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When One Door Closes…

Hi,

Just checking in…this New Year is beginning – as most do – with ridiculously large amounts of hope and an almost equally impressive amount of anxiety.  It’s all about balance…

They say that when one door closes, another opens.  Whoever ‘they’ are, may I call ‘b.s’.  When a door closes, it’s shut.  There may not be another door, hell there may only be a window that’s been painted shut for years.  That kind of closed that is going to take some muscle, intent and a few tools.  And then prying it open can take some time.

No worries, I’m not going to suffocate.  I’ve got the window wedged open a crack, and I can smell the freshness in the air.  I check on that door every once in a while, but I’ve gotta tell you – the damn thing won’t give.  It’s not supposed to.

We’re putting our house on the market sometime next month.  And as every cliche attests – after twenty three years, it’s far more than a house – it is the keeper of secrets and memories, of hugs and arguments, firsts and lasts.  My sneakers are in the garage, placed there when we moved in so I could be ready to run and it is here in the quiet of the morning where I also planted my roots.  It’s where I checked on sleeping sons every night and/or waited in the family room for them to sneak in from wherever they weren’t supposed to be.  It’s where we worked to blend a family and succeeded and failed and succeeded and failed.

It’s where I could hide or choose to be found.

We moved here when I was young.  Now I’m not so young.  I had a new husband who looked at me in that way I had always imagined.  Somehow romance existed alongside emergency runs for Frosted Flakes.  I knew that marriages morph and change – but I had no idea how malleable they have to be to survive.  And we’re still here, shaped in no small part by the moments in this house.

I brought my boys here and even though I knew they would grow up and leave, I didn’t fully understand how the ground would shift when they did.  Their lives and loves and futures so fantastic and I stand proudly on the periphery.  As my sister reminds me – that’s the way it’s supposed to be.  ‘Go find the balance, Grasshopper’.  I’m on an emotional hover-board.  And I’m clumsy.

So over these next few weeks, you will find me in the throes of purging and packing, preparing for a stager to come in and completely de-personalize what I’ve held so personally.  It’s disorienting to pack up the pictures that crammed every mantel,  use too much bubble-wrap to secure the art my mom created and/or the belongings that once were in my parents’ house which provide comfort and familiarity in mine.

And that window?  Yeah, it’s there and I am sure that in time it will open wider and with greater ease.  It looks like we’ll be building a new house – an experience I’ve never had – in a smaller city where there is family who are happily anticipating our arrival, and some understanding of its rhythms from visits there as well.  It will be a new story line – Mimi & Andy’s Most Excellent Adventure – as soon as it begins.  It’s this interim period where one is not yet saying good-bye or hello which is a little tricky for the heart.  Where there are too many moments being packaged and memory-making days on hold.  Can you imagine some of the stories I will get to tell though?  The karma truck is going on the road – one of these days.  I’ll keep you posted as soon as I figure out the right GPS coordinates.

 

 

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Nothing More Than Time Passing

Hi Dave,

Yup, the first post since April must be written to you – for you demanded I write  again.  You didn’t forget that I had this blog (even though I pretty much did, and assume most others have as well), you kicked me in the butt in your typically unforgiving-yet-most-caring way and caught me pre-coffee.  No defenses properly caffeinated.  All rationalizations fragmented in the middle of the night when one has the freedom to forgive lethargy, holding one’s doubts as a pillow while huddled in the corner of the couch.  Your timing is pretty damn good.

So what’s been going on in eight months?  Nothing.  Everything.  I’ve been graced and damned, overwhelmed with love and had my heart broken a little bit, thinking it would never mend and bowed my head until I felt it beat again.  I celebrated new life with such awe and humility, that I remembered what it felt like to be drunk with love.

Details?  You want details?  Not this first go-round, pal – the words are swirling around in my head arguing about which should be written first, debating how transparent I will seem, when my preference is to remain a bit opaque.

