Hooray! My Boy Is Coming Home (If only for a minute)

This is my baby.

Actually, these are my babies.

My baby is coming home to visit for a few days starting tonight. We are so excited! He rarely comes home because of …

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This.

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And this.

While he is here we will be busy…

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Visiting his step-dad at his job.

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Shopping for his new apartment.

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Eating burgers and fries at Wahlburgers.

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And of course drinking beer.

It will go too fast, and then he will have to leave. We will be sad.

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I’ll be back next week to write about it. All the adventures…experiences…and emotions that we have with special people in our life.

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Until then…

The Winds of Change Were Blowing On A Funeral Afternoon

ladiesI sort of crashed a funeral yesterday afternoon. Not really, but it felt a little odd. It actually was a memorial service for the father of a very sweet woman I job-shared with at the local bookstore, before I left that job last fall. It just wasn’t for me, and after two years of customer, colleague, and village drama I had to call it quits. But I loved this gal I worked with, we had a good rapport. So when her father died unexpectedly after a freakish motorcycle accident, I wanted to offer my support.

She was shocked I showed up, her eyes welled up with tears. We hugged and then I spotted a few faces I knew from those bookstore days. I was actually glad to see them and sat down with the group. It’s weird because we get along just fine now – in fact, I might even consider them “community.” That’s how it works though – as one of them pointed out. Now that we are moving away people seem to be a teeny bit more kind…more interested…more willing to engage.

Other than these four women I didn’t know a soul at this event, nor did I know the deceased. But does that really matter? It was in a decent restaurant closed for this memorial gathering. There were a lot of people there, the food and drinks were plentiful, and the atmosphere was cordial. We talked and nibbled until the eulogies began. I listened as if I knew the person, because what else could I do.

best thingsHe was married four times and was a mega-adventurer. Macho hairdresser with Harrison Ford looks-turned-special education teacher, apparently he was epic. He handed anyone who walked in his door at home a shot of tequila, took cross-country car trips with his two children more than once, sold his house, bought a boat and did odd jobs as he sailed to Florida earning enough money to sail back. He even had a parrot who he considered his best friend.

I sipped my wine as I listened to stories about this man I never knew, a free spirit with an unmatched sense of humor who was never satisfied with what he had in a good way — in other words he never stopped the adventures or the evolving right up to the very end. As one person put it, he rocked his authentic self.

That was the message. Be your authentic self. No matter what.

Maybe that’s who I am becoming now that I’m moving back home. It never felt like home here, it was like living in the gap between who I hoped to be and who I could be in this particular location. We have to fit in to our community, our surroundings, our local culture and scene. Or do we? Can we still be our authentic self regardless of where we live? I bet the man they spoke of could, and it sounds like he truly did. He made the best of life over and over again.

When I left the funeral and went outside my senses seemed so heightened. The air smelled familiar, like the sea. The cool wind was blowing so hard I could feel it to my bones. The sun was revealing itself from an ominous sky, big dark clouds were rolling away low on the horizon.

Ahhhhhhhh. I’m alive.

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The Village Isn’t Always People Or At Least People Who We Think

fairy villageYes, it really does take a village when we’re going through big change. Having a support network is huge – those you know you can count on when you need them. I used to have quite a tribe – people we called chosen family, who were there through thick and thin. But when my life was coming apart over a decade ago, I lost a lot of my team. That old saying you can count your friends on one hand, I learned the hard way is true.

I never once didn’t appreciate them, their value was immeasurable. But life happens. Sir Husband and I don’t have a built-in family network either, relatives who are there for anything, anytime. We definitely feel the lack.

It takes a long time to build a support network with new people, years in fact. We have to find those we mesh with, which sometimes can be hard. But we’re happy to say we finally have a few great peeps who make up our circle of trust. Trouble is, they have sort-of been too busy to lend us their actual hands.

It’s been a rough couple of weeks. After we listed and sold our house in a day (and all the hoopla that entails,) the tidal waves kept coming without any relief. It’s been both good and bad – good that the to-do list is moving at rapid-fire pace. Bad that it’s exhausting and we simply can’t catch our breath.

