Changing My World

“When you’re done with this world, you know the next is up to you.” John Mayer

It has been a year since my mother passed away; Twelve months of me reclaiming my life. Although, I’m not sure reclaiming would be the correct term. Instead, I think I am rebuilding my new world. That is why John Mayer’s words resonate with me. The end of my era as my mother’s guardian also coincides with the end of my era as a full-time mother. My husband and I have successfully encouraged our daughters to grow their own wings and leave the nest feeling confident in their lives ahead. Kudos to us. So, the next is up to me. Where do I go from here?
The good news is I can make my choices based on over a half century of living. I certainly have life experiences, and I plan on using them to make, what I hope, are wise decisions. My husband and I live a good life in suburbia. We have enough to enjoy pursuing the activities we like to do. Because we have accomplished this goal, personal happiness is my next biggest objective.
That desire is encumbered with the many heartrending aspects I have in my life involving those I love. Friends and family, who have joy sucking circumstances they are facing. The kind that leave you searching for sunshine even when it is sparkling through your window. I realize that, especially as we mature, my situation is not unique; how I go about living my life, that is what is exclusive to me. I want to be there for those I love and support, a hand to hold, the one who listens without judgment. But, it is also my wish to be able to share some happiness with them. I want to encourage a new thought process, to not dwell on the injustice, if you will, of their lives. Instead I would like to concentrate on the bright spots in life, the obvious and more importantly, the simple wonders of everyday. I want them to feel, we are in this together.
Part of finding my new world is discovering what makes me happy, my purpose in life. Writing, I know, is definitely on the list. My part-time teaching job brings me joy, as I travel from school to school bringing a field trip to classrooms with The Scotia-Glenville Traveling Children’s Museum. I love both of these aspects of my life’s journey. I also appreciate the fact I don’t have to worry about a generous income from either.
Realizing these thoughts, I have decided to practice the art of listening to my feelings and wants. At times, putting my needs in front of others. Something, we as woman or perhaps parents, don’t always get to do as we raise our families or care for others. I have found my needs are not far from where I have been, they have just increased in their importance. Spending time with friends and my sisters is one of the most important aspects of my life. Sometimes, I have to travel to do that, but I am growing more accustomed to the idea that the cost can be outweighed by the joy the trip brings. After all, what can bring more pleasure to your soul than hearing the laughter of those you love, or feeling the comfort of a much needed hug? I am also working on having a more adult relationship with my grown daughters. All involved must change our thought process to include a more give and take relationship. Not the one that served us well as they grew, of parent giving and the child taking. This course of action will take time but I am willing to wait for the fruition of my efforts to develop.
I have learned many lessons during my 54 years of life experiences. My journey has taught me that I will gain friends and lose them. But, more importantly, to hold onto the lessons I learn from those experiences. I hope I taught my daughters the self-strength and compassion it takes to care for your mother as she slides into the nothing of dementia. I know with the leadership of my sister I have gained a new spiritual strength; learning how to accept the guidance of both earth angels and heavenly ones. Building and constantly working on a relationship with my husband is still a continual part of my life. Together we have experienced the exhilaration of holding a tightly blanket wrapped newborn, and the daunting task of helping her grow to adulthood. I have come to understand that some of the most important relationships in life are the ones with your sisters, whether they are related to you by blood or by experience. The love and companionship of those women have, over the years, given me the courage, strength and self-confidence to continue to move forward with my life.
My next world is up to me, and I am determined to make it happy. I hope to find the positive even in a negative situation. I promise to continue to build my self-confidence and make choices based on my wants. I have realized that sometimes putting yourself first, in the end, can be beneficial to those around you. I have come to relish the bliss it brings me to watch myself accomplish goals I have recently set for myself. It gives me the strength I need, to in turn wash my friends and family with the waves of my happiness. I hope it brightens even a part of their day.


