Sunday, March 20, 2016

Perfectly Placed


  I’m stepping in! Back where I belong. My return to this page has been long overdue.  My absence was not by choice, rather by necessity. I was where I was supposed to be.  A large undertaking at work consumed my time and energy

  Each day life unfolds in beautiful ways.  During my busyness I continued to experience moments of Universal connection.  Heart shaped images were abundant.  Another symbol of deep meaning began presenting itself to me, angels. They appeared in the form of feathers, clouds, mushrooms, leaves, saran wrap and paper towels.  You name it, somehow they found me, or maybe, I found them.   Either way we connected.

  The term six degrees of separation is the theory that we are connected to everyone in the world by a chain of six or fewer steps. There is also the belief that in each moment you are exactly where you are supposed to be.  Most of us go through daily life without giving these theories a second through.  The truth is, each day we do connect with the people we are meant to. It may not be extraordinary; the effects are subtle, but important. Simply, it can be the person you held the door open for needed kindness in their life.  

  Then, there are the days when you know you were directed to a place for a specific reason.  Recently this happened to me.

  I was asked to send a wire transfer to a Canadian company for an event a few employees would be attending.  I was emailed the invoice and wiring instructions. I filed it away and take care of it when closer to conference. 

   It was a week before the event and I realized I hadn’t sent the funds.  I logged onto my on-line banking and attempted to wire the funds.  My request was rejected.  I checked with the loan officer.  He confirmed I should be able to initiate a foreign wire.   Two days later I tried again. It was rejected. I called the help line.  After walking through several steps he determined my account was not set up for foreign wiring capabilities.   I was told to go to a branch and they could wire the funds. 

  I do most of the banking remotely.  I don’t know anyone in the branch. I emailed my loan officer and asked who I should contact.    He reached out to the manager of the branch that our accounts are assigned to and explained what I needed. The next morning I received an e-mail from the branch manager saying he was out of the office, but anyone at the branch could help me. 

   Seeing this, the loan officer asked if I wanted him to contact the other branch that I used on occasion.  After waffling a bit I said yes.   I was told to see either Lorraine or Kim. They would take care of the transfer.  

  I planned on going to the bank that morning.  It didn’t happen.  I wanted to go right after lunch….no luck.  By the time I left the office 1:40.  As I opened my car door I noticed an image floating above the building. It was an angel cloud. I took a few pictures.  

   At the bank I was greeted by a heavyset older woman who was sitting behind one of the two desks beside the door. 

  Good afternoon.  Can I help you with something?”

  “I’m here to see either Lorraine or Kim.”

 “Lorraine is out, Kim is behind the counter.  I can get her for you.  What do you need help with?”

 “I need to send foreign wire transfer.”

 “I can help you with that.  Have a seat.”

  She introduced herself.  Her name was Patricia.  I introduced myself and handed her the wiring instructions. 

  She was cheerful, talkative, and methodical in her approach Patricia navigated the specific steps to be taken. She asked several questions, one was bank account number?  I meant to write it down before I left the office.  Of course I didn’t. I recited the number that I believed belonged to our account…!  I got it right!  Patricia chuckled. 

  She began typing and repeated everything she typed.  In between she’d apologize for taking so much of my time.  I told her, no worries.  I knew she was doing what she needed to.   While waiting I sent a friend the angel pictures I took when I left the office.  Angels are a sign for her.  As usual, this one arrived at a significant moment.   

   Patricia continued typing.  I looked at her desk and noticed a piece of cardboard leaning against her computer monitor stand.  I could see there was a silver item attached to it.  From the silhouette shape it appeared to be an angel.  It was a guardian angel that you clip to the sun visor in your car.   

    I had just seen an angel as I left the office.  Now there’s one on this woman’s desk. This wasn’t coincidental.

