Out With The Old (2017) And In With The New!!! Or Get Me The Fuck Out Of This Crappy Year!!! Or Celebrate Change!!!

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In many ways, this past year has been one of the toughest of my life. It has been a year of sorrow and heartbreak as I watched my 30+ year marriage hang by a thread only to snap in December. But it has also been a year of tremendous growth as I have learned to sit with things longer before reacting, have found joy in places that were once unavailable to me, and I have located pieces of myself again which I thought were gone forever. Good and valuable pieces that I am proud of and am grateful to have re-captured in a slightly different form.

This past year I have walked down paths and met new friends who have been there for me while I cried on their shoulders. I discovered amazing people who have given me wisdom through new perspectives and helped me to realize that there is renewal in letting go and giving up so that future growth can occur.

My children have given me courage and a dogged determination to act in ways I once never dreamed possible. I have learned to appreciate them in a new light and with a sense of gratefulness that has brought joy to my spirit and wisdom to my soul.

Seeking peace has become a way of life and a way of viewing a future that is full of possibility and excitement while negative self-talk is becoming a slightly more distant phenomenon. I am trying, as I go into 2018, to avoid turmoil… self and otherwise so that anxiety is no longer walking in the shadows along side of me as I journey through the end of this life as I know it and the beginnings of a new life that I am about to confront head on.

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The changing relationship with my husband has shown me that pushing my own agenda is like walking through a land mine and that sometimes you just have to stand still until the bombs can be diffused. It has taught me that people change in ways you once never imagined and that their changes are THEIR changes and you don’t have to take them on as YOUR OWN. I also learned and am working on the idea that his changes and dislikes may have little to do with me in all actuality so that disappointment I have felt in myself may well have been misplaced.

I have also realized (after spending time in a sauna yesterday) that even skinny 65 yo women’s bodies look old and that acceptance and making peace with my less-than-perfect body will probably bring me a sense of freedom that has eluded me for years.

As I march into 2018, head held high, I thank you for putting up with my confusion and bull shit for these past several years.  Thank you for your wisdom, knowledge, and loving support. I know in real-life some of us could be best friends and leave our mark upon the world together though I think we might need the name of a bail bondsman handy!

I wish for all of you joy and wisdom in the coming year. Dance, dammit, dance…. preferably under the stars. Do something tough and do something you love often. Read tons of good books. Dream more. Eat more chocolate and take more time for yourself. Visit a place you have never been and kiss those you love more often. For those who suffer from chronic pain may it ebb. And lets try to remember that we never know just how much time we have on this earth so let’s all vow to use ours wisely.

And finally, may child-like Trump and childish Kim Jong-un not one up each another in a fit of spoilt “my dick is bigger than yours” and blow up the entire world just because they can.

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Amen!

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Precious Presents

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I have a small group of friends that know me pretty much inside and out…and bless their hearts… they are still my friends. We were brought together by virtue of some shared characteristics of our children. The bond that we have gone on to form transcends our original purpose of providing support to one another. Our relationships are now based not so much on our children’s issues but on our real concern and love for each other. We now enjoy a Friendship that begin with a capital F even if it is mostly virtual.

Many of these friends I have met in “real” life. A few I have yet to meet except out in cyberspace. We have shared our joys and concerns. We have lived each others ups and downs. We have been there for the little victories and some major defeats. We have watched each others children grow and been there when a diagnosis threatened to overwhelm. As a result of sharing such intimacies over the years we read each other fairly well.

Recently, I found myself at a crossroads… a low point so to speak. My friends gave me the encouragement that usually brings me to my feet again. Most important they took the time to give me ideas and options that they thought might make my life just a little brighter. Yet, I remained on my knees and they knew it. Then yesterday I went to our group and found that a member had posted the start of the most beautiful and meaningful gift I have ever been given. She started a list entitled 25 Random Things We Love About You. The list was sincere, uplifting and once again reminded me of who I am and who I want to become. Some things were funny, some serious and some were eye opening but all the things on the list were written with love. When I read the list I laughed and cried. I was truly touched and beside myself with delight. Because of that list I am standing on my feet once again.

