We are once again standing on the cusp of a new year.
It’s a time every year when my failures each ring their own bell and demand my attention. “Look at me,” they each scream. “Look at me! Don’t forget the detour I created! You suck and are teeming with regret at the sight of me!”
When looking ahead to a new calendar, I’ve tended to play the victim and blame my failures and shortcomings on my self-perceived inadequacies, half of which are undoubtedly formed by unrealistic societal expectations.
I’ve also blamed time: there’s not enough, or there’s too much.
Either way, I’m continually thrown off the path that I believed would lead me to attaining my goals, yet while I paved it with good intentions, I also paved it with excuses chock full of my own bullshit.
The cycle of getting nowhere very quickly happens every year because I allow it to.
That stops now.
There’s no resolutions for me this year.
Instead, my goal from today forward is to live the hell out of every minute of this extraordinary life and truly cherish the miracle that is the present moment.
Whether I am writing, swimming, driving, exploring, laughing with family and friends, teaching…whatever I am doing, I will give myself fully to that miraculous moment.
The fact that I’m sitting here all snug and warm, with a cup of hot coffee to my left and quiet music playing as snowflakes delicately dance down from the clouds to the ground…there’s so tiny miracles right here in this present moment, miracles that I always took for granted or overlooked.
What matters, I mean what truly matters, isthis moment.
I am alive.
And so are you.
This is a time of rebirth, a time to take those lessons from past failures and regret, be thankful for them, and apply their wisdom while moving forward.
No more bowing down to society’s expectations or to feeding the trolls of self-deprecation. I am not inadequate and I do matter, if only to myself.
It’s time to live the hell out of this one and precious life I’ve been given, because I am not promised a tomorrow. Wasting time is no longer an option, either.
I will live with those who are alongside me in real life and for those who are alongside me in spirit.
I will be a beacon of kindness and empathy as I look to stand alongside my fellow humans with understanding and compassion.
I will be grateful for everything I experience and for everyone I interact with.
Most importantly, I will embrace and celebrate the moments extraordinary that fill my days with joy and with purpose as I pursue my passions with conviction.
It was two months ago today that my feet touched ground in Dublin for the third time.
It feels like a hazy illusion and so long ago that I almost question whether or not it really happened.
Since returning, life has thrown continuous curve balls at me, and many more have hit me than I’ve hit. I’m zero for 1278 and counting.
Teaching has become a tornadic whirlwind this school year, and twice now fighting whatever two-week long -itis that’s set up shop here at the Jersey Shore combined with some Lupus-related health issues and the change of the seasons has left me completely spent.
At the end of every school day, I seriously feel like I just came up for air after almost drowning. There’s nothing surrounding me but a thousand papers all over the place, and as I look around my classroom figuring out how to hell make sense of the day that just passed, I feel like Patrick Star. Nothing computes, nothing registers, and even when I write things down, it’s a struggle to even remember to look at that list during the school day because it’s GO GO GO GO GO with no down time. I’m often left so spent that I need to isolate myself in my car and listen to nothing but silence for a while before heading home. Once I am home, I physically and mentally crash, then I wake up the following day in a panicked frenzy over what I wasn’t able to complete and how the hell I’m going to prepare for my class that begins in less than two hours.
That cycle repeats every single day.
I am professionally and personally going nowhere fast because I am simply sinking like I’ve got cinder blocks tied to my feet.
And damn, my bones hurt, and I am exhausted.
Add the lack of empathy and compassion in our awful state of affairs as a society and that I constantly receive news alerts about someone calling someone else a moron or about a sicko killing fellow humans for no reason whatsoever…that’s the proverbial knife twisting further and deeper into my heart.
As a result of this whirlwind, my life and my words have been forced to take a back seat to chaos and disheartened disillusionment.
That stops now.
I’m waving my white flag of reality and surrendering to the fact that there’s no way I will ever be able to complete every single one of my professional responsibilities as an educator this year.
I accept it.
The list is far too long, and there are only so many hours in a day. The bold truth is that if I cannot meet all of my expectations, so be it. If something is left undone, it is not because I’ve intentionally refused to do it or that I’m irresponsible, it’s because time has run out. At the end of the day, I know in my heart that I’ve done my absolute best.
