Gatherings, Gratitude, Guidance and Gumption

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Photo courtesy of D. Jacavanco (jacavancostudios.com/blog)

I’m writing this piece looking out at my new back forty; a verdant park is now my backyard instead of the long expanse of grass and thick woodlands. The journey to my new life is at once complete and just beginning. We were married in late June on the beach with the roar of the Atlantic and soft tunes of a love song in a circle of friends and family.

 The day was picture perfect-the bluest of skies, the warmest of suns and greenest of grasses. The party was held outside in the backyard, a culminating celebration and the best way to say goodbye to my house and land that survived loss and was revived by love.

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The boys had moved to a beautiful apartment on the other side of town earlier that month. We had time to adjust to being apart before my own big move a thousand miles away. Although I had been in the house alone before, it was never so empty. I had trouble sleeping, not out of fear but in the sense of knowing it was permanent. It was difficult to work with all the emotional upheaval that comes with making five life changes at once. I was saying good-bye to everything.

I went for one last big hike in the mountains with my youngest during that time- a necessary reprieve from the planning of the wedding and packing whatever I needed to bring.

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I said good-bye to my therapist- a woman who provided me with strength and courage  for a decade and helped me get back myself.

So, two days after the wedding, we hit the road with everything I had- and all that I needed- packed in the car. Books, clothes, photos, paintings and two cases of wine arrived safely  three and a half days later.

And, two weeks after the wedding, my house was sold. My husband and I are  at last making our own home together. At times, I feel like a stranger in a strange land. The climate is different-and I am not just talking about the humidity! I will leave the details of my observations for future posts; they are stories unto themselves.

Until then, stay tuned!

Firsts and Lasts

 

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We loaded the old boiler onto the truck Sunday night. It died two weeks ago during the last of summer’s heat. A few mornings of cold showers were tolerable, keeping us grateful that we weren’t enduring the endless cold snap of winter. A chilly house is an entirely different story during the dead season. Truth be told, we’ve been hanging in there with the old girl for at least two years. Replacing worn out  parts here and there and enduring the fickle temperatures of the house’s water was all I could financially and psychologically manage. The day the new one was put in was drenched with unusual humidity. My youngest son was called to a job in the city first (but not before his vehicle was hit in the drive-thru getting his coffee!) to fix the clogged drains of helpless college students, leaving his boss to literally do the heavy lifting.  A day of limbo-too hot to move or get things done in the house, so I watched and waited.

Daily life here has taken on a form of time out of mind. September began as and continues to be a state of fervent motion. My job in education this term has found me in a vortex of all-consuming energy leaving me little time to write. My house is full of people. My sons and their loved ones who are in need of shelter and peace take up space. Finding my groove this last autumn season here has proven to be challenging.

Perhaps this is how it is meant to be. I find myself in an acute state of high alert and awareness, this all-knowing sense of the last go round before the birth of a new life in a new place.  (Truly- nine months from Sunday is the wedding day! ) I hear myself saying “This is the last time…” more often.

With that in mind, I am disconnecting and reconnecting to people and places which I’ve known for more than half my life. The town I live in and raised the boys no longer fees like home. The neighborhood-almost a last holdout for regular working class and middle class folks- is undergoing  the transformation to over-sized and up-scaled  new homes. The prices are ones I would never pay even if I  had that kind of money. I no longer frequent the coffee shop  in the busy center either. The familiar faces are scarce and the chances of running into my ex-husband and/or his current girlfriend keep me on edge. Not worth the trip! The shift is palpable; I feel like a stranger in a strange land.

That said, I am rediscovering the mountains that loom just a mere two hours from my house. My youngest son (and my dear friend Emily as her schedule allows) are hiking some of the 4,000 footers. The experience is always unique (see Trails, Tales and Tails) . Labor Day weekend found us hiking on Mt. Liberty, a rugged and steep climb culminating just above tree-line.

