Let it Go

We managed a brief 48 hour Staycation thanks to the help of little man’s other set of grandparents who offered us a brief respite from full time parenting.

The day we dropped him off was a bit dreary, too cold and damp for a hike, so we decided to visit the city of Lowell where we both had some roots from way back when. Hubby and I both attended the same college in Lowell, although at different times. Hubby graduated in June, I started the following September and at the ripe old age of 19 instead of continuing with my studies and receiving letters after my name, I acquired the initials of Mrs. preceding my first husband’s name.

The second of our Staycation days, we embarked on a trip to the High Ledges to see some beautiful foliage in western Massachusetts. It’s a hike I first went on with my children and members of my church close to 30 years ago and the spectacular views of bright fall foliage from high atop a ledge overlooking the valley below, never cease to amaze me. As with any woodland walk in the fall, the ground is covered in a combination of pine needles and fallen leaves, still colorful. With the light filtering through the trees, it’s like a magic carpet.

It was nice to have a few days in our home of normal retirement life, I find it’s the little things I miss, like sleeping with all the lights out, not supervising homework and shower times and able to watch whatever we wanted on Netflix without worrying about the effects on little ears and eyes.  It felt good just to be a couple in our own place for a few short days.

In my life, there have been so many expectations of how the path should have gone versus the actual path, those pesky what-ifs. Beginning way back when I started college, I fully intended to graduate with honors and begin a music career, but life got in the way and instead I got a head start in the marriage and mommy race. Looking back, I wouldn’t have changed a thing because if I had, I wouldn’t have my daughters and I couldn’t imagine my life without my gang of girls.

The what ifs are the stuff that can make us crazy…what if I had done things differently as a parent, would I be raising another child in my retirement years? What if she had made different decisions, would she be with her son today? Every now and then I find myself wanting to wander into that crazy space if for just a moment.

As we walked through the woods this past weekend and enjoyed the trees in all their splendor, we accept that the foliage season is short but very special, and after the vibrancy of the color the leaves drop and fade. The trees let go of their leaves on the promise of new life to come.

I wonder why it can be hard for us sometimes to let go of what is or what was planned to make way for the new life that is yet to come? I’m sure you’ve heard the saying that we need to let go sometimes to make room for what’s to come. Seems like pretty good advice, after all, it does work well for the trees.

Happy Fall

 

The Great Upheaval

We just returned from a relaxing, enjoyable week in beautiful Nova Scotia. While there we had the opportunity to visit the Acadian Village in Lower West Pubnico, Nova Scotia. The village was a delightful living museum where we learned about the history and culture of the Acadian people and enjoyed Rappie Pie for lunch, a traditional Acadian food made of potatoes, picture the consistency of potato jello covered with molasses…needless to say we were full until wine and popcorn time at 5:00…

As we made our back to our little cottage we talked about Longfellow’s Poem, Evangeline and how even after 50+ years after reading it for the first time, we were both struck by the impact the poem made on both of us as middle school kids. I couldn’t get out of my head the profound sadness of the poem, how finding and being betrothed to your one true love, only to be pulled apart on your wedding day and then to spend the rest of your life looking for him only to find him on his deathbed…how tragic..and I apologize if you were never forced to read the poem in middle school and I just gave away the entire story line!

The history of the Acadian people is long and complicated, and somewhere along the way it resulted in the forced removal of 10,000 Acadians by the British. British soldiers rounded up the frightened villagers, burnt their homes and crops and put them on boats and scattered them far and wide, with some ending up in Louisiana and known as Cajuns. Many did not survive, as men, women and children drowned or succumbed to illness. In the end, this great upheaval was deemed inhumane, brought about by man’s greed, confusion, misunderstanding and fear. (https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/the-deportation-of-the-acadians-feature)

As we toured the bucolic historic reenactment of this perfect Acadian village and learned about the Great Upheaval, I couldn’t help to think about what’s happening right now in our country. Like with the Acadians, the history of the folks seeking asylum in our country is long and complicated. Our immigration process is badly broken, used as the proverbial can kicked down the road by both the D’s and the R’s until there’s no road left. The Acadians were placed in boats and sent away, our seekers are being placed in wire enclosures, cages, and forced to wait to learn of their ultimate status…..will history look back at this time and call our leaders inhumane? Will future Americans look back and wonder what they would have done if they had been alive during this crisis? Is the cause of our immigration debacle due to greed, confusion, misunderstanding and fear? History will be the ultimate judge.

