Sunday, June 30, 2019 – Grateful for RETIREMENT

Sunday, June 30, 2019 – Grateful for RETIREMENT

So it has happened.

Thirty-four years have gone by since I graduated college and headed into the education profession. And now here I am reflecting back on a journey that has taken me from 22 to 56, Catholic school teacher to public school teacher to public school administrator and back to Catholic school administrator. It is a full circle that has encompassed hundreds of people and thousands of stories. It is a journey that has taken me from my local mixed community to one of the most affluent communities in Connecticut to one of the poorest communities in Connecticut. It has taken me through the world of special education where often extreme demands were made to only focus on that one student to a faith-based world where students with special learning needs do without so that they will learn and be nurtured in an environment based on Christ’s love.

This full-circled journey has given me thousands of conversations and experiences to reflect on, draw upon, laugh about, and cry a little about. I don’t regret a second of the path I chose 34 years ago! Of course there are things I will miss and moments I won’t miss. Some conversations fall into both categories sometimes!

My conversations over the years have allowed me to journey from statements such as “I want you to know that we will be pulling the children out for two weeks to go on a safari in Africa with the grandparents. Every child MUST experience this!” to “I don’t want to pull the children out for the week, but their grandmother is dying in Guatemala and we haven’t been able to afford to go back home to see her in eight years. Is that OK with you?”

I do know I will not miss suspending a child. That journey always takes a path that is interesting. Those conversations have ranged from a mom telling me “I am not sure you can suspend him. You will have to call my husband at work” (even though I was sure I could and should suspend the young man) to “Go ahead, then tomorrow you will have to call DCF when I beat the crap out of him tonight.” Parents certainly have different parenting styles!!

In the educational world parents have all kinds of ways of showing their support for their children, the teachers, and the administrators. Support comes in all shapes and sizes when it comes to dealing with other people’s children. A parent’s choice of words reveal so much culturally and socially.

“I will check his notebook every night. Or if I can’t, I will have the nanny do it.”

“Do you know how much we have spent on a tutor this summer to get him into the highest math class?”

“I can’t be the only parent who has complained about the teacher. My child says she is failing every kid. They are all getting B’s.”

“Of course you are suspending him. You suspended his brother two years ago! Who is your mentor, Judge Judy?”

“I am not sure what a D will do for him, but I am sure glad it is not the F’s he was getting last year!”

And when I had to call DCF, and then call the Dad to tell him I had to call DCF because we watched the video tape from our own school cameras, “Of course I took a belt to her hands! She was being disrespectful to your teacher. The teacher called me about it! She won’t do that again.”

The conversations and words pop up as sound bites in my head, but the experiences I have flow through my mind and my heart as well. The sudden death of a teacher when I was an assistant principal prepared me for the sudden death of a teacher when I was the principal. Watching my principal manage the crisis of the day on 911 was nothing short of phenomenal. That prepared me for the smaller daily crisis like power outages in the middle of the day or a small fire in the wiring in the middle of a math class, or telling a colleague that a phone call just came in that her dad had passed away.  Having the blessing of watching a mother take care of her very special needs child guided me in the ways to talk to another mom about her mildly disabled child as I fully recognized that love is love and mothers see and feel the deepest meaning of love when it comes to their babies. Dealing with hundreds of individuals (students, teachers, and parents) who all come to the school with a variety of biases, needs, desires, fears, life situations, and variations of true mental illnesses, have taught me to hold off judgement for as long as I can, then recognize and accept that I can only do what I can do to help the situation. That is my only goal when the situations seemed crazy!

So many snippets from thousands of moments in time. Thirty-four years times 180 school days is 6,120 days. If each day averaged out to six hours a day, the straight math tells me that I have had a minimum of  36,720 hours that can be broken down into 2, 203,000 minutes of opportunities for conversations with parents, students, teachers, other administrators, maintenance people, contractors, building inspectors, politicians, police and fire personnel and so many other individuals! In reality, I have probably had millions of interactions that have shaped and reshaped my thinking and my understanding of all kinds of topics in life! And that doesn’t even count the twenty years worth of summer time conversations as an administrator preparing to open up the school for another Opening Day each August!

(As a side note, I tried to convince a politician once that every 6 years, an administrator works an extra 12 months (based on July and August), so therefore, we should get a “free year” towards retirement every 6 years. The legislative bill could be called “6 will get you 7”. This would kind of be like a “dog year” when calculating the life of a mutt! She didn’t think it would fly at the state level!)

For all of these moments in time (the good, the bad, the beautiful, the ugly and the neutral) paths were crossed, and decisions were made, for the most part, in the best interest of the students. For this, I am eternally grateful.

For the beginning of a start of a summer with no “School Work To Do list”, I am even more grateful!!

