Friday, December 31, 2010

Are you up for Unicycle Rose’s 2011 Balance Challenge?

Eh hem. Ladies and gentlemen, this is hereby your personal invitation to come along on this All-American Girl’s Balancing Act (2011 Edition). End of formality. Read on and join me!

Looking back over the year, I slipped away from my original intent of blogging. Unicycle Rose was born to help myself maintain balance in this hectic world of kids, job, spouse, pets, chores, love life, faith, exercise, friendship, environment, extended family, inner-peace, food, vino and the list goes on and on to that big slab of cheese in the night sky (so it seems). How do we do all that we need to do in such a way that one part is not neglected nor another overdone? The results of being out of balance in any of these areas result in guilt, tight pants, marital discord, overflowing smelly hampers, ignored kids, hangovers, illness and emptiness. Just to name a few. Again, this list can grow faster than a speeding unicycle tire can turn.

So I said to myself, “Self, how to keep better balance?”

Well, I know how it is done on a unicycle. There are special padded shorts to be worn, a strap ‘em down bra, certain posture, iPod music to be loaded, helmet snug, shoulders pulled back, water belt fastened, sense of humor turned on and focus galore. Lots of focus! A similar checklist could be made for any life subject mentioned above. I thought, as I scratched my chinny-chin-chin, “Maybe I just need to check off one challenge at a time and it will add up to one stable, steady life? Maybe? It is true that balance is key in all that we do if we want to stay on a healthy course.”

For example, a Balance Challenge relating to relationships. “Be kind to unkind people” ... Today attempt to be nice to that person in the office, the street, or your family who is really grating on your nerves. Pick them out ahead of time so you will be prepared to schmooze them with unexpected kindness.

Or, why not a balance challenge relating to health (be kind to your back); shoulders back, chest out….today why not try to balance something on your head for a minute or two while you cruise the house? It will slow you down, fix any slouch and make you aware of posture. Plus it will be fun. Grab the remote control and fold the clothes while it sits on your head.

Or, a love Balance Challenge? You know how important passion is in marriage. And, without effort, passion disappears faster than pounds on The Biggest Loser. Give your spouse a hot, passionate kiss out of nowhere and note their reaction or unreaction.

Then let’s swap feedback.

This year I am tuning myself up. When I post, I will toss in a Balance Challenge that I will attempt to work into my day, and you can too. Every challenge may not be for you, but I promise that one or two will dare you to get out that oil can and lube some part of your life. Some will put me out of my personal comfort zone (like going to a movie alone) and others will be as easy as making time for a hot bubble bath.

The goal? To be a whole, well-rounded, sane woman with minimal wobbling or falling in 2011. Minimal. Falls are part of learning to keep balance. Oh, do I know that truth on and off my unicycle Blanche! So tomorrow, the first day of the first month of the brand-spanking New Year we will hop on to Unicycle Rose’s Balance Challenge.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

One neck, two hands

In 2009, my husband gave me exactly what I wanted for Christmas. It was a silver cross by Michele Baratta and he bought the matching tiny cross earrings too. He was sweet and sneaky to go behind my back and order it so I was surprised. I have worn this cross just about every day this past year. I am no fashionista and like to keep accessories simple and this gift just spoke to my heart. It was exactly what I wanted. I love the cross. I love my husband. All good.

For Christmas 2009 my sons gave me another treat that I love; nice lotion and cream from Bath and Body works. My kids were plenty generous, giving me six bottles! The year before that they gave me the same thing, but only four bottles. Regardless, I smell great year round with plenty to spare. I see it makes them happy to see me pleased so I lay on the “I love the lotion” real thick and they are tickled.

So, when this year rolled around, I was curious what they purchased when the three of them went to the mall. Really, I did not need anything; I am more of the card-with-sweet-words sort of woman. For example, my husband gave me this card for our anniversary and I loved it. It reflects the true us and love for our Weiner dogs and he wrote the right amount of heartfelt mush inside. Very thoughtful! I am that easy when it comes to gifts, unless I really want something, like the silver cross from 2009. But, this year I mentioned I wanted black boots and a ticket to see Cher in Las Vegas (yes, I will attempt another AdventCHER). Now these were two gifts my guys could not shop for and I was content to take care of it myself and hope to receive mushy “I love you because …” cards (and maybe a foot rub by my husband, it could happen).

