Friday, July 27, 2012


Breathless.  For me, it’s that moment when the world I thought I knew turns on its axis and I feel unable to anchor myself to reality.  Not a word I take lightly or use very often.  Few are the times I can recall in my life the time I actually felt that way.
  • Thrice with my husband.  The first, the day following our wedding as we drove to Toronto for our weekend honeymoon.  I looked at him, he smiled and I was breathless.  Second, the breathless moment I realized years later, that no matter how self-destructive I was, he loved me, for myself, without question or reservation.  The third, a fourth of July, many years following that, the darkest moment in our marriage. That breathless moment seemed to last a lifetime.  As we approach our thirtieth anniversary, I am eternally grateful for the significance of all three in our lives.   
  • Our son was a high risk pregnancy after three miscarriages and born ten days premature by C-Section.  For a variety of reasons I didn’t get a chance to hold him in the delivery room.  Four hours after delivering him and numerous updates from the ICU neo-natal nurse, I was informed his condition warranted a transfer to the Children’s Hospital ICU neo-natal unit.  They wheeled him into the room in his isolette for me to look at him.  I wasn’t breathless until I realized they’d left with him and I’d never touched him.  With great joy I got the opportunity four days later after I was discharged and went to him.  At 23 today, he’s a blessing I never take for granted.
  • The moment before I introduced myself to a group of women in a sexual abuse survivors group.  Breathless and filled with shame. In the 12 weeks that followed, the amazing women in the group, Steve and my writing helped ground me and shed the shame I felt.
  •  Shortly after midnight, January 20, 2006, when I walked into the ICU after being separated from my mother for 45 minutes while she was transferred from the ER to the ICU.  The traumatic brain injury she’d suffered earlier the previous evening had done its damage and I feared in that breathless moment that the woman before me, a mere shadow of the woman I’d left 45 minutes earlier, was irrevocably changed.  My heart still aches for what she endured the next three years. 
  • December 26, 2009, ten short months after my mother passed, sitting at my father’s hospital bedside, as he took his last breath.  A sudden passing, just 8 short days after finding a giant aneurysm with resulting surgery and complications. Breathless in the relief that he didn’t have to struggle anymore in living each day without his soul mate of sixty years.  His five children at his side as he passed…I know a great solace to him.
  •  June 7, 2012 - 7:00 pm as I watched my oldest brother die in the ICU hours after triple bypass. As I stood and watched the activity of the resuscitation team: the CPR, the medications, the communication and the successful result as they miraculously brought him back to us…breathless.  
Eight ground shaking and life altering moments for me.  I’m known to be very pragmatic as well as very emotional.  Hence a lot may touch me, but it takes a lot to shake my core.  And for that I’m grateful.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

My Education

My formal education ends with my graduation from high school and although that’s always been okay with me, at times, I’ve felt a need to justify it.  College?  Thought about it – at the long ago tender age of 18 in 1981, going to college was not a given.  If I had to, I was ready to go to college to become a special-ed teacher.  It was the only thing of interest to me at the time, never even imagining that people actually went to college to get a degree in writing….  However, at the time, there was no local college with the degree in special-ed, so I would have to go away.  I was very set and comfortable in my life at home.  Uprooting myself and being that independent, well, that wasn’t happening at 18 for me. 
And, in the spirit of full disclosure and to be completely honest, I just didn’t see the value in putting that amount of time, effort and money into myself so that I could have a “career”.  My true desire was to be a homemaker. 
Wasn't quite like this, but pretty close!
Yes, I wanted the stay at home, raise the kids, make dinner, do the ironing, clean house, bake bread, and mow the lawn kind of life. And that is what I got.  And I loved it. And feel incredibly grateful for it.  I loved being a homemaker.  I worked full time until our son was born and then had the gift and privilege of being a stay at home mom (working part time 12 hours a week) until he was 15 years old when I went back to work full time.  I was incredibly blessed to have a husband who made that dream a reality for me and our lifestyle, which had us living within our means, made it financially possible to do so.
 There were many opportunities in those 31 years for me to continue a “formal” education.  I had the money, the means, and the full support of my husband to do so if I wanted to.   And yet, I didn’t.  And still don’t, even though I work at a University and am eligible to attend for free.   
During that time, I knew I didn’t want to go to school to get a degree to have a career.  My career was as a homemaker.  It took a long time for me to be able to say that out loud and with pride.  Why?  Because publically I had “opted out” of continuing my education.  Formally anyway.  Informally, I’ve had 31 years of self-education, in the area that I feel my second strongest passion for, my writing. 
I won’t list all I’ve done, but over these past 31 years, I’ve taken a writing correspondence course, numerous online writing classes,   and been part of number of local and online writing groups.  I’ve read about and researched writing styles, methods and rules.    I’ve subscribed to various trade magazines, followed online sites, authors and blogs.  I designed and have my own writing web site and currently regularly write this blog.    
And I’ve written; both for professional and personal fulfillment.  And I’ve been published, locally and nationally in both fiction and non-fiction.  And I love my writing because it’s mine - on my terms. 
Would a “formal education” in writing enhance my skills and abilities?  Most certainly so.  Would I feel a sense of having to justify that education with an output of a certain amount of writing, tasks met and goals to be achieved?  Most definitely.  It’s not that I don’t have all those things for myself, but it’s meeting them and achieving them in my own pace, style and path that I’ve chosen that works for me. 
So I am content for now to continue weaving my own blend of informal, self-education and see where it leads me.  It’s a level of investment in me that I can live with. 

