5/31/2011

Here's hoping!!!


I submitted a job application today... I would love to interview for this position...
Think positive thoughts for me!
(Fingers Crossed!)

5/29/2011

Church... kayaking... and a Women's Retreat?

Ok... So the women's retreat thing has nothing to do with this weekend... but it does with last weekend. I just had not yet uploaded the pictures. I was pleasantly surprised to be invited to the "Ocean House" of one of my coworkers last weekend... The house has been in her family for years and the time there is split between her, her siblings, and her cousins. One weekend each spring, when it is her time at the house, she uses it for a women's retreat. She invites various women from her life, including a best childhood friend and coworkers.
Some people spent the entire weekend, but I only stayed for the day and evening last Saturday. It was a lot of fun. There was crackers, cheese, wine, and chocolate...handmade chocolates that the hostess wanted us all to sample. When I arrived there were only a few people there. Before long we all walked to the waters edge and it was beautiful... a little chilly, but beautiful.
It was a fun time... we talked, we laughed, we participated in a murder mystery game that the host had put much effort into. At first I kind of turned my nose up at the idea of a women's only retreat... thinking that women often have time together and wondered why a retreat was needed. But as I sat there, engaging in conversations with current and previous coworkers, as well as a woman I had never met before that day... I realized that women share things, and share things in ways that are so ... well.. female... and I really appreciated being a part of it. In fact, I am contemplating starting something similar with my friends... a women's only weekend... Maybe rent a house somewhere and all take time to take care of ourselves and each other... and indulge... I think we all need that from time to time...
Ok... onto this weekend... I did something today I have not done in.... well.. a long time. I went to church. Y'all know I have been contemplating it for a while... well maybe you didn't know I was contemplating going to church, but you knew I was thinking about God... religion, etc...
The church I went to today was overseen by a man named Bin. (He is the pastor/minister there.) I have known Bin for about... ohhh.. six years or so through his children. He and his family are immigrants from the Congo in Africa. I have known four of his seven children through coaching and teaching. I have run into him throughout the years and he has often invited me to come to his church, to worship with him. Over the years I have told him that I was not opposed to it, but that I was not ready to go and appreciate the offer. He kept offering... and during Mom's battle with cancer, he had again asked me to come to his church, and I told him that I was angry with God and did not want to worship him. After Mom died I would tell him that I appreciated his offer but that I could not worship a God who would allow someone to suffer as my mom did... he kept asking... and about two weeks ago he was at my school and I approached him as I always do. (He, by the way is a tall man, probably 6'3" or so, and he gets a kick out of having to look up to me.) He shook my hand and asked how I was doing and what I had been up to. Since I had graduated the weekend before I shared that with him. He is a man who values education and extended his congratulations. He also asked how I was doing in the process of grieving the loss of my mother. I told him that I was doing better. He once again extended an invitation to his church... and I accepted. I told him that I was curious about his church, about his worship, and that I would like to come see a service there... He had given me his business card and I had emailed him a few times since last seeing him. In my emails I explained that I wanted to come to his church to see if it was a place I would want to return to... I also told him where I am at, spiritually... that I was still unsure about God... and was unsure what I would get out of going to his church... He offered kind words and comfort, as other Christians do, about my mother being at peace, in a place with God where we all hope to be one day... I was planning on going last week, but I was sick and stayed in bed all day instead... so today was the day... I truly did not know what to expect... but I hoped to kind of hide in the background... let's just say that did not happen... The congregation was small, very small... Bin, his wife, and their seven children were there... other than Bin's family, there were five or six other people there, including me. Bin had mentioned that his congregation had become smaller since the location of his church had moved, and he is hoping to bring more people soon... but I did not think it would be that small. My favorite part of church today... was seeing an entire family, together, worshipping, and watching them all 'feel' their faith... it was truly beautiful. Other things that I enjoyed included the music, very uplifting music, I liked the messages that were in the service... which included looking at humans as three parts, the body, the spirit, and the soul... and it talked about how our souls have two choices to live in doubt or live in faith... that reminded me of the book Conversations with God, that says humans have two emotions, fear and love... so that resonated with me. A lot of the sermon was about water... about the need to cleanse ourselves and our sins... and about baptisms... two of the parishioners are being baptized next week... so this sermon was preparation for that... I also liked that throughout the service Bin asked various people to read passages from the bible and engaged people in a dialogue. I loved Bin's passion... I also loved that one of the men who was attending the service was asked to help end the service with a prayer. His prayer was beautiful... so from his heart... very nice... A couple of things that happened that were not as much to my liking... At the beginning of the service Bin asked me to stand, so he could introduce me to his congregation. He talked about how he knows me, of my teaching and coaching... and then, with everyone, he shared that I am struggling to follow the path of god, because of my mother's death, I have expressed anger and misunderstanding of God's ways... I was a bit surprised... and hopes wanting to be a wallflower during this service, disappeared... At the very end of the service... Bin asked me to come up and join him because he wanted to pray with me... and he, along with two of the men from the congregation stood beside/behind me to pray with/for me. He talked about Mom... about her death to cancer and asked God to see me... to see my struggle... and to help me find my way... and asked that God watch over me... it brought tears to my eyes... I was emotional as he talked about losing Mom... I think that when I talk about it with people it's when I am in control of my emotions (usually)...and this was not within my control... and it was hard... but at the same time, it was okay... which surprised me... Afterwards one of the men there gave me the biggest hug I have had in a long time, and that felt nice... comforting... and I wonder how a hug from a stranger could feel so comforting... maybe because he was a man who was taller than me... and a solid guy, built like a football player... Before I left, Bin approached me... asked me if I would return. And I told him I would most likely come again... he then asked if I wanted to be baptized next weekend... and I said no. I told him I was no where close to being in a place where I would want to be baptized... I think I will need to remind him that this is the beginning of a journey for me... that I am not even sure that I want to find God... that maybe I just want to see signs of God's existence... Very interesting...
Then I went to MY Church.... where I feel closest to spirituality... peace... KAYAKING.
I returned to the stream I went to on my birthday. The plants have grown so much! It was a lot of fun. Including more turtles!
Just me... relaxing as I am kayaking... cruise control mode!
This is a loon, one of a duo we saw today. (We... Suellen came with me, FUN!) I am used to hearing the iconic song of the loons, but today I got to hear one of the loons making small, sounds... leading me to believe that there were babies nearby. We did not see the babies... but I think they were close by.
This next picture may not look like much, but...it is the nest of the Canada goose I saw a few weeks ago. I saw no sign of her today.. but this was her nest. And that white thing a little to the left and a little below the center... is an eggshell. After taking the picture I was able to scoop it up with my paddle...and touch it. It reminded me of what birch bark feels like... almost paperlike...Very cool. There were also a couple of feathers attached to it.
The plants were blooming. We saw lots of flowers. This one reminded me of lady slippers... not because of the flower, but because of the leafs and stalk...
Pastor Bin was onto something today when he talked about water... it does cleanse me... but maybe not in the way he was thinking... Water soothes me... The ocean, like the shore at the women's retreat... ponds, lakes, and streams like the one I kayaked today... calms and soothes me... Maybe that is the spirit that moves me...

5/25/2011

Play Ball!

