The Docent Class Zoom

Screen Shot 2020-08-11 at 3.32.13 PMIn yet another example of, “I didn’t see that coming” I can tell you that Thursday afternoons have now become a predictable highlight of my week. It is the only time that I know for certain that I will gather with people who will stretch my intellect, introduce me to new viewpoints, and engage eagerly when I want to talk or learn of faraway cultures and artistic endeavors. “Gather” is maybe not quite the right word, but each time the Zoom meeting starts I get a little thrill at seeing each and every one of their faces filling my computer screen.

For anyone reading this other than those who belong to those faces on my screen I probably need to explain what a docent class zoom is.  For all of 2019 we were in a class together training to be docents, or tour guides, for our city’s art museum.  We had barely begun our duties as the newly trained docent corp when covid swept through and closed us down.  Now with schools upended, teachers overextended and field trips cancelled we have more questions than answers about where our training will ultimately lead us.

So, for the time being, it is leading us to one another.  The thing about training to be a docent is that you embrace learning and studying and pursuing knowledge.Screen Shot 2020-08-11 at 3.21.27 PMAs recent graduates we were excited to share this love of learning with others. Little did we realize that instead of sharing it with the students who show up on yellow buses, we would be sharing it with the familiar faces from class that pop up on our screens.


I’ve learned to appreciate and accept the unexpected direction my docent training is heading.  For the time being these weekly meetings give me the motivation I need to stay the course even when I really have no idea what the course is.  Seeing these newfound friends, sharing with them, listening to them learning with them and troubleshooting with them is enough right now. The insurmountable problems of the world outside my four walls are silenced and pushed aside for an hour or so on Thursdays. I am certain that when I look back on all the tumult and clamor that 2020 unexpectedly brought into my life I will remember the silver lining of 12 people’s voices virtually coming together to temporarily cancel out the world’s noise.



Sunshine on the Gray Days

It’s always the same now.  No longer being carried in by a parent, a smile lights up my one year old grandson’s face as he walks in the door on his own two feet. And then, he gets busy. IMG_4385He says hello to the little ceramic bird figure that sits on the shelf at eye level, (his), opens the cupboard I store his toys and books in, (and then ignores them), plays with the switch on the cable box underneath the TV, (because a blinking blue light is more interesting than toys), walks into the dining room to open and close the door that leads out to the sunporch, (because that feels powerful), walks over to the piano to play a few notes, (because he can reach them), and then begins to climb the stairs, (because they are there).  It’s like he is going through a checklist in his head; “These are the things I must do when visiting my Gigi and Poppy.”

IMG_4236Hanging out with a 1 year old during a pandemic is a lesson in perspective.  The macro of life becomes micro.  News headlines and updates that come at me in a confounding disarray are replaced by board books that tell the same, comforting story with every turn of the page. We work together on learning the theory of gravity by throwing rocks, the biology of insects by observing the tiniest bug crossing the sidewalk and cause and effect by seeing what happens if food is dropped from a highchair tray to the dog waiting patiently underneath it.  If only research were this simple in the realm of observational information vs randomized trials and vaccine development for the masses, the world outside these doors would heal a lot faster.

In a one year old’s day there is no room for cumulative counts by zipcode, the confusing intersection of science and politics or the self doubt when deciding how much to venture out of the cocoon of quarantine.  The many problems of the world melt away when you get down on the floor to play with a baby. Naively, I thought I would be teaching my grandson during the days I spend with him but I am pretty sure the lessons he is teaching me are of more value.

IMG_4023He is teaching me that even when times are hard there is room in daily life for love and laughter, smiles and giggles.  Staying in the moment and only concentrating on what is right in front of me, (the block tower, the bouncy ball, the cuddly stuffed dog), keeps the unknowns of all that is outside these four walls from messing with my head.  In a world that is screaming for attention from every platform available, his barely perceptible nod when I ask him a simple question is worth celebrating.  We are communicating!  We understand one another! Oh if it could be that simple in the comments section of any social media platform.

At times it can be worrisome to think of the world awaiting our grandson as he grows up and ventures further than Gigi and Poppy’s house. When those thoughts crowd my head I take his lead and believe that, one way or another, his needs will be met. At my most optimistic moments I look at his innocence and lean on a faith that 2020 will be the beginning of a reset for a world that seems like it is off the rails.  Years from now I hope he will hear our stories of how when he was 1 something unseen unraveled life as we knew it and pointed us toward a re-boot that made the world a better place for him to grow up.  He will be astonished at what we went through, relieved he has no memory of it and grateful we are all together on the other side of it.

