Friday, October 26, 2012


October 29, 1994

Dressed in my usual Wicked Witch of the West costume with my boyfriend Joe dressed as Zorro, we opened our doors (well, actually his door; it was his house) and welcomed guests to our Halloween party.  Dressing up in costume was a must.  It was Halloween after all, the most fabulous holiday ever. (Ok, not including Thanksgiving, where you get to eat, eat and eat and not have to buy anyone a present.)  The house was full, the food was endless and the drinks were flowing when out of the blue, Joe called me over, walked me up a few stairs and gathered everyone else around us.  I thought for sure a Great. Big. Huge. Chocolate. Cake. with 29 (yes, it was actually my 29th birthday, not a celebration of..) candles was somewhere in my near future and that everyone, at any minute, was going to breakout with the Happy Birthday song in three part harmony.  Rather, what happened next took my breath away.  Little did I know then, but something he asked me (and it is not what you think) has cross my mind many times since as I try to figure out this world around me.  Yes, that was the night he proposed to me.  It was wonderful and beautiful.  We married in January and welcomed our first child, Brennen, into the world in June.

Fast forward to October 21, 2012
18 years later…

So, what was that question that has popped into my head so many times since it was first asked??  It went something like this … “Lisa, (while pointing to everyone gathered and watching) are all your friends here?”  I looked out at all the guests at our party and my voice said “yes” but my head said “no.”  Thank goodness this was one time that I didn’t say something out loud followed by “Did I just say that out loud??”  And it isn’t what you think.  My head said “no” not because Joe neglected to call and personally invite all my favorite peeps, it was “no” because at that time in my life I had no peeps.  My best-est friend in the whole-wide-world was not only 2000 miles away, but we hadn’t spoken in years, many years.  She pissed me off for some reason or another and, for lack of better words, I “un-friended” her before the word was even a word.  The other “friends” I had in my life consisted of co-workers and a few acquaintances I had met along the way.  At that time in my life my walls were thick and my walls were high.  There were very few (okay, there was no one) that made it over the top to get close enough to my heart.  I don’t know when it started or how it happened, but I was a full-fledge masonry; building walls so strong, so solid, so high, that no one was able to climb over or break through. 

Rewind - October 2009

Joe’s battle with cancer came to an end on October 7, 2009.  The six months prior to that (from diagnosis to his final breath) were days filled with anxiety and fear and became a time in my life when “the walls came tumbling down.”  I had barely enough strength to get through my days let alone have the strength to keep filling in the cracks and holes of my walls that were tumbling down around me.  In stepped friends I didn’t even know I had.  All the people I had kept at arms length were upon me like a warm safe hug and like that blanket you reach for in the middle of the night when you leave the window open and the coolness starts to become too much. They took over my life at a time when I couldn’t.  They got my children from point A to point B.  They cooked and delivered breakfast, lunch and dinner.  They helped plan funeral and celebration of life arrangements.  At work, they took over my job and did what needed to be done when I couldn’t do it.  Because of them, I was able to continue to go to Logan’s baseball games and Brennen’s football games with a smile on my face.  The friends I didn’t know I had, because of the walls I had built around me, stepped in and took away all of the everyday things that I couldn’t do so that I could focus on holding on to what was left of my family, tight.  To this day, there are no words to express my gratitude to those that were there for me despite the fact that I had always kept them at a distance. 

Fast forward – today

I still battle every day with the wall-building.  I sometimes think in my prior life I played a major role in the building of the Great Wall of China or the Egyptian Pyramids.  I am a master wall builder.  What I have discovered however, is that the most awesome feelings of acceptance and unconditional love can be felt when those walls – created to protect our hearts – come down.  Yes, the feelings are more raw and all of the negative things that come with relationships – rejection and misunderstandings, cut to the core.  But, on the other side … the love and acceptance you feel, from friends and loved ones, with nothing but your well-being in mind, are incredible and certainly trump and out-weigh the negatives. 

I really don’t know why so many of us go through life hiding our true selves or cover up and pretend everything is okay, when in fact it is not.  Or why, when we need them most, we shut friends and family out by painting a smile on our face and say “Great, everything is juuuust great!” when in fact, it is not.  If I had to guess, I would say that pride, shame, insecurity, not wanting to be a burden, not wanting anyone to spend time worrying, are probably all on the list, among other things.

I also think that when our lives are going great and days are filled with lollipops, glitter and unicorns, we are good at communicating that to everyone but fall short on inviting others to celebrate that with us.  So, when you reach the tootsie roll center, and the glitter is now on the floor and you have to sweep it up and the unicorns have disappeared, it somehow feels wrong to say “Hey, I didn’t need you then, but gosh, I sure need you now.” 