Take me out to the ball game...
Ahhh... finally some sunshine! It was a beautiful afternoon/evening and I am happy to say that I went to my first baseball game of the season. One of the local credit unions offer free tickets to one game per year to teachers. It is a nice gesture, offered to us during teacher appreciation week. All I had to do was email someone, saying that I would like to attend the game, send my address, and I got two free tickets in the mail. It really is a nice thing.
It felt extra nice tonight because the past couple of years I have not been able to take advantage of the free tickets because they were usually offered on a night where I was scheduled to be sitting in a class... but since I am done with classes... for now... I was able to go! (And yes, I said 'for now', about being done with classes... I like taking classes, learning... being around other people who are still passionate about their livlihoods... so I will, at some point take more classes... but not this summer!) I invited one of my pals, Meg, to come to the game with me. She was able to make it and it was great to catch up! I think the last time we hung out was at a hockey game. Meg cracks me up... She has such a good sense of humor, such bad fashion sense, and stories that make me laugh so hard I cry. Tonight was no exception. We had a lot of fun.
I was thinking about how my time is once again my own... and I am excited about that. One of my coworkers, who also just completed her internship and some courses, asked me today how to fill her free time. I understand that... it is hard to know what to do with yourself when you are used to having so many things going on at the same time and suddenly you don't.
But... I have a lot to do... life to live... and I am excited to see what life has in store... Batter up!

5/24/2011

Yuck...

My friend's father died. I didn't know him. I know her. I don't know her well... but I know her loss...

5/22/2011

I don't know what to say...

I got a message today through facebook... from a girl I went to college with... we have not stayed in touch beyond messages and comments on facebook... She is a sweet person.
I got an email from her today, very out of the blue. Today her father was moved from the hospital to a hospice unit... and she asked me what she could do to make it hurt less... she is with her dad, holdin ghis hand, and thinks he only has hours left... she said she felt bad emailing me but didn't know anyone else who has lost a parent and wanted to know what to do to make it easier...
I hate that there is no advice... nothing that is going to make it easier... I told her that there was nothing I could say, nothing that would make it easier. I told her that losing her Dad would be the hardest thing she has ever done... I told her to hold his hand... and that it might help to give him permission to die... helpful to her, to have a way to say good bye... and helpful to him... I told her to call me anytime... that for me, it was nice to have someone who had also lost a parent to talk to...
People often say... Everything happens for a reason... It makes me shake my head... there is no sense I can make, still, about Mom's death... and there is nothing I can offer to a friend who is about to lose her dad that will make it any easier... no lessons I can share...
Yuck.

5/15/2011

"Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!"

The Wizard of Oz is one of my favorite movies of all time... and as I wrap up my graduation weekend this scene came to mind... where Dorothy and crew had killed the witch and they returned to the Wizard of Oz for their reward and the Wizard was blowing htem off... until Toto pulled the curtain back, exposing the professor... And the Wizard says, "Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!"




So why would this scene come to mind? Well... I was thinking about all the people who were here to support me yesterday.... and as I shared yesterday, that means so much to me. But there is a group of people who have been "Behind the curtain" in my life over the last five years... and despite the directive from the Wizard... I want to pay attention to those people...

I know I will inevitably forget some people... and for that I apologize... but... there are a few people I want to specifically mention... in no particular order... except knowing her ego, I need to mention Jill first. Jill is a friend of mine, from high school. We got pretty close our senior year and she is one of the very few people I have stayed connected with since graduating... Jill currently lives in California with her family... She has been a strong source of support for me. Granted, we don't talk on the phone often... our contact seems to come more from online exchanges, but... she has offered her love and support to me... As my mom's illness got worse and we lost Mom... Jill was there... Thank you Jill!

Another important behind the scenes person is "Rico"... Rico is someone who has been my friend since... gosh... since 1997 or 1998. While we have only ever spent time face to face a few times, our friendship is one I cherish. Rico lost his mother to cancer not many years before I lost Mom... As my mom became more ill, Rico was there for me. He offered perspective nobody else in my life could offer... he was still heavily mourning his own loss, yet found time and ways to be there for me... including flying in from Denver to spend a weekend with me, just to let me lean on someone... I knew that I could reach out to him, at any hour, to scream, cry, hyperventilate, or just say nothing at all... and he would understand... Rico, I value our friendship and have greatly appreciated it over the years... Rico... Thank you...

Pele... another California person... not quite sure how to define my connection with Pele... He was here on New Years Eve... as we welcomed 2009... we had gone to Sara and Phil's house to celebrate.. and just before midnight I left the party, finding some excuse to get away from everyone... and fell apart, knowing that the new year brought with it, a date on which I would say good bye to my mother. While he didn't know I had fallen apart right away.. he was here... and he has remained there for me, even from 3000 miles away... Thank you Pele!

Aunt Donna... If there is anyone who is my personal cheerleader, it is her... She is a person who has known me my whole life... as I have grown up I have always admired her... and she and I have much in common. Over these last five years, in addition to our visits, she has sent emails that have been encouraging and filled with hugs... She has also kept my grandmother updated on how I have been doing... Thanks Donna!

My grandmother... who is now 94 years old, still living by herself... She has set an example for everyone in my family... working hard... dedication... all qualities she has passed down through the generations... Thanks Gramie!

Aunt Sharon... and Uncle Allen... have endured their own battles with cancer... sat with us in the waiting room after Mom's first failed surgery... She has also sent many emails and always has told me to keep going... Thanks Aunt Sharon!

Cousin Heidi and my other relatives on my Dad's side... have always ALWAYS been supportive and encouraging... Thanks!

Suellen... I think I did mention her yesterday, but I need to mention her here too.. Suellen was someone who has seen me at many moments in this journey.. she was the person who went to the gym with me when I was still using my crutches... she was next to me on the elliptical machine when my quad muscle was still too weak to make the machine work... she was behind me as we rode our bikes to get ice cream as my first bike ride after surgery... she watched me try to remember how to jump, how to make my body, my knee, jump... she saw me tear up as I was talking about something totally unrelated to the drama in my life but could think about nothing else... I can't even say all the things she has been there for me through... Thank you Sue!

My friend Meg... Meg has been a friend of mine since 1997. We met when we taught at the same school. At first I thought she was a snob... but quickly realized that when she did not know someone she was quiet.. but once you get to know her she is anything but... Meg... during my surgery... drove an hour 2 or three times a week to help me with laundry, to make sure I had meals... to play canasta... and when Mom was sick... and when she died.. meg was there... not with words of wisdom mecessarily, but just there... Not long after Mom died, her mom died... and that bond is something we will always have... Thanks Meg!


And... there is He who shall remain nameless.... who has been in, or made appearances in my life for... going on 12 years... when I needed him... he was there... not always in the capacity I wanted... but who offers me comfort I have yet to find elsewhere...

There are many friends (beyond those mentioned yesterday) and coworkers who have also offered support and encouragement along the way... sharing magical margaritas... Debbie, Kris, Sheila, Jaime and Jamie, Rob, Jen, Pat,...and all the others who are escaping me... Thank you!

Of course I must also thank my other grandmother... who was only here to see the beginning of this journey for me... but she was so proud of me, always...

And Mom... I am not even going to get into it all... but... YOU and Dad made me who I am... and I owe you both so much... I love you, and miss you... and am grateful that I got to be your daughter.

I am GRATEFUL!