    While walking a few weeks prior I was drawn to a few crumpled paper towels in the street.  I circled back and looked closer. They were in the form of an angel.
  As Patricia was working on the wire transfer I scrolled through the pictures on my phone and found the one of the paper towels in the street.  Something told me to share it with her.

  She continued to speak every piece of information she typed.  Again, she apologized for holding me up.  Even though I had many things waiting for me at the office I told her it wasn’t an issue.  She submitted the wire request.  It was rejected. The receiving bank name exceeded thirty five characters.  She showed me the message. I told her to back track to thirty five.  The account number should suffice.  

  Due to the lack of activity the photo on my phone disappeared.  I scrolled through my photo library again to find it.

  She counted each letter of the receiving bank’s name out loud until she reached thirty five.  She submitted it again. It was rejected for the same reason.  I asked if she included the spaces in her count. She did.  She recounted including the spaces and deleted the extra letters. Finally, the request was accepted. Patricia was happy as was I.    

    I felt the need to give the angle connection breath.   

  Patricia printed the wiring instructions for me to sign.  She asked for my driver’s license and explained it’s not that she doesn’t believe who I said I am, but the bank requires proof for their files. 

  I handed her my driver’s license.  She wrote my identification number on the form.  As she did I said “From the looks of your desk it seems as that you like angels.”

 She looked up and said “Yes.”

 “I like to walk. As I do, hearts and angels appear in various objects. I came across this one two houses from my parent’s home. It is a few crumpled pieces of paper towels on the road.    I handed Patricia my phone with displaying the photo and I signed the wire authorization form.

   When I looked up and handed her the paper I noticed her cheeks had turned red and her eyes moist. “That’s beautiful.” 

   “They seem to follow me.” I shared.

  “I have a daughter” she continued. “She has some serious issues.”

   She handed me back my phone. “I’m sorry.” I said.

  “She’s older” Patricia continued

  I scrolled back through the recent pictures on my phone to the one I took before I left the office, the angel in the sky.

    “I took this today as I was leaving the office.”

 Her eyes again filled and her voice softened.  “My daughter is a drug addict.  I pray to the lord to keep her safe.”

  All I could muster was another inadequate “I’m sorry.”

   She looked up, got back to business, handed me the completed wire transfer papers and with softness in her voice she said

  “You were sent here today for a reason.”

   Ordinarily I don’t share my photos with strangers. Something told me to do so with her. 

   Was she praying for a sign?  Did the angels provide it?   

   I think so.

  I arrived back at the office parking lot but I wasn’t ready to go back in.  It wasn’t simply because it was a beautiful day I needed to process what had just occurred.

  Patricia’s reaction to my outreach proved there are no accidents.  Rather, every moment we are where we’re supposed to be.

   Needing clarity I went for a walk up the hill behind the building. The movement felt good, as did the crisp air.  My mind raced.  Recalling all that transpired I was humbled.  So many instances of connection have occurred in my life, but today I truly felt as if I was the conduit to deliver a message.  

   Hearts were around.  They were in rock, tar and cement.  When arrived at the top of the hill my pace slowed.  To the left of me I saw a small flying object.  As it neared, I stopped. In the Northeast winter is nearing its end and I’ve yet to see a robin. Seriously, a butterfly in March!  It was chocolate brown with yellow outline on its wings. Shocked, I stood still.  It passed five feet in front of me and instead of continuing its linear flight it flew in a circle around me. When the circle was completed it continued on its way.   

  Its appearance felt significant, as did the circling.  Standing in the road I noticed it landed on a piece of cement in the distance.  I walked into the brush to get a closer look.  From thirty feet away I snapped a few pictures. Later, when I looked at the picture I saw the piece of cement the butterfly landed on was in the shape of a heart.

   My butterfly sighting was unusual for this time of year. It was a sign and a thank you.

   Reflecting upon the twists and turns that placed me in that bank, at that time I do believe what Patricia said, I was there for a reason.  No doubt, we are exactly where we are supposed to be in every moment.  

