Category Archives: aging

Morning thoughts

imageThe sun is peeking out from the soft grey clouds and my private little deck beckons. Listening to the birds and the trees on a quiet morning while the rest of the house still sleeps, is one of my favorite times of the day. No one needs anything, other than the hummingbird who just cruised by the feeder looking for some breakfast. He’ll have to wait.

I’ve been visiting the Cape for 16 consecutive summers and the charm has yet to wear off. Sure, there are places I no longer find appealing (I’m talking to you, obvious consumption Chatham) but, in general, I still appreciate what this place offers me. Despite all the changing variables – where we stay, the layouts of the various houses we have rented, the time of the summer, the composition of our families, which friends visit, the most special thing to me about the Cape is how it itself remains constant. There will be fried seafood and sandy feet and predictable tides. The shoreline may shift and beaches and dunes will erode, but the sun will reliably drop into the bay in a blaze of orange and purple at the end of the day. This, is what I love about being here.

I can’t help but reflect on my boys and how their needs and interests have changed over the years. The amount of props they once required! Strollers and pack and plays, life preservers and diapers – all gone now, replaced by digital toys and, thank God, books. When I packed this year, in my usual style, filling Rubbermaid containers which can double as hampers after the clothing is hastily put into temporary homes in strange dressers, I got my own bin for the first time ever. For years, I’ve shared my bin with my youngest as I’ve placed the big guys’ clothes together. This year their stuff is all together and I have a smaller box just for me. It means something doesn’t it?

Life is changing – every day. Coming to the beach and taking the time to recognize, accept and honor that, while digging my toes in the sand, makes these weeks the most special of the year. I hope you have a place like that, too.

Time to feed the hummingbirds.

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Filed under aging, Boys, Cape Cod, family, favorites, musings, road trips, Summer, vacation

Don’t worry. Worry is useless. John Green, The Fault in Our Stars

Where are you at when it comes to worry?  Are you inclined to focus your energy imagining all of the perils lying in wait around the corner?  Do you spend hours (years?) second guessing every decision you’ve ever made in life wondering “If only I had…?”

If your tendency to worry paralyzes you in a way that prevents you from putting your car in gear and driving forward, are you content to live your life stuck in neutral?

I have worries, believe me.  I am uncomfortable when my children are passengers in anyone’s car during long and (too) fast rides.  After two rounds of relatively “good” cancer, I am inclined to being a bit paranoid about not being so lucky if that crabby* bastard decides to lap back around for a third visit.  Being a homeowner makes me incredibly nervous at times because there are far too many things of which to keep track. I wonder, occasionally, if I will ever be in a healthy and satisfying romantic relationship again.  See?  I, too, worry.

But, what can I do about any of it?  Do I give away today with worry about tomorrow? How can I if I don’t have control of any of those things? All I can do is reiterate the importance of driving with caution and stress to the boys how imperative it is to take driving seriously.  I try to keep myself strong with exercise and nutrition in case of further challenges to my health.  I’m learning to ask for help when it comes to maintaining my house and my car.  I’m actively working on things to enable me to keep moving forward in a positive fashion.

I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that life can change in an instant.  When that time comes again, I’d like to believe that I’ll be ready to face any and all challenges thrown my way. What I’m not going to do is this: lose myself speculating and projecting about both all the mistakes I’ve made in life and all the possible ramifications of my future decisions.  Today, this very day, is far too precious to cast it aside for the events of yesterday or the imagined perils of tomorrow.  Go get it.

*In German cancer is called “krebs,” you know, like crab.  Seems an appropriate word to me.

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Filed under aging, musings, Random

Looking for patterns

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I knew that pattern felt familiar…

If you were to look in my closet, you’d notice a number of similar items, like these two dresses, for instance.  My tendency to gravitate to a certain style of shoe (chunky Mary Janes, preferably black), boots (knee-high, brown lace-ups) and sweaters (oversize and loosely woven) is easily discernible.  I’ve got a thing for purple dresses, polka dots and wrap dresses, a predilection I’m aware of and actively trying to work on.  “Step away from that darling amethyst ruched dress, Silvia!  You already have one!”

My penchant for familiar designs, patterns and colors is apparent to those beyond me.  On a shopping trip with my middle son, I was discouraged from buying a(nother) pair of cute black shoes because, as he said, I already had a pair just like that at home.  He was right.

What is that attracts us to things we already have?  Is it comfort?  A sense of assurance that that particular style or color or shape “works” for us?  And, more importantly, does this tendency to continuously replicate what we already know extend beyond the boundaries of our closets to our broader existences?  Specifically – what patterns do we have in our personal lives and are they as flattering on us as a draped jersey wrap dress?

