Second Chances

Here we are at the beginning of another new year.  Mind boggling really.  I’m sure 2018 was a typical year.  Some highs.  Some lows. But I’ll be darned if I can remember most of it.  At this point, I feel like my life is passing by at warp speed. Summers jump to fall as swiftly as they both blur into single digit winters with the hope of spring a blink away.  My birthdays are no longer just a number but a reminder of years passing more quickly than I’d like and the realization that life is short and moments are precious.

We said goodbye to 2018 and welcomed 2019 with our youngest daughter’s wedding in Los Angeles. A date choice I balked at for months and then in reality it was a wonderful way to ring in the new year. A new marriage.  New beginnings for our family with another “plus one” welcomed with open arms. More people to love. More joy to share.

Less than a week after the wedding, my husband had hip replacement surgery. (Talk about warp speed.) My son came to the  waiting room to help me pass the hours until we knew all was well.  And we passed those hours talking about one of his favorite subjects.  Movies.

He loves movies. Loves movies of all kinds, shapes and forms. From sappy chick flicks to heroic acts of undaunting courage.  Mary Poppins to Braveheart. He watches trailers like others check the weather.  He quotes movies, and his movie heroes, to answer conversational questions.

Me: Staunton, can you take that trash out?

Staunton: I’m your huckleberry. (Doc Holliday, Tombstone)

Out of the blue, he will send me a text of a movie clip that will lift my spirits or cause me to pause for it’s simple poignance.  I’ll look at my phone and there is Patrick Swayze taking “Baby” out of the corner and jumping off stage to carry her into a new life. Or Nicolas Cage having coffee at the airport with Tea Leoni at the end of  The Family Man, a perennial Christmas favorite for both of us.

On his short list of best movies would be the aforementioned with Shawshank Redemption, It’s a Wonderful Life, Schindler’s List, Lonesome Dove, Pretty Woman, Ghost— just to name a few.

I was thinking as we sat in that crowded hospital waiting room, like all those around us, worried about a loved one and wondering if our news would be good. I thought of all of his favorite films and what they had in common.  Was there a central theme?  Was there a lesson to be learned, a life vision to be gained? And then it came to me.

Second chances.

His heroes and heroines get second chances.  Mary Poppins saves a father and reconnects a family, Nicolas Cage sees his life as it could be, and not as he is living it, and chooses a new start. Andy Dufresne spends 20 years in Shawshank and holds tight to a second chance and through sheer will, ingenuity and against all odds, gets it. George Bailey wants to end his life before his angel Clarence offers him a glimpse of the world without him.  And Bedford Falls looks like home again.

I’m not one for New Year’s resolutions.  I think they are a little silly actually and history would prove most often impossible to keep. But this new year, I like the idea of second chances.  For ourselves, for others.  Think of an old friend you have let drift away and call him/her. Forgive someone you thought was unforgivable.  Give yourself a break for a failure or an opportunity that slipped away and go for it again.  Rethink a hard-held belief or opinion, a stereotype or a prejudice and challenge it.  Truth test it again and see if it still holds water.

Everyone deserves a second chance.  Especially ourselves who we seem to be the hardest on. Maybe we were too young or too foolish or too self-absorbed to see a first chance, so why not give it another whirl?

As my son might quote William Wallace towards the end of Braveheart. Fighting for Scotland. His co-patriots all but given up.

William: We’ve got to try. We can’t do this alone. Joining the nobles is the only hope for our people. You know what happens if we don’t take that chance?
Hamish: What?
William: Nothing.

Here’s to a 2019 filled with somethings.

And second chances.


Some of you may have been wondering where I have been for months and, quite frankly, so have I.  In May, my oldest daughter and her family–three boys eight and under and her husband–moved in with us. It was a temporary thing. A couple months or so while I helped my daughter renovate her recently purchased home.

Well, if you do the math, a couple months turned into six and changing a few faucets and adding a lower level bedroom turned into a literal gut job. Inside and out.  The charm of buying an older home from a “mature” couple is that surprises lurk at every turn.  The house was a safe haven for homeless mice and their families, shower pans leaked as did the roof and the entire back of the house was six inches out of plumb.  In layman’s terms, it was leaning.

So on we forged at renovation and on they stayed in every corner of my home.