In the past few weeks, I have been in the position of SAYING “Oh my gosh, I had no idea.  I wish you would have told me.  What can I do to help?” and have also been in the position of HEARING “Oh my gosh, I had no idea.  I wish you would have told me. What can I do to help?” 

Point being, we are all in this together and it is always going to be a give and take. We need each other, in good times and in bad times.  To quote Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, a French philosopher and Jesuit priest,  “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience.  We are spiritual beings having a human experience.”  And the “human experience” well, it’s not easy.  We all know that.  And the “spiritual experience,” well, that is just plain confusing!

For me, it all comes down to this … in the darkest, most saddest times of my life, what gets me through is knowing, feeling and believing that I am a “beloved child of God.”  I don’t have to earn it or deserve it, it just is.  And, when I focus on this it helps me kick down the bricks forming the walls that keep everyone else out.  God puts people in your life for a reason.  Let them in.

Monday, October 1, 2012

I had lunch with an old friend the other day ...

We hadn’t seen or talked to each other in quite some time.  But, all of a sudden, there she was, the voice on the other end of an unrecognizable number appearing on my phone.  I don’t know why I even answered the call. Usually when a number appears on my phone that I don’t recognize I let it first go to voice mail.  

I answered with my usual “This is Lisa” response when I don’t know who is on the other end.   “Hey friend!  How are you?  How about lunch?”  It took me a moment to register who it was I was talking to but then, the smile began to grow across my face.   I am not particularly sure when, or how, we even stopped talking to each other.   All I knew at that moment was how happy I was to hear her voice.  We didn’t chat long that first time but rather just got down to the business of scheduling lunch together.  I knew I couldn’t wait to see her so I suggested we meet that very day.  She seemed hesitant, like I had caught her off guard, but she agreed just the same. 

After hanging up the phone and coming down from my giddiness over having just spoken to my friend, my head began to fill with all sorts of thoughts.  Why had it been so long?  Why did we stop talking?  I don’t remember any sort of fight or disagreement but as I sat contemplating it for a few moments, my stomach began to not feel so good.  There was something I was forgetting that I was now desperately trying to remember before meeting my friend for the first time in a very long time.

Reflecting on my life over these past few years, I came to the realization that a great deal of life had gone by that I didn’t even take notice of, my missing friend being one of them.  We used to talk, laugh, cry, dream and scheme all the time, pretty much every day.  What happened to me, I began to wonder.  Why did I let that part of my life go away?  How is it that I didn’t even notice it until my phone rang with that unfamiliar phone number showing up?

So off to lunch I went.  Our conversations started out something like this…

Me…How is your mom?
Her…She’s doing terrific.  I was talking to her yesterday and she was telling me about your visits with her while she was sick.  She said they were the highlights of her days.  I wish it had been me that could have been there for her but I am thankful she had you.  I am able to see her on a more regular basis these days and we have a ton of fun together but she always asks about you and wonders why you don’t come by anymore.  Now that she is feeling better and can get out of the house and experience life she says it would be nice to share the good times with you.


I ask…How are the kids?  I love reading their facebook pages and seeing how much they have grown.  I think it is funny how times have changed.  Their world is so much different than ours was.  Remember when the latest technology allowed us to “click over” to an incoming call instead of getting a busy signal?  That feature saved me countless times when it was my dad on “the other line” wondering what I was up to as he and my mom were busy at work.

From the look on her face, I sensed the “They are doing great, all things considered.” was going to be her answer.  It was always her answer.  I felt bad that so much time had passed and the realization that my involvement in her children’s lives wasn’t as involved as it used to be.  I took their outward appearance of happiness, “my life is great” pictures on facebook as “They are OK.”  They probably are OK, but wow, how much more “OK” could they be if the adults in their life that they counted on and trusted were always there, never letting them down, letting them know they mattered, that their feelings, whether expressed or not, mattered?

It soon became apparent to me that this lunch wasn’t about old friends connecting and getting back in touch as much as it was about old friends getting together to say:  Hey…where did you go when I needed you?  Or, more like her telling me, I had let her down.

I was thankful for the sudden appearance of our server.  It gave me the moment I needed to mentally re-group.  Seriously, who did she think she was??  Did she not notice how busy I have been?

While her mouth was full of the bread that was just delivered to our table I thought I would take my shot at letting her know how she had let me down. 