The setting? Christmas morning 2010 next to our tree

The two gifts from my husband were wrapped in big boxes and I was intrigued. The first was a trick-wrap job for inside was a tiny jewelry box with a beautiful gold cross with a little diamond in it. Lovely! The next big gift was another trick-wrap job (I love his playful Christmas spirit!) as it was another small jewelry box with ANOTHER gold cross. This cross was more decorative and again, really beautiful. Next I grabbed the gift from my sons and this round cylinder shaped gift had me at a loss. It looked like one of those plastic pretzel jars from Costco, and I had no idea what was inside. Yep, you are right, it was a plastic pretzel jar with six bottles of my favorite lotions from Bath and Body works. I graciously thanked them and mentally scratched my head thinking about all the money they spent on more lotion. All I wanted was a love note. I mean come on, I only have one neck and two hands, how many crosses can I wear and how much lotion can one woman use in a year? I’ve learned the answer is two bottles, one cross.

After going back and forth mentally on how to handle this, I got my gumption up to be honest with my honey. We both love honesty, but this was a delicate matter.  Christmas night I asked if his feelings would be hurt if I returned the crosses and bought some black boots. I explained how much I loved the cross from the year before. He, being the amazingly wonderful husband that he is, said, “No problem.” Then we discussed the lotion, but don’t tell my kiddos.

Next year? I am making a list.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

For the record, I did not sing

Sing to the Lord with Thanksgiving.
Psalm 147:7 
I awoke this morning to thoughts of Christmas Day … grateful feelings that this Christmas season found my family members healthy and alive. This has been a tough year and I don’t just mean the economy, but for those who are sick or dealing with the loss of a loved one. Those type of life events can redefine the holidays. In 1998 when Lucas was in the Intensive Care Unit for 168 days, he “missed” his first Halloween and Thanksgiving. The passing of those dates on the calendar represented the loss of what I had hoped for. When it seemed Lucas would spend his first Christmas in the Pediatric ICU, I was deeply saddened (despite the antidepressant). The thought of my nine-month old not gazing into the twinkling lights or sitting on Santa’s lap busted my already broken heart. Thankfully, he was released nine days before Christmas, making that the best gift ever.

Lying in bed this morning, I thought and prayed for my cousin whose baby died hours before birth earlier this spring. What an emotional blow for her and her husband to grieve. Still struggling six months later with the loss of their daughter, her husband died. My young, strong, spirit-filled, hilarious cousin, Larry, died. Everyone was shocked and left in a state of disbelief. My heart grew heavy remembering the loss of my father-in-law and how he struggled for six months before losing his battle with brain cancer in July. Reflecting, I recognized that our health or life situation can change in the blink of an eye. It can happen to me or the ones I hold dear; just like that. So I relish the blessing of today and these wonderful Christmas memories.
Before my feet hit the floor this morning I thanked God for this past Christmas Season. For the record, I did not “sing to the Lord,” but I sure let Him know that I appreciated all that He has blessed us with.

Friday, December 24, 2010

What screams Christmas louder than candy cane cake, barn birth, carols and Santa suit?

This Christmas Eve, I have prepared my signature 2010 ice cream cake. This creation is a chocolate-fudge cake with candy cane ice cream and my own home-made topper. We are spending Christmas Eve with dear friends after we attend a church service held in a barn. And yes, it smells kind of like a barn (as barns usually do). This place sets the scene for that first Christmas when Mary squeezed the King of Kings out the shoot amongst piles of hay, manure and farm animals. It was not until I was six months pregnant with my first son (in December) that the gravity of Mary’s birth experience hit me. Not an epidural, nurse, episiotomy or sitz bath to be found.  And then, imagine  the stress of a bunch of dirty shepherds stopping by soon afterward! All this while she was physically exhausted and trying to get Baby Jesus to latch-on while goats, sheep, cows and a little drummer boy stared on. Remember that she had to walk/donkey ride with Joseph 90 miles to Bethlehem before this miraculous birth even took place? She is the perfect example for the saying, “Don’t ask the Lord to guide your footsteps if you are not willing to move your feet!”
Then after our Christmas Eve? Tomorrow we will play our annual Christmas Tree Game and face the challenge of a homespun Christmas concert with my family. My son and I have practiced piano while my husband and older son work it out on their guitars. My mother and brother-in-law played trombones in their high school marching bands (decades ago) and my crazy mother has this harebrain idea that we are going to gather on Christmas and bust out Carols, Boston Pops style. I tell you, it aint’ gonna happen! However, it will make for an awfully fun memory (stress the awful). Meanwhile, I am packing my ear plugs and praying for a Silent Night.

