In Which I Entertain Myself While I Wait For Trick-Or-Treaters

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Boo Motherf*ckers

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Yiayia and Papou

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I’ve always loved this ring. It belonged to my grandmother, my mother’s mother. My grandfather gave it to her shortly before they were married in October 1927. She gave it to me on my 18th birthday.

I wore it occasionally when I was much younger but I almost lost it once which relegated it to the locked safety of my treasure box. I’ve been thinking about my grandparents a lot – this month being not only the anniversary of their wedding but also of their respective deaths – so I pulled out my grandmother’s ring a few weeks ago and I’ve been wearing it ever since. I forgot that I have her hands. Seeing her ring on my finger reminded me. Anyway, I figured if not now, when? Seriously.

It doesn’t seem possible that my grandmother has been gone for 29 years today. She and my grandfather, who died 6 years later, were integral, everyday parts of my life. I always miss them, but I feel it more lately. I don’t know why.

When I was little we lived with them in DC, in the house my mother grew up in. After that we saw them at least every weekend and up until they both died, I almost never went to bed without talking to them on the phone. When I went to college, I’d talk to them on the pay phone on my hall and my grandfather wrote me letters every week. There’d always be a little bit of cash in the envelopes, for apples, he’d tell me. I’m not proud to say that I’m pretty sure I used it for booze. I still have his letters, every single one. He was so happy and proud once I finally finished college and grad school; it took me awhile to figure out what the hell I was doing there, and I know that was a source of worry for him. For a Greek man of his generation, he was a very progressive thinker that way, wanting and encouraging education for his daughter and granddaughters.

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In the treasure box in which I keep my grandmother’s ring, I also have all of the letters my grandfather wrote to her while they were courting. She kept them all, every single one. And the telegrams they got for their wedding too. I stayed up late last night pouring over them all.

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I keep my grandfather’s Mason ring in the box too. He had the biggest hands I’ve ever seen. I loved them and I was always touching them and holding them and fiddling with his ring. Which is probably why my Mom took it off his finger and put it on mine as we stood by his bed together on the night he died, 23 years ago. Later, my Dad fitted it with some soft leather inside so it wouldn’t fall off and I wore it for years. In the box as well is the handkerchief my grandfather gave me from his suit jacket pocket, the one I cried all of my tears into when we buried my grandmother.

I also have my grandmother’s wedding dress and bouquet of roses, both are in very poor condition, actually crumbling, but I can’t part with them. I found them wrapped in tissue paper on the floor of one of their closets when we were getting their house ready to sell.

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I don’t remember the details of how exactly my grandparents met or where, I only know that they married in 1927. Once they got here from Greece, my grandmother started out in New Jersey and my grandfather in Connecticut. She worked at a family restaurant and he worked at a lock and key factory. I don’t remember how or why they ended up in DC, only that they spent their entire marriage there in a row house they bought with the cash they’d worked for and saved.

They were born in different villages in the Peloponnese region of Greece but didn’t meet until they came to the U.S. My grandfather came first, on his own at 18 years old in 1916. My grandmother came at 12 years old in 1920, accompanied by her uncle, my great great uncle. In middle school I wrote a story about her journey called, “She Came To America”. I still have it in one of my bazillion boxes in the storage room. They both came through Ellis Island and they both had siblings here to receive them. Neither of them ever went back to Greece; they had difficult lives there, especially my grandmother, and they came here hoping for better but carrying their burdens with them. My grandmother’s mother came here a couple of times but didn’t stay. I remember my grandmother calling for her in Greek as she lay dying. “Mama, Mama…”

My grandfather was a DC taxi cab driver for 50 years. I have so many memories of riding in the back seat of his cab with my sister and grandmother. We’d sing his favorite song, “This Land Is Your Land” and eat peppermint swirl lifesavers, the pink ones, remember? He loved America, he was so proud to be here. He was not formally educated, but was wicked smart. He wished he could have been a physician and he would have a damn good one too. He was highly interested in physical fitness and health and read all he could about it. He could still jump rope well into his late 70’s. His favorite medicine was a shot of whiskey and a raw clove of garlic, and he always reeked of garlic too. I loved that, still do. He was very focused on good nutrition and lectured us about it constantly. That, and keeping our cars well oiled and maintained. He was so proud of his last taxi cab which had 450,000 miles on it. Original engine and all. No lie. He gave me my first car, an old – but well maintained – blue Dodge Dart.

