October 5th

I remember the day vividly. Of course I do.

Over time, its events have transpired into a movie in my mind, playing on a continuous reel that occasionally makes its way to the forefront. In it, I am watching myself as though I wasn’t a part of it, as though it wasn’t me living those moments.

I see myself as I get the news, as I cry, as I process.

I remember all the details; even the blurry ones.

So on the morning of October 5th this year, I was transported back to that day ten years prior, the day my Dad passed away.

There was my mind made movie, playing all morning as I recalled those things that I already know so well; the events of the day that changed everything.

This October 5th, I woke up in sobs and let the tears stain my pillow as the toddler slept peacefully beside me.

The anniversary of this loss is hard every year, but ten years seems so significant. Ten years. A decade. A milestone.

I miss him everyday. I grieve all of the momentous things he has missed in my life. College graduation. My wedding. Meeting my son.

But there is so much I have missed seeing of him. The way he would have loved seeing the Phillies win the World Series in 2008. The way he would have loved the historical election where Obama became President. All of the Christmas presents I missed getting to see him open and Father’s Days we never got to celebrate. Getting to see him be a granddad.

He is forever a part of me. I see it every time I look in the mirror as his eyes stare back at me. I hear him every time the Beatles song “Imagine” is played, even all of the bad cover bands. I feel him every time I say my son’s full name, because we gave our son my Dad’s name, Richard, as a middle name. I smile every time I pass a chess set, or watch my son play soccer, or stare into my son’s eyes, because, luckily, he has those same big eyes, too.

Yes, I remember that day. But I remember so much more of him as my father and I missed so much more of him in these ten years since he has been gone.

So on October 5th, rather than transporting myself back to that day, I let my mind movie play and I let my tears fall. Then I got my little boy dressed and we had a play date at the Botanical Gardens, surrounding ourselves with butterflies and flowers.

And then I think my family gave each other the greatest gift; we gave each other a weekend of each other.

Leaving the husband and toddler at home, my mom, sister, brother and I went away for a weekend to Charlottesville, VA. We immersed ourselves in laughter and conversation, scenery and adventure, and no shortage of extravagant food.

Nothing will change the significance of the loss, the way his presence is missed daily, the way my heart grieves eternally for the man that I was lucky enough to have as my father.

But this year, on this tenth year of the day we lost my father, we celebrated my Dad with love and laughter, just the four of us.

I know for certain that there were still five of us there.

“Oh heart, if one should say to you that the soul perishes like the body, answer that the flower withers, but the seed remains.”  ~Kahlil Gibran

Spending time with my family, remembering and celebrating my Dad who helped create it.

My Dad

Heavy Grey

Clouds coated the sky in a blanket of grey, clinging to the sky and soaking into my bones.

The heaviness of the earth mirrored the heaviness of my heart, as my footsteps interrupted the calm of the puddles decorating the pavement.

I even mirrored my mood, ever so subconsciously, in an outfit of blue jeans, a gray and white striped shirt, and gray cardigan.

It’s almost here, isn’t it? This day that creeps up slowly and then presents itself quickly as it makes it presence known; this day that changed so much.

October 5th will be the tenth anniversary of the day my Dad passed away. It will mark ten years since I have seen his face, heard his voice, or felt his hug.

I don’t exactly dread the day, but I do feel it’s presence and it’s significance. It is a day that changed everything, a day that forces me to remember, but the moments that I miss my Dad are much more frequent and emotional. October 5th is not a cursed day for me like September 1st. October 5th was awful ten years ago, but the day itself has not been repeatedly bad, just saddening.

People say time heals all wounds, but I don’t think you ever heal from the loss of a parent. I think the intensity of the pain becomes much less, and time may distance you from the event, but never from the emptiness.

The best description was explained to me by my grief counselor who I saw for a few months after my Dad passed. He said losing someone is like throwing a rock into a calm lake. At first, the ripples are large and big and interrupt the calm of the surface. Eventually, the ripples calm, and if you watch long enough, you will see the silent stillness of the water once again. But the rock will always remain, sitting there, just beneath the surface, changing the foundation of the lake.

And so it is when you experience a loss. Time will take away the ripples. Time will distance you from the event. But time can not change the way it changed you, the way you miss them, the way you wish they were still here every second of every day.

This was my day of heavy grey  Of anticipation of a ten year anniversary. A day where the world gave me the gift of gray to mirror my thoughts. For it is only by my walking through the fog that I can once again return to the sunshine.

