Moments Matter

Getting Back Up Again

Fact 1: I’ve broken and torn the ligaments in my right foot twice in an eight-year period.

The first time was just six weeks before my wedding at the age of 30. I was working my corporate job in LA, grabbed lunch, returned to my office, and bam, I couldn’t’ walk. I don’t recall tripping or twisting my foot.

As a bride to be, I envisioned myself limping down the aisle with crutches, and the crowd gasping, “Oh, look at the lovely, yet, poor crippled bride.”

My dream wedding shoes — almost 11 years later. Safely stowed in my memorabilia box.

I was determined to walk down the aisle in my designer LA-bought white, satin dream wedding shoes. With more than a month of intense physical therapy; being chauffeured around (right driving foot); and tears, lots of tears and stress, I remember bringing my shoes to the doctor to get approval on the height two days before my wedding. With the green light, I became the beautiful bride, shoes and all.

Half-way through the wedding reception my foot began to swell. I quickly elevated it on a chair at the head table, and covertly slipped on my “back-up ‘b’ shoes” that had a much lower heel, but were not nearly as beautiful.

Cluts or Just Coincidence?
The second time I injured my right foot was just eight weeks prior to the birth of my second child. Now, you’re thinking there’s some type of pattern here, right? Okay, I’m a cluts.

Coincidentally, I injured it while at a client meeting within the exact same area of my old corporate office building. While walking with my clients, I fell off the curb as I crossed a busy intersection – doing a rather not so graceful “Kung Fu Panda” side roll with the contents of my purse spilling into the crosswalk – at four-months pregnant. Thank God, the baby was healthy – me on the other hand – not so much.

Picking up a trend here?

Once again, I went though more than a month of physical therapy, stress, tears, repeat, repeat. My biggest concern: how would I carry a newborn on crutches in my two-story home? Oh vey.

When on crutches, I remember driving those motorized scooters around during our weekly shopping trips. Yep, I took out a few store displays, but once I got the hang of the turning and braking I was ready to roll.

Being a “type a” personality, it drove me crazy not to be able to do my normal routines – not just playing with my daughter, but cleaning. I love cleaning. My rubber gloves (from Williams Sonoma) and my lightweight vacuum are like close friends who don’t call, or post their kids’ photos on Facebook (ask anyone that knows me well). Believe it or not, I actually figured a way to vacuum on crutches using my body weight to leverage the cleaner in a back and forth motion. So sad, I know.

After reading magazines and books for two months, I began to grow depressed. I even wrote myself a “Top 10” list of the positives of being injured to pull myself out of the darkness:

1. Sarah gives me a bath!
2. Daddy helps mommy more
3. Reading more — books and magazines
4. Catching up on photo albums
5. Able to stop and smell the roses (more)
6. Bubble bath is almost gone
7. Greater appreciation for friends
8. Realizing “superwoman” is a myth
9. More grateful for my health…
10. Motorized vehicles are fun

Again, I prevailed with the support of family and friends. Recovered, delivered the goods (baby no. 2). “Touchdown,” as my husband cheered in the delivery room.

Genetic Clutsisim
Fact 2: My two daughters have broken and/or fractured (sometimes multiple breaks at once) their arms at least eight times (I stopped counting after six) in a year.

My older daughter fell on a toy in her room hitting her nightstand; and then fell at school twice while playing. My younger daughter fell on the playground at school; and then a few months later slipped off our neighbor’s trampoline.

Are you sensing the same trend here again? “Clutsisim” is hereditary, I guess.

My older daughter’s self portrait sketched with her non-dominant hand.

Through the repeated doctor visits, x-rays, doses of medicine, helping them dress, showering, brushing their teeth and having to take those jaw-dropping looks and gasps from other parents was almost too much to bear. Most days all I could do was love on them a little longer through the tears. Read them an extra story at bedtime. Dote on them more.

Being injured we also experienced an inkling of what it is like to have some form of a permanent disability. Just like I had mastered my vacuuming on crutches, I also challenged my daughters to try performing some of their everyday tasks. One striking example is the self portrait my daughter drew with her non-dominant hand. She faced her own disability head on. I was in awe.

However, I feel like those challenges were learning moments as a parent and human being. During my stints of being temporarily disabled, I couldn’t help but reflect on how we, as parents need to take the time to be human, and allow ourselves to be taken care of – even if we do take out a few store displays along the way.

