In Memory

In Memory

Our childhood (including high school) memories are the foundation for our lives. The good, the bad and the in between are sprinkled with a variety of people who have contributed to our textured history. Chance brought us together and experiences bonded us. There’s something extraordinary between us and our earliest tribes, they influence, enhance and leave undeniable marks on our hearts. Early days of playful innocence often lead to later years of changes, challenges, lessons and years filled with memories. These first friends know where we came from and love us more based on this. In looking back, we see the unfolding, understand the lessons and recognized the gifts that came from a simpler time. These are years full of friendship, experimentation, fumbling and growing into ourselves.

An old and dear friend passed away this week. During times like this, memories flood our minds, doubling the sadness that we’re feeling for their families.

My friendship with Eric Sumner spanned junior high and high school; regular school stuff, hanging out and going to parties. Eric was our paper boy and my mother always questioned his influence, putting him into the ‘bad boy’ category. Eric confirmed this (in her mind) the night that my parents came home early when I was ‘having a few people over’ – a party (details not necessary). “I told you so,” she said. What she didn’t see, in those early years, was the gentle and loving heart inside his wild child exterior. He was a spirited person and a talented musician, finding his way. We were all finding our way, some of us better at hiding the different roads we took.

It was my first New Year’s Eve party, I had too much fun.  Eric was by my side, holding my hair back and comforting me. This is how I remember him; kind, compassionate, caring and there.

My last memory of Eric was from a couple of months ago. I’m happy that our paths crossed on that day. We caught up on each other’s lives in the isle of the Family Dollar. He had been recovering from many health-related issues but that wasn’t keeping him down, still moving and pursuing what made him the happiest – music. He was proud of some latest accomplishments and shared them with me through his phone. His struggle was apparent, but his spirit was soaring and the same. We hugged and said the usual stuff; it’s nice to see you and so on. When I went out to my car, he had left a thoughtful note under my windshield wiper. So special, so Eric.

Rest in peace, Eric Sumner. You were many things in this life; eccentric, outrageous, fun, funny, sentimental, one-of-a-kind, a musician and meaningful. What I’ll remember the most is that you were my friend.

One Hour One Mind

Almost everything that you need to know about me can be found in my head in the first hour of the day. Note, this was a non-school day (that would be a whole different blog; faster paced, increased thoughts with a dash of chaos).

Rise and shine, up and getting ready for yoga class. Time in front of the mirror and in my head; putting my best face forward, mascara and concealer where needed. As much as I don’t want to care what people think, I do. I’ll try to shift the odds in my favor, trying not giving anyone any material to work with. Also, in the mirror and in my head is my hair, a superficial obsession of mine. Like the perfect handbag, I’m forever in search of the perfect hairstyle. Yes, I’m growing it out AGAIN! I want to be 29 indefinitely but I’m also a realist. My genetics are decent, I don’t smoke, I eat reasonably, however, I love the sun. It’s a blessing that I live where the sunbathing season is limited. My skin has some wear and my spirit doesn’t always identify with this outer layer I’ve been growing for 50+ years.

Off to the kitchen, where I prepared my ‘every morning’ cup of hot water. I believe in its ability to flush the system and get the pipes moving and that it does (TMI, I know). This speaks to my consistency personality. I’m habitual about having a healthy lifestyle (but not obsessive, trust me); yoga regularly, coconscious eating, I sleep well and have a positive mindset. My chosen lifestyle is a part of me, just as natural as the body that I walk in, day after day. It’s a beam of balance. One body, one life.

In and out of my head (constantly) is the well-being of my family, specifically, our kids. I replay the previous day and preview today’s day. How at ease I feel when I know they’re happy, productive, fully functioning and feeling loved. This is not something spoken (it’s felt) and is purely based on speculation and a whole lot of hope.

Once I’ve dressed, I triple checked that I have everything I need for class (fear of failure to prepare enters), I pour myself a cup of coffee and contemplate my breakfast. I always wake up hungry and excited to eat, telling myself what I’ve always believed – it’s the most important meal and kicks in the metabolism. I have a hearty and healthy appetite and I’m equally as motivated to burn the calories. I like moving in the morning. I rarely sit (I just got a stand-up desk for work, from my hubby). I like movement and purpose. I feel anxious sitting (even as I’m writing this blog), it’s something that I’m working on. I decide on maple and brown sugar oatmeal, two bags, heated and put into a paper cup. 3 trips to the car. First, start it and lug in the yoga bag, handbag, and rocks with inspirational quotes on them (it’s my thing, I’ve been doing it for years). Second trip; coffee and camera (most days I leave early to chase the morning sunrise before class, my FOMO – Fear Of Missing Out – rids its ugly head as I see pink in the distance sky). I love photography. Lastly, I get into the car, just me and my oatmeal. I’m irritated with myself most mornings for not taking the time to eat at home but the excitement of catching a possible perfect photo prevails and pushes away my personal frustration.

