Giving Thanks to the Greater Givings

It’s easy to be thankful for the easily attained or the ‘right place at the right time’ of fortunate timing. How about the ‘under-thanked’ moments, the ones that make us work for our lives; the painful, the heart wrenching and spirit crushing? Life’s unexpected and directional changing moments that are paved by our footsteps on the unsteady surfaces that will eventually become our future’s foundation. Can I get a ‘hell yeah’ for the uncomfortable spaces that make us squirm in the seat of the unknown, forcing us to pry open tinted windows and kick open unfamiliar doors? Fist bumps to the heartaches and heartbreaks, that scar us into beastly beings who cannot recognize how weak we once were. These are the forgotten flashes in time that flame our forever. It’s the deliberate walk out of the fire that draws in the pillars of strength that surround a happier and healthier life. Let us give thanks for the unexpected vacancies, making room for heartier happiness. Our weathered lives are tantalizingly textured and loaded with lessons, making for delicious chapters of heroes and heroines with toughened spirits and developed characters. The unspoken, undone, underwhelming of the uncontrollable all take their proper placement in the past, sometimes with a chosen finger in the rearview, for their proper good-bye. The gems of life are found just beyond the challenge, after the storm and through the weeds. Our down and outs deliver us to the up and onwards of a sweeter life. These are the greater ‘Givings’ to give thanks for.

Words, Energy & Busy

I’m a quote queer. I love them and I can speak in ‘bumper sticker’ at the ‘drop of a hat’. Words are words and can be combined and designed to evoke feeling. I love words. Words are powerful. They can strengthen or weaken. They can sweeten or sour. They’re often twisted, misunderstood and weaponized. Likewise, a lack of words or no response is just as mighty. I’m a lover of the spoken and written word but actions hold answers; what a person means to another or what is important to them and what is not.

Energy is another way we assess a person or an intention. Energy speaks first. Gut feelings are our guardian angels, who are giving us a ‘heads up’. People show us who they are, when we pay attention to their ‘vibrations with information’. Intentions are often revealed.

Busier is not better. We’re as busy as we want to be. I’m a filler of space, to my own detriment. I’ve often equated busy with satisfaction, even when I know the two are not equal. Busy is just busy but satisfaction is quality; the heartiness in life between people and our connection to them. When we’re stretched too thin, we quickly become watered down and our potency is diluted. In other words, we’re not giving out as good as we could or should. Watered down can quickly become washed up.

When our confidence is built and we trust our truths, we live them. Our words connect to our actions, our energy speaks our language and we become less busy and more fulfilled. What belongs in our lives is attracted in and sometimes the unworthy takes itself out.

What we put out and what we accept in, is a choice. This results in the cage we live in or freedom we feel.

Dads ~ Love Them While You’ve Got Them

Here we are on the coast of Maine

Any other day, I would recommend focusing on what is here versus what isn’t. However, on Father’s Day I give myself the space to feel the missing. It’s been twenty-three Father’s Days for this fatherless daughter, which leaves me with an unfillable void. My dad died when I was a slowly developing twenty-seven-year old soul. The phrase, ‘you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone’ has clung to me for decades. I lost a pillar, a part of my foundation and a piece of me. My younger self died on this day, never again to feel the warmth and security of a father’s love.

My dad was modest, kind, hardworking and funny. I search to remember all that I can. As a young adult daughter, I was ill-prepared to mourn this tremendous loss. I kept busy, progressed my life and felt the feelings as they bubbled to the surface. I stayed strong on the exterior, when my interior was sobbing. Shower cries seemed to be the most therapeutic. I’m the youngest of three (by six and eight years) and the only girl, a family positioning (up until this point) was sweet and unchallenging. I took things for granted. My father’s death was shocking and the years to follow were profound in the carving out of my character. This one event rippled through my life in tidal waves of discovery, challenge and change.

In loss, we find out what we had. The unfortunate part is that it’s too late to appreciate. The silver-lining is that we can awaken, learn to live differently through gratitude and grace. A loss isn’t a burden to carry, it’s a change agent, to alter and tweak our development. If we live through it and not cling to it, we grow and level up. We choose carefully the people we surround ourselves with and notice fulfillment they bring. We develop the courage to make the critical cuts, alleviating the heaviness of what doesn’t belong.

I search for nuggets of wisdom in the years I had with my father, something to remember and carry on. Most evident was the way that he treated humans, without judgement or preconceived ideas about them. In the shadow of his death, I realize that he was a common ground finder who loved getting to know people.

I try not to get stuck thinking about the moments that he didn’t or cannot share; our wedding, our children coming into the world ~ all the celebrations and the sorrows. It’s the doubling of joy and the division of pain that only a parent can partake in or soften.

