Gratitude, One Year Later

The time has slipped away so fast, and the seasons have run faster and faster, stumbling over each other in a mad dash to get to the finish line of 2013. I look at my photograph that I first posted on this blog, and I look like a small, frightened child, which in retrospect, I believe I was at the time. I’ve spent the last year changing formats of expression, going from the spoken word to the visual form, finding photography an easier way of expressing myself. Learning to be quiet again has taken a long time, but has been an important tool for me. Sometimes there are things that just can’t be put into words, they go beyond the ability to express in the language of the spoken word. As for myself, I am so very grateful for music, with it’s rich vocabulary, or the quiet, God filled moments you experience in a sailboat on the ocean at sunset. Peace on earth. Peace. Loving children. Loving life. Being loved and giving love in return. These are bold, brave hearts, who choose to stay open and move ahead. Every day is a choice. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. It’s a cold dive into the deep end of the pool, each and every day. Just thought you should know.

Ironically, when I opened my blog this morning, I was feeling compelled to write about gratitude, after having it repeat as a theme in my life in the past few months.Turning to my neglected but not forgotten page, there was the title of my last entry, written in July. GRATITUDE. Well, there you have it!

I do still write, many times a week in my personal writing, and at some point I will transfer that writing to a more public agenda, having been working on both a novel and the outline for a screenplay, as well as a few short stories and even an outline for a piece of work involving a single British woman friend and her American cat who secretly runs her life, behind the scenes! I can’t write that without cracking up every time, I think there’s a lot of staying power in that premise. I’m starting to piece some of my photography together now, along with my writing, and it’s amazing to see it is all beginning to dovetail itself into a natural order. Kind of like life.

Hope you and yours will have a peaceful and prosperous New Year, filled with gratitude and lots of cold dives in the deep end of the pool!

Yours,

LivingWinters

Portrait Of An Artist

At a benefit for my students, I loved my work!

At a benefit for my students, I loved my work!

How does it happen? First you blink and the day starts with your eyes wide open. The clock starts running and when you turn around, it’s 1:20 pm, and you are still slurping on your cold coffee, wondering where the time has gone to? What are my students doing?

That’s how my days are going, these past few weeks. I have started on a new journey, having left teaching, not because of my students or my fellow teachers. The straw that broke the camels’ back for me was the reduction of my hours and health benefits after my husbands’ passing.

I came back to work, after the typical summer off for teachers that was anything but typical. Most people would not have stayed at the party as long as I did, but honestly, there are only so many changes a human being and her children can take in a six month period. I have been reluctant to write about the series of unfortunate events, mostly because it was so unfathomable to me that I was not wanted or needed by a school that clearly needed what I had to offer.

Originally, I had prayed and put out into the universe that I desired to take my teaching expertise in Performing Arts and Montessori Education to either the urban poor or children with special needs. Surely, there must be a place where I could give the very best of who I am as an artist and a human being and help enlighten and educate children who may very well not have the golden opportunity to be exposed to these wonderful areas of music appreciation/styles and peace education.

Well, I put it out there, and got it back, ten fold. I ended up teaching in an inner city school for disabled and urban poor children. They say God only gives you what you can handle. God had much more faith in me than I did. It turned out to be the most rewarding experience of my career. I even used to joke that I would probably do it for free, I loved teaching my students so much!

In return, I received understanding and acceptance, grace and laughter, love and life lessons. My students taught me about adversity and forgiveness, community and shared experiences, but most importantly, unconditional love.

Unfortunately, I had to leave all of that behind. The decision came to me when I realized no matter how much my students and fellow educators loved the musical styles of The Beatles and Verdi, Taylor Swift and Simon and Garfunkel, Miles Davis and The Clash… it was not enough. It became about pieces of paper, reciprocity and credentials. Being an educator for over fifteen years and an artist for over thirty became irrelevant. The request was made to return to Graduate School, once again, repeating the same classes taken in another state, five years previously. My 3.97 GPA was not relevant. Neither were my dollars spent. I was finished with the politics and the paperwork. Mostly, I was sad for my students. I don’t like to believe I let them down. I could not make a living being an educator for fifteen hours a week, with no health insurance and no sick days or vacation. Prior to a change in management, I had received very high marks in all of my reviews and critiques as an educator. Clearly, this was not going to have the ending I wanted or needed. Sad story. True story. This school was gearing itself from Private to Charter status, the culture of the school was changing and I was not going to be transitioning along with them. Sometimes, things don’t work out. They just don’t.