Saturday, January 3, 2015

The Gratitude Jar

At the beginning of 2014 I began a gratitude jar.  The concept is that each time during the year when something occurs that touches your heart write it down on a slip of paper and put it in the jar.  On the last day of the year open the jar and read all of the moments you documented.  I was proud of myself that I continued the practice throughout the year.  There was an entry from January 2nd as well as one from December 29th.

  As the minutes of 2014 were ticking away I lit a candle, poured a glass of wine, sat near the flickering lights of the Christmas tree. I opened the jar.  It was a small canning jar that had originally housed homemade pesto sauce from a co-worker. The jar was tightly filled with the slips of paper.  Slowly I began pulling the papers from the jar.  Each varied in size.  Some contained a sentence or two while others were a half a page or so.   

  Many of the entries were fresh in my mind while others I had totally forgotten about.  Here is some of what I found:

   I traveled. There was the family reunion in Ocean City, MD, a weekend getaway to Gettysburg, PA, a spring time camping trip at Truro MA, two fun evenings in New York City, a weekend spent with my daughter in Virginia, a summer beach vacation in Cape Cod and a return trip to Montana for a writing retreat.  I guess I did get around a bit in 2014!
 Family milestones were celebrated.  My son graduated from high school and a few months later he went off to college.  My daughter secured her first full time teaching job and my niece got married.

 Some of the moments were comical.  Two non-crafty friends trying to re-hang curtains brought some good belly laughs! (No worries HGTV, we won’t be overthrowing the Property Brothers in the lineup anytime soon!)  Or the time when my friend picked me up for a major league baseball game and when I open the front door and looked at her we both began laughing uncontrollably.  We were twins.  Each dressed in the same royal blue team shirt and grey shorts!

 There was a Lionel Richie concert under the stars, snowshoeing escapades, kayaking jaunts, hikes and campfires.  There was an entry about a friend who saw my Facebook post about going to Barnes & Noble on my lunch hour to pick up a newly released book and she came to meet me there for a cup of tea!

 Now onto the food, let’s say it is apparent where these extra pounds came from!  I shared numerous insightful conversations with my family and friends over many breakfasts, lunches and dinners. Not to mention the food at the ball park.  Maybe the cheese steak sandwich, garlic parmesan chicken wings and beer wasn’t the healthiest choice, but boy was it good!

      I savored the moment on each slip of paper before moving onto the next. I would close my eyes and revisited the scene.  Many times I could remember how the sun was shining or the wind was blowing and sometimes I didn’t. But in every instance I remembered how someone else made me feel.

   With each memory the paper pile grew, and grew. I sat back and looked at the overflowing stack in front of me.  How did all of that fit in the one little jar?  It was as if the jar was one of those vacuum space bags that you suck all of the air out of.  You know the kind that you place and a folded bed comforter that is a foot and a half high and after a few minutes with a vacuum extracting the air it is six inches tall.  When I opened that jar the memories came to life once more. 

 Tired and with a grateful heart I left my pile on the table and went to sleep.

 The next morning I revisited those slips of paper.  The accountant in me appeared. I counted the number of entries and I charted the people involved in each one.  Sixty three was the number of moments I documented.  There were twenty seven different peopled involved.  Ironically, the moments involving my children were equal!  Whew!  I wouldn’t want to be accused of favoritism!

  I concluded from my analysis that there are three hundred and sixty five days in the year and I had documented sixty three of them, only 17.3%!  That was it!  Maybe I was too lazy, or forgot to compose a jar entry from time to time. Or maybe I didn’t consider it noteworthy enough.
 My gratitude jar taught me a lesson. So often we focus on the negative instances in our lives and we forget the good moments. As I reread the entries something became clear.  The memories recorded on the slips of paper were not about material possession but rather connections; connections with people, places and synchronistic happenings. These slips of paper contained breadth of life and when exposed to the air their vibrancy was restored. The richness of life is not about the trips you take, the meals you consume or the wealth you amass.  It is about the ability each of us possesses to positively affect one another.  That is real wealth.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Connecting the Dots…Challenges, Chariots, Conversations, and Choices

    There are times when events are strung together which open your heart and soul to the connectedness of the human spirit.  Within a recent thirty six hour time span my focus sharpened as to how we as humans interact, trust, distrust and value one another. A Facebook post and three different events strung together challenged me to zoom in and look at the way I live my life. Upon my reflection I have connected the dots.