“When someone you love dies, and you’re not expecting it, you don’t lose them all at once; you lose them in pieces over a long time—the way the mail stops coming, and their scent fades from the pillows and even from the clothes in the closet and drawers. Gradually, you accumulate the parts of them that are gone. Just when the day comes—when there’s a particular missing part that overwhelms you with the feeling that they are gone, forever—there comes another day, and another specifically missing part.” 
― John IrvingA Prayer for Owen Meany

The Fallacy of Time

Time is a funny thing isn’t it?

Always elusive; intangible and present.

Always continuing, despite the moments that feel too long and the years that pass too quickly.

It amazes me how long a minute can be and how short a month is.

It does not stop its steady pace, often conflicting with our own perception of significant moments.

I am sometimes lost between fleeting moments of beauty and impossibly long moments of difficulty.

Emotions can work like a time machine, as anniversaries of events can transport us back and make us feel that we are reliving it.

That’s what deja vu is isn’t it? The reliving of a memory except it’s time travel going forward, remembering something you have not yet encountered.

Time is a schedule, a measure, a constant count.

Time itself never changes, but it has the ability to change everything.

And that is the fallacy of time; for in its essence of consistency, it never accounts for the ways it stands still, moves too fast, and transports us back.

Familiar Roles

This feels familiar, as though I’m tracing my footsteps, falling back into a place I’ve known in the past but haven’t visited in a while.

I have become rusty at being in the real world, because as  time passed and seasons changed, my son and I have been creating our own.

It has been a dance of intensity and beauty and I know that we are still only at the beginning.

But the separation is slowly happening. I know we are both finally ready.

As my son expands his world into preschool and friends and independent play, I dust off my “grown up shoes” and try to remember how to walk in them.

This year, I am the Parent Council Chair at my son’s preschool. And my goodness gracious, to those of you that told me to run away when this was offered to me last spring, I owe you a big apology because I really should’ve listened. This job is more of an undertaking than I realized. I had told myself I would not get caught up in it, but as I become more involved and aware of the behind-the-scene action at the school, the more I want to be a part of it. I may be new and I may not want to spend the next year of my life stressed out with this work, but I think I really have a chance to make a difference here. I think this position was put in my path for a reason, and as much work as it is going to be, I also think it’s a blessing. I have done leadership roles before; I have played this part of organizer, brainstormer, care-a-little-too-mucher. I know I can do it again.

I also took a chance this year. A chance I have not dared to take in a long time. I auditioned for a big Christmas production put on by a local church. Most churches do Christmas productions, but apparently this production runs like a Broadway musical. It is an original script each year and the story is told through song, dance, and theater drama. Over 200 people auditioned. Auditions involved dance, vocal, and dramatic. Only 50 people were invited to call backs and 6 women were being considered for the female lead. So here is my big news: I got the lead! Performance used to be a huge part of my life, but I have not performed since 2008, right before I found out I was pregnant.  My skills are a bit rusty, but I am oh-so-ready to bring performance back into my life. There will be costumes, there will be lights, there will be make-up, there will be me trying to learn choreography and lines…and there will be that little piece of my soul that gets fulfilled by being on stage.

I am not sure how all of these pieces will fit back together as I balance motherhood with bits of my previous self, but I know that they will. I am also fighting my own guilt with the fact that I have chosen these roles rather than choosing to return to work. I try to get my Parent Council work done while Noah is in school and all show rehearsals will be at night. These two new roles, though not paid, will still allow me a lot of time with my son. For now, I have decided to feed my soul rather than my bank account.

So as I re-introduce myself to the world of paperwork and pull my dance shoes out of the back of the closet, I also prepare for the beginning of what’s next and pray for guidance into this next round of “new normal.”

(If you will be in the Richmond area around Christmas and are at all interested in attending these performances, you can visit this site for more details. http://gloriouschristmasnights.com/)

Little Moments

Things that have made me smile today:

  • Dropping my son off at pre-school for his second day in the three-year-old class, knowing that he will have fun and that he is in such good hands with teachers that will love him and take good care of him.
  • Driving alone in my car, listening to the radio a little too loudly.
  • Getting my first Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte of the season today from baristas that know my name, ask about my little boy, and know my order.
  • Sitting on my back deck feeling the beautiful breeze as it floats the scent of the “Autumn Festival” Yankee Candle I have burning beside me into the air.
  • Surrounding myself with silence, typing, tastes and scents that relax me.
  • Taking the time to ignore the chores and choosing to listen to life’s little pleasures.
  • Remembering that before there were days of mommyhood, there were days of me.
  • Giving thanks for this life, this house, this moment, and all of the blessings that have gotten me to this day, this time, this now.

