Monday, December 30, 2013

On Moving Forwards

We've reached that point in the year when it's customary to look back at the year we are leaving behind. To take stock of the days behind us and pass judgement on them as either a success, or a failure. To look at that list of goals or resolutions we penned back when the year was fresh, and determine if we have achieved what we set out for, or if we managed to fall short. 

It's easy to face the new year, when you are coming off a year with little to no turmoil. When you can count on only two hands the amount of heartache that has come into your life. When you can look at that list of goals and check off at least half and feel that even if you didn't quite achieve them all, you did pretty OK. 

Ann Voskamp said, " How in the world do you step hopeful into the next year, when you tripped messy through the last year? How do you stand brave with all the smiling rest and ring in the new year when the old year still feels a bit like a millstone around the neck? What if everyone else is making New Year's resolutions and you just want New You solutions? "

It's easy to sit in reflection of a year that has been less then ideal, and feel like you want a do-over. To wish that you could go back and change this or that, or to look at that list of goals and things you wanted to accomplish, and feel like a world class failure. To dwell on all the bad choices that you made that led to that list not getting checked off, or to want to start again with the same things you always focus on. To get stuck in a rut that will no likely, have you sitting in the same place at this time next year. 

Phillipians 3:13-14 reads: “But one thing I doforgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead…I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” 

For 2014, I'm moving forward. I'm letting go of the past hurt and disappointments. I am done dwelling on the why-nots and the why-can'ts and the how-comes. I am not going to spend any more mental energy thinking about where we have been, or where I have been, or what didn't get done or didn't work, and I am moving forward. Every time I fall, instead of getting caught in the trap of "here we are again", I am going to pick myself up, and start over again. Looking at how I can learn, and how it can help me to grow. 

Care to join me? 

Saturday, December 28, 2013

One Little Word: 2014

At the end of last year, I sat in my office staring out the window with tears running down my face and typed this post about how I was going to revisit my word from 2012 in 2013. After several miserable months of feeling like my world was falling apart, I planned to spend a lot of time focusing on putting myself back together. On finding myself and rediscovering who I was again. 

2013 wasn't exactly the year I had hoped for. The year started out rocky, my relationship was a mess for the better part of half the year, we had a horrible situation to deal with in my extended family, we lost our dog in late October, I lost a dear friend to cancer and my MIL was just released from the hospital the night before last. 

Through that all however, over these last 6 months I have begun to find myself again. I discovered that in order to survive the mess that my relationship was turning into, I had to stop focusing on what wasn't working, and what was broken, and start focusing on me. I had to start looking at my contributions to it and what I could be doing to make things better. It wasn't easy, and it's a recommitment that I have to make every single day and sometimes more than once a day, but it has made such a difference. Right now, we are in a much better place than we have been in a long time, moving forward and upward and I thank God every day for giving me the strength to stick it out. 

I discovered things about myself that I didn't feel positively about, and I have been working on changing them. Again, this hasn't been an easy process, and sometimes I slide backwards, but I apologize and move forward. I have spent a lot of time thinking about who I want to be, and how I want to be, and I"m still working on it. I will continue with this in 2014. 

Looking forward however, what I want from 2014 is for it to be a year of restoration. 

: noun- 1. the act or process of returning something to it's original condition by repairing it, cleaning it, etc. 2. the act of bringing back something that existed before 3. the act of returning something that was stolen or taken

I want to keep working on moving my marriage forward into what looks to be something better than it's ever been before. I have been working on changing me and in the process of not focusing on him, he has taken it upon himself to do better. To look at himself and see what needed doing. We are both doing our best and I am hoping that 2014 can be a year for our relationship to thrive. We haven't had a good relationship in a long, long time. 

I want to keep working on finding myself. I have started college, I am working on starting a plan for what I want to do with my future and through the process of rehabbing my knee so that I can start running again, I'm making my whole self stronger. 

So what I want from 2014, is restoration. I feel hopeful that I will be able to get to the end of next year, and have achieved this goal. 

Friday, December 27, 2013

A Letter to My Boy On His Birthday

Back when you were in elementary school, you hated that your birthday fell during Christmas vacation. You didn't think it was fair that everyone else got to celebrate their birthdays at school with their friends, and cupcakes or treats that their moms brought in, and your birthday was a day during vacation, which wasn't even the same as having it on a weekend. In response to this, I would remind you that your sister had a birthday during the summer, and she never got to celebrate her birthday at school either. You didn't care, and that didn't make it any better. I tried really hard over the years to make sure that your birthday was kept separate from Christmas, and we tried to plan for your family parties to be the weekend after Christmas was over. I hated when people gave you gifts for Christmas and said, "This is for your birthday and Christmas." I guess if I am grateful for one thing, it's that you weren't born ON Christmas Day. Can you imagine how awful that would've been? Take the few extra days, and relish in the fact that it's never going to be 102 degrees with 89% humidity on your birthday. She can't say the same thing about hers.

Now that you are in college I find myself enjoying the fact that your birthday is over Christmas break. If it were during the school year you would be away at school doing important learning, or whatever things you do at school that aren't learning. You would likely celebrate it with your friends in COSI, which I am sure you would find all sorts of pleasure in. If it were during the summer you would be off working at some important job that is going to be a stepping stone to the most amazing career that you will come by without too much effort. Likely that job will be on the other side of the country, which means that you'd be celebrating it without us. But because it is over Christmas break, you are here with us. For this year, and at least the next 3 years, you will be at home for your birthday. I get a few more years to celebrate with you, before you go off on your own. 

I promise that I won't be like Grammy and have you come back home for birthday dinners. If you would like to come home for dinner on your birthday, that is fine and I would be happy to have you here. That choice however, is entirely up to you. It is your special day and I will always honor your wishes to celebrate it how you'd like. 

For now though, I am going to try not to think about how this is your last year as a teenager. How next year, you will turn 20, and then the year after that you will be 21 and legal to do all the rest of the things you can't quite do yet. How in just a few years, you will be leaving for good, to go off and and find your own place in the world. Happy Birthday Corey. Keep blazing that trail.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Catching Up: A New Niece

Growing up I was surrounded by boys. Having only brothers meant that I was outnumbered when it came to answering "What do you want to play?" and "What should we watch on TV?" If I was lucky enough to get up early, I could watch what I wanted. If I played with them first, they might be convinced to play with me later. Some of them would play with me just because they thought my toys were cool. Others, wouldn't be caught dead. I thought when they got older it would mean that they would bring some cute friends over, but that never worked out in my favor either. They were loud, their music tastes were awful, they ate everything that wasn't nailed down and their rooms smelled funny.

I hated being the only girl. I longed for a sister to tell my secrets to. I wished for someone to share clothes with, and to do my hair while we sat on a bed and giggled over who was crushing on who at school. I envied my friends who had sisters and the relationships that they had with them. I envied my brothers for that matter, because they had the kind of relationships that I wished for. Granted, they weren't perfect, and when we were younger they were a little rougher, but they were boys, and got each other. I wanted what they had.  It just wasn't fair.

Now that I am older, and our siblings are starting to have kids of their own, I am surrounded by little girls. Each time the ultrasound appointment comes to pass and we get another announcement of "It's a girl!", I give a secret wink in the direction of the sky. I relish in the cute little clothes that I can buy at the store, and the adorable patterns that are available for knitting when it comes to girls. I tell everyone that all of these nieces are my reward for surviving a lifetime of boys. I get a lot of laughs when I announce that, but I'm really not kidding. Nothing makes my heart happier then spending time with my girls.

In early November, my brother Brian and his girlfriend gave birth to this little peanut, who is the first baby to be born in our family since my daughter, almost 16.5 years ago. She was born just about the same size as I was all those years ago, and is just the cutest little thing EVER. I'm told all she does is want to be held all day and fusses and cries, but every time I get my hands on her, all she does is snuggle and sleep. She was the perfect gift this year.