Two weeks ago a dear friend had asked me to attend her and her classmate’s dinner presentation at the culinary school that she is attending in New York City. Feeling honored and blessed to be asked my “yes” reply was instantaneously sent.

Dot One:  The morning of the dinner presentation this post from an intuitive friend was the first thing that appeared on my Facebook news feed:

Daily Dose of Deborah
Friday, November 7, 2014

Today spontaneously make a connection with a total stranger. Strike up a(n authentic) conversation with someone you meet- Ask them how they are. Ask them about themselves. Take interest in someone outside of your usual circle of family and friends.

So often we are so caught up in our own worlds, that we don't even take the time to acknowledge the community of people all around us. The clerks at the gas stations where you fill up your cars, has a story - a life.. most of it is probably very similar to YOURS. The conductors on the trains you travel on, have families , lives, tragedies, and celebrations.. JUST LIKE YOU DO. The professors at you schools, have deadlines and financial question marks running through their heads.. JUST LIKE YOU DO.

 Start looking around and seeing how similar we are. Notice how hard we are all working to survive. Reconnect with fact that we are all humans running around on this bouncing ball called earth. We are all more the same, than we are different.

 Feel the connection after you have reached out. Feel how good it is to get out of your own heads and simply connect!!

 IT's ALL about connecting!



 Deborah’s message tugged at my heart…..ledge the community of people all around us. The clerks at the gas stations where you fill up your cars, has a story - a life.. most of it is probably very similar to YOURS. The conductors on the trains you travel on , have families , lives, tragedies, and celebrations.. JUST LIKE YOU DO. The professors at you schools, have deadlines and financial question marks running through their heads.. JUST LIKE YOU DO.

Start looking around and seeing how similar we are. Notice how hard we are all working to survive. Reconnect with fact that we are all humans running around on this bouncing ball called earth. We are all more the same, than we are different.

Feel the connection after you have reached out. Feel how good it is to get out of your own heads and simply connect!!
IT's ALL about connecting!


 Dot Two: When group travel plans fell apart the night before the culinary school event I decided to drive to a park and ride in New Jersey, take a bus to the city and a taxi to the school. According to the bus schedule I was to arrive in the city an hour and a half before the event. That would be plenty of time to get to the school, or so I thought.  Friday night traffic sucked away half of my time buffer. The taxi line in the front of the Port Authority was twenty plus people deep.  I stood there for fifteen minutes and only one taxi arrived.  My time cushion was deflating!

  There was a casually dressed man asking the people on line where they were going. I overheard him giving advice to someone as to which subway to take as an alternate to a taxi.  I thought this was his job to hail taxis and coordinate transportation for the patrons. 

  He approached me and asked where I was going. 

 “48W 21st Street” I replied.

 “Between 6th and 7th Avenue” he said. “You want to take a bike taxi?” as he pointed to the bicycle on the street corner with a tarp covered rickshaw seat attached to the back.  Not really my style I thought and how safe could this be?

 “How long will it take to get there?” I asked

 “About eighteen minutes.” 

  I looked at my watch again.  I had a half hour to spare.  I looked over at the bike and I figured why not, give it a shot! Sometimes you just have to believe that what is presented to you in a moment of need is a gift, and go with it. 

  I climbed into the back seat and he zipped the canvas tarp around me. He stood upright on the peddles and pressed down in an effort to garner all of his leg strength and off we went.  I wondered how much energy it must take to cart my body around the streets of New York City.  