My perfect fall morning.

Capturing Me

Once a month, two of my favorite bloggers, Galit from These Little Waves and Alison from Writing, Wishing, host the Memories Captured link up.

I adore this chance to choose a moment to focus on. A moment to cherish the growth, the fleeting beauty of my son’s childhood. This chance to choose one of the many pictures I snap of my son and showcase it; showcase him.

Mostly, I identify myself through my motherhood. I thrive in my role and I always use memories captured to capture the center of my world; my son.

But this month, this link up coincides with another at Just Be Enough, with the surprisingly challenging task of focusing on a self portrait. This month, I am capturing me.

My husband took this picture of me in our front yard last week. I had spent the day taking my son to a playdate and doing my regular chores of dishes and laundry. When my husband got home from work a little early, I asked him if he could take some pictures. We played in the front yard for a little bit, launching my son’s model airplane into the sky and sitting in the grass to observe the crickets crawling over the blades. In this shot, my son is sitting in my lap, right out of view of the camera.

Maybe it’s the striking colors of the green grass against my pink shirt, or maybe I just like the way my hair fell that day. But, in a somewhat rare occurence, I really love this picture of me.

Me in all of my moments of confidence and insecurity, of strength and weakness, of human frailty. Me with my sometimes conflicting roles of mother, wife, and self. I may not always know who I am or where I am going, but here in this picture I feel perfectly captured. A memory of my own complexities, on a random day in the grass with my son in my lap.

A New Path

I have been feeling lost lately.

Not knowing what direction to go in next.

Not knowing what path I want to walk down and not really even knowing how to decide where to start.

I’ve been pondering so many different things that sometimes I feel that they collide and explode in my mind, jolting me awake from some distant place and bringing me right back into the Now.

And the now involves sticky fingers and a runny nose and lots of cleaning and lots of re-directing. The now involves lots of cuddles and lots of stories and lots of imagination and wonder. The now involves not enough money and not enough time and a restlessness and a peace all at once. And in all honesty, the heart of now is pretty amazing.

As I navigate the now of my present with the possibilities of my future I ponder the “right” choices. The “right” way. The path that will lead me to where I am meant to be.

Change is scary and new beginnings can seem insurmountable.

But through my life, I’ve been through enough changes, enough loss, enough new beginnings, that I’ve become a bit jaded to the magnanimity of them.

Tonight, I found out that a new beginning I had thought about was not going to work out. And I literally said to myself, “Well, that didn’t work out. Let’s see what happens next.”

Ummm, really self?

This is HUGE for me. HUGE. I am a perpetual self-doubter, emotional roller coaster, hope-too-hard and fall-too-far kind of person.

And tonight, at the loss of an opportunity, I just wasn’t.

It was a simple as that. And maybe that’s a new path in itself.

All Birds Go To Heaven

“Oh no, Mommy, look!”

I turned in his direction and I followed his gaze down to the bird with flies buzzing around its head. I pulled him away quickly.

“Oh no, don’t touch. It’s a dead bird.”

“Uh oh, Mommy. Now it can not go to his family.”

“No, he can not go to his family.”

“But why, Mommy?”

“The bird is hurt. It looks like a kitty cat or a ruff ruff got him.”

Our feet pattered on the concrete as we continued walking down the road.

Should I tell him? Are we ready for these conversations?

“Now the bird is in heaven with God.”

“With God?”

“Yes.”

But why Mommy?”

“When things die, they go up to heaven to live with God.”

A long pause filled our conversation as we both pondered the validity of my statement. Can we talk about this yet?

“Mommy’s Daddy lives in heaven.”

Gentle feet pad on the cement. I look down at the top of his head. I can see his eyelashes and his brow slightly furrow as he grips the flowers he has collected tighter.

“Does your Daddy take care of the birds, Mommy?”

Surprised tears threaten my eyes as I smile and reply, “Why, yes, I guess he does.”

Chirping birds and a distant train combine with the sound of our shoes on the ground as the background track to our poignant conversation.

We observe fallen branches and white lines painted on the road. They were meant for traffic but they make a perfect balance beam for my son to follow as I walk beside him. His concentration is on the line; the steadying of his feet one in front of the other.

My concentration is on him.

As the line fades and we near the next cross street he says, “Mommy? And your Daddy will say, no no kitties and ruff ruffs we do not hurt birds.”

