The Relativity of Storms


I have written countless posts about figurative storms.  Clearly I have a thing for the analogy, this blog is titled Dancing In The Rain!  I can recall long ago writing a post about how surreal it was to be living through a storm when the world around you seemed relatively unaffected.  


When the boys were in the NICU, I remember walking through the grocery store in a cloudy daze staring at awe at my fellow shoppers with their seemingly normal lives. And then again when my dad was dying.  My world was in utter chaos;  I was exhausted, juggling work, kids, and life and death.  I went through a drive thru and the girl was so carefree I was left speechless.  How could her life be so pleasant, so normal, when mine was falling apart? And she had no idea.  


Each of these times, and I am sure many other times before and since these moments, I was taught the lesson of the relativity of storms.  My storm is not yours.  It’s mine.  How I handle my storm  is unique to me alone.  While you may know that I am in the midst of a storm, it is nearly impossible for us to live each other’s pain.  And even if we do, we don’t stay there for long. Our own daily lives take precedent, it is human nature.


I started writing this post on my phone, while sitting at my daughter’s soccer game.  I’m a bit cold, it’s windy and wet.  I’ve had this cold that won’t go away and my Dr. just called to change my meds.   We all just finished our first week back to school, our house is a mess and I keep thinking of the long list of things I need to accomplish before we take on week two.  I am feeling a bit stressed, and tired.  These are my biggest concerns as I can’t help but think about storms.  


While I sit on the sidelines of a soccer field my brother and his family are gearing up for a real life storm. No figurative language here. Irma will most likely hit his now boarded up house, where he will be in with his 5 year old son and friends who are like family while his wife will be sequestered at work in a hospital making sure her patients can breathe.  Their oldest daughter will be with her father close by.  They will all be hunkered down preparing for what may be their worst hurricane they have ever experienced.  My brother, his family and friends in Florida are preparing for, and living in, a storm that is setting up to be devastating.


My nephew Corbin showing off his handy work after helping his Daddy board up their windows.

And I’m sitting on the sidelines of a soccer game, worrying about my laundry, my work, my groceries, in my currently “normal” life.  I’m sure my brother, would find it hard to remember what it felt like not to be consumed with his storm right now.  For he is in his storm.  He and those he loves most dear are consumed with the potential danger, the hardships and uncertainty that lies before them.  


That’s the thing about storms.  Their magnitude, and what they bring with them, are often all consuming.  You can prepare for them, you can plan and you can prophesize. But until you are living through it, you cannot know how you’ll handle it or predict how you will come out after it passes.  And they will pass, that is a guarantee, storms always pass.  They are always temporary.  Temporary yet terrifying.  And you always come out changed when it’s over.  How it changes a person and how they handle it is personal, and individualized.  That part can’t be predicted.  


So what do we do?  Me with my worries of my mundane to do list on the soccer sidelines, you with whatever worries your life currently holds, (perhaps you have none?)… Should we feel guilty that we cannot know the angst and stress that those currently living through the storm of their lives are feeling? Should we feel bad that we are having normal days while others are having anything but?  


No.  I believe guilt is a useless emotion in this situation.  Feeling guilty for your good fortune, while others are not so lucky does nothing to connect us as community.  Instead, I believe we need to remember three very simple words.


“I CAN imagine.”


I once heard parents of a Sandy Hook Elementary School victim put these words into context.  As they spoke of their lost son, they said the most important thing someone could say to them as they endured their tremendous grief was “I can imagine.”  I was taken aback, and then listened as they explained.  Often times we say the opposite, we hear of other’s hardships and in an effort to be empathetic we say, with a look of pity on our face, “I can’t imagine…”  But when we say these words we are actually distancing ourselves from their troubles.  We are in essence saying, “Your pain is so great that I can’t bring myself to start to feel it.”, “What your are living through is too much for me to bare, it is too awful, too troubling for me to imagine it happening to me.”  We are in fact saying that you can’t, you won’t, put yourselves in their shoes.  And this is exactly the opposite of what we must do when those around us are living through their own storms.  


We MUST imagine, we must take a moment to think of what our world’s would be like if we had to endure the storm others can’t see their way out of.  We must try, if only for a moment to see into their dark world and feel what they feel, what is consuming their every thought, bringing them such stress, changing who they will be when their storm finally ends.  We must imagine.  For when we take a moment to imagine, we begin to step out of our own lives, and into others’. When we imagine what it feels like to lose not just any child, but our own child to violence, our own loved ones to cancer, our own home to a hurricane…we can then think of what we would need from those not weathering a storm.  When we imagine, we can then be moved to act, to help, to give.  