 The only thing separating me from the cars and trucks zooming beside was that canvas tarp covering with cloudy plastic as my windows. There were neither shock absorbers nor any heat.   I trusted that he knew how to safely navigate the streets. I had trusted him with a lot.  During a stop at a traffic light he turned and yelled back to me

“How are you doing back there?” 

 “Great” I said.

  He pointed to a shop on the corner “Look over there.  There are puppies in the window.  They are so cute.  You want one?”

  I couldn’t see through the cloudiness of the plastic but I shouted back.  “Awwww, they are so cute, but I think I will pass tonight.” As he started peddling I suddenly began laughing at the vibrancy of this life experience.

 We arrived at my destination.  The driver pulled the nose of the bike between two parked cars.  “Exactly eighteen minutes” he said. 

  I paid the fare, exited my chariot and began rushing towards my destination.  Suddenly I stopped, turned and took a picture of the vehicle and the stranger that I trusted to deliver me safely.

  Dot Three: Once within the culinary school I was directed to the seating for the family and friends of the students.  I surveyed the room for a familiar face but there were none to be found.  There was an older couple seated at the end of a long rectangular table.  The gentleman motioned to me and said my friend’s name.  He asked if I was there for her.  Unbeknownst to me these were my friend’s parents.  I took a seat beside them and we began a magical evening of food and conversation.

  I shared with them my chariot story.   And I realized that my efforts not to be late yielded me the prized seat beside the parents of my friend. Our conversations meandered from cooking to children to sports to common friends and to travel.

  My friend’s Dad shared his travel experiences.  One of his comments struck me, he said

  “As Americans we are afraid to open our doors and hearts to others.  While in Italy I was taken on a back room tour of a restaurant kitchen by the owner.  In Ireland after a night of partying and drinking I was invited back to the bartender’s home for a cup of tea.  In America neither of those events would ever happen.  The truth is we are fearful of one another and the unknown.”

  He was right.  In unknown situations or in the company of strangers American’s defenses are heightened. We latch onto fear first.  Our Trust and compassion are seated at the back of the bus. Forget connecting with some aspect within the stranger as my friend Deborah had written about earlier in the day.

Dot Four: The next day I was grocery shopping in Walmart.  While shopping I decided what I was making for dinner.  I needed a loaf of good Italian bread.  I am not a fan of Walmart’s bakery so I decided to go to Stop and Shop for the bread and a few other fresh ingredients.  A Saturday visit to Stop and Shop was very out of the ordinary for me. 

 When I entered the store I went directly to the baked goods.  As I reached the bread rack there was an older gentleman leaning over his shopping cart asking another shopper and her son to bag six fresh bagels for him. I thought that they were shopping together but as his ramblings continued I realized that they did not know one another.

  “Oh, I am so stupid!  What was I thinking? I’m never going to be able to get home!” The older man rambled.  “I’m dying….I can’t make it home! I’m dying, I’m so stupid!”

  My back was towards him as I focused on which loaf of bread I wanted.  But his words pierced me. I took in all that he was saying.   I could have turned to my left and continued on my way, but I turned towards my right and looked this man in the eye.  He must have been in his late sixties or early seventies.  He was close to six feet tall, heavy set with a red faced speckled with brown spots.  His movements were labored and his clothes were disheveled.  In his shopping cart was a gallon of milk, two, two liter bottles of soda, a twelve pack of toilet paper and the six bagels that the other customer bagged for him.

 I heard myself saying, “Sir, are you okay?”

“No!” He was agitated. “I’m dying. I don’t know what I was thinking I walked here, but I can barely breathe. I don’t know how I am going to get home. I’m dying” And then he asked “Will you drive me home.  It is not that far?”

Without processing or thinking and simply reacting I said “Yes, but I have a few more things to pick up.”