Happy Retirement to ME!!

#blessed!

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Monday, March 4, 2019 – Grateful for “SNOW DAYS”

Monday, March 4, 2019 – Grateful for “SNOW DAYS”

After 34 years as a teacher and administrator, I still get excited for that random SNOW DAY! Today is that kind of day.

All weekend long, the tension was building around the weather forecast predictions. Various interpretations of the storm models that were being tracked and weather forecasters were contradicting each other on every channel. As each one was hoping they would have accurate information that they were communicating out to the public, my soul was getting more and more excited by the anticipation of a possible snow day. Right from the start of Sunday morning, the questions circled around Facebook and text messages. Will they call it tonight? Will there be a delay tomorrow or would we get the full day off? Which town would be the first to call it? Would the coast get snow and inner CT not? Or, would inner CT get the 8-10 inches of snow and the coast line get a coating? The possibilities seemed endless!

For 34 years, this anticipation has happened any number of times each winter and the question always loomed almost louder than the weather announcers. Would the current superintendent the guts (or accurate information) to call it! Oh, how I have prayed to the gods over the years to intervene and sway the decision-makers at the top of the educational food chain! “PLEASE, GOD, let him (or her) call it early so I won’t have to set my alarm clock!” This exact prayer was probably the most popular last evening around 7:00pm.

And the call got made! I think the whole state had NO SCHOOL due to a SNOW DAY!

We got the answered prayer!

This morning the alarm clock did not wake me. I woke bright and early to a black and white world laden with heavy crisp white snow. The tree limbs bending under 11 inches of wet snow. Simply beautiful.

And so, I have stripped my bed, washed the sheets, have done another load of laundry, showered and put my PJ’s back on, made myself a nice breakfast, finished the book I was reading for the past week, worked on some needlepoint, and am currently on my 6th consecutive episode of “Friends”, and it is only 11:30am.  Oh, how I love a snow day!

I think I would be “pushing it” a bit, if I started right now to pray for a delay tomorrow!

I know we will have to make up the day in June, but for now, I will relish in the treat of having an unexpected day to lounge around and enjoy the grateful feeling of a snow day!

 

MONDAY, FEB. 18, 2019 – GRATEFUL FOR “NEW OPPORTUNITIES”

Monday, Feb. 18, 2019 – Grateful for “New Opportunities”

Sometimes I think it is my adventurous nature that takes me to various places; other times I think it is my FOMO (Fear of Missing Out), and other times I just blame my ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) which I believe might just be my true issue. I get bored quickly and so, over the years, I have found ways to entertain myself. I look for new things to do that I haven’t done before. I love to go places, learn new things, take random classes, meet new people, and see new sights, so I create my own crazy plans to take advantage of new opportunities that arise.

The past 11 days have offered me several of those opportunities and as I look back at my calendar, my head spins!

As  a new member of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, Colleen and I attended the Mardi Gras Dinner at our Wednesday, February 6 meeting. Wearing our gold, purple and green beads and scarfs, we enjoyed our evening meeting new women of Irish heritage and enjoyed a couple of cocktails, great food, and a few laughs. I had never been to a Mardi Gras dinner before at AOH!

On Thursday, February 7, Leslie, Liz and I had dinner with Barb and Lisa and then headed off to a Cello Rock Concert put on by the Yale “Low Strung” group. That event took me back to Darien High School. I didn’t feel relaxed, but I totally enjoyed the concert! I had never been to a rock cello concert before!

On Friday, Feb. 8th, Colleen, Christine, Carol and I visited an Escape Room at PANIC in Vernon, CT. We had an hour to solve about 12-15 various puzzles and find the key and the Iron man figure doll that fit the story line. We needed an extra 10 minutes and I learned I am not the world’s best problem solver at 7pm on a Friday night! I have never done an Escape Room before!

Saturday, Feb. 9th found me cheering on our St. Augustine Dance team for the second year in a row. Even though this was not a “first time” adventure for me, it was a true joy watching the team dance their hearts out and bring home the “BEST COSTUME” award and first place for their division!

The cold lake of Winding Trails Park in Farmington, CT gave me and Colleen the opportunity to freeze our butts off for Special Olympics at the 2019 Penguin Plunge on Sunday, February, 10th. I have NEVER been so cold in my life, and as the guy in front of me said, “You can’t claim you have done the plunge unless you go all the way under!”……so we did!! UGH!! FREEZING!! But so cool to be a part of 200 Penguin Plungers who raised $42,000 in an hour!! Amazing! I had never submerged myself in water that had just been revealed and de-iced by the firemen before!

On Monday, Feb. 11th,  Dad turned 81 and Tuesday, Feb. 12th we were blessed with a SNOW DAY! A great way to celebrate the start of the week! I had celebrated Dad and Snow Days before!!