Yesterday they left for the other grandparent’s house.  It was the first time in six months I did not have little boys sliding down my banister, dropping legos from the upstairs landing and dripping sippy cups across my kitchen floor.  The toys were in their bins and their beds were made for the next round of babes arriving that day for Thanksgivng. I waved goodbye tearlessly at the front door wishing safe travels.

I turned and what to my wondering eyes did appear but my house. The kitchen drainer had no pint sized water bottles or stacks of medicine measuring cups (children under 10 seem to keep a cold and the cough even longer), the island was clear of homework, rubber bathtub toys and a toddler seat no longer stradled my island stool.  My foyer floor had no toppled boots and the back door was clear of coats, hats and tiny gloves with fingers inside out.

With a huge sigh of relief, I poured a glass of wine, exhaled from the bottom of my toes and fell into my favorite comfy wingback relishing something I had not enjoyed in months.


Then, as I took a second sip, I felt something under me.  Leaning to one side, I pulled out a miniature army tank neslted in my seat cushion. Chipped and dented from it’s many times across my window sills or in and out of the two-and-a-half-year-old’s “pack pack” as he calls it, this tiny metal vehicle stopped me in my tracks. I could see his plump little fingers holding it as he bid farewell saying, “Bye bye, Yaya, see you soon. I love you thiiiiissss much!” I envisioned his older brothers nestled on pillows in the “way back seats” of their SUV, waving as they drove away. I thought about the oldest playing the parent by entertaining and pacifiying his brothers, as mom and dad madly packed and tucked their belongings under beds and in closets to make way for the next crew.

And like Grinch, my old cold heart grew three sizes.

Now don’t get me wrong.  The past months have been difficult. For everyone.  Four grown adults and over two generations are not meant to share familial space for this long. No matter what our ancesters and neighbors in Central and South America believe.  No privacy for anyone wears on everyone. Parents and a nanny need to have their own space to juggle what has become the norm in today’s world of two working parents. Marriages need space to breathe and privacy to grow and endure. Children need one set of hovering adults, not two, aiding and guiding their every move.  That’s the natural order of things.  We raise our kids and if they choose, they “cleave” to another as my Methodist Bible would say, and start their own version of a family.

A place that is comfortable for them. And that place should to be under their own roof.

They are moving to their new home next week. And yes, I will miss many things about their stay here.  The joy of a two year old’s giggles and screams the moment I come through the door. Good night kisses and lullabies that bring tears to my tired eyes as the years are just a blur since I sang the same to my own babies.  Spontaneous hugs from an eight year old boy.  A six year old thrilled to show me he can read. Sleepy morning eyes greeting me at dawn and the same drooping ones snuggling into bed at night. I will miss and cherish it all and have faith that my relationship with my grandsons will be stronger, longer and better for their living here.

And I hope that when I am gone and no longer a part of their daily life, these young men will pass a car like mine or take a bite of homemade meatloaf and pause for a second. Perhaps an image will appear and they will remember how much I adore them.  Every single inch.

But it is time now for them to move on. To their own rooms. And the life they need to live with their own parents.  Together as one unit. Their rhythms. Their views out their new windows.

I will be here in my empty, quiet, tidy house. Just as it should be.

Five minutes away.


It has been a while since I have posted. I try to only write when I have something to say. I often have the rumblings of a post floating around in the back of my mind. But it takes some discipline, not to meniton time, to put thoughts to print or a reader or two saying, “Where have you been?  I’ve missed you.” Well, the latter is enough to get me to sit down at the computer.

Waking up each morning, I roll over to look at a piece of art on my wall made by a friend of mine who died way too young. She was creative and funny and faithful and kind. The sort of friend everyone should have at least one of. The piece has her talented hands imprinted on a heart-shaped block of barn board with the quote, “Fear can hold you prisoner. Hope can set you free.”

I look to that on the mornings the weight of the world seems too heavy to get out of bed or the ones that the sun and sky are so brilliant, you just have to. Its message is simple. I wish I could say I live by it.  But I fight the fear demons as much as a cat hates water.  Fear keeps me from flying, hinders my spontaneity and prevents me from seizing courageous opportunities.

The older I get though, the more I realize that time is short and my only promised time is now. I know that in theory.

I had an “aha” moment recently when I had planned a drive to West Virginia. My husband and I have a house there in the land of my people. He always flies and because I hate flying and love the open road and can leave when I want, come home when I want and pack what I want, I drive.

