Friday, February 14, 2014

About Time

It's Valentine's Day. After giving Eric a present of candy and a movie, I prepared him Belgian waffles and festively dressed them up with a little whipped cream, strawberries, and chocolate chips. A snowstorm gave us the day off from school and so in the afternoon we sat down to watch the movie I'd bought, About Time. In the film, the main character has the ability to travel back in time, to make different decisions or to redo a moment. I've always been a sucker for movies with a time-traveling plot device and had heard some excellent reviews. Without giving too much of the movie away, because I, too, highly recommend it to everyone, I will share that the film presents the secret formula for happiness: "Part one of the two part plan (is to) just get on with ordinary life, living it day by day, like anyone else. But...part two is to live every day again almost exactly the same. The first time with all the tensions and worries that stop us noticing how sweet the world can be, but the second time noticing". Of course, none of us have that time traveling ability and therefore we must learn instead, "to live every day as if (we) deliberately came back to this one day, to enjoy it, as if it was the full final day of (our) extraordinary, ordinary (lives)". 

The movie was witty, charming, and incredibly sweet, so sweet that my eyes were full of tears by the end. It's a movie with depth that tugs at one's heart. It is also a movie that makes you want a second chance to go back to particular days in the past. If I had this power, I'd choose the days of last year's February vacation.

Once out for school vacation in February of  2013, we traveled to Millinocket to visit with my Mom and Dad. We shared laughs and silliness and had serious discussions, one I remember was about why I should get a Subaru the next time around. I had told Dad of once again needing to call for a tow truck to pull me out of my troublesome curvy and slippery snowy driveway. It'd happened several times over the past few years. I also told Dad all about the trip I'd taken with Emma, her first flight ever and her audition at the college "down south". He teased Emma about what might happen if she moved "so far away", but he was serious too, stressing that where children begin their lives might be where they end up, and pushing forward the point that we as parents will want to continue being in our childrens' lives. Over a few days' time we hung out, continuing to talk, taking a few pictures, and enjoying paninis. Oh how he loved those paninis! I'd gotten a grill for Christmas and had brought it to Millinocket to use with Dad. He talked about the "warm crusty sandwiches" for months after that visit, and bought himself a panini press at the local thrift store the second he found one there. 

One night during our visit that week, in the midst of a snowstorm, Eric and I walked to the store a few streets away to buy milk. I remember feeling it was a beautiful night. As we returned and approached my Mom and Dad's house, with its lights shining through the windows, I felt at peace. I can still remember walking in the front door, shaking off the snow from my parka, kicking off my boots and setting them near the front door before I climbed up the stairs to the living room, yelling, "We're back!" so Mom would know we'd come in, hearing Dad exclaim about the snow. When it was time to head back to our home four hours away, I remember giving both Mom and Dad each a hug goodbye. And once again, getting teary-eyed as we pulled away. Oh how I wish I could go back, just for a little more time. 

It's been a year since I last saw my Dad. There. I said it. It's not easy for me to say. I have regret that I did not see him in March or in April, May, or June. I was working full time. The kids were busy with their activities. Emma had many senior year obligations. I had gotten the lead in a local theater production and Emma too was involved, playing the part of my daughter in the show. With her heading to college, it would be the last chance we'd have to be on stage together. I wondered if Dad would make it down to see the show. I hoped someone would stay with Mom and allow him to come for either Emma's high school graduation or for our production, both happening in June. Dad and I did talk on the phone. I made a special point of calling him on the morning of Emma's graduation brunch, telling him how I'd called so he'd be a part of her day, and as always, I told him I loved him before I passed the phone over to Emma. I stayed in the room to listen in and to watch Emma's sweet face as she shared her excitement with her grandfather. A few days later, Dad passed away from a heart attack. I never had the chance to say goodbye. I felt cheated. I was just three weeks from being with him again. 