It all culminated in a massive uproar with the buyer’s home inspector breaking our water main valve and then not confessing. Instead he made it look like it was already broken which it wasn’t. That isn’t even the half of it, he’s not particularly ethical. Add two aggressive agents going head-to-head, and you’ve got a recipe for a breakdown by one person in the group. Of course that would be me, because somebody has to give.

huggingLife is nothing but stories all strung together each day, but we need our simpatico villagers to help along the way. So as I was standing in my driveway watching the town’s water worker unearth a cracked valve with our outside water main, I didn’t know what to do. Sometimes we just need a hand to hold, or a face to express emotion, or a body to hug, shoulder to cry on – stress is easier when shared.

Since I wasn’t going to share more than good griefs with the town water guy, I needed somewhere to turn. So I called on the Extra-Celestials, those invisible souls with wings. They have the power to work miracles if we only ask, and even arrange earthly things from their more heavenly vantage point.

I’m a believer in ghosts and angels and beings of the like, spirit animals, fairies, nature and the elements all working with our souls. We’re told by wisdom gurus that Extra-Celestials are always there for us, hovering, helping, supporting, even fixing and healing. I think everybody has at least one time in their life when they couldn’t explain why something worked out or how something happened or noticed a miracle. Those are the Extra-Celestials lending their supportive hand.

So I asked. Begged in that moment for any help I could get.

“Well what do you know,” the town water guy said, “this isn’t at all that bad. This will be fixed in no time, and your water will even stay on.”

The village may be invisible, but thank goodness it’s always there.

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April Fools! The Joke Was On Us

April Fools’ Day is probably the only pseudo-holiday in my house that we do not recognize. For a family who embraces holiday cheer, it’s curious why such a silly and fun day would fall by our zestful wayside. But we have our reasons.

April 1st is not our favorite day historically speaking. It was that day many years ago, that we passed papers on a beautiful antique farmhouse that not only turned out to be a money pit, but actually was haunted. Maybe you wouldn’t think that buying a house on April Fools’ Day is any big deal. If you believe in harmless pranks, then this shouldn’t count. But we got a lot more than pranks, we got a nightmare mess of horror.

It was cold and rainy on April 1 – a typical New England spring day. We had been in our new-old house only a few hours, exhausted after trying to move in as much as we could from our cars, the moving truck was coming the next day. We hadn’t had a thing to eat, and we were too tired to care. When I went to draw a hot bath for my young boys, no water came out of the bathtub faucet. Certain I was doing something wrong, I checked the sink faucet, and got no more than a couple of drops. I had no idea what to make of that, beyond my concerned confusion.

After an hour of chaotic exploration, it turned out our well was dry. We never had a well before, we moved from the city to the ‘burbs, where the apple orchards and hills rolled by in a picture-postcard kind of way. We had a home inspection and thought we learned about private wells (and everything else country-farmhouse,) but apparently they skipped the part about when the well runs dry. And, when the well runs dry, the hot water furnace burns out. We had no water, we had no heat and that was just the beginning.

The owners knew of all the problems starting with the well, and booby trapped the house so it looked in perfect shape. It passed inspection only because we later learned the inspector was paid off. Windows fell out of the walls from rot that had been plastered over. The electrical was rigged together and the floors had been patched so seamlessly underneath that the broken joists were unable to be seen, at one point they fell through. We had $140,000 in repairs the first three months after we moved in.

And that was just in repairs. Never mind the cosmetic renovations we had in our budgetary queue. Those hopes were long gone, along with our savings after hiring a lawyer to sue the former owners. We “won,” but only recovered a third of our losses, so the April Fools’ Day joke was on us.

I mentioned that the house was haunted, and I have photos to prove the facts. The house was the original school house in the town, circa 1757. Previous owners had reported it haunted and there were records that said as much. But before the house went on the market, we learned they had been hidden. Of course this was after the fact too – are you sensing a theme here?

Buyer beware is the message, but we thought we were savvy and wise. This was our fourth home purchase, we just didn’t expect the disguise. April 1 is a day that lives on in our memory, but not for any tomfoolery. We don’t live in that house now, we lasted just a few years. Life changes and we move on, but the moral has remained. April Fools’ Day is for fools.