On another note (non-musical) I dread the New Year and having to end rationalizing that sugar cookies, cake and ornamentinis constitute a balanced meal. I don’t want to think about that now, but will share that my sons have enjoyed a hand-me down Santa suit. Who wouldn’t? I'm tempted to put on that jolly get-up and swing by Target or Starbucks. Or, dare I wear it to the Christmas Eve Barn service?  Ho-Ho-HOLY NIGHT!
 Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Linus knows

Guess what we gathered around last night? Nope, not the tree, but the TV. We watched A Charlie Brown Christmas. It’s been a while since I have seen this classic and I recalled why it I love it so much. Remember that Charlie thinks that Christmas has become too commercial? His little sister wants cash from Santa and Snoopy decked out his doghouse in the hope of winning a Christmas decorations contest.

To lift his spirits his pal Lucy recommends that he direct the Christmas pageant, but the cast is also self-involved and uninterested. Charlie and Linus set out to get a tree for the pageant and they return with a small, sickly pine tree that he thinks can use some love (Charlie Brown’s compassionate spirit is wonderful). Of course, everyone gives Chuck a big thumbs down. Frustrated, Charlie Brown asks if anyone can tell him what Christmas is all about, to which Linus eloquently responds by quoting Scripture (Luke 2:8-14). That is the part I love … that without hesitation Linus tells the group that Christmas is about a heaven-sent king who came to earth as a little baby. 

Linus reminds us that the true “Reason for the Season” is the birth of Jesus Christ. Thanks Linus.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

How do the folks in Michigan, Minnesota, Maryland and Maine do it?

Nothing shouts out "Winter" more than visiting the ice skating rink. Living in Southern California, cold-harsh winters are (thankfully) hard to come by. Over here, Winter consists of rain or intense-dry heat for days … not a snowflake or sharp wind-chill to be found. However, when stepping foot (or shall I say skate?) into a freezing rink, it makes me wonder. What would it be like to HAVE to wear mittens and a funny hat for an entire season?Or to swing by the market? Walk the kids into school? Or take out the trash? It makes me scratch my chinny-chin-chin and question ... if your state’s name starts with the letter M, are you destined to spend months shivering under ice? I wonder.

That theory aside …

This past week I attended Lucas' middle school Christmas party and froze my fanny off. It made me want to sing, “Oh, what fun it is to glide and watch awkward teens fall on the ice!” The best part was spending time with my older son and chatting with other moms who agreed their toes were numb. The kids had fun sipping on hot cocoa, goofing around trying to balance and nursing sore feet, all while trying to act cool in front of the others. I loved it!

No matter where you live, I think it is a big-old blessing to be healthy enough to visit the skating rink and watch young life go round-and-round like a ride at the fair. There is so much spirit, hearty health, loud laughs and simple joy packed into one huge-cold space! It reminded me that life is good as long as you are warm and with the ones you care about, even if you are falling down on hard ice sometimes.

That must be how they survive Winter in those cold states that start with an M!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

All I want for Christmas is my first fake tooth

On the playground last week a second-grade boy ran up and said, “Stevie lost his tooth!” and I replied, “That’s great!”

You see, when you work with seven-year-olds, teeth fall like mortgage rates this past year. Down they come every day (not so much lately though, huh?). Often, I watch loose teeth being shifted around by a tongue, ones that hang by threads, or just a proud, big space. I see fallen teeth that have been bagged or put in “the envelope” or shared with me from the palm of a small hand, like a treasure. So, hearing about a lost tooth that morning was just another chance for me to smile and say, “Wow, that’s great!”

Or was it?

Twenty seconds later, a different second grader ran to me and said, “Stevie’s tooth is knocked out!”

I was getting suspicious; this didn’t sound like the standard tooth loss.

“Yikes, was it a permanent one?” I asked while walking briskly to the blacktop. Then I saw Stevie with his bloody sweatshirt in his mouth, blood around his cheeks, and even a splat on his forehead. There were no tears, just lots of blood and a gaping hole where his permanent front tooth used to hang. Yes, a permanent one, that was now held tightly in his dirty, little hand. My heart gulped as I put my arm around him and we scurried to the office where I cleaned him up and they called his Mother.