It’s almost immediate…I honestly feel a little relieved right now, but I’m not stopping there…
The people who make my heart happy and my words will be my two most important priorities moving forward, no matter what.
There’s a lot of memories to be made with the people I love, and I can no longer afford to put paper before these people. Life is too short, and I refuse to miss out on spending time laughing and playing with those who fill my heart and soul with joy.
As for my words, I have a dream that has been pushed aside and left stagnant for far too long now. That dream matters to me. It’s a part of my heart, my soul, and my entire being. It’s led me to understanding, to locations literal and symbolic, to old and new friendships, to inspiration and healing, and to finding myself. It’s something I must pursue and nurture. I must move forward and make progress, now, before it’s too late.
In the immortal words of Tom Petty, one of my favorite musicians,
“…There’s something good
waitin’ down this road,
I’m pickin’ up whatever’s mine.
Yeah, runnin’ down a dream
that never would come to me,
workin’ on a mystery,
goin’ wherever it leads,
runnin’ down a dream…”
It’s wake up time. It’s time to move on. I am runnin’ down my dream and I won’t back down.
It will happen,
Post Script 1: I cried when I heard that Tom Petty died. I’m grateful for the memory of seeing him perform in one of the best concerts I ever attended, and for the gift of his music that provided much of the soundtrack of my life, most importantly the songs that got me through a particularly difficult time. Thank you, Tom Petty.
Post Script 2: I just did something that’s very difficult for a journalism educator. I’ve disabled all of my news alerts on my phone because my peace of mind is more valuable to me than “being in the know.”
Since I’m feeling almost exactly the same way today, I decided to reblog my post from the beginning of August 2016 with some minor updates…read on:
August is like the Sunday of Summer.
It sure is.
Don’t get me wrong…I still love every summer day. I just want to hold onto Summer so much. It’s my season, when I am my best self.
June is a new beginning, a giant sigh of relief. It’s full of opportunity and wonder, like January 1 kicks off every year. Anything is possible. It’s refreshing and reassuring. It’s also deceiving, leading us on to believe that there’s plenty of time to get our summer “to do” and “to enjoy” lists completed.
Then comes July, which is like my favorite pillow. I can hug it a thousand times, or play with it over and over, and it never loses its shape. It’s there when I wake, and when I say goodnight to the day. I can sleep soundly with that comforting pillow, free from worries and nightmares. It reassures me that tomorrow is another day when I can still start fresh, no need to really be concerned about the passing days…
As July wanes into August, things change again, ever so subtly. Each day is now filled with a little more urgency. Sunsets get earlier as the sun’s early evening slant changes its angle and becomes less intense day by day. Many of the bright summer flowers have lost their blooms, and nights become slightly cooler by the week. I look back at June and July, and wonder where the hell those days went. I then look ahead at what’s still on my summer goal lists, removing a few because there’s no longer enough time to accomplish everything I had hoped to do.
The lone cricket’s serenade that woke me early this morning affirmed that yes, it is indeed August already.
So, what do we do now?
Let’s live in the present and forget our lists.
Let’s turn off our notifications and stop being a slave to technology.
Let’s hold onto each moment, to each day, to each experience.
Let’s notice the breeze blowing through our hair and feel the rain on our skin.
Let’s put our feet in the salt water and find eternity in the waves.
Let’s savor the ice cream cone, the watermelon, the corn on the cob, the peaches and plums.
Let’s laugh and sing with family and friends.
Let’s be grateful for all that we have, for all that we are, for all that we do, and for all in our lives.
Let’s face each day without worry, without fear, and without strings attached.
Let’s soak up every single second of August without leaving any wasted time behind.
Last week, I watched Inside Out for probably the tenth time. I’ll be honest and admit that I am 46 years old, yet I tear up at a few of the scenes in the film. Spoiler alert here…if you plan on seeing the movie someday and don’t want to know anything about the plot, I’d suggest you stop reading here and move along…
OK, since you’re still reading, I’ve either peaked your interest, you’ve already seen the movie, or you didn’t pay attention…if that’s the case, SNAP OUT OF IT BEFORE I RUIN THE FILM FOR YOU! 😊
Anyway, especially at the end of Inside Out, when Joy realizes she needs Sadness…man, I’m a blubbering idiot watching Riley cry because she’s been trying to put a positive face on for her parents but is really sad about moving. It’s in that moment that Joy realizes that her favorite core memory from Riley’s life is also Sadness’ but for different reasons. Joy and Sadness need each other to work, as do Anger, Disgust, and Fear.