Summit

Credit: http://www.summitpost.org/summit/461392/c-151121

The descent was challenging as well and we were briefly entertained by a hiker holding court on the trail wearing only his tighty-whities! I guess Captain Underpants does exist…

Our most recent hike was an easy one; it’s purpose purely preparatory for the 5,000 footer we hope to ascend in October. The packs were heavier and the climb not as steep but we were moved by the bravery of a ten-year old boy with spina bifida who was climbing his first mountain with his family. Tomorrow is a new mountain, higher in elevation than the last with a day that promises to be brilliant.

These excursions (and others in June and last weekend with my fiance’ to other places that I hold dear to my heart) have helped remind me of the beauty in the surrounding region. It is the place where I grew up and grew older- and hopefully wiser! The time spent with my youngest (my oldest works on Sunday afternoons, unfortunately) takes on a deeper meaning and allows for new memories to be born.

Being wholly present during this shifting paradigm has continuously been a goal for me. Allowing myself to partner with the universe keeps me grounded and prepares me for the harder decisions and changes in plans for the future of my home and loved ones. Mostly it is empowering!  The turn of events to come both sheds more of the past and sows the seeds for the future. One where we can all marry simplicity and strength.

 

(I’d like to thank all of you who have continued to follow me as well as my new followers during this unplanned break in my writing. Happy to be back with Kellie’s prompt! )

#FWF Free Write Friday: Image Prompt

by Kellie Elmorefwf kellie elmore badge

The Summer I’d Like to Forget

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#FWF Free Write Friday: Are You Up For This?

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I’ve been debating with myself as to whether it is even worth writing about a decade old story. I have alluded to it in poetry ( Hidden Hunger ,Witness ) but never in memoir.

It is difficult to admit that there was a time that my family went hungry.  The details of how we arrived at our sorry state are way too complicated and frankly, too boring. Here are the highlights:

  • Husband gets fired-not laid off- from six figure job.
  • Husband decides to start own business causing significant decrease in income.
  • Wife works part-time while in a year-long clinical graduate program.
  • Wife told that her job must now carry the benefits, cutting her measly salary in half.
  • Wife told that since her job does not pay in summer, she must get full-time work and the children can stay home alone all day without mom and dad.
  • Wife is not able to get full-time job but finds work that keeps her away from home for just a few hours.
  • Wife’s tiny wages go to food.
  • Wife eats less to save food for kids.
  • Husband squanders all savings  and other finances while secretly making major purchases.
  • Wife tells no one about situation even though her parents live just eight miles away and her brother thirteen.

I spent the summer of 2004 in a state of shock, or as a friend said “survival mode”.  I knew things would get better in the fall when my job resumed to a nearly full -time position. But the 12 weeks of empty bellies seemed endless. A wall of resistance and repudiation was put up by my husband. In his eyes it was my fault for not getting full-time work. Not his fault for getting fired and pursuing something that barely brought a paycheck in to pay bills.

I felt stuck. As summer turned into fall, a latent anger was born. I took it out on everyone but him at first but then it boiled over when I found out about another major purchase he had made. I went into therapy where I began to unravel the pieces of my situation as well as my marriage and more importantly, myself.

We never went hungry after that summer. I refused to have my sons experience that dull, hollow feeling that comes from not having enough to eat ever again. Their father never accepted responsibility for his decisions and instead continued to lay the blame on me. But for the  next summer and for all subsequent summers, I secured positions where I could make money and have my children productively occupied and supervised.

Life trucked on, the marriage ended, battles were waged and the three of us (as many of you know by now) have a wonderful, wonderful life. He lost us but we gained ourselves. I still worry about food and going hungry. I cannot have the refrigerator or cabinets or the pantry ever be empty. It triggers that feeling again.

The boys and I did talk about that time a few years ago. I apologized to them for what happened but they both said I did the best I could. They had come to understand the circumstances that caused the situation in the first place. It was just one of many moral violations committed by their father.

