Monday, April 27, 2015

All that is right

This afternoon I called the police because I witnessed a man beating a woman on the street. I saw a few dozen homeless folks waiting outside the soup kitchen, as I do each morning and evening. I turned on the news and writhed as I watched reports of Baltimore burning, another rage-fueled episode in our country's churning racial struggle. This story eclipsed, at least for a little while, news of the devastating earthquakes and avalanches in Nepal that have killed thousands in one of the world's poorest countries.

I spent a lot of time today noticing things that are wrong with the world, until at last I grew weary and sad. Then I came upstairs to bed and saw this, and I quickly remembered all that is right on our beautiful, fucked up planet.

Love wins. Every time. It has to. It simply must.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

The universe will right itself

Dear Grace,
The story of your birthday party has touched me: the friendships between you and Justin and between your mom and Tammy, the outpouring of support from friends and family and strangers, photos of you smiling and dancing in your beautiful teal gown. You don't seem comfortable with all the attention, but as your name suggests, you bear it graciously and gracefully and gratefully. In the short time I've known your family, I have admired your mother's humor and poise, and I've enjoyed your brother's quirky brilliance. And now I know and respect your resilience and wisdom. 

I thought over and over while reading and processing your story, "I can't imagine what that family is going through." But I realized today that's not true. I lived this hell that you're in now. And truly, the fact that it took me a little while to realize that may a testimony to the fact that someday, you too will heal. You may never feel whole and you will carry deep scars, but you will heal.

Here's how I know: My mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer just before my 18th birthday, during my first year of college. My brother was 16, my sister only 8. My mom was 47 when she died almost four years later, just a day short of her 48th birthday. Doctors gave her four months to live when first diagnosed; she fought and scrapped and struggled for almost four years. And so did the rest of us. We supported her in every way we could: we prayed, we ate weird foods and juice combinations, we held her hand through experimental treatments, we took lavish vacations to try to forget. I fought with my mother often during her illness, usually over petty things but sometimes over huge hurts; looking back I know I was angry with her for ruining my college years, and she was surely angry with me for being young, healthy, and away. 

We never, ever talked about her dying. Not once. Even though death lurked around every corner, every decision, every sleep. I can't even look at photographs from that time because she looked sallow or swollen or hairless or scared, even when smiling. My mom stopped treatment around May of my senior year so she could be well enough to see me graduate from college. She looked beautiful that summer, gray wisps of hair growing back in, color returning to her cheeks. We children naively thought she had kicked it, she was getting better. Only she and my dad knew she was dying, finally. She wanted to go out with grace and love. And she did, in August, just four very fast months. 

Watching someone you love suffer is one of the most horrible pains you will endure. I know your dad is strong and brave, and I know he fights valiantly for the sake of your family. But you, my sweet girl, you are even stronger. In one of the articles about your party, you're quoted as saying that someday the universe will right itself, like perhaps you'll win the lottery or have flowers brought to your deathbed when you're nearing 100 years old. I smiled when I read this. Because you know what? It will. The universe will right itself. You have a long, beautiful, fulfilling life ahead of you. And you know what else? You know how to persevere, how to lean on others when they offer to help, how to enjoy small moments as they are happening. These are lessons that many full-grown adults won't ever learn -- or will learn too late after things fall apart. The universe will right itself. Twenty years from now, you will remember this party with mixed emotions. You may not really want to look at the photos. But over and over throughout your life, you will draw on the strength you've gained. You will remember the examples that your parents have set for you, how your father fights with every ounce of himself and your mother stands tall and wraps her arms around you all. You will remember that love exists even in the most horrible moments, and you will remember that humans are mostly kind.

My mother was diagnosed nearing my parents' 25th wedding anniversary. This put a particular urgency and poignancy behind renewing their wedding vows. Remember, she'd been given only months to live, so we decided to do it up! We filled the church with friends and family. My brother and I sang their wedding song, my sister carried flowers. Their best man surprised them by flying in from Canada. We had a huge party in our backyard -- music, lights, catered dinner, lots of beer. People from throughout my parents' past and present gathered to celebrate them. To celebrate life! To celebrate love! To celebrate the here-and-now and to show the scary-future "hey, you ain't so tough." We had a happy, care-free day during a terrifying, pain-filled time. One of my favorite photos of my parents was snapped on this day: my mom in her white skirt, laughing over a frilly cake with my dad, tanned and beaming in his summer suit. Her green eyes shone bright that day, and that's how I want to remember her. 