But this trip due to circumstances beyond my control like my daughter moving in with her husband and three boys and a bad cold and a cracked front tooth and some other miscellaneous roadblocks, I did not hit the road in time to make our weekend trip. We were not going. Then out of the blue my husband called and said he was going anyway. Alone. To my happy place. So happened I was on my way to the Social Security office for reasons that will remain unnamed other than the fact that it involved some medical benefits and a Social Security card I had never updated from Nancy Kyle Noble in 1975.

I hung up the call and pulled the car to the side of the road.  Leaned my head into my crossed arms on the steering wheel and I had myself a crying jag, as my mama would say. I cried for all the craziness in my life and him going on with our plans without me. I cried just because I needed to.  I was due a good cry and hadn’t had one in well over a year. I self-indulged a few minutes, then lifted my head, wiped my mascara stained face with my t-shirt sleeve and did something I have never done.

I dove in head first without a bathing cap or first calling the coast guard.  I went for it with little thought and less preparation.  At 1:10 p.m. I called United and secured a seat on the 4:20 p.m. flight. Got home at 1:30. No shower. No make up. I packed and was at the door when my husband got home at 2:30 to leave for the airport. Four hours later I was on our terrace, sipping wine and grilling salmon, lake water lapping in the distance.

Spontaneity–check. Action gratification–check. Lesson learned–maybe. But I nearly broke my arm from patting myself on the back all weekend for my carpe diem moment. A sign that a normal daily occurence in most people’s lives should be easier for me.  I needed to up my “eye on the prize” quotient and spend less time indulging habits and emotions that hold me back.

We celebrated a two-year-old birthday party last night.  My son’s baby boy.  Looks just like him and can drain a three from his kitchen foul line just like him. This child is full of smiles and love and lives in constant motion. In the midst of tiny footballs flying and basketballs bouncing and wide-eyed candle blowing, in midst of this untethered joy, my son looked at me with clear green eyes so earnest they could make Mr. Rogers look like a wily card shark and said, “Have you called your oldest friend lately? How is she?”  Now I pride myself in being a pretty good keeper-upper with my best-loved pals from childhood to present.  I tend to be loyal to a fault. But this particular person, I have let slip away lately, my life a little chaotic and all. “You should call her, ” he continued. “Life is short.”

And then my son the two time cancer survivor, father of this cherub of a boy with another baby on the way, pulled out his phone and read aloud this passage from a book he is reading:

“You know my young friend, I will be ninety years old next year, and life is still a surprise to me. We never know what will happen next, what we will see, and what important person will come into our life, or what important person we will lose.  Life is change, constant change, and unless we are lucky enough to find comedy in it, change is nearly always a drama, if not a tragedy. But after everything, even when the skies turn scarlet and threatening, I still believe that if we are lucky enough to be alive we must give thanks for the miracle of every moment, every day, no mater how flawed. We must have faith in God and the Universe, and in a better tomorrow, even if that faith is not always deserved.”

He looked at me and repeated,” Even when the skies turn scarlet…We must give thanks for the miracle of every moment, every day.”

This coming from my miracle of a son who has beaten all odds to be sitting at this table on his son’s second birthday.  Always looking forward, not back.  No fears of “what ifs” just relishing every “what now” he experiences.

I always say our messages come from unexpected messengers in our least expected moments. On my grandson’s birthday, my son gave me a gift. A stop me in my tracks gift to lift me up and take me away.

And maybe, just maybe, even on the next flight out.







Ain’t no quick fixes

Seems everywhere I turn these days, someone is offering a quick fix. TV, radio and now even Instagram (what used to be a sweet little picture sharing app suddenly has sponsors every other photo) are all filled with advertisements that offer a promise. Erase fine lines and wrinkles overnight, cure all ailments with one pill, financial security on three simple steps.  We are barraged with notions, lotions and potions that lead to inner peace or the fountain of youth. The list is endless.

My daddy taught me that nothing comes easily in this life. Nothing worth having or anything that will last. Hard work was his key to success. Period. No cliff note options in his parental teaching. Long hand and long days were his answer to most “how to” questions.

Growing up we went to church a lot, I mean three days a week a lot, where I learned that selfless deeds and the Golden Rule bring good things to your life. Not to mention maybe a ticket to heaven when the time came.