Wednesday, Feb. 13th, was a SIP AND STRIP at the Nursing Home. As a form of service, Leslie, Lisa, Liz, Debbie L., and I  joined Sr. Lucy and Sr. Francis to learn how to strip stamps from envelops to be cleaned, dried, then shipped to France to be sold as souvenirs at their Mother House. Who knew that reused stamps could help support the nuns in some small way!?!  So a couple of hours, a few sips of wine and about 400-500 stamps were stripped! I had never been a part of such an evening of service before! Such a nice night…doing something new!

The weekend brought a few new experiences in Baltimore with my sisters-in-law, Nancy and Jen. I don’t think I have ever really been to Baltimore! What a great city… the Inner Harbor and Fells Point area were amazing. I can’t wait to go back when the weather is warmer and there is outdoor music and people mingling on the brick walkways. I even tried crab cakes and Lebanese food!  Never even planned on doing that before!!

WOW…that is a lot going on! It was a very busy 11 days!

The reality is that, looking back on my calendar, this pace is nuts, but the great news is that I truly loved each of these moments that came into my life over the past 11 days. I am grateful for them and would hate to have ever missed them.

I look forward to the next 11 days! I am sure new opportunities will arise, new people will be met, good times will be had, and great memories will be made!  I am truly grateful for the new opportunities that are always on my horizon!!

Wednesday, February 6, 2019 – Grateful for the “SUNRISES”!

Wednesday, February 6, 2019 – Grateful for the “SUNRISES”!

My closest friends would describe me as a woman who has more than 300 pictures of sunsets on my camera phone because “The sunset gets better every second and I don’t want to miss the best shot!”; however, for 34 years I have been an educator who has had to be at work between 7am and 7:30am and sunrises are my secret love!

In my first year of  teaching I sat in traffic from Fairfield to Norwalk on I-95 with a rising sun on my back pushing me into the day. For the next 30 years, I rounded the corner at the Ox Ridge Hunt Club with the sun peeking at me over the misty fields on my left hand side; almost waving good morning to me, cheering me on. For one year, as I drove from Norwalk to Bridgeport, the sunrise greeted me with a bright “hello” at the horizon of I-95, just beyond the trucks and McDonald’s rest stop, sliding past my right shoulder over the Long Island Sound.  And now, these past two years, it has ridden alongside my left hand side on Route 8; my partner in crime, helping me decide how my day might go; my contemplative friend and my silent prayer partner.The sunrises have surrounded me, literally, throughout my life.

The sunrises have also surrounded me figuratively throughout my life. On workdays they get up and get ready for their job alongside me, but even on the weekends, I am often awake just to “watch the sunrise”. I feel like it is a greeting from a friend that I happen to miss when I sleep in a little too late. My day is just not the same. For me the sunrise is a decision point about how my day will go. Will it go smoothly, as it peeks over the lake and mountains of my backyard? Or, will it stay unrevealed as the heavy clouds drape their way over it and not allow for a quick hello? I love to guess what kind of a sunrise will be there for me each day.

This morning was the hot pink mingling one with orange highlights whose brilliance can’t quite be captured as intensely on a camera phone as what it reveals to the eye. Other days it is a blue green, almost like the sea, with just a sliver of yellow-orange that separates the sky from the horizon. Yet, on other days, it is muted colors with white wispy clouds slicing through as if the clouds are racing the sun in an unannounced drag race along the highway. I love each one of them.

I believe my sunrises are special because they conjure up memories that come back to my mind in flashes of moments. They summon the camping trips with my family every July and August. They bring back the chilly feeling of the early morning walks to the latrines with the Girl Scout chaperones. They announce my arrival back home after an all night Prom Party event. They bring back the exhausting early morning feedings with my babies when I just wish I could sleep one more hour and yet, now wouldn’t trade those mornings for a million dollars. And they bring a smile when I think back to the morning Kevin had asked to see the sunrise at the beach so with our Dunkin’ Donuts hot chocolates and donuts, and a few stray wandering skunks, he watched the sun rise over Calf Pasture beach and I watched his eyes never blink for fear of missing it. The sunrises in my life have brought me countless precious moments.

I will always love the beautiful sunsets I have witnessed at the end of my busy days, but yes, I am truly grateful for the “sunrises” that bless me at the start of each new morning.

 

Sunday, Jan. 27, 2019 – Grateful for my “Sisters”

Sunday, Jan. 27, 2019 – Grateful for my “Sisters”

I am blessed with two biological sisters, Leslie and Lisa. I wouldn’t trade them for the world! Through marriage, I have three more sisters, Michelle, Nancy and Jen. I am grateful for each of them!

