Category Archives: books

Resolutions

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Resolution by USA-Reiseblogger via Pixabay

The new year inevitably brings with it the resolution to do something different with our lives. We resolve to lose weight, exercise more, manage our finances better or be a better wife/mom/person. The Thesaurus lists the synonyms for resolution as courage, perseverance, pluck and tenacity. So why do most of us give up our resolutions by January 2nd? I believe it’s that exciting feeling that we truly can turn over a new leaf just as we can the pages of the calendar that spurs us to make resolutions in the first place. That all of our past transgressions and sins can be washed away with the new number of the new year. And that the comfort of the space we are in already convinces us to let go of those resolutions almost as quickly as we have made them.

20180117_164448The truth of the matter is that resolutions are never the quick fixes we hope then to be. That, in actual fact, a true resolution takes all the time and tenacity and courage and pluck that the word explains it to be. One of my favorite gifts this season was a piece of an amber glass pane that was taken from my childhood church before it was torn down. The window belonged to and was a tribute to my paternal grandparents. My cousins salvaged this gem of our family history and divided it into pieces for each of us to own.  These pieces of glass have bonded together my cousins and my siblings stronger than that glass could ever be. That glass is a reflection of the resolve my grandparents had to possess to be immigrants in a new land, raise their family in an unfamiliar town and navigate an unfamiliar language. The resolution they made with themselves was to start over in a new country that had the promise of a better life than the one they left behind. Or if not better, then at least different. Both my husband and I followed separate paths then my grandparents but to the same end. We each left our home to look for something different in another country. And when our paths crossed we started our own family, raised in unfamiliar places, navigating the language of marriage and parenthood.

What gets me through the night sometimes is the belief that only the best things will happen. To get through the hard times and believe we will be okay once we do is the true resolution I have made with myself. To have the courage to stay in the present through the turbulent times. My role in life changes constantly from wife to mother to sister to advisor to friend and I am trying to work it out along the way. That is a recipe that leaves me with no small degree of doubt, a decent quantity of confidence, mixed with a good dose of fear and a strong dram of faith. I can only resolve with as much courage as I can to keep moving forward no matter how hard the road might become. Giving up on day 2 is not an option. When I look around me, it sometimes appears like other’s lives seamlessly follow a perfect trajectory. From birth on it seems their path is blessed, lucky in love, fortunes and friendship. Yet we all realize that is just an illusion and no person’s path is preordained. Life gets in the way. In fact, it’s through hardship and adversity that we learn our greatest life lessons.

I’ve always loved the expression “looking at life through rose colored glasses”. I know it is meant to mean that one who looks at life through those fantastical lens refuses to acknowledge the pain and ugliness of day to day living. Yet it can also mean that life itself can be rose colored, that it can be awash with that kaleidoscopic color of pale red. Why is that so bad? If we are taught that the best life is one of balance then what better balance then rose colored glasses reflecting the bad and the good of life? Or maybe for me it’s reflected in my family’s amber colored glass. When I look through that glass I see back a couple of generations to a strong man and a strong woman who had the pluck and tenacity to carve out a different life than the one of their own parents. In the face of such courage can any resolution fail? In essence that is the question only an individual can answer. The resolution is never static. It changes and shrinks and grows with time and experience. Which goes back to that morning of January 1st when all of our resolutions are no longer a promise for a future date but right here and now. Halfway through the first month of the year, my resolutions have already changed with time. But the resolve to keep moving forward one step at a time never will.

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Beach Walk by sasint via Pixabay

 

Confessions of a Baby Boomer Mom – September

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It seems somewhat ironic to me that the 9th month of the year is considered the month of new beginnings. And yet for the caregivers of children everywhere, September is just that. The month of August, while still producing the dog days of summer, is also the month of a flurry of preparations for the coming September. New clothes, new shoes. In many cases, new furnishings for a dorm room or a new apartment. Stores unveil that annual glorious exhibit that can create a sense of relief for parents: the new school supply display.

I must confess that despite the fact that my children have long graduated college, every September I lose myself in the school supply section of whichever store I walk into. There’s something so seductive about the myriad of brilliantly illustrated blank notebooks, rows and rows of colored gel pens, jewel toned sticky notes, fountain pens, colored pencils. I can somehow always convince myself that I need a new addition to my already burgeoning desk. Yet they are so much more than tools of the trade. They are a story waiting to happen, a picture waiting for color.

September is the month of empty nests. It is the month when many of us let our little birds fly. Both times I brought my kids to start their college life, I hovered in their dorm room as long as I could. I made their beds up, unpacked their clothes, helped set up their desks until there was nothing left for me to do. Rather than mimicking my reluctance to leave they both looked at me expectantly, ready to move forward into their new adventure as excited dorm mates called them to come away. Both times I could feel the emptiness in our car as we drove away without them. It was always in September. It was a new beginning for both of us. Me learning how to live my own life again. They learning to find theirs.

In an interesting twist of fate, or then again perhaps not, I work at a college so that the schedule of school is still very much a part of my life despite that fact that my children are grown and in the workforce. It gives me the opportunity to meet many parents who are launching their own children from high school into the bigger world. It is so exciting for them but frightening too. How will their child cope? Will they make friends? Will they eat regular meals?