“Only when I fall do I get up again.” – Vincent Van Gogh

Do you have a story of a challenge that you thought was impossible to overcome? Or was there a moment in your life that you needed to take time to have a “me party?” (If you’ve watched the newest “The Muppets” movie, you’ll get the inference here).

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The Greatest Traditions

I gagged and regurgitated chunks of meat, brown-stained vegetables and what looked like potatoes. My dad raised his voice ordering us to finish our stew. I thought to myself: send it to someone in a poor country – anybody but me. (Now, I know that gratefulness is typically learned – taught over time with doses of humility, but on to the topic at hand…)

My dad’s stew was a family tradition. My dad grew up during World War II and the Korean War, making stews a slam dunk meal as it was inexpensive and hearty – basically anything thrown in a pot from the kitchen cabinets. Since our family wasn’t gushing with money, this probably explained why we were “attempting” to eat the watery, tasteless goulash.

Me (far right) with my two sisters enjoying a new tradition with our tough German Grandpa back in the early 1980s. He passed away just a few years after this photo was taken.

New Traditions
I know the stew had meant more to my dad, though than pure nourishment. Stews were passed down from generation to generation. Coming from a poor family, he has memories of when his dad (my grandfather) made the same stew for him. Sitting at his kitchen table in the 1940s-50s, I can imagine that my dad was hungry and didn’t complain too much.

My grandfather was a short-tempered, strict disciplinarian with fiery blue eyes and a thick German accent. I only occasionally witnessed his outbursts in a non-intelligible German rant. I would stare at him as if he were an alien from another planet. I mostly remember that I loved it when he came to visit. I would sit on his lap and enjoy my favorite Brach’s Candy – caramels and peppermints. That was our tradition.

Flipping to my mom’s side of the family…when she visits, my daughters love watching her put on makeup. As my mom is a former cosmetologist, I overheard her giving my older daughter a demonstration in how to pencil in her eyebrows. My mom discussed the arches and proper application lines. My daughter was entranced by the entire presentation. At that moment, I realized my mom was sharing her knowledge – passing it down to another generation – as she had shown me years ago.

Our Traditions
I racked my brain when trying to think about what family traditions, or bits of knowledge I have shared with my children. It was kind of pathetic that I couldn’t think of anything besides our holiday traditions, such as Christmas and Thanksgiving (don’t get me wrong, these are still important).

Part of the problem in identifying traditions was that I was stuck on what defined a tradition. For my own clarity, the dictionary definition of tradition is “an inherited, established, or customary pattern of thought, action, or behavior…the handing down of information, beliefs and customs by word of mouth by example from one generation to another without written instruction.”

I finally asked my children what traditions I had imparted on them the past years that had meaning to them. Here’s a few from the top of their list:

1) Singing to them at bedtime – The song, “My Favorite Things” from the musical, “The Sound of Music.” My daughters adoringly refer to the song as “raindrops on roses.”
2) Praying each night – We each say our own prayer to God. This gives us a sense of peace and gratefulness at the end our day.
3) Baking together – My girls love baking cookies, muffins, cakes, pies – you name it, we bake it. We wear aprons and the kitchen is usually covered with flour and chunks of melted butter. I truly value this precious time together.
4) Snuggles, hugs and kisses – I cherish these moments of love and affection just as much as they do…

My girls performing one of our greatest traditions — baking.

Frankly, I was touched by their list of traditions. They helped remind me of how important it is we spend time together, and build our own traditions. Furthermore, traditions are not defined by a textbook definition, but uniquely created by each family.

So, whether rich or poor, regardless of where you live, or what language you speak, I know in my heart, the greatest traditions come from love. Even if it takes you a bit more time to appreciate and recognize those traditions – be it a recipe for stew, a demonstration in eyebrow penciling, or a bedtime lullaby.

Are there any great family traditions that you have passed on to your kids that stand out? Or, is there a piece of knowledge that your parents shared, which helped shape your life? I’d love to hear about your traditions – both old and new.

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The Best View

She lay asleep as I crawled on the side of her hip. My little fingers tried prying her eyelids open. Was she dead? I shook her until she woke up with a half smile. We’d then chat about the day. She would tell me about some of her customers, and complain about her aching feet.

This was a pretty standard day growing up when my mom would come home from her long day of work as a hairdresser and collapse on the couch. I’m not sure if anybody uses the term “hairdresser,” but my mom was truly a hairdresser at the beginning of her trade, well, when hairdressing was in its glory days of the 1960s with bouffant hairdos, updos and long fake eye lashes were all the rage.