There, I had flashbacks from when my son was in second grade and playing the limbo game. Realizing he could not shimmy under the pole, he jumped over it. However the limbo pole-holders did not like that, and quickly pulled the pole up to stop him. That is where the limbo pole met his fresh new permanent front tooth. It chipped, big time! Some might think it was odd that I photographed it, but I did, and for the record we are all a little odd. I take pictures at odd moments. I shouldn’t have been so crushed, seeing that this kid survived two open-heart surgeries and this was just a measly tooth! Small potatoes in comparison. However, I did feel disappointed that for the rest of his life he would have a composite tooth in every smile.

In light of little Stevie’s experience I felt grateful that Lucas did not lose most of his tooth because for Christmas Little Stevie is getting his first root canal and false front tooth. Thus, rewriting the famous Christmas Carol, “All I want for Christmas is my first fake tooth.”

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Gifts too big to wrap

Goodbye Grandma ... Hello, Sweet Girl!

Thanksgiving was a pleasant break since school was out all week and that meant no work for me! My mother-in-law stayed with us for ten days and she is the easiest person to live with; a gentle southern lady, who is mouse quiet, and easygoing. Decorating the tree, building gingerbread houses, bowling, watching ELF, visiting the Santa Ines Mission and the overall Christmas “kick-off” was more enjoyable sharing it with Grandma Fish. Yep, Grandma Fish, that’s her name! She returned to Kentucky and I had one day to prep for the next guest; twelve-year-old Sweet Girl. I have known this little lady since she was born and her parents are dear friends. Her mom is in the hospital for a week, so we invited Sweet Girl to stay with us. Again, it is a wonderful experience having another female under the roof! FINALLY, I had someone to watch Letters to Juliet with! Sweet Girl’s Dad has his hands full caring and comforting her Mom as I am savoring having a girl, pre-teen edition, around. Yesterday we snuck into her house and took down their Christmas decorations so that when her mom returns from the hospital their Halls will be decked! That sure was fun.

The past couple weeks have served as a real-time reflection of the best-year-round blessings; family, friends and good health. I hold this winning trifecta close to my heart (especially during Christmas). I am thankful for a cozy home and the opportunity to share it with people I love. Some gifts are just too big to wrap!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Don’t just do something; stand there

This contradictory advice hit my inbox this morning from web marketing guru Seth Godin ( . In a hustle-bustle season, as minds fill with to-do lists, cookies to bake, money to spend (and stress about), boxed decorations and parties to throw, why not stand back and just stand there? Just be.

Stand and look at the lopsided gingerbread house your kids created. When I do, I  remember that my son ate so much frosting he lay on the floor with a tummy ache. Stand back and remember your most loved childhood Christmas present. Mine was a used mini-bike when I was twelve. How my parents gave it to me is such a great story. Reminicising on that memory makes we want to get creative with how I hide/give our children’s gifts to them.

By just standing I can appreciate those relic ornaments on our tree. My favorite is the one we received the first year we were married. It has a bride (with veil) and groom bear (yes, bears!) and says, “Our First Christmas”. I admit that it is totally corny, but I love it! When I am still I can remember that Christmas  sixteen years ago in Kentucky with my husband’s family. I remember what a special season it was to be that young, hopeful and in love. Most ornaments on our tree have a story or pleasant emotion connected to them, but because I am always doing something, I miss the sweet meaning.

Instead of rushing to complete your next something, slow down and soak up the small details that are at the heart of Christmas. In other words, don’t just do something, stand there! Thanks Seth.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

What am I thankful for?

Praise the Lord! Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!
Psalm 106:1
I am thankful for a God who loves, listens, protects, provides, comforts, inspires, guides, restores, heals, is steadfast and showers down blessings on me:
Health. Strong healthy bodies and hearts, especially my older son's, whose open-heart surgeries changed my heart forever.

My family. I would be lost without my husband. He is my smart, gentle, talented hunk of a Godly man! Our boys are hard workers, kind-hearted and overall awesome kids.

Our home. Our castle at the end of the cul-de-sac is a warm, safe place to grow our kids, weather life's storms and make memories.