Until then, we read another book with a happy ending, (he turns the pages), and then I sing “You Are My Sunshine” to him, (like I did to his mommy so long ago).  I linger on that second line and say a silent prayer of gratitude that this little one is in my life in 2020 to “make me happy when skies are gray.”



Finding the Good

Yesterday the doctor said “Go live your life.”  No more surgeries, no more chemo. Some regular screenings, but the healing and moving on officially starts today.  A colon re-section, as a nurse anesthetist friend told me, is MAJOR abdominal surgery but that is now in the rearview mirror.  Mild chemo is a misnomer.  There is nothing minor about the poison that my husband infused and swallowed. The saving grace was that it was short-lived.  Right now, tests are saying that 3 months did the trick and there is no sign of cancer. He is one of the lucky ones.  We are on the other side of this unexpected disruption to life.

IMG_3797 Cancer makes you feel small in an incredibly large and unfamiliar landscape.  The first days of knowing the diagnosis felt surreal. Life was buzzing all around us yet we had a secret that was making our world stand still. There was a wall between us and everyone else in our lives and we were pressed up against it’s cold hard truth.

After a couple of weeks of processing the shock of a diagnosis,  my husband and I made a conscious decision to share this news.  I look at generations past and how they were more apt to keep the hurt, the sadness, the struggle private.  To put the cloak of hush around your shoulders as you face the world outside your front door sounds incredibly difficult, especially in 2019. The world has changed a lot in the last 20 years. It has walked in that front door and taken a seat at our kitchen tables, our family room sofas, our favorite chairs. We are connected in so many ways to so many people that, to us, it seemed like it would be an added layer of stress not to share our news.  So, we told our world, either in person, on the phone or through social media that we are now fighting cancer.  And that led us to a conversation with a long lost friend who we happened to see at a holiday party.

Because he saw a Facebook post update, he shared that he is a 4 year survivor and looks back on his cancer as a blessing.  I’m not sure that we are quite there yet, but hearing him so sincerely proclaim this gives me hope that we may be able to have that outlook someday as well.  He also helped me reevaluate.  For weeks we had been saying we are ready for 2019 to be over; but an honest accounting of the last several months reveals many blessings indeed. So many of them have to do with the friends and family who have been there for us in so very many ways.  I have learned the importance of an encouraging word on social media, a text, a phone call, a card in the mail, a kind word in person.  All of the ways people reach out nowadays have helped us power through the last several months.  After we started sharing this we have never felt alone in it and for that we are grateful.

My husband looks forward to the day when his news isn’t the news that prompts a person to start  a conversation with, “We think about you all the time”, or “You are in our prayers.” Feeling surrounded by so many thoughts and prayers is both humbling and extremely touching.  I am certain even just the knowledge of those prayers have helped both of us through the bad days and kept our eyes on the prize of the end of chemo and the beginning of recovery.

IMG_0806As my children were facing the hurdles of growing up I would often tell them to find the good in a bad situation.  Discovering your spouse has cancer feels like no kind of good. It is the worst kind of fear, a lonely vulnerability and permeating sadness all unexpectedly dumped on your doorstep. The script of your life suddenly flips and ready or not you are taken down a path you never planned to travel. But there is goodness in the friends and family in our lives who are willing to show up and walk a piece of that path with us.

We are now on the other side of this time in our lives.  It will take us a good part of 2020 to unravel what we unexpectedly went through in 2019.  But as we emerge changed from this experience I am clinging to my friend’s declaration of cancer’s blessing and grateful for the gentle reminder to continue to focus on all that is good.

The Rather Late Wedding Anniversary Post

Anymore, so much of who we are is tangled up in each other.  5 years of dating and 33 years of marriage pushes the clock incredibly close to 40 years of us.   I’ve been with you so much longer than I haven’t. Through the years there has been a part of me that has become lost in that. At times I’ve fought it, but more and more I’ve accepted it.  Love is a tradeoff and I’ve traded some independence for an awful lot of comfort.  It hasn’t been perfect, but it’s been close enough.  It’s been surprising at times, this marriage of ours, but it has also been consistent and predictable.

In some ways we couldn’t be more opposite.  You’re the practical, reliable one. I’m the dreamer. You are generally quiet, I could talk for days.  I push you, you pull me back in.  There are interests and talents we do not share, but have learned to appreciate in one another throughout the years. The seasons are  interesting with someone who can always teach you something new. To me, the best part of my evening is bouncing ideas, opinions, stories and news back and forth with you. But like I said….I could talk for days.