“Thank you, thank you, I’ll check out and wait in the front of the store for you” he turned and leaning heavily on his cart for support made his way to the cashier.

 In produce section my mind began to spin.  While deciding between button and shitake mushrooms my inner voice began screaming at me.  “What, are you crazy?  You were always taught not to pick up hitchhikers or strangers.  This is dangerous!  What would your parents think? You would be mad as hell if your daughter did this?  Just put the groceries down and slip out of the side door and get out of there!” But then the voice of compassion chimed in “This could be your Dad.  Wouldn’t you want someone to help him?”

  I began connecting the dots.  Dot one; I recalled Deborah’s words from the day before about connecting with a stranger. Dot two; what was different between this situation and me getting into that bicycle taxi last night?  I didn’t know that man yet I trusted him to peddle me around the streets of NYC with nothing more than a tarp separating me from the traffic perils and he delivered me safely to my destination. Dot three; my friends Father’s statement echoed in my mind.  “As American’s our first reaction to strangers is fear.”

 I stood facing the fourth dot.  The point of decision, do you connect with a stranger or do you run away in fear? I turned and headed towards the cash registers at the front of the store with the belief that all is as it was to be. He was waiting for me as he said he would be.   With the inner voice of doubt chirping at me in the background I told him to wait for me at the store entrance.  I had parked my car at the outer edges of the lot and there was no need for him to walk that distance. He agreed.

  As I neared my car I decided to not only put my groceries in the third row seat but I would also put my pocketbook there.  By doing so it would be inaccessible to grab quickly.  In the same moment I decided to place my cell phone in the front pocket of the hooded sweatshirt I was wearing.  It was connected to the blue tooth device in my car. I could operate my phone by voice if needed.  These actions were guided by fear, innate fear, and the general distrust of others.  I drove my car to the front of the store, opened the door for my passenger to enter and loaded his groceries into my vehicle. These actions were guided by compassion.

  I would be lying to say that I did not have my doubts as I drove this man home.  I had devised an escape plan in my mind….a fear driven one at that.  Did he ask me for money, yes, and with his promise to repay it on Tuesday. I told him I couldn’t he didn’t ask again. Part of me just wanted to give him a few dollars, but the other part of me said that I was providing what he needed at this moment.  His home was a little over a mile from the store.  There was no way he could have carried his purchases home with him. 

   I pulled into his driveway, exited the car and handed him his grocery bags.  He didn’t want me to carry them to the front door.  Weighed down by his purchases he said “Thank you, you are and angel.”  He turned and walked toward the front door of his neglected home.

 I am humbled by the events of these thirty six hours.  Each and every one of us is part of the community; it is called the human race. Let us continue to connect the dots of our existence.  May our compassionate hearts lead the way, and fear, well, let it sit in the backseat of your bumpy chariot from this moment forward.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Fall Green Tomatoes

 October 6, 2014.  Tonight I harvested my patio vegetable garden.  It was the last, well actually it was the only harvest of the season.  And in this fact lived a lesson.

 The journey began late during the month of May.  Determined to right my wrong from the last growing season I planted early.  I chose my tomato plants from the expensive garden center. No Home Depot seedlings this year.  I knew these came from hardy stock. I purchased the expensive gardening soil. It had “Miracle” in the name so I knew it was the good stuff.  I made sure to place rocks at the bottom of the pots to allow for proper drainage. Root rot was not to be my destiny. 

 Each morning from the planting day I would water my tomatoes, realign their trajectory in relation to the sun.  June passed and no flowers for the fruit to emerge from. I thought the lack of production had been caused by disrupting the plants and moving the pots from the deck during the house painting.  Maybe they didn’t receive the correct amount of sun. 

  With the house painting completed by late June and the pots back in their appointed spots I thought we were ready for a takeoff.  But, unfortunately still no buds.  I saved the egg shells from my breakfast and crumpled them upon the soil in the pots.  I even added plant vitamin sticks to the soil. No sign of buds.  I thought that the pot housing the plum tomato plants seemed too shallow.  So I replanted them into a deeper pot that allowed for more root expansion. Every morning I watered my garden.

