A Six Year Old’s Simple Rules of Life

August 1, 2016 by  
Filed under GG's writing, Writing

Each summer, I’m lucky to spend a week or two with my niece and I am always amazed. It’s a refreshing perspective to watch the world through a young one’s eyes. When Skylar is purposely focused, creating a detailed, drawn-out story around something as seemingly minuscule as a stick outside, for instance, I gain insight into what it means to truly live in the moment and experience life passionately.

Skylar likes to write poetry, she loves to make up stories and she relishes in make-believe. She even creates her own language complete with definitions. On one particular day of  playing school this summer, “teacher” Sky told “student” Auntie T there are a few rules everyone must live by. Wow, she’s wise beyond her years. I was so intrigued that I felt compelled to write these down. I asked Sky if I could mark these on this blog. Of course, that brought up a whole new conversation on blogging. She couldn’t wait to tell mom and dad! 🙂

My niece and I at THROWN ELEMENTS, a paint-your-own pottery place in Arlington Heights, IL

At THROWN ELEMENTS, a paint-your-own pottery place in Arlington Heights, IL

Skylar’s Rules

  1. Laugh every day. Skylar’s right – laughter is indeed the best medicine. We change physiologically when we laugh. We stretch muscles throughout our face and core, our pulse and blood pressure go up, and we breathe faster. It’s a mild workout, if you will, for your psyche. Come to think, I just looked this up and found a laughter researcher (what a happy job!), William Fry, who claimed it takes ten minutes on a rowing machine for his heart rate to reach the level it would after just one minute of hearty laughter. I’m not so sure that exact amount of time holds true for everyone – I know my own heart rate elevates more rapidly during exercise. In any case, there’s no argument to the claim that laughter does wonders for us.
These two share the same birthday. They had to meet - it's a special day!!!

Sky with her new friend, Henry: these two share the same birthday – it’s a special day!!!

2. Be happy. This one truly is a choice . . . Skylar gets it right again! According to Thérèse Jacobs-Stewart, whether we realize it or not, we choose the thoughts that run through our heads and, thus, can choose feelings of happiness. Thoughts turn to our reality. I always err on the happy side. How about you?!


3. Listen to mom and dad, not strangers. This one was music to her parent’s ears. Young or old, we should all listen more carefully to what our parents are saying or said, and be grateful for our time with them, shouldn’t we? As for the strangers, it’s important to make friends but take heed of those that don’t follow the rules on this page.

Children are so good at making fast friends.

Children are so good at making fast friends.

4. Don’t be mad or sad. I agree with Sky that we can choose to not be mad or sad. Recognize and ride out those feelings but don’t let them take over. Forgive, keep on keeping, and be grateful for what you have. Holding onto the smallest ounce of negativity toward the past can lead to losing precious people in our lives.



5. Always, always, always LOL. She actually used the acronym when she said this one. I love how she came full circle, back to laughter. She indeed recognizes its significance. So there you have it, life as it should be according to a six-year old. It really is this simple. Period. Sometimes we need a young one to remind us.

At 2Toots Train Whistle Grill in Bartlett, IL

At 2TOOTS TRAIN WHISTLE GRILL in Bartlett, IL where they serve food on a train!

Humane or Insane?! – My Skunk Stay

November 30, 2014 by  
Filed under GG's writing

I’ve long since shown my students these photos but I’ve been horrible this school year with keeping up with my own personal blogging site.  Maybe it’s the cold weather that makes me turn to nature.  Maybe I just want to show off these pictures.  Maybe I’m just a bit crazy and okay with sharing some of that craziness.  Whatever the case,  I devote my first of this new batch of blogs to Skychi, Gronda, Buente, Oka, Cincy, Gwtine, and Bwit!  

Seven inhabitants welcomed themselves around my home this past late spring and early summer.  Most folks would not take so kindly to these guests and my neighbors really hoped I evicted them stat.

I, on the other hand, err on the patient side of life so these creatures stayed with me for their needed nesting duration before moving on to greener pastures.

Long story short, these seven black and white furballs invaded uninvitedly but exited peacefully.  My niece uniquely named them:   Skychi (Mama Skunk)  and her children Gronda, Buente, Oka, Cincy, Gwntine, and Bwit  (she wanted to be sure I spelled them correctly here).  