My grandmother worked as a Congressional Hostess at the U.S. Capitol for, I don’t know, 25 years. I loved going there and being with her at work. Congressional Hostess is fancy talk for ladies lounge/restroom attendant. She took care of the Congressional women’s lounge and restroom area and hosted not only the Congresswomen but also the female family members and friends of both Congresswomen and men. She had many friends at the Capitol who just adored her and her Greek cuisine. She was a gentle, sweet, loving soul – who could also curse like a sailor – and she always held the hands of whoever she was talking to in hers. She always smelled like rose petals and she loved vanilla fudge ripple ice cream with banana slices on top. Whenever my sister and I slept over, the 4 of us would always eat that for dessert as we watched Lawrence Welk or Hee Haw.

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My Mom was born first, in 1939, and she was their pride and joy, their everything. Her brother, my uncle, was born 11 years later. He was ok for awhile and then suddenly, he wasn’t. And then everything changed.

My grandparents spent the rest of their lives being devoted parents to a profoundly disabled child. And it was brutally painful and beautiful. AND somewhere in there my Mom got lost in the shuffle and that was brutally painful. And so unfair. My grandparents didn’t love my Mom any less – they adored her – but there wasn’t enough of them to go around or something. They were compromised. They told themselves she was ok. Despite – or maybe because of – the pain, my Mom worked like a dog to make them proud and to realize the dreams they had for her. She was the first in her family to go to college, to finish any kind of formal schooling at all.

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They were always a very regular presence in our lives, like I said, and they helped my parents with us kids A LOT, but they were preoccupied by and sad about my uncle, always. And that was on top of the baggage they brought with them from Greece. They loved us like crazy though, that was obvious, and there were happy times like our regular Sunday visits and cab rides and holiday meals and sleep overs and my grandparents’ 50th anniversary party and our birthdays and graduations.

I remember watching my grandmother – with both sadness and awe – as she fed my uncle and kissed him and looked at him as only his mother could and brushed his jet black hair over to the side like he was a little boy and said prayers for him as she held a small icon of Jesus up to his lips. I never really thought about what it was like for my Mom all those years, especially as a child.

I remember being upset with my Mom sometimes when my grandmother was dying because I hated that I could sense her anger at my grandmother. I didn’t understand it. It took many years for me to understand it, but of course I do now. The 6 years between her death and my grandfather’s was good for my Mom in a way because it gave of them time to make things right. He apologized to her for not being there for her for the rest of her childhood. He told her it wasn’t her fault. Even though she knew that intellectually, she needed and deserved to hear it. I think it took a long time for her to believe it, though.

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Not long after my grandmother died, my grandfather fell and broke his hip in their old house in DC and so we moved him out to Columbia to be nearer to my folks. I used to go over to his senior apartment to hang out with him and then we’d go to Friendly’s or even McDonalds’s once in awhile. He was a health nut but he did enjoy an occasional quarter pounder with cheese.

No matter what, even though it wasn’t at all easy, I’ll never forget the good and loving care my parents gave my grandparents as they aged, got sick and died. Never. It was one of the greatest lessons of love and loyalty and honor and respect I’ve learned, actually.

My uncle outlived my grandparents and became my Moms responsibility. She took good and loving care of him too, even though it was so hard. He died in 1995 when Husband and I were on our honeymoon. It was always a complicated, painful thing for her but I know she would have loved to have a brother to share her life with, I know she still feels that loss.

This morning after taking Boy to school, I had another one of my impulsive ideas and lately, when I get them, I tend to act on them which is totally unlike me. But anyway, I blew off my morning agenda and kept driving on Georgia Ave to Gate of Heaven Cemetery. After my grandfather died in 1991, I used to go there a lot and just sit. And cry. But I don’t really remember going there since then. I’m sure I have at some point but it’s been a long time. Anyway, it took me about 45 minutes to find them. I remembered the general area but not the detailed location, so I walked up and down many, many rows of gravestones. There are a lot of people buried there, obviously, and a lot of Greeks. I finally found them and I just sat and talked to them for awhile, nothing major, just wanting them to know we’re ok, thanking them, hoping they’re resting peacefully, missing them, wondering how in the world they could have been gone for so long and how I’m suddenly 51 and my Mom is 75. Then I left to go buy some flowers and some baby wipes. I went back to the cemetery and cleaned up their gravestone and put the flowers in the vase with water and then I took a picture to send to my Mom. It made her really really happy.