I’ve been divorced for a couple of years now, long enough to have gained some perspective about what did and did not work within what was the longest relationship of my life.  While I valued my husband’s comfort with my desire to travel, both with family and solo, I did not appreciate feeling as if my independence was an easy excuse for my having to shoulder (in my eyes) a disproportionate amount of the responsibility for organizing all of our lives.  It became a vicious cycle of trying to yield control and then being disappointed by the poor (as perceived by me) management of the task at hand.  Naturally, I stopped asking for help.  I definitely don’t want this pattern to be replicated in future years.

In a number of my previous romantic relationships, I’ve been inclined to be bossy.  It’s simple –  I like to take charge and make things happen.  You know what, though?  I’m tired of driving the bus all of the time and I am hoping to learn to be comfortable in the passenger seat.  It’s time to allow someone else to take the wheel for a change.  I want to look out the window a little more and not feel as if I always need to focus on what comes next.

I’ve got a pretty good view right now of the garment rack where much of my wardrobe hangs.  I see something pink peeking through the purple dress section.  There’s also a length of madras nearly brushing the hardwood floor with its eagerness to be worn.  If I look closely, I can just barely make out a gorgeous floral print which is almost audible with its promise to show me a wonderful time, if I’ll only take it out on the town for an evening.

Patterns can be broken.

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Filed under aging, Fashion, love, marriage, musings

Expectations

What are “reasonable” expectations?  Are you comfortable with those you have and, presumably, honor?  I was thinking about some of the expectations I have and considering their degree of realism.  I think I do ok with most of them.  My problem comes when I allow something external to start putting the squeeze on me – like Hallmark or Madison Avenue.  That’s when I’m sure to be dissatisfied.

When I recently wrote my list of Mother’s Day wishes, I didn’t think I was asking for all that much.  Most of the items had more to do with thoughtfulness than money.  I thought it was a reasonable list of expectations. Shall I share how many I received and how it made me feel?

There were 10 “things” on the list.  Three were delivered, a number  I can accept.  Well, was actually more like 2 were completely met and two were partially met, which I decided to count as three.  I’m almost always able to see the positive, and the overall spirit of my wish or expectation was met.  For instance, I didn’t have to get up prematurely to take Jeter out, because he wasn’t home yet from Center Square.  That sort of thing.  So, three done with one more  that I’m going to nail before the day is done.

Today, in the morning, I was disappointed.  There was very little showering of attention and there wasn’t a single sweet bakery treat.  I washed and folded four loads of laundry and thawed some chicken for dinner.  I decided I no longer wanted to go out.  I did some puttering around the house, a little garden weeding and then spontaneously joined friends for a glass of prosecco.  The day started to shift.

kale, pears, roth bleu, craisins, sunflower oil, salt

kale, pears, roth bleu, craisins, sunflower oil, salt

I came home and prepared a beautiful dinner of slightly charred chicken with two marinades, grilled local asparagus and a fantastic kale and pear side dish. The boys set the table with minimal protest.  They helped to clean up following dinner, as well.  When the kitchen was tidied up, I headed down to the Normanskill for a walk, minus any FLB, but Jeter with riding shotgun.

Normanskill

Normanskill

I saw the end of my day in sight.  A walk, some writing, a run, a shower and in between the fresh sheets.  My annoyance with the FLB and their fail for Mother’s Day began to roll off my shoulders.  What did it matter?  Why are flowers or candy any more special because they arrive on a specified holiday?  Isn’t it more enjoyable to receive some acknowledgement of our value on a day when our children are inspired, rather than pressured?  Who cares?  Or, more specifically, why should I care?

So, Jeter had his first swim (not as much of a natural as Cassidy), I had a walk in the sunshine and now, my run beckons.  The day didn’t go as expected, but it still was a day of sunshine, good food, new experiences, friends, bubbles, exercise, and being a mom to three “boys.”

Hope your Mother’s Day expectations were met equally well.

not really sure about how he got here...

not really sure about how he got here…

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Filed under aging, Boys, Eating, family, holidays, moms, musings, Normanskill, sunday

Giving up

You may not know this, but both of my parents came from large Catholic families.  Is that redundant?  I actually have an aunt and two deceased great aunts, who became nuns, for real.  I grew up hearing about how my mother’s family went to morning mass every day, staying for a marathon mass on Sundays.  It was kind of our family’s version of “I walked to school, uphill and in the snow…”  You get it.

