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!