As of this date, the school has yet to hire another music artist-in-residence/educator, Rhode Island certified or otherwise. As for my students, not a day goes by when I don’t think of them. Not a single day.

Chapter Two… Now For Something Completely Different

I’m not so sure I’m good at change. I can, however, adapt to things when I am put in a situation that requires me to be flexible, but I can only do that when I am receiving the same commitment which I am giving. I guess the word for that would be compromise. Not the same as change.Change is uncomfortable. I don’t like change. Change makes me want to do two things. One is run, the other is go back to my past, where things were safe and predictable.

Lately, I’ve been exploring the idea of trying to get back home again. At almost 53, (March 19th) this has been a recurring thought for me, as of late. What does it mean, to go home again? Isn’t that a lift from Thomas Hardy? In this scenario, I have finally figured out it means getting to my authentic self. As of late, I’ve been finding out the things that used to bring me pleasure, no longer do so. It’s a scary thought, this inability to self sooth. We all have to learn how to comfort ourselves, like a toddler who you are praying will make the adjustment to sleeping in his/her own bed. I know no kid goes to college missing the parent bed, and somewhere down the road that transition takes place. How do we, as adults make those life segues for ourselves?

Currently, I am a widow and mother of two teen-aged children. However, I am now involved with a great guy. No,  you didn’t see that one coming, neither did I, don’t think he did, either. My problem lies in the dilemma of not knowing how to date someone while being a mother. Who knows how to be in a situation like this? I certainly don’t. Maybe I should read up on this? This is how I have learned to deal with new information in the past.

When I was pregnant with my first child, my family found it hysterical that I read all kinds of books on how to be a parent. Who does that? Well, I do, and as a matter of record, Scott, my husband, did as well. Yes, maybe not everyone’s choice, but it gave me the initial confidence, like doing the prerequisite reading for a difficult required class. so, in that sense, it was a good base.

This time, I am juggling my two children, (19 and 15), my transition from marriage to widowhood to a new relationship. The other factor, and it is a big factor, is the man I’m seeing has been married, and has his own issues and children. Now, I know this is a unique situation to people coming from a divorced/separated relationship. I’m not sure where this will lead, but being exclusive to Mr. A right now  feels like the right choice for me. Have I told you he is a wonderful, sweet man? He would have to be, to get my attention, at this point in my personal growth curve.

And there it is again, that same theme. Am I up to juggling my two children,now late teens and almost young adult? My daughter seems to think she has a vote in this. Hell, I feel like I don’t have a vote in this! Love is love. I never thought, in a million years, I would meet someone who could hold my attention and admiration again. I was like, “Love? … Ok did that, check it off the life list.” Then it happened. Not like, “Oh, Chocolate ice cream, I forgot how much I like chocolate ice cream!” It was more like, “Whoa! French Vanilla with Honey?! No way! Didn’t know it existed!” (I laugh at my own analogies, pretty good analogy, since Mr.A makes his own homemade ice cream)

In some ways, it would be so easy to go home again. Move back to New Hampshire and join the ranks of my family. I’m the only family member that lives away. My kids would have Aunts and Uncles, cousins and Grandparents. I have given that some thought. With a daughter deeply entrenched in a private high school, I couldn’t do that to her.So that ship has sailed.

The good news is now I am older and wiser. Death will do that to a person. It also makes you realize how far you have actually come. And that’s the scary part. That is why I still need my friends and family. Very much like the toddler who runs away from his mother, but after taking eight or ten steps independently, turns to make sure his Mom is still there. Remember my friends, I am making this up as go along. I will still turn around, checking to see if you are still there. I hope you will be.

Loving Sam, My Dog. Our Dog.

My dog died. I won’t go into the terrible details. I will tell you, he was a constant, lovable companion. It took awhile for him to get past his Master’s death. This was Scott’s dog. Sam was a Great Pyrenees. We had rescued him from a family who had come on hard times, having lost their home to bankruptcy and were moving into a two family in the city.  I can’t remember if this happened when Scott was in hospice or after he died. Sammy kept running away, looking for Scott. It happened multiple times during the summer of 2011, just when I thought life was stupid and painful and not worth the hassle. This giant, white dog kept doing what I wanted to do. Run away.