Just a week later, I found out that my sweet sister-in-law, who has been trying with some complicates to have a baby for 11 years now, is due in early June. They find out the gender on New Years Eve, and while I would love to have a little boy to spoil rotten, the gut feeling in my heart says girl. Of course, no matter what, we are praying for healthy, but I've already been eyeballing some new patterns for the summer. They may or may not be dresses. One of these days I am going to have a grand tea party with all of those girls, and it is going to be glorious.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Catching Up: Our First Trip to Visit Him at College

When I sent him off to college, there was a small shard of fear wedged into this mama's heart. My boy has had a rough couple of years, and while he's in a much better place now, he's been here for me to keep an eye on. To be able to monitor for signs that things are starting to slide backwards and we need to take steps to get them headed in the right direction again. The idea of him being so far away, with no one who knew where he's been and what demons he fights, kept me up a few long nights over the last weeks of summer break. Would he ask for help if he needed it? Would anyone notice if he started to withdraw and fall back into the darkness? Would his meds keep working the way that he needed them too, and would he remember to take them every day?

Talking to him, just through FaceBook messenger during those first weeks made me feel a little bit better, but not much. He said he was doing fine, things were going well and he really liked school. Comments he made to questions others asked confirmed this same sentiment, but there is that screen between reality and the written word. My worried mind wondered, "Is he really, or is he just typing that so I don't worry?" Several Google Hang-out chats and phone calls eased my mind a little more, as he sounded happy, and he was meeting people and getting involved in things. My boy, who likes nothing more than to hole up in his space and have no one bother him, was out there interacting with the world.

At the end of October we had the opportunity to go visit him at school. Of course, I jumped at it. He was less then thrilled. The idea of "family weekend" was dumb and he didn't think we should bother coming. I told him that I had already booked our room, and we were coming at least this year. I needed to see with my own eyes that he was doing OK. That things really were going well and he wasn't just saying so. My mama instincts would hone right in on if anything was wrong with just one look and within less then 10 minutes. So one weekend around mid-late October, we drove up to his campus on a Friday.
We met him after his last class let go, and after some visiting and good natured poking fun at his sister, who was on crutches for being klutzy, we went for a long walk in the local cemetery, then out for dinner.

My boy was good, I could tell right away. He has found a group of like-minded friends who share a lot of his same interests. He has found a hang-out, with this same group of friends, in the Open-Source Lab. He has taken part in activities, he volunteered at the fall open house for the college, the list goes on and on. The weekend that we were there, the next day, when we had to leave early instead of staying and participating in the days events due to a band show Ash had to march in, he was scheduled to be competing in a computer coding competition between the two local colleges. l left, with a smile in my heart. Nothing will ever replace that small shard of fear that will always worry about him, but I feel much better about him being six hours away from home, out from under my watchful eye.

Friday, October 25, 2013

On Returning to College

It happened during the summer between third and fourth grade.

We moved from a fairly big city in Massachusetts to a very rural, affluent town in southern New Hampshire. It didn't matter that my father was a vice president of a bank, or that my mother had gone to Northeastern College and worked at a hospital. No one cared that we had bought a 4 bedroom house in a new development on a decent sized lot. We were "that family from Lawrence."

Not only was I the new girl from the poor city that was always getting a bad rap on the news, I had come from a private catholic school. Fourth grade was my first endeavor into public school, and it was awful. I had made friends with some of the kids who lived on my street over the summer, but once school started, they were more interested in their friends, who wanted nothing to do with the new girl. I lost any self confidence I had that year.

The next few years of my life were hell for a whole different reason, and by the time I got into high school not only was I a mess, but things at home were starting to fall apart as well. When I finished high school, I wanted to go to college and become a teacher. I didn't have the money, which I realize now shouldn't have mattered, and I didn't have anyone who supported me enough to help me follow that dream. To work with me through applying for financial aid and getting scholarships and encouraging me to pursue what I wanted to do with my life.

I wasn't strong enough to do it on my own. That's a lie. I have always been strong enough. I just didn't know I was at the time. I was hurt, and tired, and defeated and couldn't see that I was strong enough to do it on my own.

Henry Stanley Haskins said, "What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us."

Life laid out a different path for me to follow than the one I wanted to travel, and 21 years later has brought me here.

I am more comfortable in my own skin than I have ever been in my life. I am learning that in me is all that I need. I am OK with my failures and I am learning to recognize my shortcomings and working on making myself better. I still struggle with self confidence. I still crave to hear that I'm pretty or loved or needed. I know for sure though, how strong I am. I am a survivor, and a warrior, and a champion.

On Monday, I start my first class in perusing my Bachelor's degree in English/Creative Writing. It's never to late to start a new beginning.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

When You Need the Day to Start Over

I walked down the stairs and through the dark house at 3am and found him on the couch playing X-Box with his friends.

I already knew he was there, because his voice had carried upstairs through the wall the high wall the family room shares with our bedroom through some quirky addition to our original house, at 1:45. I had thought at the time that he would be coming to bed soon and that I would be able to just go back to sleep.

He continued to play, and while I was glad he was enjoying himself, I was angry at how inconsiderate he was being to the fact that I was trying to sleep. Finally, when 3am rolled around and it became apparent that not only was he still playing but I still wasn't sleeping, I went downstairs. I might go so far as to say I stormed. Just a little.

I could've handled it a lot better than I did.

I could've stated that his voice was carrying up to our bedroom and could he please be more quiet and then turned around and walked back up to bed.

I didn't.

Instead, a week's worth of not sleeping well took over, and I stood there for about 30 seconds, exhausted and angry at having been woken up so early, when I'm already waking up at 3am on my own, and bellowed at him, "Shut it off!"

He didn't say anything for a minute or two, but then spoke to his friend through the mic and said, "I think I'm going to get going." Some chatter on the other end was followed with, "Yah, I woke Beth up."

It might have been the laughter that pushed me over the edge. It wasn't his laughter, and I know his friend, who probably wasn't laughing that I was up, but more likely that he knew trouble was brewing at my house.

Either way, as there was some more talking/listening, I repeated my order, because that is what it was, honestly, an order, and as he started to put his stuff away I let loose. I barked out that he had woken me up at 1:45, but I thought perhaps it might be OK, because I thought he would be on his way to bed.. but CLEARLY (I raised my voice at that) I was wrong and he had no intention of coming to bed because here it was 3am and he was still playing. However, I was NOT coming back to bed because I wasn't about to spend the short amount of sleep I might be able to salvage out of the rest of the night listening to him snore.

Off he went, and I tried to get some more sleep on the couch, but failed miserable.

He finally woke up at almost 11am, after I had been awake for 9 hours and was fighting a raging headache and eyes that felt like sandpaper.

He came in to see me after his shower, and he apologized for being inconsiderate both about the loud voice, and for sleeping half the day away.

I told him that I wanted to accept his apology, but at that moment I was still feeling tired and headachy and my eyes hurt and I just couldn't do anything with it, but thanked him.

It was a testament of how far we both have come. The apology, the acceptance of it, and that from right there, we were able to move forward and have a good rest of the day together. I can look at the whole thing and see where I went wrong and what I could've done better.

Friday, October 11, 2013

When You Feel Like Things are Falling Into Place

We drove out to the city today before work.

When they called and asked if we could be there at 1:30 this afternoon I replied, "No ma'am, I'll be in the middle of some important state testing with my students then, can we do it earlier?". She replied with, "Sure, how does 8:00am sound?" and that was that.

I'm always reminded when we drive through, or back there, of the reasons I wanted to leave. As we drove down the highway headed towards our exit, an airplane took off from the airport and it was as large as life. I remember our first apartment and how it was right next to the train tracks. Often the sound of a coal train would awaken me in the middle of the night as it rumbled through on it's way to or from Maine.

We refinanced our mortgage; changed from a 30 year loan, of which we had 18 years left to pay on, to a 20 year, dropped 2.ish%, our monthly payment drops $100 until our taxes go up again, and we will save so many thousands of dollars (to the tune of 50-something if I remember right) over those remaining years that we couldn't not do it. I realize that the interest rates are higher now than they have been in recent years, but we weren't in a position then to be able to do anything about it. The time was right at the moment, so we jumped on it.