Believe it or not, my mother somehow managed to have her two illegitimate children baptized in the mid-60s.  I can’t imagine that was an easy task.  Growing up, my brother and I made Holy Communion, but did not, other than on Christmas Eve, attend mass with our mother.  She was done.  I remember the challenge of being still and quiet for an hour, while outside the stained glass window summer’s blue sky beckoned.  It was harder than those wooden pews.  As I grew older, I developed more of an appreciation for the ritual – the readings, the up, down, kneel, the music and faces which grew familiar over the years.  And the sooty smoke wafting from those brass orbs dangling from the altar boys’ hands?  I loved it

Eventually, though, I really started listening to gospel, to the word, and some of what I heard I didn’t like.  I was in disagreement about gays and euthanasia and punishment for mistakes made.  I pictured a more benevolent god, sort of a cross between George Burns and John Denver.  I met with a priest at the Cathedral downtown and we talked and I explained my inability to own only part of my religion.  If I couldn’t believe in the whole thing, how could I practice?  Wasn’t it wrong to turn a blind eye to the tenets I found it impossible to embrace?  He echoed what I had been previously told by my Uncle Eamon, “Take what you believe in and leave off the rest.”  I walked away, sad, but committed to no longer feeling partially invested.  I left all of it.

On days, though, like today, I miss it.  The crossed ashes on my forehead, the quiet of the altar and the echo of feet on the stone floors, the honor of sacrifice… I think I’m going to mark Lent this year by exploring churches, be they literal or figurative.  A cathedral, a ski slope, a path through the woods, can’t they all be considered churches?  I’m hoping to hit each of those places within the next 40 days.  If you see me at any of those places, be sure to say hello.  Just don’t ask me join you for Burger Night at the Capital City Gastropub.  I gave up meat.

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Filed under aging, family, Germany, girlhood, holidays, Irish, musings

On the edge of 17

From last year's trip to Europe.

From last year’s trip to Europe.

It’s been almost 17 years since I became a parent. Impossible. When my water broke 5+ weeks before my due date, I remember feeling more excited than nervous, confident that my baby would be healthy and hearty. The unusually warm temperature (a record, it turned out) seemed a positive beacon and I went to the hospital with an easy heart and only a light sweater for warmth on a late February day.

My son’s early arrival was my first lesson in parenting and it was a bit of a challenge for me. After conceiving in my first month’s attempt and enjoying a very easy pregnancy, I was shocked to be completely lacking in control when it came to when (now!) and how (c-section) he would make his entrance. My world shifted and I scrambled to hold on.

I don’t think it is possible to predict how, or how much, having a child will change a person. Finding the balance between placing child(ren) in the center of our universe, while remembering the importance of retaining our own identities and independence demands grace and poise, not necessarily my strengths. It’s a strange thing sometimes. While I love being recognized as so-and-so’s mother, I often find myself hesitating when I sign my name on a note I’ve written to my children. Identifying myself as “Mom” still feels remarkably new, even after 17 years in the role.

Prior to becoming a parent, I had imagined all of the things I would teach my child – how to walk, speak, read, swim, travel… What I hadn’t really considered were all the things I would learn about myself from my children. I now know I can be incredibly patient, fiercely protective and relentlessly organized. On the less positive side, I’m critical, inclined to blunt sarcasm and often guilty of doing too many of the household tasks myself without demanding some effort from the boys. It’s probably a control thing.

Ultimately, though, what I find most fascinating about being a mom, is witnessing my children learn who they are as individuals. It is absolutely amazing to see the unique creatures that have been created by using the same genetic contributions. Seeing my oldest son evolve from a premature, critically ill infant into a strong and healthy young man has been remarkable.  As he marks his 17th birthday, I recognize that we both began a new life that February afternoon in 1997.

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Filed under aging, birthdays, Boys, family, musings

The Beatles, my boys and a birthday

If I think back on music from my childhood, The Beatles  immediately come to mind.  They were definitely the soundtrack of many car rides in my memory.

Freshman year of high school, I remember the painful decision of which album to pick – the Red One or the Blue One.  I don’t remember which I ultimately chose.  I know I loved it.

When my oldest son was born, 5+ weeks early, I didn’t have a pediatrician, nor did I know a single lullaby or nursery song.  Or so I thought. Doing the new baby rock and walk, I found myself humming Beatles’ songs, sometimes even murmuring the lyrics.

My first digital camera had a memory stick that held about 8 images or a seconds long video.  There was a mini movie of the oldest 2 Lilly boys singing their hearts out to Hey, Jude, including all the Judy, Judys and a perfectly timed and heartfelt “Ow.”  I have no idea where that memory stick is and it doesn’t matter. I’ll never forget that moment.

My youngest child turned nine today on the very same day that marks 50 years since The Beatles invaded America.  Perfect synchronicity.  Quinn’s love for The Beatles is pure and relentless, just like him.  He hasn’t yet tired of discussing the tragedy of George’s cancer or John’s assassination.  He knows the words to countless songs and when he doesn’t, he enthusiastically makes up his own.

What remains inside of us is a wonder only second to what, in fact, comes out.
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Filed under aging, birthdays, Boys, family, favorites, Music