 

A Second Car? Not Part of Our American Dream

Don’t you wish you could buy a car on amazon.com? I mean the whole car, not just an accessory or part. I sure do. We attempted to look at cars after receiving a national post-card ad that said it was the end of the year-crazy-insane-unbelievably awesome blowout on Jeeps. Way back in 1999, I bought a Jeep Cherokee in a similar “blowout” so hoped history would repeat itself. It didn’t.

In fact it left us a lot disappointed and our hopes pretty much dashed. Turns out the ad wasn’t legit. Three different local Jeep dealers had no idea what it was about. Then, the prices on the card were about $12,000 below reality. Talk about a bait and switch. Then to top it off, we were told that our great northern frontier state does not participate in blowout sales anyway, we’d have to go to Boston. Good grief.

But for us it was more than that. The price point of a normal, average, bottom-of-the-line, everyday American car is out of our reach. How discouraging, for so many reasons.

Sir Husband and I are trying to make ends meet in a less-than-favorable economy, much like the rest of America. But it’s not easy for an underpaid journalist and an unemployed writer, especially mentally. I spent the entire ride home trying to keep the tears welling up in my eyes from rolling down my cheeks. I did not want Sir Husband to take on my sadness, he already feels the strain, working hard and selflessly at two jobs.

I don’t often lament about the difficulty of sharing one car, the inability to find decent work in our area, or even getting to a job without transportation. I’m not a typical princess, I prefer a life laced with simplicity, not laden with embellishment. It’s the baggage that brings on the blues. I don’t try to lug it around, it exists by default.

While self-sufficiency is the ultimate goal, humans are wired to rely on their families, especially in times of need. But when complicated family circumstances overrule, even defy sensibility, it becomes pretty black and white. We’re on our own.

So the tears welled up that day, bringing grief right to the surface. Oh sure we’ll have another car someday, but in the meantime some days are just hard.

We recognize our story in a Shakespearian sort-of way. Joy and peril, great love and woe, familiar to life itself. It leaves us rather speechless sometimes, like when we stood on the vast car lot in a sea of colorful wishes, just shaking our heads. “Thanks for stopping by,” the salesmen said.

So we wait with hope for what’s yet to come as the mystery of life unfolds. That new car we’ll have someday? It won’t need a luggage rack. We got in gear after the huge disappointment and began unpacking our heavy baggage. Who needs history to repeat itself, we thought as we shared a big, loving hug. The best is always yet to come.

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Living from the Inside Out

Imagine a world where we are perfectly content. Where we cherish ourselves. Really cherish ourselves, and walk through our lives and the world feeling a whole lot of self-worth.

Some of us aren’t familiar with our self-worth. In fact, we don’t even know where it comes from. But guess what? We actually all have it. Self-worth comes from somewhere inside called our True Self. The True Self is the core of who we really are. We’ve all got a core, we often just ignore it and let the outside world dictate and guide us, influence us and weaken us.

You know those days when we are exhausted and overwhelmed, feeling lost or worried, unsure of who we are or what we’re really doing? We may have shut ourselves off from…well, ourselves. The outside world mirrors our inside beliefs the sages say, and that’s the secret to our happiness. We can create our own reality by changing our beliefs, those things that apparently guide us.

Our core beliefs are where it all starts, so we have to redefine them, and reclaim ourselves. We have to answer to the True Self, the “I” that defines “Me.”  The real me, deep down on the inside, the steady, still, silent force that never waivers. Always strong, always sure, it’s there for us, as us, providing a solid foundation for our worthy existence.

So when we get familiar with who that Self is, who we really are without compromise, life can really change.

Living from that core looks pretty incredible. In fact, we have all periodically experienced it in our lives. We feel confident, clear and peaceful even during times of stress. We somehow rise above the muck, and feel capable of succeeding in spite of circumstances. Any doubts and insecurities are overruled by a deep knowing that we are good. When that happens we are living from the inside out, not the outside in.

So imagine the impact of doing that that every, single day, living from the inside out. Instead of impulsively reacting to external demands and daily bombardment that wears us down, we can pause for a minute and reach inside to our True Self and feel better, instantly.