Mama with one of her young - about 2.5 mos old here

Mama with one of her young – about 2.5 mos old here

Apparently, Mama Skunk and her babies felt completely safe around my home during their residency because they did not spray once.  They were quite quiet, actually.   I refused to cage them . . . not only is that inhumane, that would guarantee a stubbornly stinky spray session.  Rather, I waited for the six darling babies to grow and leave the burrow they called home under my home.

I looked at the situation more as an unexpected summer science research project and learned a bit about these creatures:

  • Skunks are naturally docile and only spray when they feel threatened.
  • They have MAD digging skills!!!
  • Mothers take very good care of their young. Skychi took her young ones out faithfully each evening around 9:45 for a quick leg stretch.  That duration became longer as they grew (and grew quickly they did!)
  • They sleep all day.
  • They are not disturbed by noise during the day.  On some days, I’d have friends sitting next to the hole, talking but neither hide nor hair from the skunks.  They were used to certain voices, I think!
  • The little ones don’t seem to realize their spray capabilities until they leave the nest.
  • Mama Skunk keeps them nested until three months old – she arrived late April, had her babies, and left with her clan in late July.
  • Skunks hate cayenne paper and onions!
Peeking out!

Peeking out!


Today, all holes have been professionally inspected and re-sealed very carefully with cement; I don’t think I’ll be graced with a repeat visit nor do I want to take a chance.  (I think I just got lucky with an extremely docile group).   My neighbors now talk amusingly about my summer hosting!  No one was sprayed so everyone’s content . . . and amused!!


One big happy, sweet family!

One big happy, sweet family!


Cute faces that I couldnt cage. I just held my breath that theyd hold the spray!!

Cute faces that I couldnt cage. I just held my breath that theyd hold the spray!!

Startling sight, but no spray to my delight!

Startling sight, but no spray . . .  to my delight!

First encounter/photo shoot with Mama Skychi

First encounter/photo shoot with Mama Skychi

Graduation to Life

July 2, 2014 by  
Filed under GG's writing

It’s been a month and a half since my daughter graduated from USC!!  Wow, it’s still sinking in that I’m the mom of a college graduate.   As I type this, I just got off the phone with her, on the heels of her first business trip.  It’d be unprofessional (and perhaps contradictory to some of the words below) to brag like I REALLY want about her dream job that she landed a week after graduation, so this overly zealous mom will try very hard to focus this post on a significant event celebrating her and her peers’ accomplishments.

Bovard Auditorium at University of Southern California

Bovard Auditorium at University of Southern California

Graduation weekend still replays in my mind and always will.  Dare I say it’s an accomplishment, in an itty-bitty way, for parents who raised these accomplished graduates too.  I still spot tweets about commencement addresses that continue to resonate so I don’t think I’m too tardy in posting about this now.  

On-campus prep for graduation day!!!

Prep for graduation day!!!  . . . Breathtaking campus – with or without the tents!

One of the amazing experiences was attending the USC 2014 Baccalaureate Ceremony, a non-denominational, inter-faith celebration, on Thursday, May 15th, evening before graduation.   While we had the pleasure of listening to three commencement speeches before the weekend was over, Rainn Wilson’s keynote speech of the evening, “The New American Dream:  Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Service” is the one that resonates most with me.  Listening to his speech was particularly poignant for my family as we’ve watched “The Office” religiously since Season 1; Dwight is one of my daughter’s favorite T.V. characters – she still has her Dwight bobble-head!!  Sitting in the front row only added to the blessing of being able to attend!  HERE’s the speech in its entirety.  It is worth your eighteen minutes!

The following key points are as I digest them.  I really did want to take notes, as Rainn jokingly tells the audience to do.  But, articulating the major points of this speech now, after letting thoughts ruminate, is truly a cathartic experience in itself.  So I thank you, Mr. Wilson!!  You’ve helped my family through day-to-day stress years ago by providing truly fun entertainment on television; and now, you are providing thought-provoking philosophies to help us grow spiritually.

To open the presentation, Rainn Wilson candidly revealed that he came very close to canceling because he himself has been going through a rough month in his own life.  This instantly gave him powerful sincerity in the words he shares, believes and strives to achieve himself.  He is attempting to achieve these laws, admittedly with difficulty, within his own world.  Powerful!!

Speaking of powerful, he referred to prayer as the most “powerful force in the universe” and I’ve since used that phrase aloud myself in a number of conversations with a couple folks who are also going through a rough time.  I believe this is true.