5/14/2011

GRADUATION! I DID IT!

What a weekend... filled with so many emotions. I am extremely fortunate. I have such amazing people in my life... truly. I am so incredibly thankful. Writing my blog yesterday was helpful to me... to give the last five years a bit of a timeline, as all that has happened has caused things to be a bit blurred. It feels nice to feel like I have a handle on it... And, I admit, it made me recognize that I have gone through a lot... and while I have been able to say that part, pretty easily, for a long time... the piece that has not been as easy to articulate... is that I am proud... for surviving... for finding ways, strength, to keep going... I did not give up on this degree despite all that the universe found to put in my path.

I think in some ways, maybe this degree helped me through the last five years... maybe it gave me a way to use energy... maybe it gave me purpose... maybe it is what helped me refuse to give up...

Yesterday I was very excited... I left work early to go get my hair trimmed... I don't ever really cut my hair... it's too curly, and cutting any length off creates even more volume and texture... which I do not need... It was nice to go and pamper myself... the woman who does my hair enjoys blowing it out straight when she has time... she says it relaxes her, and it really relaxes me. Yesterday she offered to make it straight and I accepted her offer... though I was not sure if I would leave it straight for today or not... Mom loved my curls... She saw me with my hair straight a couple of times and she would tell me she liked it, that it was pretty, but that I looked more like me with it curly... today I went with curly... knowing Mom would have voted for that...

After getting my hair done yesterday I awaited the arrival of my sister, Dad, and Dad's girlfriend... which is when I found time to write my blog. It was nice to have that time to reflect... and to think about what today would hold in store... Everyone arrived in town around 6:30 and by 7:30 we were all out having dinner at one of my favorite places... It was nice to talk together... just spending time together... family... After spending a couple of hours at the restaurant Sis and I dropped Dad and Betty off at their hotel... and Dad gave me a bag of 'goodies' that he had brought from home... containing things from friends and family...

Sis and I headed to my apartment and chatted for a while... and I began opening the cards/gifts and quickly became overwhelmed and emotional... Betty gave me a nice card and a nice necklace, which I wore today... there was a little stuffed dog wearing a graduation cap signed by my dad, my aunts and uncles, and my grandmother...what a cool idea! There cards from family, cards from friends who I have known my whole life... all congratulating me for reaching this milestone and wishing me well... I got emotional looking at all of the cards...and with people's generosity... and when I got to the card with my Dad's handwriting on it... I started crying... without even looking inside... I knew from Dad's post on the family site that he has been thinking a lot about Mom, and about her not being here for this moment in my life... and I know how proud he is of me for doing this, for seeing it through... and just seeing a card from him... brought a lot of those emotions to the surface for me last night... His card was not one of those mushy cards, it was cute and he had written something simple inside... "Congratulations, you have worked very hard for this time in your life." And... it just made me melt...

I have always been lucky in that my family has never had difficulty in expressing our love for one another or our pride in each other's accomplishments... so having my father acknowledge my hard work is not a novelty... but it means so much... and knowing Mom would also be proud... also means so much...

So, this morning I got up early, around 6:15...showered then woke Sis up and she got ready... we ate breakfast and picked Dad and Betty up around 7:45... Graduation was scheduled to start at 9:00... but I wanted to be there early enough so that Dad would get a seat with plenty of legroom... As we were approaching the parking garage, I spotted my friend, Debbie... she waited for us to park and walked with us into the graduation arena. By the time we arrived at other graduates had already arrived... but it was not very crowded. We found a good spot that included ample leg room and I left them to locate the other people from my program...

My fellow graduates also receiving their Masters in Educational Leadership and I were gathered in a storage area of the building... where there happened to be a zamboni... which I have always wanted to drive... I sent a quick text to Sis asking if I should march or come out driving the zamboni! It was really nice to have familiar faces around me, other people who had also completed this program with me... a group of people who were brought together by our common interests... it was nice... one of my close friends, Melissa, also got her Masters degree today... and we were able to march and sit together...

After having help appropriately wearing my 'hood' I was ready to go. (A hood is a piece of fabric draped around one's neck and hangs over your shoulders and down your back. It signifies a masters degree.) We lined up and were led into the auditorium... which was PACKED! Wow... that was an amazing feeling, to walk out to that crowd... everyone there to support someone they know get a degree they have earned... There were 830 graduates... wow...

Some were there to get their bachelor's degree, while others were getting their doctorate, or, like me, were getting their masters... So. Many. People. I was glad I knew where my crew was sitting, it was fun to be able to see them as I was marching out. The beginning of the ceremony was pretty... boring... the star spangled banner, welcoming speeches by various university mucky mucks... and then one young woman, who was earning her bachelor's degree, spoke. Her speech was eloquent... She reflected on the first graduation she saw at this university. She had been twelve years old... when she got to see her father march across stage and earn his degree... And here it was nine or ten years later... and it was her turn to earn a degree... sadly, her father was not there to share in her happiness because he had died three years ago. Her speech acknowledged that for some graduates in that auditorium, there were people who were missing... and recognized their absence...

Melissa could not look at me during that speech (she told me later), and my sister sent me a text saying that the woman's speech had brought her and Dad to tears... I had told myself that there was "no crying in graduation..." like the line in A League of Their Own...'There's no crying in baseball.' And I managed to keep it together... though I did take a second to think about Mom, and what it would have been like had she been up there, sitting with my Dad and sister...
Next up was our commencement speaker, Linda Greenlaw. She is the captain of a commercial swordfishing boat. She is a best selling author... and was a great speaker. She was so herself... so down to earth. I loved that. She talked about one of her favorite expressions being "opportunity knocks." She made a good point... Having opportunity knock, means that it does not come in uninvited... that we must be able to say come in, or go away... I really like that...



My sister took a lot of pictures today and I am very grateful for that. I was able to really enjoy this process today... and it was nice to have some pictures to see what it looked like from another perspective. Thanks Lady!



This is me, getting my 'degree'... or I should say, my folder in which my degree will be kept once it arrives in the mail. Apparently this was part of the ceremony in which my dad got very emotional... I Love you, Dad...
























After crossing the stage, I decided that I did not want to stay for the other 400 graduates... selfish? Maybe.. but I had done what I wanted to do, crossed the stage and decided to, instead of returning to my seat, leave. I had texted Sis ahead of time, telling her to meet me in the lobby after I bolted... Melissa came with me and it worked out really well. Sis, Dad, Betty, and Debbie were in the lobby, and when I gave them all hugs, Dad was still a little weepy and it got me a little emotional too...



When we got outside we saw this big sign...and decided to take some pictures. This one... with me kind of attacking the school's emblem... was completely me being silly... but now that I look at it, it makes me think that I attacked it... this degree... full force... yes I took breaks, because I needed to... but... I took on this challenge... and I kicked its ass! So take that, universe! You knocked me down... a few times... but... I got back up... and each time, I was stronger...even if I didn't think I was... I was.

