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Beautiful

22 Jan

My favorite picture of my daughter

Last night, my daughter and I stood in line at the grocery.  The store was crowded and of course they had only a few lanes open.  While standing there, she wrapped her arms around me and gave me a hug and kissed me on the cheek.  Then she leaned against me, her head resting on my shoulder.  I smoothed her soft hair and we laughed about the cover of The Globe magazine.  She then decided she wanted a candy bar and wandered off.  I stood there, flipping through an US magazine when I was approached by an elderly woman.

“Your daughter is beautiful.”  She said.

I smiled and thanked her.  My daughter is beautiful.  She has been fortunate to have had no issues with weight or acne and she has a tiny hourglass figure and milky white skin.  I’ve never made a big deal about her looks or her slim body.  I grew up with a mother tortured by her body and in turn she tortured her children.  Instead, I figured if I let nature do its job, then she’d end up the weight she was supposed to be.  This doesn’t mean I bring a lot of junk food in the house, but neither do I sweat it when she wants to eat a candy bar and a bag of chips before dinner.

The elderly woman reached out and patted my arm.  “You did a great job with her if she will still hug and kiss you in public as a teenager.”

I thanked her again and looked over my shoulder where Nat was doing peekaboo with a baby in a cart in another aisle.  There are a lot of things I did wrong as a parent.  But when I see her laughing, when she walks me to the door every morning and hugs me goodbye, when she looks at complete strangers we encounter and finds one thing nice to say them, I know I did a good job.

We’ve had a rough time through the teenage years, but she’s still loving and sweet.  There are days when all we do is battle, then she’ll come in the room and tell me she wants to do better at communicating with me.  She hasn’t always understood the way the grownup world works, but she’s getting there.  She is generous and compassionate and she strives to be a good person.  In the scheme of things, maybe raising a considerate human being is all I could have hoped for.

My daughter joined me once again in the line and she smiled at the elderly lady.  “That’s a pretty scarf.”  She said to her.  The elderly woman beamed and moved back to her cart.

Yes, my daughter is beautiful.  Inside and out.

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Mommy Nearest

13 Jan

I’ve been asked by more than one reader about my mother.  Apparently she’s missing from my blogs lately and people are curious about my very complicated and volatile relationship with her.  It’s like reading a book and there’s a protagonist and you’re just so curious about what really happened to them.  I’m not sure if in my case if it’s more Patricia Cornwell or Stephen King.  The truth is, I haven’t spoken to my mother since October.  Now, before you judge me…..

The last time I saw my mother was at my aunt’s deathbed.  I held my aunt’s hand and watched as she succumbed to the cancer that had been periodically visiting her body for the last fifteen years.  She was ravaged by pain and regret and although we had a falling out, attributable mostly to my mother and my desire that my aunt stop enabling her prescription pill habit, we were able to communicate both our love and our sorrow before she passed.  I comforted my mother in her sorrow and ignored her painful outbursts aimed at my aunt’s husband and myself.  It was time to put aside petty things.

I thought the pain and the sorrow of losing her sister would be enough to make my mother realize what she was inflicting on her children and her grandchildren.  She was not speaking to my sister.  My sister had been angry and said angry words, and according to my parents they were unforgivable.  They decided to never speak to my sister again, and in doing that had not spoken to their grandchildren either.  I played mediator for a period of time, and had clung to a small vestige of hope that all of it could be resolved.  I talked my sister into visiting the hospital with me while my aunt was still cognizant enough to know she was there.  I watched from the doorway as my mother snarled at my sister and rolled her eyes and the disgust was palpable.  My sister’s egregious act was by telling my mother and my father she was angry, she was hurt and they had caused it.  For this, my mother could barely even look at her as she sat crying at my aunt’s bed side.