We're going to take the escrow money that we don't have to pay ourselves back with, and the extra money we aren't paying each month and start saving up for new windows. It's one of our bigger projects, in addition to the the dozens of other projects that need attention, but this is a pressing issue. We'll not only increase the value of the house by removing those hundred year old windows, but hopefully we'll see a fuel savings as well.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Musings on an October Day

L.M. Montgomery wrote "October was a beautiful month at Green Gables, when the birches in the hollow turned as golden as sunshine and the maples behind the orchard were royal crimson and the wild cherry trees along the lane put on the loveliest shades of dark red and bronzy green, while the fields sunned themselves in the aftermaths. Anne reveled in the world of color about her..."I'm so glad I live in a world where they are Octobers. It would be terrible if we just skipped from September to November, wouldn't it?..."

Aside from loving Anne of Green Gables, I love the colors of fall. I love the different shades of green, and deep orange and crimson red and royal purple and brown are the colors that I am drawn to when I make my wardrobe choices, if I'm not choosing black or grey. I feel like October is the month that fall really shines. Here in NH we call it "peak season" and it's the time when the leaves are their most glorious colors and you can drive through the state and admire the changing foliage from north to south through the month.

October is also a month that I struggle with. In school it's the month that we spend weeks doing out mandatory state testing. It's a month that ties to dark memories of my past. The funny thing about that, is that there should be so many months that tie to dark memories of my past, but October was a pivotal month, and therefore has a special place tied up in my memories. You'd think after so many years of your life, your could let go of things from your past. That eventually you move on and are done with them. Yet every year when October rolls around I am haunted by some of the same dreams, and the same dark ghosts.

I often wonder if I could go back, if I could change any of it, would I? Would I trade it all in, give it all up, for a different experience? I wouldn't be the same strong person that I am today. As hard as it's been and as rough of a road that I've had to travel, would I change any of it? I don't know. I really don't know.

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Less Screen Time

One of the changes I have been wanting to make, and failing miserable at, is to spend less time in front of a screen. I feel in this day and age of smart phones and social media that a large part of how we connect to each other is done through the use of technology.

It's not always a bad thing. Social media let's me see photos of my niece on an almost daily basis when I only get to see her in person every few months or less. I am able to chat with my son, who is 6 hours away at college, at 4 am when I am getting up and he is on his way to bed. It lets my daughter send me urgent messages from her class at school when she feels like she's had an allergic reaction, without having to wait for permission to leave the room or having gone through the channels of the school nurse and all her processes when critical time is being wasted.

Then there is the wasted time. The time when I could be doing other things, but sit down "just to check email" or "just for 5 minutes" and it turns into an hour before I look up from the screen. There are the days when I am too tired to do anything else, and instead of reading a book, or spending time knitting on projects I need to get finished, I curl up in my favorite chair under a blanket with my iPad and spend that last hour before bed browsing Pinterest.

I do believe there is a time and a place for all of it, and we each need to find our own balance. I am working on finding mine, and some days are better than others. I am also looking into going back to The irony of it it all isn't lost on me, and finding that balance is going to become even more critical. For a while I was doing really well with staying unplugged on Sunday's, and I want to get back to that, starting this week. I do believe that it's important to have one day a week away from it all, and I need to make that a priority again. I might even get a nap in.

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

The Head and the Heart

"Sometimes your heart needs more time to accept what your mind already knows." ~ Unknown

My heart has been battered this past year. There were times  that I thought it had broken beyond repair, and times when I realized that it could be broken even more. I have felt the physical ache in my chest that I have only read about in books and I have cried until there were no more tears to cry.

Looking back now, on the journey from there to here, I can see that I made a lot of mistakes. That I was trying too hard to force change into my relationship. Trying to hard to change The Boy™. What I really needed to work on, was changing myself. I needed to change my attitude about a lot of things, and the way I responded to certain situations. I needed to change the way I interacted with the people in my house and how I managed myself and my time and my needs.

I think that all along, I knew some of this. I knew that there were things I needed to be working on, and I was, but not as wholeheartedly as I could. I felt too broken for that. I had this idea that when things started to get better, when I was feeling better and happier, then I could really focus on what I needed to be doing better and then everything would turn around for the best.

I was wrong. As I have started to focus on me, and what I needed to be doing better, I started to feel better. I also noticed that as I started to put the attention onto what I needed to fix, that other people started to pay attention more to what they needed to be doing. Change started to happen all the way around, and slowly, very slowly, things have started to turn around.

Some days we still have our struggles. We both fail, in our own ways, for whatever reason, but we own up to our failings. We apologize, and we move forward. We don't let them turn into something bigger. Something that will backslide us into a darker place that we don't want to be again. It's not always easy, but we are learning, and growing, and changing and so is our relationship. I like to think that it's changing for the better.

The Head and The Heart: Down in the Valley 

Monday, October 07, 2013

An Autumn Interlude

It's no secret around here that fall is my favorite season. Each change of season brings with it a newness that is welcome after the last season starts to wear out it's welcome. Just when summer is starting to get too long and hot...wait, what am I writing?! I never get tired of summer. I relish in the evenings where the daylight allows for late walks and sitting out in the backyard talking with friends. I enjoy the few days worth of hot weather that we get here in NH, and soon enough August is here.

I remember when I was a child and summer was June, July and August. Three months of hot weather that kept you outside until the light quit and mom called you in. Now it's chilly in August and the light changes early and it feels like fall starts creeping in sometime around the second week.

Once school is started and fall is officially here however, I'm ready for it. I love the crisp mornings and warm afternoons. I love walking through the leaves and hearing the crunch under my feet. I love that smell of wood smoke mingling with damp air and leaf rot. Warm sweaters are still a novelty and I I'm able to pull out my scarves. Baking in the summer is a chore because it heats up your kitchen, but in the fall a heated kitchen is a bonus to whatever yummy treat is now cooling on the counter. There is so much to love about it. Except, possibly the fact that it precedes winter. That however is a post for another day.

Saturday, October 05, 2013

In Which We Find Someone Hacked My Bank Card...

...or Why Yesterday Was Such an Awful Day.

Yesterday was a particularly long day at school. Our class has no specials on Friday, it rained all day which kept the kids in, and, for whatever reason known only to them, they were just loud and out of sorts. On top of all of that we threw a wedding shower for one of our co-workers at the end of the day, so by the time I walked out the door I was more than ready to go home.

The light on the phone was flashing that we had a message and my first thought was it was the doctor calling to confirm Ms. Thang's appointment on Tuesday. She informed me as I waited to punch in my code that was NEXT Tuesday and I hit 1 to retrieve my message. I listened in shock as a woman's voice told me she was calling from the fraud department of my bank and I needed to call such and such a number immediately upon hearing this message. Which I did. Discussion with another kind woman left me informed that someone had gotten hold of my bank card information and had started a spending spree. What they do is make small purchases first, to see if the account is valid, then they go big. Fortunately for me, the awesome people in the fraud department at Visa know what they are doing, and they picked up on it right away. They put a flag on my account, cancelled my card and directed me over to my local branch.

My neighbor's son, who I swear was just in middle school when we moved here, is an important big-wig at my bank now, and took the best care of me. He explained how the whole thing would work, how I would have to go about disputing the charges, and issued me a new card. For the first time since TJ Maxx leaked it's customer's information all those years ago, I have to change my card number. Gone are the days of shopping at 3am and just punching in the number on my keypad. I feel grateful to the folks across the board that kept this from being a bigger issue than it was, and feel angry that people think that this kind of behavior is acceptable.

Friday, October 04, 2013

A New Morning Routine

Having to be at work early 3 days a week, and also out the door earlier than the last 10 years has shifted my morning routine.

 I used to get up, go about doing my thing, or head out for an early morning run, and then plan to get into the shower by 7:00am. Most mornings, I would get caught up in whatever I was doing, or I would fall trap to that "one more thing" mindset, and it would be around 7:30 when I finally got into the shower. Which meant I was rushing out the door and often a few minutes, or 10, late for work. As I never took my 15 minute break, and always stayed later at the end of the day, it balanced out, but it wasn't ideal.

