Wild Thing! You Make My Heart Sing!

speedbump-wild-thingsIsn’t it easy to slip into a rut? The busyness of life can leave you feeling too tired to go out. Sometimes it’s hard to summon the energy to even PLAN a fun outing!

“Let’s just watch a movie (or catch up on our recorded shows),” is the non-wild refrain heard in many households (including mine) on most Friday or Saturday nights.

Last weekend we actually did something different: went to see an 80′s cover band called The Legwarmers. Of course, the night out was suggested and planned by a friend (thanks, Janeen!), but we get points for showing up and having a great time.

What fun things are other Wise Women doing? How do you manage to incorporate it into the rest of your life? Who does the planning?

It’s spring … time to make our hearts sing! Let’s have at it!

P.S. David Coverly’s Speed Bump cartoons are my favorite! Short, sweet and spot on. Check them out in Parade Magazine.

A Kick In The Family Jewels

jewelsMost families have certain traditions and values they believe in. As parents with noble intentions, we often try to instill these important values – family “jewels” if you will – in our children.

At some point, our children inevitably do or say something that runs counter to or challenges those family beliefs. For unsuspecting and well-intentioned parents, these confrontations over values can be like a proverbially kick to the family jewels. For example, I remember the first time a child of mine lied to me.  With my values of honesty and open communication, I was devastated and convinced that I had failed as a parent.

Such were the thoughts that swirled in my head as I read the dilemma of Slate columnist Emily Bazelon: her elementary-aged sons were rebelling against their family tradition of hosting a birthday party book swap.  Early in their children’s lives, Bazelon and her husband decided to take a stand against the excess of material possessions which is true for so many American kids. So, for birthday parties, guests were asked to bring a wrapped book instead of a gift for the birthday boy; at the end of the party, each person left with a new book (plus a party favor).

Curious how my children (now teens) would react to the idea of party devoid of presents, I read Bazelon’s piece to Caitlin and Jackson. “That’s ridiculous,” Jackson sputtered, alternating between anger and sympathy over the lack of birthday presents. “It seems like the parents are trying too hard to make the point,” said a slightly chagrined Caitlin.

Bazelon received lots of feedback on Slate.com about her family tradition (much of it could have been written by my kids). A few offered alternatives on how to pass along the anti-consumption message to children.

As for me, I think the book swap party was a terrific idea whose time had passed. I salute the Bazelon parents in their efforts to teach their kids values and hope they come up with other nifty ideas that are a better fit for the kids’ stage in life.

I’d love to beg, borrow or steal others’ ideas about passing along values to our children. (And that last verb is NOT a family value in our house – really!)


It’s All About the Small Things…

fs_985330It’s the forties curse.  I remember when I had just turned 40, a slightly older friend told me that I would not pass through this decade without the probable loss of a parent.  An eerie predicition, and I am sad to say, my wonderful mother passed away unexpectedly on January 28th.  While her health and ability to enjoy the simple pleasures in life were on the decline, her voice was still strong and cheerful on the other end of the phone line.  How awful to lose someone so dear, and to suppress the pain, I find myself rationalizing her passing:

  • She lived a full 75 years – touching and shaping many lives, full of smiles and wonderful experiences
  • Despite declining health, she had no pain and was quickly taken away from us in a peaceful passing; we were truly lucky to not witness suffering or the loss of independence that a nursing home would have subjected her to down the road
  • I feel grateful that she celebrated momentous milestones in her life – the marriage to a wonderful, “always fun around the corner” type husband, the birth of two daughters and six grandchildren, and the celebration of 50 years of marriage.

While she will be sorely missed, I am so grateful she lived a long, meaningful and giving life. Her posititive and loving imprint is on all of us that she knew.  In reflection, as a mother, it makes you think about what it is that your children will remember about you – what are the most meaningful imprints you can impart?

I find the imprints of the fabric my mother wove for me are comprised of many of the small things in life – whether it is the late night snacks of anchovies on butter and saltine crackers (yes, weird I know), her bravery to take teenage girls abroad on extended travel (I would never have the guts to do so), her ability to make everything so nice with her special little touches (even down to the way she folded the bath towels), making me steak and egg breakfasts on the days of my swim meets, the monthly package of newspaper clippings from our hometown paper that she sent my sister and I to keep us informed of local news and happenings after we left home, her meticulous way of writing thank you notes, mentioning every gift, how much she liked it, and how she was using it.

These memories are just the tip of the iceberg of the many small things that you can almost take for granted when they are happening, but upon reflection you realize that it’s the small things that make the big lasting imprint and tell the greatest story of love and caring.

