Sunday, August 6, 2017

Summer musings

I have been reminded often this past season to live life deeply, and to remember that there are not always second chances. A tragic murder where I work took place.  A domestic violence situation that flared suddenly into tragedy with a young woman winding up dead.  Her life was snuffed out and many others were also forever damaged by this.  I remain forever grateful that long ago when my family member was involved in an abusive relationship, that she eventually fled.

It is not easy.  It took six years.  Six years of late night calls, tearful conversations and more.  I had given her a debit card with enough money for an emergency run to a hotel room if and when things ever got dangerous.  She would always assure me that things were never that bad, that he was sorry.  Things would change. She would change. He would stop drinking. Things would be better when he got a new job and was given credit for the amazing work he did.  The litany was endless.

I was very young- between 20 and 26 during the years this took place.  It used to make me so intensely angry.  I could not understand how she could let this happen.  How her love for this man could supplant what seemed to me just common sense.  I am a different person than she.  I am a martial artist. I absolutely would not for any reason stay in a relationship where I was afraid or had been harmed.

For me, the hardest part of those six years was staying in relationship with my sister while she stayed with the abuser.  Not that he tried to distance us, he didn't. (which is an anomaly in abusive situations.)  But watching her stay where she was unsafe, listening to the nonsense come from her about why it happened--those were the hardest things.  I would offer to pay for the divorce.  I would offer help in securing her own safe apartment.  I would offer to help get her a car so she could get a job once she was on her own.

And it still took six years.  With a persistant and steady family support, it took six years to leave. It wasn't about me.  It was about her believing she could do it.  Finally when her young daughter was threatened, she left.  I did what I said I would do.  She finished her education and got a good job.  Her life is different and she is alive today, a mother and a grandmother, and married to a man who loves her and treats her with kindness.

The fall out from this incident, and another in our city just a few weeks before culminated in a domestic violence vigil at the apartment community where I work.  Experts who can help those experiencing domestic violence spoke.  Many who know work as advocates have previously experienced the horror of dv first hand.  Their stories were chilling and yet they were also stories of hope.   At the end, under a nearly full moon, we lit tiny battery candles and placed them in the grass outside.  We sand Amazing Grace.  We said their names, so that they will not be forgotten, so that they will be remembered as more than that final act against their defenseless bodies.

I was very emotionally depleted by the end of the vigil on Friday evening.  But this weekend has been so healing and restorative.  Saturday I started the morning with yoga.  Then spent the day doing errands and chores.  I helped my wife with two of her cleaning contracts. And today, was just amazingly special.

As a two mom family, Mothers Day has always been about my wife.  I help guide the cooking and festivities to honor and celebrate all she does.  When the kids were very young, there needed to be help in making gifts, etc.  Now there is still coordinating that has to happen.  So long story short, we don't do anything to honor me on that day.

Instead, at some random date when we can get together, we celebrate Ooma's Day. And today was that day!  It started with tea and blueberry muffins in bed and continued with a hike up a local mountain.  There were gifts in there too, beautiful thoughtful gifts. But what I treasure the most was todays hike together.  We have not hiked much in recent years. My wife has some mobility issues caused by her frequent ankle breaks.  So it was really special to hike on a stellar weather day.  We noshed on the summit and then made our way back down the mountain to our car.  I feel restored, my well has been replenished and I am ready to face the new week.


Saturday, July 15, 2017

Thinking and living deeply

There are the days when my emo teen feels like he will drive me round the bend.  Days when his sister "the tweenager" does the same.  There are also some wonderful conversations and experiences happening.

One convo that I treasure was with KC about a week ago.  He is thinking about the fact that next year he is old enough to get a job.  He wants a job  phone and knows he has to have a job to obtain said phone.  There are several markets in our community that are good first jobs for kids.  Rob worked at one of them and that may help the hire process as Rob was a great worker.

KC was concerned about how to address people.  He knows that if he is stocking shelves people will likely come to him and ask questions.  His concern was that in todays society, saying sir or ma'am might not be polite.  "What if someone is trans and I can't tell?" was his question.  I was so proud of him for thinking deeply about this, for having the compassion to see that speaking to people in the way they see themselves is important.

We talked about how the interaction in the job he is likely to obtain would not necessarily require sir,ma'am or anything to help someone out.  A friendly smile and a comment like "oh we have those in aisle 2 should I show you?" would work out just fine.  If it was someone he was meeting where a more in depth relationship/conversation was to unfold, it was totally fine to either use their name or ask how they preferred to be addressed. He is my sensitive, deep thinking soul.  But in particular this level of sensitivity makes me have hope in the harsh world we presently reside in.

Last night the two kids and I went to our church to help stock for today's monthly food pantry.  There is a ton of set up work to do and we have always had dance commitments that kept us from helping. With no dance in the summer and no camping trip this weekend we were free to help.  KC was a huge help lugging boxes, breaking down and disposing of recycling and keeping things organized.

