Leaving On A Jet Plane

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Today B left on a 5 day business trip. Now to most, this would sound mundane. Five days. Big deal. But for me that is exactly what it is…a big deal.

Almost two years ago B came home while the rest of us vacationed for an additional 10 days. A few days after I arrived home is when he said he was wanting a divorce. Fast forward marriage therapy, individual therapy, meditation, Marriage Encounter…you name it we tried it. It was a merry-go-round of great successes followed by some major failures.

This past January, after coming back from a business trip to China, once again B stated he wanted to separate. Then I went away and realized I did too. I was done with all this back and forth. Either you want to be together or you don’t. I wrote a five page note putting my feelings into words and the actions I wanted to take, out there, in plain site, for him to read…only now he didn’t want to separate. So we made a deal. No more talking about divorce for 6 months and things seem to be better.

Now three months later B is alone on another business trip and, frankly, it made me a little nervous. So as we were walking to the other night I decided to be honest and spill my guts. I said to him:

“You know you are leaving and the last two times you have gone away on your own you have come home wanting a divorce/separation. Obviously, I have some concerns because being alone seems to take you to a place of not wanting to be together. So I wanted you to know if you are even thinking this again don’t bother to come home because I don’t want to deal with it and your indecision. This is a scary thing for me to say this but I am dreading your time away because I don’t want to be hurt again.”

“It sounds like you are scared,” he says using a phrase that he has learned at the therapists office.

He keeps walking. I do too but immediately feel my stomach clench.

“Really! That is all you are going to say!” my brain almost exploding with these type of thoughts.

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And so I stopped walking.

“What is it? What’s wrong?” B says to me.

“Honey, this is the point where you are suppose to offer reassurance. I appreciate you recognizing my feelings but you need to go further. Just recognizing what I have said isn’t enough. Sometimes you have to react, reassure, or explore a little more. This is a pattern in our relationship. I express myself and you barely react to what I say. You could say more but you choose to withhold words that could be helpful, kind, or could bolster our relationship. You have gone away twice for periods of a week or more and both times have returned wanting to be single. I need honesty and reassurance from you that this isn’t going to happen again.”

B looks perplexed. He stares at me like I am a alien from Mars. But then he pulls me close and gives me a kiss.

“You don’t need to worry. I will be excited to come back to you.”

Okay, he’s not the best with words but it is a start.

This morning B left. When I went downstairs I found a note by my computer which read:

HONEY,

HAVE A GOOD WEEK AND EVERYTHING WILL BE FINE WHEN I RETURN. THANKS FOR GETTING THE KIDS AROUND WHILE I AM GONE. LOVE YOU, B

Maybe he is starting to “get it” after all.

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Kindness

I saw a THOUGHT today that made me think.

What I saw reminded me to “Be Kinder Than You Have To.”

Wow! Did that struck a chord with me and it got me thinking. How does one Be Kinder Than They Have To?  Are there minimum levels of kindness that are expected? Is there a norm of kindness? Is there a minimum number of times per day that kindness is expected of us? Do we look for it or does it find us? Is kindness based on the intent of the giver or on the perception of the receiver?

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And what does kindness entail, anyway? Is it looking out for “the other” and putting them before yourself? Does it mean handing over your money to someone who needs it more than you do? Maybe it is just recognizing the deeds of others and commenting on them. Or does it mean choosing your words carefully or holding your tongue to the point that it bleeds?

The dictionary defines kindness as the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate. It sounds as good a place to start as any. For me, the being friendly and generous parts are much easier than the considerate aspect. More often than I would like, my voice rings with harshness, or I flip off the driver who cut me off. I slam the phone down on the teller marketer who has disrupted my day for the fourth time instead of just saying “no thank you.” Yes, that being considerate aspect to life is going to get me turned away from the pearly gates without a doubt.