So, from the sidelines of the soccer field I sit and take a second to imagine my brother and his family preparing for their storm.  And I will continue to do so, as I stress out over school lunches and laundry, lesson plans and soccer schedules.  I will keep those in the midst of a real storm in my mind.  And in doing so, I acknowledge the relativity of a storm, recognize that each person is weathering their own storm, either figuratively or literally.  And so, I become a better person, more connected to the world around me and most importantly, more equipped to help.  I encourage you to do the same.


Closer to Love


While getting ready this morning the song “Closer to Love” by Mat Kearney came on.  It was the first time I had heard it.  While I didn’t catch every word, the lyrics I needed to hear came through.  “I guess we’re all just one phone call from our knees…crying in her room , praying Lord, come through…You pull me closer to love, closer to love.” I can’t begin to assume what the song writer meant by each word – but that is what I love about music.  Great songs can take on different meanings for each listener.  They can provide words to feelings too hard to speak aloud.  This song did this for me.  Hence a new blog post, my first in years.

It is undeniable that I have been through a lot in the past six years.  I watched my mom go through sickness, die, planned her funeral, and still grieve her loss.  Then I watched my twins struggle to survive for months, learned a whole new world of medical terms in order to parent them and adjusted to a world with kids who need more.   I took deep breaths for a couple of years before I stood with my dad as he battled and lost to cancer, and again, planned another funeral.

Now I learn how to survive, to carry on, to grieve, to examine life as I never have before in my new world of “normal”.    All of this has irrevocably changed who I am.  Some changes have been or the good, others have not – I am working on those.  I have always been a reflective person and I find myself, in my quiet moments, while they may be few and far between, reflecting on my life as it has turned out so far.   These moments sometimes lead to me asking “why?” or “how?”  – I sit stuck in wonder of how my life ended up the way that it did.  I never saw any of this coming.

This line of thinking never helps.

It is what it is.  I can’t change it.  I can only learn, adapt and move on.  Hopefully for the better.

Today, this song, “Closer to Love” brought on a revelation for me.  The message was so intense that I found myself sitting in my driveway writing on every scrap of paper I could find before heading off to run errands.  Many blog posts have popped into my head since losing my dad.  I haven’t written any of them down.  I don’t think I was ready to, to really examine my thoughts seemed scary to me.  I couldn’t be sure where it would lead me and I wasn’t brave enough to pick up my pen and find out.  Today, this post idea, these words gave me a sense of hope.  Dare I say, of joy? An emotion I can admit I have been avoiding over the past year.  Joy, as the opposite of sadness  is just as difficult to experience for a person going through grief.  When you feel joy, you can’t help feel the juxtaposition of the sadness you normally carry with you each day.   This idea of being closer to love became so clear to me, and became a positive twist on the obviously negative moments of my past six years.

This morning I came to realize that each struggle, each death, each trying time has led me closer to love.  Not the “I love you because…” kind of love, but the love that one feels with every inch of their being, down to the core of a person.  Gut-wrenching love that can make a person feel connections with people that wasn’t possible before the true meaning of love was truly understood.

I knew I saw the world differently after my mom died.  I knew I became infinitely more empathetic to the people around me after the boys were born.  Since my dad died I find myself more forgiving, more considerate and more loving.  This morning I realized these changes are because I now know, and have learned to recognize in my life, true love.

Before these turn of events you may have heard me say, “I love you because you make me laugh.”, “I love you because you…(fill in the countless things here)”  I know we have all said it, been to weddings where brides and grooms profess their love for each other in terms of the “becauses”.  These reasons are sweet, they are nice compliments to give a person, but they can’t be the basis for true love.   With real love there is no room for because – in real love – you just love.

Telling someone “I love you because you make me laugh.” will make them feel good that you appreciate their sense of humor but what happens on the days, or months when they don’t make you laugh?  Does your love diminish?  Professing to your partner that you “love them because you know they will always be there for you.” is a comforting thought.  But what happens when you don’t see eye to eye during a difficult time and your partner isn’t standing in your corner defending you?  Does your love weaken?  These prerequisites on your love are only natural, but fragile in their existence and all too reliant on all things remaining the same as it was on that first day you fell in love.  An acquaintance of mine is completing research for her doctorate on effects of trauma on a marriage.  She shared with me that statistics show an alarmingly high rate of divorce among parents who find themselves dealing with medically fragile children in the Neonatal or Pediatric Intensive Care Unit.  Is that because they shared the “I love you because…” kind of love?  A love based on what a person does for you?  For how they make you feel, who you are when you are with them?  In times of trauma partners do very little for each other and  instead focus their efforts and attention on just getting through the day.  Each one struggling just to keep themselves from falling apart, with little energy left to check on their partner.  The “becauses” come less frequently and a couple prerequisites for love are pushed to the side. Well, at least that is how I see it.  I am not a doctor, a psychologist or an expert on love.  I could be totally wrong – I can’t presume to know why marriages fall apart.

