Why I Hate New Years…

Judging by social media over the last few days, 2016 was apparently the worst year in all of humanity. The rash of posts and tweets heralding New Year’s Eve as the end of all the ills that have befallen the world left me a little befuddled (which, admittedly, is not hard to do).

This symbolic adherence to New Years as the closing of one door and the opening of another has always struck me as a little contrived.

Maybe it’s because I have always marked the passing of time by the school year, not the calendar year. Read more...

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Be The Inkeeper Who Opens The Door

Be the Innkeeper Who Opens The Door. Mary and Joseph. Be the Good. Christmas Kindness. All Year Long. LuckyOrangePants.com
One year ago tonight, I took the boys to dinner. As Jack was making his salad, an elderly gentleman with a walker was trying with some effort to open the door.

Without my prompting, the boys rushed to open the door for him. He seemed genuinely touched and told me what gentlemen they were.

For some reason, I could not stop glancing over at the man as he waited for his takeout order at a nearby table. Perhaps it was his eyes which bespoke a quiet, gentle loneliness. I know that look.

I have felt it. Read more...

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How To Love Hard When It’s Hard

This is my week perfectly captured in one picture.
Bikes falling over love hard
It was one of those weeks that was derailed by too many deadlines and not enough time, high expectations followed by staggering disappointments, the pressure to do the things that were supposed to bring me joy and the realization that everything was making me unhappy. It was unfortunately also a week where my insomnia kicked into high gear, leaving me unable to rationally cope with all of those things.

Trying to salvage some good from the week, I went to buy 2 bikes for our Angel Tree angels. Just when I started to feel a little bit lighter, I accidentally knocked down a row of 20 bikes. Read more...

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A Girl, Her Dad, and a Boy

One year ago, I woke up to Facebook reminding me, as I was still groggy and only half awake, to wish my dad a happy birthday.

And for a minute, it felt like salt in my wounds because he’s not here anymore damnit and I silently cursed myself for forgetting to delete his account again.

But then I went on a field trip with 20 first grade boys who were silly and sweet and wanted to feel and touch and learn.

And one of them – one who always has trouble staying out of trouble – seemed to need my attention. So I held his hand while we walked and I gave him my sandwich when he asked if he could have it because he didn’t like his own and I played games with him on the bus to distract him from hitting the other boys. Read more...

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Redefining Grateful

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I walked into Serendip the other day to buy some lamps (which I did by the way and they’re really fucking cool). As I was checking out, the owner slipped this into my hands and said “For the boys. I don’t really know them but from everything I can see, they’ve got their priorities right.”

Gaaaah.

That one hit me hard. Part of what has been causing me anguish over the last few weeks is a deep-seeded concern that despite all my efforts to show them what really matters, they have become ungrateful and unappreciative. That despite my best efforts to show them what loving hard looks like, their outlook was becoming harsh and negative. Read more...

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Doubt, Faith, and Summer’s End

doubt faith love summer beach

Today marks the unofficial end of summer.

Those of us with kids already in school saw summer come to an abrupt and unpalatable end with a blaring alarm clock and the return of homework. Of course those of us in coastal towns also know that the best beach days actually still lie ahead thanks to an inevitable Indian summer and the absence of tourist traffic.

Nonetheless there is something symbolic about Labor Day. So today we found ourselves drawn to the beach, trying to hold on to summer’s final gasp as we reveled in the post-hurricane surf. Read more...

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Believing When It Is Hard to Believe

I am, and always have been, an open book. I say the things I think the exact moment I think them. Apparently I write that way too. There is no filter, no editing, no careful selection of facts and emotions to create a picture of a theoretical existence.

And if being an open book means talking about the myriad times I have chosen to find joy even in heartbreak, it also means talking about the times when I could not.

Maybe it’s not pretty. Maybe it’s uncomfortable. But it’s real. Besides, a good book always makes you a little uncomfortable, doesn’t it? Read more...

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This Is The Me They Love

 If I’m being totally honest, I was planning on deleting it when he wasn’t looking. That’s the problem with modern technology, digital photography, smartphones and filters: We can instantaneously erase anything that isn’t “perfect.” We can keep reviewing and critiquing and recreating a picture over and over again until we get what we want. Read more...

