No matter how busy I am throughout the year, I always make time to slow down in the summer. I make time to pamper myself and those I love. I make time to relax. To laugh. I make time to be present in the daily moments of wonder, of gratitude and of beauty.
So here’s my recipe for a magical summer:
Daily one-on-one time with my sweetie. Yup. I KNOW he’s gorgeous.
Eating well. Summer is my favorite food season. Oops, second favorite. Winter’s first;
Long talks with my BB’s - beautiful brilliant - children. Far into the night;
Creating. Playing. Relaxing;
Ice cream dates. Every day. Why not?
Get-togethers with friends. The conversations, the laughter, the ease of being with people who love me and don’t judge.
Reading. Reading. And more reading. Inside. Outside. On a blanket at the beach. On a blanket in a field. Anywhere. Anytime.
How about you? What are your recipes for a great summer?
I still remember that early cool morning, the first day of the rest of my life. There I was, dressed in one of my two blue and white checkered school uniforms, ready to go before either of my parents were even awake, my white collar stiff, my royal blue apron not a wrinkle. Tante Marie, my mom’s aunt, and accomplice in all things exciting for a child, got me ready, giggling with as much anticipation as I had. When my mom awoke, the first thing she noticed was that I hadn’t washed the sleep from my eyes, nor brushed my teeth. Breakfast was a hurried matter, a necessity to ensure I wouldn’t starve before school let out at noon.
With my Tante running to keep up with me, I picked up my brown imitation-leather satchel and slung it across my shoulders, skipping across the cobblestones. I was thrilled at the prospect of opening it and showing off - to my yet unknown classmates - my carved pencil box with its lid etched with red poppies, that slid across the top. I loved my pencil box, and I loved the smell of the pencils I filled it with, pencils received from my uncles and grandmother in the States. I longed to sharpen them all and to scribble away in my composition book.
As the days of summer ebbed away and autumn came with its wind and rain, and soon after winter with its deep, cold snow, I learned my math and practiced my reading and writing far into the evening hours. More than anything, I feared to be called to the front of the class and not know my lesson. Humiliation came in the form of a ruler rapped across an open palm, or across the fingertips. A reminder for the rest of the classmates of what awaited each and every one.
Maybe I was really smart, but most probably my mother kept the teacher well supplied with cigarettes and bubble gum, because I was rarely called to recite any lesson or perform any math equation. And because I didn’t have to prove my knowledge, neither was I disciplined. Still, the knots in my stomach were ever present, even when it became apparent that I was the teacher’s pet.
I think of all this, on the eve of another school year, the first for my daughter. She can’t wait for it to start. She has been counting down the days, morning and night. And I am so happy that she can go on growing in her self-confidence, in her love of learning. For a child there is nothing worse that the expectation of failure. Be it through a parent, a teacher, oneself.
And so in closing, I want to wish a happy and successful school year to all the children. Oh, and for the parents and the teachers, patience and wisdom, cause God knows, we’ll need it.
I made salmon for dinner last night. Boring. I know. I served it with rice and steamed vegetables and an extra side dish of my bad mood. I thought about the things I could give up - I have been thinking about this more and more lately, probably because I have been working too hard and too many hours. But finding dependable employees is so very difficult. I have yet to find one with the work ethic and the initiative to take charge, to match mine. Instead I find myself repeating over and over what needs to be done. Besides other things.
My husband says to stop stressing and just take it as it is. The perfect employee does not exist. But I had an almost perfect employee once. So, I truly hope he’s wrong. We shall see. Meanwhile, it’s another day of interviewing and going down my checklist. Because no matter how much I want to give it all up, I have kids. And I must provide for their future. And I must raise them in such a way that they aren’t coddled and don’t feel entitled, and learn just how important responsibility and hard work are.
My son came home from school this week wanting to know why we don’t pay him for completing his chores around the house. Other parents do that, we were told. Why didn’t we? I snapped something to the effect of: I wash the dishes, I cook, I do the laundry, and nobody stands there handing me money. Then I took a big breath and calmed myself down. I explained that in a family everyone has a role. His role is to clean his room, take out the trash, and vacuum the house once a week. It is his responsibility to us, his family.