Perhaps we should say “I love it when you make me laugh.” or “I love it when you make me feel safe and supported.”  This way your love for a person isn’t tied to their actions.  You love their actions in addition to the deep down love you feel for your partner.  You can love an action, you can love getting flowers, love getting love notes…just as long as these aren’t a stipulation for the love that you give a person.  Because, I can tell you from too many periods of trials in my life, that getting flowers, love notes and being the center of someone else’s world gets put on hold when you face a time of life and death.

True love accepts.  My parents were flawed.  I still loved them.  I still love them.  I love them regardless of their flaws, and I don’t need to ignore their imperfections in order to keep my love alive for them.  And since they are now gone, all of my “becasuses” have to be thrown away.

As my mom lay in the ICU, already passed on, I held her hand and kissed her forehead.  In those moments I have never felt such intense love.  In those moments I had to stop loving her because I knew I could always count on her to be there for me.  I couldn’t love her because she would always support me, or always be there to help me raise my kids, or give advice or listen when I needed to vent.  In those moments, all of those things my mom had previously done for me ceased to be a possibility for the future.  As I sat by her bedside and rubbed her hand, I sat there and cried and just loved my mom.  Gut-wrenching, down to my core kind or love.  That moment brought me closer to love.

During my dad’s final weeks things were awful for him and for us.  And that is about as much detail as I can bear to explain.  It was just awful.  In spite of it all, in the midst of it all I loved my dad more fiercely than I had ever done before.  His time of doing things for me were over, and still I loved him.  In those weeks I felt more surrounded by love, as my closest family members sat beside him and poured their love for him out for him to hear.  Witnessing this kind of love changes a person, and now I can say that those weeks absolutely brought me closer to love.

In the same way as losing my parents helped show me the true meaning of love gaining my boys, with their rocky beginnings, also brought me closer to love.   The first few weeks after Griffin and Carter were born and they struggled to survive in the NICU my husband and I sat at their bedsides.  I examined their translucent skin, the wires and millions of dollars of machinery attached to them to keep them alive, we couldn’t be sure if they would make it through the day.   I hadn’t even held them, I’d only touched them briefly with the slightest of pressure a handful of times.  And still I sat there, day in and day out thinking about how much love I felt for these tiny little boys.  There was no room for prerequisites, there was only room for true love.

This revelation on love has also taught me a valuable lesson on how I view my own self worth.  Like most people I know I want people to like me, and some to love me.  Throughout my whole life I have gone to great lengths to ensure that I would be worthy of a person’s love and approval.  Sometimes, my desire to be loved would lead me to bend and break myself down in order to prove just how worthy I was of their love.  All these changes to my own sense of self just to show how lovable I was.  However, just as walking through the life that I have over the past six years has brought me closer to the true meaning of love I feel for others it has also taught me to recognize the true love I share with others.  Love without prerequisites, love given to me, not because I: make them them laugh, boost their self esteem, buy great gifts, have the right look…the list of prerequisites go on.  But the kind of love given to me just because I AM.

Recognizing this love around me brings me joy.  It also gives me permission to let go of those in my life who loved me with a love full of prerequisites.  I lost family this year, and not because of death.  But because I now understand love and this understanding gave me the strength I needed to let go of relationships based on me bending and ignoring my own self to prove my worth to them.  I now know I don’t need to do that.  I am worth love.  SO I can walk away.  It still saddens me to lose even more family when I feel like I have already lost so many.  However, I now know I deserve to be with those who know me and love me in spite of; not because of.

And so here I sit in what I believe is a pivotal time in my life.   This day has given me a gift of a small sense of understanding during a time when I find myself questioning.

If nothing else, I can say that these years have brought me closer to love.  And for that, I am grateful.

Listen to “Closer to Love” here.




I am not promised tomorrow…


No matter how true this statement is, it is one that I easily forget. In fact, I orginally wrote this post in 2013.  And today I felt the need to revise and refresh my thoughts.  

My thoughts today…

Recently, a beloved teacher in my district died unexpectedly .  She wasn’t suffering from a long illness, instead she tragically passed without much warning. And while I didn’t know her personally, many of my friends did.  You should see their faces light up when they talk about her.  The messages former parents are writing in facebook pages paint a picture of a wonderful woman.  I have heard countless people describe Andrea as a mentor, a teacher who loved her job and adored her students, a friend, a mother and wife who cared so deeply for those she loved she left them feeling grateful for having the chance to love her back, even if it was cut short.   As I listen to my colleagues and read the tributes online describe such an amazing woman I feel moved to learn from her legacy.  I may have met her once or twice at a district meeting, but I didn’t know her and yet her impact on me, through the stories I have heard and her abrubt passing, has been something I haven’t been able to shake since I heard the news.   Our district was on break last week.  We all rushed out the door on that last Friday eager to get to our vacation destinations, or simply to relax at home.  Before the end of the day I tidied my desk, organized my plans for when I return and joined my friends and colleagues in the rush to hurry up and relax.  I assume, Andrea did some of the same.  Prepared for her “tomorrows” at her buidling just as we all did in my building.  And today, after a week off, we all returned.  As I drove my commute I couldn’t help but think of Andrea,  undoubtedly in heaven, who wouldn’t be returning to her classroom she had left just the week prior.  

