Christmas Eve Wonder


Photo by: Megan Oteri

Photo by: Megan Oteri

What I remember most about Christmas is spending time with my family and the magic of Christmas Eve. The joy of spotting Santa in the sky and the holiness of the night as it curved into dawn of Christmas Day. We would wait up for my father on Christmas Eve, which was so exciting. He worked nights as a security guard at the Northern Trust Bank in Chicago. He would leave for work around 1 in the afternoon. Even though his shift started at 3, he would leave the house at 1 to catch the train into the city from the suburb where we lived. Mom had the house filled with Christmas smells and spices. My favorite was a mixture of orange peels, cinnamon sticks, and cloves simmering on the stove. It made the house smell so wonderful.

We would bake Christmas cookies and roll out the white dough and sprinkle green and red sugary crystals on top of each cookie. Snowmen, Christmas trees, bells, Santas, and elves. I don’t know how the afternoon passed. Sometimes we would wrap last-minute presents Mom needed help with. We would help get “The Little Room” ready for Christmas Eve. The Little Room was the name of the room attached to the garage. It was behind the house, about ten feet from the back door. It had a fireplace and that is where we put up the Christmas tree. It was such a magical place around the holidays.

With a fire crackling and the lights shimmering, we would sing along to the Christmas music on the radio and shake our presents to “see” what was inside. Even though we were allowed to open any gift under the tree on Christmas Eve, my sister and I always opened each other’s gifts that we got each other. Then it turned into tradition. I remember one year she saved her allowance for months to get me a monkey puppet. It had super long legs and arms and had a squeaky toy inside the mouth. It was brown and furry.

The most vivid memory is when Dad finally got home from work around midnight and we would squeal with delight, scampering around the house. Then we would run barefoot over the snow (it was Chicago – you could pretty much always bank on a white Christmas) and pitter patter through it, jumping from stone to stone on the circular stone path that led to the Little Room. And once inside the door, we would warm up by the fire and drink hot cocoa. Then we would open each other’s gifts — my sister and me — and my parents would watch. That is what I remember about Christmas. Well, Christmas Eve. Christmas Eve is such a special time. Everyone is getting everything ready and it just is magical, no way around it. I love Christmas Eve more than Christmas morning.

I am embracing this tradition with my son, who is experiencing the wonder of Christmas. I hope you all have a beautiful Christmas with your loved ones and I hope you experience the wonder of the season, just as you did in the pockets of your childhood memory and in the creation of new memories.

***

Please check out my essay, “Presence” which was published on Mamalode. Lisa Stone, CEO of BlogHer called Mamalode, “America’s best parenting magazine.”Mamalode was featured in Forbes recently as a niche parenting magazine.

Here is a teaser of my essay:

“With a fire crackling and the lights shimmering, we would sing along to Christmas carols on the radio and shake our presents to “see” what was inside. Mom was Christmas Eve.”

Here is the link: http://mamalode.com/story/detail/presence. I encourage you to like and comment on the website and share the link. Thank you. I appreciate your support and interest in my writing. Merry Christmas!

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The Magic of My Mother


The Magic of my Mother

This photo is on my wedding day. My smiles says it all. I love my mother. She is now forever in my heart. I miss her laughter and her smile. I miss most of all, hearing her voice and everything in the world being OK. It made it all OK to hear her voice. Now I must listen more keenly, for her voice is in my mind and heart. I must listen now.

Here is a link to a beautiful portrait I wrote about her when she was alive. She was magic. My magic mama.

Magic Mama: http://attachmentparenting.org/blog/2012/03/09/magic-mama/

“The palm on your fevered brow, the soft kisses when you need them most, the grip that steadies you on rocky roads, the hand that feeds and nurtures you, the voice that tells you that you are loved, the shadow that walks beside you unconditional and enduring, a mothers love.”

–  Sunita Sharma

“But behind all your stories is always your mother’s story, because hers is where yours begins.”
― Mitch Albom, For One More Day

A mother is the truest friend we have, when trials heavy and sudden fall upon us; when adversity takes the place of prosperity; when friends desert us; when trouble thickens around us, still will she cling to us, and endeavor by her kind precepts and counsels to dissipate the clouds of darkness, and cause peace to return to our hearts. 

-Washington Irving

“Mothers hold their children’s hands for a short while, but their hearts forever.” -Ann O. Nymous

It takes some one really brave to be a mother, someone strong to raise a child and someone special to love someone more than herself. – Lilly

Love is blind because “My mother started loving me before seeing my face” – Unknown

“If I had a flower for each time I thought of My Mother, I could walk in my garden forever.” – Unknown

“Mothers are the rock that we lean on in almost all our troubled times and the wings that we depend on to take that flight towards our dreams.” – Mimi Estrada

I Hate Decisions: I Need Help Picking an Author Headshot


I am trying to decide on my new profile picture for my book jacket.  I am seriously thinking about self-publishing and I need to move forward from the whole mine field of thinking an agent is going to be the most important thing for me to get published.  The whole thought of I. Need. An. Agent. To. Validate. My Skills. As. A. Writer.  I am a writer, aren’t I?  This is where you can validate me.  Ha Ha.