A present that affirms you for who you are…warts and all… only comes along once or twice in a lifetime. It is a gift are as rare as the most precious gem. It’s a gift that teachs, stirs, and allows you to remember yourself as you were at your best. It restores confidence, grants healing and puts you back on the path to yourself. It is a gift that everyone should give to at least one other person in their lifetime. Everyone should be so lucky.

I have yet to comment to my friends how I feel about such receiving such a treasure. I mean it is truly like winning the lottery. I find it hard to contemplate about what was said without feeling such a overwhelming sense of gratitude that I have such a group of wonderful women watching my back…I almost dissolve in tears. So lacking any real gift that could compare in return I just wanted to say thank you my dear friends. I want to thank you for giving me your time when I had none to give back and thank you for giving me your strength when I was too weak to support myself much less you. Thank you for giving me your love and your truth. You have given me your best over the years even when I fell short. I am truly blessed to have known each and every one of you. All of you have taught me so many things but most of all you have taught me the true meaning of friendship and for that I will always be grateful and in your debt.Someday I hope I can give back to you what you have given me over the years. For now….all you get is this IOU.

*I wrote this several years ago and just looked at it again. I feel just as blessed remembering this as when it happened. Thank you friends!*

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The Other Side Of The Mountain

 

The other day we were driving up to the cabin. The wind was quiet and the sun bright as we climbed higher into the mountains. It brought me back to a year ago when I was making the same drive. My marriage was a mess and I was a wreck. It seemed like nothing was ever going to get better and I wondered if I was ever going to feel happiness again. Last year it was a hard drive and I made it alone.

This year the drive was different. The wolf spiders were out along the roads doing their mating dance. img_1929

The leaves were just beginning to turn with brilliant yellows and a few orange ones dotting the landscape. The birds were singing and the deer were just frolicking with one another in the backyard. We also felt lucky as we saw large embers from the fire laying on our deck knowing how easily the cabin could have gone up in flames as the embers were carried by the wind.img_1933

B and I just enjoyed our time together and wished for nothing more. It was a fantastic day.

When it was time to leave we opted to try a different way home. It was a road we had never ventured on before and we hoped to see how close the big fire of a month ago had made it to our cabin. About a mile from our place we left the pavement and headed down a dirt road. Further and further back we climbed until we could look back upon the entire valley. It was clean and clear. No sign of a fire anywhere. We climbed higher, the trees in thick clusters, more colors to their leaves. We were high on the mountain and you could feel the tightness begin to shape your lungs like the blue rubber bands you find on bunches of celery in the grocery store.

Finally, we came to another paved road. Here we found signs still mounted on the trees which read THANK YOU FIREFIGHTERS and STAY SAFE. But still no sign of the fire itself. We saw the red fire-retardant splashed on the road that had been dropped from airplanes that once buzzed through the smoke choked sky. But there was still no trace of the devastating fire that had ravaged the mountains just one month ago.

As we descended, we realized that we were on the backside of the mountain which usually takes us up to the cabin. It felt like an entirely different place. Long grasses lay flat and swirled around massive tree trunks creating a kaleidoscope of colorful designs.

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Huge boulders the remnants of dinosaur days dotted the landscape in odd places looking like they had been dropped there by some humongous creature playing chess. It was the other side of the mountain but it could have been worlds away from where we had started.

Finally, after another 10 miles we made it back around to our usual road, the one that could take us back up the mountain. As we hit that mile marker I realized that our marriage in the past twelve months and this trip to the cabin shared many commonalities. For over this past year we had the courage to take an unfamiliar road which brought us new things to see/contemplate which eventually brought us to a happiness/coziness that we find amongst the trees. We also fought the flames of divorce, and while we did get singed, we didn’t get burned. Our marriage, just like this new road, looks different from the other side of the mountain at which we started our trip.  And today, more than at any other time during this journey; I feel blessed that we were able to traverse the vast unknown and make our way safely home from the other side.

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I Wonder…

I bought a new rug. The former one, the one that occupied the place by the tan sofa in the family room was old. I bought it 25 years ago. Between dogs and kids it was badly frayed and the bottom was literally disintegrating. Oh, it smelled too. Like wet dogs who had caroused in the boggy woods on a hot summers day.