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The Light And The Dark

We were away this week. And by away I mean away. I completely checked out. No phone, no email, no texts, no TV, no Facebook.

Just people. Sand and seals and starfish. Card games and songs and mini golf. Lobster rolls and three different clam chowders. Bright sun and cold fog. A precious baby boy who shares my name. Family.
Chatham vacation beach family

I was so unplugged I didn’t even take that many pictures. And it was amazing.

Maybe I didn’t check out as much as I checked in.

There was some hard stuff too. That town, that house – they are filled with ghosts for me. I stood at the same counter where I heard my dad’s last words. I walked the same stone terrace where my brother and I lay hand in hand later that night. I drove the same winding streets where we followed the ambulance for miles. Read more...

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Years That Ask Questions: A Letter To My Father On The Second Anniversary Of His Death

Years That Ask Questions And Years That Answer

Dear Daddy,

It’s been over a year since I last wrote you a letter. Two years since I stood in church clad in a black dress that mom told me was more appropriate than the orange one I wanted to wear.

I had thought about that dress the whole 12 hours we drove home from Cape Cod, in the silence that filled the car between the calls. The calls about death certificates and funeral receptions and Valium prescriptions. I thought about it as we drove past New Haven and I made Billy stop the car so I could walk on the Green just as I had 15 years before. Just as you had 40 years before. Read more...

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This is Forty

40th birthday this is 40

Last month, I bid my thirties farewell. There wasn’t much fanfare. No dark clouds in the sky heralding the end of life as I know it. I just woke up one day and was 40.

40 is a tricky number. To some it is a dirty word. To some it is a chance to throw a big fun party that rivals your wedding. To some – judging by all the articles titled “40 things I’ve learned at 40” – it is apparently the age of total enlightenment.

But no matter how you slice it, 40 can be weighty. Read more...

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Father’s Day Without A Father

Father's day without a father

This Sunday will be the second Father’s Day since my dad died. Thus begging the tricky question of what to do on Father’s Day when you no longer have a father.

For some, I imagine that Father’s Day without a father is a reminder of the giant gaping hole in your life. The display of Hallmark cards, the inundation of emails entitled “Give Dad What He Really Wants!” and the heartrending TV ads of dads as our first loves and our heroes all feel like salt on wounds that have not healed, but have just been bandaged over. Read more...

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They Can’t Take That Away From Me

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Lynn Brubaker

I was reminded yesterday that it was Ella Fitzgerald’s birthday. I grew up with Ella playing on scratchy LPs as I danced around the den on top of my father’s feet, listening to him sing off-key.

My father had eclectic taste in music, and he clearly felt it was one of his greatest parental obligations to introduce us to all of it.

Music, for my father, was more than a song. It was a story.

He would play the staples of his college days–The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Simon and Garfunkel–and tell us the story of the anti-war movement, the drug culture, and the sexual revolution. He would play Broadway show tunes and tell us about political corruption in Chicago, the gangsters and bootleggers of the 30’s, or wartime in London. He would play Motown and tell us of growing up in the south and how music changed his generation’s views on race. He would play some new band and remind us that songwriters are the poets of modern society. Read more...

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A Mother’s Farewell

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Update: See this piece featured on Mamapedia!

A few weeks after we were married, Billy and I strolled into a coffee house in Alexandria. There on the bulletin board was a sign advertising beagle puppies born on our wedding day. If ever there was a sign, this was it. It seemed serendipitous to start our new life together with a little ball of fur to whom we were forever joined by a sunny day in January. We named him Charlottesville, in honor of the place where we met and fell in love.

Charlie shared our first home, our first months as newlyweds, our late nights and our early mornings. He took our loud voices and our moves in stride. We cut our parenting teeth on him, learning that when you become a parent, the things you give up pale in comparison to what you receive. Read more...

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The Big Dance

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Three years ago, Virginia basketball was headed for the NIT, another in a seemingly endless series of mediocre seasons ending in disappointment.

Exactly one year later, they were the ACC regular season and tournament champions and a Number 1 seed in the NCAAs.

So much can change in one year.

That season was magical. The kind of magic that you feel when you are a kid on Christmas morning. The kind of magic that makes you believe anything is possible.

We lost in the Sweet Sixteen that year, bounced early by a foe we never saw coming. A few months later, I lost my dad. Read more...

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