However, as I have gotten a bit older I have realized that I have a network of “Sisters” who I can’t imagine my life without. This network has grown over time and has connected me and entwined me with women who, although not blood related, have completed my life in so many fulfilling ways.

There are the “sisters” I have had since elementary, middle, and high school who I talk to “every now and again” as if no time has passed between us. We don’t have to explain ourselves, we just accept each other for who we are. There are the the real sisters of those sisters who ride the path of life with us through isolated events and moments of celebration and sadness. Their sisters are my “sisters”.

There are the “sisters” who have helped me raise my children. They sat beside me at PTO meetings that were filled with stupid advice. They sat beside me in my kitchen on rainy Saturdays complaining about the bills that needed to get paid. They sat beside me waiting for parent conferences to be over so we could all go get a glass of wine. With me, they have planned birthday parties for our children, surprise parties for our spouses, and understood when we didn’t want to go to any party with anyone!

There are the “sisters” who come to Rosary once a month to grieve the loss of our faithful “sisters”; the ones we will never see on this earth again, yet their presence sit beside each of us in the cold wooden pews lingering among the Hail Mary’s and Our Fathers and Glory Be’s. They are there in the silent pause after the Rosary ends and before we all say, “Thank you ladies. Have a great month.”

There are the “sisters” at Book Club; some with their own biological sisters and those who have no biological sisters, yet we all share the room with chatter that fills the space and and only gets overridden by laughter. Each of us brings a view of the book that is as diverse and unique as each of our own stories. The connections to our Book Club “sisters” run deep in each of us.

There are the religious “Sisters” who have shared my life, even though I have never attended a Catholic School. These sisters are friends, church friends, and co-workers. Each one of them I look to as a role model and confidant. Each one devoted to the same God I believe in, but in a way that I don’t think I would have ever had the courage or strength to dedicate my life. They are the “sisters” who have lived a very different life than I have and to whom I am so grateful.

There are the friends who are my “sisters” because we have shared so many life experiences with. They have helped me be the mother I am. They have laughed and cried with me. I have travelled to parts of the world with them: Guatemala, Haiti, Spain, China, Ireland, Germany and Italy. They have been to every life event from my Confirmation, my wedding, my children’s Baptisms, Communions, Confirmations, and weddings. I have had the privilege to sit beside them at their parents’ wakes and funerals. And have spent many nights sipping wine, drinking vodka, or chugging beer, in celebration of life and all we have accomplished.

I am grateful for my SISTERS of all kinds. The women who I have known, loved, continue to enjoy life with,  and those who have passed on.  And, now it is also my turn to watch my daughters build their network of “sisters” beyond each other and it is a wonderful process to witness. They are on a journey that will take them places they don’t even know exists yet.

Lisa texted our Book Club a great line this Sunday night….”Sisters are like fat thighs; they stick together!” So true! I feel so blessed that each of these women have “stuck with me” (just like my fat thighs!)  through this journey called life. I am blessed to be sharing this lifetime with so many fantastic women.

I am forever grateful for each one of my “sisters”!

 

On Saturday, Jan. 20th, I Am Grateful that I said “YES” to BINGO. 

On Saturday, Jan. 20th, I Am Grateful that I said “YES” to BINGO.

Well, It is not my Aunt Elva’s and Aunt Angie’s BINGO game anymore. It was not the BINGO my father called on Friday nights at St. Joseph’s church basement throughout my childhood. It was not Tracey School BINGO for our occasional family Friday nights. This was BINGO ON STEROIDS!

Jeanne and Debbie and Liz were heading to Foxwoods for BINGO on Saturday morning, so Barb and I jumped in on this to join them. They told us Bingo started at 10:30am so they would meet up there at 9:00; we’d leave our houses by 7:00am. “That’s crazy”, I thought…but OK. I did ask, “Why do we have to get there so early”. The response was, “There is a lot to set up for it.” My sarcastic side thought was, “Good Lord, we are not running it, but ok.”

Well, imagine my surprise when we arrived to an enormous banquet hall called BINGO HALL. I had no idea there are BINGO games going on all day and night EVERY DAY of the year only an hour and a half away from my home!  Lines were 45 minutes long in the main lobby to pay $35 for General Admission and the women were wandering around the banquet hall selling “Special games” for another $25 and separate special games ranging from $1.00 to $10.00. They had this system down pat and hundreds of people were firing up and “setting up” for BINGO!

Jeanne and Debbie brought the snacks in big tote bags along with the DOT Markers we would need. Once we got our General Admission taken care of, they taught us how to highlight different patterns on the cards to prepare for the games and how to follow the sheet indicating the 18 games we would play and in what order it would all happen. They helped us fill in the U-Pick-Em sheets and prepare our cards for the Bonanza numbers. We filled our tea, coffee and soda and used the ladies’ room. It was 10:25 and we were almost ready to start! My know understood that it really did take an hour and a half to set up for BINGO.