The last few years they implemented a time clock with  key fobs and I got better about being there on time, but my morning was still rushed. It didn't help that I was often waiting for people who intended to be up and ready by certain times to do there thing, and weren't, and it was all just a big mess.

This year, I get into the shower at 6:15. This guarantees that whether I have to leave at 7:15 for an early meeting, or 7:45 for a regular day, I am ready to go. Anything extra time that I have after I'm ready, I use for all of those things that I used to do beforehand. Obviously this means that I'm not getting my early morning run in anymore. That has been a hard adjustment, but in a year of change, it's just one more thing. I have stuck with this routine for 26 work days (today will be 27) so far, and I really like it. I feel like my day starts off better, I'm calmer and I actually feel more productive.

Thursday, October 03, 2013

Relying on Others

One change I've had to make this year that I'm not fond of, is relying on others to get to and from work.

We have been a one car household for about 9 years. When The Boy™'s car finally stopped working, it made sense for him to just start driving mine, because I was working down the street at the elementary school, and was walking to and from work each day. A few years later when that car finally died we just replaced it. We haven't had a need to replace it, or have been able to afford it since. Until now. Our van, however, is 9 years old. I'd say it has 2, maybe 3 more good years left on it if we are lucky. My man drives his vehicles hard. We replace brakes every 2 years and tires every 2 or 3. If we were to get a car loan now, we would have to replace the van before the first loan was paid off, and we couldn't afford to have two loans at the same time. We are both in education, it's just a fact of life.

My neighbor diagonally across the way was relocated to my new school for half a day in the mornings this year. I ride into work with her. 3 out of the 5 days of the week she has to be there half an hour early for meetings. Getting home means I have to rely on others who are headed through my town on their way home. 2 days I ride with the art teachers, 3 days I ride with the music teacher. Right now he is teaching steel drums on Wednesdays and leaves early. No one is at school that day who heads through my town, so The Boy™ is leaving work early and coming to pick me up. I love that, but I also feel bad for disrupting his day.

I feel like I'm imposing on all of these people and I hate it. I know they don't mind, because they've all told me. I thank them all every day, and they tell me it's no problem, or it's no bother, but I want them to know that I truly appreciate it, because I do. Without them I would be stuck. It would take me about an hour to bike there and it's all uphill.

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Adjusting to Life Without Corey

You spend the year up sending a child off to college thinking about it all the time. All of the "last times" and big occasions. There is the headache of applying for financial aid and the stress of applying for college, and then it's all over and summer arrives. That last summer home. In most households I assume this summer is spent getting ready for college and thinking about leaving and the excitement of going away and being on your own. This is not most households, and my boy was not most children.

After having worked all last summer right from pretty much the end of school, right up until we started again with only a few days off, The Boy™ suggested maybe I wanted to take this summer off. There was a job prospect that would be starting during the early-to mid summer, and a few weeks off would be a nice break. Then, if I didn't get it, spending the summer with Corey, and having a nice long break would be a refreshing change. I hemmed and hawed over the finances and the worry of it all, and then took his advice and did just that. It was awesome.

He spent the summer working, from his computer at home, and watching episodes of Doctor Who with his sister. He started getting serious about leaving for college about a week before it was time to go. During that week he told me that he was both excited and nervous about leaving, but that he didn't want to talk about it. Respecting his wishes, and knowing that talking isn't his thing (much like his dad), I didn't press. I wanted so badly to have the conversations with him though. To ease his mind, and my own heart. To encourage him and let him know how much we were going to miss him. To remind him that no matter where he goes and what he does, he will always have a home here.

Bringing him to school wasn't as heart wrenching as I thought it would be. I suspect part of it is because for the two summers before this past one, he was off at MIT for a class one of them, and then doing an internship for DYN the next. I also suspect the fact that our arrival coincided with a floor meeting that he had to attend, and we moved his stuff in for him, then met with him briefly the next day after our orientation was done, and his was still in process had something to do with it. I think though, that a big part of it was how happy he was to be there. How excited he was on Saturday morning when we met up with him to be starting the next phase in the adventure that is his life. He was more than ready, and it really made leaving a lot easier.

It has been an adjustment not having him here. Sometimes I think of something funny that I want to share with him, or tell him, and then I have to remember that he's not here. Mail shows up with his name and I have to resist the urge to yell up towards his room to let him know. We've rearranged our seats at the table, and I'm still not used to dinner without his offering his opinion on what we are eating or how his day went. His desk sits empty next to mine, and I'm reminded of our summer together. He would sit there and work, or play his video games, and I would sit there and do my class, or work on other stuff, and it was nice not to be in the office alone. I cleaned his room from top to bottom after he left, and it's weird to go in there to water his aloe and have it still be clean and unruffled. The only signs of life are that the cats have been sleeping on his bed. I think they miss him as much as I do.

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

A New Loop to Walk at Lunch

One thing I really missed about my school day was my walk at lunch. It was an 8 minute door to door loop around my neighborhood that if I was feeling motivated I kept up with even once the weather turned cold. Last year it was the only chance I got to be out of the building all day, and I relished those 8 minutes like manna from heaven. The first few weeks at my new school, I stayed in the lunch room for my whole half an hour, but it was really just too long, and I was itching to get out and walk. Forget that immediately following lunch I was outside on playground duty for a full half an hour, doing loops around the school yard. I liked being able to have a walk before I ate. A chance to take a break from the morning, get my head back on straight, and to regroup a little before having to deal with whatever was going on in the lunchroom.

Soon after that, I headed out to find a new walking routine. At first, I headed up the hill towards the state park that isn't too far from the school. If I walked up to the top of the first big hill and turned and came back, it was 10 minutes. Not too bad, but not very exciting and not a whole lot to look at. I did that for about 3 days, and then decided to see what happened if I headed up the road past the cemetery. I discovered that there was a little road at the back of the cemetery and I could do a loop through it and around and be right back out in front of the school. If I walked past the first entrance and up through the parking lot and back to the door, it was 8 minutes. This is my new loop, and I love it It's pretty, it's quiet, and it reminds me to be thankful for all that I have. I hope that the town keeps it plowed in the winter, because my goal is to walk it every day unless it's raining too hard.

Monday, September 30, 2013

In Which We Find a New Kind of Normal

It has a been a season of change. Change in the location of my job. Change in my daily schedule to accommodation being in a new location. Change in my relationship with The Boy™.

Victor Frankl said, " When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves."

After 10 years of working in one school, changing to a new one was hard. We have workshop days before the kids start back, and I missed the very first one because we were off taking Corey to college, so I already felt apprehensive and lost when I showed up on my first day. The day before I got to go to my new school however, was a whole district workshop day and we all gathered together at the HS. We listened to a speaker and I saw all my former co-workers and it was hard. I left there, feeling sad and defeated, knowing that the  next day I was going to have to show up to a new school, a day behind everyone else, not knowing anyone or where anything was or even what I was doing. There was a lot of crying that night.

That first week was rough, I won't lie. In just a few days I had to learn my way around a whole new school, try and figure out who a whole new staff of people were and what they did, and then 170 kids I had never met before showed up. The good news is, only 26 were in our class, and they are pretty darn awesome. So are the staff. They have gone out of their way to make me feel welcome and included and like an essential part of their staff right from the beginning. If I was going to have to be moved to any of the schools in our district, I wouldn't want to be anywhere else.

I know for a fact, that my attitude about being there made a huge difference too. That night before I started there, I finally came to terms with the fact that I was moving. Despite some broken promises that had been made over the summer by the administration. I think all summer long I had been in denial, and hadn't really dealt with it. That night, I let it all out, and woke up the next morning ready to go. Inwardly I was nervous and unsure of myself, but I didn't share that outwardly. I smiled and was friendly and I never let on that I didn't want to be there. In truth, it wasn't true. It wasn't their fault I got moved, and it wasn't mine. I had decided that if I was going to have to be there, I was going to make the best of it, and I think that made all the difference.

