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Updated: Dec 4, 2020

Late October delivered Meringue with Fresh Whipped Cream and Berries. OUT OF THIS WORLD delicious. Beautiful, creative, abstract, unique and special. It was made with love, by my GodMother, as a birthday cake for my 13 year old daughter. A new sweet tradition that I will carry forward.

As a family, we gather. We cook. We eat. We play. We are beach folk too, called to the water in different ways. This is our tribe.

Our matriarch said a few words to remind us of what is important. I paraphrase: "We are working together to keep us strong as we design our lives within this new reality of Covid-19. We each have a responsibility to ourselves and to our collective. All hands on deck, keep your head down and eyes on the prize. There is no room for getting lost and veering off track, everyone's focus is mandatory for the health and well being of our family. All of us are loved and supported and all of us are needed. Together we will contribute to our success."

What I create now feels critical. There is so much intensity surrounding loss. Everything as I know it has changed and the one thread of consistency resides in the warm connection I hold with the people in my life. Whether it be with family, friends or colleagues, how I choose to relate to anyone feeds my soul. I can either nourish or starve and in my humble opinion, getting clear on what I am generating is at the root of my contentment. My routines were abolished on March 17, 2020. I took a long pause (it felt like paralysis) on many fronts as I scrambled to stay afloat on others. Little did I know this initial effort was the beginning of a new priority list.

I want to acknowledge the 'constant pivot' we are activating on a daily basis. Safety regulations flood our inboxes and we adjust as needed in private and in public. It is also important to notice how our need for adaptability can feel overwhelming, it can rally some and deflate others. Even if one is inclined to manage it well, deep down the perpetual flux can fuel exhaustion and take a heavy toll. It is easy to feel alone, to feel isolated. How do you connect? Where do you share your worst fears? How do you take real care of yourself and the ones you love? When we offer these questions at our table, the younger ones seem more willing to open up, to let out their thoughts without too much guard. For me, personally, this is refreshing to witness. It is here that I can lean into curiosity and dismiss my inclination toward judgment. It always works better when there are others around, it seems to lessen my unconscious habits around listening, that space where I presume argument instead of being in a state of wonder. I am so tired of my own restrictions, this endless chatter that begins with "No, no no".

My son, with his pal after a night under the stars, came in to find a breakfast plate of melon, eggs, bagel and bacon. He sits down and tells me "I am going on an all fruit diet". I am thinking, and blurting "Before or after you eat the food I made?" A few bites go down. He nods his head and smiles as he says "After". Then I ask him why? His 14 year old love responds with: "Just because mom, jeesh." Hmmmm. I keep prodding, what are you trying to accomplish? What is your goal? For about three minutes I am completely lost in my own headspace, so I ask, quite clearly: "What are we talking about exactly?" His friend drops his head and starts to giggle.

This exchange was fun and engaging. All three of us were connecting. I felt lighthearted. My interest grew with the willingness we shared to listen and contribute. We laughed out loud and we learned a few things along the way, thanks to Google. I could have easily blown up with judgment (I can be really good at that): "What a stupid idea, you are already so skinny!" and in turn shut him down. Inviting other's thoughts in and exploring them together will assure their value. Yes, I think this is key. We are all born with magic, our own unique qualities that we are meant to exercise, let's call them our gifts to the world. We all need to cultivate them, grow them beautiful to enrich our community. If I am running around squashing all the different expressions I encounter in a day, I suspect I am putting out the flames that are meant to inspire.

Sitting on my couch, undergoing yet another home manicure while watching my new favorite show on HuLu, my daughter bounces through the living room and blurts out: "Mom, did you know our TV is a touchscreen?" (As I recall I bought the device last year, almost to the date, the price is what I remember). I respond with my casual parental "Nope." She continues to ask me if I'd like to try it. Of course I would, so I unseat myself (she then throws the remote my way to let me know where it is while telling me "There's the remote mom, see?") and step toward the TV to start tapping. Low and behold, the screen changes with every press of my newly painted finger. I smile to myself and breathe out "Well, look at that." She bounces back to her room and offers:"You need to press a button on the remote to activate it, just let me know the next time you want to try it." This whole interaction is nothing short of a miracle in my book and I feel super lucky to have really made myself available to fully experience it. Yes, lucky! My daughter, more times than not these days, wants nothing to do with me. The message I get often is that I am in her way. The good news is I do not take any of it personally (most of the time). So her 'playfulness' toward me is a gift, an invitation into her world and a way for us to connect. All I have to do is receive and participate. This I can do. Is our TV a touchscreen? I have no idea and I highly doubt it. I can only hope she surprises me with this delight again soon.

