Saturday, January 21, 2012

The customers

This memory has been done.  For some reason it has always bothered me that this memory was shared in Chicken Soup for the Soul book years after it happened to me.  Or, at least I read it years after.  I am not sure why that seemed to make my memory null and void, but recently I realized that if the world is the way we want it to be, this memory is being made all over the world everyday.

It was after the lunch rush at the Mexican restaurant I worked at in Burlington, Vermont.  Tortilla Flat for those who can, and want to picture the place.  The bartender, cook and myself sat talking at the bar waiting for the next shift to come set us free when we heard the creak of the front door and two kids came in.  I didn't move at first thinking they were probably stopping on a bike ride to use the bathroom.  But they waited there and so I went to greet them.

I prided myself on treating all customers the same so I seated them, gave them a bowl of chips and salsa, and because they had dirty clothes and dirty faces I gave them water without them asking.  One was definitely the elder and although I don't remember if they told me, I knew they were brothers.  I walked by a few times and the menus were still open and they were counting coins.  Finally, I stopped and asked if they had any questions.  They asked some questions about the tax if they bought certain things and I realized they were really struggling to find something they could afford.  They ordered one cup of chili and one cup of vanilla ice cream to share between the two of them.  

Scott in the kitchen was as happy as I was to give these customers a little bit more without totally hurting their pride.  So, the cup of chili became a bowl of chili.  They both ate it very quickly.  The cup of ice cream became to small sundaes.  The older brother asked when I left it if that is what he ordered and I really didn't want him to feel like charity.  I knew by his manners so far that he was old enough and proud enough for that to hurt, so I told him I had just split the cup so each brother could have his own.  Then I quietly left the bill and thanked them for coming.  They thanked me back.

When I saw them walk out the door I went to bus the table and immediately began to tear up.  It was clear to me by the 35 cents left behind that when they were counting, checking prices, and asking about tax they were busy figuring the bill and also my tip.  I have never forgotten that tip.  It was more than money.  It was the promise that the world would be okay. 

The only regret I have about that day and those boys is that I couldn't meet their parents.  To tell them I was honored to be a part of a world where a family like theirs also existed.  Human beings have the power to be so amazing.  And yes, I believe the world will be okay.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

We interrupt this blog post...

Forty has earned me some privileges.  The best one I have taken advantage of is looking back over my life with smiles and tears and not one single regret, because I love who I am right now.  Everyday I wake up with a new memory I want to write about, but forty has also earned me the privilege, or the honor really, of realizing-  I do not need to speed to enjoy life and get it all done, rather I need to savor. 
So, that is it for today.  I have some interesting memories ready to be shared, but I need time to savor these memories quietly for awhile.  All the time you savor you are still making more memories.  The world is an amazing place!


Monday, January 9, 2012

For a little while...

When I was first thinking about adoption I spoke and listened to a lot of people about the pros and cons of building a family this way. One of the major things that worried me was that the child might have such anger issues that we would not be able to build a relationship.  I knew I was going to try to adopt a child who was five to ten years old.  As a single parent I did not want a new child coming in and needing to go to daycare right away so a school age child was going to have a better transition to my life.  Yet, the research told me that the older the child, the more anger issues he/she may have.
The second thing that worried me was the idea that a child might live with me for  a short time and then be sent back with her biological parents.  The idea that I would fall in love with MY child and then have to send her back to a place she had been taken from because they weren't doing their job in the beginning just made me heartbroken.
I got over the first concern by taking the DCF class which is a ten week mandatory class for anyone who wants to foster/adopt through social services.  I knew there would be lots of support for myself and my child and that we would get through the anger.  It stopped scaring me about the second week of class and I knew I would be fine.  But the other worry loomed large and DCF could do nothing to make any of us in that class feel better about things.  Yes, if you tried to adopt a child who was not legally free for adoption  (legally free means parents rights have been terminated and they cannot fight for their child back) there was a chance you could lost your child back to the biological parents. 
This awful news almost stopped me from starting my family.  I tried to picture it every way that I could and however I could I did not see myself handing back my child.  I even pictured us crossing the border and starting a different life to avoid losing her.
I told my friend Nancy I was not sure I could adopt because of this looming issue.  It felt too big for me.  It would be too much and I did not want to bring that kind of heartbreak into my life.  Nancy did not even take a second to think about it before she said, "Jen, all relationships are temporary."  These were the words that changed how I felt about going for adoption but also how I felt about life.  We are not guaranteed anyone in our lives forever.  We are not even guaranteed the next day.  We need to give all that we can in our relationships right this moment because the next moment is never guaranteed even when a child is born from our own bodies.  We have almost no control over when people leave our lives, but we have control over how we treat them while they are with us.  After that I went forward fully and never looked back.  I decided I would love my child forever and I would be with her physically for whatever time I was allowed.  It was my best decision ever.

