Wednesday, June 21, 2017

A perfect summer day. . .or two

“How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.” - Winnie the Pooh
This is the summer that I'm really not going to get and as a teacher and a kid at heart, that makes me sad. Or at least that's what I've told myself, but yesterday could be categorized as a beautiful summer day.

I started my day with my friend Norah picking me up at 5:10am to go running.  I am lucky enough to have a group of friends who motivate me and keep my accountable with running. As I often say. . . .their jog is my sprint and we spend Tuesday mornings at the track. Well they spend Tuesdays at the track; I sometimes make it, but our camaraderie has kept me running. I sure am going to miss chasing them.

As a way to send me off, they had champagne mimosas. . at 6am.

 So thankful for girlfriends. I met Jodie the first summer I moved to this neighborhood  and her beauty was only surpassed by her kindness and fun spirit.

Then, I came home to send off Anna Cate to camp and Molly to swim practice.
 Molly was so excited she is swimming 5 events. In soaking up her success of swim team, she is not phased by leaving it. I have a lot to learn from this sentiment.

Both yesterday and today the girls have had play dates at the pool with friends and in the evening  we were treated to a lovely dinner from our dear friend Marian. Marian's mother and BJ's mother were friends so I think of it as a 4th generation friendship and the epitome of my Dad's words "friends don't have to be your own age."

These steps are famous because Abraham Lincoln spoke to the people of Fredericksburg during the Civil War. It was a special evening being with Marian. 

 We went to FOODE which is in a building that used to be a bank and on these steps, Abe Lincoln spoke to the people of  Fredericksburg during the Civil War.
 It was a nice place to be to celebrate Virginia with one her finest belles.
 Anna Cate couldn't join us since she is at camp.

Marian and Molly did 1st grade together this year.  After Molly went to Maine with her folks from church, Marian went to Molly's class to read to them about cranberry farming the week of Thanksgiving, but that special occasion became a monthly treat for the first graders in Mrs. Rivers' class. Marian taught many many years and retired many years ago, but she has not lost her touch.  

It was a beautiful summer evening in Fredericksburg. 
We dropped MumMum off and she and Molly did their trick for bread.

As we drove off, I noticed BJ was crying. . .his first expression of emotion about leaving. Clearly, Marian is a big deal -- she is almost like an institution and the epitome of grace, class, love and what we have loved about our life in Fredericksburg.  A perfect end to a perfect summer's day,
 Some of our friends have signed this quilt made for us. In its messages, I realize the truth of life I learned in a perfect summer day. I appreciate the messages, the sentiments, and the experiences worth writing about as we say goodbye, but as we live in the present -- it's all we ever really have anyway. 

Here are the girls Saturday night at a church picnic. 

 My goodness am I going to miss Erin and the influence she has in their life. . .and mine.

Tonight while Anna Cate is at  camp with Erin, Molly enjoyed a great swim meet. It is not lost on me that the last night in our home we were at a swim meet -- what I'll miss the most about living here in the summer. 

“Goodbyes make you think. They make you realize what you’ve had, what you’ve lost, and what you’ve taken for granted.” -Ritu Ghatourey

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

A Birthday/Father's Day/Life Reflection Post

Tonight I'm sitting on the front porch, listening to the rain, drinking bourbon and thinking of my Dad, and how I'm a day late trying to write about Father's Day. I'm ruminating on how to write a usual blog about my birthday, my thoughts on life, how to wrap up the end of our school year, of ways  to chronicle this move we will make this week, of our life here we are leaving.  Mostly, I'm sitting with my feelings and my thoughts swishing around in my scattered brain. So, I'll try to categorize it just to get it out.

My 41st birthday thoughts on life. . .
Friday was my birthday and usually I take the time to go on a long run to sort of life (20142013201220112010),  what I've learned, what truths I'm trying to live.  I often go to the battlefields nearby because they are beautifully preserved in a sea of strip malls and the concrete suburban jungles. In those hallowed steps, I reflect on the sacrifice of lost lives and find comfort in natural beauty.  This year, I went to Chancellorsville Battlefield (where I went two years prior and pondered BJ's impending Parkinson's Diagnosis), but because I had to work in the afternoon, I only had time for 4 miles.
 I thought to myself, "a big reason I run here is because it reminds me of home, so it is ok to get a shorter run today. . . I am moving home!" Then I came home to this present from Mom.