I was certain death would be the catalyst to bring us all together.  After all, hadn’t my sister and I forgiven my parents so many things?  There were instances of neglect that were so painful, and yet we saw past them.  We had overlooked my mother’s drug addiction for years and had forgiven my father for enabling it.  Surely, words spoken would not be the straw that broke my family’s back.  Yet, even in the tragedy of death, they could not see beyond their own selfishness.  First one, then two holidays past and they refused to see my sister or their grandchildren.  I pleaded and ranted at my father, and still he held steadfast.

So, how is my mother?  To be honest, I have no idea.  I haven’t spoken to her in three months and neither will I.  It seems cold dead hearted to abandon my parent when she needs me the most, but I’ve extricated myself from the guilt I’ve carried all these years.  I cannot have a relationship with her while she’s on drugs, be them prescription or not.  It has been her decision to not speak to my sister and her grandchildren.  Now, she’s locked up in her house, sleeping in a recliner when she’s not watching Law and Order and I can’t imagine a more miserable existence.  I once believed loving her could make a difference, but it hasn’t nor will it ever.

I’d like to say at least I have my father, but I’m no longer speaking to him either.  His choice has always been to allow my mother to erode our family.  He has chosen not to see his grandchildren.  He has chosen to disown my sister.  There was a time when I understood his pain, but those are bygone days.  The history speaks for itself and my parents have to live with the choices and decisions they made.  It sounds harsh and simplistic, but it’s anything but.  I’m a parent and I love my child more than my own life.  I cannot imagine she could say something so egregious I would cut her out of my life.  I cannot imagine saying to her that her pain and the words she may say in it, are unforgivable.

I’ve thought a lot about this.  After all, I was grateful I had sat at my aunt’s bed side and said goodbye to her.  I was grateful I heard her apology and I was able to give mine.  It’s beyond sad to waste moments that could be spent loving and understanding each other.  But I hug my sister, this woman who was once this baby I loomed over in her crib.  I had loved her wholeheartedly.  She was a prelude to the daughter I would one day call my own.  She is a beautiful soul, yet in so much pain directly caused by my parents.  They did not keep us safe and did not protect us.  She wears the open wounds of someone who longed for comfort and never received it.

It is a miracle neither of us are drug addicts or in prison.  Instead, we turned to each other and found the comfort in our family of two.  Our family expanded with our children and we swore we would do things differently, and we have.  Our children have never felt alone in the world.  We had each other.  I remember laying in bed at night, whispering to each other in the room we shared, trying to cheer her up with funny stories.  She deserved better.  I deserved better.

So since my father insisted I had to choose a side, I did.  I thought of my sister crying in a hallway with my mother smacking her and my father standing feebly by.  I had pulled my mother off her and demanded my mother to leave.  She didn’t and my father didn’t make her.  But in that moment, we became all that each other ever had.  So if my parents can’t forgive my sister for the words she said, then they have chosen to be alone.  We are surprisingly happy and well adjusted.  Not having to watch my mother slur her words and lash out while high on drugs is a relief.  Not having to wonder why my father didn’t and doesn’t do more to prevent it is no longer an issue.  We have each other.  Maybe that’s what got us through it all.

I Had This Life Once

24 Jul

Tomorrow my daughter is one step closer to fleeing the nest.  It’s a monumental birthday and I’ve had moments of pride, delight and depression.  I cannot remember a life before her, and it’s near impossible to picture a life without her in it day by day.  She will move on and forge her own path in this life and I will be standing on the sidelines, cheering and offering support and guidance when asked.  Only when asked.

I had this life once I was not happy with.  I had this life that racked my soul and made me less than.  She was a witness to this and it weighs heavily on my mind these days.  Did she see enough to want to live her life differently or did she see too much to know better?  Children are subjected to the life we inflict on them.  I think of the paper cuts of childhood that still sting in my life.  Will she be sitting, typing on a blog, and think of those things she has seen?

I had this life once where I was living with someone very unlikable.  He was not always that way.  In the beginning he had dazzled me with his charm and the ruse of very human like behavior.  It was not long after it began that I saw the cracks in the foundation, the fissures in the carefully crafted illusion.  The reasons I stayed, in hindsight, were not valid reasons.  I thought I was saving her from something untenable, but instead the pain was inflicted anyway.