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I didn’t really intend to get into all of this but it’s been on my mind and I went to the cemetery today, so there you go. There’s so much more I could share about my grandparents and our lives together. Maybe I will sometime. And maybe sometime I’ll write about our odyssey with Boy and the parallels to my grandparents’ situation. But not now. They’d adore him, though, my grandfather especially.

Monday, Revisited

It’s Monday! My favorite day of the week!

Once I got Boy off to school, I started my Monday morning like always, collecting my marbles. I did some writing. Then I ran to the grocery store, the pharmacy, the library. I cleaned the joint up because there was a serious toy explosion over the weekend plus a bunch of other stuff all over the place. I texted with Girl a little bit. She’s kind of homesick today – I figured she would be, I miss her too after having her home for fall break – but she’s very happy and proud about a 96 on a history midterm. BOOYAH. I dealt with the gnarly bushes out front. They grow so fast and they have prickly branches and I always get those prickly thingies stuck in my fingers, even though I bought heavier gloves. Annoying. Anyway, I got my boy’s Halloween crap up in the yard. It looks good. I didn’t get a walk in because I ran out of time, but that’s ok.

I was feeling pretty happy with myself, really productive. Plus the weather was gorgeous today, so I especially enjoyed my time outdoors. I went upstairs to take a quick shower before heading out to pick up Boy and as I walked down the hall I realized I hadn’t made the beds and immediately I thought, “LOSER”.

Yeah. What kind of bullshit self-talk is that? It’s not like I’d been sitting around doing nothing. Is that a woman thing or a mom thing or a me thing or what? I don’t know but it’s completely messed up.

I thought about it as I showered and dressed and then I went on auto-pilot, started to make the beds. I stopped abruptly and thought, “HELL NO! I’m gonna boycott the beds, a big fat symbolic F YOU to that trash talk I just laid on myself for no good freaking reason.”

I started down the steps and then I turned around and went back up. And yes, I made the damn beds because leaving them unmade messed with my psychology way too much.

The end.

Home Is Where The Hope Is

She’s home. For fall break.

A disclaimer before you read further: this turned into a jumbled mess of a blog post, I think. Sad and happy. Ugly and beautiful. Hopeless and hopeful. I hope you’ll hang in there with me til the end, which is actually the beginning, just like it always is.

About a week ago, one of Girl’s closest high school friends texted me to ask if she and the boys (a group of kids who call themselves THE CREW) could surprise Hope at the airport.

Girl was expecting me to pull up to passenger pickup in the van, but instead, she crashed into 5 of her friends in baggage claim who couldn’t wait to see her and to shower her with love.

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This fall break trip home and the surprise her friends cooked up couldn’t have come at a better time because the girl has had a really rough week.

It wasn’t a college-related rough week, though. Her transition to college has been smoother than any of us ever imagined it would be. She absolutely loves it and she’s doing really well. College suits her. I knew it would if we could just GET HER THERE (that’s another story for another day).

So, back to the rough time. I don’t know how to say this delicately, so I guess I’ll just say it. A friend of hers from church committed suicide a little over week ago. Like so many who knew and loved him, Girl was devastated, confused, profoundly saddened, utterly shocked, and she wanted to come home for the first time since she left in August. She needed to come home.

This kid was the very last kid anyone would have ever guessed would take his own life. No one seems to know what happened with him or why he did this. No one seems to know when he crossed over into the kind of despair that makes people want to die. The shock waves continue to reverberate in the community. Maybe his family is piecing things together now as the days pass, I don’t know, but I cannot even begin to imagine their pain.

I still don’t know how to talk about it because it’s surreal. A friend of Girl’s committed suicide. Suicide. Even the word is hard to say, so heavy with stigma and pain. Why is it so hard to talk about? Why don’t we want to talk about it? Even in this case, it seems like it’s being whispered about. Girl’s friend was by all accounts an amazing, beautiful boy and the way he died doesn’t negate that. It never will. I’m talking about it because I think it’s really important for the kids who are still here and grieving. And for the kids who have ever felt alone and hopeless.

I only met this boy a couple of times. But I heard his name a lot from Girl and I knew that she thought very highly of him, that she could depend on him. I was especially grateful to him for the loving kindness he showed her during some difficult days she had in her junior year of high school. They became good friends.