That trail of thought reminded me of this post and drew me back to my blog to reread it.  I laughed out loud when I read the title and the first line; “I am not promised tomorrow…   No matter how true this statement is, it is one I easily forget.” 

I had forgotten.  I had wasted moments of my days complaining, focusing on the negative, or unimportant,  putting value in things that don’t really matter…all while assuming that tomorrow I would do better, be better, be more.  But what if there wasn’t a tomorrow? What if today were my last day?  Would I be proud of what I gave?  Would my legacy of love be as present and glowing as Andrea’s?  This may be a jarring way of thinking for some.  Or as my dad would call it, maudlin.  But for me it is real and honest and so very valuable.   I don’t think of it as living in fear of dying, but living with a sense of purpose and passion for the shere fact that you are alive.  That in itself is something to be grateful for, something to honor with your every action.  I am alive today.  Today, I  was able to go to work, teach, make dinner, walk my dog, wash dishes, snuggle on the couch with my kids.  Today I was given the chance to live my life.  I am grateful for Andrea, a collegue I didn’t know but whose actions in her daily life inspire me to raise the bar of my own actions in my own daily life.   Because, once again, I am reminded. I am not promised tomorrow. 

The 2013 version…

In 2009 on the night before my 30th birthday Tim and I folded a lot of laundry and left it all around our livingroom as we went to bed. Every couch and surface was covered with what seemed to be a year’s worth of clean clothes. But we went to bed, folding had done us in, I was seven months pregnant and I was tired. Nevermind that my brother Jeff and his girlfriend (now his wife) were flying in the next day and staying with us for my birthday weekend. We climbed the stairs anyway and told ourselves we would put the clothes away tomorrow, when we got home from work.

And then at 2:30 in the morning my water broke. After hours at the hospital we learned that a hospital room would be my home for a while, and that the next time I would set foot in my laundry covered livingroom our family would have grown by one. So there goes tomorrow. The laundry stayed strewn across our couches until Jeff and Dawn so kindly put it in baskets and out of sight while Tim and I made a new home on the 5th floor dealing with what was at the time the scariest medical drama we had ever faced.

On a Spring day in 2010 I was trimming the bushes out back and looking at all of the toys littering our yard like plastic land mines, thinking I should really pick them up when the phone rang. It was my dad, my mom had a “spell” and as he talked to me from the front patio of the hospital he was watching Mercy Flight take her to Buffalo General. I put the trimmers down, told Tim I had to go, and I left. The days and weeks following were filled with anxiety and real-life problems much bigger than the plastic toys now collecting rain water in my backyard, or the trimmers, forgotten and left to rust. “Tomorrow” didn’t happen the way that I had planned it. It was only a split second before my dad called that my head was reeling with my list for tomorrow. All the things I would be sure to accomplish – tomorrow.

I am sure the day that my mom died in October of 2010 I was making lists for my tomorrow, but I don’t remember. That day has been swallowed up by grief. Even so, if I know myself, there was a list somewhere.

When I was pregnant with the boys in 2011 I had a better handle on the fragility of my days that I thought were promised to me. Maybe it was because I was still recovering from the loss of my mom, the lesson in the fragilness of life still fresh on my mind. Maybe it was because I was fully aware of the fragility of my current state. Everyday those boys stayed in my belly was a win in my book and frankly I was too terrified to even consider what may lie ahead in a pregnancy I was repeatedly told was fragile from the start. In 2011 tomorrow meant something very different on any given day.  

(Added today) On December 30th 2014 I found out my dad had cancer.  The diagnosis wasn’t official but I knew it was bad.  That New Year’s Eve I balled my eyes out, one of those raw uncontrollable  cries, when you are happy the lights are off so you can let it all out without seeing the ugliness of your pain.  Tim held me, and I cried.  And cried.  I remember saying to Tim, that I didn’t want 2015 to come.  I knew what lie in wait for us in 2015 and it was going to be the worst year yet.   I wanted so badly to skip ahead a year, and skip over what I knew my dad’s cancer had in store for him.  The two previous lay offs, Addie coming early, my mom, the boys arriving at 25 weeks had all turned me into a realist.   I prefer to see the future for what it is, so I can better deal with the monsters head on.  I knew this particular monster,  that I now had named “2015” was going to be simply horrible.  And so at 1 a.m. on January 1st, I cried.   That New Year’s Eve I wanted to avoid my  “tomorrows”.  Cancer can do that to you.  Make you wish tomorrow would just fly right past you.   I wish I could say that my crying was for nothing that night.  That it wasn’t so bad watching my father slip away and being swallowed up by disease.  I wish I could, but I can’t.  But I can say that on that New Year’s Eve, in the dark as I cried I learned a valuable lesson about accepting the tomorrow that you so desperately want to avoid.  You can’t avoid them, and the alternative,  that there wouldn’t be a tomorrow would always be far worse.  Tomorrow is a day, one day when you put one foot in front of the other.  Set your expectations on course, be honest, stay the path and live.  It must be done, each day, each tomorrow, must be lived.  