The caller began with the warm up games and thank God, Liz bought these! These five games gave us a chance to figure out how to decipher what the heck the guy was mumbling through the speakers, figure out which board with the light up numbers worked best for us in our line of sight, accustomed ourselves to his pattern and pace of calling the numbers, and determine how hard we had to press the ink dot blotters on the BINGO cards to get the best effect for covering them, yet  being able to still read them, just in case we all were going to win and walk away with cold, hard cash!

After the warm ups, the games began!!  We had to follow fast! What card were we on? Red, Pink, Yellow, Green Grey, Blue, White, or Black? What game were we on? A regular, a special, or a Quickie card? What pattern were we making? A hard Bingo, a Double Bingo, the cross, a postage stamp or a double postage stamp or a triple postage stamp? Were we making an X, an L or a Diamond? Was it a small picture frame game or a large picture frame game? Were we going to win $1,199 or $2,500 if we got the only BINGO win or would we have to split it with other people? Was it a $300 Quickie or a Full Card Fill Up for $10,000. Only Debbie walked away with a $500 split with four others to bring in her $125 cash!

The young man kept coming to ask us if we wanted to order food, but I can’t tell you anything about him since I didn’t have time to even lift my eyes to acknowledge him. I was too busy trying to keep up and not miss a B2 or O69 or N34 as part of the hard bingo, X, or triple postage stamp. I could feel my heart pound, my stomach growl, but I had no time for him and his menu. I only had time for the handfuls of appreciated popcorn that Debbie and Jeanne had brought!

The caller finally gave us a break! There would be a 15 minute intermission to use the ladies room and refill your tea or coffee, but there was a catch! You had to be present in the BINGO Hall to win the door prizes! If you left the room, you may just miss the prizes of cash and opportunities to spin the big wheel or go into the Cash Wind Booth and grab for cash. After tea and soda, I had to take that risk. The ladies room won out for me and I was back at our table before the big and final games began. I was ready!

No, I did not win the Car, nor the $10,000 for the full card in 40 numbers, nor the U-Pick-Em prizes (I even had the chance to think about what numbers might be called and I still didn’t come close!)

When the final game was called and the sound of the crumpling of the paper cards at each table ended with them being shoved into the plastic garbage bags taped to the tables between each player, I took a deep breath. It was 3:30pm. Five straight (and I mean straight!) hours of BINGO!  At the table we all wondered aloud, “How does a 6 school day drag by when a 5 hour BINOGO Day flew by”. Time is a trick when you are focused on knowing that the chance to win big bucks might just come your way!

When all was said and done and the caller had put down the microphone, the light up Bingo Balls on the walls flashed us a sad GOOD BYE, and the mobs of hundreds of people started filing out, we began to pack up our Dot Markers, left over snacks and empty cups. My mind raced to comprehend the score of it’s accomplishment today. It had played 39 different kinds of BINGO and had scanned 256 separate Bingo cards on paper sheets, all while my eyes ran up and down the B, I, N, G, and O columns while my had was ready to stamp, and my mouth conspired to yell, “BINGO”, but never had the chance. And yet, I did not leave disappointed.

What a great and fun opportunity today was! I am grateful that Liz had mentioned they were going. I am grateful for these three women who welcomed two more. I am grateful that I live someplace where fun times can be found where ever and whenever you look for them. And, I am eternally grateful for my BINGO foundation that was laid long ago by Dad and Mom, Elva and Angie, and our Tracey School family.

Although I don’t think I will be a BINGO fanatic later in life,  I do believe that every now and again playing BINGO will always bring back some great memories for me.  For all of these memories, I am grateful!

Sunday, Jan. 13, 2019 – Grateful for some “Monsters and Myths”

Sunday, Jan. 13, 2019 – Grateful for some “Monsters and Myths”.

I had never even heard of the Wadsworth Atheneum Art Museum in Hartford before last week or so. Christine invited me to go to the last weekend of the exhibit entitled “Monsters and Myths”. I struggled with the decision. Should I stay home and type up some school work? Should I stay home and read my book club book? Should I pull out my CT Trails Guide Book and go for a hike? Should I do a little needlepoint, crochet, or knit a new scarf? Or should I go to the museum and take a look at something I had never even really thought about.

So, after going to breakfast with my brother, I headed home at 9am and decided, maybe I would meet Christine when her church service got out and go with her after all. I rounded the corner and her car was in the driveway! I took that as my sign! Yes, I will go.

I called her cell phone thinking she skipped mass, but in fact she was just heading out. So I changed quickly, refilled my tea cup, and jumped in the car with her…off to St. John’s Episcopal Church, then to the museum!