I wonder just how many Evangeline’s and Gabriel’s are out there… now named Jose and Maria, betrothed and now separated by unspeakable violence and poverty, one coming to seek asylum here in the USA to carve a way to a better life, while the other waits, and waits never to see or hear from their loved one again. I fear we are so caught up on all the underlying issues we are forgetting these are real people, with real dreams and not just nameless pawns caught in our broken system.

Now off my soapbox….and looking forward to the next adventure..and my next history lesson. BTW, we also visited the home of Alfred Fuller, the original Fuller Brush Man…more about him later!

Our Summer Solstice

It’s the longest day of the year and we’re in a little cabin on a beautiful clear pond in the middle of no where New Hampshire. Members of our village have taken little man for three nights and we are beyond excited.

With less than a weeks notice we were able to book an idyllic 3 night stay in a very quaint cabin on a little pond. I booked the place on Home Away, and this time we really lucked out, from the sweet front screened in porch with rocking chairs from the 50’s to the massive stone fireplace, to the bedroom with views on all sides of the water, to the western water view sunsets, to the absolute quietness with the exception of an occasional bird cry, to the no cable, no internet, no cell service.

The moment we arrived we looked at one another and said, “I feel the stress lifting”…we were so chill we didn’t even venture out for dinner, we traded plans for a fancy meal for crackers, cheese, hummus and grapes accompanied by chilled wine with a water view and an occasional cry from a loon.

For the next 3 days we had a race to see who could be most relaxed, who could sleep in the latest, who could read the most pages…who could get up the earliest and take to the pond in a Kayak…yeah, that wasn’t me! I won the prize for most cups of morning coffee consumed in the rocking chair on the screened in porch overlooking the water.

As much as we love our crazy club sandwich lives between grand-kids, kids and aging parents, it’s so good to have the opportunity to escape for a few days with the only goal to be as chill as possible. I forgot just how good it felt to have a few days where we didn’t have to do anything or take care of anyone but ourselves, it seems like a lifetime ago that was our life.

But now it’s back to summer 101, with the color coded calendar. We’re packing for vacation, juggling rides to camps, moving elderly parents, getting in the appointments and before you know it, in just 9 very short weeks, it will be time to go back to school. And we all know what that means, Dunkin Donuts will bring back the Pumpkin Spice Coffee and the Halloween Candy will displace the school supplies.

It’s such a short, sweet season, and for now, I’ll look forward to campfires and lobsters in Maine, the warmth of the sun, vacations with the people we love, the fresh strawberries from the garden and the trips to Rota Springs for Ice Cream.

Enjoy your summer

 

Man Plans and God Laughs

My favorite Jewish friend recent shared this Yiddish saying of how we can carefully plan but life can often be unpredictable. There have been several times in my life where I plan for something and at the last minute, I stand by shaking my head just to watch my carefully laid plan unravel thread by thread…

For the last 10 years of my career, I planned for a carefree retirement with the right combination of being on track financially, physically and emotionally. I planned to maintain a regular exercise schedule, I planned to take on volunteer roles in my church and community. My husband and I planned to travel several times a year to locations I plotted out on Google maps. But God had other plans that now include permanent guardianship of my 7 year old grandson and with that, all my previously well laid plans have jumped out a window…

I recently joined a support group for grandparents who are retired and raising one or more of their grandchildren. As we went around the room introducing ourselves with only our first names, we shared a bit about the circumstances that landed us sitting together in a circle on a beautiful Wednesday afternoon instead of checking something off on a retirement bucket list

As I listened and on occasion cried, I found myself wondering about what all these people planned to be doing at this stage in their lives. Did they fund their 401k contributions each week hoping for exotic vacations? Did they dream of a second home in Arizona or maybe in Tuscany? Did they plan to buy a motor home and hit the road? Did they dream about sleepovers and vacations with all their grandchildren? Things I don’t think they wished for were to toilet train a three year old, or to teach a teen how to drive or to struggle with their own aging issues while parenting a grandchild with significant trauma related issues. Or dealing with the never ending drama with their own child who for whatever reason has horribly failed as a parent. Or a parents worst nightmare, taking custody of your grandchild because your child is deceased

As this is now my new reality, I’ve been looking at various articles published about grandparents as parents. There seems to be two faces of these grandparents, the outside face of hey, everything is great and I’m happy I could step up and help my grandchild and the real side that few people see, the, this is a nightmare that never ends, I’m depressed, I feel isolated, I’ve lost my identity….side. If I’m being honest, I have experienced both sides from time to time. The hardest part is when you have several other grandchildren who now don’t get Gramma alone…because Gramma needs to put the grandchild living with her the priority. He doesn’t have a mommy and daddy and that’s hard for the other kids to understand at times.