This is a picture of me, my sister, my dad, and Betty. I must also take a minute here and thank Betty. She has come into our family... and she knows that had it not been for mom's death, her path in life would not have included my dad... I hope that came out right... what I mean is that she really seems to appreciate that Dad is in her life, cherishes him... and has also been very... open.. to me... offering to be a part of my life as well, but also allowing me to accept that offer at a pace at which I am comfortable. She is a sweet person, and her being here this weekend was nice. She told us that she was thankful that we would include her in this kind of family event... and also recognizes all we, as a family, not just me, have endured in the last five years... I love that she, in no way, is trying to be my mother, that she is in no way, trying to replace Mom in Dad's life. She recognizes that our family is as wonderful as it is, because of Mom and Dad and their love... and she does nothing to try to minimize that... Thank you Betty.




The next picture is me with my friend Debbie! She is such an amazing, beautiful person. I am so honored that she chose to come to see me graduate. She, I am sure, could have done many other things this morning, but she chose to get up EARLY and be there. Thanks Deb!




The rest of the pictures are just me... being happy to have officially graduated. When I knew that I would be completing this degree, I had

debated about marching at graduation or not. Dad encouraged me to march, reminding me I would be the first person in our family to earn a masters degree... Dad, thanks for that push... I think that this process, going to graduation, was therapeutic for me... and I think for all of us... I think that today marked my graduation, but like I said last night... also signifies that we have all survived the last several years...







Oh.. I love this picture... Me and Dad.. the word that comes to mind is... Happy. And that alone brings more tears to my eyes... happy tears... After graduation, Melissa and her husband had invited me to have a double graduation party at their house. They told me to invite people... and I did...Thank you to Dad, Betty, Sis, Debbie, Kris, Suellen, Cassie, Moe, Sara, Phil, and Maria for helping me celebrate today. When Dad and Betty left the barbecue, I walked them out to Dad's truck... and when I hugged Dad, he again got all weepy... causing me to tear up too... What a big heart he has... I am so lucky to have him as my father... and to have had my mom be my mom... I can't even describe how much that means... me, at a loss for words? Yes...









So here I am... 36 years old... five years after I started the program... finished... degree earned... with a 3.875 GPA... all of those papers... those late nights... those books that were read, articles scrutinized... the hours and hours spent trying to move forward... during a time in my life where I felt so very stuck... when I had so little control over what was happening in the peripheral of my life... here I am ... feeling accomplished... I am proud of myself... and grateful...

5/13/2011

A weekend to celebrate...



It's finally here... Graduation. Tomorrow, I will march in a graduation ceremony that will signify the completion of my Masters Degree... I admit that is a moment that I wondered if I would reach...


After earning my bachelor's degree and teaching for a while I was fortunate to work in a district where coursework was paid for...and at that time I really had no interest in earning a masters degree... but I was interested in taking classes that interested me. I took some sign language classes and loved it. I loved that it was something I was taking for my love of the subject... not as a requirement, strictly enrichment. That was the summer of 2002...


I began taking graduate courses in the summer of 2006... with the intent of completing my degree in three years. My degree would include ten classes and a year long internship. My plan was to take two courses each summer, one each fall, and one each spring... which seemed very do-able. Well life is what happens when you are busy making other plans...


Summer of 2006, I took two classes... that fall I took a course, and in the spring of 2007 I took a course... By the spring of 2007 my knee was in really bad shape... my pain was unbearable... going to work was hard enough, extending my days and attending classes was miserable. That was also when my grandmother started battling cancer... so something had to give...I had surgery that summer. I knew that my recovery would take some time and opted to not take a fall class... as it worked out, that was the fall that my grandmother died... and the time away from classes was needed. Spring of 2008 I started up again... and that was when Mom was diagnosed with her cancer....I decided to take the summer off from coursework and spend time with my family. Again, the right decision. Fall 2008 I took a class, and enrolled in a course for the spring 2009 semester... but not long into that course, Mom got worse, and we knew her time was limited... so I withdrew from the class.... Mom died that April... and I was in no condition to be working on courses... the day to day survival was enough of a challenge... I did not return to my graduate work until September 2009. And have not stopped since...


In my head I thought it had been six years... but it has been five... A lot has happened in those five years... life outside of my career has drastically changed... I watched as two of the strongest women in my life took their last breaths... losing their lives to cancer... leaving behind those of us who loved and adored them... leaving us unsure how to live life without them.


When my knee was at its worst, I battled depression and anxiety... missed many days of work as I wondered if I would ever have a life without physical pain... after surgery, when the pain began to subside, my life fell apart when Mom got sick...


As you know, it has been two years since Mom died.... and I have begun to remember her life in addition to her death... and now believe that there will be a time when I will remember more details about her life than I remember about her death... I feel that I have solid ground underneath me, upon which I can build my life... which I have not felt in several years...


I have hope. Hope. Something I had grown to resent in others... when I knew there was none for my mother...


I am grateful... as much as I tell myself that I am the person in my relationships who is the rock... upon who people lean... there have been some incredible people by my side through this journey... My Dad... My sister... my FRIENDS... people who somehow navigated my emotional journey in a way that allowed me to know I was not alone, yet also allowed me to feel and grieve alone when I needed that... I think it would have been easy for people to abandon me during the last five years... I withdrew and shut down... and people could have easily used that as a way to step away from me... but nobody did... nobody did...


There are a couple of people who are no longer integral parts of my life, but those are people I have chosen to distance myself from...


I have been looking so forward to tomorrow... an event to signify, not only my completion of my graduate degree, but... my survival... perhaps even triumph... As one of my friends said to me today... tomorrow marks your "stick-to-it-iveness... she's right...


My mother and father, neither of whom earned degrees beyond high school diplomas, always valued education. My sister was the first in our family to earn a college degree... and I remember the pride my parents took in her accomplishment... three years later I joined her with my bachelor's degree, and again... my parents were proud. When I decided to apply to the graduate program at my university, Mom and Dad were very excited.... "Good Deal..." as Dad would say... They asked about my work... encouraged me to keep going even when life was hard, busy, and overwhelming... Mom used to say that she was proud of me for working full time, coaching, working the tolls, and taking classes... yet she reminded me to find time to enjoy myself too...


Mom would be soo proud to see me walk across that stage tomorrow..... to see that I have done it... and I will miss her tomorrow... My dad posted something today on our family's website... about being proud of me and about how mom will be watching over us tomorrow... and it brought tears to my eyes... I know I am going to be emotional tomorrow... mostly with joy and excitement... a lot of pride too...


After Mom died... I was pretty sure that she would visit my dreams... that it would be an appearance that would be bold and would clearly have some message for me... I have yet to have a dream like that.. but I have had a couple of dreams in which I felt her presence... and in one dream I caught a glimpse of her out of the corner of my eye... but she looked like she did when she was sick, thin, frail, and her glasses looked disproportionately large for her gaunt face... but she was there... not the comfort I had hoped for...


Last weekend something kind of cool happened... After I had gone on my solo kayak paddle on our birthday/Mother's Day... as I was driivng home, I had a craving for a hot dog. I rarely eat hot dogs unless I am camping, and then cooking a hot dog over the fire is a necessity... As I was driving I couldn't think of anyplace to go to get a hot dog and told myself I really wasn't a huge fan of hot dogs, so why would I buy one... but I really wanted one... Not long after I got home I had gone onto facebook... and had seen a post from my sister, who is entertaining the idea of being a vegetarian... she had not been eating meat, other than seafood... and her post that day was about being a little disappointed with herself because she had eaten two hot dogs for lunch! I laughed out loud... because I knew, in that moment, that Mom had made her appearance... Mom LOVED hot dogs... she would eat them often, including for breakfast when she was on her low carb diets... and I am convinced that she had something to do with my sister and I both craving hot dogs...


