A Unicycle for One-More.

FIFTY GIFTS IN THE YEAR OF  MY 50TH- 1st entry Dec. 25th, 2015

In October, I attended a Women in Development meeting at 8 am in Lawrenceville, NJ.  At a table cluttered with scones and coffee, I was surrounded by smart and educated women, who, for the most part, are executive directors and presidents of non-profits.  The topic was appropriate gifts for your organization.  New to the scene and thinking, aren’t all gifts needed? I blurted, “Please tell me about a gift that would not be best for your organization.”  Having run Hope Loves Company for five years on a very tight budget, I assumed all gifts are appropriate.  We need gifts! The woman beside me politely answered my question with this scenario:

She began,”I have founded Trenton Circus Squad. If someone wanted to donate a couch, we would have to consider if we needed one or if there’s room for that particular couch.  But if someone wanted to donate a unicycle, we’d say, YES! OF COURSE! We give them to our children when they graduate from our program.”

She was seated beside me.  I had held the door open for her when she walked in and she needed something that I had.

“Got it,” I began.  “And it just so happens that I have a unicycle to donate and can’t wait to give it to a performer and would love to do so for Christmas!”

The women all turned and looked at me.  They  wanted to know the answer to the same question: WHY do you have a unicycle?

My husband and I are blessed to have a son, Adam.  He’s in the Army,  in another country far from his mother, and I miss him.  The unicycle hangs in the garage- waiting for a courageous soul to ride it again.  I thought of Adam’s teen years and how we came to own a unicycle. Adam was  not just an  active boy – he was ALL BOY.  When he was born, he weighed 10 lbs. 10 ounces and the congratulations sign out front declared, “It’s a TRUCK!”

I have always enjoyed sports and a good challenge but Adam and I were not necessarily on the same page when it came to certain challenges.  I did not want to dress in camouflage and go swamp trekking.  I did not want to shoot a bow and arrow at a living thing. I did, however,want to bond with my son.  I started by wrestling with him.  It was a great workout for both of us until he soon outgrew me and my skills and joined the wrestling team- thank God! Then I invited him and his friends to a challenge of jump rope.  “Here’s a twenty for the person who can do the most jumps without missing.”

I believe I won.

We upped the ante by running in between (once around the  yard) five sets of 100 jumps.  He soon bored of this “fun” way to pass the time with his crazy mom.

The task to keep him entertained and out of young boy mischief (lighting matches, bee bee gun mishaps, accidentally strangling the dog by securing a Walkie Talkie around his neck) got trickier. So we bought him an 80 lb. heavy bag and boxing gloves and Adam and I began working out together.  We got him weights,  a  flex machine, and a dear friend bought him a pull- up bar.  All that stuff  occupied a corner  of our basement. Adam finalized the decor with a full size poster of Taylor Swift and  various video games (which we limited).

But as Adam grew, he, like most teens, outgrew his mom time.  We were planning a family party and I thought, let’s get a unicycle. The unicycle was a big hit that day, but only one person in our family took real interest in riding it – Adam.  He spent hours and hours practicing.  Months later, he could successfully ride the unicycle up and down our driveway without falling.  It was so wonderful to witness him master that skill and the smile on his face was priceless! It was a unicycle for one -amazing son.

Soon it will be a unicycle for one more amazing child.  I can’t wait to attend a session at Trenton Circus Squad and bequeath this gift to another curious child-one who is learning new  talents and who will receive the unicycle as a gift for his or her accomplishments at the end of a performance. Learning to master a unicycle is much like finding your way as a teen.  It’s overwhelming, scary, and challenging. You can be supported and cheered on, but in the end, it’s you and the journey and you do the riding. Adam gained strength, confidence, and balance from the unicycle.  I hope it brings those gifts and many more to its new owner in 2016


From the Trenton Circus Squad:


Do you live in or around Trenton? You can join Trenton Circus Squad. There is no charge. And it doesn’t matter whether you already have circus skills or not.

You will learn incredible feats, make new friends, and work with a team of others. You will perform for your community and teach skills to younger kids. Be warned: there will be a lot of fun and laughter involved!

For more information about Trenton Circus, go to http://www.trentoncircussquad.org/





NEWSFLASH! My Kids Think I’m Weird!

Yup.  My kids say that I am weird.  They tease me for a number of reasons:


My fondness for brussel sprouts and kale.

My need to do yoga, where and when the spirit moves me.

They find it odd that I have never watched The Fake Housewives from Hell, oops, I mean, The Real Housewives of New Jersey, Jersey Shore , or the Simpsons. Or a dozen other shows that have a huge following.

My sneaky cooking- putting tofu where it does not belong and in their words- “that means on a plate!’


My public (inconvenient) comments- “Please answer your child!  He’s been calling ‘Mommy’ for fifteen minutes while you yap on your bling covered cell. Thank you very much.”

My need to lock myself in my room and dance to funky loud music whenever they get on my nerves, emerging later as an exhausted, too tired to argue or remember what we argued about- mom.

Having no clue how to dress. I wear my girls’ handy-me-downs and am a lifetime wanna-be contestant for What Not to Wear.  I have begged to be submitted, but nooooo.

My need for weeds. Weeding that is.