 While my husband and I were away on vacation during the latter part of July our son meticulously watered the tomato plants.  They were healthy and vibrant upon our return.  I continued to care for them and one mid-August morning a single yellow bud appeared.  I felt as if I was exposing my grade school petri dish experiment to the world.  My babies were ready to bloom, expand and move on!

  I dreamed of plucking a juicy, ripe red tomato from the vine, clenching my jaw and lowering my teeth upon its delicate skin.  Thoughts of the warm tomato liquid oozing into my mouth excited me.  This is the freshest of fresh.  Fruits plucked from the vine and enjoyed at that moment.  How divine!

   As late August arrived my friends were harvesting their red bounty, but I could not.  There was nothing to harvest. This year, that experience was not to be mine.  No spur of the moment pleasure just continued nurturing.  Each and every morning I watered my plants.  I believed in their promise.  I celebrated their joy and I knew if I loving cared for them they would achieve all that they could be.   And I enjoyed the ruby red tomatoes from the local farm stand.

 Time moved on by mid-September there was no red ripeness on my vine, just a few small green tomatoes. I continued to shower my love upon them.  The nights were getting cooler.  I worried about their survival but continued to nourish them.

  October quietly crept in.  The days grew shorter and the nights colder. Morning frost crystals coated the blades of grass and the tree leaves.  Maybe it is time to accept that I did all that I could do for these plants. Maybe green tomatoes are all that these vines can give me.  My nourishment, caring and compassion has gotten this crop to the place where it is. The exact place where it was supposed to be.   
  Tonight, with a sense of sadness I plucked the green tomatoes from the vines and I placed them into a brown paper bag.   The tomatoes may be green and housed in a brown paper bag, but the lesson they shared is golden. As much love, effort and understanding that you give to someone or something you cannot control the outcome.  Everything ripens at its own pace.   And sometimes it simply doesn’t ripen at all.

  My hope is that my green tomatoes find in the dark that which they could not find in the summer sunshine. Each of us grow into ourselves at our own pace.  Maybe my green tomatoes need to spend some time in the dark, in a place of self-reflection and go within to find their light.  My summer patio garden did not yield a harvest of fruits or vegetables, but it was not an exercise in futility. Rather it was one of love, patience, caring and revelation.  When we arrive at the understanding that things may not always turn out the way that we want them to, but they are as they should, we find peace. 

 Sometime the path of growth through darkness yields the greatest gifts and brightest lights.....Or maybe it simply means that I am destined to have a fried green tomato party!