We’ve got a lot of time for that now. It’s just us. For real. What was once a loud, busy and chaotic household is now only sometimes filled with their voices, the voices of our children, and then only for a few hours at a time.  Our kids have grown up.  All three are solidly entrenched in the lives that sent them beyond our front door and this house has permanently become a dwelling for two.  At times I miss the chaos, but often I don’t. We can both be filled up and content with the quiet.  I like where we are at and I still like that it is with you. In fact, I can’t imagine it not being with you.

You have provided in a way that has given me the chance to live life on my own terms and that has been a huge gift.  At my best I have embraced it and at my worst I have squandered it away. I’d like to think that I have given you as much, but feel that I have fallen short.  I do an inventory of our life together and many pieces of it I have not been brave enough or devoted enough to tackle. I am still banking on the fact that there is plenty of time left to accomplish all the undone things, to DO more, THINK less. I do cook though and I joke that your gift of time to me has paid off for you because it gives me the time to nourish you with sustenance, (sometimes welcomed, sometimes eyed suspiciously),  and all good things, (like my opinions and trivial facts, and interesting stories).

Recently we were challenged with a really hard few weeks. I’ve always told the kids to find the good in a bad situation.  There certainly isn’t much good in the death of a parent, but having each other to lean on as we faced illness, decline, mortality, and the emotion of watching a life in this world end was something to cling to when the days felt impossibly hard to get through. And the aftermath…well we will get through that together too.

IMG_1170There will be more hard times.  I’m not brave so I am scared of them and long to dream them away.  Our incredibly good life will be visited by the sadness, sorrow and pain that is just as much a part of a life-well-lived as the joy and laughter.  I’m big into gratitude lately and want to believe that that is the best way to get through the trying times.  And so, I start with being grateful for you, for the life we’ve made together, for the absolute promise of “for better or for worse.” and for our unending devotion to us.




May on My Own Terms

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For years the month of May has had it’s hold on me like no other month.  In fact, it’s frantic pace has earned it the “busiest month” superlative for a good part of our family life.  Field days and field trips, talent shows, concerts and end-of-the-year school parties turned into confirmations and proms, commencements, and graduation parties.  The college years brought the shuffling of stuff.  Who was moving where and when?  Dorm rooms were emptied, bedrooms were filled up again. And always, the garage out back was filled with the overflow of their lives. Summer study abroad trips were planned, college summer jobs were found and started.  Family birthdays, Mother’s Day, flowers and vegetables to plant, spring cleaning and all those tasks of opening up a life to the summer months were squeezed into the already full days of May and somehow accomplished year after year.  Even so, I never felt as if I had the upper hand with May.  May….it called the shots every year.

Until this year when all of a sudden May gave me back the control. And of course, because this is the way life goes….I miss the old kind of May.  I miss the tearful goodbyes, the sighs of relief and the excitement about moving up a grade, the shopping for prom dresses and ordering of corsages, the celebrations on the lawn outside the commencement venue and in the backyards of the graduates. I miss the excitement and trepidation of a child moving home for the summer, the school friends re-united around the firepit, the too-full house, the filled-to-the-brim days.

Time has a way of softening the edges and helps us forget the stress of those years when children are doing the business of growing up.  I only have to look back in my journals to know that while I was living it, I often felt totally in over my head in the month of May.  The nonstop blur of activity and feeding of hungry people, the constant comings and goings, the worry over young drivers taking the wheel, the push and pull of older teenagers becoming young adults, the call from overseas that started with “Mom, I’m ok but….”  Truth be told, May often beat me up.  But sitting here on the other side of those chaos-filled years, during an unusually cold and wet May, I look at a calendar that is more empty than it is full, and I feel nostalgic about all that May used to throw at me.

fullsizeoutput_3cb9If I had the choice though, I probably wouldn’t go back.  There are things about this life I’m living now that I wouldn’t want to trade away.  The mornings that often start with a cup of tea and the time to write, evenings that aren’t held hostage by chauffeuring children here, there and everywhere, the satisfying view from here as I watch all three of my children create their own life stories, the promise and absolute delight of an infant grandson figuring out his world bit by bit.

