overall common-sense fairness—and treat them unfairly, or unkindly, at the same time privately, if and when it benefits us and/or our bottom line. Whether they’re our babysitters at home, our assistants at the office…whatever they are, however they work for us. We especially can’t do this when we’re women ourselves.

I’ve been reading “The Female Persuasion” by Meg Wolitzer, an author I’ve long admired, and she speaks to this pretense in her novel too.

Because you do deserve it—a moment, without feeling guilty. Payment, as agreed upon. Fair pay.

We can’t advocate for women, publicly—equal economic opportunities, health and safety, overall common-sense fairness—and treat them unfairly, or unkindly, at the same time privately, if and when it benefits us and/or our bottom line.

Yesterday, I was reading about the latest political leader to fall from grace, as reported in The New Yorker. What is so horribly ironic about Eric Schneiderman, who allegedly assaulted multiple women, is that he championed #MeToo and #TimesUp in his law-enforcement work and spoke out against sexual harassment.

Very little surprises me anymore, though. My own experiences with abuse of power, as long ago as they happened at this point, showed me that people can represent themselves one way publicly and then behave differently privately. Hypocrisy happens across various lines: political party, sex and gender, class, race, religion, etc., etc.

For example, see also former Nashville Mayor Megan Barry, former Oregon Senator Jeff Kruse or any number of politicians in recent months who have resigned due to abusing the power of their office, or flat-out abusing (physically or sexually) people.

I hope, and I’m hopeful, that we’re moving forward to a more honest future.

In the meantime, this is the message I want to pass along to my daughters, to any high-school student who babysits for me again, to anyone who is still growing up: Stand up for yourself. Be a stronger person than I was. And when you earn a position of leadership, treat the people who work for you—the men and women who make you look good, at the office and in your home—treat those people with respect and appreciation.

They deserve it.

You do too.

Photo credit: Pixabay

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Like what you just read? Then check out Melissa Leddy’s newest short fiction e-book, “What Happens Next.” A story that’s heartfelt, relevant and can’t-put-it-down good.

The Best Part Was the Hot Dogs

I read once, somewhere, to ask your child, “What was the best part of your day?” Not, “Did you have a nice day?” which tends to elicit a one-word response, but “What was the best part?” because that question can open up a bigger, more meaningful conversation.

Sometimes, I do ask my children the question, “What was the best part of your day?” Other times, my 8 p.m. inquiries are more along the lines of, “Why did you just push your sister?” or “Did you remember to brush your teeth?”

But sometimes, sometimes, everyday life lends itself to moments of reflection deeper than sibling shenanigans and personal hygiene.

On Saturday evening, I asked my 6-year-old daughter, “What was the best part of your day?” I was giving her and my little daughter, Anna, a bath.

Grace thought for a minute.

“Was it our bike ride?” I prompted. That morning, the girls rode their bikes along the nature trail near our house. I walked along with them, until Anna asked me to carry her (and her trike) the rest of the way.

(If you and I are Facebook friends, then you already know this, because I posted a picture of this moment after it happened. 😉 )

Grace shook her head—no, not the bike ride. I rinsed shampoo out of her hair.

“Was it your play date?” Two girls from Grace’s class had come over to play that afternoon. All three kids kindly included Anna in their fun: playing with dolls, make-believe games of “Sleepover” and “Firefighters,” simply running around in the backyard.

(Like most younger siblings, Anna believed her big sister’s friends were there to play with her as much as they were there to play with Grace. Ignorance is bliss.)

“I loved the play date, but…no, that wasn’t the best part either.”

I handed Grace a washcloth. “I know,” I said, smiling. “It was when Dad came home.” Stanton had been traveling for work and walked through the front door moments earlier.

Grace smiled back at me. “Actually, Mom,” she said, “the best part was the hot dogs.”

“No way.”

Grace nodded. “Yes.”

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Around the block from us is a fire station. The red-brick building was built nearly 100 years ago, and is staffed by volunteer firefighters. Throughout the year, the firefighters host a number of community events for our neighborhood: a biweekly fish fry during Lent, educational workshops for kids, a bounce house at Halloween.

As it happened that Saturday, the firefighters were holding an open house to recruit new volunteers. Grace, Anna and I saw them outside when we were heading back home after our bike ride (which had turned into my lugging Anna and her trike, remember).

The firefighters waved us over. I could feel sweat pouring down my face. Great—I was looking presentable as usual.

“Hi, guys,” I said, setting Anna down for a minute. “Sorry, but now’s not a great time for me to volunteer.” (I knew they were working on their female enrollment.)

The firefighters smiled. “No problem. Would you all like some hot dogs?”

Grace and Anna exchanged a glance, then a smile.

“We have a lot,” they told us. “And Gatorade too.”

“Grace!” Anna exclaimed. “We love Gatorade!”

“And hot dogs,” Grace added. So the three of us sat down outside the fire station for an impromptu lunch of hot dogs and Gatorade. When we picked up our short walk home a little later, the girls concluded the firefighters were very nice.

(But let’s be serious, folks: Who doesn’t love firefighters?)

I could feel sweat pouring down my face. Great—I was looking presentable as usual.

“That was the best part of your day?” I asked Grace that night. “Why?”

Grace shrugged. “It was nice. I love hot dogs, and you never buy us Gatorade.”

“Mom!” Anna waved at me, reminding me she was there too. “We love Gatorade!”

I’ve written before about “the little things.” About how little things (like an unexpected hot dog and some Gatorade) can make us smile, can stick with us.

I’ve also written about moments in our lives that become stories, when we never might have guessed they’d be story-worthy. But then they were.

So I’m trying not to repeat myself here. Trying to find a new inspiration to pass along.

Here’s what I’ve come up with, friends.

Sometimes, things don’t go according to plan. (Stanton was supposed to come home on Friday, not Saturday, but his work plans changed.) And then you try to make the best of things, and Plan B falls apart too. (Carrying Anna and her trike for what felt like miles.) And then—then—out of the blue, someone asks if you’d like a hot dog.

Just…say…yes.

Put the kid down. Let the trike fall to the sidewalk. Let Plan C be that hot dog.

Sometimes, the best part of your day will be a hot dog. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

Photo credit: Pixabay

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Like what you just read? Then check out Melissa Leddy’s newest short fiction e-book, “What Happens Next.” A story that’s heartfelt, relevant and can’t-put-it-down good.