The Snowman Contingent

???????? As anyone that has read some of my blogs will know, I like snow. This in turn leads to my love of snowmen. During the winter I have assorted displays of the 3 globes of frozen precipitation decorating my home. They add whimsy to the dark days of the coldest months.
Every year, the day after Thanksgiving, my family follows our tradition and cuts down a Christmas Tree. We trim the tree that afternoon and then over the course of the next day or so I finish decorating the rest of the house. Come sometime in mid-January I take down all of the Christmas embellishments. But, I leave out all of the snowmen; after all it is still very much winter at that time of year here in upstate New York. It brings me pleasure to drink coffee in the morning out of my varied winter themed mugs and the snowmen seem to smile at me as I watch the Weather Channel anticipating winter storms. I have the superstition that my frozen friends help deliver a sunny but snowy winter. Consequently, I like having them around the house.
But, the time has come to dismantle the snowman displays. As I type this I can hear the wind rumbling up against my house and watch as it causes small branches to fall from the trees. The temperature today has not even reached the freezing level. Despite this, I am officially calling snowman season over.
It is March and even though spring here can actually be defined as mud season and certainly not enjoyable, I think it is time to move on. Skiing will continue for a few more weekends as there is still snow at Gore Mountain. But, there is no white stuff left in my yard and besides, I am ready for some color. Perhaps, if I drag out my spring décor I will encourage the warmer temperatures to come our way and we will begin to see the crocuses, daffodils and tulips in bloom.
So it is goodbye snowmen, see you next winter.

Confessions of an Empty Nester

I heard the door close shut for the last time as my daughter carried her suitcase to her car and drove away. Actually, I really didn’t hear the door close because I wasn’t home. We would say our goodbyes later. But, the way my emotions were going, I swear I heard that door slowly squeak shut when she texted she was getting into her car and leaving her childhood home.
Having my youngest daughter, a recent Purdue University graduate, live at home for a few months had been difficult for all involved. She was miserable and my husband and I bounced between trying to make her happy and hoping she would decide to leave so all of us could go back to whatever we thought was our normal lives. Yet, hugging my daughter goodbye as she set out on an adventure before heading to law school in the fall, I had mixed emotions. I knew this arrangement would be better for her; she needed to get out on her own. But, I was sad that our time together was over and quite honestly, I never felt like we got to enjoy it.
The other reality was the fact that my husband and I were now true empty nesters. We had dabbled in it for a few years. There were long stretches of just he and I as our daughters attended college many states and miles from home. Still, we knew the girls would come back for periods of time. We had the holidays with them, moments during the summer. Now, here we were with two vacant bedrooms in need of a paint job.
My husband and I are very social and we often find plenty to do on the weekends. But, I wonder, do we still maintain the same goals in life? I know for a fact we disagree on the purchase of a second home. What else lies between us and seems unsolvable? Can we proceed down our current path, both of us questioning if we agree on how to live out the next years of our lives? Will we live up to our wedding song words?
“Though the binding cracks and the pages start to yellow, I’ll be in love with you.”
Dan Fogelberg
Because of these differences, I have wondered lately, what keeps some marriages together, after the children leave, and why do others fall apart? I understand there are marriages that were just not meant to be and breaking up makes the most sense. Then, there are the couples who seem to have drifted away from each other but remain living together. Maybe it is the tiring thought of starting over that keeps a number of couples together. There are overwhelming questions. Who gets to keep the friends? How do we split up holidays with our children and with the hoped for grandchildren? How do I go forward from here, can the future alone be better? Consequently, maybe staying is easier.
Or possibly, staying as a couple is because of desires that go beyond boredom and monetary items. There is the anticipated warmth of a grandchild as they snuggle into your lap; the dream of once again seeing the belief in a child’s eyes at the thought of Santa. Quiet talks with daughters on how their lives are going. Being there for their triumphs and holding their hand when life throws a curve ball. Perhaps, as an aging couple these welcoming thoughts draw us together and allow us to continue a relationship over a quarter century old. Maybe it is too difficult to throw out all of those past life experiences that we have walked down and sometimes stumbled through. Memories can inflict a powerful hold, ones that give the heart an opportunity to cling to the thought of more good times to come. I have recollections that allow me to remain hopeful of a future together with a guy I sometimes find stubborn, withdrawn and grumpy. A husband I don’t always understand. As we move forward on our journey together a thought has occurred to me. I need, during those difficult moments, to learn to step back and allow my heart to search the caverns of its memory to a time when the anticipation of seeing him made it beat like crazy.