So before last weekend, had Dad said that Mom was watching over us... I would not have necessarily disputed it... but I am not sure I would have believed it either... But... after last weekend... when I felt mom's presence while I was kayaking... and the whole hot dog coincidence... I do think she is around... and look forward to making her proud tomorrow!


Stay tuned for pictures!

5/11/2011

So sad ...


A life is gone. He could no longer take the pain and decided to end it.


I learned today that a young man in my school district committed suicide last night.

I am sad that he did not feel like he could turn to anyone.

Sad that he felt that was his only escape.


I hope my students know they can come to me...

5/10/2011

Getting the bird...

As a teacher I work with kids whose behaviors change daily. Today, one of my favorite kids, who has Aspergers, had a rough time. His life currently has some areas of turmoil and the stress from those aspects are greatly impacting his ability to self regulate his emotions. He is pushing the limits in the settings in which he is most comfortable, including my room. Today he came in and immediately acted in a way that demanded my attention. I knew he was seeking a reaction from me and is also testing the limits. I set a clear line with him, which usually makes him get back on track. He just needs the safety of those boundaries. The first prompt did not keep him where he needed to be... and he pushed the limit... after a few other events happened he drew my attention to him and flipped me off then, as if he changed his mind, he raised the other fingers on his hand and grinned at me... I love the moments when I can see the wheels turning. He was, in that moment, deciding what he wanted to do... and then he flipped me off, with full effort. Of course I addressed the behavior and things escalated. After about an hour of having to follow his behavior plan, which involved other staff members, and unfortunately included some separation and a restraint (which I do not ever do), this student was able to get to a place where he could come back and talk to me, calmly. He accepted the consequences for his behaviors and was able to acknowledge to me that he knew he should not flip me off, but then he chose to do it anyway. He is a child. He is learning how to navigate his way through his world, as he sees it... as his teacher, it is my job to help him use navigational tools and to help him see how his actions impact others.




The part of that story that stood out to me today as I think about this situation, is that the hardest part of my job, is to determine whether the actions of this student are part of his disability or if they are chosen. His behavior early in my class today, was not intended. He reacted to something. While I know he can behave differently, more appropriate, and meet the expectations placed on him in my class, his first behavior was a mistake. The flipping me off part... that was a calculated move. After his first outburst, he had calmed down and I had given him time to cool off and at one point he was able to say that he was not yet ready to re-engage which is a part of our interactions when something like this happens... so I gave him some more time. While I kept teaching the other kids, I kept my eye on him and watched him keep looking at me to see if I was focused on him. He gradually began attention seeking behaviors, lightly tapping his desk with his pencil case and when I did not recognize his noise he increased the intensity of the tapping to a point where other kids could no longer hear me, and as soon as I looked at him, he stopped the tapping and flipped me the bird... then as I described above, hesitated... then grinning, did it full force.




In our conversation, I was happy that he was able to tell me that he knew it was wrong, but that he did it anyway... we were able to talk about how his choice, in that moment, changes things. We talked about how it is easy to excuse behaviors when they are unintended, but that when people choose to do something to hurt someone else, it becomes more difficult. He was able to recognize that this may make me less likely to trust him in the future, or to give his behaviors the benefit of the doubt... and was able to say that the other kids probably did not learn as much as they could have learned without his distractions.



As a teacher it is easy, in these situations, to help kids see how their actions impact other people...about how their actions reflect who they are... and that they have so many choices in how they behave and what they do... Some people, unfortunately including some teachers, justify behaviors of kids due to their disability. It also happens that teachers do not hold high expectations of students who have disabilities because the disability label, in their minds, means they need to expect less... it drives me crazy. I often tell my students that I do have high expectations of them, but I also tell them that I will never have an unfair expectation. At 6'6" tall I use my height to connect with the kids. I stand in front of them, reach up and touch the lights that hang from my ceiling... and I say to them, because I am tall, I can reach this light. I will never expect you to be able to reach this light without a chair or a stepladder... but... I do expect that you can do the best you can do...



I guess that my experience today with this student really made me think about our actions... and our ability to control our actions... What is excusable and what isn't? When we act with intent, and that intention is misleading or calculated in a way that is hurtful, how do people justify it?




Perhaps like this:

"I am a Christian. Christians are not perfect, just forgiven, always. We have faith that we are loved by someone that we can't see or hear. We base our faith on a book that was written thousands of years ago. Ecclesiastes 7:20 "There is not a righteous man on earth who does what is right and never sins."




That, was a quote from Matt's reaction to my blog. It makes me shake my head. I do agree that there is not a righteous man on earth who never sins... but how can people hide behind religion to excuse their behavior?

Do people make mistakes? Yes. Do I think mistakes should be forgiven? Yes... But... there is a difference between mistakes and consciously taking actions you know are wrong. Mistakes are things that are accidental... unintentional... Does being a Christian mean that you can act irresponsibly and then justify or defend it? So someone who is a Christian can abuse someone, molest someone, intentionally deceive someone, and it's okay because they will be forgiven?




I have not read the bible, but I would guess that there are some parts in there that discuss doing the right thing, treating people the way you want to be treated, about being honest.





(Pausing for a moment while I look up the commandments...) Hmmmm...




#4: Remember the Sabbath... the seventh day... no work... Well.. times have changed and people HAVE to work on Sundays, right? We, as a society, have just let that one go... so I am sure God forgives us for that... so maybe THAT one is flexible...




#6: You shall not murder... Ooh... that one seems to be a big one... maybe God doesn't forgive for that after all... so... maybe some of God's commandments are more strict than others?







#7: You shall not commit adultery... no comment... after all I have never been married...does it count if you are not married? (Note sarcasm here.)







#8: You shall not steal... steal... to take something (someone's heart perhaps) that is not yours without permission... well I suppose I did give permission...







#9: You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor... Bear false witness... I suppose that is open to interpretation... and since other people can use it to their convenience.. why not say here that this commandment says: Do not misrepresent yourself in a way that will do harm to others...








But... no matter what the commandments say I know the loophole... Ecclesiastes 7:20 "There is not a righteous man on earth who does what is right and never sins." So... men who Murder (okay maybe not murder), commit adultery , steal, and misrepresent themselves must be Christians who follow Ecclesiastes and give the bird to the commandments? (Unless of course they choose to take Sundays off from these activities... maybe then they could say they were following one commandment, therefore they are worthy of having God look past the other 9...) THIS is why I struggle with religion.. not because of the specific beliefs or rules... but because religion, to MOST is out of convenience.


If you are a Christian... where does it say you can choose this, ignore that , and use the other parts when it fits your agenda? Is that really what Jesus would do? Jesus was willing to die for intentional sins? I really don't understand how one can live as a Christian when it is convenient to do so and make excuses for one's behavior when it is inconvenient... I thought being a Christian was like being pregnant, either you are or you are not. Matt did say that he will pray for thebest in my life... Well... if you SAY you are a Christian, but you don't live in a way that shows that you are... don't pray for me... pray for you.

I am imperfect. I make mistakes. If I do something that hurts someone it is not something that I do knowingly... I do not act in ways that will mislead someone, to make someone maintain or increase feelings for me. I have never told someone I love them and then acted so incompatible with that statement... Religion or no religion... there is something to be said for a moral compass.


