Tag Archives: relationships

Going Wild

I read.  A lot.  On any given day, I need to be prepared to “booktalk” titles, both fiction and nonfiction, with students in grades 6-12.  Intense, right?  This year, so far, I’ve read 55 books with a focus on titles of interest to middle school kids. After a couple of realistic novels about 6th or 7th graders, I generally need to cleanse my reader palate with something a bit more satisfying and tasty.  Something a bit, shall we say, Wild.

Yes, I know everyone read this book months (years?) ago while I was busy reading A Monster Calls, but that doesn’t diminish the impact this memoir had on me.  There’s just something about a female firsthand account of trying circumstances which I find completely captivating.  Imagine that.   

Cheryl Strayed’s recounting of her solo hike along the Pacific Coast Trail is an absolutely inspiring work of nonfiction.  I grew up in close proximity to the Appalachian Trail and have always been fascinated by the idea of trekking its length, but certainly not alone.  The physical and mental strength required to complete an accomplishment such as either of these is remarkable to me.  When you factor in the emotional state Strayed was in when she began her quest, her successful completion of her goal borders on the miraculous.

There were a number of passages in this memoir which caused me to pause, process and reflect, but none more than this:

“…it occurred to me for the first time that growing up poor had come in handy. I probably wouldn’t have been fearless enough to go on such a trip with so little money if I hadn’t grown up without it. I’d always thought of my family’s economic standing in terms of what I didn’t get: camp and lessons and travel and college tuition and the inexplicable ease that comes when you’ve got access to a credit card that someone else is paying off. But now I could see the line between this and that – between a childhood in which I saw my mother and stepfather forge ahead with two pennies in their pocket and my own general sense that I could do it too.”

Maybe I, too, can will go Wild someday.

Other inspiring autobiographies by women:

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Filed under Books, Recommendations, travel

Reflecting on 30 years

IMG_0314Despite my attempts at processing the hundreds of distinct thoughts and images in my head following my trip to the past last weekend, my mind is still in a whirl.  During my drive north, while I tried to assert a sense of order to all that had been stimulated in my head, I realized that the 30th reunion I had attended had prompted more questions than it had answered and I wondered if other alumni felt the same way.  I wished that I were better in those sorts of situations, more open to approaching others and initiating conversations.  I had wanted to feel a connection with those around me, a connection which ultimately I could only find in fits and starts.

I’ve attended each reunion planned by the class Dynamo, Robin.  There have been four.  If I take the time to consider what compels me to insert myself in an environment which doesn’t necessarily feel comfortable, my only conclusion is that I’m seeking something, some sort of resolution or denouement.

Kind of silly, right?  What can be learned from surrounding myself by people with whom I shared a building, along with some experiences 30 years ago?  I just don’t know.

High school was not four years of social activities and academic achievements for me. I was not present for much of it, figuratively and literally.  I felt lost in the hugeness of the high school after the intimate experience of my Greenwood Lake education, going from a class of 65 to one of more than 400 in the blink of an eye.  Cliques and expectations were well established and I flitted between groups (heads, brains, jocks) committing to none.

Each reunion has invoked a similar lack of ability to engage.  I simply don’t know what to say to anyone.  There are familiar faces, some from high school so long ago, others from social media, and flashes of memories race through my mind.  But where does one start when it comes to covering the last three decades?  And – to what purpose?  My high school experience will never change and my future probably doesn’t include any of the people I struggle with to make meaningful conversation.  If an opportunity presented itself – say a classmate was going to be in the Albany area and wanted to grab a cup of coffee or glass of wine, I’d be interested.  I’m just more comfortable interacting in a smaller, lower-volume setting.  Perhaps that’s my take away, my conclusion?

I think this was my last reunion.

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Filed under aging, Education, Events, friends, girlhood, musings, Observations, relationships, road trips, Schools

Not doing it myself

Inspired by this sunflower.

Inspired by this sunflower.

Since I’ve shared the part of my weekend when I did do things myself, I believe it is only fair to also share the days since then when I’ve been very much accompanied. Monday I went to see my ENT. I wasn’t alone. My doctor pretty much did what I expected – an in office fine needle biopsy, orders for some blood work and a CAT scan and the promise of a call to schedule surgery. Whatever it is, it’s coming out.

Because I had been so open prior to the appointment, I felt compelled to report back to my friends, both “real” and virtual, to share the news from my office visit. The warm wishes, promises of prayers, and offers for assistance have left a greater mark on me than that bruise, or any of the already existing scars, on my neck. Thank you, friends.

Two days post-appointment, blood work done, anticipated CAT scan tomorrow and surgery three weeks away, I am bolstered and protected by the people I love, people who have demonstrated that they return the feeling. Although I’ve been down this path before, in terms of medical intervention, this sense that my being taken care of is a concern to many, is new. And cherished.

So, pathology should be back in a matter of days and in just a few weeks this latest (and literal) bump in the road will be gone. Thanks for traveling this path with me, and to someone who has allowed me to ride shotgun for a change, thank you for taking the wheel. I so appreciate it.

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Filed under cancer, Flowers, friends, love, medical

Will it go round in circles?