Sometimes change is good. It's nice to be with new kids, who you don't have a history with. It's also nice to not be part of any of the staff drama, or even know what it is. I do miss the class of kids who are in the 5th grade now at my old school (well.. most of them), because I've been with them since first grade. But because I had that history, the difficult students took advantage of it and it got exhausting. Don't miss that one bit. Each day I go to work, do my job, enjoy the day, and come home. I don't have any really difficult kids this year and it's such a nice change.

I learned a valuable lesson this summer about resisting change. Actually, it wasn't this summer at all. I learned it once school started. All summer I fought this move. I looked for a new job every chance I got. I actually applied and interviewed for several, but didn't get them. I was convinced that I was NOT going to be starting this year working in a new school. I exerted  more energy and caused myself more grief and stress over what turned out to be nothing. I can't tell you how often in my life I have done that, and it's time to stop. There is always a reason for everything, and we may not know what it is, or why it has to happen, but that doesn't mean that we can't learn and grow from it.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

When You Hurt the Ones You Love

The words tumble out before I can think through what I am saying. Half thoughts that try to explain the hurt that I feel inside. The emptiness that I can't seem to shake.

That look snaps across his face. The one that says I've crossed a line. That he's just a little angry but he won't say as much. The look that shows how my insensitivity has caused him just a bit of pain, but he won't share that either.

Instead he snaps back a comment, to which I reply in turn, and then stares at me, silent. It's become almost a game we play. He feels he has nothing to say, so he doesn't. I say what I need to and wait for a response, and get nothing.

The summer has been busy for him. He took a 6 day class back in the spring and has spent most of his free time studying for a big test that he took this week. When he hasn't been studying, he's been working. When he hasn't been doing either of those things, he's been watching TV. If I get to spend any time with him, it's been during the "Do you want to watch ...?" times. His idea of watching TV is to have the TV on, and be working on his laptop.

In the midst of all of this, I struggle. I struggle with feeling less than important. I struggle with the lack of quality time spent together. I struggle to not sound like a needy wife who has to be the center of her husband's world, because that isn't how I feel at all. Mostly, I just feel lonely.

It is possible to live in a house with other people, and feel incredibly alone.

So in my weak attempt to explain why I slept on the couch last night, I said some things that were a little unkind. Like how I was glad that he was going to be gone again this year for another 6 day class and busy studying all the time so I didn't have to deal with how he never wanted to spend time with me. The truth is, I'm torn in two over it. I'm proud of him for doing it, and know that it will advance his career if he ever decides to pursue a new job. I also hate the very idea of it, knowing how much time it is going to consume.

Those words I said were bred out of selfishness, I realized later today. That is not something I am proud of, and if I were to go back and analyze most of our conflicts, I would probably discover a pattern.

 I was focused on me, and my own situation and not thinking about him. Not about how he would feel, or how all of this studying has been a lot of work and maybe stressful and he's needed that downtime to just zone out. I was too hung up on feeling neglected and letting it effect my mood, to think about the big picture, which involved him as well.

So as a result, my selfishness hurt him and it's too late to take it back. I often think that we treat strangers better than we treat the people that we love, which is a sad reflection on life and the way things are.
How can I expect him to want to spend time with me, if I can't even treat him with respect and love?

Friday, August 16, 2013

When A Week is Not Long Enough

The notation on the calendar stares at me like a flashing neon sign on a Vegas hotel: Corey to Clarkson. All month long it has been there, a looming deadline that seemed to be approaching far faster than I care for. Every summer I'm taken by how July, with it's hot, lazy days can seem to last for so long and yet August goes speeding by in the wink of an eye. How having that first day of school on the calendar makes the last weeks a blur of getting ready and trying to fit in last minute vacations and trips and lounging about. If I could, I would push a pause button and stay here for a while. Right here, with this last week laid out before us, and let it drag on for just a bit longer. I would fit in some hiking trips and adventures in the woods. I would plan for movies with bowls of buttery popcorn. I would attempt to have the conversations that are brewing in my heart, but afraid to come to the surface. I would try to impress the images of him, sitting there at his desk into my brain, so when it is sitting there all year empty, I can remember our summer sharing a space together and how much I enjoyed it even when he drove me a little crazy.

As this last week looms before us, there is packing to do and sorting to get through. His room looks like a hurricane blew through it, although that's not really any different from how it normally looks. He has received his fall schedule and his roommate assignment and has already informed me that he's not thrilled that we are planning on coming up for family weekend in October. I like to think that we have given him what he needs to go out into the world, confident and strong, but I know that in many ways we have failed, both him and ourselves. Despite that, he is ready, perhaps even a little bit more ready than I am. Next Friday, when we head out with all of his things packed into the van, I will do my best to leave my worries at home. To not ask all those dorky questions that will make him crabby and shut down. To enjoy the long ride, and our time together while we have it. On Saturday afternoon, when I have to leave him there, I will not make a deal if he won't hug me goodbye, as he hasn't hugged me in more years than I can even remember, but I already told The Boy™ that he has to drive home. I won't be able to see very well through the tears.

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

When You Find The Time Getting Short

The temperature on my weather app read 43*f when I checked it at 4:06am yesterday. The day before I was sitting around with some girl friends, enjoying the afternoon and catching up when one of them remarked about the beautiful fall day we were enjoying. I felt myself scowl before I choked down the rant about how unhappy I was about the weather and how it did in fact seem that summer was over.

The light has started to change, on both ends of the day. The sun is taking longer to come up over the mountain in the morning, and it's starting to get dark again by 8:00pm. The day time temperatures have been in the 70's, and scattered about my lawn are dried up leaves that have already changed and fallen off their trees. Our summer season has gone from the three months I remember as a youth, to the 31 days of July. As much as I love fall, and all of the things it has to offer, this saddens me. I am not ready for it's arrival in August. I still want to be able to don my shorts and flip flops and take naps out in my hammock. I want to be able to eat dinner out at the table in the backyard and not have to be wearing long pants and a sweatshirt. I want the days to climb into the 80's and to feel like summer, so I can hold onto it for just a little bit longer before having to head back to school at the end of the month.

As this summer comes to an end, and I prepare to send my son off to college, I realize that the time I have left with my daughter is running short as well. Last month she celebrated her sixteenth birthday and this fall she will start her junior year of high school. She's struggling, my girl, to find herself in a wave of teenage drama and complicated friend challenges and low self image problems. She has days where she is happy and social and days she holes herself up in her room, engaged in activities known only to her, or napping and I feel my worry radar climb a notch or two. Through all of that though, she brings out the best in those around her. She is smart, funny, talented, beautiful, thoughtful and witty and those of us who are fortunate to have her in our lives are blessed more than we deserve.

This summer, I have watched as she has spent time with her brother, watching season after season of Dr. Who. I have listened as he has asked her questions about things that he normally wouldn't have taken an interest in before. I have heard her having discussions with him about nothing, and everything, and I have taken it all in. He asks me questions about her when she has been sleeping for what he deems to be too long. She offers her thoughts on what a wreck he's going to be out in the world alone when he's out of ear shot.  They both claim to be looking forward to the day that he leaves. He says he can't wait to go. She says that she won't miss him. I think that deep inside they are both frauds, but I don't dare tell either of them that. They need to discover it for themselves.

Me, I'm counting down the days, and trying to enjoy the time left. He is starting to get short, and cranky, which is his way of pushing me away. I can see right through that facade, knowing that it won't hurt any less if he distances himself before he goes, and I still engage him in discussions. I let him think that he can go, and it's not going to be any big deal. I don't make a huge fuss about the fact that I am going to miss him and his presence in this house, but I do mention it sometimes. I don't want him to leave thinking that he's not loved and wanted here. I am grateful that I will still have 2 more years with her after he goes, though experience has shown me it will be over before I know it. My time with these kids is running out, and I can only hope that I have given them what they need to soar on their own.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Confessions of a World Class Yeller

I grew up in a house with yelling.

My mom was a yeller. When she was mad at my father, which seemed to be a daily occurrence, she yelled. It didn't matter if he was in the same room, or on the other side of our apartment, or out in the yard. If she was unhappy, everyone knew about it. The same went for us kids. If someone was upstairs, once we moved to our house, she would look at the ceiling and yell, as if she could see through the floor to who her anger was directed at.