(2013) But as time as passes and the experiences that I have lived through fall farther into my memory so does the lesson that I am not promised tomorrow. And I don’t mean this in a morbid way, although the statement itself does lend itself to that line of thinking and that too is true, I do not know when my time here is up. More so, I mean it in a sense that I am not promised the time, the current feeling of comfort or same level of stress or happiness from one day to the next. I am not promised the tomorrow I have planned. And yet, I spend my time planning for and worrying about all that I must do or all that might happen, tomorrow. You would think I would learn.

So why I am writing all of this now, I haven’t blogged for months and while I have wanted to I just haven’t found (or worked hard to make) the time.

Here is why: I recently went back to work unexpectedly. Long story short after being laid off I was called back at the very last minute. I love teaching, and of course a paycheck, so in that regard I was thrilled. But I was used to being home, to planning my days around the needs of my children and working life in accordingly. I now have to answer to the clock. I am scheduled in a very different way than I was a year ago at this time. And I find with this new demanding schedule that there is a lot in my life that is getting left until tomorrow. All of this putting things off and unfinished jobs is taking a toll on my stress level. That was until two days ago as I made my daily 40 minute commute to work. That is when this blog post popped in my head.  It came to me as the title. “I am not promised tomorrow.” After which I said to myself – “so stop living like that has more merit than today.”

So my house is a mess. There are toys and lone socks, dust bunnies and books, dress up costumes and backpacks in every nook and cranny of my house. And of course, laundry – that is still there. And it drives my husband and I nuts. We pick up, our kids pick up, but it never seems like enough. (No need to revise this section…the mess is still there four years later!)    But you know what – if my tomorrow doesn’t come like I planned the mess of it all will be the least of my concerns. As Tim and I sat in the hospital preparing for the arrival of our first preemie we weren’t stressing over the piles of laundry. We were embarrassed, but it wasn’t high on our list. And I never thought once about the yard of toys as we sat in the cardiac ICU waiting for the results of my mom’s heart surgery. Life happens and the details fall where they may – life has a way of sorting out what matters. While I would LOVE for my house to be completely clean, it is a detail that doesn’t rank high on my list.

Playing, reading, snuggling, laughing with my family. Being the best version of myself, and showing love. That matters. If tomorrow we face another emergency I will feel grateful for the time I took today to do what matters. Just writing that, and rereading it on my computer helps me to let go of the stress I am already gearing up for dealing with tomorrow.

Resolution Dinner


For years, like everyone else I have made a New Years resolution – most the time of the healthy persuasion.  Like the never-ending line of people waiting for treadmills at my gym every January I always went right to the fail safe “lose weight” promise to myself come the strike of midnight.

That was until a few years ago.

Those of you that have been following my blog know that the past few years have been nothing short of rocky for me and my family.  Having Addie early, losing my job due to budget cuts, losing my mom, getting my job back, having the boys REALLY early and then being laid off again…I don’t know anyone who could go through such an a time without becoming more aware of what is important to them.  Or as my latin teacher used to say to me as an often unfocused teenager “getting their ducks in row.”  

In the past few years Tim and I have created a tradition in our family that may just be one of my favorites of all of our holiday traditions.  Each New Years Eve we sit as a family and talk over dinner about our new resolutions, and we help each other come up with resolutions that matter, that keep us focused on what is most important to us.   (For example, Addie started with “make paper dolls of the boys,” but ended with “be better at sharing” and she was very helpful in creating Tim’s resolution with her suggestion of “love more butterflies”) During our “resolution dinner” I sit with the coming year’s calendar where I record everyone’s promise.  And then later I write them on our chalkboard wall in our kitchen ( I will add a picture of our wall to this post soon)  where they stay for the entire year for us to see each and every day.  We were a little late getting to them this year as we were out-of-town on New Years (hence the late post) but thanks to Kennedy’s reminding we finally wrote our “revolutions” as Kennedy calls them – an appropriate word substitution if you think about it!