The small victories help keep me going, the successful IEP meetings, watching him make new friends, his being able to sleep through the night without every light on…and knowing that the structured schedule, stability and unconditional love is making a difference and will help him heal from the trauma he’s suffered.

I feel fortunate to live in a state where there is there a Commission on the Status of Grandparents Raising Grandchildren and real live people who answer emails and return phone calls. And even an all day Grandparents Conference planned with guest speakers and resources and of course the support groups. I’m also fortunate to have strong family support, the most important being my husband who parents with me every single day.

Along this new journey I’ve met some wonderful people who when faced with heart wrenching situations have managed to bravely take on what was thrown their way. They are the helpers our much missed and beloved Mr Rogers talked about that I’ll seek out because even in the midst of their own challenges, they give back to others…always answering questions and giving advice to the folks who never planned to be in this situation.

I’ll continue to plan, as I’ve always been a planner….you can ask my kids about my obsession with color coding…and I’m hoping God doesn’t laugh…what are the odds?

My Disney World Adventure

Is it every parents and grandparents dream to take their children and subsequent grandchildren to visit a large mouse in Florida at least once in their lifetime? Judging from what I saw in Florida this past week, I believe this to be a true statement.

I took my kids twice, the first time was back in the mid 80’s when they were all little and again in the early 90’s, it was our last family trip before my oldest began college. Of course, those trips took place before the age of electronics, we had to navigate the park with a paper map, this was long before the magical Disney app with the interactive maps and up to date wait times. We still managed to have make some great family memories and it was nice that I was able to return with one of my children and my two youngest grandsons in tow.

I lost count of the number of groups I saw in the magic kingdom wearing matching t-shirts, everything from the ordinary Family 2019 trip, to Birthday kid and I’m with Birthday kid, and I’m birthday kids brother/sister/aunt/uncle…to the Cheerleading groups, the youth groups, the middle school music groups and on and on…the best one I saw was the Thing One and Thing two shirts on a group of about 20, it was a large family and grandpa was in a wheelchair being pushed around by one of his many grandchildren.

I also saw a few moms in wheelchairs with bandannas to cover their bald heads…I can only imagine how emotional on so many levels a visit to this special place meant to them and their young families.

I do believe that the Magic Kingdom is one the happiest places on earth. So it’s raining, let’s have a rain parade, it’s no big deal, everything’s ok….continuous parades and happy music..screaming kids, it’s ok..you’re at the Magic Kingdom.

I am amazed at the unbelievable coordination at every single level to make the visit as enjoyable as possible, from the easy entry, to how skillfully the lines are arranged so standing on your feet in 89 degree heat doesn’t seem so unbearable. The occasional fans, the interactive activities for the kids, each designed with the intent to make the experience pleasurable. The wristbands should be mandatory for every theme park, they truly are like Magic.

For a long time I had a wish to bring all our six kids and grandkids together for a trip to Disneyworld, maybe I just wanted to be part of the group with the t-shirts….we tried several times but we could never manage to come up with a date that would work for everyone…go figure

What I’ve learned as I’ve aged is that you can plan to your hearts content but sometimes your well intentioned plan and reality get together behind your back and make their own plan…and in this case it couldn’t have worked out any better for me.

So I’m chillin in my golden years…not getting too worked up if things don’t go as I’ve planned because my unplanned stuff has been pretty amazing, so reality and well intentioned plans can have at it anytime as far as I’m concerned, I’m always up for a good surprise or two.

Happy Valentines Day

So, this holiday of love has its roots with the execution of two men named Valentinus by the Emperor Claudius II in the third century AD. Later their martyrdom was honored by the Catholic Church and that my friend is the origin of this holiday of love. Of course, lots of stuff happened between the third century AD and 2019, but you know where to look to get the rest of the story.