The Providence police were wonderful. Our neighbors were wonderful. Everyone who tried to help was wonderful. This dog wanted to bolt, and it may sound easy to keep a one hundred and sixty pound dog inside. Trust me, it is not. If he wanted to get out, he got out. Galloping, really. Like a small Shetland Pony. There was no way I could keep up with him, you needed to be in a car to keep the pace. As irony would have it, keeping up with Sam was that was the very thing I needed to do. Keep up with him. Keep him in focus and active and busy. He had to be loved. Actively. Fully. So I loved him, even more than before.

And it got better. Slowly, without me even realizing it was happening. Sam was there when I was alone. He didn’t mind if I had a red nose from crying, or if I stayed in the same sweatshirt all weekend. His favorite thing was to walk through the house at night, on patrol. He would walk from room to room, pausing long enough to listen for any unfamiliar sounds. I knew no one would mess with us, just my daughter and I alone, husband gone and son away at college. Not with a giant white polar bear sleeping at the front door.

Now he sleeps at a different front door. Back at home with his Master. Thank you Sam. For being there for me, when I didn’t even know what I needed. You knew all about unconditional love and had enough to share with everyone, ten fold. Sleep well, my Bubba.

Snow is the Metaphor for Love

534069_10151556521535296_69761195295_23749941_634588332_nSo, it is going to be a new year, very soon, kind and gentle readers. My days begin early, Usually 6:45 a.m. It surprises me to write this and see it on the page, since more than most of my life has been made up of going to bed too late and rising in time for the first lunch period in any High School in America. I was a performer for a number of years, working until 11 or 12 am, then returning home with a fantastic case of adrenaline that lingered till two or three in the morning. Unexpected changes were on the horizon.

Another unexpected in my life has been the new addition of a beautiful blanket of snow. It came in the best possible way, the way you’d hoped and prayed for, when you were a child who still believed in Santa Claus and happy endings to stories. Luckily for me, I never outgrew the ability to believe in all things good. This year, Santa still came to our house, thanks to that magical snow that fell on Christmas Eve. What every child hopes for!

It was the most beautiful of snowfalls. Simple, softly surrounding you with light, clarity, unexpected and even a bit scary, mostly because you didn’t believe Christmas Eve snowfalls were possible, anymore. I’m 52 years old. I wasn’t really into Santa or snow falling on Christmas Eve. I do recall a time we had a blizzard in New Jersey, one Christmas Eve, years and years ago in another life. It had snowed into the early evening and through Christmas morning! Living in a small village, all the homes put luminaries on their walkways and property abutting the street. I still remember how beautiful life was then, the whiteness of the snow turning a soft shade of yellow from the candlelight. I walked through the town at one am, amazed by how wonderful life is. And still is.

Snow. Love. Unexpected. Unplanned for. Life is like living in a snow globe, these days. Prior to this I had lived three and a half years of my life being sad and strong, always strong, without a choice. Before that, my son was hit by a car and given Last Rights and five surgeries for walking in the cross walk. I will never forget James’ fourth surgery followup was the day of my husbands’ first surgery. New Year’s Eve was spent with sparkling cider in ICU, looking out at Narragansett Bay and promising to myself the next year would be better. I do hospitals well, but I prefer not to, anymore, thank you very much.

So, this love. A new love. I never would have expected it. A gift. Like the snow globe  Does it end my blog? No. My life is not over, yet. However, there is a new chapter, looming. The new year has opened up the possibilities of publishing my first novel. This thing called life is remarkable. Very much like snow on Christmas Eve. I was given the gift of the snow globe from my  bereavement specialist, around the time of my late husband Scott’s birthday, December 5th. He would have been 53. In heaven, he is still 51, which has always been my favorite number, as long as I can remember. He will always be 51, in my heart. His cardinal visits me, every morning, on the branch outside the window where I write this and many other thoughts down. Yesterday, however, it was different. Scotts’ cardinal was there, but was joined by another, equally beautiful one. They stayed for some time, with clarity and song, announcing the newly falling snow and reminding me of the snow globe and the words on the base of it that counsels.”Love Like It Is Never Going To Hurt”. I will try.

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