The difficult days she had that year were the result of feeling very lonely at school. In typical fashion, she kept her head up and kept smiling, kept hoping, kept believing and kept trying until she couldn’t anymore. And then she was sad. Really sad. She had one very good friend there, and she maintains that friendship, but it wasn’t enough to withstand the loneliness and the mean girl culture at the private, all girls school she attended. Once she finally acknowledged what she was feeling, and bravely shared it with us, she was relieved, even though it continued to be really hard.

There were some days, some nights, when she was so quiet, up in her room for so long, and I was worried. I checked on her a lot. She never, ever said or did anything specific to lead me to think she was in any kind of danger, but she was so devastatingly sad. She wasn’t her smiley self. She wasn’t sleeping well. She stopped singing in the shower. That was the huge red flag for me. It might sound silly, but it felt like reason enough for me to be watching closely. She was grieving the loss of an entire community that she tried so hard to become a part of while trying to stay true to herself at the same time. We talked about it all, including how the kind of sadness she seemed to be feeling can be a HORRIBLE LIAR. It can make a kid believe that a permanent solution to temporary pain, no matter how awful it is, might be a good idea. She looked at me like I was crazy, and I’m ok with that. Because you don’t always know and it’s not always obvious and I felt like it was my job to go there as a parent. We kept talking as we addressed what was happening at school and figured out what to do about it.

Sometime in there is when this boy from church reached out to her, restored some of her hope in kids her age. He didn’t know exactly what was going on, but he sensed something was wrong, and he was extraordinarily kind and encouraging during a time when Girl needed that more than anything.

He could clearly SEE her as the child of God she is and he was so selfless and relentless in his pursuit of her friendship, and in making sure she knew she was valued and special and loved.

He would say to her, “I love you and you are not alone”. He’d say those exact words. I wonder if he needed to hear those words too. I wonder if he would have believed them. I don’t know.

You can imagine why his suicide has especially rattled Girl. And, frankly, me too. The thought of him in despair and suffering alone has made her feel incredibly sad. Because he wasn’t alone. He was loved by many. He was a kid who appeared to be always happy, always reaching outside himself for the good of others, always hopeful. Girl said he never, ever talked about himself, he was always trying to go deeper with other people in an effort to know more. He seemed to feel some sort of responsibility to be there for other people and he poured himself into them. And people were in awe of that. Maybe he sacrificed too much, maybe it was all just too much. Maybe he didn’t know how to share his humanness or his struggles or his pain. Maybe people couldn’t see it. I don’t know.

Girl shared what happened with one of her professors this week because, ironically, she’s writing a paper in her Great Conversations class about the destructive nature of putting humans on pedestals. She got stuck during the editing process for obvious reasons. Suddenly her topic became MUCH more personal. She was immobilized by pain. The way this professor responded to the suicide and to her negotiations with the content of her paper was BEAUTIFUL.

Anyway, Girl switched high schools mid junior year and it was quickly life changing for her. We should have moved her sooner. Fit is everything. In a short time, she found an entire community of wonderful friends at her new school. She’d always had good friends outside of school, primarily at church, but so much time is spent IN school. It’s so important to have strong connections there, to feel like a valued part of the community. Free to be your real and full self. Happy and sad. Beautiful and ugly. Hopeful and hopeless. Giving and receiving. Not alone.

And so she’s home now. And she’s sad about her friend and she’s grateful for him and she’s talking about him. There is a bond there that will never be broken. She’s comforted knowing he is in heaven. More than anything, she wishes he’d known that whatever it was that was going on, he was loved and he wasn’t alone, ever. She wishes he’d believed it could get better. She wishes she’d known his insides more than she did.

And at the same time, she’s happy to be with her friends who are here with her now, in all of their wonderfully imperfect humanity. And it feels strange to her. Happy and sad. Up and down. And she’s not alone. None of them are. She’s had a good weekend doing all sorts of things with her friends and it was just what her soul needed.

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She’s happy to be home with us too and we’re beyond happy she’s here for a few days to recharge and be comfy. We’ve missed her presence in our house. A LOT.

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And I’m so thankful that she’s a kid who still curls up in bed with her Mommy when she needs to.

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For the past week, ever since we found out about her friend, Girl and I have been texting and talking on the phone more than usual. And we make sure to say, “I love you and you’re not alone. Ever.” May her friend’s memory be eternal and may his family and all who knew and loved him be comforted during this difficult time.