“Yes,” I realize and speak out loud, “that is probably something he would say.”

The rest of our walk is speckled in conversation about looking both ways and not throwing trash on the ground. We stop to admire flowers and bugs and I watch as he delights in walking down into a shallow ditch and climbing back out.

As we near our house, he breaks into a big grin and runs to the driveway. “That was a good walk, Mommy. Now I am thirsty.”

It was a good walk, love. A very good walk.

In The Midst of Hard

Remember when life was easy? When everything went your way all the time and you never felt the burdens of stress or a to-do list or obligations of some sort? When you were absolutely 100 percent care free?

Me either.

But I remember thinking that in the next stage, it would be.

When I was student teaching for my degree in Early Childhood Education, my mentor teacher said something I found so profound that I still remember it to this day; “There is no harder job than the job of growing up.”

I tried to use this in my lesson plans, in my interaction with my students, in my role as caretaker. I tried to remember that even though I know that the dramas of childhood will not be a big deal later, it is a big deal then and that makes that specific part of life hard.

It’s hard to remember babyhood, and even in the carefree days of childhood we are faced with our own burdens of growing, learning, and navigating. It is indeed a hard job, this growing up.

My son already does what so many of us do; he anticipates the next stage. “When I grow up I can drive a car like Mommy and I will drink coffee.”

Isn’t that a part of childhood? Feeling lost while going through the tough stages and holding on to the comforting and hopeful thought, “I can’t wait until…..?”

This isn’t to tell you to cherish the moment because you’ll never have that time back or that kids’ have it so easy and they don’t even know what lies ahead of them, because it’s ok to live in those moments of frailty and fragileness and vulnerability and look back and know they may not have had a significant effect on your Now, but they had a significant effect on your Then.

It’s hard to find your way through growing and changing and homework and friendships and dating and extracurriculars and graduations and boundaries and responsibilities and jobs and marriages and mortgages and moving and parenthood. It’s all hard. I don’t remember a point at which it was all easy. The different levels don’t take away the presence of Hard.

But isn’t this what pushes us further?

“Next year I’ll be a 5th grader!”

“I can’t wait to go to college and have my own space.”

“I’ll be so much less stressed after these finals.”

“I can not wait to be married!”

“This job just has a learning curve.”

“Marriage is really hard.”

“Why didn’t anyone tell me how hard this parenthood thing was going to be?”

“If we had more money we could…..”

And now I’ve heard my mom say, “I just can’t wait to retire. Life will be so much easier then.”

I haven’t really found that any of this gets easier or harder, it just becomes different, but no less real, significant, or difficult.

I have stopped trying to idealize my future and my past. I am not one of those people who will tell you college is the best time of your life or kids just don’t even know what little responsibility they have because I don’t think that’s true. I think it was all hard, to different degrees, but all of similar significance for their time.

I don’t think that when my son goes to school parenting will become easier. I don’t think that my marriage would suddenly be perfect if we had more time or money. I think life is hard, and unpredictable, and nothing if not a constant exercise in the ability to find beauty in inevitable change.

So as I hang up my hat of romanticism and replace it with realism, I subscribe myself to the new task of not focusing on the ever-present Hard. There will never be a time when this is easy. But then, in the midst of the hard, there are moments, however fleeting, of perfection. Those are the moments that drive us to keep going, keep pushing on to what comes next. Because we hope that there will be moments of perfection there, too. A collection of these moments is what creates a life time, but it’s important to be honest about how they were collected. Carefully, with presence and awareness, in the midst of Hard.

I Like

I Like…

honesty

cat purrs

toddler hugs

showering alone

sleeping next to my son

dancing in the living room

chai tea lattes

cupcakes

FRIENDS re-runs

sleep

getting lost in a book

feeling confident in real life

remembering to sing

laughing

seeing beauty in myself

seeing beauty around me

reminders that I am blessed

the way my son lights up my life

the way rain sounds on the roof

pajama days

social days

girl’s nights

Broadway shows

wine and dessert

walks in my neighborhood

hearing other people’s stories

sharing pieces of my own

living in the present

looking forward to the future

not dwelling on the past

being with friends

being with myself

being a Mommy

introspection

a busy calendar

a flexible schedule

a clean house

an empty laundry basket

a full tummy

new clothes

a freshly made bed

anything pink

staying up until midnight

photo-journalistic style photography

fall weather

conversations with my almost three-year-old

day dreaming

writing

hoping