So, on this first day of our 2014 February vacation, Eric and I watched that tender movie, and biting my lip as the main character returned to the past to visit his father, I had the chance to fantasize about returning to visit my Dad. I once again acknowledged my often too present concern that time is continuously passing me by so quickly. I am full of beautiful memories but my Dad is now gone, my Mom has Alzheimer's, my two daughters are in college, my baby is 14 years old, just four years from having his own college plans mapped out, and Eric and I just celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary. And in just a couple of hours, this beautiful movie had come to an end. But hey, that's life. "We're all traveling through time together, every day of our lives. All we can do is do our best to relish this remarkable ride".

I promise you. I'm doing my best, my very best. I don't have the ability to go back in time and I think that's probably the way it should be. I don't know what tomorrow will bring, so I'm living each day deliberately, taking it all in. Everything ordinary is extraordinary. And I don't want to miss a thing. Isn't it about time we all live this way?

How sweet the world can be.

Friday, February 7, 2014

A Letter To My 10 Year Old Self

Dear my sweet 10 year old Anne, 

This has been a tough year for you, I know. Last year Mom and Dad moved you to a new home across town. You didn’t want to move away from Katahdin Avenue, away from a neighborhood where you knew every worn path, every mark on each picket fence. They underestimated your attachment to that house, its memories of your earliest years. In your new home you’ve cried at how tough it is to start new at a different school where suddenly even the color of your hair or your “smart girl ways” aren’t being accepted. You've gone quickly from being well liked to well, disliked. And sometimes the biggest pain we receive comes unexpectedly, like that sucker punch to the stomach you were given by a friend’s friend last week. What was THAT about?! You certainly learned the meaning of having your breath taken away, didn’t you? Wow. But you refused to let that girl see you cry. I noted that. You have to believe me when I tell you that the struggles you are experiencing now are only adding to the strength of your spirit. And this 45 year old is incredibly grateful for how determined you’re remaining in the face of ridicule and intimidation. Your courage taught me some important life-long lessons. Hang on. It gets better. So much better. 

The funny thing is, we don’t count on our childhood selves to preserve the strength we’ll need as adults when times get tough. This past year of my adult life has taught me so much. Despite my passion for learning, if I had ever been given a choice however, I’d have remained blissfully ignorant. Although I won’t share with you what has brought me pain, before I take another step forward, I am going to try and list some of the lessons the past several months have taught me.  I’m sure it’ll be a little tough for your young self to understand what has brought me to this new understanding, but that’s okay. You just keep sharing your days with Mom and Dad and I’ll think of you as I continue this list. 
  • Love never ends, it doesn’t matter how few or how many miles we travel. It’ll remain.
  • It’s okay to feel broken. Change has to happen, and it’s okay to cry when it does.
  • Change, pain, and love all work to strengthen us. My strength amazes me every day.
  • Because of hardship, we become more patient, accepting, forgiving, compassionate, understanding, and intuitive than ever.
  • I am also accepting and proud of my continued vulnerability. It is who I am. 
  •  No one, not even another who has suffered the very same things, has the right to judge another’s journey. We all travel our own paths and that’s perfectly okay and how it needs to be. 
  • I am not alone, even if it sometimes feels that way. There are good people in the world who have my back. 
  • It hurts to keep pain inside, but it’s sometimes necessary to do for self-preservation’s sake. But when too many days of holding it in come to pass, be ready for a trigger and the tears to hit out of the blue, at the most inconvenient times. But that’s okay too. 
  • People who are hurting can still choose to be happy. I do and I am. 
  • God never abandons us. His gifts are everywhere. We just need to be open to seeing them. 
  • It helps to keep talking to our loved ones. 
  • Our biggest challenges define who we are and who we want to be. 
  • My eyes have seen so much and perhaps have never been more red, but they have also never been more beautiful and never more open.
  • Sometimes you have to take a time out from the world, from daily responsibilities, from anything or anyone who gets in the way of your healing. Listening to your soul is important work too. 
  • I am fiercely protective of others who are hurting and nothing pisses me off more lately than having one’s pain complicated by the ignorance, insensitivity, or denial within others. I will never stop trying to help others.
  • It is important to get extra rest and to loaf to refuel. 
  • It is important to eat healthily and to get daily exercise, even if it’s only a ten minute walk outside. Look up at the sky. Go to the woods. Find water. Feel the air.
  • Sorrow affects our hearts, our souls, our minds, and our bodies. Each will ache even when we’re not conscious of the source. 
  • You're what they call an "old soul", incredibly spiritual and emotional with a philosophical outlook on life. Old souls are a unique people. But you are who you are. Own that. God makes no mistakes.
What an incredibly lucky young girl you are, Anne. Thank you for working so hard to remain true to yourself in spite of the challenges you’re facing. And remember, in another couple of years, this 4th grade pain will all be behind you. Your middle school and high school years are going to be incredibly happy. You’re going to shine! And although I don’t want to ruin the story for you, let me tell you that the 45 year old woman writing this letter to you knows for sure that you are going to live a rich life filled with honest and genuine love, respect, warmth, adventure, romance, friendship, laughter, and fun. You are on your way to becoming an amazingly fierce young woman whose dreams will indeed come true. And something tells me that as you approach your 46th birthday, you are going to be filled with confidence that your next 46 years will be full of moments that take your breath away, without the sucker punch to the gut. 