Today I mourn the father that would have been my kid’s grandfather. I’m envious of those families whose grandfathers attend their grandkids games, concerts, school events and long for what my kids will never have. What I wouldn’t give, to hear my dad’s voice supporting from the sidelines or his footstep coming into our home delivering ice cream to our kids, as he did for my brother’s kids every Thursday night.

I miss his dad hands that adorned his black onyx ring and his wrist that held his bulky old man watch. I miss his beautiful cursive handwriting, his waddle when he walked, his hunched back and his joyful chuckle. Today, I deeply miss what could have been.

Write a Poem, Buy a Hat

A day off appeared, I seized it and disappeared. First, I folded, vacuumed, dusted, emptied the dishwasher and hiked the dog. I had to justify my dash. Anyone else feel the need to do this?

Once I decided to hit the road, I fully thought out my spontaneity. Just like any other mom, I planned for anything that might and could happen; maybe I’d shoot my first online yoga class on the beach (a bit ambitious for a day off but you never know) or maybe I’d indulge in an adult beverage, I packed one. It could be hot or it might be cool, I prepared for both. I made little sandwiches on the tiny bread I found at the store the day before. I spread a thin layer of butter on the bread, no mayo for me. Eating mayonnaise sandwiches at a young age ruined mayo for me, for life. My mom and even my grandmother ‘buttered’ their bread. So, I’ll blame my love affair with butter on them.

Chair, towel, blanket, music, journal, computer and phone were all packed for a journey to New Hampshire’s coast. I blasted soft rock from the 70’s, sang loudly and finally put my feet in the sand at 12:45pm. It occurred to me that I’d never been to Hampton Beach by myself, no kids to chase and no personalities to juggle. It was just me, free to be. I became enamored by a two-year old who was playing with her mom, as her brother explored the beach with a large bowl they brought from their kitchen. The age difference was equal to my own children. It was serendipitous, when the mother called out to her daughter, “Joleigh, come this way.” The universe was nudging me to reminisce, so I did. Memories of those innocent days flooded my mind. The days that passed too fast, in a flash you’re no longer holding hands or bending over to reach them. The funny thing about ‘lasts’ is that we often don’t notice when we’ve done something for the last time. This is a good thing, as the sweetness could potentially turn sour.

I remember Joleigh sitting on this same beach, in a big puddle, surrounded by family who were sprinkled around like seashells in the sand. She wore the cutest brown halter-top bathing suit with a large yellow flower on the side. Her hair was curly and falling perfectly along the sides of her precious baby cheeks. She belonged on the cover of ‘Parent Magazine’. Does that magazine still exist and when did I get my last issue?

My mother had booked a cottage for two-weeks, that summer. The sun never stopped shining, so we spent each day lugging arms-full of beach toys to and from the beach. We felt compelled to fill every moment with something fun for the kids to do; arcades, water park, fireworks, events at the half-shell and the eating of beachy food. There was a costume parade where Parker dressed like Spider-Man. He felt like the real deal, throwing pretend webs to the crowds as they shouted, “Spidey, over here!” This vacation was exhausting, yet satisfying. My ‘experienced self’ would tell my ‘younger self’ to spend more time relaxing in those moments. Less go, go, go and more breathe, breathe, breathe.

I’ve had plenty of other Hampton-filled moments, ones for a different blog on another day. They involve my own childhood, prepubescent days and even a time as 19-year-olds, when Stephanie and I got in a van with people we didn’t know and lived to tell about it. Sorry, mom.

After a couple of hours on the breezy beach, I packed up my party for one. I hit the strip, bought some taffy for the kids and took pictures of all things Hampton. I drove down the coastal road toward Rye Beach, had an ice cream and searched for worthy landscapes to photograph.

This day felt like the beginning of summertime in New England. I bought a summer hat, wrote a poem and reminisced about my days at Hampton Beach. This day away at the sea, brought me back to me.

Tissue in the Attic

I had a ‘Chevy-Chase-in-the-attic-moment’ today. Remember ‘Christmas Vacation’ when Clark gets stuck in the attic and takes a trip down memory lane? That was me today, except I wasn’t stuck physically. However, I was frozen in time for an hour or two.

A found newspaper feature about my father (written by Les St. Pierre) which paralyzed me for a moment, insert ‘Clark in Christmas Vacation sentimental moment’, minus the turban. It was an article about the McGuire name being associated with championship baseball in Claremont and the scholarship set up in his name. It thoughtfully described my father’s spirit, as he quoted friends who had played ball with him. I thought of the song ‘Glorious’, that mentions you die twice – once when they bury you in the grave and the last time that someone mentions your name. Someday, people will no longer mention his name, sniff.