My father was not a yeller. In fact, he was a very quiet man. Mostly he ignored my mother when she was mad at him, aside from the times that he would answer her back with snarky comments. All of the above just made my mother more upset. When she was done yelling, she would resort to stomping. Her stomping was accompanied by ranting. She would stomp around, ranting out loud at no one in particular until she felt she was finished, or she went to bed, but we all know who her rants were directed at. Mostly we just tried to stay out of her way.

The Boy™ grew up in a house with no yelling.

His parents not only didn't yell, they didn't fight in front of the children. "My parents never fought," was what he told me one day when we were having a heated disagreement and I threw out that married people fought and he was just going to have to get over it. The look on my face must've said everything because he stared at me for a good few minutes after that not saying anything. So he grew up, not only without yelling, but without learning how people resolved disagreements in a more healthy way.

Then we got married.

You always vow when you are growing up that you will not turn out to be like your parents, or do ________ (fill in whatever terrible thing they did here), but in the end, we are products of our environment and we learn what we know.

I became a yeller. I can't say that I am proud of that, but it is what it is. In my mind, I felt perfectly justified with my yelling. I yelled because I felt whatever I was yelling about was important. That because I had reached a level of frustration with whoever I was dealing with, and clearly they weren't listening to me, that I had to yell to get my point across. That if I didn't feel so passionately about whatever it was, I wouldn't have to yell, but I did, so it was OK.

It was not OK. I couldn't see it then, because I was too caught up in my own selfcenteredness to notice.

Just in the past few months, The Boy™ yelled at me for the first time, ever. After I got over the shock of it, because he is not a yeller (he doesn't even raise his voice when he's upset, which is hardly ever), I had a startling realization.

Being  yelled at feels lousy.

You would have thought that I would have remembered that from my childhood. You would have thought that years of having been yelled at myself, and knowing how rotten it makes you feel would have stayed with me into adulthood. You would have thought that as a result of that, I wouldn't be a yeller. You would have thought wrong.

Until that day, I had somehow forgotten what it was like to be on the receiving end. How small and awful it makes you feel when someone raises their voice at you. How disrespected and unloved you feel in that moment and the ones that follow. It was a very sobering experience.

I had already made a decision before that day that I needed to do less yelling. That it wasn't benefiting anyone, myself included. One day I yelled at Corey out of frustration and when I apologized for it he replied, "It's OK, I deserved it." I said to him in reply, "Your actions are frustrating me, but that doesn't mean you deserve to be yelled at." I realized that I had come a long way, but I still had a way to go. I don't think I have yelled since that day. I try to make a conscious effort to keep my voice level calm when I am feeling extremely frustrated, and if I feel like I am going to really lose it, I walk away for a while and take a break.

My hope is that I can teach my kids that there are better ways to handle your frustration then yelling. I pray that it's not too late.

Monday, July 29, 2013

As We Reach the End of July

I have always thought of July as the month that defines summer. We spend most of June in school, and August is spent getting ready to go back to school and finds us back before the month is over. July though, July is a whole glorious month free of school from start to finish. 31 entire days to relish in all there is to love about summer.

This July has been particularly fantastic, in my opinion. The weather has been hot and summer-like, as opposed to the cool rainy weather we have had in some years past. The sun has shone more days that it has not and it has been like a healing balm for my burdened soul. There has been a lot of complaining about the heat and the humidity, but not once did any such words come from my mouth. We have such a long, miserable cold season, that I truly relish an honest to goodness summer.

This year I have had the privilege of being able to be home and not work at the Blueberry Farm as I have in summers past. It came about due to a job I applied for back during the last week of June, which I just finally interviewed for last week. They are deciding about it after the last interviews are finished tomorrow and I'll know come Wednesday. It's a year round job in our district, and I would be starting 3 weeks from today. The process ended up taking a lot longer than was originally expected, which was how I came to not be working this summer. It was decided that I probably needed some time off anyhow, and it would be nice to spend some time with Corey before he heads off to college later on next month, so here I am. I have a little bit of guilt about where the money could be going to instead, but I'm really enjoying the break.

I have been reading, working in my gardens, writing, napping in our new hammock, working on my scrapbooks, knitting for tiny babies that are due in the fall, and enjoying my children. I have been running and taking walks after dinner and we went camping one weekend and to the beach early in the month and had a sweet 16 party for Ms. Thang and her friend who's birthdays are one day apart. I am trying to get back to a place where I feel better about life and my relationship and me. It's a slow process and I'm taking one day at a time. Some days are better than others. Most of the month I haven't been sleeping very well, and some stuff has come up in the last week and a half that has turned my world upside down, but I'm getting through it, and know that in the end all things work together for the good of those who are called according to His purpose. I have to keep reminding myself of that, it's HIS purpose, not what I want, or where I want to be. One day at a time, one foot in front of the other. I plan to make the most of the next 3 weeks, no matter where I might be going when I get to the end of them.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

The Mill at the End of the Street

Early Troy was a farming community, surrounded by forests with a river running through it. The forests led to small mills that manufactured wooden ware such as pails, clothes pins, bowls, wooden boxes and handles. At one time a potter and a brickyard thrived in town, and with the benefit of running water, came the establishment of a carding and fulling mill, and woolen and cotton fabric makers. In 1851, Thomas Goodall came to Troy with a big idea. He would open a mill that would manufacture fitted blankets for horses. In 1857 he opened what would later be called Troy Blanket Mills, right next to the river. In 1865, Barrett Ripley and others acquired the mill, and the Ripley family owned the mill until they declared bankruptcy in 2001. In it's early days they made horse blankets and employed 300 people. In their heyday they were making Troy Robes and linings for clothing such as Carhart and Levi Denim jackets. They employed 500 people around 1960 and began manufacturing items for the automobile industry. Due to declining markets and other financial troubles, Troy Mills declared bankruptcy in 2001. *info found here

We moved into our house over Labor Day weekend in 2001. Every weekday morning, at 7:15am  a whistle would blow from somewhere that I could hear from inside my house. I inquired about, as I already had the Town Hall next door, with it's hourly clock chimes, and emergency horn to contend with. I learned that the whistle came from the mill, and it alerted the workers that they were late to work. The whistle blew every morning until sometime in 2002, when it was silenced. Over the years several small companies have operated out of the empty mill building, and in 2008 plans were put into place to renovate the structure into a retirement community. There used to be a website found here, that gave information about what that would look like, and how the plans were coming along, but it has since been taken down. The building was gutted, the EPA came in and did a massive clean up, and then things went bad. Rumor has it there were some shady dealing between the contractor and the select-board that was in charge at the time, and presently there is a citizens group looking into this. Right now, the giant mill stands empty, save the pigeons that perch on it's many rooftops.

While I was researching the history of the mill, I stumbled across a link to 'Troy Robes' on eBay. Curious as to what those could be, I went and had a look. I wasn't sold on the fact that they were authentic Troy blankets, made at our mill, because I couldn't find one that had a tag that said Troy, NH on it anywhere. Then I discovered a seller who had an advertisement from sometime in the 50's that showed the blankets, and referred to them as Troy Robes. Awesome I thought, and I found a blanket in excellent condition for $38 that had just been listed with a 'buy it now' feature and scooped it up. Today I gave it a wash, and it's hanging outside in the shade of the maple trees in the backyard drying, less than a mile away from where it started it's life.

Monday, July 15, 2013

If I had 10,000 Hours

If you have never read Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell, I can't recommend it enough. A friend of mine asked if I  had read it, and I replied that no I hadn't, but I had read The Outlander, by Diana Gabaldon as a humorous retort being they both have very similar titles. She offered that she would read my book if I read hers and I readily agreed. I hit Google and read the review for Outliers and thought for sure she got the better deal. In fact, I was so sure, that I got my copy of The Outlander off the shelf and began reading it again for the 5th or 6th time.