So clearly I am still angry and upset... as much as I would like to just be over it... I had a moment today, when my student, after his outburst described above, sat next to me and was sincere with his apology as he looked into my eyes...... and one word came to mind... sincerity. I really value sincerity...































































5/08/2011

The Break up...

I wasn't gong to post this today... because today is about my mom, our birthdays, and my relationship with her... that I very much miss... but.. I also want to leave my weekend feeling like I got the thoughts out of my head that I wanted to get out. I had posted something this weekend but afterwards it didn't feel good... it felt like I was throwing Matt under the bus...and as it turns out... this one kind of does the same thing... (added after writing the rest of this) It wasn't my intent...

When I first began sharing things on my blog, about Matt and I, I was a little surprised. This forum is a place that has been limited to what I do in my life and I have rarely mentioned my dating life here... but something about Matt made me let all my guards down. I felt like he was part of my life... my relationship with him was something I was very excited about... so why share so much here, now? Because I was invested in this relationship... completely invested. And I felt like he was going to be part of my life for a long long time... and the people in my life who read my blog who know me best... well.. I want people to know... Not all of it is pretty, and in parts doesn't paint me in the best of lights.. but it is the truth... as I know it. And telling the story... is therapeutic for me... so .. here goes...

He broke up with me on Thursday night. At least it wasn't today, on my actual birthday, right? So much for getting flowers at work on Friday... not that he would have done that, but a girl can hope... He called me and began reading a script he had written for himself. I could tell by his voice that he was not talking to me, but reading to me... really? really.

He told me that this was going to come out of nowhere... UNDERSTATEMENT... especially considering the night before he invited me to spend time with him and his son on Friday, hopefully riding bikes... considering the night before we had been chatting online and he brought up one of his friends who seemed to be struggling to find the right kind of relationship and we talked about our relationship...and he said he thought we had a good thing going, that he LOVED how compatible we were, that we had a good balance of give and take... considering that JUST this week he sent me links to tools, suggestions of what he would like as presents for his upcoming graduation... considering that on THAT VERY DAY, he posted a picture on facebook of a Lakers decal I had sent to him and in the picture's caption thanked me... considering that earlier that week I had told him that my dad had indeed come across some tools that he could have for a potential landscaping side business and he was excited... considering he emailed one of my friends to seek advice on what to do for my birthday... So YES, it came out of nowhere.

He told me that something was not right in our relationship, that something was missing... and after prodding his excuse was that he is not as attracted to me as he thinks he should be... because of my weight. He was reluctant to tell me that because he said it would hurt my feelings. And I told him that hurting my feelings was already something he could check of his list of things he had done so he may as well tell me the truth... The truth is, that he and I had talked about my weight earlier in the relationship. We talked about whether either of us had any concerns about things and other than distance I had none... he said he worried about my weight because he thought it impacted my back and my knee... He did not say anything about it being a concern for the attraction...in fact after that conversation he was pretty affectionate with me, as he always was.

I shared with him that my weight was something I also think about. That before my pvns stuff came about I was about 100 pounds lighter than I am now... and after surgery when I could once again be active, I began losing weight again, until my mother got sick and my routine changed from regular gym workouts to regular three hour trips to see my sick mother...and with that came a lot of on the go eating... I am an active person. Have walked two half marathons. Am currently more active than he is...

Do I think my weight is a factor in his decision? Yes and no. I think that it is something he has thought about, but in no way do I think it is THE deal breaker. I will get more into what I see as the real reasons later on... I asked him how long he had been feeling this way... and he said a month. A MONTH? That is VERY confusing to me... because... about a month ago.. April 13th to be exact, he texted me while I was at a staff meeting and asked me to call him when I got a second. So when I left work I called him. He told me that he had something he needed to tell me, things he had been thinking about in our relationship... that he had wanted to tell me the previous weekend but wanted a little more time to think about it...and that he knew he should probably wait to tell me in person, but he just couldn't wait any longer to tell me that he loved me. Within the last month there are some things he has said/shared that definitely do not align with him feeling like things were not okay in our relationship... he asked if I would consider honeymooning in CA... we talked about if we had kids, that he would want at least two more... and I said having twins would take care of it, a one shot deal, and he disagreed...saying that if we had twins we would have to have another one... we talked about wanting kids to eat healthy and be active and I said I would hope to limit the unhealthy food in my house and he said, well, except for Dad's junk food cupboard, because he said he loved junk food and would need to keep a stash. He asked me if I was going to leave him another note when I left last weekend (I had been leaving notes for him each time I visited, hiding them in various locations.) I asked him if he wanted me to, and he said he did because he liked them very much... He bantered back and forth with my friends on facebook posts... took me to his place of work to show me where he works...I adored seeing him in his element... when we met inside a restaurant for dinner, he kissed me when he greeted me. He added me as his assistant coach on his fantasy baseball team...

I have sought a relationship for years… at the core of what I wanted was to build a friendship like the friendship my parents had as the base of their marriage… with a man whose height of character was more important to me than his stature.

Along came Matt. Never been married. Has a son. Full time, 42 year old associate degree student. Unemployed, At the time. Living in an apartment with four other men whose only common areas are the kitchen and bathroom, and whose floors were un-kept to the point where Matt asked me to wear flip flops if I was barefoot so my feet would not get dirty. Owner of a mini-van bought for him by his parents. Physically different than any other man I have dated, taller, less muscular, less sporty, and science minded…

Of course I didn’t know ALL of that on our first date… but what I did know was that my conversation with Matt made me smile. I liked that he was excited about having found an area to study about which he was passionate. He seemed to value things I valued… and I wanted to see him again. As we were dating, I found myself being more attracted to him because of who he was. He seemed comfortable in who he was, where he was at… He was honest… or seemed to be. He got a job for the weekends… and we were able to find time to see each other… I enjoyed that he could teach me things, that he was confident in his knowledge. And as we spent time together we built a friendship... he was becoming my best friend...

Our time together was playful, full of affection… including him coming up behind me as I did dishes in his sink, hugging me and kissing my neck. He imitated a mating dance we saw in a documentary about birds of paradise... He asked me to slow dance with him in his room as we listened to music.

I did not have walls up with Matt. For reasons I cannot explain, I just didn’t keep him at a safe distance. I jumped in… took a leap of faith… so unlike me. I trusted him… COMPLETELY.
Maybe that's what bit me in my BFA... See... there is another part of this... Since Matt and I began dating he had also been building a 'friendship' with another woman. I am a person who has had friendships with men over the years... stood up with my best friend Todd when he got married... Matt seemed to be above board with everything pertaining to her... told me that they were friends, asked me if I was okay with it... and I asked him if he was sure it was just a friendship, which he confirmed. At one point she invited him and his son to go to the circus with her and her niece... and he talked to me about it and we once again talked about the status of their friendship. I asked him, one night when we had gone for a late walk that had taken us to a bench by the water, if there was an attraction there. And he told me he was not attracted to her. I trusted him.