There’s another part in Inside Out that absolutely kills me. It’s when Bing Bong, Riley’s imaginary friend from her childhood, and Joy are trying to escape the “memory” dump to get back to Sadness and the control center. They sing the ‘Bing Bong’ song to power his rocket:
Who’s your friend who likes to play?
Bing Bong, Bing Bong
His rocket makes you yell “Hooray!”
Bing Bong, Bing Bong
Who’s the best in every way, and wants to sing this song to say
Bing Bong, Bing Bong!
Bing Bong realizes they are too heavy to make it to the top of the cavern, and on the last attempt, he jumps off and Joy soars forward in the rocket. Joy looks back as she clears the dump, and Bing Bong waves as he slowly disappears, which symbolizes Riley maturing to a point where she’ll forget her childhood imaginary friend.
Cue the crying. Holy crap, I’m a mess.
I remember that time in my life, teetering between childhood and young personhood but not quite ready to leap forward, with one particular memory crystal clear in my mind’s eye. I was swinging on the swing set in my back yard, somewhere around 9 or 10 years old, and I knew I wasn’t a kid anymore but I didn’t want to grow up just yet. I cried so hard in that moment, and even though it was so long ago, it feels like it was yesterday.
Without children of my own, it’s harder for me to relate to such a lesson as a parent. I imagine the parents reading this can recall not only a similar moment in their own lives when they were faced with having to forge ahead into young personhood from childhood, but the moments when their children made that leap as well.
I did, however, experience a small episode of a disappearing Bing Bong last week. While at the boardwalk with my two nephews, the six-year-old H wanted to go on the ride with the boats. As he walked up to hand his ticket card, the ride attendant pointed at the sign indicating the maximum height of riders, and H was a smidge too tall to go on the ride. This was the first time he was too big for any of the rides. He looked at me with a quivering lip and tear-filled eyes, then ran over to me and hugged me tight as he let those tears out. And I let him cry it out while I held him tight, crying inside myself but trying to keep a strong exterior so that I didn’t further upset him or his brother. Within a minute, he regrouped and we moved on to ride the balloon Ferris wheel ride, where all three of us were the acceptable height.
This two-minute long experience made me realize that it’s got to be so much harder for parents watching their own children cross that threshold from childhood to young personhood. My sympathies are truly with you.
Watching Bing Bong dissolve a day later brought that look of sadness on H’s face flooding back to memory. I cried a little harder at this part in the movie this time because I thought of H and how his own personal Bing Bong was a tad less clear than it had been earlier in the month.
That’s the sucky part about maturing and growing up. Life has its stages and it’s all part of our plan, but knowing that doesn’t make it any easier. H is growing up, as we all do, and it’s not easy. What I can do for H is to be there ready with hugs and understanding whenever he needs me. That goes for all of my nieces and nephews.
I get it.
Yesterday, I took my very own pinwheel out of my shed and let it blow in the breeze. Then I bounced my purple ball on the sidewalk a few times. I blew some bubbles into the air and spun around. I hugged my Mickey Mouse, Pusheen cat, Boba Fett, dinosaur, and tiger stuffed toys, then stacked a few of my Tsum Tsum figures in new formations.
Earlier today, I received a text from my sister-in-law with a picture of a rare, new Tsum Tsum figure the boys got in a blind bag. They were both excited to show it to me.
And I was even more excited to know they finally got their three peas in a pod.
My own, personal Bing Bong is as clear and as bright and as alive as he ever was.
It’s summertime, and the living is fine, for sure. Morning walks along the boardwalk and the beach, sitting in the shade and writing, watching the hundreds of birds at the feeders, enjoying an ice cream cone or a treat from the ice cream man, lunches and dinners with friends, picking green beans from the garden, wandering downtown, fishing with my husband, laughing with my nieces and nephews…life has been simply beautiful. It helps that I’m feeling extraordinarily better than last year at this time. I am once again an active participant in life with an awareness of my limits. I’m doing my best to savor each of my experiences and celebrate the ordinary moments in my days. Feeling better physically has led to a more positive mental and emotional outlook as well, and I can’t remember a time when I ever felt this content.