There is a footnote to this story though.  When I told my mom what Nancy said, my mom disagreed slightly.  Thank God she did and that we had that conversation because I think of it often.  Mom told me that she believed all physical relationships are temporary but death does not mean an end to a relationship, only a change.  Think about that.  "Death does not mean an end to a relationship, only a change."   Beautifully put mom, beautifully put.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Tell Them

Recently I had reason to be at the hospital where my mom died.  It is an amazingly beautiful place and for a few weeks after her death I would go there and walk around and sometimes even buy a coffee at the Dunkin Donuts in the atrium. 

When I went back this time though, something had changed.  It no longer brought the feelings of comfort it had brought when my mom was a patient there.  In those days I would walk to the food court or the gift shop knowing I was going back to the one woman who loved me the most.  Oh sure, we had anger at some of the doctors and, of course, ultimately we wanted her home with us, but for quite some time that building was the cocoon that kept my family together and safe.  Most of the nurses kept us sane and let us feel the comfort of others without having to step outside the hospital doors.

It was the same with the house I sold in June.  Without my mom there it didn't feel like the home we had started to create together.  It was a lovely house to be sure, but my mom was not there and it felt more like house than home.

Recently, I was quite sick and spent the day in bed.  When I asked my husband why my dad had not been to visit and then cried about it he knew I must be dehydrated as my dad has been dead since 1997.  However, the fact remains that I know I spent several hours with my mom that day.  We both sat on lawn chairs on the grass overlooking a beautiful river where people were laughing and jumping in.  Sure- it could be due to the dehydration, yet even though I don't remember the conversation, I do remember the feeling.  It was a wonderful feeling to be with her. 

The feeling....that is what it is.  The feeling our loved ones give us that makes our hearts overflow with happiness.  It isn't about the building you are in together or even the things you do together (although  those things can bring about nice traditions).  It is about sitting and reading quietly next to your husband and daughter.  It is about laughing hysterically with your sister.  It is about sitting in front of the fire saying absolutely nothing with your brother and his entire family and being absolutely okay with it.

So often it is when absolutely nothing is going on, that I look around and thank God for the joy that is my family and my life.  Who are you thankful for?  What feeling do you get when they are with you?  Do they know this?  Tell them.  Everyday is a new chance to tell them.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

My Resolution

I left the social media train this vacation!  That's right.  I willingly stopped checking facebook statuses to see what friends were up to.  I did not go on twitter to see what Brad Keselowski had updated.  I didn't even check my personal email more than a couple times yesterday to catch up.  In the name of honesty, I did go on once to wish someone a happy birthday yesterday, but that was all. 
I did this because it had been mentioned to me that when I get on the computer I am very hard to talk with and I seem to be on the computer a lot more lately.  I did this to spend more quality time with my family.  Quite honestly I also did this as a test to see if I am addicted to facebook.  Good News!  I am not.  I left my computer behind at our apartment for the entire vacation and there was not one time that I wondered what status updates I was missing.  In fact, at times I may have otherwise been on facebook, I was often curled on somebody's couch  (we traveled three different places this vacation) watching a "rip snorter" of a fire.  That is what mom called a good fire! 

I felt really connected to my family and the people I was with.  I should add that my cell phone stayed off most of the time.  My cell is not a computer, but I do tend to text full conversations with people and this can also take me from my family. 

I do not want to give up facebook completely.  There is too much benefit in bringing me closer to friends I otherwise would not be communicating with and my family that I don't get to see because of distance.  However, I now realize that social media can greatly send you into emotions just as the news can.  I am pretty sure that today a bunch of my social network friends are either lamenting that vacation went too fast and they have to go back to work today, or are strongly positive about starting back up again today.  I am sure tonight I will enjoy lots of great holiday pictures people have posted! 