Outliers is a book about the most brilliant, famous and successful people and what makes them so different. I'm about half way through and what I have read so far is fascinating. One thing that I found particularly interesting is the theory that it takes 10,000 hours of practice at any thing to become a master of it. That's roughly 416.6 days, if you were to go at whatever the thing was  you were doing non-stop. Let's consider that you have 3 hours a day to devote to whatever your passion is. I base this estimate on the number of hours I would love to devote to knitting in a perfect world. You might think, surely you could find 3 hours in any given day, and perhaps if I managed some of my time better, and the kids weren't involved with so many things, this could be a reality, but mostly, unless it's the dead of winter, or a vacation, it's not the case. If I devoted 3 hours to knitting every day, it would take me 3,333.3 days to reach 10,000 hours. That's 9 years and some odd number of weeks that I can't work out because I don't do math during summer break. 9 years to become a master at my craft. I have been knitting for 10 years, so if you consider that some days I have knit for more than 3 hours, and some days I have knit for 0 hours, maybe it has all evened out, and it could be said that I am a master knitter? I don't know.

So then I thought about the notion that if money were no object (have you seen this video, it's fantastic), I would stay home and write. I would renovate this little room that used to be a playroom for my children into the most comfortable kind of home office, and I would write. If I wrote for 5 hours a day, because let's be realistic, a lot of time spent writing is also time spent thinking, it would take 2,000 days to get to 10,000 hours. That's almost 5.5 years. I don't find that ridiculous to think about at all. Yet, if I were a bad writer, after 5.5 years of writing for 5 hours every single day, would I still be considered a master writer, or would I be a fool who's mastered the art of writing?

Monday, July 08, 2013

I've Lost Myself or Most of Me

I don't know who I am anymore.

I stood in the bathroom after my shower, staring at the reflection in the mirror. I took stock of the white hair that is gradually replacing the deep brown. I observed the creases that flank the edges of my tired eyes, and wondered when the last time was that I really smiled. I've never considered myself to be pretty, yet I considered what others see when they look at me now. Do they notice the sadness? Does my unhappiness wear like an accessory for the whole world to see?

These past few years have been full of struggle, and challenge. Heartache has met me at every turn, and I have fought to keep my head above water. Through it all, I have tried to focus on what was good. To still count my blessings and not get completely buried under the weight of everything that was broken and falling apart.

Or so I thought.

As I was preparing my lunch the other day, he turned from the family room, his voice raised and said, "Why are you so unhappy all the time?" He sat down in the chair, his back to me, slumped down, and pulled out his phone. I stood there, staring at the back of his head, speechless. Later, when I tried to give an answer, that had something to do with how little time he had spent with me over his days off and how we hadn't talked hardly at all, he answered back with, "I'm sorry you can't find anything to be happy about."

That wasn't true. I had plenty of things to be happy about. The sun had been out for a week or more. I've been able to spend some quality time with my son who's leaving for college in the fall lately. I've started running again. I took a nap in our new hammock the other evening. I had just about finished knitting a tiny sweater for a friend's new grand-baby. What was he talking about?

I've asked myself that question a lot over the past few days. Why AM I so unhappy? I could list a dozen things or more that are making me feel unhappy. All of them are things you have heard here before, so I won't list them again. What I didn't realize, was that I had fallen into a state of entitlement. Somehow, over all this time, I decided that I was entitled to be unhappy. Instead of really focusing on what was good, and enjoying life, I was dwelling on what was broken, and letting it consume me.

Proverbs 21:19 says, "It is better to dwell in the wilderness, than with a contentious and an angry woman." Yet, over the past year and a half, that is exactly what I have started to become. I spent so many years pretending that everything was fine, when it wasn't, that somehow I got this notion that I had to let it be known when things weren't OK. Instead of talking about it, however, which isn't his strong suit, and is often an exercise in frustration, I have been showing it.

Who wants to spend time with someone who appears to be miserable all the time? What do my kids think about their old mom, or the state of our relationship? These are the questions that haunt me at 2:30am when I can't sleep. I spent years watching my own mother walk around miserable and unhappy because my father didn't pay any attention to her, and I vowed I'd never be like her. Yet, here I am. It was a sobering realization.

I can't change him. It's not my job nor do I want it to be. What I can change is me. How I react to life, and to him. I can change my attitude and my outlook. I am a blessed daughter of the King, who has a lot to be thankful and happy about. I can be the best wife I know how, even if I'm feeling neglected and lonely. I can show my kids what a healthy relationship should look like so they don't fall into the same patterns I thought I never would. I can do the best that I can every day, and maybe, just maybe, begin to find myself again.

Thursday, July 04, 2013

On Surprises and the Unknown

I don't like surprises.

I am not the girl who's going to be happy to walk into a room and have her closest friends and family members jump out and yell surprise. You already know how I feel about large social gatherings. My mother-in-law was so upset that I didn't have a party to celebrate turning 30 that she went and told everyone that I was upset about the age and everyone shied away from even wishing me a happy birthday. I didn't have a problem turning 30. I just didn't want to have a party, because a party is not my idea of a good time. I would rather get together with a few of my closest friends and have lunch, or take a hike, or anything else that is not a party. Now imagine how I would feel if I was thrust into a party I didn't know about ahead of time. I have spent the last 2 years reminding my family that next year when I turn 40, they better not throw me a party, and I'm not even kidding.

For this same reason, I don't like amusement park rides either. I don't like not knowing what's coming around the next bend, or what's going to be lurking around the corner. I don't like when things on the side of the ride jump out and startle you, especially if it's in a dark enclosed place. I don't like fast, spinny rides either, or anything that swings or turns you upside down. So really, amusement parks are not my idea of a good time at all. What I loved about Disney was that there were so many non-thrill rides and activities to do in the parks. Disney understands that we are not all in it for the thrill, and sometimes people need to know what's around the river bend. For years I was convinced I never wanted to go, because it was just a really over priced amusement park, and I was glad to be proven wrong. I am not a thrill seeker.

Not knowing what is going to be happening job-wise in the fall, has had this same kind of effect on me. Well meaning friends tell me that everything is going to be fine, and it will all work out the way that it's meant to. I know all of that. I have complete faith that just as everything else in my life has worked out the way that it was supposed to, not the way that I wanted it to, this will as well. It's the unknown that I hate. Not sure of what I'll be doing, and who I will be working with. Unsure of how I will get there and having to depend on someone else to do so. I hate the whole idea of that the most. I'm trying to trust that it will all be OK, and not spend too much time and energy worrying about it, but it's not always easy. It's kind of just like a surprise, and I hate surprises.

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Thoughts on Being Social

During the weeks leading up to a social gathering at my house, I clean like a mad woman. It’s not that my house is in a state of disarray, and needs a thorough cleaning, because I have a fairly involved weekly cleaning regimen. Cleaning gives me an outlet for all the nervous energy I have surrounding people being in my space. I wash walls and wipe baseboards while I think about all of the conversations I will have to be involved in. I vacuum rugs and sweep wood floors while I contemplate what sort of drama will erupt among various family members. I wash down the furniture, dust the knickknacks and organize the rest of it all while I stress about the weather, and if we will have to move our summer cookout indoors and what that means for my gluten free house.

If it’s not just a family gathering, my friend C arrives first, long before everyone else is scheduled to show up. She comes to catch up on how I've been, and fill me in on what’s going on in her life. She knows that I am going to be busy getting ready, and offers her help, even though she knows I am going to tell her that I don’t need any. She’s really there to sit on the stool in my kitchen and distract me. To ease me into the social interactions that are going to be taking place all afternoon that I will have to be a part of. It’s not that I don’t enjoy social interactions with people. I do, just on a small scale. I am perfectly happy to sit and talk with you for hours on the porch, or out in the backyard while we watch the birds play in the trees, or cars drive up and down the road. I may listen to you talk for a while, and not have anything to say, but that is because I need a break from all the talking.

 In a large group, I’m happy to just sit and listen. Small talk doesn't appeal to me, and I don’t really understand people who thrive on it. My SIL is a fantastic conversationalist. She asks the right questions that carry the conversation along, and draws people out and into discussion. Talking with her is a joy because I don’t feel like I have to do so much and it’s not as exhausting when it’s over. In my backyard, on the day of a summer cookout, there is too much going on. Too many conversations, and good natured bantering, and I don’t really want to be part of it. So often, I retreat to the company of my nieces. We play in the kiddie pool, or with summer toys, or I sit on my tree swing with one of them on my lap, and just swing and enjoy their company. They don’t demand anything more from me than to love them and to listen to their stories. Perfect, if you ask me.