Me … Sooooo….we missed you at the last Girl-a-Palooza.  You said you had so much to burn and give up to God.  Sending an email with your list of things to burn for you wasn’t the same as having you there with us.  Did you ever let of go all that was bothering you?
Her … I was there in spirit.  I just didn’t feel like unloading all my problems and I was tired.  Everyone has so much they are dealing with in their own life, adding my problems to the mix seemed selfish.  I couldn’t imagine going through what some of our friends are going through.  I am thankful to be carrying my own cross.

Me … Yes, I get that but, really?  Friends are friends.  While they can’t carry our cross, they are still there with us every step of the way.  They may not be able to take away our pain or burdens but having them there to wipe our brow or take our hand to help us up the hill is immeasurable.  They can’t do that if you don’t share your life with them.

Her … I know.  I am sorry I wasn’t there for you.
Me … And, I am sorry I wasn’t there for you.  I was so caught up in my own life that little time was left over for helping anyone else but myself.  The funny thing is, as I am sitting here looking you straight in the face, the one thing that could have made all the hardships in the last few years more understandable and tolerable would have been to take time to sit quietly and just be with you.

Her…I don’t have the answers to your worry’s or problems.  I have enough of my own to deal with.

Me…I know.   

Her … I miss you.
Me … I miss you too.

After our lunch and the several meetings that took place afterward, I am happy to report that my friend and I get together on a more regular basis, if to do nothing else but “check-in” and remind each other that we are indeed our own best friends.  Quiet meditation is our favorite means of communication followed by a daily Mass or two.  Once a week on Sunday just doesn’t cut it for us.   We need all the help we can get.

We also realized that we got so caught up in trying to “live in the moment” that we neglected and spent little time figuring out how to make our tomorrows better than our todays when those “live in the moment” times weren’t exactly what we had hoped for.  It is so easy to be present in your life when the life around you is all lollipops and glitter.  My friend and I, however, NAILED the art of being present in life when things, for lack of better words, sucked.  So much so that what we failed to see was that much of the turmoil we were living in and the conflicts and challenges we were facing where, in large part, due to the fact that we had become paralyzed by “the moment,” forgetting that in order to get through something, you had to go through it, one step at a time, one foot in front of the other, until you reach the other side.  

Together we discovered and realized that yes, by all means, when life is a grand county fair full of glitter, lollipops and cotton candy … live in the moment, savor the moment.  Thankfully we have had many of those days these past few years.  However, when life seems overwhelming, unfair, dark, scary and sad, by all means, BE PRESENT but certainly don’t waste your time “living in the moment.”  Walk, one step at a time, one foot in front of the other, right through it until you get to the other side.  Which by all means is NOT the same as running from it.  The only way to get through something is to go through it.  Running from it or going around it are only going to lead you back to square one.  And from my experience, when I run from something or avoid something, I don't realize I put myself back into square one until it hits me up-side-the-head, right smack in the middle of one of my cotton candy- filled days.

So it has been said, “The journey of a lifetime starts with just one step.” Or, something like that.

The first step is having lunch with an old friend.  And, the friend is you, looking right at you every time you look in the mirror, just waiting patiently for your invitation.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Lost in Translation

Lost in Translation

Sopapillas…doesn’t every Latino know what these are?  My recent trip to Mexico gave me the answer…absolutely not!  It was clear as day to me when our plate of “sopapillas” was placed in front of us…not the big, fluffy pillow of fried dough sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar that I have come to expect but rather, a plate of flat, over fried, cut up flour tortillas with too much sugar (too much sugar?..yes that is possible!) and grease was presented instead.  Really?  How was it possible that the cook had no idea what a sopapilla was??  We described them (so we thought) to a “T.”

So the story goes…

Over the past year(s) I have lost track of how many times what I have said, done and expressed has been “lost in translation.”  And, if I took the time to really think about it, I am sure I would discover a lifetime of “lost in translation” moments.  They are those moments that hit you up-side the head when you least expect it.  The times when someone “calls you out” on something that you supposedly said or did and you are so taken aback by their interpretation that your first and only response is WTF??  And of course I would be remiss if I didn’t say they also include those moments when I have mis-translated something that someone said or did to me.  I know I am guilty of this, probably (and thankfully) more than I know.  I can recall times over the years when I haven’t spoken to friends (and likewise) because I (or they) were so angry and hurt by my interpretation of what they said or did and then later come to realize I had misinterpreted the entire conversation or situation. 