However, this year was different from me and I blame it on the general state of happiness I find myself in these days.  I know it sounds sappy, but I can’t remember a time that I was more at peace with my life as it stands than I have been in the last six months.  It goes without saying that my life would be exponentially better if my mom were here. but I have come to place of peace with her absence in my acceptance that my longing for her will never go away.  And of course, life would also be easier if we had more money.  But whose wouldn’t?  I would like a time where I didn’t worry about bills but I am guessing that even millionaires worry about paying bills.  And when it comes to money this is where my ducks are all lined up, the money duck is toward the back of the line!  But I digress…  Overall I spend most of my days feeling grateful and blessed.  And to top it all off I feel good about myself, well, generally.  Each year I try hard to develop a meaningful resolution.  To create a promise to myself that will, in the end, make me a better person.  Two years ago it was “to be less judgemental.” and last year’s was “to enjoy more of my days and embrace more moments.” But up until today, until I sat at the salon at 7:30 at night getting my hair cut for the first time in six months, could I for the life of me come up with a resolution that met the requirement.

So here is what I wrote in the calendar during our resolution dinner – prepare yourself for lame.

“Be more efficient at completing laundry.”

Yep, you read it correctly.  In my state of contentment with my life all I could come up with to make myself a better person was to do laundry more efficiently!!   I live in a house with five other people, laundry, like dishes, is a never-ending problem!  But if I am being honest – I’m not good about putting clean clothes away.  So I thought 2013 should be the year hone my skills of laundry.  Lame.  I know.

And then tonight happened.  Tonight I took time for myself and I paid a professional, in a nice salon like I used to go to in the olden days (a.k.a. before I was a mom) to give me a great haircut.  And as she cut my hair we talked about how I dye my hair from a box these days because the time and effort and cost that it takes for me to go to a salon was just too much on all three fronts for me to take on.  Her response to my excuse, as she touched my brittle and cracking hair; “trust me, a lot of my mom clients tell me the same thing.”  In that moment I made a decision.  Next time I need my hair colored I am paying Suzie to do it, because darn it, I am worth it.

It was also in that moment that I finally came up with a resolution that has some heft to it.  I am erasing my lame laundry resolution and writing a new one.

Here it is.

“To take more time for myself.” 

It sounds so simple, yet I know it is easier said than done.  It is easy during days of laundry, dishes, sippy cups, diapers, cooking, homework checking, carpool, baths and bedtime stories to forget to take just a moment to be yourself and not a mom.  Maybe it is as simple as taking a moment to listen to a favorite station on Pandora, or paint my nails,  or go for a run… I’m thinking it doesn’t have to be grand but it does need to be a priority.  Hopefully having it on my chalkboard will remind me to make it so!

Happy 2013 –  may yours be one that gives you all that you need and makes you feel proud of yourself at the closing of the year!

A quick video update!!


You know when you haven’t talked to a good friend in a long time but you want to?  You put off picking up the phone to call, afraid it will be awkward – given the time between your last conversation.  Where do you begin the conversation?  Do you give a quick summary of the past few months?  Do you pretend like you have been in contact all along and just pick up in the present?  When you do finally getting around to calling them it  is like you never lost touch.  And you feel silly for not calling sooner.

That is what this blog has turned into for me over the past several months.  It has been so long since I last posted anything (9/22 to be exact) and so much has happened since then the task of catching up was daunting.  Friends and readers keep asking if I am going to keep blogging but I didn’t know where to begin.  So here is my answer to such a problem – a video update!  This should catch you up – so I can get back to regular writing as if I never took a break!  Enjoy and I will be back soon with a real blog post- I promise!

 Click here to watch the video 🙂

Oh, Oprah, I Miss You So!


It wasn’t until I was driving in my dad’s car a few weeks ago that I realized how much I could have used a little Oprah in my life these past few years.  Dad came to babysit while I went to an unemployment meeting and I happily took his car (equipped with satellite radio) my messy mini van and I needed some time apart!  And oh I how loved the satellite radio.  Poor Griffin, who was tagging along for the meeting (I was hoping an antsy baby would speed up the process at the unemployment office ;)) had to endure me belting out one broadway song after another on the way there!

However, after a painful meeting hearing that “there isn’t much they can do from me” from a young 20 something woman, I was in no mood for show tunes on the way home.  In a horrible, disheartened and over all angry mood I searched the radio for something that fit the bitterness that had taken over my mind.  And then I heard it, the calm, logical, caring voice of Oprah as she led her life class on forgiveness.  That voice of reason and compassion was exactly what I needed to get me out of my angry funk as I drove home.

I always liked Oprah when she was on the air.  I admired her spirit and integrity as she approached guests and offered support.  Call me crazy but when I heard her talking on the radio, sitting there in my place of self-pity, it was like hearing an old friend.  In this life class she was using clips from old shows and stories from guests to examine the difficult task of forgiveness.  I listened because it was her, and since true forgiveness is hard I was interested to hear what she had to say.  But I wasn’t listening because in that moment in the car I thought my issue was a lack of forgiveness.  It is funny how advice and guidance find you when you need it.