He had told me that before meeting me the two of them had gone out on a date and had both agreed they were not compatible.. she had tattoos and drank alcohol, sometimes in excess... that she didn't have the same values as someone he wanted a relationship with.
Ironically, the day after he told me he loved me, this woman posted something inappropriate on his fb wall...which by the way, was her first post on his page... about going to get a massage and that even though the massage therapist had worked up a sweat trying to get out her knots, it was not as great at the massage he had given to her the night before... My instincts were perhaps off... I did not immediately get angry at Matt for touching another woman... Maybe I should have...

Knowing him I figured he had probably rubbed her shoulders because she had told him they were tight... and I later learned, from her, that it was just an innocent shoulder rub. But her post had innuendo... and I believed purpose... I was offended because it was disrespectful to my relationship with Matt. It was also disrespectful to Matt... the way that she had written it... knowing that his friends and family who knew he was in a relationship would see... he asked her to take it down. I felt like we had hit a bump... because when he and I had talked about the post he shut down a little... but when I told him that I was upset at her and now didn't trust her, that it had nothing to do with my trust of him... he seemed to bounce back.

She emailed me apologizing... telling me how much Matt adored me, thanking me for allowing their friendship to go on because most women would not be okay with their boyfriends having a friendship with another woman. I wrote to her and said that I had previously been okay with their friendship, but that her post made me skeptical of things. I told her that I would continue to try to be okay with their friendship because of the trust I had for Matt. That was also the night she told him that she thought it had been too soon for him to tell me he loved me.
They continued their friendship... and recently he had shared with me that she had been dating someone.. but that she was frustrated... because this man would not have sex with her. Matt had told me that she never found men that treated her well. She texted him when we were together and he would respond... which looking back, should have bothered me...especially the night we had been watching a movie about a man who had been diagnosed with cancer... and at the end of the movie he was texting with her as I cried when one of the scenes struck a chord with me... once he realized I was crying he comforted me... but I suppose I should have been pissed about that... instead of trusting that he was just trying to be a good friend...

He saw her on Tuesday this week... and in one of our conversations referenced her as sex starved... and that was the conversation where we talked about how glad we were that we were so compatible...

I asked him if breaking up had anything to do with her... and he said no. I asked him if he was attracted to this other woman and his answer... was that she had told him when they had first met that he was not her type. (A very different story than he had told me about their friendship. ) I told him that he had not answered my question. He then admitted that he is attracted to her, but maintained that they are not compatible...

While still in shock...I asked him why he had done all the things in the last month he has done if he was not feeling the way he told me he was feeling... he said he was trying to teach himself to love me unconditionally... either you love someone or you don't. He basically said he had been playing the part this last month... OUCH.

He's a self proclaimed Christian. Did I mention that? I suppose it fits well here. He and I have talked about religion and I have been candid about my doubts as well as my willingness to learn about religion a bit more... and I also had shared with him that I admire people who are true to their faith, who live their faith... So... a self proclaimed Christian can choreograph and act in a disingenuous way? And he wonders why having faith is a challenge for people... hypocrite? yes.
So back to the weight thing... do I think that he broke up with me because of my weight? No. I think it was an excuse to which there is a bit of truth... but... you don't tell someone you love them if you are not attracted to them... and HE initiated ALL of the forward movements in our relationship. HE did...not me.. HIM... ALL of them...

Knowing what I know now...and having a few days to think... I guess I am thankful that it ended now... it would have hurt even more later. And... despite all of this... I do not think his actions have been malicious. I believe that he did have feelings for me, but that as he was dating me and spending time with this other woman... he was in over his head...

But there are some things that really hurt... if he was really trying to make it work.... he would have been very protective of our relationship. He should not have been exchanging innuendos with her which he had told me they did when they were joking around...Once her post upset me he should have set boundaries with her... at the very least when he and I were together he should have told her not to text. She knew we were together. She disrespected that. He should have also said... because I love this woman, meaning me, I do not want to do anything to jeopardize that and I do not want to see this other woman because if I am honest with myself, there is temptation there. So he did NOT work really hard to make us work... not at all...

I am angry at him because he opened up something I had come to accept... On date one, he asked me if I wanted children. HE asked ME. I told him that I was 35, that my answer at this point in my life was different than it would have been five years earlier. My answer then would have been absolutely, 100% yes, having kids is part of my plan… At 35, my answer was… I have always known that I would be an incredible mother, that I would love to be a Mom, but that at 35, my definition of that had changed. Whether being a step-parent, or an adoptive parent, or giving birth… would make me a Mom… and that I would love to have the opportunity to have a family, but that if that scenario wasn’t in the cards for me, I was in a place where I had accepted that. With him, through his conversations about marriage and kids... I saw it as a possibility... a pretty tangible one... and I feel like he has put me in a place where I need to once again set that aside. Yeah, I know it could still happen... but I am angry that he played me this last month while making me dream about the future, our future.

I am also angry because my instincts were so off here.. I have never thought that someone was THE one. Never. Until Matt. Throughout my adult life, when it has come to dating and relationships… I have had good experiences and bad ones… which does not make me unique. As a person, I have always had a tendency to keep people at arms length… I have always been most comfortable in situations where I get to be the strong person… strong for someone else… It has always been easier for me to let people lean on me than allowing myself to lean on others… which has not always translated well in my relationships. With Matt... I was so open, so honest... and when all this stuff came up with this other woman, I talked to him about it instead of letting it fester... So is the lesson here that opening up to people doesn't pay off? Is the lesson that my instincts are WAY off... He has made me feel foolish for believing in him, in us... I resent that. It will take a lot for me to trust someone again... A LOT.

I was a wreck Thursday night…and most of the day Friday. At school.. I went because I had a test scheduled and I knew I could get through the day without much interaction…one of the kids said to me, “I don’t want to be mean, but you look so sad, you look like you could cry at any moment…” I smiled at him and said, “It could happen.”

On my way to work Thursday I thought about Matt… and his supposed reasoning… and realized that this character I thought was so tall… isn’t. Let's say his excuse, the weight thing.. IS the dealbreaker... what will he do if the woman he married needs to have a mastectomy or two... what will he do if she has a condition that requires steroids that would cause weight gain.. what will he do if his wife was in a car accident and her beautiful face is disfigured... what would he do if he had a child with a disability or a child who was gay... Would he have to teach himself to unconditionally love that person? He is shallow.

And the next day... he erased me.. that's how it felt at least... took down pictures from facebook, un tagged himself in pictures on my page... it felt like he thought I was something he needed to get rid of as fast as possible... another slap in the face... I think he wants to feel less guilt.

I am proud of myself... despite the doubts I will carry with me about my instincts... I was a good partner in this relationship. On his birthday weekend, I met his son for the first time. I had taken a cake and had made several different colors of frosting... I had his son decorate his birthday cake for him as a surprise... His son's mother didn't even do anything for Matt or have their son do anything for Matt... I saw past the materialistic elements and saw him... I was me.. completely... whacky sense of humor and all...

I want to be able to do that again. And I am terrified that I won't be able to.

Next time... before I take that leap of faith.. I better see how deep the water is...

Birthday with my Mom...

Some people like fanfare for their birthdays. I have never been on of those people. And since my mom died, I have disliked recognizing my birthday... not because I am getting older.. because as my mom used to say, getting older is better than the alternative... ironic saying she had, huh? ... Recognition of my birthday means recognizing the absence of my mom... just like Mother's day does... so... low key is good for me. Today was the perfect low key day.