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In an effort to honor the idea of Being Kinder Than You Have To I decided to give myself a reminder list of things that I could do on a regular basis that just might embody that philosophy. Here goes:

  1. Instead of just tipping the restroom attendant also tell her that her bathroom must be the cleanest in the entire city and just how much you appreciate being able to plop your butt down on a seat so clean you could eat off of it.
  2. Keep McDonalds gift cards in your wallet and hand them out to those in need.
  3. Ask your elderly neighbor if there is anything you can do for them
  4. Send your kids teachers a card telling them how much you appreciate what they do for your child.
  5. Spend a couple of hours volunteering at a place that needs one-on-one interaction
  6. The next time someone cuts you off get out of your car and hand them a McDonalds card instead of giving them the finger.
  7. Do your kids chore
  8. Give your spouse a massage.
  9. Give a bigger tip than your server deserved.
  10. Feed the parking meters of others
  11. Bye a big bouquet of flowers and hand stems out to strangers
  12. Shovel your neighbors driveway
  13. Send a text to a loved one giving them an example of why you appreciate them instead of just telling them that you love them
  14. Write a REAL letter instead of sending a text or email. It is something they can hold in their hands and look at when they are feeling down
  15. Hand out balloons to strangers just because you can
  16. Throw out a little extra birdseed to our feathered friends
  17. Each day message a different friend you have on Facebook and tell them what you like about them
  18. Go through and label all those people in the zillion pictures that you have. Believe me your relatives will appreciate it in the future and will nominate you for sainthood.
  19. The next kid who passes you on the street…give him a buck.
  20. Practice biting your tongue two or three times a day.
  21. Make your spouses favorite dinner
  22. When sending your loved ones out into the cold cruel world instead of just saying have a good day go over and give them a big long hug,
  23. Pick up someone else’s litter
  24. Give up your seat to someone who needs it more than you do
  25. A heartfelt smile can do wonders for someone’s soul
  26. Let that mother with the three out of control kids go ahead of you in the checkout line. She just wants to get home and put the little boogers to bed.
  27. Pray for someone if you are so inclined
  28. Put a thank-you note on someone’s car.
  29. Pay for the person’s coffee behind you
  30. Say something nice to the person in the wheelchair
  31. Talk to someone who doesn’t look the least bit like you
  32. Forgive someone and let them know it

 

So there you go. A list to promote kindness is born and in doing so it is my hope that all of us will be reminded to BE KINDER THAN YOU HAVE TO at least once per day. Just imagine if everyone did that what a truly different and exciting place this world would be!

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Holidays

I love a good holiday. A four day one is especially appreciated. I love the time spent relaxing, the time used to connect with those I love and those special moments that the holidays give me to appreciate all the little things that make life precious. As I have reached middle age, I recognize more than ever, that these moments are fleeting… they come and then they are gone…in a flash. The time spent with the four youngest is quickly counting down like the number of  jumps I am successful at completing as I jump rope at my age .

This sense of time moving ahead quickly is apparent as I contemplate my older children. These days Nicole lives on the East Coast and West will be moving to New York City in the coming month. How did this happen? How did my babies grow up and away from us? Grandchildren living in different cities too! I talk to my daughter almost daily but it is not the same as being a short drive away. It makes me wonder where will the youngest be in 10 years? But more importantly, what will they remember about me and our time together as they find their place in the world?

That is one of the reasons I love holidays. It gives us a chance to make lasting memories. The kind of memories that are important. Kayaking, puzzle building, and walks along the beach together. These are the things that matter and with the chaos that is everyday normal life; these types of memory makers seem to get pushed to the back burner to be done “some other day.” But they rarely do. Life intrudes and sweeps away the moments that might make an imprint on our minds. That is why I treasure our time away from our “normal” so that we might spend time as a family away from life’s distractions.

And I hope that these pictures I share with you, will, for a few minutes distract you from your “normal” allowing you to remember all that is good in your life too. May they bring to mind the things you value most and may they spur you on to find time to create the memories that will bring your kids home later on in life.

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Bats getting some “fast food”

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My Garden

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B’s List Of What He Wants

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Yesterday I posted what I wanted/needed in my second half of life. Today I am posting B’s.

First of all, just so you know, I asked B if it was okay to post this. To my surprise he said yes. This is his list of what he wants in the second part of his life with me. It won’t come as a surprise to those who know us that his list is very different than mine. Much more compact. Remember, I’m the one with the words. Yet, what he wrote touched me deeply because I knew it was from his heart and soul. All of it.

