About Me

Thanks for being here! I am a mom of three (two girls, 15 and 13, and one boy, 9) and a teacher of many (thousands during my more than 17 years teaching high school English and Spanish in Philadelphia). Forever a student, I love learning - whether through talking to others, reading, watching movies and documentaries, or traveling. I also love running (slowly), hiking, and practicing yoga!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Life is a Struggle. Enjoy the Struggle.

The above advice came to me via one of my high school seniors, via her grandmother, Millicent Bracy. I like it, and I I've been thinking about it this last week, which was a bit of a struggle. It started last Friday night with Joseph, my three year old, throwing a massive fit in Barnes and Noble because he wanted a Spider Man toy, which Genevieve, my eight year old, had shown him. He didn't want to leave without it, and he didn't want to leave, period. After I slide tackled him to keep him from running away I still had to wait in line to buy the birthday present we were there for, because we had a packed day the next day, starting at 7 am and leading all the way up to my niece's 3:30 pm birthday party, and there was simply no other time we could buy it. Sorry, Barnes and Noble customers of last Friday night. I really am sorry. I could tell by your looks that you were not pleased. I know that listening to my son yell, "I'm putting slobber on you!" and then watching him actually wipe slobber on me must not have been your idea of an ideal evening. I did not enjoy it either.
Joseph, in a moment of peace.

The next morning we all stood shivering in the pouring rain to watch my daughter's tournament soccer games. That was actually a highlight of the week. I always love watching Grace play. Afterwards, it was to my niece's birthday party. Another highlight. I roller-skated and ate cake, so you can see why. (I also gave her the birthday present that we had so painstakingly picked out the night before). But that night, it was on to the beach, and the next morning, Sunday morning, my sister, dad, and I, as planned, kayaked out on the sparkling waters that had been such a part of my mom's life and said our final goodbyes (if there can ever be such a thing as final goodbyes). My heart was heavy. My heart is heavy.  And so, as I woke up each morning to run this week, I contemplated Millicent Bracy's advice: Life is a Struggle. Enjoy the Struggle.

Enjoying the struggle in Barnegat
Each day, the alarm would go off in the dark, and I would run west alone. This week, I was thinking about my dad. He came over in the rain on Monday to plant daffodil bulbs in our front garden. Joseph helped, placing each bulb in the hole my dad had dug for him and covering it with dirt. When they finished, Joseph looked at the ground, head tilted, and said, "Are they gonna grow now?" No, Joseph, they will not grow now. And each morning, as I ran in the dark, this is what I thought about. How long it takes for things to grow. How hard it is to wait, not knowing if they ever will. Still, I kept running. Not many people were out this week, in the dark. When I crossed the footbridge, where in September I was rewarded for my efforts with the beautiful pink hints of a sunrise, I was still in the dark.

I know, somehow, that I need to keep running, that this is what is saving me, but it didn't feel good this week. Still, I keep going. On Thursday, finally, a block from home, I felt relieved. It was still dark, but I had gotten up another morning, and I had done what I know I needed to do. A cool glass of water was ahead of me, and a warm shower. Almost home! Then, without warning, I fell flat on my face. I was in my neighbor's driveway, my foot having caught a slight crack. If someone hadn't just pulled into the the next driveway over, I would have been crying as I lay face-down on the sidewalk, my hand and hip hurting. Instead, I jumped up, embarrassed, and waved to the car to show I was ok. I am ok! I am ok! She was not my neighbor, as I thought, but just a woman turning around. She quickly drove away.
Seeing my dear friend Crary in NY, a highlight of the week.  Worth the ticket.

Am I enjoying the struggle of my life? I am not sure. I'd like to be the kind of person who does. Maybe it's more that I enjoy the moments between the struggle. This weekend, after   a week of more children throwing fits, several unexpected and rather steep bills, many nights of less sleep than I would like, and a traffic ticket of $143 for making an illegal right turn in New York City (for what it's worth, I really didn't see that no turn sign), I  could also look back and see many moments of sweetness. Last night, my family and I went camping. We roasted marshmallows around the campfire and slept side by side in a tent by the lake. We talked and laughed and felt blessed. And I was all set to write about this, and only this, tonight.

These guys are worth the struggle. Even slobber. 
Honestly, that's all I should write about, because I am blessed. BUT, that's not the end of the story. Because we came home to find we had been robbed. Computers, television, stereo, jewelry of great sentimental value … even Grace's $15 Target alarm clock was gone (our vacuum, too). So I guess this is what life is going to be like. For every sunrise, dark mornings. Unexpected falls on my face. Not, as the saying goes, a rose garden. And, like Joseph, I want the flowers to grow now! I want my rose garden. We planted them, didn't we? Why aren't they growing? Will they grow tomorrow? When, dear flowers deep in the ground, will you grow? Because I am waiting.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Sisters and Friends

At the beach on a beautiful September Saturday

Last weekend we celebrated my sister's birthday at the beach with three of her closest friends. The five of us decided last March, near my sister's actual birthday, that we were going to do this. We didn't know how at the time, but we would.

Kate and I drove down together late Thursday evening and arrived at the dark house in a soft rain. We slept in my parents' bedroom, which for me sweetly connected us to all those evenings throughout our lives when we had slept in the same bedroom together: in the house on East Park Avenue, when I would try to hide under her covers so my parents wouldn't see me, at the beach, in the twin beds, with the windows open and the sound of the ocean lulling us to sleep, in the attic bedroom on Woodland Avenue, waiting for Christmas morning... Thousands of nights have come and gone since those childhood days, of course, but as we brushed our teeth and put on pajamas in that quiet house I felt that I could touch the taut wire of our lives and feel a current running through that had never been interrupted.

The sweetness was touched by sadness, too, though. Kate put words to it first, saying, as she appeared from the bathroom after washing her face, "Is it just me or is this really hard?" Yes, it was really hard. My mom's shoes still lined the closet floor, and her books--she always had books--filled the nightstand. All of our children had been snuggled by her in this bed, on lazy weekend mornings when there was no need to rush, and we, too, had often joined her and them. I cannot remember what we talked about, but I remember laughing.

Perhaps it is fitting, then, that while out to dinner Saturday night for the official celebration of Kate's birthday, that our group, after a particularly loud outburst of laughter, was approached by the manager of the lovely restaurant where we were dining and asked if we could try to be a bit more quiet. "There have been some complaints, I'm so sorry," she said. She really did seem sorry. Later, we
Kate and my mom at the beach years ago. 
discovered that the "complaints" were all from the same grumpy looking man who had been glaring at us all evening. I wish him more laughter. I wish us all more laughter, and more time with those we love. Could there ever be enough time?

My mom's friends had one last gathering at the beach with her last September, before she got really sick, and I know that it was filled with laughter, too, even as my mom faced the most difficult time of her life. Swimming in the ocean, paddle-boarding in the bay, and laughing this past weekend, I felt light and joyous and heavy and heartbroken all at the same time.

But oh how we laughed. We were sitting in a circle on the beach on Saturday afternoon, retracing the winding paths of our lives, when someone mentioned that she felt "a bit like Thelma and Louis." She meant like Thelma and Louis on their joyous journey, of course, not like Thelma and Louis as they drove off the cliff.  And we all agreed that if we were to make that movie, we would not have Thelma and Louis die in the end. They might not have had the future all wrapped up for them in a pretty bow, but they would have kept driving, at least, heading towards a future that was entirely their own, trying to leave the heartbreak behind. Yes, in our version, we all agreed, they would have kept living.
We were having so much fun that we forgot to take pictures. This is the only one of the group we got.