Wandering

A funny thing happened the other day on my way home from dropping my car off at the local service station for some routine maintenance. Instead of walking straight home as I planned, I just walked. And walked. And walked. You guys know I love to walk. I could walk til Kingdom Come.

The weather was gorgeous and there was no pressing reason I had to rush home. I had planned to deep clean the upstairs bedrooms and bathrooms after having done the main floor and “wreck” room on the 2 days before, but I spontaneously blew it off.

As I walked, I felt really, really lucky. And so thankful to have this freedom and flexibility. I felt thankful for good health and the physical ability to walk and walk and walk. I felt thankful to live in this town that I enjoy so much.

And yes, this is ME. No one hacked by blog. No guest blogger either.

I took some photos along the way and my day turned into a field trip of sorts. Spontaneous field trippin’. It was time really well spent.

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First, I zig zagged through some parking lots and then looped around to walk an area of town that I like. I’ve always admired an obviously historic, grand, brick manor house that I pass during some of my longer walks, so I finally stopped to take a closer look. I snapped a couple of photos, careful not to trespass as its a private residence. I looked it up on the internets, too, because I knew nothing about its history. This is Olney Manor, built in 1937. It was constructed on a 114 acre estate originally owned by one of the Olney Farquhars. The house now sits on about 3 acres, retains many of the original farm buildings behind it and is well shielded by trees. There is a large, contemporary residential subdivision that surrounds it on the same street.

As I passed Olney Manor, I could have taken a right turn to head in the direction of home. I’d walked 2 miles by then. But nope, I didn’t. Instead, I turned left. I could see our town’s Antique Village in the distance and it was hollering my name so I listened. I was pretty pleased with myself at that point for being so WILD. Or something.

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I passed this on the way. I’ve never even noticed the house or barn or whatever it is that’s back there. I’ve always loved the peace sign, though, and I’m so glad I stopped to take this photo.

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This is Olney Antique Village. We’ve lived here for a little over 4 years and I’ve only been inside this place once or twice. It houses the shops of 4 antiques vendors plus a home furnishings store called Hollace Clare. Good thing I had very little money on me and no car, just saying. I had a blast window shopping, though. And also talking with the shop owners, two of them especially.

The proprietors I had conversations with have been at Antique Village for 20-25 years. Business is relatively slow, and they told me that their main business comes from furniture sales, not so much the smaller treasures. But there was plenty of both and I poured over it all as the owners told me stories about different pieces, how they obtain their inventory, some of their travels, how they got into the business, stuff like that.

I think I’ll do some Christmas shopping there this year. The hell with Pottery Barn.

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Hollace Clare is not an antiques place, but OMG I love it. I mean just look at some of this stuff.

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I want this TEAL sectional.

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This is kind of, sort of how I plan to paint a small cabinet in our dining room.

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After I got my fill at Hollace Clare, I went next door to the Swedish antiques and gifts place. It’s another really fun spot to wander through.

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I wish I’d taken a photo of the huge, gorgeous antique kitchen storage bench I saw there. The seat could be opened for storage and also, along with the seat back, pulled out flat to fashion a bed. I’ll have to go back to try to check it out more closely, but I bet it’ll be gone. I did take one photo of this painting of a boy playing guitar, just because I thought it was sweet.

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Next I went to Sisters, Sandwiches and Such for a cup of white bean chicken chili (my favorite) and to check out their funky painted furniture pieces.

The place is owned by a couple of sisters who love to cook and also to paint vintage furniture. Their place is housed in another historic Olney building a block or so away from Antique Village.

When we first moved moved here, I bought a pair of old chairs from them that they’d painted and reupholstered. I actually paid only $30 for one and they threw the second one in for free. They don’t have too much inventory right now but I check back periodically because you never know what you’ll find there. The sisters actually sparked my interest in painting some of my things myself and even gave me a few tips, which was pretty cool.

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This is one of the chairs I got from them.

When I finished my chili, I figured it was time to point myself in the direction of home.

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I stopped by the Backyard Naturalist because it was on the way and it really is a great little gift shop. Jewelry, pottery, wind chimes, books, notecards, garden flags, stones, that kind of thing. Plus, it has everything you’d ever need or want for feeding and watching birds that visit or nest in your yard.

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Then I crossed the street to see if my car was ready. Didn’t expect it to be, but since I was in the neighborhood, why not? Personally, I like Fletchers for routine maintenance. It’s a family owned business that’s been in this community for 50 years. Small town kind of place. Not fancy. AT ALL. But friendly, convenient, reliable, trustworthy.