We've decided we are going to celebrate my birthday next month. . .it just took a back seat to life this year. As Molly Mae said Friday night, "Mom, this is neither the time nor the place to celebrate your birthday. . . I mean look at all these boxes?!"

And my thoughts on life. Well,  it caught up to me at the end of the school year.  BJ compared it to playing a Mike Tyson video game as kid where the player only got so many punches, and after that last punch, the game was over. I took a few mental days to myself because I had just "had enough" of student behavior with a difficult population. One day, I'll write a book. This is a nice little symbol. . .when I turned in my teacher badge, you can't even see my face.

 I can say the health issues of our Fall, the move, the goodbyes, the uncertainty and shaky ground of health, finances, the stress of my securing a new job all just caught up to me. The one thing I've learned this year with both my professional and personal life is I'm not very good at setting boundaries and my expecting the best from everyone has not exactly served me well in a time when I've been weak and vulnerable.  I need to figure out how to sort through all that moving forward.  I'm in therapy and the word she uses is developing some armor or my inner B*#@$.  Some see my openheartedness as weakness and I have not patience or tolerance for those people in this season of my life. But I have running. . ..and I will look at this year as one I got through.  I'm thankful to still be running, literally and metaphorically, which brings me to my Dad.

My Dad. . .
In the the hardest year of my life, the punches have hit him as hard as they have me, maybe harder.  In many ways, it tears me up to know our life has caused him such angst, but in the midst of guilt, I feel waves of love and support. I hope that with our move he can see we are ok, that we are happy and that we are fine, which brings me to our move and saying goodbye to our life here.

Moving. . .
The girls are so excited to move and I have had an epiphany on children. The thing that makes them exhausting also makes them incredibly resilient and hopeful. They are always looking to "what's next." And they are excited about what's next, but before then, we are saying goodbyes here.  I am emotional, but mostly, I'm just thankful for the love, opportunities and life we have had here.

Here are some scenes recently of being intentional about seeing friends to say goodbye.

Saying goodbye doesn't mean anything. It's the time we spent together that matters, not how we left it. Trey Parker

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Looking at Open Doors

In the Fall, when things were bad, when Anna Cate was in the hospital and BJ couldn't return to work, and we were stressed out about the future, I thought I was doing quite well. After she got well, and BJ and I figured out our new routine, I focused on work.  I thought we were ok.

But it turns out, my dark days came much later.  In March usually a time when I focus on celebrations, I realized I had checked out and had nothing left. I tried to think about spring break, about Anna Cate's birthday, but all I had the energy to do was work, and work out. My mind hurt. I realized there isn't anyone to pick up my slack at work, and thank God BJ could be the parent I couldn't. Rather than plan a party for Anna Cate, BJ and she did everything themselves, from planning and decoration to menu planning. I did print a few invites. She had a nice birthday I think because we went to church so she got a lot of "Happy Birthdays" and we went out to sweet frogs afterwards with friends. 

I wanted to be in the mood for celebration, but I just struggled. I knew we were moving in the summer, I knew it was the right thing to do, but I just couldn't quit focusing on how sad and stressed I am. We bought a house, but I had not seen it; I did not have an official job even though I passed the English praxis test, adding to my chances of getting a job, even if I had to wait until the summer to know where.  For Spring break, we planned to go to Pennsylvania. . .I had a dream of knocking off some American History bucket list items for the girls -- Philadelphia and Gettysburg. But, the morning of Anna Cate's small  party, I got up at 5am to work out so I could enjoy an evening with the girls. But when I came home from the gym and couldn't quit crying, I had an aha moment -- I know myself: I make the best of things. I need to go home to get excited about the next step. That afternoon, after school, I called my Mom to share my  thoughts, and I cried more. So while Anna Cate's slumber party was starting, I'm sitting in my car crying.  Then, Norah brought Leana over and sat and cried with me. 

I share this to say what a low point this was, how we knew I wasn't myself. For over 10 ten years, while BJ worked 6 days a week, and I worked full time I still juggled it all. I throw this in here for my ego when others say, "how dare she just check out!" BJ and I were a team but I had two solid shifts and did Saturdays by myself, but I jut could not snap out of my funk. I looked up depression and I sort of fit the description. 

