The Real Journey Started in 1990

I loved him and I knew I was doing the right thing or at least that was what my naïve, twenty year old mind was telling me.  I made a rash decision to move eleven hundred miles away from home.  I withdrew from college with just three semesters left.  I quit a decent, full time job that could have been a career.  I deserted a loving family who were always caring and supportive.  I did all of these foolish things just two weeks before Christmas, Christmas the biggest family day of the year, with just a promise to come back and visit some time.  Was it the right thing?  Who knew, but I was sure as hell going to find out.

As my parents stood in the driveway wiping away tears, all I could think about was myself.  As I drove away, I ripped their hearts out, dragging them, slowly beating like the U-Haul I was towing.  Selfishly, I didn’t care who I hurt as I ran to him, it was all about me. Me, me, me and whatever I wanted to do.  Was I making a good decision?  Did I consider the feelings of my family who urged me not to go because I really didn’t know him?  No, I was a twenty year old college drop out who’s only future plans rode on the pipe dreams of a wanna-be whom I’d only been dating for three months.

They say hindsight is twenty-twenty, that couldn’t be any truer!  Had I known what I know now, would I have made a different decision?  Probably, but what happened in my life over the next two years was meant to be.  It was the most eye-opening time of my life.  Fate, destiny that is determined before you take your first breath, had carved out a scenic route for me.  On this part of my life’s journey, there were so many twists and turns that I thought I may have lost my way while spiraling out of control.  Today I am thankful that I landed face up in familiar territory.

My eleven hundred mile trek dropped me in South Carolina with him.  This part of my journey I like to refer to as “driving through the storm”.  This storm lowered my self-esteem and made me unsure of every move I made.  I worked two jobs to pay all of our bills and he claimed to have a job.  As far as I knew, with a job came a paycheck, this never happened.  His lack of a real job led to drinking and drinking to excess.  Drinking to excess led to hostility and anger.  Anger led to huge arguments and mean, nasty words.  Arguments led to him storming out of the apartment to the local bar.  And finally, more drinking led to cheating.  I won’t even dignify his presence in my life by writing or speaking his name but I do owe him one thing.  Thank you.  Thank you for opening my eyes to a world outside of Massachusetts.  Thank you for showing me what kind of relationship is never worth having.    But most importantly, thank you for leaving.  The mind games in which I had been the pawn finally stopped.

The next part of my journey is referred to as “the accident”.  He was a guy from the golf course, he was married, and he had kids.  I was drowning my low self esteem in Crown and water.  We hit it off right away.  He told me that he was married but he and his wife were treading on thin ice.  I wonder if she knew that but of course I believed him because I was a starry-eyed twenty-one year old.  He shared that he still lived at home but it was only because of the kids.  None of that seemed to matter to me.  I was on the rebound and needed someone to treat me like a girl was supposed to be treated.  What a twist in the road.  I was the one being cheated on last time around but this time I was the accomplice in the cheating.  What a terrible irony.  Unfortunately the only thing wrong with this relationship was that he was married.  Oh, did I mention he was seventeen years older than me?  Alright, so there were two things wrong with that picture.  Enough said.  The fun was short lived but well worth it.  I regained my self-esteem, grew a conscience and vowed to always be treated as I should in a good relationship.

I was having the time of my life, feeling good about myself, living on my own, working hard, attending classes at University of South Carolina and visiting my family whenever I could.  On a visit home during the spring of 1992, I caught back up with Mark.  Mark grew up a mile from me and I had known him since grade school.  He was “a friend of a friend” and when his eyes met mine while I was spending my last night in town out with a group of friends, I felt like he was the only one in the room.  His smile made me melt from the inside out.  The way he laughed with such innocence took my breath away.  Why did I have to run eleven hundred miles in the other direction only to find the love of my life living in my hometown?  Was it my destiny?  Was it for personal growth?  It was fate that took me on this scenic journey.  In the blink of eye my life had changed.  In less than one year from the day we re-connected, I married the man who had become my best friend.  This final part of my journey I like to call “reaching my destination”.

Sunday Funday

What’s Sunday Funday you ask? Sunday Funday is whatever you make it! Sunday Fundays for us all started when both the kids started working and would be gone all day long on Sunday.  With one working at a grocery store and one working at a restaurant, there was no chance Sundays would be family days. Sundays used to be a day of sauces simmering or roasts cooking but as the kids got older and older, there were less “sit down” dinners and more thinking about getting out and grabbing a bite to eat.