Anyway, my car wasn’t ready so I kept on walking. I cut through a few parking lots, crossed a main street and would you look at that…

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Can’t be bad to have a HomeGoods and a TJMaxx with a paint store sandwiched in between within walking distance of your house. It just can’t.

I made my way through another parking lot and was finally on the path to home. I love this long stretch of road, especially in the fall…

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Yeah, it was a really good day for wandering. And I got about 6 miles in too. I think I’ll do it again soon.

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You Want To Go Where?

Last night Husband and Boy were both asleep and I’d just finished soaking in the tub when I got a text from Girl. It was late, about 10pm or so, and we texted back and forth for a good half hour, maybe longer.

Here’s the Reader’s Digest version:

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Obviously, our actual conversation was much more involved than that. And while I might have been an asshole a couple of times, I mainly was NOT.

The story is that she went to an informational meeting about a service learning trip to India being offered by her college. It captured her interest immediately and she was so excited about it, she had to text me as soon as she got back to her dorm.

I told her I love her heart and her passion for people. I truly do. And then I reminded her that she told me she thought she wanted to stay in the US this summer, probably to work at the local church camp.

Yes, but that was before she found out about India and the college’s many years of experience taking students there to participate in this service learning program where “the mission is to respond to respond to issues of poverty, displacement, gender discrimination and social exclusion by initiating and promoting transformative and inclusive education, community based initiatives and campaigns in collaboration with Civil Society Organizations, Faith Based Organizations and Social Movements.” The program is a secular, non-profit organization, committed to enabling women, children and other marginalized groups realize their rights.

Oh God.

I told her I love the idea of service learning. And I can see why she wants to do something like that. I can see how it fits her interests and goals.

And I was sitting in bed thinking YouDoKnowImGoingToBeAwakeAllFreakingNightNowRight? But I was also cheering her on. I felt crazy.

I might have been an asshole after that – briefly – because I was scared.

I asked her since when is she interested in India and if she’s aware that India is pretty much a hell hole in that it is not known to be a safe place for women. It’s actually very dangerous made worse by its corrupt police force and it is foolish of her to be willing to put herself at risk given the readily available information. So, NO. Stay home and work to improve this hell hole.

She very eloquently talked about not having a heart for any one specific place, but for the whole world. For all people. She wants to go everywhere. She said service learning trips are unique to college and she thinks this would be a one time chance to go in the safest manner possible with 12 fellow students and a professor.

She told me her school has been executing this trip for 15 years without incident, the group stays in civilized conditions on the closed campuses of the respective organizations. She heard an upperclassman talk about his experience on the trip and how it forever changed his view of the world. She wants that.

She told me that she will not live in fear. I don’t want her to either, I really don’t, even though I’m probably the one who has made it hardest for her. Truthfully, I’ve done a number on her, trying to protect her from the ugly, foul world we live in, too many safety talks, blahblahblah, even as I worked to encourage her to imagine all of life’s possibilities and to give her wings and freedom. I always wanted her to be a full participant in the wide, wide world, but in a safe or at least SAFER context. Is that wrong? Despite me, she has always been able to see and experience life’s beauty. The beauty has always spoken more loudly to her than the ugly or the fear. Thankfully, overall, she has ended up in pretty good shape, the best of me and her father, but mainly just her own self.

She talked about realizing the reason she loves English and she loves to read stories is not because she loves analyzing literature – even though it is one of her gifts  – but because of the people, the characters, caring about them and their journeys. The reason she is considering teaching at some point is because she loves people and she wants to be part of their experiences of growth and discovery. She said people are her passion. Loving people is her gift. An introverted people lover.

I might have said something like “why can’t you go to Appalachia like a normal kid?” but I’m not sure. And seriously, is there anything wrong with me momentarily wishing she’d just get a summer job at Yogiberry for gas money and leave it at that?

I know this is about her own journey with God, too. She loves God. Sometimes it scares me how much she loves Him. And trusts Him. She told me she thinks she should go to India because God tells us to use our gifts and if we are being honest, her gifts don’t include construction work in Appalachia or anything like that. Her gifts are tied up in caring about people and writing and traveling and working to understand other cultures and build bridges. She spoke passionately about believing she’s EXACTLY the type of person these organizations want to learn what they have to teach. And believing she can share it going forward by putting it into action in ways that utilize her gifts. She is being driven by a growing sense of purpose and responsibility.