The day I told him we were over, he threw that pain into my face like a punch.  How can you do this to her?  He had demanded.  You’ve ruined her life, he ranted.  I had stood there, taking shots, knowing every single word had a kernel of truth.  He hated me enough when I ended us that he punished her for it.    Those years of his declaration of fatherhood dissipated in hatred of me.

I’ve been careful over the years since the break up to maintain some sort of dignity for him for my daughter.  It’s not always been easy as I’ve had a cadre of lawyers attempt to protect me from him.  I’ve never wavered in my belief that the best thing, the only thing I could have done, was to claim our independence.  It’s been painful, not because I miss anything about the us that was, but because leaving him, leaving the state, did not end his presence in my life.  I had hoped to maintain their relationship, but he chose otherwise.

Then came the news, he had fled the country.  It has become something out of a Lifetime movie.  He’s all over the internet.  My daughter has questioned time and time again why he hasn’t called, and here’s the answer.  I agonized over whether to tell her just before her birthday.  I wanted her to have a day free from the drama he has caused.  But then I reminded myself she has been unrelenting trying to find him.  Trying to find the father he was.

I told her and she looked at me, with tears in her eyes.

“I’m sorry he’s put you through this” she said to me, and I saw what a wonderful mature young woman she has become.

I told her how sorry I was too.  She told me she just wants me to have someone who is kind and loves me.  I told her I wanted the same for her.  And then she looked me in the eyes and said, “I’d never settle for less than that.”

I knew she meant it and I wish I had figured it out sooner.  Then I remind myself, it’s all a journey to this one moment, this place you’re supposed to be.  We endure the pain and hardships so when we get where we are going we can make the decisions clearly.  It’s taken me a long time, but that’s been part of the journey.

My heart opened and I’ve learned to love.  I’ve learned that pain is part of the process.  I’ve learned the most important thing in my world besides my daughter is being true to myself.  I’ve learned that even the simplest gesture of affection can be fulfilling.  I’ve learned to cling to happiness and to not let the sadness overcome me.  I’ve learned the best part of me is the one I’ve hidden away.

My daughter has seen the transformation in me.  Maybe it isn’t too late.

It Arrives

17 Jul

Cancer has always been on the periphery of my family.  My great grandmother died from it, my grandmother Tumor died from, yes, you guessed it, a tumor.  My aunt had colon cancer at thirty five.  It’s always been there lurking.

Now it has invaded my immediate family.  My father recovered from surgery, the tumor was small and supposedly all gone.  It has not invaded the surrounding tissue or lymph nodes.  He’s home from the hospital and resuming life, albeit with the knowledge he had cancer.  It was there and now it’s gone.  Gone.  Stay gone.

I would be remiss as a human being for not wondering when it’s my turn.  When does the Russian roulette of junky genes call my number?  My new attitude has been “if it’s not happening right now, it’s not happening.”  A mantra I’m repeating over and over as I lay in the dark blocking out whatever negative thoughts might try to creep in my conscience.  It’s not happening to me right now, so it’s time to concentrate on my father, on my daughter, on this life I’m navigating.

I keep telling myself I’m different from my family.  I have never smoked, and they all were heavy smokers for at least 20 years or longer.  I’m a vegetarian.  I attempt exercise.  I meditate.  I try to wash whatever bitterness I have on my skin off in the shower.  But it’s still a roulette wheel isn’t it.  If it’s my turn, then it is.

I’m not going to change the life I’m trying to carve out because of fear.  Fear has never been a friend of mine.  It’s led to rash decisions that have reverberated through my life.   I won’t allow fear to dictate my future.  Or cancer.  

I am the captain of my own destiny.  Or something profound like that.