I can say this – I remain grateful, yet I no longer feel that I can write about it without cliche or some really sickening elevator music playing in the background.  The karma truck was becoming a paean to gratefulness.  Not a bad thing – but a personal thing.  It’s not a commodity.  I’m not selling it.  You are gifted with it or not.  You are blessed with the frightening awareness that there is nothing more ephemeral than this moment and you’re either going to foment some goodness in it – or not.  Your choice.

When I last wrote, I introduced you to my magnificent granddaughter Sienna Reese.  Almost four weeks ago,  my other son and daughter-in-law welcomed Sophie Ida into the world.  She is miraculous and magical, beyond beautiful and/or adequate words.  As I marvel at Sienna already exploring her world with determination and a smile that can change the hue of the sky and the color of one’s day, I watch her weeks-old cousin already turning from newborn to little baby, eyes alert, fingertips with special powers – as they curl around a finger she enters the bloodstream. Two of my sons now have families of their own.  And when I’m not in tears, I am laughing a song of life.

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Balance shifts, roles change, rhythms are re-calibrated.  Andy’s mom passed away in May, and though not unexpected, it is never expected.  Each of us responds to this part of the journey differently – and his story isn’t mine to tell.  But I watch, I wonder, I ache.  I marvel at his dad, who at ninety years of age, gets up every day with the intent to engage himself in his days.  Golf, bridge, speakers’ series, synagogue.  He has taught me how to grieve deeply and not turn one’s back on life.  How to open your arms to the day and those people who fill it.

Life – that’s what’s been going on.  What you do with what you have when you have it; what you choose to do when you don’t.   I guess in the span of one moment and the next, so much happens in the space in between.  The stories we get to tell depend upon the traffic in one’s head, the road maintenance on one’s heart and how close the image in the rear view mirror appears.

“We ain’t anything more than a name and some likes and some distastes, and a story we tell about ourselves.”  (M.T. Anderson) – And what others say about us too, I think.

It was good to write to you…let’s stay in touch.

 

grandparenthood, life lessons, love, parenting

Some Days Define Magic and Miracles and Stardust

May I introduce you to Sienna Reese – the most perfect daughter of my son and daughter-in-law.  This little girl was made in love and born in love (with a powerful dose of determination, grit and strength on her mommy’s part) and is welcomed to the world with a full heart from so many – including this new grandmother.

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There are no words for experiences like this…they get caught in the throat and can’t be fully formed.  Ironically,  I came across this post from The Story People, and it felt right for today.  To rediscover that place.  Perhaps I was never more at home than when I was holding my children against me.  Welcome home precious child, welcome home

courtesy of The Story People
courtesy of The Story People
life lessons, love

The Things No One Tells You

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That’s the crib in our sitting room upstairs.  It’s ready and waiting for our first grandchild who is due later this week (of course it’s up to her to decide when she’s ready).  Pretty exciting stuff.  Other than the arrival of one’s own children, there are few other heart-in-your-mouth moments in life.  And I could wax pseudo-poetic on the magnificence of pearly toes and downy ears, that indescribable smell on the back of a baby’s neck, the sensation of little breaths against one’s cheek.

What they don’t tell you is that part of you re-awakens..the part that looks at your child-who-is-now-a-man and remembers how he would cling to you like a little monkey – arms and legs tightly wound around you so that there was no need to hold on to him for he was secure against your body (though you held him just the same).  They don’t tell you that as he anticipates his daughter’s arrival or marvels at his wife’s equanimity and calm or imagines the awesome child that they are going to have, you are left alone with a sense of mild imbalance.  For you can’t pull him onto your lap and remind him that you have been there – you had the experience of awesome children.  Somehow there aren’t words that you can say any longer with the same forgiveness extended – that you’re a mushy, soppy mom who still is completely in love with her kids/men.  And I am watching my son prepare to be a parent.

They don’t tell you that there is something surreal about it all.  How this cycle, as reliable as night following day, moves in a rhythm of its own design.  How you wish and wonder, hope and dream, fret and agonize, invest a love that defies description into years that you feel will be forever (certainly some phases that seemed endless too).  I mentioned this to my sister – ‘when did this happen, Deb?  How did we get here?’  She told me that when I was pregnant, my mother said something similar – though she never mentioned it to me.  Undoubtedly I was far too wrapped up in the experience of becoming a mom to give much thought to her becoming a grandmother.  To think of her children having children.  I wish she was here – if only for me to tell her that I get it.