Our church had traveling evangelists come to Wednesday night prayer meetings every once in a while. They offered a quick fix for that ticket if I would only take Jesus into my heart.  These guys, with their slicked back hair and used car salesman plaid jackets, were not at all what I envisioned as a spiritual guide to my place in heaven. And the thought of putting a person in my heart, which I felt sure was a heart-shaped  box of Whitman’s chocolates, just made no sense. A strange man was not touching those brown pleated paper wrappers before I did. So, much to my mother’s dismay, I clung tight to the bottom of my pew when she tried to drag me up to the alter and accept that creepy snake oil prophet’s offer.

My heart was my heart and it would stay mine until I wanted to share it. Ticket or no ticket. I chose the long way over the quick fix. A decision I rethought when I saw my dad’s disappointed blue eyes peering down at me from the choir loft, his disdain amplified by his position on the back row under the gilded organ pipes. But I stayed put.  Heels dug in.

I think about my childhood lessons when the New Year rolls around.  It seems every year my resolutions are some version of vowing to be a better person. Kinder, gentler, more patient.  And every year, maybe, I inch toward that goal.  But it takes time. And hard work.  And perseverance beyond the quagmire of quick fixes offered on Amazon in a single bottle.

I’ve explored many paths for self-improvement and I have made some headway. But physical endeavors are easier for me to tackle than mental attitude changes. Personality flaws always seem to require extra effort.  And as my brother used to say, you have to stay changed in any area of your life for five years before anyone actually believes you.

Five times 365. 1,825 days. I’m 15 in with only 1,810 days to go.

Maybe I’ll delve into a box of Whitman’s and find the mocha chocolate cream on the first try.

Nothing like a chocolate fix when you are feeling stressed.



Oceans take me home…

I recently returned from our family’s now annual trip to South Carolina’s coast. We all made it, four grandsons included, for a week of clear blue, cloud-dotted skies and cool nights. Ocean temperatures just shy of tepid bath water. October beaches call to me now more than summer. Tourists are gone.  The beach nearly deserted with only a handful of umbrellas and chairs sprinkling the shore.  Most inhabitants cottage owners and a few canine friends.


Ocean vacations have a special lure for me as they were the only vacations, other than a visit to a cousin or two, I took as a child. And as a family.  My dad would save up all year for one week at the beach. My brother and sister and I all rallied for this event even into college days.  The chosen beach was always a day’s drive away.  God forbid my dad would get on an airplane.  And my mother’s box of children’s books, quilts, pound cake and pile of hats would never fit in a carry-on anyway.

No our treks to the shore were an event.  An event I looked forward to from the moment the sea and salt air and seagulls faded in the distance to the moment I could see and feel them on the horizon again. I got this same feeling when I drove to the beach last month.  Dad-like in my fear of flying and mom-like in my desire to have all the comforts of home whenever possible, my car was filled to the brim with beach towels, beach toys, beach chairs, pillows, porta cribs and a case of bootlegged wine.  All that I schlepped across six state lines over three days.

And as soon as I saw my first seagull and the southern mica began to sparkle in the asphalt and brackish water filled roadside waterways, my heart began to pound with childlike excitement at what lay ahead and the treasured moments our week would most certainly hold.

My mind drifted back to rides I had taken with my family.  Same roads. Same peach stands. Same cotton fields. I was transported to the backseat of the family Dodge sedan. My older brother and sister asleep, or lost in their own thoughts, on either side of me and I wrapped in my favorite blanket, cozy laying across the backseat shelf. Yes, that was legal way back then. Untethered children could slip under the rear window and watch the evening sky whizz by.

In the quiet of the car dreaming of our days in the sun ahead, I could hear the faint crackle of static on the car radio as my dad tried to pick up a station on the backcountry roads.  I was lulled by the sound of mom and dad’s whispers as they talked most likely about nothing more than our mileage or the next turn. But their whispers seemed intimate and reassuring.

All seemed right in my world.

As my eldest grandson once said, “We are all a family, all on the church bus together.”  Where he got that is baffling to me as he at that point had never been on a bus much less a church bus. But he is like that.  He articulates feelings with insights beyond his years. And that one is exactly what I felt at that moment.

At the beach, the family magic continued. We ate out every night, something we never did at home.  Children’s menus and placemats to color felt like Christmas to me. We spent lazy days on the sand. Watched my dad burn his knees as he always did and insisted he wasn’t, made sand castles, watched fisherman cast their lines into the surf.  Walked the shore peeking in fish buckets for a glimpse of their catch. Rode the waves, took outdoor showers and slathered apple cider vinegar on our rosy skin for those of us who admitted we had gotten a little too much sun. Try it. I promise you will be brown by morning.