WAYLAID

26 Jun

Just as I began my search in earnest for my love of all things food, my father is diagnosed with colon cancer.  It was a devastating blow to all of us.  There is the worry and concern for my father, and then the worry and resentment my mother is in no way able to take care of him.  There was one day of complete worry about the future for him or if there would be one.  Then he saw his surgeon and hope sprang eternal when he was informed he would have a less invasive surgery and basically resume a normal life.

My sister and I sat at the table with our parents, and we both pleaded the case for healthier eating.  My father is the type to eat a dinner, a second helping then a bologna sandwich an hour later.  Their cupboards are stocked with chips, sweet treats and enough carbs to fuel the Boston Marathon.  Their freezer is overflowing with frozen food and ice cream.  My sister and I insisted he needed to change his diet not only for this latest health set back, but also because of his twenty year battle with heart disease.

The first thing my mother did is angrily insist his diet does not need to change.  Our relationship now is cold and distant, there is resentment and anger simmering between us like a volatile moltov cocktail waiting to explode at any moment.  There have been several times I’ve pleaded with my mother to not bring boxes of Ho Ho’s and Twinkies into the house.  She insists my father should have more willpower and be able to not eat the things he shouldn’t.

When I first returned to Kentucky, I began cooking healthy foods for my father.  We attempted a strict heart healthy diet in hopes of helping him lose pounds quickly after yet another heart stint was necessary.  My mother doubled her efforts to bring home his favorite fatty foods and by the time I moved out, the diet was long forgotten and he had returned to enjoying fried foods with mom again.  My mother also refuses to smoke outside despite begin informed by a Cardiologist she should for my father’s health.  

So, I thought about food again but this time as a way to nourish and heal the body.  I’m making double steel cut oatmeal this morning and I wish I could convince my father how it’s not only healthy, but delicious.  I believe the biggest obstacle to my father changing his eating habits, is indeed my mother.  She likes the attention on her and her illnesses.  Yesterday, when we sat at the table, she began crying and everyone there completely ignored her.  Within seconds, her tears were dried and she stomped off to another room.  My father’s health has now become the focus of our attention and she does not like it.

I’m now not thinking about my love of food, but what it does for my body.  When I eat healthy, I feel healthy.  With the gene pool I’ve been cursed with, it’s more important than ever that I am mindful of what I do put in my body.  It’s not enough I’ve given up meat and maintain a vegetarian lifestyle.  I’ve given up coffee and have replaced my tea with decaf.  I’m insisting my daughter make healthier choices.  Who knows maybe by example I can convince my father to replace his ice cream with Greek yogurt.  

Wishful thinking.

How Laura Got Her Foodie Back- Day Two

13 Jun

So I woke up feeling fruity so I made a smoothie with almond mild (so yummy) and frozen strawberries and mango.  This time I didn’t include my usual two packets of Splenda.  I had my usual coffee sans cream.  For lunch, I had a salad with sunflower seeds and feta cheese.  Dinner was leftover butternut squash and greens.

Let’s be honest.  Nothing exciting about today’s food.  But the smoothie was delicious and the salad was filling.  Dinner was more of a throw together because I was exhausted by the time I got home.  I really wanted a piece of caramel, but of course I want a piece of salted  caramel, so decadent and delicious a Werther’s will not do.

I’m feuding with my parents again.  It’s a culmination of all these years with a dash of how they treat my daughter sprinkled on top.  But exploring food, brings me home again.  It was always food that brought us together as a family, that was a catalyst for a visit or celebration.  It was food my mother taught me was a balm for the blues.   Having traveled and explored, I learned to differentiate between good food and mediocre.  There really is no going back.  Not with food, not with my family.

So I’ll look for that salted caramel this week and try to be a little more adventurous.

 

I’m sure we need a therapist…..

10 May

So the best mother’s day present of all besides the Godzilla and my coffee mug and just the unabashed love my child?  She was sick.