If there is any dissonance, its feeling so much love that I feel as if the heart can’t hold it all (for some of it must be held back or there’d be no dealing with me – as it is I can be insufferable).   That love?  Oh yes, baby girl it awaits you from so many corners of your life.  But there is a certain love – that love that happens between a parent and a child.  The one you hold onto forever while still letting go – that’s in there too.  And that is the legacy of love you will inherit when you arrive.

“Nobody can do for little children what grandparents can do.  Grandparents sort of sprinkle stardust over the lives of little children” — Alex Haley…I promise you stardust.

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Today’s Quote

My draft for today paled in comparison to this … Ring in 2015 with presence and delight and may the new year bring you golden days.

Soul Gatherings

new year's eve

A New Year’s Eve Blessing
~ Teo Bishop ~

May you look back on the year,
and feel a sense pride.
May you remember the strength of your character,
the resilience of your spirit,
and the inherent worth of your being.
May you know that you are a part of an ecosystem,
and that your life is sustained
by countless other living things.
May you have gratitude for what has been;
for all that you have lost,
and all you have gained.
May you laugh at your mistakes.
May you forgive yourself, and love yourself.
May you be resolved to be more fully alive in the year to come;
more present in your body, in your mind, and in your heart.
And most of all, may you be blessed with unexpected joys,
undeniable happiness, and unending compassion in the year to come.

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2014 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog…So this was the year that was – in numbers and comparisons.  Perhaps more critically,  whether view by one or a thousand – I’m grateful that we were here together.  Happy New Year all..

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 15,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 6 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

friendship, life lessons, love, mindfulness

Dear Universe

I’d write this to Santa, but being way over the age of majority and Jewish, it would seem remarkably disingenuous to do so.  Instead, I’m sending this to the universe, because based on my calculations, it’s large enough to handle a few requests from me.

Hi Universe,

How’s it going where you are?  Hopefully well, and you’re approaching the holidays with both anticipation and delight.  I hope you get all that you ask for and realize that you already have all that you want.  I’m not a big one for lists – I’ve been blessed too many times over to look at a gifted life and seek more.

And yet.

There are some things I desperately want this year.  You see, we’ll be welcoming our first grandchild into the world in February, and while I spend a ridiculous amount of time wondering what our relationship will be like, I’m spending more time perseverating about the world she will be joining.  And there’s some work we really need to do.

–  This year I want the world to work on forgiveness.  If we’ve done something wrong – to the world or to an individual – let’s own it, apologize, forgive and learn the lesson.  I feel emotionally assaulted everyday – whether it is the horrific senselessness of murder and ill-defined parameters of justice; too many homeless for my extra coats to warm; so much vitriol and judgment and too little shared compassion and faith.  Anonymous haters spitting venom in virtual environments where pain is the currency and absence of accountability is assured.  Can we have a body politic that agrees that a good foundation is one predicated upon us not hurting each other and/or this fragile earth we are only borrowing for a short while?  Can we eliminate the ‘yeah, but…’ and replace it with ‘maybe we can’?

–  This year I want families and friends to recognize that we can be extensions of our best selves to those we love the most and reflect a better self to those who we may never see again.  I want memories to be filled with limitless possibilities that we inspire with the merest of actions, the most innocent of exchanges, a smile.

–  I don’t want any more children to be hungry, or cold, or denied the feeling of being held in love and safety.

–  I want gratitude to be as contagious as kvetching and just as colorful.

–  I want the world’s religions to remember that the shared predicate is love.  I’m no scholar, but I’m no fool either.  If there is no love as a foundation, what is there to believe?

–  This year, I want this whole growing up thing to be a little easier.  I thought I’d at least know what I don’t know instead of finding the list increasing and expanding each day…Universe, I ask that we give ourselves the gift of the better part of who we are.  Chicken soup for the world, I guess.

