September 11

Tragedy, especially global tragedy, truly has an effect on a country’s population.  I remember growing up hearing stories of people recalling exactly where they were and what they were doing when they got the news that JFK had been shot.  My parents, grandparents and all of their friends would describe the day in great detail.  Some even welled up with sorrow as if he were a close friend, as if it had happened only yesterday.  I never understood this concept and thought it was ridiculous until the global tragedy of my generation happened.  September 11th.

I have only been called to jury duty twice in my life.  The first time I was dismissed before ten o’clock in the morning.  That day was the best.  I was excused from work with pay and spent the rest of a beautiful June day at the beach.  My second time being called to jury duty was the polar opposite.  It was the day that holds a vivid image in my mind.  I can recall every waking moment of that day just like it was yesterday.

The weather was gorgeous.  There wasn’t a cloud in the sky.  Although it was September and fall was looming, it felt more like spring.  I remember feeling sorry for myself because I was going to sit around in a dreary courthouse all day.  I remember having a little pity party for myself because I wasn’t going to be around to get my Kindergartener on and off the bus.  It was so upsetting.  It was only his first week of “big boy school” and he was having trouble adjusting to new people and new friends.  I needed to be there yet I also knew that getting out of jury duty took some real finagling and I could never lie about why I couldn’t be there.  After all, it was my civic duty.

I entered the court house a bit nervous.  To me, this was the city, a place where I was always uncomfortable, no less having to factor in criminals.  I was uneasy.  Metal detectors screeched in alarm every so often, shifty-looking people were coming and going, and there was an echo reverberating throughout the building.  The pool of jurors was shuffled in to a long corridor in the basement where we were to wait for further instruction.

Our further instruction came just moments later when a frantic looking court officer asked us to step into a large conference room where we were going to be able to watch some breaking news events unfolding on television.  I was very confused and didn’t understand if it had something to do with one of the cases we were going to hear.  Just as my eyes found the small thirteen inch television in the corner, the second plane hit.  It was surreal.  Still confused, just as confused as everyone around me, the newscasters tried their best to stay composed and share with our nation what they could gather.  Finally, twenty five minutes later, the President confirmed it was a terrorist attack as he stood in front of hundreds of elementary school students inside a school in Florida.  Those twenty five minutes waiting for confirmation of the speculation that was flying on every news channel seemed like an eternity.  I sat silently waiting, holding my breath, waiting for the next life changing moment to happen.

My rare request to fulfill this civic duty was a small price to pay for being able to be an American, affording me all the rights and freedoms that I am so lucky to have.  That day, so many people were not as fortunate to be Americans, targeted as a whole population by a group with such hate inside of them.

Terrorism?  Confirmation of terrorism and here I sit in a Federal Courthouse.  Am I safe?  Are federal buildings all going to be the next target?  Let me the hell out of here!  I was frightened, wondering where my husband was working that day, wondering if my children were safe, wondering what, if anything, my kids had seen or heard.  Our lives as we knew it did not feel secure any more.  Our safe American soil had been spoiled.

Close to ten thirty, they finally let us go.  They let us go without very little conversation, only letting us know that we would receive formal compliance paperwork in the mail.  Who cares?  There may not be a judicial system left after today, let me out of here!

I was able to get my child off the bus that day.  I remember seeing his huge grin as he stepped off the bus.  He was so surprised to see me getting him after I had specifically given him instructions on going with the neighbor.  If the alternative would have been for me to stay at jury duty and America would have remained unchanged from the day before, I would have given up getting my child off the bus for that one day.

 

Finding Your Heart

Do you ever walk along the shoreline searching for heart-shaped rocks? It can’t be just me. I know I’m not the only one with a romanticized view of the world.

During my last search, as the heavy mist and cool spring breeze was chilling me to the bone, I had been searching, for what felt like hours, only to realize that I probably had stepped over dozens, scanned too quickly and missed even more, probably missing the perfect one that was right in front of me. It was then that I realized this quest was so true to life. This quest to find your heart.

Some people can step on to the beach and find a heart immediately. No need for a long search, it’s perfect from the first moment. Others walk for miles and miles never finding one that suits them. A different beach, a different day, a different mood, still nothing. There are even those that walk right along, not interested in the search, never taking the time to find what could be waiting right in front of them. Finally there are those that are holding one in their hand, appearing happy and content then, at some point, another is right there, more beautiful and perfect than the first.

My favorite alone time activity is the quest for hearts. I breathe deep and just walk. Walking, searching head down, scanning every inch of the rocky parts of the beach. Everyone needs to find their heart.