In a parenting group we recently discussed promoting the positive. We all got to take a hard look at our "shoulding" and what it creates in our homes. Dog poop was the chosen example for one parent, how her incessant nagging seemed to overwhelm her interactions with her eldest son. "Oh look, you forgot the poop again...Hey, I handle my responsibilities every single day, why can't you handle yours?...Why is it so hard for you to remember to do your chores?...The poop isn't going to pick up itself!"...etc. I had to jump on the bandwagon with my own poop obsession: where is it and how long has it been there? It reminds me of a marriage therapist that told me once: "Meighan, if the dirty sock on the floor bothers you that much, just pick it up." Part of me can see that my poop focus gives me blind cause to interact with my daughter, a reason to step into her world and bark. Clearly I think this is acceptable. I choose to promote a negative, to use a gripe as a means of connecting - YIKES! What happened to "Hey, just popping in to say I love you"? I honestly do not even think this ever occured to me before now. And why am I so obsessed with making my child do something she never thinks about? Mentally spinning some rational yard that this type of responsibility will help her in the real world. The truth here is that the garden is my sanctuary, it is a place I inhabit often. My kids visit it occasionally. It seems I am wired to seek failure around me, a shallow effort to pump up my own importance which only heightens my anger and frustration. Ugh, it's like I need to have something to complain about or I just want to be mad all the time. Al-Anon wisdom tells me "Do you want to be right or do you want to be happy?" I want to be happy and I aim to break this long standing habit sooner than later. Change is afoot! I told three friends today that I never (if possible) want to prompt these words from my kids lips again: "Ugh, now what mom?" and "You are always so mad at me."

I am not negating chores for my kids all together. I am looking at a better approach. Tasks that enhance learning and support personal expression come in all shapes and sizes. An active household is rich with stuff that needs to get done and it works best if there is a direct benefit. Clean clothes for example, each do their own laundry, whew! Garbage and dishes are generally handled as well (not as often as I like, but it does happen), especially if they want mom to cook. Maintaining their rooms is for personal gain, right? Still working on this one and for now, I request an overhaul once a week. Both kids are growing their skills around food preparation and because they are not the most practiced at cleaning up after themselves, I must admit, it is pretty fun to see what they consider delicious. Peanut butter in a smoothie is new to me, as well as Nutella on anything. My son is navigating his way around the BBQ and my daughter has a natural knack for slicing fruit: she cuts the watermelon in half and grabs a spoon.

I like to think I am keeping my head down and my eye on the prize. My focus is strong and I have a determined ambition to cultivate a stress free home. I go to bed when I want and let my kids stay up late to make smoothies, watch movies, play video games and giggle to their hearts content, choosing their own bedtimes and managing their academic responsibilities. (I really hope they remember this). I suppose they will move out eventually and until then, why not let them enjoy? Listening to their muffled bonding deep in the night makes me happy. Being their mom can feel easy, almost natural as I get to witness who they are instead of managing what they are not doing. I no longer want to be a source for my kids feeling bad about themselves. Waking up to what I have been perpetuating is like a big gust of wind knocking me off my feet. I am ready to move us out of that cycle and forward into a new experience all together. And, for the first time, in what feels like forever, I am thrilled to be me. I will go so far as to say out loud: "Today, there is nobody else I would rather be." There is my prize.

In November I roasted the Turkey on halved white onions and heads of garlic. We met tradition with Stuffing, Cranberry Sauce, Mashed Potatoes, Red Cabbage Slaw, Sweet Potatoes smothered with Marshmallows, Green Beans with Shallots and Parsley, and more than enough Gravy. Linda brought Key Lime Pie, I busted out a Persimmon Pudding with Hard Sauce and a Pumpkin Cheesecake with GingerSnap Crust. My brother started us off with Grilled Bacon and Basil Wrapped Shrimp, which we washed down with elegant Champagne. We gatheerd in my garden, a softer intimacy this year, feeling sincere gratitude for having each other. We played in the water and enjoyed the changing colors of the foliage around us. There was an abundance of lemons and oranges just ripe for the picking. We relaxed and we laughed, together. We ate our fill and everybody took food home. Leftovers remind us in flavor of all the love we share.

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