Rainn outlines the majority of the speech with laws for happiness but quickly declares how much he actually despises the word, happiness.  It seems to connote a fleeting choice that is outside of ourselves.  He compares happiness with eating cotton candy (which I’ve been known to inhale, so I related well to the fleeting sensation).  Like cotton candy, happiness gives us a high when we digest it but we almost immediately crash, wanting more fistfuls to keep us satisfied.  Joy, contentment, serenity are all words he likes better that connote more permanence.  These words more specifically refer to perspectives and beliefs within us.  Bottom line, this man knows a thing or two more than just paper.  His words are wise and real.

Trojan Cupcakes for dessert!!!

Trojan Cupcakes at the evening’s dinner!

Rainn’s Laws of Happiness Contentment (as corrected by Mr. Wilson himself) ~ He pointed out that these laws have been proven by science, psychology, theology and he, in turn, quotes numerous scientists, psychologists, and theologists throughout his speech:

1.   Happiness is not an if/then proposition.  If/then equations never meet our ultimate needs or fulfill our true standards.  Happiness is cotton candy – it’s sticky and dissatisfying.  Real happiness is found inside of ourselves, a choice that we make from within.    If/then decisions such as these only lead us wanting more:  (If I make _____ amount of $$, then I will be happy; If I become a ________, then I will be happy; If I marry _______, then I will be happy.). Happiness is not outside of ourselves or even something to be pursued, Rainn goes on to say.  Happiness is not defined by any thing or any person or any entity; it is a state-of-mind.  I believe this is true.  Choosing to view all life experiences as positive is a choice that leads to contentment, not necessarily the life experiences themselves (which eventually end) being the contentment.

2.  “Desirelessness” can set us free.  Rainn goes on sharing that desire leads to dissatisfaction whereas non-attachment leads to joy.  Physical happiness is limited; spiritual happiness is eternal.  According to the actor’s testimonials, spiritual beings have more human experience. Those who are spiritually engaged are far happier than those who are not because they are searching from the inside out rather than the outside in.  In his explanation, Rain explains that we constantly long for permanence in a world that is impermanent in every way – we ourselves are not permanent pieces of this earth.  Nothing remains the same.  Suffering, therefore, lies within any outside attachment.  When we detach from whatever is outside of us, we are free to be content.  We are so much a part of this outside world and are constantly bombarded with commercialism, as Rainn refers to, with societal pressures, with getting ahead and with wanting more.  Detachment from these things does not mean being uncaring, lazy or laissez-fair; it simply means not letting these things we can’t hold forever make us forget what we can hold on to – our beliefs and values.

3.  Live in the spirit:  Concentrate on the divine, spiritual part of who you are and you will find true satisfaction, according to the man previuosly known as Dwight.  Live in your soul.  To me, this means search for what inspires you, search for what makes you want to create, search for what you love – and you’ll never “work” a day in your life.  I don’t!

4.  Have an attitude of gratitude:   For this law, Rainn referred to his digital media company, SoulPancake ,and an experiment they conducted titled  “The Science of Happiness.”  I’ve been following his channel for quite some time.  There are numerous videos on this channel that are very useful supplementary material to share – – -hits-you-in-the-heart messages.  Rainn goes on to say that complaint is easy and, similarly, cynicism is easy to fall back on.  I personally know a couple souls who I believe truly feel more comfortable living within cynicism.  They don’t take gratitude and good fortune with nearly as much grace as they deserve to.  As Rainn stated, gratitude takes work – this I know firsthand but I also know firsthand that gratitude has the best payoff! I am genuinely grateful for all I’ve experienced, given and received – and I am trying very hard to openly express that gratitude much more often to more people.  Rainn Wilson is correct:   Think of something you are grateful for, share it and your heart will soar.

5.   Be here now! Live in the moment  . . . do not anticipate troubles, do not live in the past, do not be anxious over the future, do not live in your head or on your phone.  We need to live in the moment!!  I can’t tell you how depressing that too-familiar downward posture looks when I see a person peeled to his or her phone.  He or she misses so much!  Everything we need is right here, right now.  The past and future are illusions . . one is a dream, the other hasn’t happened yet.  I love this one!!  It prompts us not to worry about that which we have no control.