It appears that I like the challenge of an actual coffee mug, in the car, versus a travel mug. I enjoy a  steamy mug of coffee (I typically warm it in the microwave 2.5 times before I leave). In my head I examine my behavior and conclude that if I saw someone else attempting this coffee and oatmeal thing, while driving, that I would think that they were an idiot. I rationalize my behavior by noting that there aren’t many other people on the road at this hour, so it’s relatively safe. Safe driving, my thoughts turn back to my kids. I catch my breath just thinking about them behind the wheel. Then I’m briefly sadden by the fast passing of time. Our son will be fifteen next month. How will I survive these years? I can barely think about him driving without hyperventilating. The uncontrollable. Don’t go there.

Then I remember that it’s New Year’s Eve, my thoughts turn to the last year; a quick reflection and overall satisfaction comes over me, like melting butter. I LOVE butter. I turn up the radio. 70’s music fills the space and effects my spirit in a way that only music can, hijacking the overthinking and setting the soul free. From disco to the soft rock, my mind melts and nervous system takes a brief vacay.

I chase the photos (snap, snap) while appreciating the beauty that surrounds. A photographer looks around continuously, moment absorption.

Oops, I’m almost out of gas, thoughts go back to the kids and where this vehicle has been the last couple of days. We endlessly shuffle them to school, to sports, to be with friends, basically anywhere they want to go. We’re happily (and forever) at their beck and call. Just when I feel overwhelmed by the demands of parenthood, I quickly remember how we came to be a four pack; years of infertility, infertility treatments, son born, failed infertility treatment, adoption, enter daughter. Lucky, thankful and aware of my fortune, a wealth that has nothing to do with my bank account. I pull into the parking lot. Begin hour #2, hello yogis.

A Message from the Mat

Celebrate you. Unfinished, untamed, unframed, under the wire, barely done, almost done, well done and hopefully never done ~ you. Highlight your patched together imperfections & perfected parts that make up you…..the you that has been carved out by challenge and change, sweetened by stacked up stories that have unfolded year after year. The you that has been enhanced by the many people, places and things that have touched, broken and mended your heart.
Come to your mat not in pieces but in peace, equipped with the knowing that you’re exactly where you need to be and that you’re exactly who you need to be at this moment. Let this be your foundation as you move intentionally, fueling your machine with deep breath, open mindedness and spectacular shapes.

Five Favorite People

Unsung-ers
These are the silent heroes in our lives, the ones who use their spotlight to light up others. They stroke their own egos. This supporting cast shows up, stands beside and catches the fallen.
Full Ass-ers
These are the full-fledge ‘getting sh*t done’ people, nothing half done. They walk the walk, they’re money in the mouthers. They’re the movers, shakers and life makers. No excuses necessary, they’re too busy dream catching, stepping out of comfort zones and inspiring greatness. A distant cousin to Half Ass.
Be Yourselfers
These authentically happy people have discovered the secret to the good life, it begins and ends with finding and being themselves. They don’t compare, seek approval or morph into what others believe they should be. They’re unapologetically themselves, not in an ‘in your face’ sort of way but in a genuine, ‘sure of it’ sort of way. They’re confident characters.
Unconditional Lovers
Another supporting cast to our lives. No matter what we say or what do, they love us. It’s traditionally our family. To be love without condition is the sweetest kind of love.
Can’t-Buy-Me-Lovers
These individuals believe that the depth of the soul is greater than the width of the wallet. They’re free from the confusion that money makes happiness.