Moms. My Mom, Mother-in-law, sister (a new mom) and my many dear Mommy friends. I am thankful for those women who stop what they are doing to sacrifice, love and nurture the little ones. Despite being tired and always giving, I am positive that these women make a wonderful difference in our world.

My sisters. No friend is as loyal or unconditional as a sister and I was lucky enough to get not one, but two! Blessing, blessing!

Jobs. Knowing my husband and I have reliable jobs we enjoy. The blessing of provision!

Sense of humor. My big fat Italian family passed down the blessing of sharing joy and humor. This is an infectious gift because who doesn’t want to laugh and play as much as possible? Cheers to enjoying life! (clink).

Being an Aunt. I love my nephew and praise God that he is healthy and does not have a tail or four paws. Even when he cries he is adorable. Sweeeeet blessing!

A pantry full of food. When so many don’t have enough to eat, we get to chow on whatever and eat whenever our tummy’s grumble. Stuffed blessing!

The Weiner Sisters. Pets that transform into family members bring so much life to a home. And, the kids learn to care for and be responsible for their beloved creatures. Blessing! (woof!)
What are you thankful for?

Monday, November 22, 2010

Power to the Pilgrims

Working in second grade, I get an annual reminder, and history lesson, about the first Thanksgiving. Each year, it’s fun seeing the kids get into the art projects, this year is was clay pinch pots and pilgrim hats, while they learn about our national eating holiday. For those of you who could use a refresher course, this one’s for you.

The Pilgrims set ground at Plymouth Rock on December 11, 1620. Their first winter was devastating, like a cold I can’t even imagine, and no central heating. By the following fall, they had lost 46 of the original 102 who sailed on the Mayflower. But the harvest of 1621 was a bountiful one. And the remaining colonists decided to celebrate with a feast -- including 91 Wampanoag Indians who had helped the Pilgrims survive their first year. It is believed that the Pilgrims would not have made it through the year without the help of the natives, thus proving Bette Middler was right when she sang, “But you gotta have friends.”

The first feast was more of a traditional English harvest festival that lasted three days. Three days of feasting on wild turkey, pumpkin pies and corn bread, while a cornucopia of fruits and vegetables lay across the table, reminding all they were giving thanks to God for their bountiful harvest and provisions. Having suffered a devastating winter, now the Plymouth colony and Indian friends were celebrating friendship, survival and abundance.

I imagine John and Mary Pilgrim sitting next to their new BFFs, Blackfoot and Pocahontas, stuffing their bellies and rejoicing together over all that yummy food. Now what if John Pilgrim turned on his radio and Jingle Bells was playing? Frustrated, he tries another station and is shocked to hear, Walking in a Winter Wonderland, and sadly he looks at Blackfoot who is equally disgusted that the world wants to skip thankfulness and deck the halls. Everyone around the Thanksgiving table may just feel forgotten and unappreciated.
What happened to Thanksgiving? Every store I visit has jumped over the Feast and is diving head first into Christmas, which demotes Thanksgiving to forgotten holiday status. I don’t want to hear Christmas Carols on the radio in November. I want it to be a time of peace, gratitude, family and overeating. I refuse to welcome the lights, wreaths, carols, extreme sales and candy canes. There is a time and place for Christmas and it starts AFTER we give thanks for our abundant blessings and eat so much that we have to undo the top button.
To each of you, I wish you a great Thanksgiving and hope you find yourself at a table with family and friends and talking about what you’re thankful for. Cheers!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Food for Thought

A few weeks back, I signed up to work at the food pantry. Why? Because I wanted to stay involved at church. The last six months I served on the church’s Women’s Retreat Team and the “Ladies Getaway” was last weekend. This subject deserves a short story (coming soon) to share all the uplifting inspiration that drenched my soul. Planning the Women’s retreat was like planning a wedding for one-hundred friends. A beautiful, spirit-filled wedding on the beach that lasted three days! Knowing my retreat commitment was coming to an end, helping feed the hungry was my next calling. While my husband and kids were in the desert riding quads (yes, I worry and pray for their safety all day) I helped families who had appointments to receive food. food-pantry-4-1