My mom as a hairdresser during the early 1960s-70s. In this photo, my mom worked at “Kokeshi Hair Styling Salon.”

No Brady Bunch
Helping to support a family of seven, she often worked two jobs at a time – leaving us to fend for ourselves – hence the name “latch key kid.” Usually I would walk home from school to an empty house, grab a snack and flip on the boob tube. My sisters would eventually come home from an after-school program, friend’s house or a sitter. Dinner would be an easy re-heat of some type of food we hated that a neighbor dropped off.

If my dad did make it home it was only intermittently, or late in the evening. He was too busy with the hobby of drinking. I can recall watching the TV show “Brady Bunch” and noticing how the housekeeper character “Alice” and the mom would be home attending to all the Brady kids. I thought that someone, somewhere in the world has a parent (or two) that greet them with warm cookies and glass of milk. That just wasn’t me.

I guess I never really felt like I was “damaged” from my working mom, or missing father. I didn’t really know anything different. Ya, I guess that we could have had more moments together – date days, lunches out, longer chats, attending my sporting events, but that wasn’t in the cards.

Holding on to Those Moments
Reflecting back, I think my mom was overwhelmed with multiple children, finances, and a dysfunctional marriage. Staying at work and keeping busy was an escape from reality. Can’t say I blame her.

My mom recently told me that she would give “anything” to get time back with us as children. I found the irony of her comment to be both painful and hopeful. Both my parents are now retired. My dad is a recovering alcoholic. And, they have joyfully embraced the role of grandma and grandpa. We are closer now than we have been in years. I’m holding on to those moments, and I think they are too.

Best of Both Worlds

I recently read an interview with popular children’s author Beverly Cleary(one of my daughter’s favorite books is “Ramona and Beezus”). When asked about the early years of her writing and how she balanced her family and career, she explained that she would close the door to write. Cleary fondly recalls, “It wasn’t easy. I loved my family and I loved my young career. A neighborhood woman felt that I needed help and offered to come babysit the children. I would write while she looked after them. They would draw pictures and slide them under my door…” It is my belief that these hand-drawn notes and pictures inspired this soon-to-be famous author. Little did she know that her work would have an even bigger impact – not only on her own children, but on future generations.

My second floor office.

The most common wish of parents is that we always want a richer, healthier life for our children compared to our own. I vowed before this journey of parenthood began that I would be there for those moments as best I could – whether I was a full-time working mom, or stay-at-home mom. Now, I have the best of both worlds – as I work from home in my open-air loft office (no door, yet).

My kids enter my office just as if it were my former corporate office on the 37th floor skyscraper in Los Angeles with a view of the twinkling cityscape. But this view is way better – as it’s full of moments that matter.

Is there a moment you’d like to share as a “working” parent? Or is there a moment you remember with your own parents that you cherish, or one that taught you a life lesson?

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Never Wave Goodbye

My teardrops fell into the never-ending pot of spaghetti noodles while the next group of campers began to arrive. I sobbed aloud to the point of near hysteria. I couldn’t wrap my brain around why she would have left me here so far away in the dark with strangers.

The camp cook was a tough, “by the book” woman with a short doughy body and bone straight hair sprinkled with slivers of gray. Her glasses were always foggy and rumor had it that her hair was permanently stuck in a pony tail, while she slept in her cook’s apron. But given her rough exterior, she came next to me with a gentle, consoling side hug. This was the last day of my first overnight summer camp at the age of 10, and my mom had not arrived yet to pick me up like all the other campers.

Little Camp of Terrors
I was already very skittish about this whole one-week away overnight camp. Camp Natoka was located at least three hours from my home in the middle of a forest filled with wild animals (slight exaggeration). The overnight accommodations were nothing to write home about either. Each camper didn’t even sleep in a cabin, or a tent – they made us sleep on outdoor cots with zero level of protection from the unknown elements. The worst part was that I was “housed” with complete and total strangers – sleeping alongside me.

Here I am in 1981 — just a few months before my summer camp of terror.

On the first day, as my mom drove away, I waved a desperate “I can’t believe you’re leaving me here” goodbye in my new Strawberry Shortcake red cotton shorts (now easily recognizable as bribery). I was terrified to be left alone without my mom.