Lissa and I worked together packing large boxes of eggs into one dozen boxes.  Then when we finished, she wandered over to a table where a bunch of store brand small pies were located.  Her sharp eye picked up on the fact that she saw one pie with mold on it.  She then decided to make it her mission to check every single pie to make sure it was safe and good quality.  There were a LOT of pies probably about 100.

I had finished my task and things were wrapping up.  We had a 30 minute drive home ahead of us and had worked for 2 hours.  I confess I was tired.  I asked her if she'd like me to help her finish up the quality control.  She looked at me and said "I've got this. I'm just fine.  Go find someone to talk to!"  (My love of chatting is fairly legendary in our home!)  It was clear that she really owned this job and that it was not fair to jump in and help.  I took her advice and found someone to chat with for the remaining 10 or 12 minutes that she needed to complete the job.

I am grateful that all my kids seem to mostly live with compassion and think of others.  We need that in this world.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

"Some" of our "summer"

I used to write so regularly; how did life get so.darn.busy?  I think back on how people would say it "gets easier" when the kids get older.  I don't really think so. It just gets different.  I live in my car, during the "school year"  Lots of dance classes, Scouts, church and more make for very busy happy and engaged kids. There is Rob to get to and from the train station, and Fiona and Chet are in the mix as well.

So I am very grateful for summer. For the chance for the routine to change. It has still been busy but in different ways.  Evenings at a friends pool or the lake, a BBQ at our house on the 4th of July, and a BBQ at a friends house 2 days earlier.  There have been sleepovers and silliness.  There has also been time to read a book aloud together and Lissa and I are reading a series called The Last Dogs.  It is sort of a dystopian novel for the tween set.  Lissa is a huge animal lover and we are all ready on the second book.  She will literally listen to this series until all I can do is whisper because my voice has grown so tired!  All my kids can and do read on their own, of course. But there is something special about sharing a book together, snuggling as we read and wondering aloud what will happen next.

We are not camping as much this year as we are trying to save enough money for a month long trip across the US next July.  I so hope we attain this goal.  It will definately be a memory making experience for all of us.

KC is volunteering at the library again this summer and both kids have dance camp coming up next week as well.  Thank goodness for dance camp as KC in particular goes into withdrawals when he is away too long from the studio.

Tomorrow evening we will work at our church helping to set up the food pantry the following day. This is something we have long wanted to assist with but can't when dance class is in session as the times conflict. So tomorrow we will have a chance to tangibly reach out and help others.  While we always support the food pantry with donations, being part of the work is also very important.

Rob is a man now!

And still more celebrating!  June 2nd our Rob became an adult. The big 21!  I still can't wrap my head around that.  It seems just yesterday we were watching Little League games, planning summer camps, teaching him how to set up a tent, watching him fool around at the park with friends. . .

Truly the years go by so quickly.  I am grateful for each and every bit of them.  Even the hard times.  All parents have those and we are no exception. But he is an amazing guy.  Quietly funny, helpful, a guy who makes friends easily and goes to great efforts to keep connections.  He is a beloved big brother, though in his first family he was the youngest, in our family he is in the middle.  I asked him what he wanted for his birthday and he wanted a simple party at home with us.  Chinese food and his favorite kind of home made cake.

I have to say I kind of revelled in this.  I know the day will come swiftly now when I have to text him a birthday greeting or find him on Social Media and send my love to him that way.  So that we had one more year to smile across the table, and read silly fortunes from our fortune cookies--gee I feel like I got a gift as much as our son did!

That night he had a couple of friends over and they had a fire in the fire bowl in the back yard.  He had committed to heading up a fund raising dinner at our church the next day so I reminded him that he had a heavy obligation.  He gave me a funny look and reminded me that his girl friend is only 18 and that they would be drinking sodas.



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Monday, May 29, 2017

Mom's Birthday

Today is my mom's birthday.  So we packed up the clan--all the kids, plus Lissa's dog Luna, and headed to Maine to celebrate with her.  My mom was turning 84 and while in most respects I view that as 84 years young--I have noticed changes in her this year.  Mobility is more of an issue than it ever was.  "The Arthur" as she puts it has impeded her ability to enjoy things that even a year ago, came more easily to her. She tires more easily as well. Though like me, she was blessed with a very high energy level most of her life, she now finds the need to nap, and pace herself more and this is a tough pill for her to swallow. There may be many birthdays left.  There may not be.   So for these reasons I felt, I think, a bit of urgency in making sure we were there on her day to celebrate with her.  Last year we were away camping and though we sent gifts and visited a week later, I know for her it was not the same.