My children loathe weeding and find my interest in digging out those pesky roots, incomprehensible.

If I ask them to help me weed, I will be locking myself in my room afterwards, guaranteed and there’s not enough funky music in my collection for that battle.

Today I weeded.

I love getting close to the earth, to feel the support under my knees, to get dirty like I did when I was little.

I love the feeling of working, using girl power and winning a battle, one that I actually can win, for at least a week.

And those weeds, even in their inevitable death, bring me peace.

It’s quiet outside with the exception of the birds chirping and the crickets.  The sun is shining and my mind is free to wander.

I think about the weeds and how I wish I could weed through the decades of my life.  How cool it would  be to pull out the painful memories that haunt me.  Pull from my mind the hurt, the grief and disappointment.  I could make room for more flowers and new growth and continue my goal to blossom.

But then it hits me, that while my garden will suffice without those weeds; my life wouldn’t be the same.  I am who I am because of the hurt, the grief and the disappointment.  Without those things, I wouldn’t appreciate the joys and blessings like I do.

When I am done weeding, I stand and take a good look at my flower bed.  I like what I see.  I’m proud of who I am.  Weeds and weirdness and all.

Weird together

Want to Give your Kids Everything? Don’t!

Have you seen the movie Breaking Away?  Well, if you haven’t, you need to.  The movie follows a young adult, Dave, who wants to be a professional cyclist.  He spends much of his time riding his bike and ignores, much to his father’s disappointment, his chores and task of getting a job.  This behavior prompts the following discussion between Dave’s parents:

Dad: (referring to son Dave):  ”He isn’t tired.  He isn’t miserable.”

Mom: “He’s young.”

Dad: “When I was young, I was tired and miserable.”

Seems as though the longer ago you were young, the more tired and miserable you were.  There’s a reason for this- times have gotten progressively easier for the young.  No one walks in the snow and rain to school up hill and bare foot any more.  Those were the “old days” and this generation- Generation Y or the  Millennials, has no interest in hearing about how tough those of us (forty or older) had it.

It’s true that every generation is a tad jealous of its successors who inadvertently get to go through life a little easier.  Take for example, my dad.  I remember the day I bought (with my own babysitting money) my first brand new 10 speed bike. I was fourteen. My dad took a long hard look at my new purchase and said, “I never had nothing new till I was in my late twenties.  All handy-me-downs before then.”

He was amazed that I had a new bike.

It would have been easy for my parents to give me the things that they never had (easy, if they had the financial means that is) but they didn’t and even if they were independently wealthy, they were far too frugal to waste money on “things you want” before “things you need”.  And what little money we had always seemed to go to the things we needed- food, clothing, heat, etc…

So when I asked for a new pair of Jordache jeans for my fifteenth birthday because all of the kids were wearing them and my Lee jeans were suddenly looking ragged (in my opinion, anyway), my dad said, “You want those jeans hon?”

I smiled.“Yes, Daddy, more than anything!”

“Good, work harder and save your money!  It’s important to have a goal behind your sweat,” he said.

After I retrieved my jaw from the floor and stormed out of the store- I ran home.  I was mad enough to get even.  I had one babysitting job at that point, did my best to get more, worked harder and bought two pairs of Jordache jeans with my earnings thank you very much!

What I didn’t realize back then was that my father taught me a huge lesson that day and it’s called a work ethic.  Today, not many young adults know how to work hard and have pride in a job well done. When I babysat, I also cleaned up after the children, took out the trash and did the dishes.

“Pretend it’s your home and your kids,” said my parents.  “Do the chores that come with having kids. The parents will appreciate you going the extra mile. And, it’s great birth control! Kids are tons of work- sooner you learn that, the better off you are.”

Most of the time, jobs today don’t get done, let alone “the extra mile” done.

Have you been to a department store lately?  Have you had to wait until Suzie finished her cell phone conversation with Romeo?  Did she look at you like you  just ruined her life?

Do you know several twenty somethings who still spend their weekends sleeping till noon?

How many young adults do you know whose parents still make their beds, pay their bills, and wash, then fold their laundry? Put it away even.

What really perplexes me is how many young adults suffer from a sense of entitlement, that not only is it our responsibly to provide for them, but to provide what and when at their beck and call.

My children (all young adults) are not totally independent of course, but are on their way.  They know what they can get away with when it comes to relying on me or my husband, and when they better get their butts in gear and get the job done pronto.  I have slowly given them more responsibilities each year and stick to the slogan, “Happy Birthday!  You now have an additional privilege, but also an additional responsibility.“

One example of this slogan: “So, now that you are old enough to legally drink, you can also start paying your car insurance!”

While giving your children everything you didn’t have may seem the right thing to do, consider this:  the ultimate goal of successful parenting is to create responsible, independent, conscientious human beings. Reflect on this goal.  How you are doing?

I sometimes joke with my husband regarding the “When I was a kid stories” that our children will tell their children.  Perhaps they will sound like this:

“I had to take my dinner out of the oven myself; we didn’t have robot butlers back then. It was exhausting!”

I’m sure Generation Y-ers will still find something to gripe about and do their best to convince their offspring how tough the good ol’ days were.  After all, those “When I Was a Kid” stories have been around a long time and life wouldn’t be the same without them.