I eventually confessed to my family, who were at first angry that I did not come to them for help. I was too ashamed and I knew I would suffer the consequences of revealing the secret. It didn’t seem worth it at the time.

And do I have shame today? No, I let that go a long time ago. Although I was not conscious of it at the time, I was being abused. The blaming, the passive aggressive behavior, the snide remarks began in earnest that summer. They increased over time until I finally realized what was happening.

When one is in the midst of negativity and abusive behavior, it is nearly impossible to see a way out. One only wants the abuse to stop-not for the abuser to leave. Strange dichotomy but oh so true. Lucky for me, he left. But he still abused from afar in various ways. I only got stronger and my children got wiser.

We know how to feed our bellies and our souls. Loaves and fishes abound. Abundance is present. And we are very grateful.

Never let yourself be bullied into silence. Never allow yourself to be made a victim. Accept no one’s definition of your life; define yourself.

~Robert Frost

 

This was THE most challenging free write for me.  I really went back and forth as to whether I could write about it. Frankly, I didn’t want to. But sometimes you just have to put your muscle into it. It was NOT cathartic. It just had to be written and done with once and for all.

Just Another Day At The Laundromat

photo credit: http://www.hercampus.com

For Mothers Day,  I like to keep things simple. This year, the boys asked me what I wanted to do and I told them: “Landscaping the yard, an easy meal at home and watching Finding Nemo with you guys. ” I wanted the three of us together under one roof without one of us (usually me) falling asleep after twenty minutes.

Springtime up here is in full bloom and we own enough land that it takes a team to resurrect it after the winter has beaten it down. The grass grows long after about fifteen minutes and what isn’t grass looks downright barren and sad without some annuals planted here and there.  The tulips that  I planted 2 years ago in memory of my mother are a ray of sunshine at the top of the driveway but everything else needs trimming and chopping.

So Sunday seemed simple enough. First, I would  go on my 10+ run and my oldest would meet me for the last four miles. Then it was a shower, refueling ( aah a soy latte’!) and back outside. My youngest was to be in charge of mowing our vast expanse (he had repaired the rider and pusher so he was pumped) while my oldest and I raked out  a large area for new top soil and flowers. Laundry for my youngest was on the list as well. He figured he could easily get it going and done when he was mowing. Then we would chow down on burritos while enjoying the show.

Well, I should have known that when I woke up to rain that things would not go exactly as planned!  There are few exceptions that can stop me from lacing up my shoes (blizzards, serious downpours, hurricanes, extreme heat) so I  added  a layer to my skimpy sleeveless running top and headed out the door.  By mile two, I was quite dewy but not uncomfortable. The rain would abate and resume in an unpredictable fashion throughout the course.  I felt unusually pain free and relaxed until… mile 8.5, when my son and I stopped to look at some ducks in the marsh. When I started running again, my left knee locked up and I spent the last two miles shuffling up the hills and cursing the downhills.

By the time my shower was done,  the sun began to peek out from behind the clouds and we agreed to just delay the yard work until…my youngest son got a call from his boss asking him to come in for a meeting to plan for the week ahead ( he works in the trades and business was picking up after a temporary slow down). He had no choice but to go in. My oldest and I threw him a lifeline and said we would take care of his laundry while we cleaned up the basement.

So things were humming along;  3 loads later and the basement and  raking were just starting to look good until…. my oldest noticed that the t-shirts were still damp in the dryer . We added a few minutes to the cycle and then threw the Carhart pants in, pressed the button and..  the dryer dies! In truth, it had been on its way out for a few months. I don’t remember when the noise started in the machine but it sounded possessed!  We got to the point where we would push the button, cover our ears, dash to the door, shut it and run up the stairs. The sound cut right through you but the dryer still worked. I knew that I was on borrowed time but I wanted to put off the expense for a while longer. I was shelling out quite a few dollars on the home renovation and hoped the dryer would last until late June.