Son-shine

For the second day in a row, Parker said yes to a hike. Any mom with a 14-year boy, knows to grab ahold of these moments, as soon as they present themselves.
On the hike today, I found myself in and out of the moment, while Parker (and Wilson, our pup) was leading the way. He was rambling on about a Netflix series and I found myself in a daze, staring at the young man he has become. His words sounding more like Charlie Brown’s teacher’s, the conversation in my head was louder.
Memories kept popping up; times when he was a baby, toddler, preschooler and so on. Images of that round face and big brown eyes were making me feel both nostalgic about the past and astonished at how time’s passing is far too fast (it can feel unfair). Wasn’t it just yesterday that I was feeding him in the middle of the night, soothing his hunger and other infant needs? Wasn’t he just entering preschool, bravely waving good-bye? Wasn’t it just last year that he was overly excited when I walked into a room?
As a 14-year old, he flows effortlessly between boy and young man. His goofy laugh and his gentle spirit shine as I try to capture him (candidly with my camera) while he’s giving Wilson water. He notices and tries to shoo me away. Time’s ‘breakneck’ passage, has me constantly reaching for the camera. I fear I’ll forget these precious moments, as they slip and slide away.
At the risk of sounding like a desperate mother, I long for these one-on-one chances, like the windshield time, when we find ourselves alone with our children in a confined space. This is a place where they can’t escape the conversation. I said to Parker, “I don’t even know where it changed, you use to want to be around us all the time and now we, as parents, do the wanting”.
The struggle, for me, is finding the balance between holding on and letting go. It’s a scary time, filled with worries and fears all born out of unconditional, uncontrollable and spirited love. Even though we must be the parent first, we should be laying a sturdy foundation for the future friendship to flourish.
Motherhood’s importance is not lost on me. I feel with every cell in my being, the need to live up to the name, Mom. When it’s called I melt and I will answer, whatever the case may be, whether it’s inconvenient or the timing bad. I still remember, painfully, those days when I didn’t think I would be blessed with children. One thought of this puts it all into a bright perspective.
I was staring at Parker’s long, hairy and muscular legs, while I was hiking behind him (don’t tell him, he’d be as mortified as any 14-year would be by their mother’s observations), again wondering, “how did this chapter open when I didn’t notice the last one closing”. The jump from 8th grader to Freshman is a significantly bigger one with many noticeable changes from deepen voices to outgrowing a mother’s height. However, there are things that haven’t changed (only deepening); his courtesy, compassion and understanding of life’s important stuff. I adore the character development I’m witnessing; learning the importance of laughing at himself, his handling of disappointments and the way he’s taking responsibly.
Today I referred to myself as the ‘momarazzi’. I am this, unapologetically. I’ll continue to take hundreds of pictures and follow my kids, wherever they go (even if it’s only in spirit). I’ll enhance their happy and soften their suffering, now and whenever I’m invited to do so, as their adult chapters unfold. Motherhood is a reoccurring role that changes and evolves. If we try hard enough, we can gracefully roll with it and rock it, too!

Sweet Rain

From drops to drench, sweet rain quenches mother earth,
Exposing her nakedness and readiness to unfold and to flourish.

Soaking in the stillness, she marinates and knows to wait,
For the waves of warmth and beams of sun to penetrate.

Patiently waiting for the season’s creations to boast,
Knowing precisely when to soar and when to coast.

We are Nature

The spring trail is plush with vibrant greens
Like a new life it holds promise and dreams

If we follow nature’s wonderous way
Surrender and peace allows the soul to play

The season’s foundation is built on the old
Never drudged up, it lays with stories untold

Forward focus toward the light it grows
No turning back, it shines and glows

As humans we often battle the unknown
Where nature, simply releases that hold

Unwrapping Motherhood

Motherhood is an honor and a privilege, raising and cultivating little humans. This goes beyond food, clothing and shelter. It’s our gentle guidance, example setting and heart busting love that makes us moms. This molds our beautiful beings, in even our most mangled moments. This daily carving requires both patience and perseverance. From mistake making to meaningful celebrations, our wonderful ‘works of heart’ take on their own individual shape.

Motherhood evaded me for years, as I watch many begin to build their families. Invitro fertilization and adoption eventually lead to the foursome that is our family. Long ago are the days of wishing, wanting and tear dropping. I’m grateful for these times, as they resulted in a stronger will to be the best parents that we could be, never taking this responsibility lightly or for granted. I still melt, a bit, each time my kiddos mutter mom. I’m really a mom!

As my children and husband prepare the mom ‘appreciation gestures’, they’re unaware that I’ve already been ‘gifted’. These ‘gifts’ come in daily and they’re the ones I quietly celebrate. They’re subtle and sweet. At the top of the list is their happiness, the pudding proof that our parenting is working. Next, is their health; strength in mind, body and spirit. Lastly, are the gems that come from lessons learned. All the bumps, bruises and stumbles are building depth of character and sweetening their soul. These presents are precious. Daily development and the fast-moving years have me begging for the slowing down of time. The chapters keep unfolding, sometimes faster than I can fully absorb. I vow to savor each and every gift, as I prepare to unwrap another year of motherhood.

