Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Another Milestone

When I turned 10...

Gosh at first I didn't remember much about that milestone into double digits. My initial thoughts conjured up a three tiered cake with a golden ballerina on top. That ballerina still exists somewhere in my father's house, as well as in this badly fading photo. But after I started digging through my childhood photo album I discovered that cake was in fact, for my ninth birthday.

My tenth birthday was the year I had a huge sleepover for my best girlfriends in my fourth grade class. You turn ten in fourth grade right?

Standing behind me are (L-R) Beth, Lana, and Michelle. Sitting are Sherry, me, Raquel, and Renee.
Wow...fourth grade. We had a miserable crabby old teacher named Mrs. Street who, due to what I now know was an extreme case of Strabismus (wandering eye) could see you doing something bad without seemingly looking your direction. She often confused me with Renee, which I now attribute to what must have been amblyopia (as in lazy eye, as in vision, likely caused by the Strabismus- wow- can't take the ophthalmogy out of the assistant even four years later!)

That sleepover was a wild time.

Looking at these photos for the first time in years, I realized that thanks to joining my class reunion committee, I have had a chance to either see or email Beth and Raquel.

I always thought Renee was so pretty and glamorous that I didn't understand why Mrs. Street got us mixed up all the time. Looking back we did favor each other, and were almost sisterly in that we actually shared the same birthday, as well as hospital room when we were born. I wonder what my "twin" is up to now.

Sherry moved away during elementary school.

Sadly, Michelle, never got past the milestone of thirteen. She became ill with leukemia the same year these photos were taken. She passed away in seventh grade. That loss is the first I remember of someone so young that I knew so well.

Turning twenty was bad. So bad in fact I couldn't find a picture of celebrating it. This one is from turning 21. Much more important milestone than twenty after all. Legal. Grown up. By the time this picture was taken, I was well on my way to dropping out of my first stint at college. One of the first of many twenties regrets.

When I turned thirty, my life took off.

I was a stay at home mom in an unhappy marriage. I had two children, then about to turn 4 and 1. I felt unfulfilled and in need of change. The milestone of thirty propelled me into realizing that I had not even begun to figure out what I wanted to do or be when I grew up. And I was evolving toward an understanding that the current path I was taking, wasn't one I would look back on one day and be proud of. I was "getting by" "making do" "content". But far from happy.

The year between thirty and thirty-one was a metamorphosis of sorts. A cathartic awakening. And shortly before my 31st birthday, I decided to listen to a quote I heard...one that haunted me every time I was afraid to take a risk for happiness.

"Leap and the net will find you."

I felt my first husband couldn't join or even follow me on that journey. So I left my safety net and filed for divorce. I went back to work and school. Life was stressful, but for the first time it seemed heavier on the "Full" than the "stress". By my 31st birthday, thirty pounds of emotionally fed layers melted off as easily as a Hershey's kiss on a summer day in Miami. Or Hell...whichever's faster.

Today, as I turn 40, I find myself full circle in many ways. I now have a total of four kids. I am a stay at home mom with a toddler. I am now happily married, and know that my husband of three years will not only follow, or join me on my journey toward fulfillment, but...

Encourages me to stay on the path.

However, I am still struggling with unhealthy relationships, both with teenagers, and chocolate. The chocolate I can walk away from. The teens I cannot, and that makes it hard to leave my friend, cocoa behind me either. Teens definitely challenge the art of unconditional loving. The difficulty lies in the fact that they see themselves as mature and full grown. You know they are not. Therefore you as the parent, the grown up, must attempt to let go just enough, so that you don't all go down in a cesspool of contempt and bitterness, while still finding ways to teach them, guide them toward responsibility and self sufficiency. Knowing that reaching that place took me til the age of thirty...well, lets just say it seems a daunting task.

Every angst filled glare, baiting of arguments, every eye roll or questioning of my right to request anything of them and...

I just get that jonesin' for some cocoa, mocha, bittersweet, tollhouse, fudge. And unfortunately, when I go into denial about my chocoholic tendencies, well....as Shakira says, "My Hips Don't Lie." Neither does the full length mirror in my bathroom, or candid photos at family events. The same emotionally fed thirty pounds are back to haunt me.

This year for me is about finding that balance. How do I find that thirty year old woman who was so unbelievably certain in her path that she leapt for the proverbial net, knowing that it would find her? Where did she go? Did I wear her out the five years I was single-mothering, working, schooling?

I hope not.

I did have an incredible week I am still trying to sort through. I had a lovely time with my friend Lorie, my mom, her friend Stella, my cousin Amy, and so many wonderful friends I have come to know through the Company of Women retreat. One, as I posted earlier this week, we lost the day after returning home, and that is still sitting with me as well.