Hear me out.  I know, I know, you’re not supposed to wish illness on your child!  But in her fevered state, I asked her what she wanted and she said, “please bring me half Gatorade and half Sprite in a sippie cup.”  Yup, in a sippie cup.  Yes, I know she’s way too old for a sippie cup!  

Which means even though she’s capturing the eye of the opposite sex, and even though she’s longing for her freedom, she is still my little girl.

And yes, I gave her the drink in a sippie cup.  One day, I’m sure she’ll be telling a trained professional about this.

HAPPY “S”MOTHER’S DAY

8 May

This morning I woke up to my daughter climbing in bed with me and wishing me a Happy Mother’s Day.  As is tradition, we ate eggs over easy, toast with grape jelly (I made this time because she’s nursing the flu) and then we settled in to watch Godzilla on Netflix.  She gave me a coffee mug this year that says “Mom, I love you more every day.”  She also made me an assortment of bead bracelets and drew me a picture for the fridge.  I am reminded just how lucky I am.

Motherhood, like everything in my life, did not occur in a normal manner.  I was married to someone who could not have children and I had just accepted this was my fate.  I convinced myself maybe I wasn’t meant to be a mother.  I had very little, if any, motherly instinct anyway.  And I’m a klutz.  I could not imagine carrying a baby anywhere.

The truth is, I always knew I would be a mother.  I had been almost five years older than my sister, and would like to think I helped raise her.  I knew I was capable and I knew it was in my destiny to have a child.  Sometimes you just have to accept things on faith, whether you are religious or not.  There was a plan I was certain of.

Then once upon a time, I had received a phone call from a friend who knew of a young girl wanting to find adoptive parents for her unborn baby.  She said she had immediately thought of me and would I want her phone number.  Without consulting anyone, including my ex-husband, I contacted the girl and she said she would like to meet.

I told no one but a friend I had asked to accompany me for courage.  We met at a diner in the subversive Bardstown Road area of Kentucky, Twig and Leaf.  It was a diner meant for the cool kids and I felt out of place as I sat waiting for this teenage couple to appear.  When they walked in, I swallowed whatever fear I had been trembling with and managed to answer their questions.  We talked easily and found we had a lot in common.  For the girl, the most important thing was that her baby would be loved.  I did not promise perfection, but I would love the baby as my own I had said.  She asked me what names I would like, so I told her a couple of girl and boy names.  We hugged goodbye and then I heard nothing from them.

For six months, no phone calls, no letters.  I mourned the loss of what I thought was meant to be, but I had accepted it.  Then one Monday night, I was up later than normal, the phone rang.  It was the birth father who asked me if I still wanted to adopt the baby.  I had felt the room spin as he told me it was a girl, she was a week old, and they named her one of the names I had mentioned.  He asked me if I wanted to meet her and we arranged a meeting for the next day.  I had sat down on the couch for nearly an hour, in shock and then began making phone calls. 

The first time I held my daughter, I knew it was meant to be.  She had been crying and the instant she was in my arms she had quieted.  She had looked up at me with those huge blue eyes and I instantly and irrevocably fell in love.  Leaving her that afternoon was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to endure.  Everyone kept telling me they could change their mind, but I knew they wouldn’t.

Five days later, after obtaining temporary custody of her and beginning adoption proceedings, I took my daughter home.  Despite being married, I knew she was meant for me.  I also knew her presence in our marriage would mean the end to it.  Not because he could not love her, but because he was in no way ready to become a parent, might not ever be.  But I was. 

I am not a perfect mother.  But I have lived up to my promise.  I love her as if she were my own flesh and blood.  There has never been a moment when I didn’t feel as if I was her rightful parent.  Our relationship has weathered our differences and our personality clashes.  Sometimes we are too much alike, and other times not at all.  If you met us on the street, you would never suspect she is not mine biologically.