Uncovering My Flaws

As a full-time working mom, I never felt like I had even a moment to reflect on what made me “me”. Sure, I knew I was overweight, needed to step up my wardrobe game, and do a better job with concealing the bags under my eyes but I mean who was I really? Beyond the superficial, exterior things.

Now that I have more time to myself, I have gotten to know the real me. What I’ve discovered is that I am a hopeless romantic, an eternal optimist, and when I’m not happy, satisfied, and fulfilled, you can read it in my eyes and hear it in my voice. Some days, these traits feel like flaws. Weaknesses that can leave you a little vulnerable. You might be asking yourself, how are these flaws? Isn’t it a good thing to be loving, optimistic, and transparent? Well, let’s see…

Optimist

Being a hopeless romantic who wishes she lived her life like a country love song, being married to a man who listens to alternative metal and calls himself a “realist” can prove challenging. I look at an older couple holding hands on a walk and think – that is the sweetest thing ever. He sarcastically says it’s because he was told to hold her hand. Yin and yang. You get the picture.

I look for the good in everyone and often give people far more credit than they may deserve.  I want to believe everyone is pure of heart and most people are good (to quote another great country song). Some call it naivety, some call it overly optimistic, I call it “being me”.

Finally, if eyes are the windows into the soul then my shades are never drawn. If you can look at me, read me, and know how I’m feeling then you truly know me and I’m okay with that.  I like to think it’s why I have lots of really close people in my life and not just acquaintances.

Flaws? Hmmm…you’re right. I don’t think so either.

hopeless romantic

Life from a Different Perspective

As my husband and I get ready to celebrate our silver anniversary, I am immediately brought back to one of the most amazing anniversaries we have ever had. An adventure second to none but, an adventure that immediately brought us back to reality.

At year 20, I wanted to do something special. Something unforgettable. I never loved to fly but he loved it. He had mentioned a number of times that he would love to take helicopter lessons. He talked about how he wanted to go up in a helicopter. I was never a great flier but i know it’s the best way to get where you need to go so I grin and bear it because, at the end of the day, I love to travel. Besides, a couple drinks never hurt to take the edge off either.

He was shocked as we lifted off, exploring the coast of Newport and the incredible mansions. We were soaring 500, 1000, 2000 feet above the beautiful Cliff Walk. It was amazing! We were in awe of the beauty all around us.

Here’s the switch of perspective. As we walked through the door after an incredible 48 hours, the news was reporting a bombing at the finish line of the Marathon. Our city was under attack, terrorism had struck again, and the joy, excitement, and amazement was washed away by horrible people with an unthinkable agenda.

This switch of perspective made me appreciate all I had even more. Two great kids, a strong marriage, and a love of country that still makes me tear up at the National Anthem.

Build a Snowman

It’s been a tough New England March with a good bit of snow. As I scroll through my different social media feeds, I realize how much I miss snowmen in the front yard. Trust me, I don’t miss the puddles all over my kitchen floor, or the endless search for another pair of dry gloves, or even the constant drying of snow pants but, I miss the snowmen. The creativity of what they used for eyes, nose, and mouth. The teamwork of my two little builders. The hot chocolate with more marshmallows than you could count. The snuggling up on the sofa and watching a movie to warm up afterwards.

As you’re reading this, you might think – “Oh that’s so sad” or “She must be so depressed” but please don’t, I’m not. I’m not sad or depressed. Quite the contrary, I’m proud and feel a huge sense of accomplishment. My kids had great childhoods. They are creative, hard working, and have a good sense of family. Did it start with the first snowman? Maybe. Do I miss them being around and building snowmen? Yes. But, guess what, I know they’ll have snowmen of their own in their own yards. Snowmen that will melt away too.

Have you ever shed a tear to a Judas Priest song?

I wake up in the morning; the beat is going off in my head.  I drive to work and think I hear the song on the radio, no; it’s still just in my head.  Cooking dinner, there it is again, only this time it’s real, being practiced over and over again. For two months there has been nonstop guitar practice – Living after Midnight.  His concert was coming; he needed to get every strum, every beat, and every rest perfect without even a millisecond of hesitation. He’s only twelve and he’s barely been playing for six months, of course he’s nervous.  I’m his mother, when he’s filled with worry, so am I.  His school work can wait, he hasn’t played in the yard in days, but still he practices.  Here comes the solo.  Ewwww, timing’s a little off.  Who am I to judge?  I couldn’t play a note if my life depended on it.  Try it again, one more time.  Whoa, I think he got it.  He stops cold, dead in his tracks.  The music continues on in the background without him.