6.  The greatest meaning you will find in life, you will find in service to others.  Ironically, the more we search for ourselves, the less likely we are to find ourselves.  The more we search for God and our fellow man, on the other hand, the more we find ourselves.  Self-esteem, life satisfaction, sense of community is brought to light by service to others!  Show kindness, sacrifice time & energy – this is what life IS. The best way to combat a bad mood or even depression is to serve others – whether that means a full-out volunteer position at your local animal shelter or simply baking banana bread for your super wonderful, next door neighbor.  “In this me-me-me culture,” Rainn Wilson warns, “focus on yourself and you will find only misery, depression, emptiness. Focus on helping others and you will find joy, contentment, gratitude and buckets and buckets of eudaimonia”—a reference to the ancient Greek concept of happiness, which, Wilson explained literally means “human flourishing.”  Maybe this is why my job career lifestyle as a teacher does not feel like work.  We service some very special clients all day long – the students!  

With every speech (and every piece of writing), we take what we can and want to out of it, what works and resonates with us.  Each of the six “Laws of Contentment” speaks to me.  And unlike the character he played on T.V., Rainn Wilson didn’t need to pound on the podium or wave his arms around to get his point across.  Thank you, Rainn, for sharing your beliefs, your philosophies, your views, your care.  I am genuinely grateful!

Post-ceremony Dinner - delicious, elegant, joyous!

Post-ceremony Dinner – delicious, elegant, joyous!


To My Daughter

May 19, 2014 by  
Filed under GG's writing


This is a rare, super personal post for me.  I debated posting it but am so utterly proud of the daughter I’ve been blessed to raise.  Below is the letter I presented her with (minus a few private details) on the day she graduated from college. Since posting this, my daughter continues to flourish. She’s enjoying her third year as a publicist in the film industry, and recently earned a major promotion. She travels all over the world for work and pleasure . . . she’s living the life she dreamed – and isn’t that every parent’s dream for his/her children?!


**Dear Daughter**,

I loved you before I ever saw you but felt you growing inside. The moment I caught glimpse of you on the evening

you were born, I fell in love all over again – your head full of all that

beautiful dark hair and your tan skin. I knew you’d be a dancer because you held

your hands and legs in the air, flexed and watched them intently the second

the doctor laid you down. You always were an intent human. Your innate,

remarkable concentration and focus amazes me to this day!   And, yes, while you shined in

many-a-recital growing up, you are truly dancing through life. You have a joie-

de-vie that people can’t help but like when they meet and get to know you. I’m

hearing that infectious giggle as I type this . . .

In you,  I saw all hopes and dreams for the future begin to

blossom. The first words I said to you when you graced this world were, “We are

going to have the best life together.” And we are!! While you are farther in miles

now, you are never far in my mind or heart. Raising you, I

tried to teach you to believe in yourself and give you wings. I taught you how to

fly the best I could – and look where you’re landing; you are thriving as a young

lady fervently pursuing her dreams and goals in a major city in another state!!


 I told you growing up and I’ll tell you now, you can achieve whatever

you want to. You have that indefinable it – and I’m not just saying that because

I’m your mom. Your achievements attest to your gifts. You are everything I

hoped a daughter to be when I was growing up myself dreaming about you.

Here is my wish for you: I wish that this life always brings you your wishes and

dreams coming true. I hope your worries stay small and you never have to carry

more than you can hold. This I wish for you today and always.

 Congratulations on your graduation from USC. This marks the beginning of the next fruitful chapter of the blessed life you lead.

I love you very much, dear daughter, and am so very proud of you. Love, Mom

Long Days, Short Years

August 12, 2013 by  
Filed under GG's writing

I’m fresh from an exhilarating morning hill run with a dear friend who is also a teacher just as excited as I am with the approaching school year!  I’m about to enter my school building, in fact, but felt the need to stop and reflect before charging through the rest of the day . . . .


While summer is flying away as briskly as it usually does, I reflect on life lessons learned or reinforced over the warm days.  Reflecting on summer occurrences helps me mentally prep for the exciting new school year ahead.   There were quite a few mini-lessons these past few weeks but the one that resonates louder than ever is make the most of this moment we have NOW.  I’ve always believed living for today is essential:  yesterday is gone and done, tomorrow is not guaranteed.  My very first online post, Living in the Moment,  illustrates such subject through a poem I wrote for my mother years ago.