Oprah’s first guest was a woman who was married for several years to man who turned out to be gay.  When he came out to her, she exploded, he in turn sued for alimony and most of her riches.  She of course, stayed angry.  They both came on the Oprah show, she still harboring lots of anger.  Oprah explains that during the show she kept thinking that she was in over her head.  That this anger that was festering in this woman seemed to be untouchable.  Years later the guest came back on the show – with her ex husband, to discuss her journey to forgiveness.  She explained that it came to her after she realized that all the anger she was directing at her ex husnabd did nothing to hinder his life, only her own.

Next, Oprah talked to an expert of some kind on forgiveness, maybe an author, a psychiatrists?  I don’t remember the particulars as I was driving, and busy self-reflecting as I listened.   She talked about how it was in that interview that she changed her entire view on what forgiveness means in a tangible sense.  Her guest explained to her that “forgiveness is letting go of the hope that the past could be any different from what it is.”  And in her “Oprah way”, she repeated the statement over and over again, changing a word or two each time to help us understand.

“Forgiveness is letting go of the chance that the past will change.”

“Forgiveness is accepting the fact that the past cannot be anything other than what it was.”

“Forgiveness is understanding that the past will not change.”

As she spoke, I got to thinking.  Why am I mad?  What about this unemployment meeting got me so fired up?  Here it is, I was mad that I had to go there at all.  I was mad that this young woman didn’t know what to say, or how to help me change careers.  But I was really mad that I lost my job.  Losing my job is in the past.  It cannot change.  Until I can forgive my district, the decision makers that decided to shrink staff to save money , I was still going to be angry.  My anger wasn’t going to change what happened months ago.  And so, as I drove I forgave them.  Not because they asked for forgiveness, and like Oprah’s first guest – not because my anger was bringing my district down – but because it was bringing me down.  I didn’t forgive them for their peace of mind – but for mine.  What is done is done, there are no “take backs”, I must forgive.

Hearing Oprah repeat this statement, now another mantra for me, led me to think about all the other things that I have gone through in the past few years.  Have I forgiven myself for choices I had made, things I did or didn’t do?  Have I forgiven people close to me for saying things that may have hurt, doing things that I disagreed with? While it is unfair to blame her, in the early stages of my grief I was mad at my mom for dyeing.  Have I forgiven her for leaving me?

I think when life gets hard it is easy to be angry.  I think it is easy to play the blame game, to look for scapegoats.  Sometimes others are to blame.  Sometimes things happen that deserve anger.  I think it is fair to say that I have gone through some of those things.  But anger is cantankerous, left alone it could fester.  You have to address its cause.

What a freeing feeling it was to drive along, listening to the ebb and flow of Oprah’s easy conversations on forgiveness and examine what it was in my life that needed my forgiving.   I felt a release, as corny as it may sound, of a weight that I had been carrying around since the bubble that protected my world a few years ago started getting holes.  I was holding on to those hard times not always as badges of honor for a battle hard-won but sometimes as excuses to play the victim for all the unfair things that I have had to endure.  As I thought of each one I heard Oprah repeat, “Forgiveness is letting go of the hope that the past can be any different from what it is.”  And as I heard her say those words in my head, I let go.

So thank you Oprah!  I needed to hear this.  I needed to be reminded that my anger does nothing except hinder me, I needed to be told to let go. 

Focusing on what is important


I know, I know it has been a while since my last post.  So long in fact, that I had to reset my password.  But since so many of you have been giving me gentle (and some not so gentle) nudges to write a new post I am giving up my morning to sleep in to sit in my bed (with my coffee of course) and write.  Happy now (Jeff)?!

Here is the thing, I have wanted to post, I have written partial posts here and not published them, in my notebook and never typed them…but none of them were exactly what I wanted to say.  So this morning I am just biting the bullet and writing some thoughts, even if they are scattered and unorganized.  Because that is where I am right now, like my unfinished posts my life is a series of unfinished projects, unfinished conversations and unfinished plans.  Can you blame me, I have four kids – I can’t even finish a cup of coffee!

And so, given the state of my life at the moment I have decided to take on a new mantra – “Is this important?  Why or why not?”  It may sound simple but it is harder than it seems.