Some time during my crying-every-day phase, my dear friend Mary Helen reached out to me, and then I called her.  Among other sage words, she soothed me by saying, "I can't imagine all you've been through and you still are dealing with 13 year olds daily." Just hearing someone as strong as she is saying "it is hard" helped. I've realized if we would have experienced one of things we've had thrown at us (chronic illness diagnosis for BJ, change of financial situation, child being sick, moving, me finding a job), it would might be hard, but putting it all together just became so heavy. 

So I trudged through to Spring Break, helped organize an 8th grade field trip, presented to the School Board, created on an online portfolio and tried to get a job. BJ found a 7th grade Social Studies job I should apply for. I ran and did yoga, and we prepared to put our house on the market.

 I tried to forgive myself for being so empty -- I apologized and was honest with the girls. Anna Cate hurt her ankle and is still in a boot and was on crutches. This year has sucked the life out of me. Molly asked me if I was going to die since the life was out of me. She was kidding. Through tears, I told Anna Cate I hope she will remember the parties I did plan, and have faith I will get back to myself. 

We made it to Spring break. It started on Thursday. That weekend, I was greeted with this beautiful gift from my friend Melanie. The painting is gorgeous but it was her card that touched me, "Do not look back, you're not going that way. . .It is all good."  Friends who know and love me have gotten me through the dark days, and this was such a poignant reminder. This is I love. 

On Thursday night, we went out to dinner, and I came home to make hot tea and took my melatonin, almost ready for bed, but at 8:45 pm, my phone rang -- the area code indicated it was from the town where that 7th grade Social Studies job was, so I answered it. The principal of Dickson Middle School called me to chat and after about 5 minutes, he said, "well can I just interview you right now". . .and it was a great conversation as I was in my pajamas with my hot tea.

The next day our house went on the market and we went to DC -- our friend Cam got us tickets to see the White House (our only American History bucket list event that didn't get scratched).

And we had a lovely Easter.  I couldn't help but think about how this is our last Easter in our church, a place that Norah invited me to almost 15 years ago. 

And a gorgeous brunch at our friends' Dorinda & Geoff's. I hate that I don't have any pictures of brunch, but as we were leaving, I shared with my dear friend Dorinda, from Centerville, a little bit about my fears and going home hoping to secure a job. After she said, "what can I do to help you?" she grabbed my hand and said, "Look a rainbow." After we came home Molly and I enjoyed looking at that same rainbow. I look at this picture and notice the dead tree in the forefront with the rainbow in the background. A metaphor

 Be thou the rainbow in the storms of life. The evening beam that smiles the clouds away, and tints tomorrow with prophetic ray. -Lord Byron

The next day we signed a contract on our house, BJ drove to Tennessee, I ran, and while I practiced yoga the girls visited with MumMum. Then, we enjoyed a lovely visit on her porch. She told me, again, she has always seen us moving to be near my parents.  On Tuesday, the girls and I flew to Nashville.  While in the airport, I got a call from another school for an interview. 

In short, I met with a few principals and received more than one offer, but when I went to Dickson and met with the team where there is a  7th grade Social Studies position, it just felt right.  I fell in love with the house -- a house my sister in law Becki found because she was delivering Girl Scout cookies!  It couldn't be more perfect for us --  small house, in town, close to family, across the street from the park and city pool, next to a barn with a  big back yard, big enough for BJ to have some goats and chickens. He keeps promising me that urban homesteading is a thing, and it is cool. This is the view from the park across the street.

This is the house and back yard.
And a view of the barn next door. 

We enjoyed time with family.
I took the kids to see their new schools, the elementary and middle school where I went. We got such a great feeling about these schools. I gained peace of mind. 

 The day before we left Centerville, my friend Courtney texted me this quote: “When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us.”  I realized that is exactly what this Spring break did for me -- it allowed me to look at the door that is opening. For that, I'm grateful. I'm sure I'll continue to shed a lot of tears as I look at the doors we are closing, but I'm so thankful my mind is excited about the door that is opening -- a chance to raise my children and face this journey with BJ near our family in a wonderful small town with reminders of God's natural beauty to soothe our soul.

That beautiful handmade gift from my friend Melanie was in response to a "pay it forward" challenge. So if you are reading my blog, and want to play to receive a random happy gift from me before the end of 2017, be one of the first five to make a comment.

A man travels the world over in search of what he needs and returns home to find it. 

-George A. Moore