My husband is a pizza fanatic but, not just any kind of pizza…bar pizza.  The kind of pizza that has very little crust and the cheese and sauce reach all the way to the edges of the pan.  Our first Sunday Funday found us checking out the little bar on the way home from my mother-in-law’s house. Since our first delicious bite, what I came to find out was that the best pizza always was at the biggest dive bars. Don’t ask me why, I don’t have a clue. What I do know is that for at least 6 months, I tried every bar pizza within a 50 mile radius. It became our adventure…watching Phantom Gourmet, scouring the internet, asking friends – where should we go?

Whatever your Sunday Funday includes remember, it’s all about the adventure. Getting to know one another again. Chatting over a cheap beer and a slice of pizza. Just like the good old days, long before kids and long before an acquired taste for fancy dinners and speciality cocktails.

Living Your Dash

This time of year is perfect to reflect on where you’ve been, how you feel about the present, and what your future holds.

I must admit, I have been doing this a lot over the last 2 or 3 years – reflecting, evaluating, and re-aligning. When I’m deep in thought about my “what’s next”, I’m often reminded of the poem by Linda Ellis entitled The Dash.

I read of a man who stood to speak at the funeral of a friend.

He referred to the dates on the tombstone from the beginning…to the end.

He noted that first came the date of birth and spoke of the following date with tears, but he said what mattered most of all was the dash between those years.

For that dash represents all the time that they spent alive on earth. And now only those who loved them know what that little line is worth.

For it matters not, how much we own, the cars…the house…the cash. What matters is how we live and love and how we spend our dash.

So, think about this long and hard. Are there things you’d like to change?

For you never know how much time is left that can still be rearranged.

If we could just slow down enough to consider what’s true and real and always try to understand the way other people feel.

And be less quick to anger and show appreciation more and love the people in our lives like we’ve never loved before. 

If we treat each other with respect and more often wear a smile, remembering that this special dash might only last a little while.

So, when your eulogy is being read, with your life’s actions to rehash…would you be proud of the things they say about how you spent YOUR dash?

As we usher in the new year, make a point to be proud of your dash. If you’re not, it’s time to do something to change it.

Welcome Winter

Winter is considered a dead time.  Winter, a time when everything has died and the landscape is drab and dreary.  I never get that feeling about winter.  Winter is bright and beautiful.  The stark white snow blanketing the ground gives me a feeling of security.  The icicles hanging from every roof line amaze me with their glistening, gravity-defying adventure.

Living in New England most of my life, winter is something I look forward to.  Winter is indecisive and unpredictable.  One moment the sky can be bluer than a tropical ocean and the next it appears angry and dominant, ready to swallow the world.  The fickle finger of nature is an incredible sight to behold.  Instead of worrying about the ice and snow on the roads and the uncertainty of your timely arrival to work, take a moment to look around.  Breath it in.  It is deafeningly silent when it snows.  The trees bow down to Mother Nature’s fluffy tears.  The world as we know it stops.  Once the shock has worn off, the excitement begins.  The inner child excitement of a snow day is everywhere.  Children run as fast as they can through the snow, throwing it at each other, bounding to the pond to shovel off a spot to skate on.  Who cares if you are an adult?  Try it – throw a snowball, fall back and make a snow angel, put on a pair of skates.

How can you not love it? Here’s hoping for a white Christmas.

Where’s My Christmas Spirit?

I have to admit, wholeheartedly, I am jealous of those of you with little ones. For the last few years, the month of December has felt like every other just colder than the one before and a bit more expensive. There is no excitement in the air, no Elf that we need to move all over the house in strange (but funny) positions, and no gifts that I need to wait in line for hours to get.

So, where’s my Christmas Spirit? I think it’s waiting patiently in the shadows, for a few years. Lingering all around us as we shuffle through the holidays. The spirit will emerge again when we are dubbed grandparents.

The magic that those little people create fill the whole house with something unmatched. Enjoy every moment. Love it, embrace it, smile about it. You, the people with little ones, are the lucky ones this month. Right now you’re probably not feeling so lucky as you race from store to store trying to fit it all in. You’re not feeling so lucky as you’re chasing away the sniffles and coughs to make sure everyone is healthy for the trip to Grandma’s. You’re definitely not feeling lucky because you are getting even less sleep than before because you have to move the Elf after everyone is sound asleep and, most likely, they are up even later than ever. Trust me, you are lucky and you’ll realize it in about 10 or 15 years.

Exercise…ewww!

Ok, we can’t just hang out with friends, go out to eat, go for drinks, and travel because our house is empty, we have to do something in our spare time to focus on our health. The point of this game of life is to live long and stay healthy enough to reap the benefits of this empty nest and enjoy grandchildren. No, no, not yet, but one day!