Cloudy with a Chance of Hope

I have stood on the edge of darkness, filled with bitterness and contempt. I believed that I had been dealt an unfair hand. I folded that hand. This felt more like a crumpling up, similar to a piece of paper being thrown in the trash, not even worthy of recycling. For a time, I was frozen by the fear of what was to come. I still feel paralyzed, occasionally, by the unknown. My energetic self is hijacked by something that literally breaks my momentum. It’s a battle to dig in and keep forging on. My true self always prevails. I’m learning to be thankful for this regular deceleration, followed by reflection. These are times where I have no choice but to pause. There’s a tremendous power in the pause, when we become strong enough to put aside the ego and marinate in our own truth. This is a stepping out of a situation and the removal of the clouded lens that we look through. It’s in the new focus that we discover the essentials. The essentials are not the jobs we work or the roles we play; they’re who we are and how we love. For my family, a big proverbial door closed and we needed to pry a new one open. It’s been two years of challenges both personally and professionally. Thankfully, these years have been sprinkled with a ton of discovery, too. A life changing situation had a ripple effect of heartache, which destroyed my belief in loyalty, my connection to community and my self-worth. The details are unimportant and unnecessary to regurgitate. In the early days, my vision was murky with resentment and the need to right the wrong. This masterfully masked the opportunity for growth. Time and distance have proven to be the best medicine for what was hurting me. It was imperative that reinvention and redirection take shape, in order, to survive in business and in my head. With a new perspective comes clarity. It’s obvious now, that during the messiest of periods, come the real offerings of life. At any moment we can be stripped of the things we thought we needed. This comes in the forms of people, places, and things. When the dust settles, we’re left with ourselves and the ability to recognize what we actually need. Quite the contrary, during our “good” times, it’s harder to measure value because there is more obscuring our view. Tougher times reveal what belongs in our lives. The gems and treasures shine in our times of struggle; these are people and our connections to them. Sometimes it takes losing, in order, to gain real value. If we’re lucky, we get one step closer to finding ourselves in the process. Lost are the fringes that were dangling on to us, the superficial. We notice what had been holding us down and holding us back. Gained is our identity. Identity is purpose, and this gives our living deeper meaning. In trusting the struggle, we understand that the harder the journey the sweeter the arrival.

This was my first online, published work
Rebelle Society January 1, 2015

Gotcha Day

It’s been a decade since we first laid our eyes on our little girl. Today is our Gotcha Day, a day named for the day that adoptive parents and their children unite. This day and the birth of our son are the two most important, pivotal and celebrated days in our family. These days erased years of infertility, disappointments and challenges. Without those days, we would not have these best days. We’ve been blessed with the children that were meant to be ours.
After the birth of our son, we decided to explore adoption. This would be the path to grow our family. It was the beginning of June when we first saw Joleigh’s face on the computer screen (I know, it sounds crazy that this is how we found her). Instantly, we knew that this six-day old baby would be ours, no question. Our missing piece had been discovered. Her similarities to our son, Parker, were uncanny. We called our agency to inquire. They said that someone else wanted her, however we were further along in the process. If our home study was done, she would be ours. And just like that, our path was paved. The agency posted that Joleigh had found her forever family, on that special day. I’ll never forget the depth of emotion I felt, when I read those words. The following eight months were blurry and exciting. We traveled to Guatemala and on day one, we were united with our daughter. When she was placed into my arms, my heart melted and ached. It was surreal. Easily forgotten was the long road that lead us to this moment. Unexpected was the pain that the foster mother and two foster siblings were experiencing, as they began to let her go. All three sobbed as the process of this transition took place. Their love was immense and true. Her temporary family was perfect. This gave my mind the peace it had been longing for, for eight months. It was clear, she was nurtured, adored and cared for. This happy, healthy and sweet baby flourished from this fabulous foundation that was graciously given.
When I think back, I’m filled with a warmth. I’m somewhat in awe that this is our story. It was exhilarating, scary, curvy and lengthy. This journey filled us in ways that only pure love and joy can. Our family, friends and community were supportive and celebratory, every step of the way. There were plenty of players and a whole lot of hearts to help make it happen. Those crystal-clear memories are fade-proof. Ten years later, I remain grateful. It feels magicial. I’m still astounded at how it all unfolded.
Joleigh is a free spirit with the kindest of hearts. She is easy-going and easy to get along with. She’s both soft and tough. Josie-isms are never ending. She’s hilarious and wakes up insanely happy. She cares about others before herself. Her character is strong and steady. Her soul is sweet and older for her age. Once, after reading a label on a pillow that was made in China, she proudly said ‘I was made in Guatemala!’ Undoubtedly, Joleigh has made me a better human being and mother. This is her forever effect.