Going to bed smelling like Easter eggs and waking up to sugar-coated cereal, peanuts in the shell and store bought cookies, all rarities at home, the hours turned into days and the week inched toward the dreaded Saturday that meant cleaning up, packing up and heading back to reality.

I hear and feel those memories when I am at the beach now. I could reach out and touch that young family, those sacred trips. I see my mom or my dad or brother, all gone now, behind sunglasses, lounging on beach chairs, sifting the sand for shells. I hear them in the pound of the surf.  I sense them in the soft breezes and star lit skies.  They are all there. In my thoughts, in the laughter of my grandkids, in the dinner table chatter over boxes of carry-in.

They live on in the next generation. That circle of life is a comfort to me.

And I feel that hope and reassurance most by the sea.


“What was the name of that dog you had?”

I have been thinking about a comment my brother made a couple of autumns ago. He said, “It’s fall with it’s heartbreaking riot of color. A short and poignant season.”

That thought was particularly touching at the time since he was fighting a cancer battle that we all knew, including him, he would lose. And it has stuck in my mind since, especially now that days are shorter and leaves are starting to change. He has been gone a little over a year, and this observation as well as many things he said, are bubbling up on my mind at times when I search my brain to retrieve them and others when they just show up unexpectedly.

But unlike that cousin of an uncle on your father’s side who shows up at your door out of nowhere and stays too long, I welcome David’s words with open arms and wish I could hold him and his thoughts closer. Have them both stay a little longer. Forever. Truth be told, I’d take an hour or even fifteen minutes.  A one line text.

Recently, I have come to understand something my mother used to do that I never got. In fact, I thought it was silly or even a little compulsive.  She would write dates and names of of those in the picture on the back of all her photos. Similarly, she kept copious journals of daily events, not long, in depth thoughts or musings.  But simple logs of a trip or a visit from an old friend or a book she read. Just normal daily stuff.  If a journal wasn’t nearby, she would jot thoughts on 3×5 cards she kept by the phone in our living room. Or if one of her treasured books was at her fingertips, she would tuck a favorite thing inside for future readers to enjoy or a grandchild to discover forty years later. Which happened last night when my daughter opened The Language of Flowers, one of my mom’s favorite books.

Little did I know, she was giving us a gift I wish everyday I could receive more of. The gift of getting a person back for a moment.  To catch a glimpse into their thoughts, their longings, their soul. I suspect she knew then what I realize now. She lost a sister and her own mother way too young and she knew. She suffered those losses and she longed for that one afternoon. She understood all too well that once someone leaves you, there will be hundreds of things you would love to ask them that seemed trivial or mundane when you had them there beside you day to day.

So in her subtle, or even subconscious, way she was leaving breadcrumbs to lead us back to her on the days we thought we couldn’t bear another day without her. Or wondered what she might say or feel about a profound moment or something as simple as flower preferences.

My husband lost his sister twenty five years ago.  Recently at his niece’s wedding it came up in conversation that her given name was Florence Buffington but she was always called “Molly”.  Neither he or his brother or any family in attendance could answer the question of why. His parents both are dead as well as most of their generation. So there we sat playing guessing games with how one gets to Molly from a birth certificate that reflected nothing like it.

Twenty, even ten, years ago it would have taken a simple phone call. A question asked while passing in the hall before breakfast. But our own worries and challenges seem to leave little time for idle chats with those we love most. And too often we get stuck seeing no further than our own mirror.

We forget to take to time to look, really look at those closest to us and ask them what’s in their hearts. What they hope? What they dream? Their regrets. Their favorite ice cream flavor.

There is no way of knowing what we will miss about someone most until they are gone. Or what we forgot to ask. After my grandfather died, I longed to hear his voice so I have saved voicemails I can pull up when my heart can take it.

Ask. Ask again. Leave a trail.

So that someday, some child won’t open a musty, dust-covered photo album and point to your face in a group shot and say, “Who was she again, mama?  What was her name?”



Life through my living room window

There is a question that has been plaguing me lately. Not really a question. Perhaps more of an observation.

When did everyone get so old?

Athletes like Jack Nicklaus, dashing princes such as Prince Philip, heart throbs like Robert Redford–even perkiest of perkies Sally Field–are over 70, some a decade or two more.