It is at those times, when I realize that I have been misinterpreted, or I have misinterpreted something, that I find comfort in knowing that friends are friends, the ones who are with you through good times and bad times.  The ones who tell you… you have spinach in your teeth, or you have bad breath, or GOD, I can not believe you just said/did that..they forgive, they move on, they accept you for who you are.  You love them, they love you.  I take comfort in that because for the most part, most of us can count those friends on one hand and still have fingers left over.  I know personally I have two fingers left over when I count.  In our world of instant gratification…we get hundreds of birthday wishes on facebook, we can put up a post of how we are feeling and get a ton of “you go girl” or “I love you” or “I am there for you” notes but when it all comes down to it, it really is those friends who don’t care what you said, what they said, what people think of this or that.  They are the ones who don’t translate.  They take what you say, what you feel and help you through it by just being themselves.  They are the friends who live close by and give you hugs when you need them.  They are the friends who live thousands of miles away who are there to accept your texts and emails at all hours of the night.  And, they are those friends who you feel a connection to, who you think about many times but for some reason aren’t a part of your daily life but you know you can turn to them if you need to and they will be there. 
So, back to the point…lost in translation…keep an open mind.  Walk a mile in their shoes.  Or, at a minimum, if you don’t understand, rub their feet after the mile they have just walked.  They are friends, they are our brothers and sisters all seeking the same happiness.  Don’t let their message get lost in translation. 

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Choosing Happy

Choosing happy.  I spent a good couple of years waking each morning telling myself before I got out of bed “choose happy.”  It was my daily mantra, over and over again.  For every challenge I faced, for every encounter that I had wished never happened, I closed my eyes and chanted, “choose happy, choose happy, choose happy” over and over again. Fast forward a few years…I have become so accustomed to “choosing happy” that I no longer have to tell myself this.  It just comes natural.  I no longer battle between how I think I, or anyone else, thinks I should feel or react, I just simply choose happy.  That is not to say I don’t have bad days, sad days, frustrations, or down right anger over situations out of my control.  However, when it all boils down, remaining happy and counting my blessings is a much more appealing place to be emotionally.  

Trying to explain this to others who accuse me of wearing “rose colored glasses in my unicorn and glitter world” and not seeing reality is a much harder thing.   And, I suppose it is hard to explain because, well, I have no explanation.  I don’t know why or how I have come to accept this “happiness” as reality. I have no explanation as to why getting stuck in traffic, finding myself the topic of gossip, being disconnected from those I love, searching for a quick and easy way to blend two families into one, standing up for those who can’t stand up for themselves and being “strong” when what I would rather do is hide under the warm covers of my bed and wait until all the problems of the world, or at least my world, have been solved, among other things, doesn’t drive me to the brink of insanity or to the nearest bar for happy hour, as a minimum.  Other than of course, I have a network of friends who love me for who I am, I have a mom and dad that support me without question (even though I question them), I have four children who depend on me to be their guiding light, I have two new children who are watching closely with a wait and see eye, and of course I have a God who loves me as I am and walks beside me when I need a friend and who carries me when I can’t seem to put one foot in front of the other.  It is that last explanation that leaves me baffled because, well, it seems so easy, almost a cop-out really…I can’t deal with it…surrender, give it to God.  Wow!  Why don’t more people do this?  How easy my life has become since I have discovered this.  It is very easy for me to say to others…release it, give it up to God, he will take care of it.  But I think reality is that if you have never been in a place in your life where everything, I mean everything, has been taken from you and you have nowhere else to go but up to God, you just won’t understand.  (I may be wrong; I wish I were wrong, I hope I am wrong)

So, back to my unicorn and glitter world…how does all that fit into reality?  Yes, I understand that the world around us is not perfect.  Choosing happy does not mean I am oblivious to global issues such as poverty, crime, inequities and war.  It does not mean that differences of opinion, and different views of the same thing do not exist and are not real, present and needing attention.  What I do think however, is that those who “choose happy” see those things as situations that need to be resolved and worked out rather than something that is going to control how we feel and live our lives in the present.  There is so much beauty and happiness in the world around us that is intertwined with the dark and negative.  I am just choosing to focus on the good and deal with the bad rather than let the bad rule my world and thoughts leaving me to chase happiness.  Why chase it?  It is right in front of you.  Embrace it, cling to it and let it help you get through the dark rather than the other way around?  This holds true for the simplest of challenges before us as well as those things that seem insurmountable. 