When it all gets to be too much, I retreat into my kitchen under the guise of having to clean up. I realize that this breaks about 20 of Miss Manner’s rules of social etiquette, and I’m OK with that. In my own kitchen, alone with the dishes and my own thoughts, I can regroup and recharge so that I can go back out again in good time and rejoin the merrymaking. I still may not join in, but I can sit, and listen, and enjoy the company of my friends and family. 

Sunday, June 23, 2013

From the Shore

It had been a rotten week. The School District decided I need to move to another school next year, in a different town, and each day was worse than the one before it. The students found out and wanted to know why I was leaving. I didn't know what to tell them, as I didn't really  know myself. I wrote a letter to the higher-ups and asked to stay, based on the hardship of being a one family car, and I received no answer. Not even an acknowledgement of my request, a "We'll take it into consideration", or a simple, "No." On Thursday we took a field trip and hiked up Gap Mountain. Two grades full of students that I have worked with over the years, and that I will miss horribly. Still, it was great to get away and forget about it for a few hours and just enjoying being out in nature with the kids.

Then Friday came. The day I had been dreading all week. I knew it was going to be awful, having to actually say goodbye to the kids, and the friends that I had worked with for almost 10 years, but nothing could have prepared me for the assembly we had. The assembly where we said goodbye to all the staff that was leaving: 2 retires, 1 leaving on her own accord to work for another district where things weren't going down the drain, 1 transfer for a better cause and 4 transfers against their own will. Our poor students didn't know what to make of it, and our staff was just a wreck. Saying goodbye to the kids, and then my co-workers was one of the hardest things I've had to do in a long time. Or so I thought, until I had to walk out the doors for the last time, and down the street, knowing I would not be returning.

When she had asked if we could go to the beach on Saturday, to meet up with her boyfriend who lives up North but was spending the summer with his grandparents in Lee, I almost said no. I only have a week off until my summer job starts, a graduation cookout to get ready for at the end of that same week, and beach plans already for Wednesday. Then I reconsidered. The ocean is where I find my balance. The place where I go where everything else in my life is falling apart. So I said yes, but not for her, for me.

The soft sand warmed my feet as I slid my flip flops off next to my tote bag. I gave him a gentle kiss, and headed down for the water. It was close to noon on the second to last Saturday in June, and school had just gotten out for the summer. The State Park was packed with people and I wavered between being glad to be there, and feeling surrounded and like I wanted to flee. A warm breeze blew across the water, keeping it from being too hot, and I was grateful for it as I made my way towards the rocky jetty. I walked along the waters edge, not letting my feet get wet, as I wasn't ready for that yet. Instead of heading out over the jetty, I turned right and walked up towards the State Park campground. Right before you crest the hill is a granite memorial bench. I sat on that bench, and I prayed.

Sea grass surrounds that bench, adorned with purple flowers. You can see the jetty, facing in one direction, and look out across the ocean. Turn your head, and you can watch the cars come across the ferry bridge. The traffic moving slowly as people made their way towards the start of their summer vacations. I sat there for a while, watching, and thinking, and just being.

I went to the beach the find my balance, and as I prayed, I let go: of my fears, of my worries, of the stress of the past week. I offered up my future to God, and accepted that only He knows the next chapter of my life. Until that door opens, I will be here. Waiting, trusting, and enjoying the gift of each day that comes. Yesterday, it was a beautiful day at the ocean, where I came to realize that despite all the hardships of the past few years, I am growing, and changing, and my life truly is full of blessings.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Play On, Play On

She sits out at the table in the backyard. I can see her from the window where I sit here writing. Her long, brown hair is down, and she keeps swishing it out of her face. More times then not, it has been pulled back into a ponytail or messy bun, so this is a change for her. On the table in front of her lies a black binder, overflowing with white copy paper. She has her phone resting on top of that, and from where I am sitting I cannot tell if she's following along with something on it, or just looking down at it.

She has her uncle's old acoustic guitar on her lap, and she's singing as she plays. She taught herself to play that guitar, much in the same way she taught herself to play the piano. This year she is taking a class in school where she gets to play and learn more than she already knows. Being I tried to teach myself the guitar once and failed, I am secretly jealous. I'm considering asking her if she'd teach me this summer, but my old blue guitar was broken and I don't know how we'd make that work.

I can't make out the words through the closed window, and I don't recognize the song, but I feel like it must be a country song. She's been on a country kick as of late, which I find amusing. When she was younger, her father discovered country music and it was all he would listen to on the radio. He got me hooked on some of it, when I discovered it wasn't all twangy ballads about dying dogs and broken hearts. Her taste in music is as vast as the sea is wide, and she goes through phases with what she listens too.

Every once in a while she looks towards the window where I'm sitting. I can't tell if she's looking to see if I'm watching, or not. At almost 16 she still seeks out my approval, even if she's not always willing to ask for it. I have realized, as we get ready to celebrate her brother's graduation from high school tomorrow, that my time with her is short. Sooner than later she will be going off to college and chasing after her dreams. Right now I'm content to watch, even if it's out the window.

Monday, June 10, 2013

A Letter to My Son as He Gets Ready to Graduate

I remember the year before you started Kindergarten. You, so angry that they wouldn’t let you begin a year early, when you were clearly ready. I purchased several workbooks for us to do at home, foolishly believing they would hold you over until the next fall. I thought they would keep you busy, and maybe give you an edge up on the other students when you began school. Often you would get frustrated with them, and I don’t know if it was because they were too easy for you, or if even back then you hated busy work. I still remember the day you read One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish to me, and I couldn’t decide if you were really reading it, or had just memorized the words. Either way, I was impressed.

The next year we bought a house and moved to Troy, and you began first grade. Your teacher that year was amazing, and she quickly realized that you were far more advanced than most of her class. She moved you up to the second grade for reading instruction, although I didn’t find out about it until the year was half over. I remember the day I went to see the display your class had created about the layers of the ocean, and you stood up and taught us about bioluminescence. I about fell over listening to that big word come out of your small self.

In fourth grade you chose Utah for your State Expo project because your best friend used to live there. It turned out to be a poor choice, as it was a difficult state to get products from, and that was a big part of your grade. In sixth grade you chose Zimbabwe for your Biome project because it was the last country on the list. Again, not the easiest country to research, but when do you do easy?
Each year in elementary school you watched your best friend move away at the end of the year and my heart broke for you. I watched, as the other kids grew closer, forging friendships that had lasted since kindergarten, and you struggled, starting over every year. When you were in fourth grade, your Grandma told me that she thought you were depressed, and I brushed her off. I remember telling her that you were just shy and moody, and fine. In a dark, quiet corner of my heart, I still have not forgiven myself for that. Sometimes I lie awake at night and wonder how different your life might have been if I had paid more attention. How much pain and struggle I could have spared you. Then I think back on my own life, and if I can teach you nothing else, it is that the pain and struggle shapes our characters and makes us stronger.

Middle School and High School haven’t been the easiest years for you. I have watched you try to fit your square peg into a round hole, and almost succeed. You have stretched yourself to your limits, time and time again. I have watched you step out of your comfort zone, trying your hand at tennis, and discovering that it wasn’t your thing, and then stepping up to be a peer mediator, and shining. You have taken on leadership roles that have pushed you to be more social and have taught you about patience and responsibility. You have failed, and then risen above it, mostly, to a place where you were ok with. When your whole world started to collapse around you, you reached inside, and found that one last little bit of strength, and in the bravest move you could’ve made, you reached out and asked for help.

You have come to the end of your journey through early learning, and in a few days you will walk across that stage and they will hand you a piece of paper that will signify to the world that you have accomplished something. That paper really means nothing. The experiences that you carry forward, the lessons that you have learned, and the memories that you made… they are what you have accomplished. Your journey is only just beginning. I hope you have a great adventure.