My favorite saying as they were all growing up and moving through the childhood years was “This too shall pass.”  It helped me through the days that were just too much and gave me the gentle reminder to pause and take in the beautiful yet fleeting moments of family life.  But this, THIS too shall pass: these days of being older but not too old, of feeling perhaps a bit achy but not yet broken.  In another twenty years I will most likely look back on this kind of May with nostalgia and longing. And so I remind myself that this May, with it’s sometimes too quiet days and slower pace is a season to savor and lean in to before it is simply another season that has come and gone.   fullsizeoutput_3cba

The Little Caesar’s Girls

fullsizeoutput_3c64We fit each other into crowded lives that have gone in many different directions.  Our interests and life experiences are not necessarily the same. Decades of adulting has a way of twisting and turning each individual path.  But at one time, many years ago, our paths converged and we found ourselves working at the same college job.  The five of us were waitresses at a Little Caesar’s restaurant in the early 1980s and that seemingly uneventful kid-job resulted in a friendship that spans decades of growing up and growing old.  We’ve witnessed each others’ idealism and doubts, successes and disappointments, and basically LIFE in all of it’s glories and difficulties.  The Little Caesar’s girls as we call ourselves: together we’ve seen a lot.

What is it about this group of girls, (in our minds, when we are with each other we are always girls, never women), that has carried on through 7 marriages, 2 divorces, 13 children, 4 grandchildren, 1 out of state move and too many jobs to count?  All of us can point to other friendships that have come and gone with the ebb and flow of life. The seasons of our lives change and so do the people who share them with us. We have our work friends, our neighbor friends, our work out buddies, our parenting friends.  The Little Caesar’s Girls are none of these to one another yet have stood the test of time when other friendships have faded away. We expect everything and nothing  of each other all at the same time and somehow that has caused us to be there for each other through all of life’s joys and sorrows.

Maybe it’s the fact that when we are with each other we ARE the girls, never the women.  We give each other a free pass to be ourselves, to let our guard down.  This is the group more than any other in my life to laugh with uncontrollably, commiserate with unabashedly, and be myself with unapologetically.  They’ve seen all my layers. The successes and proud moments, but also all the faults, insecurities, mistakes and missteps. And they show up anyways.  When we are with each other, we are the collective of who we were at 18, at 28, at 40 and now at 55 and somehow that gives us a free pass to often act like 10 year olds around each other and not blink an eye.

This tribute does not de-legitimize the other really good friendships we all have outside of the Little Caesar’s Girls. I see many of them lasting for years to come. But at the end of the road, in my quirky imagination, there we are, the 5 of us, sharing a table at the senior care facility dining hall telling the same stories over and over again and laughing just as hard with each subsequent telling.

Like sisters, the Little Caesar’s Girls started out together quite young and we have been in the background of each other’s lives ever since.  There are times we tire of each other, complain about one another and wonder how our friendship has stayed the course; but then we always circle back in no time with an evening of group texting, a dinner party, a night out, a weekend away or a celebration.  Others proclaim how lucky we are to have one another.  And they are so right. 37+ years of memories is a lot to stand on.  Our children all look back on the soundtrack of their growing up years and hear the laughter coming from the kitchen hours after they were supposed to be sleeping.  Recently one of them saw one of our silly facebook posts and her comment was #friendgoals and that one acknowledgement of what we have in each other is the very reminder we need to be ever so grateful for this unique and lasting friendship. The Little Caesar’s Girls have been a part of my adult life from the very beginning of it until now and I know I can count  on them to see me to the end. And THAT is a friendship like no other.  Version 2





The Power of One, Part Two

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Dear Amanda,

I don’t know you.  You don’t know me.  But if I met you today I would shake your hand, reach in for the hug and spend a lot of our first conversation falling all over myself thanking you.  I am thanking you because you are the one.  The one who changed the trajectory of little-girl-grown-up’s life.  The one who saw in her what I knew was there all along.  The one who decided to take a chance on an inexperienced post-grad from a small town in Ohio. The one who believed in her as much as I do.  But your belief in her counts more than a mom’s belief. My belief meant phone calls and texts and letters filled with encouragement and inspirational quotes.  Your belief means that first job, that start to a career, that big city dream coming true. 

So thank you.  Thank you for seeing it.  That passion, that spark.  Thank you for seeing it even though she’s young and not as experienced as so many others you could have chosen.  You won’t be disappointed.  At the risk of coming across as a helicopter mom I can tell you that she is truly amazing.  And you are the one who will be credited with giving her the start she needed. They say it takes a village, but sometimes, sometimes,  it just takes one.

With Gratitude,