His job, for which I pay him based on his performance, is school. That is his responsibility to himself. To his future. School teaches him about life, and its day to day requirements of providing an income and maintaining a lifestyle. By getting up on time, completing his homework, doing his best, attending daily, not giving excuses, he develops the work ethic he needs to prosper on this planet. Because we don’t live on Mars, and daydreams are only reality when we make them happen.
Adieu. For now.
They were cuddling on the couch watching the 11 o’clock news. The house was silent, except for the TV, kids tucked in hours ago.
“There’s that woman.” She said straightening up. ”Her husband shot her three times in the head and she played dead. For seven hours she just lay there.”
“What did she do to deserve it?” He asked.
I watched her telling me these things, wondering if today would be the day she would spill her secrets. The morning was bright, the sun streaming in across the table of the breakfast joint we’ve frequented every first Saturday of the month for 12 years now. She slides her cell phone across the table, a brave smile trembling on her lips.
“He’s keeping track of me. Wherever I go, he knows.”
I glance at the text she had received from her carrier, a text telling her that another number is keeping track of her phone’s location. Her eyes glisten and she wiggles her nose to keep the tears away.
“I just want you to know. Just in case. I know you write about these things.”
I know better than to ask what he does. There are things she cannot bring herself to say, even to me, one of her closest friends. And I know better than to ask why she stays. I know the church she is part of. Her family’s reputation within it. The fact that no matter what, she would be found at fault and not he. And then of course, there are the children. It goes without saying.
I had an inkling that things weren’t what they seemed. A certain wince she’d quickly mask with a smile whenever I’d hug too tight. A sad look in her eyes when the subject of husbands came up.
The things that happen behind closed doors. Who can tell? Sometimes the children wake up with nightmares of things real (and imagined, to be sure), in their pretty princess and cowboy bedrooms, their little hearts heavy, their spirits dragging. Wondering if it was something they did. Feigning sleep, and praying for it all to stop. And you go driving down the street of beautiful homes, manicured lawns, luxury cars in the garage, and think how perfect it is, and how you wished you lived right there, in that particular home with the silk Bergere chairs framed by the leaded window, and Savonnerie rugs throughout the house. The lamp left on in the downstairs hall has such a welcoming warm glow. But you don’t know. You have no idea at the horror the pretty things are masking.
I have been in awe of Lidia Boicu’s photography for quite some time. To begin with, I did not know much about her personal story, although I did know that she is my age, a cancer survivor and mom to a preschooler. I was drawn to her determination to persevere and confront the enemy by living her life passionately, and by giving back to the community of families affected by cancer through her non-profit organization, Tiny Sparrow Foundation. Facebook brought us together, and gave us the chance to form a real friendship when we started conversing over the phone, and finally met in person.
Through Tiny Sparrow Foundation, Lidia has been offering families with children suffering life threatening illnesses, free of charge professional portraits and albums, while bringing smiles to those faces most needing of them.
Lidia, how would you describe yourself?
I would say that I am optimistic and motivated. I try to live my life without fear.
Have you experienced any miracles?
Oh, so very many. When I was 5 months pregnant with my daughter, I developed an infection for which I was hospitalized. My white blood cells were so high and the doctors determined I had C-diff. It was so out of control that I was in the hospital for 2 months. My colon was inflamed and my body retained so much water that I soon ballooned out to 240 lbs. Although I was on both Morphine and Oxycodone, the pain was excruciating. I had a nurse that had to just take care of me and she would come at night and massage my body in hopes the pain would go away.
Those moments when somebody reached out to me are in my mind forever. My hand in somebody’s when I was in the lowest of lows was so astounding that I vowed that if I got better I would be the person offering comfort.