I watch current movies and the sex symbols of my youth like Jessica Lange are now playing grandmothers, not femme fatales. King Kong’s object of affection is now a Nanna?

Men I used to think of as the hot dads at elementary school spring sings now have a head full of gray and tote grandchildren to these events.

Most notably watching this slow progression to the grave has started through my living room window. For thirty years I have seen the same faces walk past my house to ride the morning and evening trains to the city from our suburb.

Folks who used to jog to the train bouncing by my house with backpacks now shuffle by, humped over dragging their ancient briefcases. Some park outside my house to save the half-mile walk. Same faces. Same people. Just an image and persona that’s older. Tired.

It’s as though I have watched Shakespeare’s Seven Stages of Man performed right out my front door.

Recently, we took our kids out to dinner for my son’s birthday. Being the hip mom that I am, I planned a pub crawl of sorts and at the first stop, the bouncer asked for ID’s.  Without blinking, I said I didn’t have mine. He gently patted my shoulder and said with a smile, “Don’t worry, we are letting minors in tonight.” He might have well asked to see my AARP card and offered me a walker. I knew I should have left my Ray Bans on a minute longer and taped my loose neck skin behind my ears.

I was standing in a children’s shoe department a few days later looking for Natives for my grandsons. (Natives are the new Crocs.) Their display is my least favorite merchandising idea of all time. They have each pair attached by cardboard hangers on long hooks off a pegboard with at least eight pairs to a hook. And the size you need is invariably in the back. So most often as you reach for your size, the entire line of shoes fall off to the floor or worse, the whole metal peg detaches from the wallboard and you are left with six pairs of rubber shoes dangling on the metal pole like you just played Go Fish for Keds at the county fair.

Anyway, as I reached for the size 11 , sizes 6 through 10 went tumbling to the floor, piles of colorful rubber rolling in all directions. I looked down and staring up at me was a miniature human no taller than my knee with saucer-sized blue eyes. “What happened here?” he asked earnestly, offering me a single capped toe orange shoe.

And I thought, “Man are you right, tiny person.”

What did happen here? Where are my babies and how I am shopping for grandkids?  Can tempus fugit  please stop? Or at least slow to a nice stroll?  Can I just take a deep breath before I am the face in old family pictures where the next generation asks, “Who is that again?”

I remember my mom saying in her 80’s that she looked in the mirror at a face that didn’t match the 18 -year -old girl that lived in her heart.  And maybe that’s the secret to aging.  Keeping your youthful joy in your soul.

It makes me think of one of my sister’s favorite quotes by Albert Camus:

“In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer. And that makes me happy. For it says that no matter how hard the world pushes against me, within me, there’s something stronger – something better, pushing right back.”

Invincible summer. What a great name for a season.





I’ve been thinking lately about anger.  Where it comes from and who I am really mad at when it boils up inside of me. I just finished a 21 day meditation with Oprah and Deepak online. (Like Adele, last names not needed.) It was my third round of meditations with those two.  Since Oprah thinks she has reached enlightenment and Deepak appears to actually have, I thought it was a combo worth trying for a meditation neophyte like myself. The idea of stopping for ten minutes to breathe deeply and clear your head has always intrigued me, but I have also dreamed of being 5’11” or 21 again, so go figure concerning the general practicality of the thoughts that fly though my brain minute to minute.

Meditation I thought, and now believe, can bring a calmer, more reflective outlook on life rather than a knee-jerk reaction to events or people. And my quickest responses to upsetting situations is most often anger. What confuses me about anger is that it is seldom directed at the correct person or situation.  And often I realize, the person I am angriest at is myself.

As a child,  I was angry when I received Poor Pitiful Pearl for Christmas (not kidding, look her up: when my playmates got Barbies. I was angry I wasn’t Shirley Temple after hours of practice dancing up and down our basement stairs and laborious, stinky Toni perms. I was angry I was number 11 in my high school graduating class when the top ten were featured in the newspaper. Childish resentments perhaps but I was angry nonetheless.

In therapy sessions sprinkled throughout my adulthood, I worked though some of those childhood slights and tried to heal my bruised inner child as Oprah and Deepak suggested I do. So now, I wouldn’t call myself an angry person. But maybe a closet resenter is more appropriate.

Like many of us, I resent unfairness, injustice, incompetent politicians and those who function with a myopic view, often no further than their own nose.