Then I barely had time to exhale when I was off to Meadville Lombard in Chicago. Spent three days (on top of the past year) pondering a Masters of Arts in Religion. Knowing it's the next step, but not being able to take it due to other obligations is hard.

Something is still holding me back, still waiting to show itself in the next year.

I have a feeling....

That soon my dear old friends catharsis and metamorphosis will show up at my door once more.

I am anticipating their arrival. We have a lot to discuss over a cup of mocha java....

Decaf with a double shot of fat free cream.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

A Loss for Words

I am just now winding down after an AMAZING writer's retreat, yet gearing up for my trip to Chicago for Meadville Lombard's prospective student conference. I am trying to remain in the moment of each experience, soaking up every minute, all the while wishing they were a few weeks apart so I could savor all the more.

The weekend was full of inspiration, reflection, catching up with my old high school friend, as well as many familiar returning faces. My friend Lorie and I both turn 40 this year and celebrated at the retreat (my 5th, her first) by bringing wine, chocolate and presents.

I learned many wonderful things (of course!) as I do every single year, and have decided to devote different posts to each lesson (there's that stretching out the savoring thing again.)

So this post, I want only to focus on the most poignant part of this years retreat for me, well, likely for us all. It is a bittersweet reflection.

Sadly, one of my favorite instructors, a poet named Judi Beach, had to back out of the retreat at the last minute. She had discovered only weeks before that she had stage four liver cancer and her health rapidly declined.

She passed away yesterday.

Judi was one of the most generous writers and instructors I have ever known, and my only regret is that I didn't get to know her better over the years. She was such an amazing instructor that she was requested to return every year. You may read more about her on her website, which I discovered has not been updated yet. I found this to be completely poetic, as I still feel such energy from Judi I doubt she will ever feel gone to me. I almost feel like sending out an email to her and that, wherever she is, she will receive it and smile.

Here is one of my favorite poems of Judi's-

From...How far Light must Travel


Sun comes in where it can, secure in its welcome.
The moon, too, trails through the house.
And if the sun or moon is not available,
we find comfort in the incandescence of lamps.
We take advantage of every bright source
to place our paintings and art, our photos of loved ones.
Houseplants collaborate for light from a single window.
We are never without it even on nights of no moon.
When the wind has blown electricity into the next county,
we reach for flashlight or candle, praise the domestication of fire.
In the presence of light, whatever the source, we do not feel alone.

There are times when we forget we can see in shadow
and times the heart's darkness forgets the sun is waiting to get in.
But even the blind know that light brings warmth.
A cold rock resting in a ribcage will find heat and beat again.

~Judi Beach

Ironically, the Jackie Greene song that is playing on this post, was the one I chose to use last week because of it's opening line, "I've been thinkin' bout some women." I thought that was a perfect song to accompany my retreat post. I had no idea at the time that Judy was ill.

I forgot it was on here today, until I was finished with the first draft of the post and tested it out. As I listen only one word came to mind- apropos. Please send loving thoughts to Judi's family as you listen to the whole song.

As I keep in mind the positive direction I'm headed on my own journeys this week, I am choosing to reflect on Judi's light. That amazing bright aura surrounded her and enveloped everyone she met. I will follow it as a beacon in the dark this week, toward my future bright and full of reflection.

Peace, love, and red wine

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Ready to Retreat

I am headed off this weekend on my annual trip to the Company of Women Writers Retreat.
I am really swamped with printing up new business cards, working on my photo collage of Punderson State Park, which I am donating for the raffle. I am also putting together a slide show of photos I took for the retreat director last year, along with many others given to me from previous years. That's taking a lot longer than I anticipated (always the procrastinator.) My life long friend Lorie is going with me this year, and we are going to stay up late drinking some wine, eating some chocolate and chatting like we're still sneaking to get away with those kind of activities. Hmmmm...these days with four kids and a very busy extra curricular activity calendar (spread sheet on the computer actually) perhaps I do need to sneak away!

I am going to savor every moment. Well...except for the fact that one or two of the aforementioned four kids and/or my husband passed along a cold to me. I think I have one every second week of April for this retreat. But I'm not going to let it stop me!

So there won't be much posting this week.

Or next week actually, as I am off again, this time for a prospective student conference looking into returning for my MA in Religious History. Can't wait for that trip either!

It seems when it rains it really does pour. This week it feels as though I am under the skittle clouds and soaking up some candy!

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Reclaiming My Life ~ Step One

We did

Five times since Wed.

two hours a day.

In spite of me having a horrendous UTI on Sunday complete with a side order of painfully passed kidney stone.

I was determined-no
committed to do it as much as possible this time. For once I refused to be deterred by my health from my goal of doing it more.

And, for the first time since Anna's was born, I am even starting to look forward to it and almost enjoying it. As a matter of fact Rick didn't want to do it yesterday and I was disappointed enough to do it all by myself!