We met up with her friend, Lisa,  and the three of us drove into Hartford via I84.

We entered the building. It was massive! It was actually 5 buildings and we were there for the special exhibit that was all about Surrealism and War in the 1930’s and 1940’s. WHAT A TREAT!  Besides not even knowing this place had existed, I really had no idea that the Wadsworth Atheneum was the oldest continuously running museum in the country! Amazing!

I had no idea that Michelangelo, Monet, Jackson Pollack, Salvador Dali, Maria Martins, Wolfgang Paalen, Dorothy Tanning, Yves Tanguy, Masson, Thomas Cole,Sylvia Plimack Mangold, James Welling, Giovanni Paolo Panini, and Max Ernst, along with so  many other artists have their work amongst the 50,000 pieces of artwork hung on the walls of this special place, less than an hour from my home.

After touring the various highlights of the museum with a docent, I realized I must go back again and again to see the full place. It was truly an overwhelmingly wonderful experience.

Later, as we nibbled on hand made potato chips, and Bison Chili Nachos at Ted’s Restaurant in downtown Hartford, I couldn’t help but think about how grateful I was for this Sunday. I felt grateful for my friends who offer me opportunities to do new things and grateful for the artwork, both the weird pieces that I couldn’t understand and the pieces that spoke loudly to my heart. As I reached for more nachos and chips, I wandered back around the exhibit in my mind. At the root of it all, I felt especially grateful for my most favorite artist, the one who happens to be my second child.  Someday, perhaps Melissa’s artwork will hang on the walls of the Wadsworth Atheneum along side the beautiful works of the many artists she studied while at college.

If you ever get the chance, please visit this wonderful place. Great artwork is stilling there, hanging on walls, waiting to be enjoyed by all!

For this, I am grateful!

Jan. 7, 2019 – A Year of Gratitude – Grateful for our little blue 1999 Mazda Protege!!

Jan. 7, 2019 – A YEAR OF GRATITUDE – Grateful for our little blue 1999 Mazda Protege!

June of 1999 was a great month!  I was turning 36, my kids were 4, 6, 8 and 9 years old, my friend had invited us over for dinner at her new house, and Vinnie pulled up in his brand new four door, dark blue 1999 Mazda Protege! For $12,000 he drove it off the lot and straight to Clyna’s! We were all excited for that little blue car that would take all four kids to Tracey Elementary School each morning!  Very exciting.

It was this past Saturday, however, returning from Brass Works Brewery when Vinnie said, “You have been riding in that seat for almost 20 years!!” that made my mind start turning. That little four door, dark blue Mazda Protege has been a part of our family’s story for almost 20 years! Amazing!!  With 325,000 miles, it has never been washed or detailed. It has more sunflower seeds, old paint color booklets, and gas receipts than you can count roaming around on the floor. The seats sag down so low that you feel like you could be sitting on the ground. The power windows still work, but the heat blows out cold air. The CD player quit a long time ago, but the music dial works if you twist it just the right way. The steering wheel is sun-dried and beat up, but has taken us around so many corners in life that it almost looks like it smiles each time you place two hands on it. The dashboard, the gearshift, and the glove compartment stuffed to the gills, all hold our family’s story and some of the most private conversations that Vinnie and I have ever had. Like good friends who can keep great secrets, they have listened to our financial worries, our concerns about our children, our laughs at our parenting blunders and our wildest hopes and dreams for our future, both as individuals and as a couple. The fabric of the front and back seat have carried boxes of books, yogurt makers, coffee pots, bags of cereal from Walmart, paint brushes and tools, and our most precious cargo, our four children. That car has carried Vincent from the first day of Kindergarten through college and beyond, has provided at least half of the kids “stick shift” lessons, and guaranteed Kevin a car at all times since his siblings gave up on learning to drive a standard vehicle. It also gave Kevin his first speeding ticket!  

I have been wondering what my focus will be for 2019.

In 2017, I lived an “intentional and abundant life” and blogged about a new adventure each week. I focused on living fully and it was a fabulous year. Last year snuck away from me somehow. It came, it was a challenging year of losing several beloved friends, and so I will remember 2018 as a sadder year. But in reflecting on this, it has reminded me to really look at life as one long chain of endless possibilities. In December, I was at a staff retreat, and the woman running it spoke about being grateful. She challenged us to shift our thinking from “I HAVE TO  (fill in the blank)” to “I GET TO (fill in the blank)”. Even the most mundane requirements in life can be looked at as an opportunity. Somebody else would LOVE to have that opportunity depending on what their circumstances are. And so, my focus for 2019 this will be to be “Grateful for the Opportunities” and there really are opportunities everywhere!