While the kids were growing up, I never had time to focus on a healthy, active me. Sure, I could steal away a few minutes here and there but never enough time to realize what I liked to do to stay active. So many people spent their free time in the gym but I knew that wasn’t for me. I had to do something. I got the fitness tracker, started tracking my steps and soon realized I lived a pretty sedentary life. There wasn’t a lot of steps between my office, the ladies room, and the kitchen.

Now I had the time. Nobody waiting on me to cook dinner, nobody needing me to get them on or off the bus, it was my turn. First it was a nice long walk then it was – I’ll trying jogging for a few minutes. Next thing I knew I was thinking about my first 5k.

All by myself. Didn’t tell a soul I was doing it (not even my husband). I showed up, signed up, and ran. Headphones in, lost in my thoughts, slowing and walking whenever I needed to.

I did it, I finished in 36 minutes. Not a world speed record but I actually finished – first step to last sprint…3.107 miles. Here I stand a couple of years later having completed 6 of them so far – I love it. It’s my time. Whether it’s a quick mile before work or a walk/run 5 miles around my town, I’ve got my headphones in, wind in my face and my head full of positive thoughts – I have found a big piece of me.

Value Every Moment

Getting everything ready for Christmas, I pulled down the box of ornaments ready to hang many of the same ones for the 24th or so time – the tiny painted handprints, the bead wreaths with a kindergarten picture tucked in the middle, the snowflakes cut by safety scissors with preschool hands.

Each and every one of these precious memories bring a tear to my eye. Partly a sad tear but also a proud tear. Sad because there aren’t any new handmade ornaments getting hung in the tree, those days have passed, but proud that almost 25 years later, my boys still love the traditions. They still make the time to help us trim the tree, now taking over the duty of stringing the lights. They look forward to seeing a candle in every window as they pull up to the house, and this year, we were fortunate enough to bring back an old tradition of heading north to choose and cut our own tree.

My heart is full – my empty nest was crowded for a fun-filled 24 hour journey to find the perfect tree. Lots of laughs, lots of connecting, and new adult memories that I will cherish just as much as those handmade ornaments.

Unanswered Prayers

I just returned home from my first ever Garth Brooks concert and it will not be my last. He was amazing! From the moment I got up to dance to getting lost in my thoughts during his slow songs, it was a wonderful journey. Even though I have loved his music for more years than I can count, I am at a point in my life when the words mean so much more than they ever have.

As the song Unanswered Prayers filled the arena, I thought about the, now meaningless, things I had prayed would come true as a young, naive girl – marrying that boy I thought was a 10 who really turned out to be more like a 0, becoming a cheerleader (who was I kidding?), being the popular girl, the list goes on and on.

I remember being pregnant with my second child, praying it would be a girl. We would have the perfect family – a big brother, a little sister, a dog, and a house in the suburbs. Well, that prayer went unanswered as the doctor announced our 8 pound baby boy. But, come to find out, I did have my prayers answered just in a different way.

I wanted a perfect family and that’s what I got. It’s perfect for me and someone far above me knew that. I thought it meant having a boy and a girl but instead I have 2 hard working, committed kids who love their mother unconditionally even though I am a bit controlling and over the top sometimes. The experiences of being a “Boy Mom” has shaped this woman, who grew up surrounded only by sisters, into a person that embraces life, always looks for the positive, is willing to take a chance, and loves a good adventure.

My greatest gift really was an unanswered prayer.

Empty is a Strong Word

“Empty Nest” is a phrase most have heard but definitely not something everyone has had the pleasure (and often displeasure) of living and feeling.

The definition is simple – you’ve raised your kids and done the best you could. You’ve given them wings and they’ve flown away leaving the house feeling pretty empty. To have that empty nest feeling, the kids don’t need to be completely packed up and gone. The feeling starts to comes on when they begin driving and they take that first adult step to independence. Those days and late nights where they don’t rely on you for their every move. The table gets set for less people and every tv choice becomes your own.

Full disclosure, at my house, we really aren’t quite “empty”. We are more like a timeshare right now – one who uses his bedroom more like a hotel, dropping in some time between 10 and midnight and heading off to work at 5:30 am; the other spends his time in the basement using it like an apartment when he isn’t working one of his three jobs or at the gym.

This gradual transition has helped me to look forward to the true empty nest; the one where it’s just the two of you. You become more and more used to the idea, focusing on all you’ve accomplished bringing your babies to this point in their lives.

See…we’ve been molding and shaping our kid’s wings but we also needed the time to develop our wings.

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