The morning we were to go to breakfast to discuss our relationship; I got into the car and our wedding picture was there along with some flowers. B said that before we went to breakfast he wanted to read what he had written and so with tears in his eyes and a catch in his throat this is what he read:

“Perfect” Words

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I have been working hard to use the “perfect” words and phrases in my everyday interactions in order to minimize conflict and optimize understanding. Our therapists say to try to increase our usage of them everyday. Here they are:

  1. I love it when______
  2. Help me understand
  3. What would make it easier for you?
  4. I just got triggered and I feel ______
  5. Can I have a re-do? (Meaning you screwed up and would like to try again)
  6. I am not comfortable with______. Perhaps we can try ______ instead. How do you feel about that?
  7. I have a concern about_____
  8. I heard you say _____ and I am wondering what you mean by that.
  9. I am trying to understand please tell me more.

 

I have to say some of them work better than others. It seems like the “I like it when…” phrase often brings about the desired results and by saying “What would make it easier for you?” I get to know exactly what would be the most beneficial thing I could for B at that moment in time.

Last night I tried the “I have a concern about…” and it bombed…BIG TIME. Not only did  I feel like my words had exploded in my face and I had been cut by shrapnel; I ended up feeling like a fire work that just wanted to explode…light the fuse…I dare you. Let me explain.

The kids started school two weeks ago and it has been absolute chaos. Between each kid being at a different school,  two carpools, and one kid also taking a college class in addition to normal high school work; the hectic threshold has increased 20 fold in his house. Already I have gotten two phone calls and two emails from Andre’s school, one from Gracie’s and have had to contact Paul’s school three times for various things in addition to talking to the counselor. Add to that book marking each kids classes(12 total) so we can check on homework every night finding/loading emails for teachers and two IEP teams…well let’s just say that it has been a challenge.

So last night when I got home late after being voted in as secretary of a school organization (more about that some other time) I found B watching the Olympics which then proceeded to his playing of the bagpipes. Meanwhile, I went upstairs to ensure that Andre was doing his homework and spent 30 minutes going through all his class websites with him after getting a call from school earlier in the day. I spent another 20 minutes re-organizing his notebooks for what I hope is greater understanding of where papers/homework are and where handouts should go. I did the same  last night with Paul who seems to not be getting any homework… hmmm. Had to check on that too.

As I climbed into bed, after thinking long and hard about how I wanted to approach the issue, I said to B:

“I have a concern about ______ (“using “perfect” word phrase) how we are going to get the boys through school this year.(Two boys who have autism and face many challenges when in school) So far I have received several emails and phone calls from the schools and since the boys are both in high school now, where even more is expected of them; I think we need to come up with a plan on how we are going to handle this because I can’t do it all. If you have any ideas about this I would be glad to hear them. This is what I was thinking. I was thinking that perhaps I could be responsible for Andre and checking his classes and that you could do the same for Paul. If there was math homework that help was needed on you could do that (I don’t do math) and English would be my responsibility. What do you think? Or do you have something else in mind?”

“I work from 7 am to 6 pm. I can’t do it.”

CANCEL CANCEL CANCEL  (To find out what this means ) Read Sitting In the Silence

“Well, honey, I work too. I drive two carpools, answer calls and emails from the school, pay bills, clean house. I work too. I’m sorry, you don’t get to just hang up all the responsibilities of this household when you walk in the door.”

And so it went.

Later I told him, “You know I worked very hard thinking about how to say what needed to be said in a way that was non-confrontational using the words/phrases our therapists taught us and I feel like you just shot me down. I am very disappointed about how this went.”

“You are entitled to your feelings. Feelings are neither right nor wrong,” which is B’s new catch phrase.

Yeah, well, buddy… my feelings are now ones of being pissed and angry at your feelings of entitlement and your lack of sensitivity that I am trying my best to have a calm discussion with you to get what we both want/need for our boys. I am also thinking that if we had divorced you would be getting half of these calls, doing half these carpools and that you would need to hire and pay for wife that you now have for free. An expensive proposition to say the least. Frankly, I would like to kick you in the ass for being such a blockhead.

And so I went downstairs and listened to THREE meditation podcasts in an effort to bring myself back down to earth and re-locate my place of serenity. Afterwards, as I reflected on the day I wondered it there really is such a thing as “perfect words.”

I guess the answer is no…but I will keep trying to use them anyway.

And now I will:

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Mother’s Day

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Today is the first day of school and it is about as good as a man getting down on one knee and slipping a diamond on your finger. For moms all over the world this day sparkles and shines like no other.