We have had it pretty rough here in the Camp house over the past few years.  Tim was laid off, Addie was born two months early, my mom got sick, I was laid off, my mom passed away, the boys were born 15 weeks early, I was laid off again… Lets just say it hasn’t been easy.  While Tim now has a great job, and Addie and the boys are doing fine there are some things that happened over the past few years that I am not sure I will ever fully recover from.  These things shape who I am and how I view the world.  And  if I am being honest, sometimes they make me angry and bitter.  Tim and I have found that there is a very fine line between staying positive in life, finding a silver lining, hoping for a smoother future and being angry and resentful at all you have had to endure.  It takes great effort to stay on the side of the line of positivity, but most of the time we can.  However this May was not one of those times for me.  Gearing up for Mother’s Day took all of my effort and as I had predicted, it was painful.  My mom and I always spent the day together and I still feel young in my motherhood and so haven’t quite reached the point where I feel it is all about me.  A few days after Mother’s Day is my birthday and Tim and I had a great night out with friends.  The day after, I found out that my district would be cutting teachers with their shrinking budgets and enrollment and so once again, I would be out of a job.  The silver lining here is easy to see, I get to be with my kids, but personally this was a difficult pill to swallow.  I worked very hard for my degree and I am good at what I do so to have that taken from me stings.  Not to mention a job search takes energy and stamina (may I remind you I have four kids! Energy? Stamina? Yikes!).  So May was hard.  Hence, no posts.

However, listing our troubles of the past, comparing our difficult roads to the seemingly smooth roads I read about on Facebook does nothing for my fight to stay positive.  Cue the new mantra!

Is it important that I am no longer employed, that I may need to change careers in order to find steady work?  Yes.  Why?  Perhaps it is important because years from now I will look back at this crossroads in my life as the time I was forced to step outside my comfort zone of the classroom and pave a new path.  When I am a wildly successful author, my hand cramped from signing so many copies of my book to the line of people wrapped around the block of the bookstore I will think of this time as the moment my life as a career woman changed.

Is it important that our house is neglected, that clothes are rarely ever where they need to be, that I hate our couches and want new ones, that we need to paint but have neither the time nor the money to do so?  No.  These things are material.  There will always be clothes to put away and work to be done on the house.  Even if we were rolling in money, these things would still exist.  However, I can’t deny rolling in money would make them a lot easier to manage!  Still.  I have to let them go, and manage as best as we can.

Is it important that I deal with the loss of my mom, that I recognize how hard it is to be without her, especially during this past year when I really needed her?  Yes.  Why?  I was talking to a friend recently that suffered a loss a few years ago, she said she recognized in herself an anger towards the small things; while all of that anger was piling up she came to realize she wasn’t angry at the small stuff, she was angry at her loss.  Until she could come to terms with that grief, the anger would still be there.  So I am working on it, but it is hard.

Is is important that my children have matching outfits, combed hair and clean faces when out in public?  No.  And lately it isn’t that important for me to either!  I am proud of myself when we all make it out the door, so I have to learn to let some of my need for a shiny outward appearance go.  The other day I was walking through the grocery store, no make up, hair in a messy ponytail when I looked down at my shirt to see spit up stains.  I didn’t see those in the dim light of my livingroom but standing in the cereal aisle with the fluorescent bulbs beaming down was a different story.  The first thought that popped into my head was, Oh well, if these people only knew that I have four kids (two of them infants) at home they wouldn’t judge me for my messy appearance, they would applaud me for being out!  So I kept shopping with pride!

Is it important that Tim and I rarely get time to just be husband and wife?  Yes. Why? Because our relationship is the backbone for all other things.  Tim is what keeps me going when I am having a rough day, and without our strong bond all of these other things would be nearly unbearable. But can I do anything about it? No.  Hello – four kids, two dogs, no job…romantic evenings out will have to go on the back burner for a while!

Is it important that the boys continue to make strides and reach milestones? Yes, very!  And make strides they have!  Carter weighs about 16 pounds, has two teeth, can sit up on his own and is about to crawl.  We learned last month that his eyes work, but he wears a patch for an hour a day to correct a lazy eye.  Griffin weighs about 15 pounds, rolls and shimmies like a mad man, is really smart, and becoming quite the happy baby.  This is what really matters, this is what makes all the other unimportant stuff seem trivial. 

Is it important that our lives haven’t turned out the way that we planned?  No.  What is important is that we live in the moment and not live in what could have been.  This is really hard to do, especially for a planner like me.  Preparing for your wedding, just as your adult life is about to begin you don’t plan for the worst, I am not even sure if I knew what the worst was.  I planned for a white picket fence, BBQs, nice cars, fulfilling well-paying jobs, great friends…I planned for easy.  I planned for the life in the commercials, but now I know better, now I plan for happiness and love.  Whatever form that takes, in whatever way it comes.

It is important that we can’t afford to have the summer we would have liked, either financially or because of time, or the fact that we have two babies?  No.  What is important is that we make memories with our kids, and spend time together as a family.  And that we have.

There are just so many things that cause me to stress or worry in a day that I know are not important.  This is my new goal.  To prioritize my inner thoughts, to rangle in my stress and worry, to always ask myself; “Is this important?  Why or why not?” And then proceed accordingly.