But- the thing is- it was so great being with my family and laughing in person!  It was great to say hello and goodbye and have real hugs and happiness in between.  It was amazing to just be in the moment without a computer screen or texting screen in front of me.  

So- here it is- my resolution for 2012.  I will give the people in front of me live as much of me as possible.  I will be on the computer less and texting less when I am home with my peeps.  I will fully commit to each moment with my friends and family because I don't want to miss a thing this year! 
Happy 2012 to all my friends and family!  

Monday, January 2, 2012

An Open Letter to My girls

Often when I write on a topic I wonder to myself, "What makes me think I am an expert on this or that people will care what I have to say about it?"  But since turning forty I believe I have earned a certain amount of "wisdom credits" and I am ready to impart some of that wisdom to those I love who are much younger and often go through the pain I have gone through in my past.  And so, today, I want to write about males who break our hearts. 
There is so much truth to the following:  "We cannot always control what happens to us, but we can control our reactions to what happens to us."  It is with this quote in mind that I remind you of the following story and how I felt for years after it happened to me and I how I feel now looking back on what happened to me. 
When I was in my late 20s I fell in love.  It was not the first time I had been in love, but it was the first time I knew the love was going to be forever.  He and I discussed marriage and made plans for our future.  I still remember the night he called and said he was too tired to drive to my place after work, but five minutes later he called and left this message.  "I thought I just wanted to go home because I was tired and then I realized that home was wherever you are so I am on my way."
Everything about that relationship felt so right -like finding the missing piece to a puzzle you have been working on for years.  As you know, that was not my first serious relationship, nor was it my longest.  I had even lived with someone before that so I had plenty of experience with relationships and the feelings associated with "Is this the real thing?"  "Is this the one?"
But then things started to change and like many young women the more he pulled away the more I tried to pull him back.  It started with his new job and colleagues.  He began to spend less time with me and more time with them.  I pride myself on saying whats on my mind so that the man in my life doesn't have to guess and I asked him about it.  He clarified that it was true and not in my imagination, but that it was nothing to worry about because he needed to get to know his new colleagues.  Next came a night at work that he told me he had worked with a female colleague until 3 a.m. on a big project.  Looking back I guess he thought that was enough of a signal to me, but why would I question it?  He told me she was nice.  I didn't realize I was supposed to understand he was falling for her.  The next situation was calling him and not getting him for an entire weekend night.  The next day he said he had gone to a pink floyd laser light show with some friends but hadn't told me because he knew I would be jealous that I couldn't go.  Now at this point, things are weird.  He is not acting like himself and I am not understanding why.  I should have understood why, but I did not.  The final straw came when I went to a work party with him.  Some friends of the "3 a.m. colleague"  came to me and told me what  a "cool girlfriend" I was for letting him stay overnight at their apartment.  When I asked him about it at the party he said I must have forgotten and that of course he had told me about it. 
Reading this through you can probably predict the ending before I did at that time.  I broke up with him by phone and he didn't stop me because that is what he wanted.  Within that year he became engaged to that 3 a.m. colleague and the last I knew (years ago) they were married and had some children. 
I was bitter for about ten years.  Really.  Isn't that awful?  I was so angry at how much he took my trust and crumpled it up and threw it back in my face.  I was so angry that he didn't have the balls to tell me he had found somebody else and I had to do the break up.   Luckily I got over the bitterness BEFORE meeting my current husband.  And so, here is what I know.  I thought he taught me never to trust again, but what I know now is he taught me something much more valuable.  He taught me to trust myself, to trust what I am thinking, to lean on myself and know that I am smarter than I give myself credit for.
To my girls- you are going to fall in love and think it is real and you ARE going to get your heart broken.  But each time that happens your heart comes back better and stronger.  When someone starts to pull away, let them go.  It hurts like hell but it is better than the hell you will be in if you stay with someone who doesn't love you.  I do not regret ANY of my past relationships because they helped me become who I am today.  Who I am today is a strong, imaginative, trusting, joyful person who trusts myself enough to love with all my heart. 
"We cannot always control what happens to us, but we can control how we react to what happens to us." 
Be Strong.