I did get better, and 3 months later my baby was born. She, however, was missing her entire sternum… You could see her heart beating. At 5 weeks old she woke up choking, we rushed her in and the doctors discovered a hemangioma blocking 75% of her airway. We were hospitalized. At 7 weeks she was diagnosed with PHACES, a relatively new condition discovered in 1997, affecting only 200 worldwide, and lacking information on it. We were hospitalized again. And then again when she was nine months and we determined that fixing her sternum was necessary as it protects major arteries.
When my daughter was two, I was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer which involved my lymph nodes. The miracles started pouring in. Although we were in a new town and knew no one, people jumped in cooking meals for us, helping with my daughter, cleaning the house. I had a double mastectomy and a hysterectomy and spent many hours in bed.
Is that when you started your photography?
Yes, my husband had gotten me a nice SLR digital camera for Christmas. I placed my computer in bed next to me and learned photoshop. I took picture after picture. After I recuperated, at the encouragement of my new found friends, I decided that I would take my photography to a different level. Cancer gave me the courage I needed and had been lacking. I contacted Kate McRae’s family and told them that I wanted to provide them with professional photos of Kate and their family. I was surprised when they agreed.
Do you think about dying?
Only every single day. But I am not afraid anymore. Life is a journey. Still, I would love more than anything to be here for my daughter. She beat all odds. I so want to see her grow up into a beautiful young woman.
Any regrets, Lidia?
That I have spent too much time agonizing over what people think and say. And for what? No one has a perfect life. Everyone has problems.
How do you want to be remembered?
That I made a difference in someone’s life. That I have built strong, lasting relationships. But I don’t want the focus to be on me. I want it to be on those little boys and girls that Tiny Sparrow Foundation is hoping to touch. Their memory will live on.
Thank you, Lidia. Please take a moment and visit:#mce_temp_url# Bookmark the site, and if you find it in your heart, please make a donation.
Most of what I know about life, I learned around the kitchen table. Much to the dismay and embarrassment of my teenage self, ours was a family that ate all its breakfasts and dinners together. And while our parents rarely chastened our behaviors in public, home was an altogether different territory. Not only were we repeatedly reminded by the adults to sit up straight, take small bites, thoroughly chew our food, keep our elbows off the table, and not speak with our mouths full, we liked to remind each other as well. Sometimes the younger ones made a point of it, by shoving each other. After which, they were made to stand in the kitchen corners with their arms raised, backs to the room, as a reminder that hands were not given to us for hitting or shoving.
As the years went by everything was discussed around that table our father built, from the Sunday morning sermon (with beloved Tanti Marie doing perfect impersonations of the preacher) to current fashions to whether it was necessary that I get my starter bra. My mother’s traditional upbringing guaranteed us three course meals every day – soup, main course of some type of meat with two sides, one of potatoes, or rice and the other a salad, and to finish it off, dessert. This meant that instead of the normal 45 minutes, it took us an hour and a half to get done eating.
In fact, most of my childhood was spent either eating or learning to cook what we were about to eat. The kitchen was always a hub of activity, and countless times I couldn’t go to where I wanted because no one could give me a ride as they were all busy working on the next meal, or canning, or making preserves, or pickling. Besides that, the three of us girls were needed around the table to shell the peas, or peel the potatoes, or stuff the scooped out tomatoes with whatever stuffing mixture was prepared.
Because they were younger, my sisters got out of it pretty quickly and escaped to the yard with its lemon and orange trees and their dolls and dollhouses made out of shoeboxes. I, on the other hand, had to stay. “How do you expect to get married, if you don’t know how to cook?” My mother, or Tanti Marie, or grandmother would ask. I was only twelve, yet they had a point. Getting daughters married was a goal for my mother’s generation, and I was constantly reminded of it. So I stayed and did my part, and listened to their chatter.
I learned to read expressions and sudden silences. Certain words coupled with certain looks, meant certain things. I wonder if they ever suspected how much they were giving away. Or if they cared.
While I have become a bit more modernized than my mother, and share the cooking with my hubby, I still hold sacred the ritual of eating our meals together. All the essential lessons: good manners, love of family, love of life, are learned around the family table. I hope that this is a tradition that I will pass on to my children, and they to theirs.