The major reinforcer of this lesson is watching my daughter embark upon her senior year of college.  Time flies more than we can foresee.  — My advance apologies if I start to use a bit too many clichés.  I tend to fall back on them when I philosophize.  —   I’ve told my colleagues who currently have little ones how much it seems like yesterday my girl was the same age even though it was two decades ago.  Gretchen Rubin’s video illustrates how long days can feel as we trudge through daily responsibilities and routine; however, looking back, the years seem short. It’s a poignant video that reminds us to revel in the routine!!

As my students sometimes complain that Thanksgiving or Christmas or spring break can’t get here fast enough, I always, always tell them that they’ll look back fondly and school days won’t seem as long.  Of course, they shake their heads disbelievingly but maybe someday they’ll understand.  🙂

Another reminder of what it means to enjoy our days stemmed from the recent loss of our pet of almost 16 years.  Full disclosure:  I am not a cat person by nature.  I grew up with dogs and, until we rescued our Crystal cat from a shelter, I was very close-minded about those I viewed as “cat people.”  Pet discrimination – guilty as charged.  To this day, I would always pet Crystal much more roughly than she preferred.   Anyhow, cats require lower maintenance and that’s exactly what I was seeking when I went back to work full time.  Crystal charmed us with her tricks and companionship.  She exemplified patience and unconditional, simple love.  What better lesson is there to learn than that?!  While I plan on getting a yellow Labrador or Golden Retriever in the future, Crystal will always hold a special place in the corner of our hearts.

Most negative incidents hold a very positive lesson within them.  Perhaps we just have to be patient or look a little deeper.  Case in point, my daughter sprained her foot badly at the very beginning of this summer.  What was supposed to be her last summer running (sometimes, literally) around Chicagoland turned out to be many hours spent sitting.  Flexibility is key in our minds even if our bodies aren’t always as flexible.  What this created for us was an opportunity to spend more time talking, sharing writing, looking at old videos, reading recipes and relaxing like we should and usually don’t.

One of my favorite simple summer spots

One of my favorite simple, summer spots

And so, as the new school year starts very soon, I’m grateful for the summer of reflection and the precious moments spent with the special people in my life.  We truly learned how to revel in moments this summer – it was pretty awesome!  The little downfalls we experience along the way are minor in the grand scheme of things.  Looking forward, I’m grateful for new beginnings.  I’m grateful for personal and professional possibilities.  I’m grateful for the exciting unknowns.

I’ll be watching with a fresh viewpoint as I ask my students to reflect on their own work.  I am anxious for the changes approaching at school:  new iPad classes, remodeled building, new homeroom period . . . as these changes and more occur, I will remember that, however long a particular day may sometimes seem, the school year is indeed fast!!   The end of the year approaches quickly; while there is work to be accomplished in between, it is the amazing students I teach that make the months fly by.


My Father’s Last Lesson

April 15, 2010 by  
Filed under GG's writing, Writing

Like small children, there’s something within us always longing to go home – to return, even briefly, to our parents.  Whether we are 6 or 60, we have that desire.  I am very blessed to be able to go home to my mother on any given day.  I haven’t, however, been able to go home to my father for quite some time.  My life (along with my mother’s and brother’s) changed forever on this April day years ago when, without warning, my beloved father died.  Life changed with the news of the moment during that spring break before Easter Sunday.  I was a freshman in high school and my brother was a 4th grader.  Our dad was away on a business trip in Colorado when we received an unexpected visit from his best friend and colleagues delivering the news no one in the world ever wants to give – our father suffered a major heart attack in the middle of the night and died alone in his hotel room.

One of my favorite photos of Dad and me!

His death certainly was not characteristic of his life.  He was very much a people person – the devoted husband, the caring father, the gracious host, the silly cousin (as his cousin, Anthony, strongly attests!).  When I recall his voice, I hear his laugh.  He had a way of making everyone around him feel comfortable, and he was known for his fun demeanor and unique sense of humor.  To this day, when I see someone who knew my father well, I consistently hear, “Oh, the stories I have about your father!”   He was quite the practical jokester.  An example ongoing joke between my mom and dad:  they took turns hiding this hideously hairy, riducuously realistic toy mouse from each other and tryed to ‘one-up’ the other into finding the most inconspicuous place that would drive the most reaction.  He knew what it meant to hold on to the little moments in life.  At the same time, he was a man who took great pride in his work while trying not to take himself too seriously.