I remember each of my children’s first day of Kindergarten. Everyone was excited and a bundle of nerves, parents included. Now it’s old hat as I go through the list that is burned into my brain like a branded cow.

“Do you have your…lunch, notebooks, backpack, pencils, school schedule?”

“Where are your shoes? Did you change your underwear? (yes, this question MUST be asked in my household) Go put on your socks! Hurry! or you will be late!!!”

” You didn’t brush your teeth. Go do it. Andre…the hair…brush your hair! Wait….you didn’t shower, Andre. Don’t argue…DO IT! Paul, go wash your face and put on your medicine. Make your beds!!! What do you mean you don’t like chicken salad…since when?”

And so it goes until all questions have been answered to my satisfaction and off we go, kids slightly nervous and me, the calmest I has been in months with a smile plastered on my face that is wide as the Grand Canyon and remains with me all day. Yes, this feeling is better than any happy pill that has ever been invented!

“You sure sound chipper,” remarks my dad.

“You look great,” another mom comments.

“You have a glow about you!” says the grocery clerk.

And they are right. After a summer of sibling arguments and hearing “I’m Bored;” I have the eau de parfum Ode To School #5 floating about me, the fog has lifted from my brain, and I am glowing more than I ever did when I was pregnant. For today is the first day of school and I happily refer to it as… Mother’s Day!

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Letting Go Again

It’s been going on for over a week now.

“I’m nervous!”

“I won’t know anyone there!!!”

“What if I get lost???!!!!!!”

“What if there is nothing there for me to eat?”

“What if I land wrong on the board and hurt myself?”

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This is what I have been hearing from Gracie lately and it intensified as the day drew closer for her to attend diving camp at a large university four hours from home. These are the words of a child whose age is between the first double digit and her teens. Excited but scared to death especially because she knew no one who would be attending camp with her.

She’s good at what she does so I wasn’t worried about that aspect. She has accomplished in three years of doing her sport what it has taken of most of her competitors 6-8 years to do. Learning and practicing wasn’t the issue but being away from home was.

Gracie has always had difficulty separating herself from us. I often wonder if she would have been this way if she had been born to us or if her adoption has played a role in it. Not knowing if people will come back to you or if they will stay with you does tend to put doubts in your head. And as we spent last night together in the city she looked as if she might cry. But I knew that she needed this camp to teach her about courage and accomplishment not so much in her sport but in life in general. That’s what we are suppose to do as parents. We should give our children experiences which allow them to separate with confidence so they will be able to be independent adults when they go off on their own.

Waking up this morning was hard. Her nerves were bouncing all over the place and I was watching as a “bad hair day” started to unnerve her even more. I said all the right things and did all the right things. I asked if she was okay and told her since she could do double rotations she had nothing to be afraid of.  Finally, it was time to go and check into the college dorms. Now, I was getting a little hesitant.

We drove over in near silence with Gracie taking in everything around her. After unpacking and making her bed I saw that Gracie was beginning to get her groove back. Her confidence began to soar (or at least she wasn’t going to let anyone know anything different just like she does when she dives). Just before she was to go to the pool with her group she remembered she had left her water bottle in the car so we dashed off to get it. As we walked back I took her into my arms and said, “You’ve got this baby. You will be okay.”

And with that she lifted her big brown eyes, looked up into mine, let go of my hand and said, “Geez mom, you worry too much!!!”

It was at that moment I knew she would be just fine and that in releasing my hand she was letting go of so much more.

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Spring Showers

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Where I live it is dry..usually bone dry at this time of year. If the weather follows its normal course it stops raining in April and doesn’t rain again until November. The temperature soars to over 100 degrees for days on end, sometimes months. I rearrange my schedule and begin walking at 6 am to beat the heat but sometimes that is not even early enough. So I end up sitting in my house, the air conditioner running constantly to beat the heat, and I wonder how those who do not have this luxury lift their eyes in the morning. Then I go up to the family cabin in the mountains and I remember what it is like to live with the unrelenting heat. There is nothing fancy or extravagant here. Fans twirl to move the stagnant air and I always spend the first hour cleaning the spiders and their webs from the windows/chairs for they are our only consistent houseguests.