Of course, there was some fun stuff about camp such as the crafts, survival exercises (not so fun), singing songs, swimming and nightly talent shows (I had none to showcase). There was also a store that you could buy treats, trinkets, or goodies with credits. Our family had little money to purchase store credits, so I would just watch all the other girls brag about what they “bought” at the store.

And then there was the mailbag call. A camp volunteer would come by with the mail each afternoon. Sitting up in my cot, I would wait for my mom and dad to send me a postcard or letter. Maybe some type of sign that they care. While other kids would tear open their mail, I would once again sit empty-handed and pretend to read a book, or sleep.

The early morning was a real thrill when they blew a trumpet and banged a large skillet in your ear. I remember thinking: Who thought up this horrific camp experience? I also thought to myself, I will never let my kids be tortured with overnight camp.

Loving Reassurance Equates Confidence
My mom finally came to take me home, but was several hours late. Several hours late felt like an eternity. Clearly, it would be an understatement to say that I’m not a fan of all-girl overnight/extended camps in general. The past few years, my older daughter has been invited to attend our local week-long girl scout camps. Naturally, I have declined her participation until this summer. I finally relented, and I decided to put my own camp terror behind me. On her first day of camp (which wasn’t overnight), I had butterflies in my stomach. Would she make friends? Would she be scared? Would she feel abandoned?

My daughter proudly shows her craft after her first week of Girl Scout Camp.

A few days prior to camp, we had many conversations about all the great things she would be doing, and that mommy would be back to pick her up in just a few hours. As we pulled up to the camp drop off, she looked deeply into my eyes for reassurance, for security, for love.

I held her hand, and I told her I loved her. As she got out of the car, she waved and I waved back rolling down the window yelling, “I love you, have fun!” She flashed a big smile. I knew at that moment that she was going to be OK. I knew I was going to be OK too.

Even though this was just a week-long day camp, I know she’ll soon transition to an overnight situation. I just want to reassure her that I will be there for her, and that I would never leave her. More importantly, I know these are just baby steps towards instilling self-confidence throughout her life. And eventually, both my daughters can wave goodbye knowing I’ll always be there – even if I’m late.

Do you have a wonderful, or horrific (or both) summer camp experience you’d like to share?

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Say ‘Yes’ to Love

The warm summer rain continued to fall while the car sputtered to the side of the desert road. With little money, the young couple abandoned the car, and decided to hitch-hike to their final vacation destination – not knowing exactly where the road would take them. They met boisterous truck drivers, aspiring movie producers and college kids.

Along the way, the couple stopped to use a phone booth and found something quite unexpected – a lost wedding band. When they finally reached Las Vegas, he put the band on her finger and asked for her hand in marriage. She said yes.

My mom and dad in the 1970s.

It was the summer of 1970, the year my parents were married. In true 1970s style, my dad eventually gave my mom a silver Concha belt that she still wears today with her flowing skirts and Birkenstocks. The belt symbolizes the unique courtship in a time and place where they found love through adversity.

The True Meaning of Love
I couldn’t help but ponder the meaning of marriage and reflect back on the moments of my parent’s love affair while at a wedding recently. My husband and I were seated at a table with another couple who had been married for 68 years. From afar, I was in awe of the couple as they laughed and danced together. I was intrigued by how they made it together for nearly seven decades. What was their secret? When they were finally asked the key to their long, happy marriage, the wife replied, “Love each other.” It seemed like such a simple answer, but love really has a powerful impact especially when referring to the life-long commitment between two people.

Role Models of Love

Unlike my parents, my husband and I followed most of the modern marriage traditions, including the plethora of engagement and wedding photos and snapshots, which are displayed in our home. My daughters love to look at our wedding pictures – such as the first dance, father/daughter dance and happy couple pose. They comment, “Mommy, your dress is beautiful, and Daddy is handsome.” It gives me such joy to see my children appreciating the beautiful moments of our wedding day. However, someday they will know it’s not all about the suits, dresses and pretty flowers. It is about love.

I admire my parents for following their hearts. Most importantly, I’m so happy my mom said “yes” to love because soon after, I came into the world. I think the major secret to a happy marriage also lies in how we – as parents role model love each and every day. The kind of love that takes you to Las Vegas to elope, or wed barefoot on a beach. My ultimate hope would be that my children find true love that endures the test of time – maybe even for 68 years.

Sidenote: My parents – through good times and bad are still together after more than 40 years of marriage. To quote one of my dad’s favorite songs by John Lennon and Paul McCartney, “All you need is love.” Happy anniversary.

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