When I was a kid, we would buy a package of valentines, write out the to and from sections and bring them to school. The special “room mothers” would bake delicious sugar cookies topped with a thick layer of frosting and topped with pink sprinkles, that we washed down with a big paper cup of Kool Aid, chock full of chemicals and red food dye. We were by today’s standards mean kids because not everyone in the class got a Valentine. The ride home on the bus was a painful time for some of the kids as they watched the popular kids count their cards…I’m glad the policy has changed.

So fast forward to 2019 and how this new generation handles the Valentines in Grade 2. Everyone gets a Valentine, a class list is distributed to each student, each student brings their Valentines to school a day in advance in a bag, there are restrictions on the type of Valentine you can bring, no food, no toys. And there won’t be any food served at school during the exchange.

Simple stuff I figure, I got this. We go to the store two weeks in advance to get the Valentines, my little guy looks at every single package of Valentines in great detail and to my surprise every package contains either food or a toy…what to do…is a sticker inserted in the Valentine considered a toy? I look at all the other options, he has chosen the most non-toy Valentines.

For two weeks I remind him to write out his Valentines, thankfully the day before they are due there’s an early dismissal day due to a snow storm which will give him plenty of time to write his to and from 19 times. I watch as he carefully looks at every message on the animal themed Valentine, as he matches the right message to each of his classmates. He reminds me that it’s very important to get this part right, that you don’t want a Valentine to say love if you’re giving it to someone you don’t love…. smart kid…

For some friends, this holiday is a painful reminder as they are faced with the hearts and images of happy couples, they deal with the very real loss of their life partners. For others just beginning to heal after a difficult breakup, they would prefer the calendar skip from the 13th to the 15th.

For the cynical ones, the thought of an entire industry making an enormous amount of money based on a holiday that makes it mandatory, that is if you want to stay in your relationship, to profess your undying love with an overpriced card and a bouquet of flowers most likely grown in conditions that exploit the workers, seems unnecessary.

I would like to think that every day is a good day to tell the ones in your life that you love them, the one that still makes your heart sing, the little ones, and the ones who are just hanging on by a thread. Tomorrow is never promised, so we should love and appreciate the people who are in our lives everyday.

Happy Valentines Day!

Does it Spark Joy?

If you’re a fan of Marie Kondo, this title will bring a smile to your face along with the urge to spend the next few days dumping all your clothes on your bed.

I stumbled across Marie a few weeks ago while on a very cold evening I was bundled under a comforter looking through Netflix. I love her gentle non-judgmental approach as she helps folks organize their homes. Unlike the myriad of all or nothing home organizing reality shows I’ve watched through the years, I find myself relating to a process that nudges you to reflect on what’s behind keeping the piles of stuff in your home and if an object doesn’t bring you joy, why should it take up valuable space in your home or in your life?

The best way to control clutter is to move! My mom told me once that her mother, when she would get mad at someone would say to them “I hope you move”, because after all moving is right up there on the top 10 list of stressors of life.

In a fifteen year period I moved 5 times and each time I let go of stuff that at the time I thought I would miss. The memories from when my kids were little, school papers, craft projects, or mementos from various trips, my collection of spoons, or single crystal candlesticks, or my awesome collection of cows, because if you work at a place with a cow in its name, you must love cow milk pitchers, right? And the 20 large containers of Christmas stuff that’s now pared down considerably

As hubby and I began to settle into our forever home that we bought 3 years ago, we’ve been very intentional about what we bring through the door. No trip souvenirs unless they can be useful, like my wool scarf from Scotland that’s been keeping me warm this winter. No magnets for the refrigerator or mugs for the little kitchen. Instead we take lots of pictures that we make into small photo books that can be easily stored and found!

Which brings us back to what sparks joy in our lives. At one point in my life when I was younger I found joy in stuff, but as I got older I find the biggest sparks of joy are in the hugs from my grandkids, the morning texts and phone calls from my kids, the connection I have with my church community and friends and the spark of joy I feel every morning when hubby greets me with a cup of black coffee and a smile.

It’s in the small things that spark joy, a lit candle, a roaring fire on a cold winter evening, a campfire in Maine with dear friends, pot luck dinners, Sunday brunch, drinks after choir, overnights at the lake, vacations with family and friends, spa getaways, and hikes that don’t result in a trip to the ER.

I hope you find what sparks joy for you and be mindful that it’s not always stuff. What’s in your heart is enough to spark joy for a lifetime.