No such luck. It was late afternoon and the laundromats around here do not stay open late. The clothes had to get done because we all had long  work days on Monday waiting.  Besides, we ran out of topsoil and no flowers were going to get planted anyway. ( Oh, did I mention that my oldest is graduating from college on Saturday and we are having a party? No pressure to get things done at all-HA!).

So we loaded up my son’s truck with 4 baskets of heavy wet clothes and 2 big baskets of dirty items and headed out to the next town. We decided to go to the big place that we know about and pulled in the lot. We were about to park and get out until… we noticed that it was closed!  UGH!  But there was still hope.  We noticed another one two strip malls down right next to a fitness chain.  And it was open!  We quickly went inside and found ourselves in a pristine laundromat replete with 2 television screens-one broadcasting a PBS cooking show and the other a major league baseball game. It even had a leather couch and a huge and very clean bathroom.

My oldest and I are a well-oiled organization team. We always try to go the most efficient and least expensive route whenever possible no matter what the task.  We figured we would be in and out in about 80-90 minutes. We settled down on the comfy couch, put our feet up and started reading our book and magazine until… we realized we had no game plan for dinner now. And would we be able to watch the movie? And when would his brother get home?  A stop at the nearest grocery store solved the problem. We bought 3 Newman’s frozen pizzas, called my youngest to preheat the oven and headed back home with the cleaned goods and some sustenance.

At this point, it was 7pm. The movie went in and we inhaled the pizza. And before we knew it, it was time to settle in for the night. The irony of the day was not lost on my oldest. Here I was doing my 20 year old’s laundry on Mothers Day! (Both boys have been doing their own laundry since 2005).  It goes to show that even the simplest plans can go awry.

So here it is Tuesday and the lawn still needs to be done before Saturday and soil still needs to be purchased for the flowers.  Party supplies and groceries are on the to-do list. Never mind the filthy kitchen floor. Plus my dad  is due in on Friday.  But we have developed a Plan B and that should go well until…

Mothers: Past, Present, Future

Greetings to my followers:

Poet Kellie Elmore posts a weekly Free Write Friday and this weeks challenge is “M is For Mom” (see link here if you want to check it out or participate: ( http://kellieelmore.com/2013/05/10/fwf-free-write-friday-m-is-for-mom/).  Here you can read entries from other bloggers about their moms.

This week I entered an older posting from October (with some edits ) entitled : Remembering My Mother.

I hope that you will read it here with this link:

https://buildingalifeofhope.com/2012/10/28/remembering-my-mother/

HAPPY MOTHERS DAY!

Naked in the Bathroom*

Standing in the steam talkin’ to my ex

A forceful voice over the wireless

           I hear it now:

         My son taking sides

Being fed information based in lies

     The conversation drags on

      The steam disappears

      We start conversing

about what happened over the years

     The voice becomes softer

     The heat lamp goes on

I am trapped in my nakedness

As he turns the DENIAL button on

      It’s the same old song

Of course I’m the one that’s done wrong

      I listen to his “reality”

and the problems with my personality

     I choose my words carefully

I am getting colder, my clean hair lies flat

I want to put a stop to this endless chat

I hear his “love” or is it manipulation?

I need to get out of this sticky situation

I vacillate between trust, guilt and fear

Yet, through it all my decision is clear

The steam is gone, the heat lamp turned off

There is no hope for us now

He has not faced his “stuff”

It is time for my own life

    Enough is Enough

*(AUTHOR”S NOTE:  This a poem that I found in a journal from 2008- a year of tremendous personal upheaval. It is an actual scenario that occurred. I remember sending it to my now late mom who loved the truth and strength in it. I am sure that she would be proud that I am sharing it with a wider audience.)

Two Good Men

brothers

Eyes once full of innocence and mischief

Smiles that lit up like the noon day sun:

               Momma’s boys

Kicking and screaming their way through

the rocky years of teenage sullenness and rebellion:

                Nobody’s boys

Growing, changing, emerging and becoming

 solid, well-grounded, caring, respectful and focused:

                Momma’s men