But on a day-to-day basis, I resent people and situations that don’t reflect my view of the world and how we all should act or interact. What I think should happen, how I think a person should react, how I want to remember my past and what I want for my future is not what I always find when my expectations meet reality.

When those two don’t match up, I am disappointed. And too often when I am sad or hurt or disappointed, I get angry. And anger, like failing to forgive, hurts you much more than the object of your anger. It raises your blood pressure, interrupts your sleep and makes you look much worse than the person or situation you are attempting to dress down.

Anger is ugly.  Spewing vitriol looks and sounds ugly.  And although harsh words often reflect a deeper pain, the message they send does nothing to heal or fix underlying feelings. In fact most often, they push the receiver further away. And give you a heavier load to carry in your backpack of anger and resentment.

Throughout my meditation experience, the underlying theme seems to always drift back to letting go. Letting go of expectations of others, letting go of judgment, letting go of the past, letting go of worry about the future. While meditating, my goal is to stay in the present.  The exact time and place you are in at that moment.  That is a tall order for someone who functions with at least an eighteen track mind where my thoughts always seem to be speeding and colliding and intersecting.

But I stop.  I make time.  And I try.

Deepak would say, and I agree, that meeting others where they are, rather than where you expect them to be, with compassion and hope is life altering. For me, putting that attitude into my everyday life would be a game changer.

I do believe that accepting life as it actually unfolds, rather than how you have planned it, keeps you in the present. Where the real stuff happens. Where the living is really done.

And offers a life of more joy. And less anger.







Visiting by brother toward the end of his life, when he was under Hospice care, I found myself thinking as I  turned the corner to enter his corridor, “What should we chat about today?” It’s a weird transition to get to that point with family where, because of  the elephant in the room, we think ahead occasionally of discussion topics.

Not that the depth of the relationship is any different but with terminal illness there is so much medical stuff to discuss, that talking about the weather seems trite.  But heavier life/death discussions seem a waste of precious breath at this point.

So as I entered his room I said, “I got a dog.”  And my bother, who after recent treatment was functioning with half  his brain power which for most people would feel perfectly normal on a good day said, “A dog? Why would you do that?”  And I said, “Why not?” And he said, “Because it is a dog.”

We both laughed and I have thought about that conversation many times since my year-old Gracie entered our lives.  She seemed so simple and sweet and the perfect addition to our family when I purchased her.

We “rescued” her actually but as my husband loves to remind me, she is the most expensive rescue dog on earth. She was purchased as a purebred by a woman who mistreated her and then rescued and trained by a lovely woman who trains service dogs.  She’s actually head of the National Association for Service Dogs.  So when I “rescued” Gracie, she was a certified emotional support dog and came with a pretty big price tag. But who doesn’t need emotional support and with my brother dying, I surely did.

So I brought this dog home and all was well. She was my little bundle of grace that I needed at the time and by little, I mean eight pounds and a handful of ounces little, so how much dog trouble could she be?  As it turned out, rescuing a dog at eight months right before the holidays gives you little time to spay a dog. So when she went into heat, which in my part of the country is like saying you just married your first cousin, I remembered what my brother said and thought how “doglike” of her to go into heat without checking with me first.

I even went to the vet to discuss this heat thing, which we are now on week seven of, and the vet after my first question said, “Honestly, I don’t get these questions often.  Ninety percent of our dogs…”

Point taken.  Point confirmed that I am a hillbilly owner in a neutered world.

In this part of the country, we go to the anti-cruelty society for mutts. We don’t breed them. Dogs don’t just show up one day with a litter under the basement stairs like my childhood pet, Chips, did. I know, go figure. Male name. Female dog. No wonder my sweet mama was surprised by the pups. I’ve joked with friends that with all the “fixed” dogs in my neighborhood the only chance Gracie will get pregnant is if a coyote slips in the yard. Which God forbid they have been known to do now and then as we live near a heavily wooded forest preserve.

Which brings me to another interesting tidbit. The east coast has recognized a new breed of animal in the last decade or so. A coywolf. And no, I’m not kidding. Over a century ago, as wolves were nearing extinction, nature took it upon itself to preserve this species by having them interbreed with dogs and coyotes. All with similar DNA, this new “species” has produced enough offspring to be recognized as a newly evolved animal. Ten percent dog and the other ninety wolf and coyote, these coywolves run in packs, combining a dog’s fearlessness of humans with the open prairie instincts of a coyote and the woodland preferences of the wolf. Before you think just I’m blowing smoke, read for yourself.