Today’s attic clean-out brought me to happy and sad tears, of both losses and gains. Our attics can hold a heaping amount of our history. Just a few boxes can contain decades of our lives.

I came across high school prom pictures. Interestingly, our family was discussing (not even an hour earlier) how prom styles have changed. I described my high neck, Gunne Sax style dress, which I wore my freshman year of high school. I now had the proof, in hand. What I had forgotten was the lovely laced gloves. One of many questionable fashion choices I came across today.  My world paused for a couple hours as I opened boxes of keepsakes, photos, newspaper articles and various odds & ends, each striking a cord of my sappy heart. The endless pictures of our children had me wondering if I had savored this time enough. These foundational days are timeless gems. I have no regret, just an urge to go back and feel things one more time.

These memories are stuffed in boxes and bins, just waiting to be remembered. They carry the power to melt our hearts, the very hearts that they molded. I willingly time-traveled back to my childhood, high school, college and adult life, fondly remembering family & friends along the way. Our past has a depth that flavors our soul and constructs the stage of our lives.

During my exploration today, I found pictures of McGee’s (our business in the 90’s), evident was the way it brought people together, the same people that held us up when my father passed. There were plenty of good times, too.  I have the pictures to prove. One of my favorite memories was a night when New England Sound Machine (pioneers in the early DJ years, who always came with props for their audience), were wrapping up the night. Last call was served. They played ‘The Devil Went Down to Georgia’ and a customer got his violin from his car and began playing along. Others were playing ‘blow up’ instruments and dancing ensued on top of the bar. I stepped back and took it all in. It was pure joy (combined with alcohol). It was a crazy sight on a fun night, no inhibitions, only the freedom and comfort found in friendships. This is how I remember the McGee days.

It would be remiss of me if I didn’t mention Twisted Fitness. Found were plentiful clippings of community spirit, business building and accomplishments – from the beginning to the bitter end. The salty end has turned sweeter by the passing of years, erasing the bad. For almost two decades, this was our way of life and it was filled with forever friends, ones that any life would be happy to have. These years also held personal challenges that eventually resulted in our family four pack. The village supported us, continuously. Collectively, the times were twisted. Maybe this was a self-fulfilling prophecy.

At each glimpse of a picture or keepsake, a shuffling of experiences flooded my mind, triggering pages and chapters of emotion. I’m coated with a satisfaction, these fifty years have been abundantly good.

I’ve fallen deeper in love with the past; all the twists, turns, pivots and outcomes. The dots of our lives connect when our minds walk down these rearview roads.

This year’s April Stay-cation included a worthwhile trip to the land of lost treasures, my beloved attic. I highly recommend that you book a trip to yours.

Lay Down Your Stories & Bloom

Nature teaches us how to be. Instead of picking up the pieces of the past season, nature absorbs her brokenness and battered remains. This becomes part of her landscape and strengthens her foundation. She molds into something new, a more interesting and rugged version of her past self. Her warrior spirit prevails and with deepened roots, she is ready for forward footsteps. We, too, must soak up our stories. This helps to heal and ground. Lay down your stories and bloom.

Season’s Affect & Order

We are changed, we are enriched, we are blessed by each good-bye and each directional swing.

A winter hike doesn’t disappoint. Nature connects us to ourselves, beautifully and better than any technology can. We are nature. We are winter, spring, summer and fall. We are the rhythm, the ebb and the flow. We are the sensations and the struggles.

The winter months build our resilience, patience, strength and survival skills. It can also have us feeling stuck, cold, bitter and frozen in places both figuratively and literally. It’s a time to hunker down and conserve. Walking through the woods, it’s clear that nature bends and breaks. It’s silent and serene, begging for reflection.

I’m loving it yet longing for its release. The blue skies bring hope that a long winter will soon end. The trees are begging for their leaves. The barren landscape feels fresh and ready to be painted with varying shades of green. There’s an absence of bird’s song and animal movement. Nature is both sleepy and busily recharging.

Days are getting longer, and the tease of spring is on the horizon. We happily welcome muddy trails and bumpy back roads. The softness of winter’s white will soon become stained and soiled. This shift will make way for the plushest of picturesque panoramas. We’re ready for the new and prepared to say good-bye to the darker days. There’s a lightness that comes with springtime. We shed our past, we roll our windows down and open our outlooks. Spring in New England hugs our tired winter bones. Our moods lift and our positive selves shine.