I said yes to an opportunity on a Facebook status months ago, and it turned out to be a fantastic time with friends and classmates as we saw the Violent Femmes in Asbury Park. Random, spontaneous fun for sure as the gents of the Femmes rocked the house. What a great time with even greater people!
But isn’t that the point of life? Shouldn’t we be doing all we can to enjoy every moment of our time here on Earth?
Yes. Definitely YES. And I will be saying YES to life from this point on.
In other news, my novel is taking shape. I can see the storyline now, and what helped me get to this point was creating two large plot boards. I color coded events, themes, and symbols and arranged them in the order I want to include them on large, styrofoam-type poster board. It’s easier for me to look at it all at once, versus paging through a notebook to find the right note. Now everything is right there in front of me. The novel is going to be in three parts, and I’m almost done with Part One. My goal is to finish Part Two before I go to Dublin in the middle of August, then write most of Part Three after I return because that part takes place in Dublin. While there, I plan to visit some locations and look through the eyes of the main character so I can accurately write about it. I’ve been writing every day and am plugging along as I tell the story of Kelly Lynch and how her friend, Shannon, led her to her true purpose in life.
I’m also going to be setting up an author webpage with it’s own blog that will track my progress. Once that’s set up, I’ll be promoting it here and then you can follow me on that avenue if you’d like.
If you are looking for a great book to read this summer, consider Liz Nugent’s Unraveling Oliver. I had the opportunity of briefly meeting Liz at BookCon in June, where I received an advance copy. Set in Dublin, the novel develops the story of Oliver Ryan and is full of suspense. Talk about signs…when I started reading it, I had no idea it was set in Dublin, or that Liz Nugent hails from Ireland. I couldn’t put it down! It’s going to be released later this summer here in the USA. I highly recommend Unraveling Oliver.
Have a splendid day, and thanks for being a part of my journey.
I woke up this morning to my phone vibrating like crazy with a slew of severe thunderstorm alerts.
I used to be very afraid of thunderstorms until two years ago when I was at a local amusement with my nephew, then 10, and some terrible storms came through. We were standing outside under an awning, and he was a little uneasy about the situation. I couldn’t let on that, inside, I was curling up in the fetal position with my fingers in my ears because I didn’t want to further freak him out. So I pretended that the storms didn’t bother me. I remained calm on the outside despite hearing the sizzle of lightning and the crack of the thunder close at hand. I pointed out different things to look at, like the family dancing in the rain and the people who would run past at top speed every two minutes. We both laughed as we tried to predict when the next person would come screaming through with a bag over their head and shoes in their hand. Within a few minutes, the worst of it passed us and we ended up having a stellar time because almost everyone else left the park. The rides were ours and ours alone for the remainder of the night. I learned two valuable lessons that day. One was to sing and laugh in the rain, and I wrote a post about that lesson in January 2016 (click anywhere in this sentence to read it).
The other was that there was nothing to be afraid of. I couldn’t control the lightning or the thunder, so why had I let the thunder and the lightning control me?
What was there, really, to be afraid of?
The lighting and the thunder would do what it does, regardless of how I feel about it.
Could I ever, truly, prevent the worst from happening?
So when I woke up to the alerts this morning, I didn’t retreat to the floor in the fetal position with my fingers in my ears covered by a blanket. Instead, I opened the blinds and watched the water pummel down from the clouds, making little waterfalls on the trees and the leaves and the neighbor’s roof. There was no thunder and no lightning, but if there was, I would have watched it instead of hiding from it.
Now, let’s take that a step further.
If I look at other things I’m afraid of with the same logic, why do I let fear run the show?
What’s the worst that could happen if, say, I got on that big roller coaster?
Or better yet, what’s the worst that could happen if I took a chance on my writing and stopped using fear as an excuse?
I was afraid of thunder and lightning for almost 44 years.
Did the worst ever happen?
If I take a chance and get on that roller coaster, I’m 99.9% sure the worst isn’t going to happen. And as a wise friend once said, I can do anything for a minute and a half.
I think it’s time to consider getting on that roller coaster ride.
And it’s time to move forward with my novel. I’ve wasted enough time because I’m afraid I’m not taking the right path with the story line.