Here’s to Nancy Garfield Rice – one truly fantastic lady.

A Mother is Born

A dear friend who has two sons adopted from Korea forwarded a video starring ten moms (including herself) who have adopted children.  The lead-in line to the video is – “When a child is adopted, a mother is born.”

It’s very heartwarming and I thought it was worth sharing, especially with so many children around the world in need of a family.

For the short clip on you tube, click here.

To see the full five minute video, click here.

If adoption is something that you have been considering, I think this just may inspire you to take the next step.

Surviving Snow-pocalypse


What does 26 inches of snow look like? And what does one do when that much snow falls?

We here in the DC area rarely have a need to contemplate such an apocalyptic weather event. (Fortunately!)

However, we had plenty to “contemplate” after last weekend’s snowstorm that swept the Mid-Atlantic states.

Here is a photo diary of how our family survived Snowpocalypse 2010.



The railing on our deck is the official spot for monitoring snow accumulation at our house. Typically, we guess how many inches have piled up. This time around, we had to convert our guesses to feet. (You can also see the tail lights of one of the cars peeking out from underneath the snow mounds.)



No newspaper delivery due to icy roads? No problem with a newly purchased Kindle. A couple of clicks and a free, trial subscription to The Washington Post later, we are connected to the sports page vital world news. Phew.



No electricity and, therefore, no heat? No problem when you dress in footie pj’s.snow-Caitlin


No electricity and it’s heading toward nightfall? Hmmm, THAT could be a problem. Time to hunt through the house and gather anything that can shed light. (Can you tell I’m not a candle person? We could only round up five measly candles, and I had to wipe off dirt/fuzz from two of them.)



Given a day free of all electronics, Mike and Jack decide to assemble a table hockey game, a Christmas present that still resided in its original box. They made major strides in putting it together (although, here, they are trying to un-do one of the steps). About 75% complete, the game still sits on my bedroom floor.


One of the reasons the game is not done: Mike sustained an injury during “The Making of The Hockey Game.” I asked him to quit for the day before any other body part was injured (and any blood got on my carpet).



Fortunately, Caitlin had the foresight the night before to make a batch of brownies to ensure we had sustenance while we were sans power.


The good news is that our power came back after only eight hours, and we were able to dig out our cars and get out of our neighborhood after only 48 hours of being home bound. We made it!

Having said that, it’s probably a safe bet that Survivor host Jeff Probst won’t be knocking on our door anytime soon asking us to audition for his adventure show.

Life’s Crossroads – Then and Now

momelaineofftocollegeIt’s a sweltering August day in Washington, DC in 1981, and my mom and I are standing in front of the Holiday Inn on Wisconsin Ave. We are about to venture over to the new student reception at Georgetown University, and I will catch my first glimpse of my home for the next four years.

We look surprisingly calm, don’t we? But, then again, perhaps it’s hard to tell with all that hair. (Note my attempt at feathered locks.)

The above photo captures me at a true crossroads in life. At that exact moment, I had absolutely no idea how my life would unfold. But, I was ready! Despite the twisting in my stomach and sweaty palms (not evident to the camera), I was oh-so-ready to begin that next leg of the journey. In a matter of hours, I would start making decisions – big and small – that would shape my college experience and beyond.

These days, crossroads are not nearly as clear-cut and defined. Major decision points in later life look more like this …

street-signLife’s crossroads are on my mind of late because I recently gave notice at my job. In a few months, I will leave my place of employment, despite my doing satisfying work with people I respect and enjoy. You see, it’s a full-time job, one that cannot (or will not) be made into a part-time or job-share position. And, having more flexibility at work has leap-frogged back to the top of my priority list. So, it’s time to make a change.

The who/what/when/where of this change is TBD. Unlike 1981, I no longer have a clean slate upon which to script this life transition. And, this time, the change process will be full of stops and starts, incremental discernment, hopefulness, ambivalence, and inevitable disappointment.

Hmmm … maybe what’s needed is a new hairstyle to kick-off this process.

One Last Ode to the Rooster

DSC_0700Just one last blog on our rooster. Every year I tell my children that I want home-made gifts from them for Christmas.  I have received great pictures, calendars, CD mixes, home movies, quote-aids (quotations written on band-aid like pieces of paper) and this year, a replica of our Lakenvelder Rooster, Michael Jackson.

David, my 15 year old, escaped to the basement, and used a jig saw to cut out an outline of a Lakenvelder rooster with plywood, and then painted it.  I LOVED it, and it’s now hanging on my kitchen wall.  It’s very professional looking I might add.  The only mistake that he made in making it is that the rooster’s mouth is not open crowing – which was pretty much the perpetual state of MJ, as you can see by the below picture.