I don’t resent September for marking the years of my children’s growth as each one passed by. I don’t resent that one September I left my son at college and another four years later when I left my daughter. Those things are good and true. I would not want them to live their lives tied at home, afraid to move on, afraid to grow. That was not the life we taught them about. But even after they have left, September still feels like a new beginning. The summer air has gotten crisper. The days are growing shorter, the colors deepening, the fresh produce is harvested.There is a promise of a new beginning even as the earth is slowly preparing itself for a long winter’s nap.

When I leave for work now, I see the neighborhood children waiting for the school bus. They are all a year older then they were last year. There are still parents who wait with them, holding coffee cups, jackets and sweaters pulled over sweatpants, dogs on leashes, making sure their little ones board the bus safely. As I drive past them very slowly, I see the shadow of myself 10 years ago, 15 years ago. But each September is a new beginning and this one is no different. Unlike those good people waiting for the school bus, I no longer need to have a schedule that keeps dinner, homework and bath time regular for a child.  I can enjoy the freedom of the whims of myself and my husband.
I welcomed this September. The summer had been long and hot with many trials but many joys as well. I was ready for a new beginning, for school to start and for the latest group of students with hope and anticipation and yes a little nervousness to start their classes. I was ready for the new supplies to grace my desk both at home and in my office. I feel the new year beginning and I am happy for another one. I know it’s a work night and I should really start dinner…but the harvest moon is rising so I’m headed out the door.

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MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

Confessions of a Baby Boomer Mom – Graduation Day

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June is the month to celebrate graduation. Young adults in their late teens and early twenties are finishing their education in high school or college and Commencement Ceremonies are happening across the nation. Caps and gowns in a rainbow of colors are worn by students, faculty and staff don gowns and wild headgear that represents their various degrees and march with banners and poles in an age old ritual that could rival those of the mythical, magical school of Hogwarts. The strains of Pomp and Circumstance reverberate in the meeting halls  and open arenas in every city and town. It’s Graduation Day.

Two years ago on a windy Saturday, my youngest child, my daughter graduated from college. Her brother had walked in his own college ceremony five years earlier. The emotion this ritual evokes cannot be minimized. We are proud, so very proud, we are hopeful, we are gratified, we are relieved. We have given our children the opportunity to achieve that which can never be taken from them and they have risen to the challenge. The flowers, the balloons, the gifts, the parties are all expressions of our collective gratitude in that august piece of paper. Our children have earned a college degree.

I have worked in a community college as an academic advisor for over 14 years and yesterday was graduation day. I have always loved this day, have always been a fan of pomp and ceremony, of dressing up in ceremonial gowns (although not so much of a fan of the mortarboard caps!) and of celebrating this special day with my students. I am fortunate that the population I work with are also graduating from high school and are still young and idealistic. Although many have experienced adversity beyond their tender years, they have their whole lives ahead of them.

What stands out more for me on this day are the other students that comprise a community college population. Adults who have overcome addictions or homelessness to earn a degree that will lead them to a different life. Students from broken homes. Students who dropped out of high school at an early age and then returned to finish that diploma. Students who have committed crimes and have paid their time to society and are now clawing their way back to peace and respectability. Students who are children of immigrants or indeed immigrants themselves who have tried to navigate a foreign language and foreign customs to make a better life for themselves and their families.  Students who have come from violence, from loneliness, from neglect. Students who have studied in the late night after working a full time job then coming home to put their children to bed. So much need and support to get to this place. And yet, get there they did. The hope and happiness in the air at graduation ceremonies is palpable energy. The pride and joy of the students and their families. The utter relief to have gotten to this point.The huge smiles and fist pumps in the air as they walk across the stage.

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I was on that stage myself more than once. I hit the age of 35 with 2 small children and no marketable skills after a decade of pursuing my dream of an acting career.  I had a hard working husband but the fact remained that any circumstance of life could leave me the sole caretaker of these two young people and I was woefully unprepared. Going back to school was not an easy decision. I almost gave up after I met with an advisor and realized what a very long road I had in front of me. But that wise person changed my life. When I bemoaned that I would be in my mid forties before I finished my degree, he reminded me that I would most likely get to my mid forties anyway so why not have have the degree when I do get there. So I persevered. Perhaps I feel such an affinity to so many of those walking the stage yesterday because I was that mom doing homework late at night after I put my kids to bed. I was studying my note cards while sauteing meat for dinner. I was bookmarking my latest assignment so I could supervise the bath or read the bedtime story. But like those jubilant students yesterday, I was not alone. When I walked that stage 15 years ago, my children with there, my husband too. My brothers and sisters. My mom. Friends gathered at my home to celebrate with me. It really does take a village.

I am grateful that I can pay it forward as an advisor because that long ago advisor was right. I did make it to 45 and I had my degree. The joy I felt yesterday in watching my “kids” walk across that stage knowing that in some way I inspired them was lovely. The joy and pride I felt when my own two children walked across their respective stages knowing that I had supported them and maybe inspired them when they saw me do the same 15 years ago was priceless.

Graduations ceremonies are aptly called Commencement. I like that word. Rather than an ending, it suggests a beginning, a time to commence to the new phase of life, whatever that might be. Education is a gift to oneself that no one can ever take away from you. Happy Graduation to all those making that walk this month. That is something to celebrate.

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