Summer Time…And The Livin’ Is Easy

I’m listening to the sound of grass being mowed on a Saturday morning. That sound and its adjacent smell carries me back to childhood summers. My parents could not afford summer camps or elaborate vacations. Our trips typically consisted of five people piled like puppies in a tiny motel efficiency or sleeping on sofas and pallets in the homes of accommodating relatives. But I loved the freedom I felt each summer with its endless hours of unstructured time. My brothers and I spent most of our daylight hours at the Robinswood Recreation Park. I still remember how fortunate we felt to belong. We swam in 45 minute increments after which a whistle signaled adults were afforded swim time unencumbered by splashing, screaming children. There was a patio where I gazed longingly at older teens dancing. i wanted to be one of them, to be in love moving to music… The smell of grilling hamburgers wafted toward the pool area into the nostrils of starving, over exercised kids. Since our membership at this playground was already a stretch on the family budget, lunches from the grill were out of the question…

Summer Swimming

Nostalgia is an interesting concept.   People looking back fondly at a bygone time, even saying things like “life was simpler then”. To a certain degree that is true. Without the benefit of discretionary dollars or 500 channels on the television, we took to our bikes and the pool for recreation and entertainment. But from 12 to 17, our emotional lives were certainly not simple. Hurt feelings and hormones created havoc with our inner lives.   I’m much happier in my adult life than I was in my kid life but each summer the memories of freedom and unstructured fun come wafting back just like the smell of those hamburgers so many years ago.


An Anniversary Week To Remember

My husband and I spent a considerable portion of this past weekend celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary. Friday night we had tickets to see Aint’ Misbehavin’ at the Mad Cow Theater, in downtown Orlando. At least half of the attendees were African American. Looking around, I could not help thinking of the tragedy in Charleston and even of President Obama’s eulogy and rendition of Amazing Grace. Resistance to removing the confederate flag from state capitol grounds literally crumbled in the aftermath of the Emanuel AME massacre.   Ebay, Walmart, Amazon, and various flag manufacturers announced they were ceasing making and selling the confederate flag.

As it turned out, my 25th wedding anniversary coincided with the United States Supreme Court’s ruling on gay marriage. In the concluding paragraph of the court’s decision, Justice Kennedy wrote:

No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.

“Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness…they ask for equal dignity under the law.” 25 years ago I took for granted my right to marry the man of my dreams. My celebrations this weekend were three-fold: I celebrated my 25 year partnership with my husband; I celebrated that people heretofore denied the right to marry will celebrate their 25th anniversaries in 2040; and I celebrate the removal of an icon that had come to be a symbol of hate and violence.

Regardless of one’s political leanings (and these two issues elicit intense emotional reactions in our society of lefts and rights) this was a weekend of love and kindness. I’m so happy my milestone anniversary coincided with this celebration of love.

25th wedding anniversary
Anniversary celebration






A Father’s Day Blessing

My husband and I have a pact not to give each other mother’s or father’s day gifts since we are not the parents of our respective adult kids. However, as I awakened to a pinkening sky this Sunday morning, I felt pangs of regret about that decision. I’m feeling so blessed by a man who has been such a good Dad to three people I care most about in the world during the course of what will be, in five days, 25 years of marriage.

Fairy tales and movies have not been kind to step parents. As I contemplated remarriage, those images took up residence in my head.   Stating the obvious to my future fiancé some 26 years ago I said, “You know I have children.” His immediate response was so tender and sweet as long as I have a memory, I’ll never for get them.    “Don’t you know, they are the ribbons on the package?” Those words have defined the kind of Dad he has been to my Tracy and David. I can’t count all the deeds and needs he has fulfilled. But just to name a few…

Tracy and Jim

When they were younger, he was the one to change the sheets and clean up the throw-up while I stood by gagging. Being the math whiz, he was the one at the dining room table bent over algebraic equations and geometry formulas. He was the one my son once dubbed “the most generous person he knew”. And this was the easy stuff. The hard stuff came when the kids were figuring out how to be adults. He was the one who kept the faith when I was over-run with Mom anxiety about their safety or college calamities.

Together we figured out money for college tuition, apartments, cars, and condo down payments. It was his idea to buy our two daughters-in-law their wedding gowns. As partners, we decided to encourage his entrepreneurial spirit when we helped Jamie start a business to build a family. Even recently, at 65 he proposed yet another family business to help our kids pay off strangling student loan debt.

step family
Jamie, Shannon, Austin

I thought I loved my husband because of the way he treated me. But it was the way he treated our children and now our grandchildren that strengthened this love. So..even though this is not my holiday, I’m feeling very blessed.

grandfather and granddaughter
Jim and Baby Maya




Just Because Art is Fun Doesn’t Mean It’s Easy

I direct a program called the Jeremiah Project which is a creative arts program for at-risk middle school age students.  Students will often express frustration when they are unable to create a perfect bowl on the pottery wheel.  At that point I say to them, “just because art is fun doesn’t mean it’s easy”.  That’s why I enjoyed Ira Glass’s description of creativity and story telling.   Creative work is hard and it helps to have the encouragement of someone as clever and creative as Ira Glass (of This American Life on NPR) Check out his short video by clicking here.  

This American Life
Ira Glass and This American Life

Great Grandparenting

My new baby granddaughter came to visit over Memorial Day weekend (oh and yes, her parents came too). Maya Rose is now four and a half months old.

Maya Rose

That means she is able to:

  • sit up with a great deal of propping and assistance (thanks to those foam Bumbo chairs)
  • hold her head up albeit in a bobblehead fashion
  • respond with such a wide mouthed smile your heart performs summersaults like a cartoon acrobat
  • gurgle laugh when her neck is tickled or even when the dog barks
  • flips over from tummy time
  • talks to you in her husky cooing voice

That is a major change since visiting her the first month of her life when her only job was preventing her parents from sleeping. In my earlier visit to snowy Chicago, I tried to convince her she had won the parent lottery. Both parents have Ph.D.s in psychology and are incredibly loving, empathic people. This information, however, failed to dissuade her from getting up three times each night or eating like a person twice her size.

Being around her is like eating an ice cream sundae every day with no need to worry about the calories. Each morning the bedroom door would open and there were the two of them- he (her father) in boxers, her in her diaper, a mass of exposed flesh and dangling limbs. “Here, I’m going back to bed” he would say plopping her and a pack of diapers into my arms. Time was suspended in the ensuing two hours as we engaged in “motherese” (a/k/a baby talk), hugs, and baby games. (That is until she`would go from this 😄 to 😫 in 60 seconds when she was hungry)

granddaughter and grandmother
Maya and me

I’m probably not the first to discover grand-parenting is pretty awesome. Cresting toward this experience people said things like, “there’s a reason they call it “grand”, or “the reason grandchildren and grandparents get along so well is they have a common enemy.”   Gore Vidal even suggested, “never have children, just grandchildren.” I really don’t feel this way. Pre-grandchildren I thought I might. But I’m pretty crazy about my own kids. Aside from the umbilical cord we shared all those years ago, we have 30+ years invested in these relationships. My former mother-in-law reassured my young daughter years ago that her heart had the capacity to expand with the arrival of each new grandchildren (she was referring to the impending birth of my second born son). I’m feeling that way today. I’m now the proud grandmother of two grandchildren. I love my own children no less, my heart has just grown in size to accommodate new family members.

The Hauser Family