So yesterday, I went to World Market to buy some wine. They were having a discount, buy 3/ get one free. They have some yummy wine so I thought I would indulge. But as I entered the store I noticed a 25% sale off of rugs so I meandered over. And there I saw it…a caramelly jute rug embedded with threads of rust, sage and icy iron blue. Best of all it was 40% off! What a bargain! The hell with the wine…this rug is mine!

I took it home and laid it out on the floor and it looked delicious like peanut butter spread on toast. And as I inspected it I came across its tag of origin: India. And I wondered…who made this rug?  Where in India do they live? How do they live their lives? Were they paid fairly for this work of art that I now possess? Do they wonder where it now lays?

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As I thought about all of this it made me nostalgic. How sad it is that we no longer personally know the people who make most of the items in our house. There is no cobbler who knows the size of my feet and that I have a bunion on my left little toe. No longer could I find a knife sharpener/iron forger on my block. The butcher is employed by a big conglomerate now and an hour-long discussion about the best cut of meat for sauerbraten is a thing of the past. I have no idea where the nearest woodworker shop is nor a trusty mechanic with his own back-alley garage. I no longer know that Mrs. Tartini’s store sells the best brooms for the cheapest price. Where I live there is no neighborhood. No sense of community. No loyalty to Sam’s Welding because he lives on my block and I see him pushing his kids on their tricycles as they ride by.

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I have come to realize that this is no way to live. Because a sense of community is important. It promotes trust, understanding, and consensus amongst neighbors. It brings as sense of place and security to those living together. Trust in our craftsmen’s work developes because we see what they do and how lovingly they do it over time. It’s those kinds of ties that bind us to one another and give life meaning but, unfortunately, so many communities today no longer have this. And its those personal ties to community which make police think twice about gunning down the people they are supposed to protect.

And so, as I look at my beautiful new rug, I wish I knew who crafted it. I wish I knew everything about them, and they about me, just to give us both a place in the world where we could interact because we are bound together by our shared humanity. A place where concern and understanding prevailed just because it feels good and right. I wish I lived in a community of love and concern…I wonder if the rug maker does too?

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Friendship

This morning I had a long overdue coffee date with a wonderful woman. We are about the same age and are both on the road of discovery about ourselves while deciding what we want the second half of our lives to look like. We have a lot in common in many regards and I hope she is on the way to becoming a good friend.

After coffee was over it occurred to me how much I miss having close female friends. Sometimes I miss it so much it feels like a piece of me has been ripped away and left abandoned out on an isolated road. Alone.

Don’t get me wrong I have some wonderful friends. But due to our constant moving or their moving; these women that I cherish and love are scattered throughout the United States. There is N… my been with me forever friend who has seen me through my youthful indiscretions and has nursed me through the past year. There is C who knew me as a teen and with whom I share a birthday. There is L who makes life something to laugh at and enjoy to the fullest even when I am whining like a baby. And there are several other special ladies who I know would be there for me if I picked up the phone. But what I need at this juncture of my life, and what I miss most, are a couple of good girlfriends to go to coffee with every Thursday to catch up on each others lives.

It is hard making friends at my age. It’s an art really. The type of art I have really never possessed in sufficient quantities… because I don’t do acquaintances. I do… “I’ll save your life if you’re in a raging river”… types of friends. I would do anything for them and they would do just about anything for me. These are the plunging off a cliff, Thelma and Louise, kinds of friends.  Frankly, there are not a lot of people I want to risk my life for or go down with at my age. But I am still willing to try to find those kinds of inspiring and fun people and offer them all that I have to give… which is quite a lot.

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There are other reasons I find making friends difficult. Sometimes when you have special needs children with challenges it makes it difficult to make friends. Most people have no clue of all the things you have to do to make your life work. They don’t understand when you have to cancel at the last-minute because of a major meltdown that is occurring ten minutes before you are supposed to meet. And being around others whose children also have challenges can be draining for both people because it seems as if too often you are both drowning at once and just holding on by the thinnest of branches. While things have improved in my household sometimes I feel like past behaviors hold me back because I am unsure when those issues will rear their ugly heads again. It makes me afraid to risk “those” looks and “those” whispers from someone I thought was special only to find that they really aren’t. Sometimes I wonder if that isn’t how my sons with autism feel.