“Did you hear that Mom?  I got it!”  He’s beaming from ear to ear, braces glimmering from the sunlight shining through the open window.  The presence of his prominent left dimple let me know that he was going to be okay.  It let me know that I had raised a confident, determined child.  He hadn’t given up; he had given it his all.  He felt that he was a success and that was all that mattered.

Do you think he knows that I will always be his biggest fan?  Does he realize that I will be cheering him on every step of the way, no matter what song he decides to play?

As he walked on stage, I could see a smirk.  He looked out in to the crowd of close to sixty people, never playing for a group so large.  For a split second he went expressionless then the most serious look I had ever seen came across his face.  He didn’t look like my frightened baby with the round cheeks and wide eyes; he looked like a young man who was ready to show the world his true talent.

The music began to play from the gigantic speakers behind him.  Booming, swallowing the room with every note.  Right on cue the gorgeous mahogany flame Jay Turser that he had wanted so desperately hit every note under my son’s command.  I sat breathless, listening to every strum as if I had never heard it played before.  He was phenomenal.  When I finally caught my breath, it was time for the solo.  Looking around the room, I could tell I was not the only person amazed by my son’s talent.  Other musicians were head bobbing, nodding in agreement.  Parents were nudging each other and nodding their approval.  My husband, with that same adorable dimple handed down to my son, was staring in disbelief.  When you ask people to tell you about their greatest accomplishments, they talk about earning advanced degrees, making lots of money, or perhaps completing some fitness feat but my greatest accomplishments are lived through my children.

As a tear streamed down my cheek, I giggled.  I can’t believe I just shed a tear over a Judas Priest song.

th

Written in 2007 for a Memoir Writing course.

The Quiet Really Isn’t Eerie

More times than I can count this week, I have walked into a silent house. More times than I can count this week, I’ve been alone in this house that I’m deciding is too big for two people.

There hasn’t been a single noise, a single tv blaring in the background, a single footstep bounding up the stairs. But guess what? For the first time, it didn’t make me sad. Instead, there was a sense of peace. Moments where I’ve looked around and reflected. Looked around and thought what next? Looked around and smiled.

Sometimes the quiet can be eerie but lately, it sounds like success. No chaos, no drama, just peace. The dots are connecting; my path is falling into place. Career-focus; relationship-focus; future fun.

Silent Lucidity

Our latest adventure took us about 300 miles west to a small venue that let us relive the late 80s/early 90s. A place that gave us the opportunity to be up close and personal with an old favorite – Queensryche.

Like most “Class of 80-something” teenagers, hairbands were a key to life. A staple in our daily music choices. Recently my husband and I began going to see these old favorites any time they come within driving, or sometimes, quick flight distance. We were lucky enough to see Queensryche open for the Scorpions a couple of years ago and it reminded both of us how much we had loved them. When we found out they were going to be in upstate New York, why wouldn’t we jump in the car and go? New York was as close as they were coming and we weren’t going to miss it.

As Silent Lucidity rang out – my all time favorite Queensryche song – I truly listened to the words and finally understood Silent Lucidity. An unspoken clarity.

Ripped right from the lyrics, “Visualize your dream. Record it in the present tense. Put it into a permanent form.” The life of an empty nester…the time in your life when the dream is being lived to the fullest. The time when you can clearly see where you are going and where you have been. There’s a sense of calm and peace – moments of lucidity that come more and more often.

Well worth the 600 mile road trip to acknowledge what we have come to understand – clarity for our future; a future beyond parenthood.

Reconnect

I want to create a buzz, a revelation, an a-ha moment that can change someone’s day; maybe even their life. It’s going to be called – “Put down your phone.”

Right now each and everyone one of us is holding a device, me included, focusing intently on what’s going on, who’s doing what, and what our extended network of “friends” are doing but – WHY? Why are their lives so much more interesting, fun, or important than what you could be doing?

I will never disown my device or stop scrolling my feed or checking my email from the road but, I am go to look up more without a device in my hand or within arm’s reach. I want to reconnect with those that I can touch and feel and not those that don’t even know I’ve been watching their lives unfold. I want to continue my journey of self discovery through my own adventures and interactions.

Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, etc have created a false sense of connectedness. Ask yourself this question – when you see someone post to social media and think “wow, that’s cool” or “hmmm, I’m a little worried about them” – if you saw them out in public, would you go out of your way to let them know? If you answered yes, then good for you. If not, it’s time to reconnect. Live your own experiences, care about what’s going on around you, and enjoy.

I hope your buzz, your new year’s “revelation” is all about disconnecting, unplugging, and having true social interactions. It’s going to be mine.

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