And hey, enjoy the attention from the guys. Those awkward boys who are now looking rather silly in their polyester pants? They are going to make some great boyfriends in the future. Trust me. They'll all serve to help you better understand, appreciate, and love the men who will be there for you in your adult life. 

Hang on girl. You’re amazing. Then and now. 

I love you. 


Wool Socks and Snowshoes

Here is a copy of my first post at published a few days ago ! I'm excited to receive my first paycheck as a freelance writer!

Each school day I’m up at 5:00am, and we’re out the door at 6:15am. My son and I hop in the van and drive down the hill to his bus stop. The month’s freezing temperatures have dipped into the single digits again and we’re impatient for the dashboard heat to hit us. “Mom! You always blast the fan before the heat is there. It’s not the season for the air conditioner! Oh, I really don’t like winter”, he says shivering. I laugh, for he’s right about the way I blast the fan before the car’s even warm, and I find myself needing to reassure him that the Maine winters can indeed be enjoyed, but that means getting ourselves out into the snow and onto the ice: “You love to ski downhill.You enjoyed going skating the other day. Remember when we all went sliding together? We ought to go snowshoeing this weekend. Or we could go cross country skiing and bring along a thermos of hot cocoa and a lunch”. 

“Listen to you!” my son teases. He begins to mock my string of winter activities, doing his best impersonation of my “Mom voice”.  

He wasn’t buying it, but I know that it’s tough to raise the spirit or the temperature of a 14 year old boy who could use a little extra sleep in his warm bed these days. The conversation took me back to when I used to hear my own mother explain to me how important it is for we Mainers to get out and enjoy the winter weather, otherwise it’s an extremely long trek to spring. To this day, my brother struggles with winter and I am sure he is ready to go to Florida any day now, once he reaches his retirement. But would I want to do that? No, I’ve always echoed my Mom who says she loves the four seasons, and I cannot imagine what it’d be like to forgo the snow falling outside my window or to miss out on the series of weather-related cancellations that grant me an excuse to cozy up by the fireplace reading a good novel for an entire day. 

To “hunker down” in a storm would be one thing I would truly miss if I were to leave Maine. I also don’t think avoiding the cold elsewhere could ever come close to appreciating the beauty of the first buds on the trees, witnessing the way in which they quickly fill in by Memorial Day weekend, or simply catching my breath after a beautiful trek on the snowshoe and snowmobile trails outside my door. 

So, I agree, I ought to warm up my car a little earlier before my son and I get in there each morning. And perhaps it’s time for me to make good on my preaching that the best way to enjoy a Maine winter is to put yourself out there in its elements. Because truth be told, I’ve seen enough movies this winter. I’m ready for some real adventure. With the temperature rising this weekend to a balmy 36 degrees, my son heads to Shawnee Peak for some night skiing, and I vow to begin tomorrow by finding a good pair of wool socks and strapping on those snowshoes.