Henri Nouwen said it perfectly in his daily meditation:

At some moments we experience complete unity within us and around us.  This may happen when we stand on a mountaintop and are captivated by the view.  It may happen when we witness the birth of a child or the death of a friend.  It may happen when we have an intimate conversation or a family meal.  It may happen in church during a service or in a quiet room during prayer.  But whenever and however it happens we say to ourselves:  "This is it ... everything fits ... all I ever hoped for is here."

These moments are given to us so that we can remember them when God seems far away and everything appears empty and useless.  These experiences are true moments of grace.

I suppose I have taken those “true moments of grace” and learned to live my life by focusing on those moments rather than the empty and useless ones. I think by far the greatest gift I was given…and I don’t know how or when I was given this but think if I asked Fr. Joe or Fr. Gary they would say it was always there, I just needed to discover and realize it, is the gift of hope.  If you never lose hope then the world is yours.  You can get through anything… losing a child, having a child with an illness you can’t “fix”, losing a grandparent, a parent, a spouse or a close friend, taking caring of a loved one who is ill, watching someone you love destroy their life with addiction, relationship struggles with your children or your spouse and dealing with even the basic everyday struggles we all go through in life, if you hold fast to hope.  

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Another Perspective

Having the words and experiences of others that convey the same message, or thought, of my own is a blessing.  It takes me off the hook of having to write.  Don't get me wrong, I love to write and express myself but when I find someone else who can convey the same message...why reinvent the wheel...? Following is an article, story, that was published in a recent AZ Republic newspaper by one of our teaching assistants at St. John Bosco.

New York is setting to one of the country’s, if not the world’s, most popular marathons, drawing more than 45,000 participants who will pound the pavement for 26.2 miles. Whether you will be running this iconic marathon or not, whether you are a runner yourself or know someone who is, then you surely know that everyone runs for a different reason. These reasons – whether it be to lose weight, train for a race, raise money for a charity, or to burn off stress – is what drives runners to push through the miles. 
I have my reasons, too. In 2006 my world fell apart. In a week's time my mother passed away from cancer and my wife walked out on our marriage. Not long after, I started to run to help get me through it. But I also started to pray a lot more. Growing up in a Catholic family, I was accustomed to turn to God all my life and now I needed him more than ever.
I took it a step, many steps actually, further. Having run several marathons, although not New York (yet), and two 100-mile races, I felt called to take on the ultimate challenge – to run across America -- and I seemed in the right place in my life last year to make it happen. So I quit my job and started training. But I needed a good reason to do it.
My mom used to run and pray the rosary, and I saw this as a chance to use my gifts as a distance runner to give back to those around me by sharing with the world the importance and power of prayer. Instead of running for a particular charity, I decided I would pray for whatever anyone wanted me to pray for so that everyone would have a stake in my mission.
Thanks to a couple stories about my run before I started, intentions started pouring in from all over the globe. I promised I would pray a decade of the rosary for each intention I received through my website, email or Facebook. My journey from coast to coast ended up taking me exactly four months and just over 3,700 miles. Fortunately, I had thousands of intentions and a great deal of time to pray for them.
I started out alone at sunrise on January 20 of this year at the shores of the Pacific in California. There was no support crew, as this was a solo and unsupported effort. All my supplies were in the 75-pound baby jogger I would be pushing across the country, but the most important item I brought with me was my rosary ring.
To say the road was difficult would be an understatement. I had to constantly battle all types of obstacles including injuries, long mileage days, bad weather, rain, dust storms, wild animals, and loneliness. It seemed that nearly every day tried to give me a reason to quit, but I was motivated by what people were asking me to pray for.
But isn’t life like that? Filled with daily obstacles that seem nearly impossible to overcome. It occurred to me that so many people were at the point in their lives that I so often found myself in physically – the feeling of being unable to continue and totally helpless. I believe the answer to both situations is to ask God for the strength to make it through, and that is precisely what I was encouraging people to do. 
It is almost impossible to describe just how taxing the run was both from a physical and mental perspective. As a runner, sometimes those first steps are the hardest after you manage to drag yourself out of bed. It was like that for me often on the journey, but I know that despite the run going down as a solo effort, God was with me every step of the way and that is the only reason I was successful.
On May 20, 12 pairs of shoes and 35,000 Hail Marys later, I finally reached my finish line at the Atlantic off the coast of New York. To celebrate, I ran into the ocean with a huge smile on my face and an even bigger sigh of relief.
While my own run has ended, I know the struggles we all face continue on. I was humbled by what people asked me to pray for -- all kinds of illnesses in loved ones, especially children, as well as economic issues, people struggling with addictions, and relationship problems. I have learned to look at everyone I meet with sincere kindness and compassion because there is always so much more happening than meets the eye.
I sincerely hope that people who are fighting their battles will look to God for help, because if I have learned anything, it’s that all things, even getting one of the lucky lottery numbers to run the New York City marathon, are possible with the Lord.
Jeff Grabosky lives in Phoenix, Ariz., and teaches at a Catholic school. He still runs, just not hundreds of miles a week. He can be reached via his website at

"...because if I have learned anything, it's that all things, even getting one of the lucky lottery numbers to run the New York City marathon, are possible with the Lord."   Perfectly said!  Thank you Jeff.