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Tags and Transitions

    For the past twenty years or so my end of the summer focus has been on readying my kids for their ride on the big yellow school bus. It seems like it was only a few moments ago that I pinned a manila tag to their clothing before they stepped on that bus for the first time.  The kindergarten kids were always identifiable by those tags.  The information contained on them; the child’s name, the teacher’s name, the bus route number and the bus stop location ensured that they would be returned to me at the end of the day.
  For the first week or so of school I would pin that tag to my child in a place of prominence.  Inevitably the day would come when my child would push back about wearing it.  After all they were grown up now and knew which bus to ride.  They protested.  I protested more.  In retrospect I wonder if those tags were more for the parent’s peace of mind than for the child’s wellbeing. That manila piece of paper had been my insurance policy.  I simply had to trust that my children would find their way home to me.  They did. 
  Parenting is hard work.  It requires an immense amount of patience and an equal amount of resolve.  When our children are placed in our arms we are smitten for life.  However, this object of my attention did not arrive with an instruction manual.  Parents are both overjoyed and overwhelmed with the required daily tasks. We breathe, dig deep and carry on.  Some days are easier than others.  And some days are just plain hard.
  Through the years the words “When is this ever going to end” became my mantra. While in the parenting trenches there have been many occasions where I have whispered, spoken and, yes screamed these words. 
   I remember dragging myself out of bed for those two and three o’clock in the morning feedings. They could have been times of quiet connection but exhausted I did my best to stay awake for the feeding and I wished my baby back to sleep.
    There were the countess diaper changes. My pocketbook begged for relief.  It seemed as if Pampers and Huggies had a direct pipeline to my bank account and a standing order to drain it. I thought my diaper days would never end. Eventually they did and the monetary change went virtually unnoticed. 
  So many nights I would lie beside my child to help them fall asleep and I too would end up visiting slumber town. During the night I would awake with a stiff neck and sore back and move to my bed. 
 Then there were the two a.m. visitors who tapped my shoulder until I awoke and said, “Mommy I’m scared”.   I would pull them into bed with me and bear the brunt of the wayward elbow to my chest, the arm across my head and the stray foot to my stomach.  When morning would arrive I would sneak out of bed exhausted from a night of little sleep. On occasion I would steal a few moments to marvel at their tiny cusped lips, their chest slowly rising and falling with each breath and their dimpled hands wrapped around their favorite stuffed animal.  And somehow those times ended too.
  As the years passed we moved onto bigger things.  Athletic competitions and academic pursuits consumed our lives.  I developed a severe case of bleacher butt from sitting in the stands.  We spent many a weekend on the road and most weeknights hurrying from one activity or school function. Whatever were my children’s interests, I encouraged them. 
  During those years I forged a kinship with that hamster that runs around on her wheel.  Both of us were in constant motion and neither of us seemed to be reaching our destination, wherever that was supposed to be.  I remember one Sunday afternoon when I was completing my routine of slicing and grilling vegetables to make sandwiches for my daughter’s lunch (she and cold cuts never formed a bond).   I would take an hour or so from my Sunday schedule to grill the vegetables for the week.  One particular Sunday I stood by the grill turning the vegetables to get the perfect grill marks and hoping that I did not drop them in between the grill grates. Frustrated and tired I repeated my saying of choice; “When is this ever going to end?”  And you know what? In a blink of an eye the end came. I found that my Sunday’s no longer required vegetable grilling duties.   
  My parent’s advice began whispering to me “Be careful what you wish for because you just might get it.” 
   This summer has been different in many ways. Mother Nature decided to scale back on those hot and hazy days. Crazy and carefree times have been in short supply.  Summer in my family has been about milestones and movement.
  It began with my daughter finishing a long term substitute teaching job in her college town. With an expiring apartment lease in one town and a dream of settling in another she moved her belongings into a storage unit and headed off to her camp counseling job for the season.  In the midst of her summer position she interviewed for and secured a teaching job in the area of Virginia that she longed to be.  Instantly I became an apartment hunter and logistics specialist.  Thankfully, I Successfully completed my assignments.  My daughter finished her camp obligations on the 11th of August and was settled and ready to begin her teacher training eight hours south of our New York home on the 14th.  Whew!

  June my son graduated from high school. He attended his college orientation the first week of July.  My focus turned to graduation party planning, FAFSA forms and shopping for dorm room and school supplies.  Somehow from the clearness of the summer days and the coolness of the nights we reached the end of August.   Tomorrow is move in college move in day.

   Shortly the calendar will turn and we will be in the month of September. The big yellow school busses will resume their routes through the neighborhood.  For the first year in many I will not have a child boarding them. They have moved on.  Each is readying to write their own story and live into their reality.  I find myself wishing that I could pin that manila tag to them, the one that contains the instructions as to how to return them to me.  But I can’t. 
  Now I wear a tag but it is not visible.  It is etched upon my heart. The routing instructions have not changed from the ones that were printed on the tag and pinned to their shirts so many years ago.  No matter where their lives take them I trust that they know “home” is merely a thought away. My heart is always ready to meet them and my arms remain open and yearn to embrace them.