But only we know who that is. No one can tell us, no one can force us, no one else knows. When we know ourselves we know our worth, and nobody can take that way. But when it happens – and since we are human it does – we need to redirect ourselves back to that place we know inside. It’s like built-in life support.

Should we not value ourselves more than what sucks the life out of us?  That is the powerful secret. We are worthy at our core, we just have to own it, even though it’s hard. Don’t like your life? Change it at your core. Reach for it. Become what you believe.

Thank you Oprah and Chopra, day 10 of your worldwide meditation program may have just changed our lives. Time to turn inside out.

In A Stereotypical World, My Role is not the Model

Our days begin early in a foggy routine, long before the sun rises on a school day. We don’t say much, we usually just chat about the weather. But this morning, mere minutes before my teenager ran out the door to catch the school bus, he said he was having trouble with the fight of feminism. Really? That was an eye-opening interlude from the protein shake to good-bye.

He didn’t understand why women have to fight for equal rights and equal pay, and was confused about how to separate typical gender roles at home and in the workplace. Turns out it was a classroom discussion on the male/female role in a world that is facing gender identity changing. Too deep to discuss in two minutes, I sent him on his way validating that having to “fight” for anything is a shame.

But his words stayed with me as I quickly recalled my own role in the world and in my life.

I spent two decades as a stay-at-home mom raising children, and working harder than I ever had in the life that I lived. I hated those words “stay-at-home mom,” I felt privileged, maybe undeservingly so. I was fortunate to stay home, but not fortunate in what home brought. You never know what goes on behind closed doors in anyone’s life, and I kept mine very quiet. But it slipped out every so often, and people sometimes caught on…

…Like when I became half my size from a long-term illness that debilitated me in my already debilitated life. It wasn’t terminal, but the effects from a marriage to an addict and a child on the autism spectrum who was in and out of a psychiatric hospital in life-threatening situations, broke my body and my ability to hide the reality of my stay-at-home status. I struggled to get out of bed from illness, I fought mental exhaustion and emotional wreckage. I was abused and couldn’t function.

A sweet librarian, who every week helped me with the books I checked out, pulled me aside once and asked me if everything was ok. It clearly wasn’t, but I didn’t share the real details of the pain and the suffering in our home.

I wondered if that time disqualifies me from having a productive conversation with my son about the ongoing feminist fight. I worked hard, insanely, diligently hard. My fight was different, but one that nonetheless mattered. My specific gender role was clearly identified by my young teenage son, but so was the struggle. His personal meaning of “equal rights” is different, formed from a totally different vantage point.

I sent him a text minutes later. Do you know your gender?

Yes.

Do you know your role today?

I guess.

Ok. Just remember this. Time moves on. Roles change. Life changes. Fights end and others begin. Life ebbs and flows between values and attitudes and circumstances, and when it comes right down to it, we just do the best we can.

Ok Mom.

And OK will definitely do.

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You Get What You Pay For or Don’t

I so want to believe in the innate goodness of humanity. I do. But I’m finding it difficult. I don’t know why, beyond people just seem to be rude. I don’t know if it’s where we live, a cultural pocket of odd behavior, or if it’s an overall world phenomenon because people are on edge due to the state of…everything.

I’m just trying to get through my daily life, like everyone else is in theirs. But sometimes that requires some assistance.

I need the small amount of trim painted around the house before winter. It’s up high, Sir Husband isn’t feeling comfortable about it, I get that. We hired someone over a year ago who said he would do it last year. Then he got swamped and said he’d be back this year, and got swamped, and now here we are again. So I tried to find someone else to do it. Not only did people not call me back, if they did actually come to give us an estimate, they never called me back to say yay or nay. Then when I tried to reach them, they never answered their phone or returned my calls. Rude.

Or, I sold a portable gas grill on our local Facebook online yard sale, and people scheduled to pick it up, but then didn’t show up, or even let me know. Wait, you committed on the thread and I marked it sold. Rude.

I must hold myself to a different standard, I don’t subscribe to these new rules. I show up if I say I will, on time. I return calls, answer emails, texts, and Facebook messages. Sure it may take a minute or three, but I do it. It’s about courtesy and acknowledgement. Am I alone in the world?