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Friday, August 19, 2011

Packing, Moving and Moving On

I had an afternoon of pure bliss.  The moons aligned, it was the third Friday of the non-leap year, Sagitarious in the moon of Venus with an ebb tide on the west coast combined with an Easterly, West blowing wind that brought me a house with no children for FOUR – 4!! Hours.  My first thought was to run through the house with complete abandonment signing and dancing to Neil Diamond or John Denver.  I am not really sure what it was that changed my mind on that first impulse but I soon found myself taping boxes, opening cabinets and carefully wrapping dishes and other breakables and placing them in boxes.  I packed the laundry room, the hall closet (gift closet slash craft closet slash I have no idea where else to put this closet.) That stuff was easy.  I then moved on to the unassuming, big red hunk of furniture in the pool room.  Until just then, when I started packing its contents, it was the holder of picture frames that proudly displayed each of my childrens’ school pictures from 2005 on top and the keeper of adult beverages on the bottom left and on the right, stacks of photo boxes, each labeled with a year.  It was the photo boxes that got me.  I opened one and then another and another and another.  I laughed, I cried (A LOT.) Before the age of digital cameras I took such great care in my photos.  I always printed in at least duplicate, one to keep, one to give away.  Looking at them now, I wasn’t so good at giving them away.  I pretty much have at least two of every photo, even the blurry, out of focus ones, for some reason I can’t bring myself to toss them.  There were some I looked at and immediately remembered the day, time, event.  Others I looked at and thought – wow, I forgot about that.  Being a photographer at heart I have TONS of photos, not just special occasions, but every day in between.  I saw in the photos the times when, as my kids were getting older, they were so “done” with me taking photos and others when they didn’t notice I was taking the photo and I captured the pure joy or frustration of the moment - those are my favorite. 

Next up … Cal’s room.  He went off to a weekend of pure 7 year old fun with his best buddy Andrew and Andrew’s dad Fred off to a cabin in the high country.  No mom’s, no brothers or sisters, just plain fun.  I am sure there will be no brushing of teeth or hair for the next few days! 

With Cal being gone, this was the time for me to purge and pack his room for the move, mostly purge.  Saying Cal is a pack rat is a huge understatement.  He collects everything.  He saves everything.  Everything seems to be special or hold meaning for him.   I started by getting two big contractor bags for trash, two boxes for Goodwill or yard sale and one box for stuff to keep.    At first it was easy to decide which pile something went in.  Dr. Suess books – yard sale, he has outgrown those.  Two or three week old Poptart under the bed – definitely trash.  This was easy I was thinking.  I can get through this and then plop myself down on the couch and relax for the rest of the night. 

As I started going through his little collection of things scattered through his room I began to think of my things, my stuff.  I know all too well that “you can’t take it with you” and I thought I had done a pretty good job of sorting and catoregizing things.  There are definitely things I can do without and need to get rid of rather than move it to the new house.  And that is when it really hit me.  I got to decide what was important, what held meaning and what could/should be tossed.  For my stuff, that was easy, for my kids stuff…not so much.  Maybe I was reading too much into this.  A broken army man was a broken army man…right? Trash.  The crayon picture of stick figures on the half sheet of paper ripped from a notebook with vocab words on the back .. trash.  Or not??  I suddenly found myself thinking - who am I to decide what is important and what is not?  I immediately began to think that if I was not capable of packing my “stuff” and someone had to go in and do it for me, would they toss the picture of my grandmother holding Logan as a baby because it was a bit out of focus and the corner was ripped? (not knowing that this was the very last image I had of my grandmother before she passed away?) Would they toss the “gold” coin from the mint in Philadelphia that was on the floor in the back corner of my closet not knowing it was the coin that Cal and I got on our first trip to Philli when he not only began to eat regular food but stood in line for an hour to just go through the mint and he didn’t cry, throw a fit or freak out that someone was standing too close to him?  Needless to say, Cal’s room is half-packed.  Left up to him, he would bring everything to the new house.  As the adult and parent, I know that is not the best decision.  As someone looking from the outside, in … who am I to decide what is important to him and what is not?