I told her she sounds like my Dad. She said, “you know I strive to be like him, Mom, right?”

She is like him already, maybe more than she knows.

Girl is wise beyond her years and she has an inner confidence that can be surprising for someone so young. And yet she’s reluctant to be out in front; she’s a gentle spirit, a quiet leader. I read somewhere that quiet power doesn’t make a lot of noise. It’s like light. It shines and makes things grow.

I told her again how very much I love her heart. I love her heart for people. I love that she wants to go everywhere and see and understand ALL THE THINGS. I love that she wants to grow and share her gifts.

AND I told her we can talk more with Daddy when she comes home next week for fall break. My inclination is to say she should get her first full year of college successfully under her belt and if she still feels this way next fall, she can apply for the trip then. They go every summer. It doesn’t have to be THIS summer. She seemed ok with that. Sort of. We’ll see.

She told me she is exploring what major to declare with guidance from her advisor because she went in undecided at the last minute. Right now she’s leaning toward majoring in something like Sociology or Political Science with a minor in Peace and Justice Studies. She is thinking about some sort of nonprofit work for awhile, maybe then grad school and/or teaching. We’ve come a long way from I want to study Literature to I don’t think I want to go to college to I think I want to take a gap year to I want to be a teacher to now. Who knows, but clearly she’s finding her way.

Truth is, she’s doing everything I hoped for her as she started her college career. She’s living her own life to the full, taking advantage of all of the resources and opportunity before her, figuring out who she is, what she wants to do. And more. I’m so happy for her, and proud.

Even if I still think, “Why India? Why YOU?”

An Ode To Monday

I love Mondays. I’m probably going to catch some shit for this, but I do. SO MUCH.

I didn’t always love them the way I do now. The love started right around the time my youngest kid went off to kindergarten.

Monday is the day after Sunday which is the day after Saturday which is the day after Friday night. While I love weekend time when everyone is home together doing weekend-y kinds of things, that’s a lot of togetherness for me and by Monday morning I’m ready for them to get back to work and school. I also tend to need a vacation after our family trips. I love our time together AND I love the Mondays after we get home. Don’t get me started about the first Monday of the school year. 

Mondays are my favorite and they are the days I most need to be alone because, as I said, they follow an intense time of togetherness over the weekend. Mondays set the stage and tone for the rest of my week. If I ever go back to work, Tuesday-Friday is the schedule for me.

I’ve come to heavily rely on the 5ish hours I have to myself on most weekdays. I carefully guard that time and I’m very deliberate about how or if I share it because if I don’t have enough of it, well, that’s bad for me and for everyone else who has to deal with me. My dedication to my alone time should probably be viewed as a service I provide for the common good at this point. It’s another in a long line of reasons why I’m reticent to go back to work.

I didn’t know how much I needed time to myself until I got it. A few years ago, I was reading Quiet to better understand my introverted daughter and funny thing happened during my reading of that magnificent book…I found another layer of myself on those pages too.

I especially love being alone in my house. It’s not something I want or need all the time – not at all – but definitely some of the time, preferably on a schedule I can count on. That’s a big thing with me, knowing what to expect. I’m not really great with surprises or changes.

My idea of a perfect Monday goes something like this:

I return from school drop-off and I breatheeee. I soak up the quiet. It’s my favorite kind of quiet too. The Monday morning, everyone is out of my house kind. I feel the space around me. I feel myself relaxing. I don’t even care that the place looks like a total hell hole, because it always does on Mondays.

I pour another cup of coffee and I sit in my thinking spot. Don’t mind the unfinished bookcases with missing shelves, and don’t mind the still unfinished, undefined front room either…

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But hey, would you look at that rug?! The colors! Here’s a close up:

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You might want to stay tuned for an early December episode of Kristi and Friends Reality TV when my best friend and I wrestle over our mutual friend’s divorce moving sale rug. Those are our friend’s bookcases too which I may or may not paint and/or move to Husband’s office, but there will be no wrestling over those.

Anyway. I sit. I’m quiet. As in NO TALKING. The very best Mondays happen when I don’t utter a single word to anyone in those 5ish hours and I don’t have to listen to anyone else talking either. I breathe. I pray. I try to do something resembling meditation or mindfulness because it’s supposed to be beneficial, but I suck at it so I could definitely use lessons .

I make lists and I try to get organized for the week.