You remember that Billy Preston song, don’t you?  I don’t think I’ve heard it or even thought of it in at least 20 years. Until about two weeks ago, that is.  The context that day was a theme park, a carousel, and a boy.  The song popped into my head and caused me to smile.
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The most recent mowing of my neighbor’s yard also featured circles.  I know I’ve shared before the artistic mowing for which, among his other artistic endeavors, my neighbor is known.  As soon as I saw the pattern from my deck, I once again heard that tune bouncing around in my brain.

During my run last night, the song came for the third time.  These things usually happen in threes, right?  I was reflecting on a personal situation and thought about the uncountable conversations which seem to consistently travel in a circular fashion.  Although I like to travel in a circle, preferring to take a different route home than the one I took during departure, when it comes to relationship interactions, circular is definitely not satisfying.

            Will it go round in circles?  Will it fly high like a bird up in the sky?

I just don’t know.

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Filed under DelSo, musings, relationships, Summer

Family, lost and found

DSC_0195One of the highlights of my Florida trip was a brief get together with one of the three women I consider to be my true mothers.  Our reunion was surprisingly emotional for me – you know I’m no crier, yet that’s exactly who I became in her embrace.  I can’t help but wonder if the sense of comfort and safety I feel with her is what most people receive from their own mothers. I’ll never really know for sure unfortunately, but how blessed am I to find it with someone else?  Very.

Growing up, Sandy was my mother’s friend.  Our families spent holidays together, eating Italian and Jewish and German specialties and playing backgammon for Marlboros.  I’d never known a family like Sandy’s – around the table at Christmas you’d find she and her husband and their daughter.  Also present would her two children from her previous marriage, as well as her husband’s son from his first marriage.  Often, the father of Sandy’s older children would be there, too, with his son from his second marriage.  There were Italians and Jews and my own little German threesome and it was the most wonderful thing imaginable.

Maybe that’s where I learned that the word “family” defies definition.  I grew to understand that people came together because of love and that love evolves,  sometimes changing form, but unfailingly remaining a force.  Love was powerful and unifying, not destructive nor isolating.  Love trumped anger and envy and was to be respected.  That being said, I always thought that Sandy’s older daughter wished her mom was more like mine – structured, reliable and consistent.  Naturally, I wished for a mom who was like Sandy, emotional, inspired by passion and inclined to relaxing in a bathtub with bubbles and maybe a joint.

As I got older, Sandy provided me with what my own mother could not – a roof over my head when our house burned down, encouragement to end a stagnating relationship, the confidence to believe that I could do anything.  She convinced me that I was beautiful and smart and good and the trill of her laughter remains one of my favorite sounds.

We’ve been separated by hundreds of miles for many years now.  There have been occasions, including a Thanksgiving decades ago when Sandy prepared an entire traditional dinner, threw it into the car and served it on a picnic table at the beach, when we’ve gotten together, but this recent visit was the first in far too long.  For the first time ever I was able to take care of her. I selected the hotel knowing that she would get a kick out of staying at the Hilton on the beach.  There was lunch poolside and talk and more talk. We caught up and found we were, despite all the changes and challenges we’ve each faced, as always, family.  She’s truly the mother of my heart.

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Filed under aging, family, friends, girlhood, holidays, relationships, travel, vacation

Motherhood and The Silver Star

This is either the perfect book or the worst book to read when you’re dealing with an impossible mother-daughter situation.  You’ve been warned.

Are you familiar with Jeannette Walls?  Her first book, The Glass Castle related the story of her own childhood and was on the NYT’s bestseller list for 6 years.  It was a powerful story, but her tale complete with two dysfunctional parents and an extended family,  was certainly not one to which I really related.  I did admire, however, Jeannette’s survival instinct and her ability to propel herself forward through sheer determination and the desire for stability.  I understood that.

Her second work, Half Broke Horses, delved even deeper into her treasure chest of family history, merging reminiscences and imagination into a tale which brought her maternal grandmother’s colorful life to readers.  This book was clearly an artful blending of fiction and nonfiction, and Wall’s grandmother, Lily, an almost mythical character.  Her resourcefulness and tough as nails attitude make her an unforgettable narrator and woman.

This new book, though?  Well, it kicked my emotional ass.  Here’s how the blurb from the library catalog begins: “Two motherless sisters, Bean and Liz…” Mentally replacing “sisters” with “brother and sister,”  I immediately checked the book out.  Last weekend I tore through the novel’s 269 pages, stopping to catch my breath after this passage -

“Mom’s account of my dad had always left me hankering for more details, but she said she didn’t want to talk about him and we were both better off if we put him behind us.  Mom didn’t have a picture of him, and she wouldn’t tell me his name,  I’d always wondered what my dad had looked like.  I didn’t look like my mom.  Did I look like my dad?  Was he handsome?  Funny?  Smart?”

Oh my God.  How did Walls know exactly what that conversation sounded like?  Even more painfully, how did she know precisely what having that conversation felt like?  Jesus.

The passage though, that nearly broke (or maybe Half Broke me) was this -

“I think Mom believes it, but that doesn’t mean it’s true.  Maybe she just needed someone to blame for the way everything turned out.”

Never before have I read anything which so clearly expressed my own experience with my mother.  Never, I said.  That was my own mother perfectly summed up in two sentences.  Mercy.

I guess maybe I don’t have to write that book now after all.

Screw the silver star.  Walls gets a gold one for this book.

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Filed under Books, family, moms, Recommendations, relationships

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