Thursday, December 31, 2015

More AND Less

This year I was brave and fierce! Yay me!
It’s New Year’s Eve! And once again, I have felt the pull of the keyboard and the empty page. I have scribbled lists of goals, set up new calendars with motivational mantras, pledged changes, and vowed to start anew on old challenges. There’s the cliche goal I set several times a year to get more fit. (I’ve experienced both success and setbacks with this goal). I pledge to save more money and to get better organized. I promise to read more, to write more, and to go to bed earlier. I vow to try new things--a new sport, another hobby, another creative pursuit. I speak both of taking more time for solitude while pushing myself to get out and socialize more. Now, I do see the logic of those who will note my habitual goal setting and who will think, “This is evidence that resolutions don’t work. Why isn’t she succeeding with these goals she keeps setting time after time?” But that’s the thing. My resolutions each season--yes, I make resolutions each January, June, and September--are the evidence of my unfailing attempt to better myself. It’s not always a focus upon the end result. It’s about the journey and the renewal of hope and optimism. It’s about acknowledging my humanity and my stumbles and applauding my tenacity and determination to always try again.

As 2015 comes to a close I have taken time to reflect on the lessons of the past year and I will share with you a few of my conclusions; I am proud of my continued strength and grace in the face of adversity, of my childlike glee and gratitude for the many blessings of this world, of my work to understand and to forgive myself and others, of my courage to try new things (I joined a color run this year and got a pixie cut!) and of my unflinching determination to pull myself back on track with the many goals I have for this life of mine. I have no desire, no need to slam the door on the old year for it taught me to recognize how I’ve grown wiser, happier, and more at peace. Therefore, I want 2016 to be an extension of the strides I made in 2015--to do more--giving, singing, adventuring, listening, relaxing, laughing, sleeping, creating, experimenting, and to do less--worrying, self-critiquing, procrastinating--to BE more--generous, positive, authentic, inspired, patient, and to BE less--achy, tired, overwhelmed, and to HAVE more--dinners at the table, energy, time outside, water, prayer, and to HAVE less--wastefulness, clutter, doubt, sugar, diet soda, anxiety. 

The phrase “More or Less” has been rattling around in my brain over the past several days. It’s funny how each new year a word or phrase comes to me to give direction to my desire to start anew. So, I’m trusting the phrase and over the next several weeks or perhaps months, I’m going to ask myself, “More? or Less?” This can and will be applied to each of the goals I work towards and at the end of the day or even at the end of a particular project, I’ll ask myself the questions. 

I wish you all MORE joy, health, comfort, and security in the year ahead! I wish you LESS turmoil, frustration, and heartbreak. HAPPY NEW YEAR!!

P.S. I keep thinking there is MORE I should add to this. But I’m going to trust that perhaps this is enough, that LESS is MORE. :) 

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Dear Bob

Dear Bob, 

Today I sang for you and for your beautiful family and a large congregation of friends and fellow parishioners. They orchestrated a lovely service and I wanted to do you proud, to give you the sweetest send-off my voice could offer. Thank you, Neault family for giving me this honor of cantoring Bob’s funeral mass. Bob, thank you for two decades of generous support of me as not only a fellow parent, but as an artist and writer. I’m remembering today how you introduced me to a job writing blog posts for a local realtor--a venture I’d never even considered, and in doing so, you earned me this bright yellow chair I’m sitting in right now as I type this. Thank you for the display of faith that you’ve always had in me. 

You and I brought our families to Naples at the same time. Saying this is my way of acknowledging the fact that we are transplants in this southwestern Maine community. I’ve always been incredibly proud of my hometown of Millinocket and although you are originally from Massachusetts, we share that quality of “hometown pride”. We weren’t born and raised here, yet we both have made this beautiful town our home. You may have arrived here a little sooner, in 1991, whereas we arrived in January 1992. We didn’t meet right away. That’s probably my fault for I had our family attending mass in Windham until it was brought to my attention that the little brown church up on High Street in Bridgton was our town’s parish. We made the switch and I’m so glad to have done so, for especially on a day like today, I cannot imagine the past twenty + years without my St. Joseph’s family. I’m going to miss seeing you there each week. I’ll miss listening to you lectoring and I’ll miss your smile, your wink, your sense of humor, your wisdom, and your steadfastness--amongst so many of your other good qualities. 

Our children grew up together, were involved in the theater together, and each of them participated in various events and celebrations of mass. In the early years our kids stood side by side near the altar as altar boys and girls or donning robes and costumes, singing in the annual Christmas pageant. Today I listened to Danny’s words about you and I thought, “Wow. What a good man you and Anne raised. I know you’re incredibly proud of him right now, and always”. I listened as Liam and Katie sang that touching song in tribute to you and I thought, “There it is. Right here--the strength, all-encompassing love that a father like you deserves to have”. I felt very blessed and honored to stand by your children at the piano, to hug them each and to have had the chance to say how sorry I am that they lost you but also emphasizing to each how beautiful a family they are. And thank you, Bob, you and your family have been so kind and good to my own three children and to Eric and I too, of course. Even today as Anne greeted me at the reception following the service, she spoke to acknowledge Sydney, Emma, Paul, and Eric. I’m so touched by this.

I didn’t expect to say goodbye to you so soon. I said my prayers and kept you and your family in my thoughts from the moment I heard of your stroke. I heard of your decline a few days before your death and I still held onto hope that you would pull through. I suppose it was tough for me to accept that a man so full of life, so strong and dedicated to his family and his community and to his church was being called to serve God so soon in new ways, in a new home. 

Before I headed back to Naples after your service today, I stopped at the local bookstore. Books have always been a comfort to me but in truth, what I was looking for were the interactions between our fellow townspeople. I listened to the salesclerk helping a man find a new book about coins, heard her ask a young girl if she was in the store’s book club, and I smiled as the clerk gave me a ten dollar credit I’d earned for frequenting this local business. When I arrived home, I was greeted by a letter from a dear friend of mine, a former Millinocket neighbor. His letter’s words could not have been better timed. Responding to a note I’d penned him as I anticipated another recent death in my life he wrote, “We can fear death, hate death, run from death, shout at death...death is at the doorstep but the fruit that is born out of death can make life fuller and richer. Maybe not in the moment, maybe not for awhile, but the harvest will come”. 

As we head towards another Christmas at St. Joseph’s, as I travel daily over the bridge you worked tirelessly for to aid our community, as I see our hometown of Naples ablaze in the glory of twinkling Christmas lights, as I hear God’s words each Sunday, and as I sing with the choir in the weeks, months, and years ahead, I will give thanks to you, Bob. For you, dear man, have borne much fruit here in our beloved community and we shall all reap the rewards for decades to come. 

Go forth, Bob. I’ll meet you there in our new hometown someday. I can’t wait to see what you’ve done with the place.