Our original plan was to celebrate with a picnic at Portland Head Light but the weather was not picnic friendly.  So we opted instead for delicious Amato's Pizza.  Best pizza in the world if you ask me!  Absolutely adore it.  So we bought lunch and brought up a variety of unique prezzies.  I made her favorite cake which is a "daffodil cake."  Truly this cake is not for the faint of heart to make.  But it came out really well and she was thrilled.  This has always been her favorite of all cakes and she remembers my grandmother eeking out all the eggs this beast cake takes even when times were very hard and money and eggs were scarce.  In our more profligate world, I made not just the daffodil cake but a regular vanilla cake as well.  My kids hate daffodil cake so we had two choices for the festivities!

Going up there was absolutely no traffic.  But coming home?  The fates were not so kind.  Our usual 2 1/2 hour ride took over 4 due to heavy traffic and the weather.  But smiles, laughter and memories were worth every second of it.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

All the Feels

Dance recital day one was today.  The kids are doing The Lion King. The school does it as theater so there is a story line, dialogue and lots of dancing.  This year with KC in 5 classes and Lissa in 4 and them BOTH wanting to do the production dance, it was crazy trying to keep costumes straight--make sure everyone got changed in time (twice they only had 1 number to get off stage and change) .  It was my day to work back stage and I wasn't just focussed on my kids.  There were several others with multiple changes that needed help as well.  Plus I filled in for the security desk for part of the event. So it was busy to say the least.

It was however, magical, exciting and emotional. KC has danced since he was 5.  Actually he has studied dance since he was 5. But he always danced.  Once he decided to get around to walking he was really all about dancing. I have so many pictures of him dancing around the house waving silk scarves when he was about 2.  When he was 3 he did these crazy skits every night after supper and a dance was always part of it.  By the time he was 4 he was asking for dance classes and trying to teach himself tap in our front hall. At age 5 we found Miss Heidi's school and he has been there ever since.

Lissa is a gifted dancer but in some ways I see myself in her. I had ability but not a drive.  KC is consumed with a passion for dance.  Lissa enjoys it. The costumes are cool. Her friends are great.   But it isn't this burning thing within her like it is for KC.  Nonetheless, I also love to watch her dance. She is fluid and graceful and has an amazing ability to interpret the emotion of a piece with her body.

The kids godparents came out to see the performance, as did my FIL and my wife.  Tomorrow will be my turn to enjoy the performance with Rob, my wife and my mom.

There was more today though.  Unknown to any of us, KC was awarded a $500 dance scholarship to the school.  We did not know that KC was nominated for this--actually I did not even know about the scholarship which is a memorial to Miss Heidi's beloved father.  He passed away last year and she mentioned as she awarded it to KC how much her dad enjoyed watching him dance. It was a huge and very unexpected honor.

I am grateful that this is another circle of loving support for my kids.  A place where they are challenged, yet respected and where friendships run deep and strong.




Friday, May 12, 2017

Coming of Age

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I'm feeling like this is a pretty emotional weekend.  You could start with right now.  The fact that I am in a house with no kids in it.  At all.  Like zero.  For the first time in about 13 years.  The picture above is part of the reason why.  KC is away on the final part of his Coming of Age year at church. It is an overnight retreat in a state near us.  Before they left for their retreat we gathered in the space above for a short ceremony to send our "kids" off. They will return as more than kids.  Not adults, but having symbolically left childhood behind.  On the sanctuary space you can see in the back ground the masks that they made as part of this experience.  KC's is the one on the left with the blue hair.  It was a very empowering experience for him to make a mask and think about what he shares with the world and what he chooses to keep hidden behind an invisible mask.

This weekend too, will be transforming for him.  KC has never wanted to stray far from home.  Or far from us, for that matter. As an infant he craved skin to skin contact more than any of my children.  As a toddler he loved to play but wanted to have me close, and involved.  As a young elementary aged child he never ever wanted to stay the night away from home.  He loved having friends over but was very anxious at the thought of being away from home.  Tonight, he will sleep with 14 other friends from church and trusted mentors.  He is ready.  I am excited for him and I was pretty dry eyed through the ceremony.  Then I came home and a sweet note was pinned to our dry erase board.  Written in green marker--green is always the KC color at our house--it read

Dear Ooma and Mom,
Right now I'm probably having an awesome time.  But I love you and really miss you.  Keep Maui happy. (his cat) Drink a small bit of wine and please send me WARM HUGS love you lots, KC

My darling, brave funny and talented son--so many warm hugs are headed your way.

While he is off, Lissa is at a sleep over at a friends house.  Tomorrow  I will meet her there as Karen is having a pot luck Mothers Day brunch and Lissa and Karen's two girls are helping to organize the crafts that the kids will do while we ladies chat.

Tomorrow night Rob is taking his girl friend to her prom.  I can't wait for pictures!  But so much. So soon.  Truly one day they can't tie their shoe and the next, they fledge. They fly, they make you think they are going to crash.  And then, they catch an updraft, and soar.