I am sometimes a too strict parent.  I have smothered her with love and concern.  I have learned to accept she is not like every other person on the planet and I must nurture who she is to become.  There are days when I sit quietly thinking of the baby she was.  Looking up at me with those large doe eyes and always laughing.  I could make her giggle just by wrinkling my nose.  These days it takes much more than that.  The teen years are not kind to those going through it and those enduring it.

Today she told me she felt lucky.  It’s like winning a gold medal in parenting.  Despite everything we’ve been through together, she feels lucky because through it all we’ve always had each other.  I didn’t say what I was thinking, that she does not know anything yet about luck, about a woman who fell into motherhood like winning the lottery.  That no matter what has happened before or has happened since; I have never lost my gratitude for how fortunate I’ve been in my life.  I brought my daughter home one Saturday morning and life has been the most amazing journey since.

So, on this Mother’s Day, I say a thank you to the fate or to destiny or to whatever it was that brought us together.  Now, I’m off to watch more Godzilla and laugh with my daughter.  And smother her with love.

AND THEN HERE I AM

2 May

It’s been a weird week.  Yes, I was privy to a robbery in a Walgreens downtown and then a man at work who subjects me to both fake spider and sexual harassment had a heart attack.  Then there was a flood of biblical proportions in my kitchen thanks to a neighbor dumping bags of potting soil in a drain.  Now, I’m sitting in a café in the Charlotte, NC airport waiting for my connection to Mississippi.  The place where there were just tornadoes?  Yes, I’d love to go there.

I’m not a great flyer, even though I love to travel.  It has never hindered me in my excursions, but I’m a total white knuckler until the flight is smooth and the cart is coming around with what they claim is free beverages.  This was one of my better flights.  I was distracted by my seatmate who sat practically on my lap.  I wondered if I was entitled to a refund if I served as half a seat for 250 miles.  She wore not one but two airsickness wrist bands.  I was also equally distracted by the Amazonian woman wearing earrings the size of dinner plates and a zebra print shirt without enough material to cover her leopard print undergarments.  She said enough prayers for us all.

The remaining leg of the flight into Mississippi was roller coaster ride scary to say the least.  It might have been more tolerable had I been flying to where I really wanted to go (hello there West Coast..you know who you are).  Instead, a business trip meant subjecting myself to flight torture without the benefit of a good time.

This is my dilemma.  I love to travel.  I love to explore new places (no offense Mississippi, but there isn’t much to see here is there?) and I will continue to travel.  Hopefully, I will have a companion who understands my neurotic need to be at the airport exactly two hours early.  Two and a half hours if I’m lucky.  Yes, I’m the one who shuffles through the metal detectors efficiently balancing my shoes and laptop already in hand with a baggie of appropriate sized plastic containers. 

I like to settle in an uncomfortable chair with a gossip magazine that serves as only a beard to what I am really doing, people watching.  I could weekly sit in an airport and watch the people stroll by on their way to somewhere or returning from some place.  I saw a group of athletic girls with pony tails playing a raucous game of hackey sack.  I saw a woman with kohl black hair and bright red lips wearing an Elvira dress and red hair extensions.  There was the couple looking at pictures on their tiny Mac laptop while smiling and frequently kissing.  There was the couple arguing vehemently while the wife double fisted a plastic glass of wine in one hand and a beer in the other.

I like to see men in their service uniforms weighted down by heavy backpacks and newly shorn shaved heads.  There are men and women in tailored suits flying to somewhere to sell something.  There was the young man returning home for the first time in years to see his ailing mother. 

I like their stories, but sometimes I like to make up my own.  The young woman with the infirmed older woman in the wheelchair becomes a nurse, traveling with the elderly patient.  The older woman could see her mortality on the horizon and was going to see the estranged children she had abandoned when she left their father years ago.  The nurse was having a secret affair with the lawyer who lived next door and was using this trip as a way to get away from the daily sight of his wife and children.