I am not a pack rat in any sense of the term.  I often find myself looking for something and then remembering … Oh yeah, I gave that away or I tossed it.  I am thankful that I packed most of my “stuff” before starting on my kids rooms.  Some times as a parent you do what you have to do for the best of the family.  I know if I didn’t pack up my kids stuff and help them along the way it wouldn’t get done or we would be moving boxes filled with half empty goldfish boxes, shoes that don’t fit, socks with holes and notebooks with a whole two pages of notes.  I now wonder if the memories I have of my childhood are the result of what my parents decided to save or toss, memories of what they decided to talk about or not talk about.  Certainly there are times in everyone’s lives that you don’t forget..the big things.  However, it’s the every day, nothing going on days, that parents really play a big part in what their children remember.  As I pack up my kids rooms (certainly easier to do when they are gone) I hope that what I remember as fun and meaningful will be the same things that they remember, plus some.

I love hearing the feedback on my blog but the common thread from readers seems to be that while they love reading it, it leaves them in tears.  So, some humor to leave you with…

Now that Brennen has his driver’s license he is my pick up/drop off slave. 
An excerpt from the life of the Campbell family… Friday, 8:15pm…

Olivia – Brennen picked me up WAY TOO EARLY.  I WAS THE FIRST TO LEAVE THE PARTY!! (all caps because she was screaming as she stormed into the house)
Brennen – The party was over at 8pm.  I was there at 7:55.  That is NOT too early. 
Olivia – I was the first to leave!
Brennen – It was time to go.
Olivia – screaming something that no one could understand
Brennen – I brought you there and picked you up.  You didn’t even say Thank you.
Olivia -  Thank you for what??  You picked me up early!
Brennen – I had to plan my night around YOU and leave what I was doing to come and get YOU.  You can’t even say Thank you?”
Olivia – Fine…Thank you!  You’re a jerk.

Does this sound familiar? It took everything I had not to laugh.  What comes around, goes around.  Our kids are a product of us.  Hearing Brennen tell his sister exactly what I told him at that age (all though I would like to think/remember that what I said to him was more inspirational to change) made my night!

Mom … niiiiicccce.

Life is good.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Telluride 2011

It was 10:40pm, twelve hours and 10 minutes since we left the wonderful 75-degree weather in Telluride, CO., we were home.  As my son Brennen stated “You took the longest  route possible.”  Yes, indeed I did.  Partly because I needed to cross off Canyon de Chelly, Painted Desert, Petrified Forest and Meteor Crater off my bucket list and partly (and mostly) because I love road trips and think there is no better way to have family bonding than in the confines of the limited space of a vehicle, that we arrived safe and sound in the driveway of our home.  The hounds were so excited to see us and surprisingly, even to myself, I missed them and was excited to see them both.  Thank you Tammy for watching over them for us!

This trip was not without significance for our family.  In July of 2009 we took this (minus the side trips) same vacation.  Both Brennen and Logan were playing with club ball teams and both participated in the Telluride Wood Bat Baseball Festival.  It was a trip to remember.  Not only because both boys’ teams did extremely well – 1st place (Logan’s team) and 2nd place (B’s team) finish – but also because it was the last trip we took together as a family.   When we were in and out of doctor’s offices with Joe, the oncology surgeon said to us “go and have fun, take the vacation, be with your family, we will schedule everything after that.”  To Telluride we went.  What a great trip it was. 

Two years later, many games, a few changes of team uniforms and colors, here we were again.  Telluride Baseball Festival.  I could not wait or hold back my excitement.   A) Colorado in the summer is beautiful and, B) I could plan the trip and stop at every stop along the way that Joe, we must get from point A to point B with the least amount of stops in between, would never think about stopping at.  What could be better?  The world’s largest ball of twine exhibit, here we come. So, stop we did.

We left a day early and spent the night in Monument Valley.  It was beautiful and Majestic.  It was everything I thought it would be and more.  Unfortunately my kids did not have my same enthusiasm.  After the first three or four stops they opted to stay in the car while I got out and took pictures.  What I found funny was the flashback I was having of my family vacation in 1978.  We flew out to Arizona from Massachusetts.  We went to the Grand Canyon.  The first few stops and overlooks were amazing.  After that my dad got out of the car (convertible Camero for a family of five, hello??) and took pictures while we all sat in the car, no air conditioner, and waited for the next stop, hoping it would be some place that had a pool or, at a minimal, someplace that had food.  At this point I turned to my kids and said, “I have become my dad, I am sorry.”  They didn’t know what to make of this.  Later that night, as I was trying to fall asleep in the little inn we were staying at, in the middle of seemingly nowhere, I knew what to make of it.  I was not sorry I had become my dad, or my mom, I was thankful.  Thankful because, looking back, these are the things I remembered.  My parents, setting out to do something that was important to them, but at the same time, including the family and trying to make lasting memories.   I realize now, unlike then, the world did not revolve around me. It revolved around them.  Having a mom and dad who loved each other but at the same time showed us kids daily, that we mattered to them had a lasting impression. 