I’ve just got to trust the path that I choose to take for my characters and go with it, regardless of my trepidation.
What’s the worst that could happen if it’s not the right path?
Today is one of my most favorite days of the year! Memorial Day weekend signals the unofficial start of the summer season here along the Jersey Shore, but today it’s official. I’m celebrating the Summer Solstice by embracing and appreciating everything SUMMER and all that comes along with it.
The first day of summer, to me, is a bold reminder that anything is possible this season. Summer’s newness is a fresh start…time to begin anything again or for the first time. The only goals I have are to write and to live with appreciation while having fun.
Along my boardwalk walk this morning, I stopped frequently to take in the sights, the sounds, and the smells I encountered as my feet headed north. The aroma of the coffee brewing from the coffee house combined with the sweet smells of the sea air and the cotton candy that was being prepped for the day stopped me in my tracks…so delicious! The beaches were dotted with umbrellas here and there as they weren’t crowded just yet. Most badge checkers and lifeguards were still prepping the beach for the day. A local morning radio show was broadcasting outside of the Aquarium, with a few penguins, snakes, and a tiny alligator along with plenty of Aquarium staff as their on-air guests. I strolled along, stopping here and there to take a photo, and when I reached the Inlet end I was pleasantly surprised to find it empty. I sat in one of the new white, rocking chairs and relaxed there in solitude, rocking for about ten minutes. I took in all of the sights of the Inlet, from the west to the north to the east and observed the calm meeting of the current and the sea, quite rare for the mouth of the Inlet I can assure you. Then it was time to turn around and head back south down the boardwalk. One of the benches near the Inlet was decorated with red, white, and blue bows, and was dedicated in memory of Cpl. Kevin J. Reinhard from Woodbridge, NJ, who was killed in Afghanistan in 2012. I paused for a moment of silence to honor his legacy. I once again took my time as songs from my summer playlist played quietly through my earbuds, but not too loud to hear the occasional hellos and “Good Morning!”s from passerbys. I made sure to reply to each well wisher with a smile and a kind hello. As I took a picture of the palm fronds with the blue sky as a backdrop, a small plane entered the viewfinder at just the right time. I turned around and took a few photographs of the empty ride area and thought about how full of activity it would be in a matter of a few hours with children and adults laughing as they soared into the sky or spun around and around. I am glad I moved at my own pace because it made for a more meaningful experience.
When I returned back home, I took pictures of each day lily that bloomed today and picked a handful of ripe blueberries to add to yesterday’s till. I spent almost two hours at the library researching my family history after receiving a few more emails from my new cousins with more details about my Grandpa C.’s side (stay tuned for that update!). We took two beach runs and I’m now writing this outside on my lounge chair as the goldfinches and the house finches and the sparrows eat while the catbird sings for me. The bees are busy at the clover flowers and there’s a stillness as a few storm clouds are approaching from the west. And with the Severe Thunderstorm Alerts I just received, it’s time to head back inside.
It was a glorious day this Day 01 of Summer 2017, rumbles of thunder and all. Truly glorious.
I hope your day was glorious, too.
Until next time,
PS: The deluge of rain that’s now wreaking havoc outside? I still find it glorious. 🙂
The other interesting feature on my report is that Ancestry matches my DNA up with others who have already had their DNA tested, and then provides links to possible family members with percentage probabilities that they are, indeed, a relative of some kind.
For instance, Ancestry was “extremely confident” the name on the top of my list was a second cousin. They were right. It is my mom’s cousin DM.
I have a very small family, so the large number of names on my list of potential “relatives” intrigued me. I was going to wait until the end of the month to begin poking around, but last week, I showed a fellow teacher my report because he was interested in getting his own DNA analyzed and wanted to see what it was all about.
The second name on my list of potential relatives or matches, one that Ancestry had labeled “extremely high” that this person was my second cousin, is a gentleman, AT, from Minnesota. I clicked on his profile as I showed my friend how cool it was that this information was available, even though I had no idea who AT was. We didn’t have family in Minnesota, so who could this guy be?
I read the first few sentences of the AT’s profile out loud, then paused mid-sentence. I couldn’t believe what I was reading. I then yelled, “Holy shit!” My friend looked at me, as did the others who were around us, as my mouth gaped wide open and my eyes became as big as saucers.