I try not to take people’s rudeness as a reflection on myself. But it’s a mystery why people are so willing to leave others hanging. Or not follow through at someone else’s expense. There’s really no uncertain outcome here, I needed you to paint my trim. You said yes. I agreed to pay you. What gives?

Maybe people are unhappy. Or are not doing what they want to do. Or maybe they are listening to other people’s jibber-jabber about what they think is going on, we live in a small town, people talk. Or they are indecisive, or over-booked, or simply don’t care. And maybe I over-analyze, but I think it goes a bit deeper.

We all have something inside of us that makes us tick and that helps us relate to the world at large. But it seems like everyone is on some kind of survival mission, afraid to look over their shoulders, closing themselves off from feelings – others’ and maybe their own. Is everyone living in the shadow of their own personal discomfort?

I thought there were some basic rules. Response. Respect. Politeness. Not selfishness. Or rudeness. But appreciation. Where’s the gratitude of healthy human interaction, or at least following through with a paid commitment?

Elizabeth Gilbert, famed author of Eat, Pray, Love, said there is so much un-done in this world (yea, like my peeled trim,) and not everything is great. But in the end, there is some good. “I don’t need your personal crap,” she says, “I have my own. There will always be shit-sandwiches offered to us, doesn’t mean we have to eat them.”

I must have expectations of others that they cannot meet. But they are no higher than those of myself. Please don’t give me anything less than your best self, I will always try to give you mine – my resourcefulness, my assistance, my authenticity, my kindness, my strength, my vulnerability, and at the very least, my response, and sometimes even my money. But guess what, innate goodness? It’s free.

Ready to Settle Down

Settled. That’s a loaded word. And a feeling I have barely known in my life.

It’s not that I don’t like where I’m living, it’s fine. In fact, I thought I was feeling settled for the first time in a long time. But after my trip “home” yesterday, that old familiar feeling of not feeling at home where I am set in. I can’t explain why I love it there, I moved there when I was 20 and never wanted to leave. And numerous homes and several states later, I don’t feel particularly settled not being there.

Oh sure, certain aspects of my life have always been settled, like my personality, my hair color, and my inordinate desire to live where I feel most at home. But when a recurrent theme – feeling unsettled – reared its head again, I asked it to pull up a chair.

Sigh.

What now? I asked myself. You have nothing to complain about. You live in a beautiful area in a lovely little home with a truly wonderful husband in an incredibly loving marriage. And you are really settling in, in the true sense of the words. You know the area, you have friends and creature comforts. What’s the problem?

On the surface it’s not a mystery. I have enough insight, both personal and therapeutic, to understand why. The people and circumstances in my life haven’t been what most would call particularly stable. I have moved more times than I can count on both my hands and feet since leaving for college when I was 18, and my tree never took root.

So what’s the bottom line? I asked me. That you never established roots?

I recalled a New York Times article from a zillion years ago about this exact thing that stuck with me. It said that feeling settled is an internal concept that is formed within the context of a person’s unique history.

My history is deep-rooted in a non-traditional way. I feel like I’ve lived several lifetimes in several different locations with several different players and situations in this life alone. I have so many roots, but none of them took hold, except for a short time in the one location I loved, until those were pulled out from under me.

I reminded myself that each time I moved, I always felt optimistic about moving.

Moving a lot offers you an opportunity to imagine who you would like to be, and remake yourself and your life, the article said. It’s about seeing what fits.

Sir Husband fits. Writing for a living fits. It isn’t about that. It’s about what to do about feeling settled no matter what, or where, or with whom.

Feeling unsettled got up out of the chair. It was done with the analysis.

I told myself to remember the one thing we can count on is that feelings change. So for now I’ll just settle into the moment, and savor things that feel good. The love of Sir Husband. Cool jazz. The feeling I get when I sink into my bed at night.

The New York Times article also said that the psychological impact of moving a lot can be huge and take on a life of its own. Ultimately there are a lot of boxes in a person’s life.

I realized I don’t have anywhere else to store mine, so I better just put them down for now. I can’t change my history, but I can water my roots, wherever they are.