“It’s funny:  I always imagined when I was a kid that adults had some kind of inner toolbox full of shiny tools:  the saw of discernment, the hammer of wisdom, the sandpaper of patience.  But then when I grew up I found that life handed you these rusty bent old tools – friendship, prayer, conscience, honesty – and said ‘do the best you can with these, they will have to do.’  And mostly; against all odds, they do.”  — Annie LaMott

inspiration, life lessons, love, mindfulness

Compulsory Cocooning

Well, Bogey navigated us to the mountains yesterday, and despite his insistence on looking behind or beside us, we made it.

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And now comes the snow, with no estimates even suggested for those of us at ‘higher elevations’.  Clearly this ain’t no gamblin’ town.

It’s a cozy Thanksgiving this year – one beloved son and daughter-in-law, Andy, four Sirs (one grand-dog included at the Round Table) and yours truly.  One cherished son in Toronto; the other adored one, with his in-laws.  My sister is up in NY; Andy’s family in CA.  I’ve never prepared Thanksgiving for four.  And since I’m not sure how successful I will be at re-calculating measurements, there will be plenty of leftovers.  It feels a little strange – and yet it’s ok – for everyone is where they want/need to be.  And they’re fine.  Let’s move on.

Something about the silence that accompanies snow forces one to pause and listen.  It is right to pay attention at times like these.  When the world continually reminds us why we’re angry, impotent, righteously indignant and not righteous enough, the snow blinds me to all of this vitriol.  It provides a day of muted noise –  a compulsory moment to feel something other than head-shaking disillusion.

Gratitude and giving thanks – it’s as white and clean and pure as snow falling.  Despite some chronic pain stuff (yawn), which has compromised aspects of my life lately, I am choosing this moment of grace.  To be thankful.  Thankful for family and friends who are generous with their love and laughter; meager with their criticisms and callousness.  Thankful that I’m going to be a grandma in February and hopeful that I may be a vital part of this little girl’s life.  Thankful for new friends who expand my view of the road ahead, and old friends who have rejoined my travels and have myopic vision that forgives much of history.  Thankful for giggles that cause stomach aches, tears that cleanse and puppy kisses.  Thankful for books that transport and bring me home again.    Thankful for music that accompanies all my moments.  Thankful for featherbeds and drool-y naps.  Thankful for t-shirts warm from the dryer.  Thankful for those spaces in between – when my breathing slows and I bow my head.  ‘Please.  Wow. Thanks.’ – to paraphrase Annie Lamott.  That is the prayer; the alpha and the omega.  We are blessed.  We love and we are loved.  We have limitless capacity for a limited time.  Gotta get your grateful on.  And I do.  Before I get to the chestnuts that will be roasting and sweet potatoes baking and turkey brining…before the smells begin to infuse the house with hints of tomorrow’s yumminess.  Get to that place where the greatest tradition is observed – where you go to whisper ‘thank you’.

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friendship, inspiration, life lessons, love, mindfulness

Where’ve You Been?

“Bo Diddley Bo Diddley have you heard

My pretty baby said she was a bird.

Bo Diddley Bo Diddley where you been

Round the world, gonna go again” — (Elias McDaniel, songwriter)

I’ve been away a long time – or at least it feels like a long time.  Not sure whether I’m really back.  Blogger fatigue?  Not really.  More the sense that if I had nothing interesting to say, better to stay mum.  When I consult, I often say that if you put your bucket down a well for water and you get a bountiful supply, you’ll keep putting your bucket down that well.  If you put a bucket down a well and draw up dirt, how often are you going to return to that well?  Felt like a lot of dirt to me.  So I’ve been out dousing…

Serendipity, the universe, a smack upside the head – call it what you will.  I received a comment from a woman named Karen in response to my last blog.  I’m sharing it with you in part (you could check it out yourself, but it’s important to this little story to quote from it here).