The man in the profile, AT, wrote that his mother, K, was adopted, and he listed her birth parents’ names and her original last name.
Her birth parents’ names were the same as my Grandpa C.’s, the one who I thought was Irish, and he and K shared the same last name.
Holy shit, indeed.
Grandpa had a sister I never knew about.
Mind blown. Literally.
I never would have expected this in a million years. Finding missing family members only happens in the movies or in books, or to other people who lead much more interesting lives. It doesn’t happen to little old me.
But here it was, right in front of me. K is my Grandpa C.’s sister, my Uncle G and my father’s aunt, my great aunt. The DNA confirms it.
I couldn’t contain my excitement and raced home after dismissal to write AT a message. “I think my grandfather was your mother’s brother,” I typed, along with some other details and my email address, then hit send with a ridiculous grin on my face.
I anxiously checked for a reply all day Tuesday, but none came. No worries, though, as I had an afternoon date with my nephew, I, for our annual early summer boardwalk excursion. We had a lot of fun on the rides, at the aquarium, and enjoying pizza and ice cream. By the time I got home, I was exhausted!
I drifted off to sleep rather quickly, slept right through the night, and hit snooze as soon as my alarm went off on Wednesday morning. On the alarm’s second ring, I hit snooze again, but something was nagging at me to check my email. I put on my glasses, opened my mailbox, and there it was.
A reply from AT’s sister.
A reply from my first cousin once removed, KT.
KT is one of seven children born to my great Aunt K (including AT). That’s at least seven new first cousins for my Uncle G. KT said that her sisters and brother all live in various parts of the country, and that they have been looking for her mother’s brother’s family for a long time.
Man, my father would have loved all of this!
KT included three photographs with her email, one being her mother’s favorite photo of her brother from when Grandpa C. was very young. Aunt K kept it all this time.
At work, I held up that picture of Grandpa C. alongside my face, and almost everyone remarked at the resemblance between the two of us.
Before writing KT back, I knew I had to tell my Uncle G about this amazing discovery, so I headed over to his house after school. As I began to read KT’s email to him, I handed him the three pictures that accompanied the email.
Uncle G got up as I was reading and handed me a framed picture from his table.
It was the same picture of Grandpa that KT emailed to me, her mother’s favorite picture of her brother.
Uncle G and I talked about what he could remember Grandpa’s family. He thought all along that Grandpa might have had a sister that was put up for adoption, but he was never sure if that was true or not. He knew Grandpa’s father wasn’t in the picture at all but doesn’t know anything at all about him, and that Grandpa had an older brother but he never met him (nobody knows where he ended up either; apparently my father was named after him). Uncle G told me what could recall about his grandmother, S, who was Grandpa’s and Aunt K’s mother, but it wasn’t very much.
I brought the picture book he gave me last summer with me. We slowly paged through it and found two old black and white pictures of a light-haired little girl, each with Aunt K’s name written in pencil on it.
Grandpa had kept his sister’s pictures all along, too.
Uncle G couldn’t believe all of this and loved learning he had cousins. He hates technology and has never used a computer or a smart phone at all, so seeing my Ancestry report on my phone and how I could click on the links blew his mind.
I took a picture of Uncle G and of me holding that framed picture of Grandpa that KT had emailed to me, as well as some other pictures of Grandpa from his life. When I got home, I wrote KT back and emailed her all of the photos I had, including the two pictures of her mom.
On Friday, AT sent me an email, so I am now in contact with two new cousins. Of course, both sides have a lot of questions, and we all wish that Grandpa and Aunt K could have connected with each other before they passed on. Underneath all of our excitement, there are some threads of sadness interweaving with this miraculous story. Consider that Aunt K and Grandpa lived two towns away from each other in the early 1940s but never knew it.
This is the stuff novels are made of, and I’m living it!
I’m looking forward to staying in touch with my new cousins and to learning more about my family heritage. One of the first places I am going once school is finished is to the library to continue researching my background.
If it weren’t for my spirit guide, I’d never be on this path in my journey in the first place. Thanks, TG, for leading me to family. And thanks to the Universe. You never cease to amaze me.
All I wanted to know is if I was truly Irish.
With the payoff from that originally disappointing less-than-1%-Irish being a whole new lot of cousins that I never knew existed, I’ll gladly take it.