That being said, I had the opportunity to chug along up Mt. Tobe Rd from the brewery to our home with Vinnie on Saturday, Jan. 5, 2019 and saw the ride through a whole new lens. I saw it through the lens of 20 years of so many  opportunities it has brought to Vinnie and myself. I almost got a bit weepy thinking about how grateful I am for our little, four door, dark blue 1999 Mazda Protege!

NEW YEAR 2018……February 7, 2018

NEW YEAR 2018……February 7, 2018

It is February 7, 2018. I am not sure what happened to January. I feel like it rolled right past me in a wave of my emotional swings.

In December I finished off my 2017 New Year’s Resolution of Living Intentionally…and doing something new every week of the year! The whole year was amazing and I tried things I had never done before with good friends, my family, and Vinnie. On Dec. 29th, Vinnie and I came home on a “high” from South Carolina. We had an accepted offer on our “retirement home”, had a plan to close on February 6, 2018, and we were on Cloud 9!

Then the 30th came. A phone call came. Our dear friend, Nancy Denman passed away unexpectedly. She was 54. Vinnie and I, along with her family, friends, and co-workers, were heartbroken. Her funeral would start 2018 off in a somber and reflective mode surrounded by friends we had shared experiences and memories with for over 30 years. At that funeral, Tory Hartmayer Prizio encouraged me to go see Lori Paladino; another good friend (especially of Nancy’s) who was very ill. Tory’s exact words were “Life is short, Debi. We all know that. Just stop by to say hi to Lori. I am sure she’d love to see you.” With trepidation, I followed Tory’s advice and did it. Lori and I chatted and laughed for 15 minutes and I am forever grateful. Lori passed away on January, 24th. She, too, was 54. The realization that Lori and Nancy would be forever together; a friendship without end, is not lost on me or anyone else. Nancy had told me only 3 months ago that she did not know how to live without Lori. We cried at that moment by the frozen french fries in Stop & Shop. In my mind, Nancy went on before her to help ease the transition for Lori to eternal life together. Nancy would never have to know what it would be like to live without Lori after all. In fact, we all have to learn to live without both of them, fully knowing and having faith that they are together free of pain and forever loved.

On Monday, January 29th, many of us hugged each other for the second time in 3 weeks, shook our heads and had no words that would accurately reflect the depth of our pain in the loss of two beautiful women. Yes, January was very hard. The writer in me had a tough time finding words to describe the experiences I had, and the emotions I felt, in the days I walked through this past month.

And yet, Nancy and Lori are perfect examples of individuals who believe in living each day intentionally. Tory stepped in to remind me of that! It was hard to remember that in the passing of two friends, there is the whisper of the heart begging us all to live intentionally.

So, when Stephanie came over to stay at the lake with us, she asked what my New Year’s Resolution would be for 2018. We brainstormed all the things I still have never done: held a tarantula, kayaked down the CT River, slept on a boat in a harbor, camped in my own backyard as an adult, or shot a gun!  So many experiences I still have to do…..and I am already 54.

What I do know is that our days on this Earth are not limitless. But the opportunities to share in the lives of so many other people are limitless. So this year, I will continue to live intentionally. I will look for LOVE when it is hard to see. I will look for ADVENTURE when time seems to be passing me by. I will look for times to reach out to others and ENJOY the moments I have to share with the people I am with on this planet during this time in my life. I will CHEER for my children, CELEBRATE in their successes, and help to EASE their PAIN when hard times come.

If I have learned anything from 2017….and the sad month of January 2018, it is to not take the moments in life for granted. I want to LIVE WELL (and INTENTIONALLY), LAUGH OFTEN, and LOVE MUCH.

And, yes, the good news is…..we (Mom and Dad were there in person!) closed on our new home yesterday, February 6, 2018! And we celebrated with a little margarita!!

 

 

A Year of Living INTENTIONALLY! – Dec. 31, 2017

A Year of Living INTENTIONALLY – Dec. 31, 2017

My New Year’s Resolution for 2017 was to live INTENTIONALLY. I can honestly say, I lived ABUNDANTLY too! When I look back on my year, I am amazed. I would assume many people tried new things this past year, socialized with good friends and went places they did not expect to go. But, for me, I kept this blog to capture my year. Now as I look back, I can see the things I tried that I had never done before, the many people I chose to spend my days with and the places I never expected to go…both physically and emotionally!

I kicked off the year, blessing a waitress with a $100 tip (12/31/16)! It was the perfect way to kick off this wonderful year. Although I intended this year to give more than to receive, I found I “received” a lot!! From that first tip at Penny’s Diner,  the experiences were both large and small for me. I worked out for 6 days in a row (1/6) (So proud of myself!) then I stopped (oh, well!), cleared out junk (2/11), fed the homeless guy in Bridgeport (11/15), and gave out Halloween candy in my new home while I reminisced of the days I now miss (10/31).