NO! Not
THAT! Geesh! The fact that I said Rick didn't want to do it yesterday should have been a clue it wasn't THAT ;)

We joined the YMCA on Wed and have worked out two hours a day ever since. I have yet to see any Biggest Loser level results though, as we also still continued to eat at our normal over consuming rate, but it has to be doing something right? Let's hope.

As I was walking into the locker room to put on my granny-skirted swimsuit, a very pregnant woman was walking out with a shirt on that said "Baby Fat". I told her, "Well I need a shirt like that one, but now that my 'baby' is two, I don't think I can pass it off as postpartum anymore." She laughed politely, and I detected an edge of pity for me, as though she was thinking "No way in HELL I'm lookin' like THAT two years from now!"

It reminded me of a "Baby Fat" post I wrote last year about my determination to get back into shape and reclaim my

"Stacy's Mom" status once more!

A year has passed since that post...

And I'm still the same weight. Still fluctuating. Still tired and worn out at 39.

THIRTY-NINE! For only a few short weeks. Then I will turn....


I weigh 152 pounds. Four years ago when I met my dear husband I weighed...

124 pounds.

When we got married about a year later I weighed .....

134 pounds.

Then when I got pregnant with Anna....
ok, well ....you don't even want to know what that total was.

I wasn't too worried because, even though I started out higher than I wanted to, I put on the same I did with the boys and actually weighed less at delivery than I did with Noah.

So I should be able, two years later, to be the same weight I was after Noah right?

Well, actually I AM. I didn't lose my postpartum weight with Noah until he was two, I started smoking, and I left my then husband/now EX-husband, friend and co parent.

One new husband, baby girl now toddler, Deep Vein Thrombosis, and Toxic Multi-Nodular Goiter later-

The "Lose Weight Fast!- Get a Divorce, Work 44 Hours a Week, While Going to School Full Time, and Chain Smoking" diet is not an option this time.

So WHAT to do?

Introduce Anna to daycare gently, by having her play at the Y-babysitting room a couple hours a day (which by the way she is NOT interpreting as a gentle introduction. More like abandonment. She shrieks at me when I leave like a child in war torn Europe being ripped from it's mother's arms.) She does love the pool though. So I reward her with that when I'm done working out.

I do 25 mins on the elliptical followed by 35 mins on the treadmill. Then, put on the Granny Skirt suit and head to the pool for a half hour of laps, after which I put on an "inefficient" cover up to run up and give Anna her pool reward for allowing me to abandon her for an hour and a half.

That d@mn Granny suit. I bought it when PREGNANT with Anna. It's not a maternity suit per say, but since I'm still so out of shape every time I sport it I feel like relaxing my belly and pretending I AM pregnant, so I won't have to be too sad when the eventual question comes from the other Granny Suit sporters (the ones who are actually GRANNIES) who are in arthritis exercise class in the pool while I'm doing laps. At least I can take 'em on lap time so I can escape from their good natured conversation about my matronly belly.

I have been disparately shopping for a new one piece, but even a year after nursing it's the only one that fits me right in the boobs. If I try on a 10 or 12, they fit til I try to hoist them up over the mountainous chest I still sport. If I go to a 14 it's so loose there's no support. So I continue on with my White Stag cross backed skirted granny suit, generically labeled size Large, with a unique t/cross back that really actually supports me nicely. If only I could find that fit up top without the damn skirt (or a smaller more trendy version of the skirt...ech-hem...if one does in fact exist that could be labeled trendy.)

And Stacey's Mom? Well last night the former title holder watched as my ten year old tried to get into the hot tub by the pool, and the life guard yelled at him- no kids allowed. Then I got in without a glance from her, of course. A young couple joined me and the same lifeguard jumped up and ran over to the tub demanding, "Are you two eighteen????" Well of course they said yes, then admitted to me later that the girl was only sixteen. We laughed about how silly it was for the lifeguard to ask her that question that way, instead of, "How old are you?" She must be a rookie dealing with teens. Then I said, "Hmmm....why didn't the life guard ask ME that question????" They laughed....nervously. OBVIOUSLY she wouldn't have asked ME that...now.

But you know, there was a time not many years ago when she might have :( A time when even though it was obvious that I was over 21, the waiters always carded when I was out with my much younger theatre friends. Now? The waiter would probably assume I was THEIR mother.

I really hope I'll get there, sans cigarettes and over scheduling.

It's so much harder with four kids, two of whom are THIRTEEN, going on "giving me gray hairs."


The Y has brought one immediate change. In the way the kids see our house. We used to be the mean and boring parents, with more rules and expectations than they have elsewhere.

But now? We're the cool parents with the fun Y membership.

I guess in this case membership does have it's privileges.