Truth be told, I have contacted the agent that is reading my motherhood memoir and I have not heard back from he/she.   Granted, a hurricane is headed towards NYC and my polite check-in via email is the least of his/her concerns, but I would like to know where I stand.  Is it great? Is it bad? Is it marketable? Better yet, is it sell-able?  Does he/she love it ? Does he/she hate it?

I am a curious creature.  I will admit I crave validation.  I was a stand-out athlete in high school and I played soccer in college (Division I — do you hear the horns tooting?)  It strikes me as funny and a little pathetic now how I love validation.  But nothing holds a candle to how I feel when I just do it and write.  It feels good to get all those feelings and thoughts down on paper –or rather squeezed out in a sentence which turns into a paragraph which turns into a page and then it is like skating on a frozen lake you know every corner of…just magic. Let the blade slice into the ice and off you go.

One of my favorite quotes is from guess wh0 — yes, Anne Lamott.

“The great writers keep writing about the cold dark place within, the water under a frozen lake or the secluded, camouflaged hole. The light they shine on this hole, this pit, helps us cut away or step around the brush and brambles; then we can dance around the rim of the abyss, holler into it, measure it, throw rocks in it, and still not fall in. It can no longer swallow us up. And we can get on with things.”

Well, that is what my book is about — the water under the frozen lake of motherhood.  There are some deep cold pockets in that water, just as there are some beautiful snowy, sugar white sparkly — stop you dead in your tracks kind of awe and wonder.  Motherhood, she is one complex braided rope –somedays there are rope burns and somedays this very rope saves me.

I have had time to process how I feel about this over the weekend, as I have not had a response.  The truth is I have to be prepared to put my book out there with or without an agent. I am apprehensive about publishing this book because it is a creative nonfiction account of my personal feelings about motherhood.  There are no quirky characters to hide behind –just this quirky character and my beautiful son (whom I do worry about reading this book later). I did not have an easy go with motherhood.  I have my own issues (which will be discussed in another memoir which I am working on) but I also had to contend with infertility, postpartum depression, intrusive thoughts, nipple scabs, bleeding nipples, anxiety and among other things — the inability to stop farting.  What the heck is up with that? (It should be noted this is under control now)

“There was never a child so lovely but his mother was glad to get him to sleep.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

Anyway, I detailed my journey as I was taking an independent study course I designed in graduate school, in which my primary focus was to intellectually study my emotions and feelings and write about it.  As most of you know, I don’t like to sugar coat things. So this memoir is one big diaper bag full of angst, anxiety, sadness, loneliness, wonder, depression, internal judgement, self-doubt, confidence, miracles,  happiness, joy, amazement, and a whole bunch of diapers, stuffed animals, other mothers, and just about anything that happened to pop up in my feeling mom jack-in-the-box that day.  One thing I discovered as I was writing this memoir was that I was practicing attachment parenting and I didn’t even realize it.  The theme of this memoir is how attachment parenting helped me find my way and the security that I was doing it right.

Here is a piece I recently wrote for APtly Said — Attachment Parenting International’s blog, which I am a regular contributor to.  This piece also talks about my independent study course, Motherhood: The New Frontier.

So, without further ado — can you help me pick a photo to slap on the back of my book?  I’d like to at least look my best as I prepare to get slaughtered by the judgmental moms out there.  It’s brutal in Momville somedays.  I do find that most moms when you have them cornered and there is good coffee on hand, will freely admit to how difficult it is to be a mom.  The juxtaposition of feelings.  The loss of identity.  The loneliness. The boredom. The joy. The stress. The calm. The pain. The smiles. The backbreaking daily labor.  The lulls in-between. The long braided rope, complex and multi-layered.

So I will label the photos I had taken by a professional photographer and if you are willing, write a quick comment on your favorite.  I hate decisions. I will admit the best decision I ever made was to be a mother.

Photo #1

I really like #1.

“Mother’s love is peace. It need not be acquired, it need not be deserved.” -Erich Fromm

Photo #2

“Whatever else is unsure in this stinking dunghill of a world a mother’s love is not.” -James Joyce

I like this photo because my antique typewriters are showing.  I love those babies of mine.  If they weren’t so heavy, I would put them in a sling and baby-wear them around town.  Just kidding, but kind of serious.

Photo #3

“With what price we pay for the glory of motherhood.” -Isadora Duncan

Photo #4

“When you are a mother, you are never really alone in your thoughts. A mother always has to think twice, once for herself and once for her child.”  -Sophia Loren, Women and Beauty

Photo #5

“Youth fades; love droops; the leaves of friendship fall; A mother’s secret hope outlives them all.” -Oliver Wendell Holmes