At school, we invited Rapper FNX (2/2) to school to share his thoughts on making an impact on others, I marched in my first St. Patty’s Day parade with 100 8th graders and my grandson (3/17), I took back to back field trips in June (6/12 and 6/13) and took a student and her mom horseback riding (6/27) to celebrate a “job well done”!

With friends, I wore Beautycounter Masks (4/30), packed 10,000 meals for the hungry in Burkina Faso (2/26) and I still don’t even know where that is!, attended a Catholic Leaders’ Conference (3/5), found Barbara and Mark’s lost children in the woods (5/27), and I ate a stranger’s french fries at Citifield (5/19)! Although I still have never “crashed a party”, our book club party at Pam’s house was crashed by the Optimum Man. Poor “DAN” will never be the same (5/9)!

I visited many places that I said I would go to “SOMEDAY”. Whether it was with one friend, or with many, I took in the new experiences with a wide open heart and an intentional purpose. Throughout the year I visited Lourdes in Litchfield with Lisa, Barb and Liz (12/8), Harlem Valley Rail Trail with Vinnie (11/24), The Fascia’s Chocolate Factory with Vinnie, Christine and Jia (1/13), Firefly Hollow Brewing Company with Vinnie (3/4), The Hot Spot Glass Blowing Company with Sharon, her sister-in-law, and Kali (4/1), The Botanical Gardens in NYC with my sisters, my Aunt Pat, and cousins (6/10), Litchfield Blueberry Farms (alone and so peaceful!)(7/9), The Big E with Vinnie (9?30), Hawk Ridge Winery with Wendy, Willy, Vinnie, Mark and Barbara (10/22) and the Viking/Panther Game in NC with Vinnie and Vincent (12/10). And…for the first time in my life, I golfed!! I golfed in Ireland at the Spanish Point Golf Club overlooking the ocean to celebrate Liz’s 50th birthday with 28 wonderful people. As her brother-in law spread the ashes of her Dad, Donald F. Reid, I realized that this was a moment in time I will cherish forever (11/10)!

During the winter and spring of 2017, I drove a Wave Runner around Key West with Vinnie (3/31), went to sunrise service on Easter morning with Clyna for the 15th year in a row (or so!) (4/16), went to see Hairspray, Jr. at West Rocks Middle School with Liz (1/20), and made homemade pasta for the first time with my brother, Dan (2/15)!

The Bridgewater Fair (8/20), The Milford Oysterfest (8/19), the Peach Lounge to hear Tangled Vine (11/28), and then the Indigo Girls (4/26) were events that I did with great friends that I may do again someday, but if I don’t that is OK. Once could have been enough!

This year caused me to pause and reflect a lot about where my life is, where it has been, and where it is going. I listened a little more intently in church to the readings (7/8), with Nancy, we brought cookies to the Broad River Fire Department as a long and overdue Thank You to the men who carried my mother-in-law to a place she’d be comfortable…two years earlier (4/12)! I pondered what lay ahead in the future while Vinnie and I walked old railroad tracks (10/7), and spent time in NYC having pizza with Leslie, Lisa, Liz and Kevin (9/12). In July,  I had emotional roller coaster week (7/17-7/23) as I learned I was a kidney transplant match for my friend, Mark Hollis. The surgery through Yale Transplant Center (7/25) was probably one of the coolest things I have ever done for someone else! Mark and I are literally connected for life!

I had the incredible moment of going to the Greenwich Library to see our home in the local debut of the Alex Morsanutto’s movie Hi-Glo Retro (6/4)! I had poignant moments such as our last Bacon, Egg and Cheese breakfast with my Stephanie, Anthony, Melissa and Vinnie as we said good bye to our big, red home on West Rocks Road (8/12). And proud moments at the grand opening at MKT in Norwalk taking pictures of Melissa and her artwork throughout the restaurant (4/3).  And, finally, I enjoyed a peaceful ending to a busy year walking the beach of Hilton Head, SC on Christmas Day with Vinnie, Mom, and Dad (waiting for us on the boardwalk!) (12/25)

There are so many special moments with people I love and things I “always wanted to do”. I also recognize that I did not do many of the items on my “potential TO DO List” that I started off the year intending to do. So, many people have asked me what my “2018 New Year’s Resolution” will be. I have thought long and hard, and I think I am going to continue this one! I have truly loved doing things I have never done before…..so I am going to do it again!

I have to be honest. It is now Jan. 7, and week one of 2018 has gone by with two snow says and it is literally 2 degrees outside, but Vinnie and I have spent the week getting our paperwork together to submit to a mortgage broker in South Carolina. Our closing on our new home will be in February (fingers crossed!)….YES, I think 2018 is going to be a great year!