An early family photo – Dad, Mom and me

I have no regrets for lost joys – I replay the good memories, am very grateful for the precious time, and remember the love wholeheartedly.  “The Missing Piece” by Shel Silverstein illustrates a significant life lesson I learned from my father’s death:

“The Missing Piece” by Shel Silverstein

It is a fable about a big wheel, a fabulous wheel, the fastest wheel of all. It outraced every other wheel and took a great deal of joy and pleasure out of doing that. One day it was wheeling along having the greatest time when it hit a bump and lost a piece of itself. Now, with a chunk missing, the wheel went clunking along, struggling to keep up with the other wheels.

The wheel felt extremely sad. It started journeying great distances in search of its missing piece. As the wheel traveled it grew tired and lay down on a field of grass. It saw the white clouds against the blue sky and heard the birds sing. It began to see life’s beauty everywhere.

Some years passed, and finally the wheel found its missing piece. Overjoyed, it made itself whole again and reattached the piece. But something went wrong. The wheel realized that it had actually felt more whole when part of it was missing. The experience of loss had guided the wheel into a new state of awareness and fulfillment. The wheel had learned how to turn loss into life.

I look at myself in the mirror and sometimes I see his eyes.   I know I have a guardian angel always watching over my family, and he will live on beneath everything we do.   He would be extremely proud, for instance, of his first grandchild’s outstanding achievements, and be completely overjoyed over his second granddaughter who was born on his birthday!!!!!!!!

My father always loved nature . . . mountains, water and storms.

John Mayer wrote in his song, “Daughters:”  ‘Fathers, be good to your daughters.  They will love like you do.‘  I’ve learned that the most important thing every father teaches his daughter to do is to love completely and truly.  My “anything for TC” father certainly taught me that.  I’ve asked myself if I am who I am . . . what I am . . . how I am . . . because my father lived or because my father died.  The answer, I’ve decided, is both!!  My father taught my mother, brother, and me an important lesson right through the end of his life here.  His death forced us to learn how to survive under the most difficult of situations, how to approach life’s unexpected turns, and how to turn loss into life.

In memory of Daddy!!

I took this with my first camera!

➔ ➔ ➔ The glue of the family, see my post celebrating my mother’s unbelievable strength that guided us through the difficult time of my father’s death:  My Mom, Still the Coolest Mom Around

Surprise Santa

December 5, 2009 by  
Filed under GG's writing, Writing

In honor of the holidays, I am sharing the story of a special Christmas from my childhood ~

Surprise Santa


Place yourself back in time when you were very young and Christmastime felt magical.  The world seemed to transform into an ever-jovial, bright and sparkly place.  And it wasn’t just because your mother exchanged every single household item (including the shower curtain and dinner plates!) for its Christmas counterpart, but because the WHOLE world was more fun.  Yes, even school was a happier place.  As Christmas loomed closer, the anticipation of Santa’s visit guaranteed tummy butterflies and lingering wide-eyed moments in bed before sleep.   Christmas Eve night included gazing out the window, guessing which bright star might be the Big Guy himself.

Year after year, my parents – like many loving mothers and fathers – gently told my brother and I that we couldn’t wake up in the middle of the night before Christmas lest we wanted St. Nick to take back all the presents.  Being the very abiding daughter that I was, I took that very seriously.   On one particular Christmas dawn, my 10th Christmas to be exact, I was the first to wake up bright and early just before 6:00 a.m.  I gleefully hopped out of bed and tiptoed down the hall to gain a first glimpse of the goodies under the tree.  My plan was to sneak my own peek, wake my bro, and then we’d both barge in our parents’ room.  Well, it didn’t quite work that way as I had a surprise that literally stopped me in my slippered tracks.  My glee instantly turned to shock as I stood still as a statue and stared at Santa Claus in what I thought was the middle of his delivery.   I felt my heart leap; I couldn’t move any closer than the end of the hall.  In the living room a few feet before me stood a tall-as the-tree Santa, dressed in his beautiful red suit, his big bulky black boots, his long white beard . . . and he was reaching into the tree.  Oddly, he was standing as still as I was but I interpreted that as his shock in being discovered.    I stood there for a very long moment not sure what to do; furthermore, in the rather dark room, I looked around and swore I saw three little elf heads peeking out at me from around the corner.  It was then I conjured up enough strength to run back to my room as fast as I could, jump back in bed, and cry.