Summer hijacks spring effortlessly. The seasons blend like two old friends. Before we notice, lakes are crystal blue and the sun blooms all. There’s a fullness that surrounds, like nature has had a full course meal. Dog days of summer never seem to howl long enough. Weekends come and go at a breakneck speed. Sunny spender heats and hovers. When the sun shines, people glow. It becomes easier to relax. The heat has us soaking and savoring fleeting moments. Winter and summer are polar-opposites that create similar scenarios, a natural slowing down.

Soon the summer ‘uncles’ to cooler nights and crisper air. Autumn is the beginning of the end of another year. The reminder that we live in continuous change. We are changed, we are enriched, we are blessed by each good-bye and each directional swing. This is growth that grounds. Fall’s flattering foliage is nature’s fireworks, a restless rejoicing. Soon the leaves fall and coat the earth, bracing and supporting yet again. We are naturally nature.  

Parenting Porridge

The blurred space between the big adoring eyes and the regular eye rolling,

Current and unstoppable time is filled with feels that are overflowing.

Our vulnerable hearts live in little lives, we monitor and mold.

With suspended breath, their singular carved lives unfold.

It’s a daily ache, endless page turning, in a chapter titled past.

Only soothed by satisfaction and fading memories that somehow last.

How do we ease the heaviness, the non-stop stops and starts?

It’s the belief that more chapters will bring us closer, not apart.

Parental love is a restless bear hug we continue to adjust. Not to tight but just right,

As we encourage their own path paving and dreams to take flight.

We turn the ache into hope and the past into treasure,

We live in the moments, as we know this life isn’t forever.

Function & Family

We’ve been renovating our home over the last few years, constantly moving toward more function. We had a couple of living rooms in our old home, which is not the case in our current home. What we’ve sacrificed in space, we’ve made up in every other way. However, this means every area of our home should be used optimally. When our living spaces have better purpose, our lives benefit.

Last week our son had friends over. Five teenagers in his ‘postage stamp size’ bedroom. On my mind, as I went up to our bedroom and then into our ‘walk-in closet’ room, was how they were crammed into this tiny space. I thought to myself, “why do our clothes need a room of their own (seemed dumb) and how much time do we actually spend up here”? Other than a night’s rest, probably about 12.5 minutes per day. What a silly use of space, we’re not ‘sleeper-inners’ and it’s not important to us to have a master suite situation. It’s more important that our family has a functional house.

In a 3-minute conversation, we decided we would move our bedroom downstairs into one of the three smaller bedrooms and give our son a bigger bedroom and ‘entertaining’ space. When he graduates, our daughter will have her time in that same space, keeping it equal (as moms, we strive to do this). In the meantime, she can have the additional bedroom downstairs for her 6th grade sleepovers and such. This time in our lives is 100% about our kids. When they’re happy, we’re ecstatic.

We’ve not been as excited about a project in a long time. In one week, the teenage dream suite is done and as I type, five freshman friends are over enjoying the Superbowl. We’ve been smiling ear to ear, listening to the giggling and the goofing off. Literally music to our parental ears.

We’ve downsized the insignificant, as it relates to our clothing and accessories. We’ve comfortably moved our sleeping quarters to the main floor. The bonus, my husband created the room(s) he always wanted, as a kid. Here’s to living vicariously! We’re feeling super good on this Superbowl Sunday, scored one for family.

Purpose > Perfection

When I’m behind the camera, teaching yoga or writing, I feel like me. It’s an extension. I’m satisfied, at peace and whole.   

Purpose is that ‘thing’ that shoots energy into life, like rocket fuel. It’s the mixture of talents and truths that live inside the flesh and bones, making us feel both restless and at peace. It rests below the surface, patiently waiting to be acknowledged, celebrated and showcased.

The reach for perfection can sidetrack purpose, focusing efforts in the wrong direction. We mustn’t be hindered by the mind, that often holds us hostage by fear. Expectation can ‘speed bump’ the cultivation of our genuine selves, too, wasting precious time and vitality.

Once purpose is discovered, unfolded and refined, it’s as though the universe nods, ‘yes’. A nightlight converts into a stoked fire. This ‘spotlights’ the pathway of purpose, the endless highway filled with opportunities to grow and glow. Authenticity stamps our lives through our spirit and insignificant obstacles dissolve.

There’s no substitution for living our truth. Navigation is personal, no ‘one road fits all’. All roads lead us to lessons. An experiential life offers a process of trial and error, in a ‘getting to know me’ sort of way. This takes patience, dedication, and determination before development. We mimic, we pretend and try on. Our honed skills gathering in our tool box, waiting to be used.

A purposeful existence sits comfortably among all areas of our lives; enhancing, strengthening, balancing and connecting it all. This gift is worthy of sharing.

We notice when the light is turned on. It’s empowering, contagious and inspiring. It’s a power incased in the soul, untamed and free.

Inside out is where freedom is found.