There is also the issue that most women’s lives are so full that they barely have time for the friends they currently have much less making time for someone new in their lives. With old friends you know what you have and how to relate. Most people just don’t have the energy to figure out the quirks of a stranger. And I get all of this. I truly do. But damn, it just means that so many of us are missing out on something that is so good.

But really, I don’t want a lot of friends. I just want a small group of coffee klatching Thursday morning women to hang with. Some 40-60 something gals who won’t try to convert me. Won’t try to change me. And will love me despite all my idiosyncracies.

With all the lonely people out there you would think it wouldn’t be that hard to find but it is. Which makes me thankful for all that I do have in my life. Yet, I am greedy and I want more. Much, much more.

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B’s List Of What He Wants

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

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

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

Fences- A Positive Post

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Yesterday Paul needed to get some service hours in for Scouts. He elected to paint the fence at our church. It was hot and the fence sat square in the path of the intense rays of the scorching sun. Six hours spent working in the sun is difficult for anyone but even more so for a young autistic teenage boy with no previous painting experience. Fortunately, one of the older members of our congregation (R) was there to provide guidance and cheer him on.

I love it when old and young connect. There is something almost magical that happens when wisdom meets youth. Learning occurs in an unstructured setting and life’s lessons are conveyed easily. More importantly, both parties share those things that are important to them and greater understanding of the world and each other is obtained by both.

When he arrived home Paul was stoked and could hardly wait to tell me about his afternoon. But it wasn’t the fence he talked about. It was the connection that he made that mattered the most to him.

“Did you know that R served in the Korean War?” my sweet Korean boy asked.

“I had no idea,” I replied.

And so Paul sat with me and excitedly told me all that R had shared with him. Things about the war, what the country of Paul’s birth looked like back then, and how his life had changed because of his service. They also talked about what boys did growing up in the 40’s, how times have become more complicated and R’s ideas about the important things in life. But most of all Paul gained a friend. A man who could teach and discuss without being parental. A person with whom Paul could relate his troubles regarding peers in school and his concerns for the world as he navigates becoming a young adult.

It’s funny how sometimes in doing things for others you gain something special and totally unexpected for yourself.  This weekend Paul learned from R the value of a friendship with someone older and wiser than himself. He learned to share problems and issues and listen to good advice in return. And more than just learning about how to paint fences he was also taught how to mend a few too.

 

 

 

 

Surprise! We Are Going To…

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I’m not big into surprises. I like to plan my life in advance. If I had my way I probably would have every day of my life planned out in pencil for the few necessary erasures that would be required here and there. So imagine my surprise when B announced “I think that instead of taking this business trip to China alone I would love for you to come with me…oh and by the way, we will also go to Tibet… and Nicole is coming to babysit. So what do you say?”

Tibet. Place of my dreams. A place of full of “good” karma. A place so breathtakingly beautiful that I hear that you often just forget to breathe as you stand in front of the Himalayan Mountains in awe. It’s the place where dreamers, doers, climbers and athletic persons who are all in supreme shape go to test themselves both mentally and physically. And it’s where the base camp for Mt Everest is located which we will be visiting in the dead of winter. Frankly, I’m a little worried. Why?  I cannot do one pushup unless I plank against the wall. My idea of cold is 75 degrees and I have knee replacement surgery penciled in on my calendar for March 27, 2019. Oh and one more thing…I hate to fly. Seriously hate it and take out extra life insurance as a cushion. So why am I going?

I love my husband, that’s why. After a year of the “almost divorce” consisting of six months of fights, disappointments, therapy, sadness and worry; the fact that he wants us together at all is a huge testament of how hard we have worked to try and find each other again. It brings me joy to know that out of all the people he would want to spend his time with… it is me. Still. Again. Now. And even better, I want to spend time with him too as our friendship grows into something deeper and more meaningful to us at this stage in our lives.