“Dear Mimi,

I just found your blog and it could not have been better timed.  I find your writing to be so lyrical and admire your authenticity…I want you to know that you have made an impact on my life at a time when I needed inspiration and the strength to move forward; I lost my husband 18 most ago; we both had cancer at the same time.  8 weeks after his death I was diagnosed with a second cancer and went through 9 months of grueling treatment, alone, without my Beloved…[L]ife has a way of being arbitrary in how we learn the real lessons, yes?  Our life together was like a beautiful song – starting with an anthem of the wonder of finding one another, then verse after verse over 45 years playing out the excitement of creating a family, the expansiveness of gratitude for all our hearts could hold that spilled so lavishly onto us and those we held dear, and then even over the period of shock and awe, our determination to live in the ‘now’. to savor the tastes, the touches, the fragrances and sights of ordinary days.  Your writing has restored my soul, my heart, my mind and my body once again hear that beautiful song – the one we created together that chapter and verse comforts and sustains me, and the belief once again that though we ay not always cling to it, that the Universe is on our side, that it is Love that is always the answer to aching hearts.  Thank you Mimi, thank you.”

I was left humbled, silenced by such gratitude for something I didn’t realize I had done.  That Karen shared this with me – to give me such a generous gift.  I affected a life.  I. affected. a. life.  Is there a greater contribution one can offer – especially without any knowledge of doing so?  I am still awed.  I am still shaking my head and I am still so touched that my words helped this beautiful woman.  This beautiful woman who was willing to share her personal thoughts with me.

Flash forward to dinner with someone I used to know in high school and college.  Ok, we dated – but that was a lifetime ago and after forty years, it counts far more as someone who used to know you before you learned a lot about pretense and guile and the only games you could play were the most sophomoric ones.  Anyway, he mentioned a memory – I was 17 or so, and apparently was upset about something.  He asked me if he had done something to make me mad, was it about him, etc.  My response?  “You know, sometimes it’s not all about you.”

And here I’ve sat – with these two disparate, yet powerful moments in my hands.  I am heartened to know I still run true to form.  That I am still focused more on others than on myself.  It isn’t selfless believe me – it’s just where my comfort lies.

But do you realize that you change lives with your writing?  Those whom I follow devotedly, affect my day, my thoughts, expanding vistas and shrinking others that have been over-planted and tended.  You have changed my life.  And if we can do this with and for each other, are we not answering one of the highest of human purposes?  You matter.  You have made a difference.  You touch with tentative but determined intention.   How incredible is that?  We are here.  And when we hurt or thrill, when we cry or giggle – when we least expect it – we are gifted.

inspiration, life lessons, mindfulness

When All Else Fails

I can’t believe I’ve written nothing for a couple of weeks – yet there has been so much going on that I can’t quite get a grip on my reaction to it all.  Horrific events around the world, virulent illnesses, the passing of iconic talents, thirteen years gone by since 9/11.  I was in NY that day – and yet to write of that day seems disingenuous.  How the air stank as a disgustingly grey cloud forged uptown.  Shock and disbelief trumped any sense of reality.  Yet, I am here; my family is fine; I didn’t have that much innocence left for the thievery that occurred that day.

And still, this all seems like too much stimuli – I am too pained to be numb and too numb to reveal or touch the pain evinced in my heart.  For reasons unknown to me, I can’t rise above this ache and feel stymied by my limitations with the English language.  Somehow it feels like there’s no recovery period, no chance to re-group, cry the needed tears or resume breathing rhythmically.

This morning broke a bit differently though.  The air is clear, the sky so blue it seems almost as if in a cartoon.  The weariness of the leaves hinted at the promise of colors so vibrant, that the landscape waits with impatience.  And I felt myself inhale for the first time perhaps in weeks.  I drove with all the windows down, letting the breeze in and maybe suffusing the air around me with something fresher and kinder.  Hope, hope – in the moment, for tomorrow, for the moments unseen.  And finally, I bowed my head and cried.

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Listening to NPR, this was playing …and I sat in the parking lot and was lifted.  I hope.  And I hope you do too.