Arriving at 4:30 for my shift, I felt lost and overdressed. Note to self: food pantry attire is jeans and sneakers, no lipstick required. In minutes, I was introduced to the other volunteers that would be escorting families throughout the pantry and telling them how many items they could choose based on family size. There were many stops throughout: Sections for various breads, bakery items, vegetables, fruit, canned foods and frozen meat. It was an easy enough job (being bilingual would have made it even easier). That warm fuzzy feeling one gets when helping out is my favorite part, along with meeting new folks. Then there was that grateful feeling that swallowed me up as I watched individuals spend an entire minute deciding if they wanted either one can of soup or one can of beans. They could only pick one. Or observe as they debated over what dated bread they would take home. Bagels? Wheat? White? French? Rolls? Garlic bread? It was humbling because I always check the date bread expires when I go to Vons because I insist on the freshest bread and bakery items. I glanced at the pantry’s bread and bakery dates that expired three days ago. Feeling my blessing, my heart took a silent gulp.
By the second hour my stomach was grumbling for dinner. But how could I say anything? I felt so thankful knowing I’d return home to a pantry full of various foods. I could pick and choose to prepare anything my tummy wanted. My vegetables are all fresh, as was everything in my refrigerator. Having an abundance of food at my fingertips has always been a “given.” I assumed everyone lived this way. Last night God showed me what a gigantic blessing a stocked kitchen is. It seems so simple, but after volunteering at the food pantry I won’t take it for granted again.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Political Sunshine

Despite the grief of Little Larry’s death, some sun passed the rain clouds to brighten our home.

My son was in the running for the office of President at his school. Last year, he ran for President and lost. His resilience and perseverance impressed me as he went about campaigning, speech writing, and trying to sway the vote in his direction, again. All five candidates running for president (three eighth graders and two seventh graders) were qualified, hard-working, talented leaders. I did not expect Lucas to win, although I prayed to one day see him in this role. My son has wonderful leadership capabilities, people skills and smarts. But, doesn’t every parent think that about their kid?

The election results arrived last Friday after school. Lucas approached the car as I rolled through the pick-up line. He opened the car door and said he had lost, tossing his fifty-pound backpack in. His little brother climbed in the back seat and said, “He lost, Mom.” Straight faces abound.

“That’s okay, hop in and let’s get outta here,” I said.

With Lucas next to me, I started to tell him how proud I was of him. Then he said, “MOM, I WON!”

And having cried my eyes out for three days, let’s just say that my emotions were raw and they held no reserve for practical jokes. I told him to tell me the truth because “Mom is very sensitive and can’t handle any more stuff.” He confessed that he won. And brother Daniel, giggling with happiness in the backseat, backed this truth. Those little stinkers!

I started to cry. I usually wouldn’t, but like I said, my emotions were as thin as Callista Flockheart and I couldn't help but let tears fall. Happy ones, and it felt wonderful! I was in an elated state of shock — a pleasant place to visit.

So, this Sunday my Big Fat Italian Family gathered for a Presidential (Meat) Ball to celebrate his victory. Of course, Overboard made him a huge sign because that is what she does. And she cooked his favorite Italian dish. We chowed hard, gooed over Baby Benson, toasted to Lucas then played a game of Balderdash (a Presidential request). The only thing missing was my husband, who was out of town for work, and a piece of my heart that is still stunned over Little Larry’s death. I hold Lucas’ success close as I prepare for Friday’s funeral mass and reception in our home. There is a lot to put in order among the rain of sad emotions, but I lift my face toward that ray of sunshine that puts a silver lining on the grey clouds.

Congrats President Lucas,
we are very proud of you!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Little Larry

My family’s affectionate name for my 40-year-old, six-foot-three cousin was Little Larry. Named Little because he was the younger of the Larrys in my family, Little Larry was big in every way. Big on personality, charm and laughs. Big on lighting up a room with his huge smile and beaming eyes. Big with funny one-liners, impersonations, and mostly big on loving the oddities in life. Larry was one of a kind.Sadly, Little Larry died suddenly on Tuesday leaving a wife, and legions of grieving friends, admirers and family behind. Those who knew Larry Addison Bortolott knew he was big on love too. His bulky, wide-chested, muscle-solid frame meant he felt like a warm red wood tree bending in to wrap you with strong arms and a large smile. He will always be our Little Larry. 