I typically jot down some notes for various essays I’m working on. Inspiration and thoughts that have come to me during my thinking spot time. I always do some focused writing too. There have been a few Mondays when I spent nearly the entire day writing. Post-weekend. Post-thinking spot. Lots of material.

I visit the internets to catch up on the news of the day. And to stalk my daughter who is away at college.

I get up from my chair and putter around my house. Survey the space. I go from room to room and scan the entirety of the area, observing from different angles, figuring out what I need to do. I know this is heavily symbolic of my need for order. I’m planning a huge purging and reorganization project but I’ve been a little intimidated by the enormity of it because, frankly, we have a lot of crap. But hey, the plan looks good on paper so far!  I like home design. I move things around a lot. One of the simple pleasures of my life is periodically moving around furniture or accent items and seeing how long it takes Husband to notice. Yes, I’m easily entertained. Sometimes he asks, “when did you buy that?” in reference to something old that’s been relocated to a new spot. I consider that a big WIN. I plan. I sketch. I take mental photographs, sometimes real ones. And I’ve become slightly obsessed with learning about color and also painting/distressing furniture. It will be interesting to see if I actually DO what I’ve envisioned to some of the pieces in our house.

I start tidying up the joint. I get laundry from the weekend going. Start a food shopping/meal plan list. That last one is a struggle for me but that’s material for an entirely separate blog post, seriously.

I always go out to walk. We have a great neighborhood for taking long walks. What is it about walking? I don’t know right now but it’s another activity I tend to do alone these days. Not that I don’t enjoy walking with others because I most certainly do – sometimes. But it’s definitely another marble collecting opportunity for me while I also get some exercise. Two birds with one stone and all that. I always jot down notes after my walks and sometimes even DURING, which is a total pain, but if I don’t, my menopausal short term memory issues guarantee that those walking generated ideas are gone forever.

I come back all sweaty and cleansed of the junky stuff that tries to take up permanent space in my head and I prepare to move into deep cleaning mode. I’m trying to stay on top of keeping this joint clean myself and it’s so very far from perfect, but it’s GOOD ENOUGH. I have cleaning zones, I just chip away at them a little at a time. Springsteen blasting while I’m on my hands and knees scrubbing my kitchen floor makes it manageable.

Depending on the weather and the need, I might pull some weeds, trim the bushes. What is it about having my hands in the dirt or wielding a power trimmer? Again, I don’t know but I’m pretty sure I can connect the dots straight back to meditative, ALONE.

I grab a shower and something to eat.

I might go back to my thinking spot. I might write a little more. Outside of Monday morning’s more focused writing, the rest of it happens in fits and starts, here and there. Wow, that sentence makes it sound as if I have some sort of writing process, which I don’t.

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I read some more. I research. I’m an obsessive and thorough researcher. Most of the research I do is related to something that’s currently applicable to a family member or friend or an issue I view as interesting or important or relevant. Want or need to know about something? Let me know and I’ll get you the information. I’ll suggest action steps if you want. And I’ll even break up the big picture into more manageable pieces.

You know, if I ever go back to work, I’ve thought about trying to find a job involving research of some sort, preferably from home. Alone. As in not with people. 

But anyway, all of this is to say I’m not completely sure what I do in my few hours alone, but I DO KNOW IT TAKES ME ALL DAY TO DO IT. And the time races by. And I need it, dammit, ok?

Once I do school pick-up, our busy afternoons/evenings start with play dates – mostly at our house – and various other activities and homework and Husband’s return from work and dinner and blahblahblah and I love those times too. It’s just that I’ve learned I don’t manage it all as well if I don’t have enough time to myself. So I make sure I do.

Sometimes situations or people interrupt my alone time. The oven needs fixing. A mattress is getting delivered. There’s a field trip. Someone gets sick or decides to work from home. Sometimes I actually plan to be with people for one reason or another. LOL. That’s called life which includes being in relationship with people to one degree or another which is beautiful and important and gives life it’s true meaning and all that.

But oh God, please not on Mondays. Because this is what happens when, for example, I see a car in the driveway that isn’t scheduled to be there:

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Actually, this is more accurate:

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I can be intense. Shocker. Usually, I get over my initial reaction and conduct myself like a mature, flexible, caring adult, but not always. Ensuring that I have ample doses of time alone minimizes the risk of me acting like an asshole. Plus it’s just plain necessary for my soul, especially on Mondays.