Last night as I rested my weary head I was roused from my nearly comatose state…BBBOOOOOOOOMMMMMM… a crack of thunder almost shook the ancient cook house off its rock foundation as the lightening crackled and light up the inky black sky, now so bright, that I saw a deer shoot through the trees into the protection of the dense thicket. And then the rain started pouring down. I went and opened the door, stood in the frame, and watched the anomaly unfold before me. The first drops sounded like cannons as they hit the deck…splat… with a force so strong you would think they had been shot out of the sky. My feet started getting wet as the raindrops ricocheted off the wood and onto my feet creating a small pond to dip my toes in like I did when I was a child. By now the frogs and crickets had quieted and I listened to the rhythm of the rain which was the only thing that sounded alive in the now silent forest. And as the water seeped into the greenery bringing it back to life; the sweet honeyed linen smell of the damp earth began to waft skyward. It was then that recognized the circle of life making its silent rounds again. A blessing to behold if you choose to see it in this light.

Spring rains. They wash away the dirt and make things clean and clear again. They give us a renewed sense of the precious gift of life and they bring hope to things wilting away whether it be plants, animals or ourselves. For rain has the power to change “what is” into something grander.Today, let’s all be the rain.

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Jigsaw Puzzle of Life

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We never enjoyed doing jigsaw puzzles until this summer when my 90 yo aunt introduced us to them while we sat on the summer porch looking over the lake. After that, Gracie and I were hooked.

There is nothing quite like time spent doing a jigsaw. Life slows down, your senses are heightened and magic begins to happen as an image slowly begins to form. All that hard work and in the end you see the results unlike so many things we do in life in which we never “see” what we actually do. But the best thing about the jigsaw that happens is the time that Gracie and I spend together. We sit in near silence except for the “eureka” that is voiced triumphantly when we find an elusive piece.And sometimes in this quiet time a different type of magic occurs and little bits of conversation emerge that never would otherwise.

“Mom,” she says with a sense of pain and frustration that catches the words in her soft little voice, “Celeste (her nemesis) asked me in front of my friends, “Can you see out of your eyes?”

I give a snort of indignation.

“So what did you say?”

“I told her, what, do you see me with a white cane or something? How can you ask such a stupid question?”

“Well done. I hate when people try to get our goat and I am proud that you didn’t let her.”

These are the types of conversations that my tween and I have as we stare at 1,000 little pieces scattered over one small card table. Brief, sweet, insightful…I hear things I normally wouldn’t have as we sit in the silence together. It’s perfect amount for a 12 yo who is not sure she needs her mother anymore and enough for me not to put my foot in my mouth and say something unnecessary or unneeded. And in that, I realize our words together are a lot like those jigsaw pieces…small, misshapen, but often fitting together until a picture is created. And that is enough for both of us right now.

Shhh…Don’t Say A Word

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This weekend we have hired a sitter and will be without our darling children for 24 hours…I can’t wait! But before we go away I will be telling B something that he needs to know to make our time together perfect.

“Shhhh…don’t say a word.”

Don’t say a word as we walk towards the bedroom. Don’t utter a sound as we pull back the sheets. Don’t whisper a word as we undress (unless you want to tell me how sexy I look). And PLEASE, JUST PLEASE, don’t say anything (nada, nothing) while we are making love.

I know a lot of women like to hear sex talk while they are indulging in adult time with their partner. I am not usually one of them. Okay, maybe sometimes I am, but definitely not tonight. Frankly, I don’t want to hear your fantasies while we are trying to create our own. Worse…I don’t want you intruding on the fantasy that is going on in my own head by imploding/imposing yours onto mine. Believe me they are two totally different shows. Mine is opera and yours is grunge heavy metal. Mine is A Walk In The Clouds while yours is James Bond. Tonight, I just don’t want to hear “it”…I want to hear “you.”

The only external thing I want to hear soft sax music in the background. Besides that, I just want to hear your heart beating as I lay my head on your chest and I want to listen to it quicken when I put my hand between your legs. I want to hear that sigh you make when we first connect with one another and I want to see your blue eyes sparkle at that instant we reach deep into the most intimate of places. I want to eavesdrop on your body’s reactions as we touch one another deeply and passionately. And I want to hear that rumble that starts in your soul and spreads through your body before we both explode.

I want to hear all of you tonight. So please.. “Shhh…don’t say a word!”