It didn’t take long for my mother to hear me sniffling.  She concernedly whispered to my father, “Why is T crying on Christmas?!?” When she came in to ask me what the matter was, I exclaimed between flowing tears that “I woke up too early and Santa was there and he was mad that I saw him and now he’s taking all the presents back!” My mom started to chuckle and told me she heard the opposite – that Santa wasn’t mad at all and, in fact, left an extra big surprise this year.  I hesitantly followed her back to the living room.  The figure in the red suit was still there but my mother turned on some lights and revealed the big “surprise:” a life-size Santa stand-in (and I do mean life-size!). I gasped and ran to touch him.  Oh . . . ummm, those elves I saw – they were my imagination playing tricks on me.  I was so relieved and excited again.  Christmas was back on!

Mom & Santa!

Mom & Santa two Christmases ago!

Mom and I decided to turn off the lights, hide in the foyer, and wait to see what my 4-year old brother’s reaction would be when he woke up and wandered in.  I was sure we were in for a show!!!  It wasn’t long before we heard his footed-pajamas slipping down the hall.  He too stopped at the end of the hall like I did – but that’s where the similarity in our reaction ends.  You see, here’s exactly what he did:  he rubbed his eyes, muttered, “Oh, that’s nice,” instantly spotted my mom and I and asked, “When can we open the presents?” I let my imagination run wild and here my little bro intuitively knew otherwise!!  How did that happen?!

The following year I eventually discovered the truth about Santa and learned how my parents acquired our unique Christmas novelty.  My father was the manager of an A & P grocery store at the time.  Pepsi-Cola donated the Santa to him.  He displayed it a couple weeks before Christmas and drove it home Christmas Eve day (quite a feat, considering how big Santa is and how many family members we had over that night for our annual Eve bash!).  Since then, he’s come home with more interesting friends such as a big black scaredy cat and a wart-nose witch.  But, none of them brought the memories that our Surprise Santa sprung. 

Santa has been part of numerous memories since then.  For instance, during Santa’s 2nd year, my father performed “surgery” as Mr. Claus was tired and didn’t want to stand any longer.  Given the special signficance behind the statue, my father would not let Santa “retire.”  Instead, he enlisted the help of our neighbor but, being the silly guy that my dad was, he decided it would be more fun to bring Santa to our neighbor’s house rather than have his friend come to our home. My father rolled the top down of his convertible, “sat” Santa in the passenger seat, drove to our neighbor’s house, honked the horn and waved to him with his red-suited friend.  Mind you, this was the middle of winter AND this particular neighbor lived across the street only five houses away.

The neighbor's get an extra treat every year!

 Surprise Santa still makes an appearance each Christmas, much now to the delight of my little niece.  His beard has been shampooed, his suit’s been dry cleaned and his body has been re-secured with heftier stilts but he still stands strong.  Christmas brings out the inner child in us all that is so important to channel once in a while.  I continue to get giddy when I decorate, the world still feels cozier this time of year, and I recall the memories when I look at Surprise Santa.  Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to everyone!!!  Let the magic of Christmas brighten your days!

Mini Me and Santa a few Christmases ago!

My daughter and Santa quite a few Christmases ago!

My Mom, Still the Coolest Mom Around

May 9, 2009 by  
Filed under GG's writing, Writing

Mom and Me then

Mom and Me

4th Grade International Cooking Days at school (most creative room mom ever!), watching me roll – and roll – down the hill at Lorado Taft, Crimes of the Heart in college when I cried on stage and could hear her sniffling in the audience almost as loud as me, the birth of my daughter, annual American Girl Place visits when Arianna was little . . . These only comprise a taste of special experiences I have shared with my mother – the one person in my life who is always there when I need a shoulder to cry on, an ear for listening, or a hand of support. I know of no one as selfless as she. My mother helps others before she helps herself, she makes life fun for those near her, and she is someone I want to be like when I grow up.