This party will be that memory for you, I hope. A celebration of life -- yours and your father's -- and a time when people could come together and show you how much you are loved. Remember the way he smiled at you during that dance. Remember the lightness and the joy in that room. It will buoy you.

You are resilient, Grace. You will grow and shine and keep on living, even in the face of horror and despair. The universe will right itself for you as it has for me. I know it will. In the meantime, please know how much you are loved.

Yours,
Tori


I wrote this letter to Grace after reading this article about her Sweet 16 party, which a mutual friend had crowd-funded for her. I know both families casually, know that each endures pretty significant health stressors, and feel humbled by the way they all carry on with humor and unselfish acts of love. We never really know what those around us are carrying. Yet another reminder to be kind, always.



Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The sweet spot


Honey started his new job a couple weeks ago. As much as I like having a second paycheck in our bank account every month, I really love it that he's happy. And even more...I love it that he's happy and home with us in the evenings. We both have tiny little commutes now, so for the first time in our marriage, we all get home around the same time. Honey and I spend time together in the kitchen while one or both of us prepare dinner. He helps with the cleaning and shopping, and he's been much more active in getting the boys ready for bed in the evenings. You know why he does all this? Because he's relaxed. And because he knows that when he does more around the house, I'm relaxed. He loves me so much that sometimes it's hard for me to understand or even accept.  Even after all these years. 

Still can't believe we live here
It's difficult for me to relax completely, of course, even when things are going so well. Especially when things are going so well! I suppose this is why prayer and meditation is so important. I'm trying hard to be grateful, to live in the moment. To realize that we are truly in a sweet spot right now and I need to save as much as I can in my memory bank. It's wonderful, this life of ours. Sometimes I'm even a teeny bit embarrassed to tell people how happy we are at this moment. Such a Pollyanna! 

This funky little town, these jobs we love, this chance to reboot, these kids so full of energy and sparkle... I am so very blessed. Here and now. The sweet spot.





Wednesday, February 4, 2015

The color of grace

This evening on our slog home from work and preschool through treacherous snow-laden streets, I felt stressed about getting to Hayden on time, anxious about my cross-country trip tomorrow, upset about our house not selling, and weighed down by countless other worries stomping across my mind. I felt pretty grumpy, clenching my teeth even.


Then I looked out the window and noticed the sky over the cove was exactly my favorite color. The color my bridesmaids, my sister-friends, wore at my wedding. The color on the walls of Jake's bedroom in our Delaware house, where I nursed him and sang to him in wee hours that belonged only to us. The color of the sea-glass medallion my grandmother gave me that I wear around my neck, over my heart.

I think this is grace, right? That small voice that says, "Be still and know that I am." The reminder that life is beautiful and interesting always. The assurance that I am blessed and protected and always will be provided for.

Even at the end of a crappy day. Well, no: Especially at the end of a crappy day.

Monday, October 20, 2014

The Big Move

We're about to do something big and scary and exciting and amazing: In less than two weeks, we're moving to Maine. Because I have a fabulous new job. Can you believe it? After years of being unhappy and frustrated in my Delaware job, I have been hired to an excellent position at one of the premier publishers in our field -- and they've asked me to move to Portland, Maine, where the office is located. Many people have looked at me funny when I say this is a dream come true, but I've longed to live in Maine since I was a child scrambling the rocky coastline of Acadia National Park with my brother. New, better job; beautiful small-city for a hometown; fresh air and space for my kids to flourish; a fresh start for us all. It's a super-mega dream scenario.

I'm terrified. Yet there has only been one afternoon when I lost my nerve, sobbing when I realized how much it's going to cost us to sell our home in Delaware. My smart, practical husband said, "I'll do whatever you need. But also remember, it's only money." He's a rock, my guy, and he has not flinched for a moment...even when I told him the moving truck was coming on his birthday.

So we're doing this. We're moving 500 miles from our family and friends. We're leaving our home with a property manager, trying to rent it or sell it. Chris quit is job, with a shrug of his shoulders and a conviction that he'd find a new job in Portland within a couple months. The kids have prepared their friends. Our friends, neighbors, and family have blessed us -- and most have promised to visit in the summer, so we'd better prepare a guest room in our new place.

Finally, this blog with "adventure" in its name may actually contain some adventure in the coming months. Maybe not the jumping out of planes sort, but definitely some leaping is about to take place. Leaps of faith. Leaps of love. Leaps of courage.

Here we go...Portland or bust.