 His Mom, my Aunt Linda, named her second son after her brother (my father), Larry. In our big Italian family, we spent holidays, summers and much of childhood together (dressed in matching outfits). So we had an Uncle Larry and Little Larry. You could say that for me, Life was a just a bowl of Larries! 
The Larrys

I remember when he was eight he wanted to impress a little girl, so he wore six watches to school. As children, he convinced my little sister to lick the toilet seat in the Red Onion Mexican restaurant; he created severed limbs and skulls to place around his room so he could scare his girl cousins, while cracking up every minute; and no one could imitate the family Patriarch, Grandpa Frank, better than Little Larry. Little John (yes, we had a Little John too) and many of Larry’s friends could spend hours filling your ear with hilarious stories and madcap adventures that starred Little Larry’s unmatchable funniness. You see, Little Larry possessed endless childlike  
humor, boundless energy, infinite wit, unique-life perception and a heart of gold. A sweet, compassionate, sensitive heart of gold. As this curious black-haired boy grew he collected many labels:, Midget Lover, wildly brilliant, Crazy Larry, Cherished husband , Dear friend, Creator, Best Uncle, and Nut … to name a few.
 These past years he connected with my boys who adored him for many reasons. Larry loved to ride motorcycles and Quads, he worked in the fascinating movie, special effects industry and he let my older son light illegal fireworks on the Fourth of July. Recently Larry found out my son Lucas was Freddy Krueger for Halloween, so offered to come over and bring his horror movie paraphernalia (he owned an original Freddy glove, among other things) and watch a scary movie. My son invited his three buddies over and this Friday was THE anticipated night by four, thirteen-year old boys… well, five if you include Larry, who really was a big-silly kid trapped in a man’s body. However, God had other plans for Larry. He was probably needed in Heaven to do a stand-up gig with Gary Coleman or maybe the Midget Circus needed a manager.
Whatever the reason for his untimely death, our family is left with a hole that can’t be filled with anything other than tears right now. Heavy hearts abound, as the world is not as fun or funny without Little Larry. I read his bio on his Facebook page and it sums up this amazing man, “I love to laugh and make people laugh. I love my wife more than life itself, she is my best friend and biggest supporter. I love challenges and love to work with people. I have a small passion for midgets. I am very happy with where my life is headed and I am excited to get there.”
We wish you did not get there so soon. 
 Rest in peace, Little Larry 

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

It is the little things that count

The modern day family unit is so busy and bombarded that it can feel like skinning a cat trying to squeeze in family-fun time. It is not easy to carve this out, but I am positive that the little things we do together really do make a difference. Why? Because kids spell love T-I-M-E.  
Dress-up dinner night has been part of our family for years. This started when the kids were little and loved dressing up. It did not matter if it was Halloween season or not, our boys loved pretending to be someone or something else. Who doesn’t? Even I love going incognito, having donned a bumblebee, superwoman, Dallas Cowboy Cheerleader (my husband's pick), Old World Queen, and this year, a zebra costume. My techie husband must really love his family because he's always been on board; transforming into Superman, Burger King and Darth Vader over the years. This special night happens in the fall and it is simple; the four of us eat dinner in costume. Try this with your kiddos; they will treasure the experience! We eat some special meal we all love. This year it was Chinese orange chicken. After we ate the scrumptiously spooky dinner by candlelight, we took some memory shots (I am a photo hound), munched on pumpkin cookies and played games. Over the years the games have changed to adjust to their ages. This year, it was Black Jack (Freddy Kruger’s pick), followed by the board game Sorry (Alien’s pick). Freddy Kruger triumphed in Sorry and Black Jack, but we all shared in a playful and successful dress-up dinner that could only be described by the F word … F-U-N!
It is the simple family traditions that your kids
anticipate and will always remember!

Sorry! That game is our family favorite every season of the year!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Going Tandem