My mother puts the happiness of those she is close to before the happiness of herself. Throughout my life and my brother’s life, my mother has spent maybe one eighth of the time on herself. The rest is devoted to her family. She is either driving back and forth to my home to pick up my daughter when I have a schedule conflict or on the phone to offer an ear to Dave or taking my grandmother out shopping. When we were little, all of her decisions revolved around our well-being: she chose a job as a waitress so that she could be home with us during the day; she chose to maintain our home after our father died so that our lives would remain nearly the same; she chose to work more hours to fortify the lifestyle she thought we needed to be happy. Her caring doesn’t stop with my brother or me. She was the one who opened up our home to her mother and father when her mother became ill with cancer. (Of course, I was excited that grandma and grandpa were living with us; I didn’t understand the extra stress it placed on my mother’s life.) She was the one who looked after my grandfather who moved a few blocks away after my grandmother passed away. When her sister was dieing of breast cancer, she was the one who took her to and from her doctor appointments. In other words, she was – and is – the one who is there whenever family or friend is in need.

While striving to help others in any way that she can, my mother still manages to make life fun. Our home was always filled with fun toys, loving pets, happy music, and sweet smells. We were the only house on the block to hold a Fun Fair for the neighborhood complete with games and prizes, arts and crafts, and movies. Summers were filled with swimming in the backyard and Mom bringing out lunch on a tray with LHDRUs (ask me what that stands for later!). Christmas was a magical time, transforming our home from a suburban dwelling to Santa’s dreamhouse. Little elves abounded everywhere as everything from the welcome mat to the mantle centerpiece to the pictures on the wall evolved to Christmas décor. To this day, my daughter still finds Christmas Eve at “Gum’s” house as her favorite night of the year. Whenever my brother and I were sick, she would bring us food in bed, move a T.V into our room, and buy us magazines. I take pride in knowing I have a great role model for creating a happy home for my daughter.

For these reasons and more, I want to be like Natalie Theresa when I grow up. As I smooth the cream on my face at night, I can only hope that my skin displays as few wrinkles as hers. As I exercise daily, I can only wish that her washboard abs stay with me. As I force myself to think positive thoughts in tough situations, I can only aspire to be as optimistic as her. Natalie is a woman to admire. She transitioned to a completely new and successful real estate career at age fifty. She bought a new home and took on a new lifestyle at age sixty. She maintains numerous friendships that are thirty years old or older including high school buddies. She is privy to the latest fashions and could easily pass for someone fifteen to twenty years younger. She maintained the reputation among my and my brother’s friends as “the coolest mom around;” or, as some high school friends still remembered at my 20-year reunion – she’s a “hot mom.”

The last time I wrote a letter commemorating how significant my mother is in my life was for her fiftieth birthday. Well did we know then where we would be today. Teaching was only a distant dream, my daughter was barely three, and I had yet to endure the pain of divorce. She helped make that teaching dream turn into a reality by her constant support and care. Right now I can only imagine where I will be ten years from now. But I do know this – whatever current dreams I have, they will be more likely to happen with her constant love and positive encouragement to guide me along the way.


Mom and Me

Mom and Me


April 19, 2009 by  
Filed under GG's writing, Writing

Timing is everything.

Time is ours to spend but we can’t keep it.

We can’t see time but we can feel it.

We can feel time but we can’t hold on to it.

Time never stops but keeps going and going.

Time can’t be rushed yet it can’t be slowed down.

Once time is lost, it’s gone forever.

Timing is everything.

Living in the Moment

March 31, 2009 by  
Filed under GG's writing, Writing

Creativity is maximized when you’re living in the moment.  BREATHE DEEPLY and appreciate the moment.  Living in the moment could be the meaning of life.
A poem I wrote 14 years ago for my mother’s birthday illustrates this message well:

Firsts and Lasts

Life is full of firsts. First step, first word, first day of school, first love, first job . . . the list goes on. We commemorate those firsts and remember them. But what about the lasts in our lives?

Do we remember when was the last time we played with a favorite toy from our childhood? Did we know that on one not so memorable, probably very ordinary day, we would be putting a beloved doll to rest in its box for the very last time?

Sometimes we begin traditions without much planning. We start an activity, like the way it fits our lifestyle, and we continue it for a time. All of a sudden, we wake up and realize the “tradition” is gone. Can we recall which was the last Sunday we dined out weekly for brunch?

What about those traditions we followed for years and years? The Easter brunches, the Christmas Eves, the New Year’s sleep overs. Did we make the last time special? Did we know that it was important to make the last time special?

Life is full of memorable firsts, yet it is just as plentiful of special lasts – only we don’t know it until the lasts have passed. Thus, we must take joy in life’s simple pleasures as well as the main events; we must love one another as if we are all brothers and sisters; we must treat each occasion as if it was a first.

Dedicated to you Mom, inspired from your own words