I now need to convince him to go into production – and add Chicken Wall Hangings to his egg sales!


Hitting a Home Run With A Gift


When I was young, our family opened up our Christmas presents in two phases. My parents would humor us by allowing us to open a gift or two before they had their first cup of coffee, we’d take a break to eat, and then resume the present-opening.

I remember the year I had my first lesson in “Thou shall not covet.” I was an early teen and my brother (18 months younger) opened up a present that turned out to be something I desperately wanted: a clock radio. (Equate my yearning with pining after an IPod in today’s world.) The only problem it was HIS present and HIS clock radio. I remember blinking back sudden tears of disappointment as we moved (I trudged, he danced) into the kitchen for breakfast.

After downing the Christmas breakfast casserole, we returned to the remaining pile under the tree. Since it was my turn to open, I was handed a present. Given my funk, I did not notice it was was similar in look and size as a previous present. To this day I recall how my heart leaped when, after ripping off the wrapping, I saw that I, too, had received a clock radio, the identical model

I loved that clock radio for many first years. It was the first time I had the ability to listen to music into my room, a sure sign that I was older. My girlfriend and I used to listen to it as we traded stories about the latest teen-world drama, also keeping an ear out for the radio contest on our favorite station. We’d hear the special, call-in song, dash into a nearby room and dial the 1-800 number frantically trying to be the 20th caller to win the free concert tickets or other prizes. (Because, of course, teens didn’t have phones in our bedrooms in those days.)

Clearly, that was a “home run gift” when, 30+ years later, I can still wax eloquently on about my beloved clock radio.

When have you hit a home run with a gift you’ve given or received?

There, I Fixed It – Redux

Last week I shared our family’s challenges figuring out how to make the lights work on our pre-lit Christmas tree.  Turns out we’re not the only ones who must resort to jerry-rigging, as evidenced by the hilarious inventive photos on There, I Fixed It.

But, in case any of you were concerned that this Wise Family would suffer through a light-less holiday, let me present ….. Ta-Dah! Our lit tree!


Sorry about the blurriness; this was the only shot that showed conclusively that the lights are, without a doubt, on!

Upon closer inspection, you will see ours is a makeshift solution. But, it’s nothing that a strategic placement of an ottoman and turning of the tree can’t hide.



P.S. Thank you to Wise Hubby for his patience and sense of humor about all this.

The Allure of the Bieber

tn-1If you have a young lady in the house, you’re sure to have heard of relatively new on the scene heart throb and teen idol Justin Bieber.  I escorted three 13 year old girls into New York City last Friday to attend the Jingle Ball – quite a music extravaganza.  During a full four hours, we were entertained by the likes of Taylor Swift, John Mayer, Boys Like Girls, Owl City, The Fray, Pitbull, Jay Sean, Jordan Sparks, Kris Allen, & 15 year old Justin Bieber.

To start the evening, we just happened to run into Jordan Sparks, who was talking with fans on the street.  She was very nice, and I was able to get a few pictures of her with the girls.  Inside Madison Square Garden, the overwhelming majority of the audience was girls with their Mom or Dad.  And with such an amazing line-up, it was Justin Bieber, with the mere mention of his name, that nearly brought the house down with deafening noise.

The Bieber story (click here to see one of his videos) is an amazing one.  He has just come on the scene in the last year.  From Ontario, in 2007, he posted a few videos of himself singing to share with friends and family.  The viral network took over – and before long there had been 10 million views of his videos, including an agent in Atlanta who called him down for a meeting where he met Usher.  From the start both Usher and Justin Timberlake were pursuing him – and a week after his first meeting, he signed with Usher and his music label, Island Records – -  and the rest is history.  His first album, My World, is just hitting.

So I must say, he IS adorable.  His fast rise to fame as a talented singer and dancer gave him the coveted spot – next to last in the line-up at the Jingle Ball, only to precede the headliner, Taylor Swift.  Poor John Mayer, who proceeded him, recognized that he was just an act to bear through as the audience waited with baited breath for the entrance of Justin.   Justin didn’t disappoint – and sang his pop love songs, brought a girl up on stage and gave her a couple of dozen roses, and formed a heart shape with his fingers – the crowd went wild.  Usher also surprised us all, and came on stage to join Justin for a song.

I must admit, I concur with every young girl and teen in the audience – he is adorable, and very talented.  And a classic American success story. From 0 to 100 in a flash.

I define joy as a sustained sense of well-being and internal peace – a connection to what matters
Oprah Winfrey

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