Day One of Year One

Sixteen years ago I was mentally preparing to walk down the aisle and say “I do” to the man I love, Ralph Fisher. Our anniversary is tomorrow, October 15, 2010. Sixteen years! Isn’t that a long time to stay married? I thought it was, until my friend told me that her great-grandparents just celebrated their (drum roll please) SEVENTY-THIRD wedding anniversary! Really! Maintaining marital balance takes effort and sacrifice no matter what anniversary year you are celebrating. Unlike the unicycle that depends solely on my effort, marriage takes two people working together to keep balance, cruise forward and stay in sync while enjoying the ride. Marriage is not a unicycle ride, but a tandem bicycle ride.
 The biggest balance challenge for us (and marriages everywhere) is to carve out time alone, away from house, kids, work, and schedules and physically go away. Leave. This weekend, we are going tandem to the beach overnight. Oh, I can’t wait!
What have I learned in 16 years? In marriage, a date night every week seems like an impossibility, but I am positive that this is key to keeping balance and your relationship in good working condition. My husband and I have had seasons of setting aside one night a week, but we have allowed life to scooch in the way of dating every week. However, we have balanced on our tandem bike for sixteen years, working together to make it over those big, scary mountains and shouted with glee as we coasted through the fun parts. Riding tandem through life with support, respect, friendship and overall team effort (day in and day out) with the one you love is my favorite sport (sorry Blanche). 
Year Sixteen
So what lies ahead on our journey? Hopefully we are blessed to share seventy-three years.Imagine that! I would be ninety-nine and my hubby would be one hundred, while still riding through life on our rickety worn-out tandem bike together. Probably not as graceful, health-filled or strong as we are today. Yet still committed, laughing and loving each other every mile of the way. I know we could travel that far together, God willing.
Happy Anniversary to my hardworking and handsome husband!

Cheers to us! (CLINK!)

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Fall words of wisdom from Maxine

                 I love the cartoons of Maxine and I tracked down two of my Fall favorites.
If you don't already know, Maxine is an old lady who drips with sarcasm and moxie.
 She is my kind of old biddy!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Give yourself a break!

Riding off my high from the half-marathon I have gifted myself with a laid-back week.  I am feeling tired and lacking motivation so I’m allowing myself to just be. This is a battle to embrace, but if a friend needed a break, I would tell her, “Why don’t you slow down and recover from your big weekend and take a break? Relax. Be good to yourself”
On the other hand ... Do you ever hear that critical inner voice (also known as The Accuser) saying that you’re not good enough, productive enough, rich enough, smart enough, resilient enough, or (fill in the blank)?

Tell her to shut up.
Ignore her.

Sometimes I step out of my body and imagine me as a dear friend instead of a taskmaster who is filled with a bad case of The Shoulds. When I imagine me as my own pal, I start to treat myself nicer while new perspective and grace rains down on me. Alas, I can be a sloth, soak up where God has placed me and appreciate that solemn place; the present.

Do you treat and talk to yourself like your most precious, valued, wonderful friend? Try it, then listen as  grace and kindness flows … AKA: Give yourself a break!
Am I cuckoo? Maybe ... but it's s one of my tools for keeping The Balance in life.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Success is dependent on effort ~ Sophocles

After surviving the Camarillo Half Marathon today, I realized that our Greek friend Sophocles was on to something when he grabbed his chin, rolled his fingertips on his cheeks, stating , "Success is dependent on effort.” I’ve never witnessed so much independent-sweaty effort leading to success than I did today … amongst the runners, walkers, wheel-chair athletes and lone-unicycle rider (me). All eight-hundred-fifty people that participated in the Camarillo Marathon, Half-Marathon and 5K worked their fannies off to meet their individual goals. It was an electrically-charged atmosphere to plug into. Maybe all races are like this? Being my first half-marathon, it was new to me and I was impressed (and nervous!)
My personal joy lived in the fact that I only had to stop once, about mile eleven, to use the can, and then I hopped back on Blanche (my single wheeler) and continued on my way, trying to keep an even pace and breathe to the beat of my swirling legs. I loved the friendly-light-hearted comments along the thirteen-mile path through the green fields of Camarillo. My favorite was from runners I passed who shouted, “You’re cheating!” I agreed and laughed as I concentrated to keep the balance.
I was skeptical if my training efforts would pay off like I’d hoped (did everyone feel that way?) Thankfully, there was some surprise icing on my cake as I approached the finish line. My Dad and Mom (AKA Overboard) held up a painted sign (that is why I love her), plus my kids, hubby and some unexpected dear friends shouted and cheered me on. They were my love paparazzi that gave me that warm-fuzzy feeling inside. Then I noticed the two gals next to me held hands as they crossed over the finish line (isn't that what encouragement is all about?) I rolled in right behind them and felt that natural high we all strived so hard for. Sweet victory! See for yourself.
Timing was not important to me (The Cheater, Unicycle Rose, finished in 2 hours, 6 minutes); it was that I completed the course, did not fall off my perch under pressure and along with everyone else, proved that success really is dependent on effort!
Cheers to wise Sophocles and those who showed up today and gave it their all ... Plus some!