Once, I met Geraldo Rivera in the airport.  I was late at night in New York and I was browsing the magazine section of one of the few kiosks still open.  He walked in with another man and my first thought was what a surreal thing to happen at midnight in Islip.  He was also shorter than I thought he would be, and older looking.  He wore light colored jeans and I wanted to remark he was far too old for that.  Instead, I smiled at him and he smiled back and made a comment about how late it was. 

Once, I was walking across the parking lot at the Kennedy airport which is a nightmare in itself.  It was late at night and terrifying and there in the dark was a group of young Muslim men kneeling on rugs and saying prayers.  I remember pausing long enough to think it was yet another moment I should file away to write about someday.  Today is the day.

I’ll travel the rest of my life.  At least I hope I will.  I’ll still freak out over every bump the plane finds in the sky.  I’ll drink diet coke I do not want because dammit they took my peanuts away.  I’ll sit in airports and watch the people and make up stories for their lives.  The fear is never enough to take away the sheer joy of going somewhere and watching people do the same.

THE HANDBOOK TO LIVING A LIVED IN LIFE – THE 1ST 20 RULES

26 Feb
  1. Lie only to children.  Adults should be able to handle the truth.  There should be more of it in the world.

  2. Smile at everyone you meet.  It can change their day and eventually the world.  One grin at a time.

  3. Be passionate about something.  Being passionate about someone is not the same.  Really embrace and want to be something, whether it’s a better person or a vegetarian.

  4. Learn a new word every day.  You don’t have to use it, but you have to learn it.  Language is a lost art and should never be forgotten.

  5. Eat a sticky fruit tart at least once a month.  Close your eyes and savor it.  It will change your life.

  6. Do not worry about what will happen in the future.  You will most surely bring it about.  Instead, concentrate on what you want to happen, whether it be to win the lottery or buy a house.  Do not surrender the dream of what can be.

  7. Use the word “whilst” more.  Just because it tickles your tongue.

  8. Drink green tea every day.  Not just because of the health benefits, but because Japanese tea ceremonies should be acknowledged.

  9. When you love someone, tell them.  Yes, they probably already know, but say the words.  Do not dilute them with insincerity.  Mean it from every cell of your being.

  10. Don’t just say you love someone.  Show them in the small things you do.  You do not have to send flowers daily or buy jewelry.  Remember a book they wanted to read and bring it home on a Wednesday.  Wash their favorite coffee cup perched on the edge of the sink.  Suffer through a ballet or a sports event because it means the world to them.

  11. Travel beyond your hometown.  It is important to see the world, to experience new foods and smells and people.  Eat pie in every place you visit.  Remember to smile at everyone you meet.  You are an ambassador your kind.

  12. Do not take yourself or the world too seriously.  It is okay to laugh at politically incorrect jokes and self-deprecation.

  13. Keep looking forward whilst (see it is easy to use!) nostalgic for the past.  You cannot undo what has occurred.  You cannot atone for wrongs or sidetrack regrets.  However, you can let them go, and accept they are the threads in the quilt of life you will one day drape around your shoulders.

  14. Never act your age.  Do not surround yourself with people who act older than their years.  Wear blue jeans even in your eighties.  Never accept you are past your prime.  Scoff at the notion of middle age.  Invent a new era.

  15. Brush your teeth twice a day and floss regularly.

  16. Browse the news but do not devour it.  There is death and destruction all around you, acknowledge it and mourn, but keep moving on.  You are doing your part to change the world, one smile and recycle bin at a time.

  17. Recycle.  Stop using plastic water bottles.  Think about the soil you are leaving for those who follow.

  18. Be charitable.  Whether it is a weekly tithe or a dollar in a tip jar, give to others what you can.  Give your time, your resources and your empathy.  You need to know you aren’t the center of the universe, at least not to anyone but your dog.

  19. Have a pet.  Whether it’s a dog, cat or a rock, have something to take care of that will return the love unconditionally.

  20. Laugh.  Every hour of every day.  Be grateful for those things that make you happy.  Even when you are crying, remember a funny joke.  Sorrow is good, but it is impermanent.  Happy is forever.