Suprise Snowfall

????????The other day, as I heard birds chirping away and felt a small sliver on sun on my shoulders, I thought, I’m ready for spring. Then the super storm swept across the country and I was sad because here in my little neck of the woods we weren’t supposed to get any snow. I felt cheated. Yet, yesterday afternoon, as I was teaching a class, I looked up to see snowflakes dancing through the air. I felt myself smile.
I have this total love for snow. Upon my arrival home I sat in a comfy chair and watched tiny snowflakes fall and slowly but diligently cover the brown of winter, encasing the earth in pristine white. Later that evening, returning from dinner out, I put on the high beams so that I could see the snowflakes as the hood of my car pressed through the white haze of miniscule flakes made one by their number. I smiled a huge grin to see one of my favorite sights. Pine trees flocked with poufs of snow; a dramatic showing of the beautiful contrast of colors in nature; light against dark. This night, the snow was heavy and clung to each branch of the oaks and maples that surround my house showing off the intricate branches of the trees. I stood in the drive a few minutes and let the snowflakes tickle my face as they ever so gently fell in their winter silence to the ground.
Finally, this morning as the snow continued to fall, leaving us with enough depth to cause a two hour school delay, I sat with my coffee and enjoyed the beauty of the day breaking on trees laden with their burden. Early spring birds flitting from one branch to the other trying to figure out what is going on. This snowfall will not last long. The weather, very soon, is supposed to turn warm enough to melt it. I am trying to take in all of the sights I can. I want to hold this winter scene with me as the seasons begin to change. I know in upstate New York, this may not be our last snowfall. But, this is certainly one of the most beautiful.

Today I Need To Write

Recording an essay for a local NPR show.

Recording an essay for a local NPR show.

Today I have a need to write. My fingers won’t feel content until they are cruising across my keyboard. Sadly, my brain has no compelling issue I need to expel. So I am sitting here, at my computer perusing websites, waiting for that ding and the notice I have another email that will perhaps inspire me.
What is it about writing that allows me to feel a sense of accomplishment? A few years back I ran into a friend from my junior high (middle school) and high school days. I told her I was writing a story about my mother and me. She replied, “That’s great, you always did like to write.” I smiled but walked away stunned. I did, I thought. I then remembered the variety shows my sisters and I created. We gathered the kids in the neighborhood and gave them each a part in the acts we had spent days writing. I believe our programs were loosely based on The Laugh In Show. The stage was the open concrete parking area at the end of our neighbor’s drive. Our parents humored us, I suppose, by sitting in lawn chairs and clapping at the appropriate times.
I still have stored somewhere, the Christmas poem I wrote in seventh grade that won the school newspaper’s first prize. That was my first accolade for writing. I recall my high school teacher telling me my papers were always her favorite to read; much more entertaining than my fellow students dry essays. She also added I needed to watch my punctuation, a problem that still plagues me today. (Thank you inventor of spell and grammar check)
Consequently, I realized that my friend was correct. I have always enjoyed writing and as an adult I felt it was time for me to return to that love. I joined a writing class at East Line Books in my hometown. I was just beginning my journey with the care-taking of my mother as she slid into dementia. Every week I tapped away on my keyboard, thanking Mom for making me take a typing class. My emotions, held inside as I went through my week, poured forth and appeared in black and white on my computer screen. Often tears trickled down onto the keyboard letters as I discovered those feelings I had so carefully buried. The writing of the essays was obviously therapeutic. I continued with the classes over a period of two to three years. Eventually, some of the ladies I met at the book store branched out on our own when we realized our essays could materialize into book form. We would meet, not only to critique each other’s writing, but also offer support. My writing ladies, as I like to call them, have been generous with their friendship and encouragement.
The idea to blog came to me early. But, sadly I didn’t act on the notion until much later on my writing path. Blogging gives me a chance to express ideas, feelings, and thoughts in a very short form. I truly enjoy the thrill of having others comment on my essays, and I love gathering followers. How surprising for my thoughts to touch a stranger, enough so that they decide to comment or follow me. I somewhat understand an actor’s need for applause at the end of a performance.
All of these thoughts lead to today and my fingers feeling that they require movement over a keyboard. Today, when my thoughts, jumbled as they are, must come tumbling out and be placed for all to see in black and white. Feel free to comment, I love the applause.