After kayaking yesterday I left my kayak loaded... and decided that I was going to go for a solo paddle today. I could have probably found someone without mother's day plans and had a paddling partner, but I really wanted some time alone, on the water, in my kayak... that used to be Mom's kayak... Originally I thought Matt and I were going to do something for my birthday because he kept saying that we would celebrate my birthday ON my birthday... but... if we had celebrated it would not have been until the end of the day because of his work schedule. So today as I was paddling... I realized that today really isn't that different now that I won't be having dinner with Matt... Chances are that I would have gone on a solo paddle this morning regardless...

So... I looked on my map this morning and decided I wanted to go paddling someplace new. I located a public boat landing that was in one lake and it looked like there was a stream or short river that connected that lake to another pond, and decided that would be a cool place to explore.

I got to the boat landing, expecting a parking area and large boat launch, but what I found was a very small ramp into the water off the main road and some wide shoulders on which I could park. There was another truck parked there... and I managed to get everything unloaded. It was pretty breezy and chilly and I almost reconsidered my decision to go. But, really wanted to kind of pay triubte to my mom, and decided I would just go for a little while see what happened. I wore several shirts, in layers, so that I could be warm enough no matter the temperature, even though I wore shorts.

The lake I started in was very choppy..... and I knew from looking at my map, the stream that connected the two ponds was close by... so I decided to go there, and if the wind didn't stop and the water was just as choppy, I would do a u turn and go home. Once I got away from the open water, the wind died down and it was warmer, and the water was calm. Ahhhh... Not long after that I saw this:







Since I was solo and I had never done this waterway before I was a little nervous, not knowing what was on the other side. But I listened to see if the current seemed too strong or if there was maybe a raging waterfall on the other side. It appeared pretty safe, so I went through the tunnel. (And of course, being my analytical self... recognized that sometimes to enjoy things, you gotta take risks... in this case, it was a pretty safe risk to take.)

The stream was filled with life! Birds, TURTLES - I have never seen so many turtles in one place, chipmunks, squirrels, and the plantlife was emerging. I want to come back to this place in a couple of weeks, just to compare the flora and to see how much it has grown.

This little bird came out of the shore and hopped along the logs in the water.


This was my first turtle sighting of the day. Four turtles on one log! I love turtles. It was cool to see them all clumped together like this. Of course they all dove into the water as I got closer.



This woodpecker was quite noisy and seemed to be quite happy with his tree of choice.


Ferns. My mom loved ferns. She loved kayaking along the river where she spent her summers and seeing all the ferns. Their color and shape was beautiful to her. I saw these ferns, past the fiddlehead stage... and can't wait to see them opened up. The next picture is just some grass, but... I like it because you can really tell it is spring... the new green grass, coming up through the dead leaves of last year's spring...




A peeking turtle! This guy caught my eye because of the yellow of his shell. It almost looked like the sun was shining through it. It is interesting to me that these creatures are so acutely aware of everything in their environment.

This guy let me get so close to him! I was tempted to grab him up and hold him, but just as I got up the courage to do it, he dove into the water.


This Canada goose was swimming around... I believe getting some food for his mate, who you will see at the end of the post. I thought it was cool that the turtles did not jump off their log when this guy swam by, but when I got close... splash!


Just another painted turtle... there were sooo many, I was excited to see them. Mom and I never saw many tutrles when we were kayaking, but a few of the turtles today startled me a little. Causing a splash as they returned to the water before I knew they were there. It reminded me of kayaking with Mom in Tadpole terrace and how she would laugh at me when I would scream a little when the tadpoles would get spooked by my kayak and in groups, would jump out of the water...


There were some chipmunks along the banks of the stream. I did not realize they liked being near the water so much. They were so busy... filling their cheeks. Mom loved the little chipmunks...


I think the turtles were happy to see the sun today too. At this point I was so warm I had taken off all of my shirts except my tank top. And yes, Mom, I had on my sunscreen!


How did this turtle get up that high? He was up in the air like 4 or 5 feet!


I HAD to take a picture of this sign... Not all hazards are marked... use caution. True true true... Matt had no markings... Mom would have gotten a smile out of that!



The stream emptied out into this pond. It looked very inviting and I think I probably could have paddled around it for a while, but I had already been exploring for almost two hours, and figured the friend I had told where I was going, may worry if I was gone for too long... but.. I will come back here and paddle around it.





This really reminded me of Mom... She loved kayaking along the shores and looking at the roots of the trees. It's hard to see it here, but there was a lot of moss along the ground between the roots, and it looked really peaceful somehow. Mom would have taken a picture of these roots.





Today I really enjoyed just looking through the trees and looking on the floor of the forest. There are so many things coming up through the dead foliage. I also like the shadows.





The water was pretty clear. I had gone to explore one of the logs in the water, hoping to see more turtles and I noticed this fish in the water. I could see its fins moving, but it was not moving. I am not sure what kind of fish it is, but it stayed still enough for me to get three or four pictures.








Ahhh... Here she is... On my way into the stream I almost did not see this goose sitting on her nest, but I caught a glimpse of her. I did not stop to take good pictures on my way in because there was a boat not too far behind me and I didn't want to draw their attention to her. You never know whether or not people respect nature. But I knew she would be there on the way out and I cautiously turned the corner where I knew she would be and got some good pictures. She was beautiful. She sat so still, protecting her eggs. (I did not see the eggs of course, but I am certain they were there.) So elegant, this mama goose... I also like the awakening ferns around her. As I paddled away from her, I thanked her for letting me see her, for letting me take her picture and told her how beautiful she is. Yes, out loud. This, for me, is church...




After kayaking I returned home and went for a walk with my friend, Suellen. She is a good friend. She understands why my day being low key was important to me.

Some people may look at today and think it is sad that I spent the majority of the day alone... To be honest, it was a relief... to not have to talk to people about how hard the day is, how emotional... how much my mother meant to me and how the absence of my relationship with her is, at times, overwhelming. I didn't have to act in a way that did not reflect how I was feeling.. and however I was feeling... I felt... and to my surprise... I found some happy things, that reminded me of Mom. Kayaking today, looking closely at the nature that was around me, taking time to really explore it, looking at it... smelling the fresh air and the beginning scents of the pine trees... I saw and felt my mother everywhere... and I felt like we got to spend our birthday together. Best Gift I could have received.

5/07/2011

Tomorrow...

May 8th is mother's day this year... it is also my birthday... and would have been my mom's birthday as well. As a kid I remember not appreciating that our birthdays were the same day. As an adult I valued it more... We became competitive about being the first one to say happy birthday to the other one. Even calling in the wee hours of the morning... and we learned to answer the phone on May 8th by saying Happy birthday as fast as we could... to beat the other one to it.

As a kid, Mom made me birthday cakes that were kind of fancy... but then one year she said to me... You know.. it's my birthday too, and I don't feel like cooking. Let's buy a cake... and so, our bday cake tradition became Pepperidge farm cakes... like this one: they became tradition too...

Every year we celebrated together... even as an adult, we would meet up on a day that was close to out bday... usually before... and would give each other a hug and would say.. that's my last... hug from you at whatever age we were...

I miss her... tremendously. More than words can express... she was one of my best friends... and I miss that friendship... I miss her hugs...

Good Night Mom... I am sending you a hug... my last 35 year old hug! I love you.

My Favorite Place

My Favorite Place