These animals are roaming closer and closer to urban settings and survive on rodents and small animals. Rodents, cats, squirrels. Small mammals as in little white dog. Like the one in my view, in my yard, off-leash as I type. Guess I’m two for two in flunking Rescuer 101. Fenceless yard.  Allowed heat.

Male dog magnet, fences, vet visits, coyote bait, tripped-over chew toys at every turn.

A dog? Why would anyone want a dog?

Because in spite of her messy little problem and her penchant for toppling wastebaskets and barking at the wind, she loves me best– completely and unconditionally. And on my lonely days when I miss my brother most, she finds a warm spot on my lap and licks my face if I cry.

That’s why.

Full Circle

I wait for blogs to come to me. I hope for them.  When I go months without one, I feel guilty as though I have failed my readers. That is silly, of course.  Really.  I am not your weekly anticipated op-ed or Anna Quindlen column.

But God, how I’d love to be.

babiesTonight I had dinner with old friends at a cozy local pub. Soon after we sat down, talk drifted to our grandchildren. And other friends walking by chimed in about theirs and iphones flew out, pictures were passed around, voices became more animated and joy was shared.

I thought.  Oh my.  We have come full circle.

One of the ladies at the table was a friend who used to hitchhike about the country. Alone and uninhibited. Blonde and happy and free as a bird. Male drivers, female drivers, pick ups trucks, semis–nothing daunted her.  Her baby pictures were the first to show up.  Hers were some of the proudest. From seventies liberated chick to grandmother. Just like that. A blink. A blur.

I ordered Christmas cookies this year, as I did last, from my college suite mate who was the sassiest girl I had ever met at that point in my life  She wore a kimono as her robe and sang like an angel in the shower.  She snuck boys up the fire escape in an all female dorm. I adored her spunk. Her cigarettes.  Her joie de vivre. She was exotic. And now she is back home with her beloved mama making hand-cut sugar cookies. She even admitted to me recently, she doesn’t like to “merge” on highways and often takes the backroads.

Another high school buddy, who had her share of uninhibited youthful escapades, makes sausage now. Like her daddy. And her grandfather. And probably his. She is the backbone of her community and works hard for clean water and fair trade and lends a generous hand to all those who need it. When the city’s main water source was polluted by corporate monsters for months, she and her Uncle Dewey handed out crates of free bottled water from her factory dock.

We all rebel in some way, at some time against all we needed, loved and believed in. And then, most often in the end, we do what we know.  We come back.  We come back to some part of those who loved us best. Who shaped us. Gave us the chutzpah to stick out our thumbs on a freeway or buy a pack of Winstons on the sly.

And if we don’t return, we miss it.  Even if the people that formed us broke our hearts or, intentionally or unintentionally, tried to take our souls. Messed with our minds or confused us. Inspired us to turn right when our hearts craved what the enticing left offered.

We miss that familiar sound of the familiar. And we come back.

It’s a good thing to come home to that intrinsic part of ourselves. For me, it keeps me sane. I often joke that I open my mouth and my mother talks. I view a situation in a way I never did before and I hear her voice in my head. I look in the mirror and remember her saying her reflection didn’t match the 25-year-old girl that still lived in her heart.

And now I understand.

I understand her unabashed adoration for her grandchildren because I have my own now.  I understand the joy of loving a child, a tiny human miracle, without the angst of making it perfect or changing its dreams. No desire to guide its direction in life. Just a heart full of boundless love and awe. Grandchildren are our gift for our own sleepless nights and driver’s license tests and “wherearetheywhenwilltheycomehomewhydonttheycall.”

They are our gift for hanging in there.  Through medical crises, marriage crises, death, disappointment, loss and renewal. These babies are a welcome tonic for the unsettling understanding that we are the older generation now. With few left to look up to and seek for guidance. But many to thank and look back upon with grateful hearts and a new understanding of how hard it is to do all of this gracefully.

Now it is our turn to be the guide. And sometimes just watch it happen.

Because that’s how people and traditions and families survive.  And hope remains.

We pass the baton to the new ones.  The next generation. Whether they are our own babies or students or neighbors, these fresh, innocent faces are who will bring on the future. Embrace it and love it. Mold it to make their own version of history.

And hopefully, occasionally, they will hear our voices in their heads.