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Finding The Wave Again

You don't really understand human nature unless you know why a child on a merry-go-round will wave at his parents every time around - and why his parents will always wave back.  ~William D. Tammeus
I don’t recall waving to my parents from a merry-go-round, but I do recall, every single time I left home as a child, whether to go to school or to play at a friend’s house, one or the other (sometimes both) standing at the front door waving goodbye.  Then as an adult, leaving each other’s houses, still waving from the doorway.     
Without a doubt, I’d come to take that gesture for granted, as evidenced by how terribly much I’ve missed in the three years since they both passed away.  This past month, I’ve been surprised and fortunate to be blessed with a little ease to the ache of missing that particular gesture.      
Mom & Dad's bands
Along with waves from the doorway, I grew up hearing the story of how my parents had not taken their wedding bands off since the day they placed them on each other’s hands, May 20, 1949.  Refused to remove them for surgeries, job related hazards or during troubled times in their marriage.  That story, that gesture of love and devotion, resonated so deeply with me that I have not taken mine off since March 19, 1983, when Steven placed mine on my hand (and barring a hand soaping incident or two for Steve, neither has he).    

In 1990, my mother had a bicycle accident and broke her left wrist.  The emergency room doctor gave her the choice of cutting the band off or losing her finger. After much discussion with my father, she did finally allow them to cut it off, and replaced it as soon as she could with her second band which didn’t leave her finger until the day she died. 
Early in their marriage, my dad worked for Addressograph Multigraph and during a service call, had his hand caught in a machine.  It did serious damage to his thumb and bent his band considerably, but he never removed his either. 
So of all the many possessions that came and went in my parents’ lives, their rings were what I viewed as their constant.  When they passed three years ago, and us five kids sorted their possessions, their rings were what I most desired and was graciously granted. 

I always knew that I wouldn’t wear either band or my mother’s engagement ring as stand-alone pieces, but also did not want them to simply sit in my jewelry box to be looked at every now and again. They’d meant too much to sit unused, collecting dust.
Yet for three years, they did just that.  And then I took them out of my jewelry box and rings in hand, went to my jeweler friend, Reg Shopp of deSignet International.    I explained the history of the pieces and what I wanted to do. 

I have this thing with the number three,” I told him.  It’s been three years since my parents died.  And I have their wedding bands and my mom’s engagement ring which has three diamonds in it.  There’s the relationship of myself and my parents as a group of three.  And then there’s the group of three that is myself, my husband and our son.  I’m envisioning melting it all down, making a braid of three strands of gold and making three pieces, a ring and a pair of earrings, to represent all those symbolic groups of three, intertwined.
New ring and earrings
A few months later, when I picked up the finished pieces, I was overcome by the intense connection I felt to my mom and dad as I slid on the ring.  The beauty of it took my breath away, but the significance behind what I now wore on my hand, the near 60 years of my parent’s marriage, their love and commitment woven together, was overwhelming.
Any doubt I had about changing the pieces vanished as I thought of what they’d worn separately all those years, being melted down and brought together.  
I wear the three pieces every day now.  And every once in a while, I walk past a mirror and glimpse the earrings, or glance down as a ray of light dances across the face of the ring, and feel the warm caress of a gentle wave from the doorway.