Earlier in my life I would remember this as the family vacation that kept me from the trip with my friends to camp Ponkapoag that year.  Now, I remember the trip as an amazing trip with my brothers (who of course breathed on me the whole time which was so annoying) and mom and dad who tried to give us and expose us to the world beyond anything we knew at the time.  I appreciate now the fact that they had a priority to each other and what they needed as husband and wife, and to us kids, keeping the bigger picture in mind.  I think the best gift and the best example you can give to your children is to show them a healthy love between husband and wife, mother and father.   

Which, I suppose at this point in time, is somewhat ironic.  Here I am a single, widowed mother of four on a road trip with four kids, trying my hardest to have this particular memory stand out in their minds, years later as adults, as something that will shape their future or at a minimum something that makes them go “hmmm….not going to do that…” Either way, if they look back and go Yes, I want my kids to learn the same thing or NO, HELL NO, I don’t want my kids to go through the same thing as I did!”  I will think I did my job.  My kids will have something to base their decision on.  I think that is the best we can do as parents, whether we are married for years, single because of divorce or single because of circumstances out of our control … give our children the best thing to base their decision on as adults.  It may be or not be what we would do but we are not them. It is years later, circumstances are different, times are different. The cards we are dealt are not the same cards they are dealt.  The best we can do as parents is do our best and love each other (and by each other I mean your spouse, your friend, your neighbor, and those around you) with the knowledge we have and bank on the theory that “when we know better, we do better.”  My hope is that my children, as they reach adulthood, will know better and thus will do better.  I will not be angry that they didn’t do as I did, I will not be resentful that they are doing for themselves or for their children, the things I that I couldn’t do.  I will be thankful and my prayers will be answered when see them living my prayer “When I know better, I will do better.”  

So, as usual the shout outs and things that just didn’t fit in with what I was talking about above, however related or unrelated it may have seemed. …

Sue and Randy … Congratulations!  May your love and happiness be an example to your children, yours and his.  Including Dani in the celebration of your love and family with a promise ring is an example for all to follow!

Tammy … thank you for jumping in, stepping up and helping me despite the distance between my brother and me.

Lightning Team … thank you for a wonderful finish to club ball before my second baby goes to high school.

Wendy … what can I say? My daily words of wisdom.  I love you.  Thank you for being my friend for 20 years, okay, 30.  Okay, more than that.  Let’s not give our age away here.

The original peeps … Maija, F’in Bern, Kari, Tami and Terri, Collen, Kelly … I will always save a beach chair for you!  Tami, Happy birthday!  The picture of your birthday lunch looked like so much fun even though I didn’t recognize anyone.  I miss the days of our birthday teas!

Jim … after enjoying home made ice cream at the Sweet Life in Telluride with my children and their non-stop conversation about it since … thank you for following your passion and providing memories for families with more than just the delicious sweet treat of ice cream in the summer but the memories that go along with it.

My children … Soup, Soup Jr., O and Cal.  Thank you for putting up with me.  I hope as you read this now you know how much I love you even if you don’t understand it.

Soup … because you asked for a “shout out” even though you have no idea that most of my posts are about you and your brothers and sister…here you go…I love you, my oldest, the guinea pig so to speak.  I HOPE I didn’t wreck you.  I LOVE you no matter what you may think at times.  I have FAITH that you will be an amazing person and that God will shine his GRACE upon you at the times you need it most.

Ron … for loving me despite all the craziness in my life.  For making me realize that not only does life goes on but that life can be good, very good.  For making me realize that these days are not just something that we need to get through but something that will be a lasting memory for our children so we need to make the most and best of each day because when they are gone, they are gone.  You can’t get them back.  Cat’s in the cradle.

And finally, to all ... although I love to write, spelling and grammar were my least favorite subjects and usually the courses that kept me from the 4.0 average.  I know there are typos, mis-spellings and grammatical errors.  Thank you for ignoring and not bringing them to my attention.  :)