Home for the holidays

DSCN2880Now in its second printing and available on Kindle, Writing Home is a collection of my published magazine essays and family newspaper columns. Awarded several prizes for creative nonfiction, it’s been dubbed “a love letter to home and family life.” If you enjoy my personal blog and current newspaper essays, you might appreciate this collection of earlier memoirs, too.

To read excerpts, reviews, and the new introduction to the Kindle edition, please click this link and visit the book’s page on Amazon.

To purchase Writing Home locally, visit The Yellow Door Art Market, where you’ll find a wonderful selection of other Michigan books and gifts for everyone on your list.

 

 

Gather your tribe

It takes a long time to grow an old friend.” — John Leonard

DSCN1736True friends occupy the top of my gratitude list this Thanksgiving. I can’t imagine where I’d be without the dear ones who chatted past midnight in college, coached me through my pregnancy, or held my hand at my dad’s funeral. And most of all, I cherish the troopers who still show up for emergencies as well as holiday parties.

As we age, our friendships change. As Irene Levine, PhD points out, finding the time to maintain strong friendships — and knowing where to look for new ones — can be challenging in our middle years. That’s the topic of my November column in Prime, which includes some helpful tips on friendship from Dr. Levine, also known as “The Friendship Doctor.” If you subscribe to the Sunday Detroit News and Free Press, look for a print copy in your November 10 edition.  Click here and flip to page 12 to read it online.

Researching this topic for my column, I ran across lots of good material on friendship, in addition to Dr. Levine’s blog. Here are just a few articles you might enjoy:

On friends you should fire: http://www.forbes.com/sites/erikaandersen/2012/11/17/3-kinds-of-false-friends-you-must-fire-from-your-life/

From Psychology Today: What makes a true friend: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/happiness-in-world/201002/what-makes-true-friend

Why it’s hard to make friends after 30: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/15/fashion/the-challenge-of-making-friends-as-an-adult.html?_r=1&

Must read: On friendship and paybacks in the Wall Street Journal. 

 

 

Home is here, now

So I’ll try to see into your eyes right now, and stay right here, ’cause these are the good old days.” — Carly Simon, “Anticipation”

Thanksgiving2My grown son, who’s married and lives in Chicago, is back in town with his wife for a friend’s wedding. It’s a short weekend visit, but I plan to enjoy every minute of it.

This morning I recalled an earlier autumn homecoming, nine years ago, when Nate first left the state for college. As a brand-new empty nester, I’d been anticipating his fall break and return home. I looked forward to being Mom again, if only for a few days.

Two weeks earlier, I channeled my inner June Cleaver and planned a week’s worth of family meals and favorite snacks. I reorganized my work deadlines, freeing extra time to take him out for lunch at his former haunts. My husband repaired the plaster damage from a roof leak in Nate’s bedroom, and then repainted it.

As soon as our son walked in the side door, the truth hit home: What the kid really needed was a low-key week. Stressed-out from exams, Nate wasn’t expecting a fanfare or fancy dinners. He’d been looking forward to sleeping in and simply hanging out with family and friends. In my efforts to turn his visit into a special event, I’d forgotten that my son didn’t want to feel like a guest in his own home.

Realizing my error, I released my grip and let the week unfurl without a plan.

In retrospect, the high points of that first break were the times we ran a few mundane errands together. Driving around town, between trips to the dry cleaner and the drugstore, we chatted about Nate’s classes, his new friends in the dorm, and the music he was listening to then. College was turning my snarky adolescent boy into a thoughtful young man — and I found myself enjoying his company.

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More than wrinkles and gray hair, our kids never fail to remind us of our own aging.  Overnight, they morph from preschoolers in OshKosh overalls to college students in size 12 running shoes. Letting go also requires that we accept the fact that time isn’t standing still for any of us.

It’s a sobering thought — and ever more poignant when autumn leaves start to scatter across our doorstep.

Earlier this fall, for instance, I watched from a distance while the neighborhood teens posed for homecoming photographs in their formalwear. Giddy with anticipation, the girls could barely stand still while a group of proud parents focused their cameras. The boys struggled to look comfortable in freshly pressed suits and ties. Their youthful beauty took my breath away, and my heart ached a little.

It occurred to me then that my days of snapping photos of prom gowns and homecoming suits were over. And I wondered: Had I fully experienced those moments, or simply captured them on film to savor later? How often had I dashed mindlessly from one “special” event to the next?

Recalling the lyrics to Carly Simon’s “Anticipation,” I’m struck by the fact that our “good old days” are unfolding right here and right now. But we have to slow down long enough to appreciate them.

It’s a worthy thought to ponder before the onset of the winter holidays – before all of us get tangled up in holiday lights and lists, decorating marathons, and long lines at the malls.

In anticipation of Thanksgiving, I’m adding all things beautifully mundane and uneventful to my gratitude list.  I’m counting my commonplace blessings — the bowl of red apples on the kitchen counter; the mischievous cat chasing the pens on my desk; a pot of vegetable soup simmering in my slow cooker; a weekend visit with my son and his wife.

This season I’ll practice coming home to the present moment, to the grace of ordinary days on my calendar.