I am also going so that I can challenge myself. No, I won’t be going for the summit but I will be standing there looking at a mountain that has spurred people to accomplish great things and brought them closer to “God” in whatever form you believe she/he takes. And I hope some of those feelings… the exhilaration, excitement, and the oneness with “another” will touch me in ways I have yet to experience in this lifetime.

Finally, I am going because I truly believe that travel is one of the keys to genuine peace with one another and within the world. Whether it is 2,000 miles or 200 ft; leaving your comfort zone is necessary for growth because it frees you from the tethers that keep you trapped within the confines of our own mind. Being away forces you to look outside yourself and sometimes dig deep within yourself to find answers to the obstacles you have put in your own way.

So, YES, I’m going to Tibet. YES, I will scamper on Everest! And YES, I will be going with the person I care about the most in the world! And if I die at least they can write on my tombstone “She summited in life just not on Everest.”

One of the things I love about blogging

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One of the things about blogging that I love is seeing all the people from different countries visit my site and I, in turn, visit theirs. It makes me happy to think that often we are all capable of understanding the emotions that the other person may be feeling even though we may live very different lives and that our shared humanity allows us to connect because we have “been there” before or faced something similar.

I have been fortunate to have traveled all over the globe. To date I have visited over 40 countries. That is because we travel cheap, go where the deals take us and we go in the off season. We also exchange houses when we travel.

The safest I ever felt at night was in Stockholm, Sweden. The happiest I have ever been was in Korea. The place I felt in awe was in the thermal baths in the ocean off the island of Kos. The place I felt the most connected to was Scotland and the place I wished I could stay longer was Ethiopia.

The number of people who have opened their homes and lives to us has been humbling. We have been invited into homes after a meeting during a meal in a restaurant and the next thing we know is we are on our way to something unexpected, special and always memorable. And what I really have learned from all this travel is that people just want to feel understood, appreciated and believe that they have been heard no matter where they live. And really 99% of the world wants the same things: peace, love, understanding, full bellies, reasonable heath care, clean water and hope for the future.

I like to think that all of us bloggers contribute in some small way to world peace and understanding. One can only hope!

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THE HAPPIEST HALLOWEEN EVER

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Sometimes I am really worried about the young people growing up in today’s impersonal world. Often it seems as if they have little compassion, are involved in things that are questionable, and spend way too much time on video games while not spending enough effort on interpersonal relationships. Tonight, I am pleased to say I am going to have to re-consider those impressions.

This Halloween Andre chose to forego the usual costuming and instead he decided to be the one to hand out candy to all the kids in the neighborhood. I remember years past when Trick-or-Treating was very hard on him. Too much commotion, too much noise and too many scary things. Yet, tonight he wanted to be part of the action; just from the safety of his own front porch.

This evening I heard constant giggling coming through our door from the little kids as they came up to the front porch where Andre was sitting, candy in hand, excited to hand it  all out. Andre talked to every child and had a running commentary going with everyone who approached. There wasn’t one person who came to our house that he didn’t  talk with and befriend. And then something magical happened.

To understand Andre, you have to understand that he has only been invited to one or two birthday parties in his entire life. While kids at school are mostly kind, he has never had much of an out-of-school relationship with anyone. His rapid speech and his way of relating to others due to his autism has made attracting and maintaining friends difficult for him and so I was amazed by what I saw as I opened the front door by chance.

There on the porch stood five gangly boys all of whom had been in Andre’s class last year. They were the popular kids, the ones THE OTHERS all wanted to be like, especially Andre. I watched as each one of them came up to him saying “Hi Andre” while giving him a teenage boy pound on the back usually reserved for young men on the football team.  All seemed glad to see him and each told him that they missed him. But the most profound moment came when one of the boys looked Andre in the eye and said, “School isn’t the same without you. You taught us all so much.”

And then they left.

“Did you see that mom? All my friends were here. I can’t believe it. Wasn’t that great!”

Yes, Andre, it was great and for more reasons than you will ever know. For those boys restored my faith in today’s teens. They are good boys with great hearts and an ability to make everyone feel liked and included. But most of all, I came to finally understand that there are all kinds of friendships, and while Andre’s are certainly different from mine, to him they are every bit as valuable. Even if those friendships occur just for a few minutes at a time on a spooky Halloween night.