Monday, September 22, 2014

September 22. A birth. A death. A wedding. An equinox.

September 22nd.  Just like any other day, right?  Not really.  It’s a day that heralds transition.  It is the day of the Autumnal Equinox.  A day of balance. Equal light and dark. A time when nature begins to show it’s true and beautiful warm colors.  When we reap the harvest of all we have sewn.  A time to prepare for the challenges of winter as we work our way back to spring and rebirth.  We are moving from light to darkness and the harsh cold reality of winter.  It is also a day when some say the veil is lifted between our world and that beyond life on earth.  A time when we might be able to more easily communicate with our departed loved ones more easily.  A time of introspection and reflection on the summer of our life.

The symbolism of the day goes so much further than the transition from summer to autumn for me. September 22nd is the anniversary of the death of my beloved grandmother Agnes, for whom Meggie’s middle name was in honor of.   I miss her and remember her fondly, especially on this day.

It is also the birthday of my other grandmother Virginia, whom we celebrated her 86th birthday with the day we married in 2012.  We did not know it at the time, but it would be her last birthday she would celebrate with us as she passed away 8 months after we married.  She was so tickled we chose to get married on ‘her’ day!  I’m so glad she was so much a part of our day.  We miss her and her sass!

September 22nd will forever be a special day for me for all those reasons plus one very important one.  It is the day I married my soul mate.  The day my children welcomed a step-father whom they adore into our family.  The day he made everyone laugh and then cry in a matter of a few minutes during our wedding ceremony.  Then, there was his dancing...

Our wedding day was as unique as we are.  Carefully designed to be about US and what is important to us and our relationship.  It held history.  It held memories.  It was entertaining.  It was unconventional with a dose of the traditional.  It was emotionally heart wrenching at times. It was filled with overflowing love like you might never have seen.  We DID have some visitors from Heaven!  It was FUN!  There was cake and it was chocolate!  

We wrote our own vows and I think they clearly speak to who we are and why we chose to battle our demons to be together.   They are as true today as they were 2 years ago and will be 200 years and lifetimes from now.  Here, I share them with you.

Joe’s Vows to Kim
Kimberly, here we are.  Not a beginning and certainly not an ending.  We both went through much to get to this point.  We have loved, learned, suffered, rejoiced, laughed and cried.  We have discovered what brings us joy and grappled with our inner demons.  We have found more about our greater sense of ‘self’, so much so that we would not have been ready for each other if things hadn’t gone the way they did.  We are the sum of our core plus all we have experienced.

I do realize it took a great tragedy as part of those experiences for us to finally find each other.  And never doubt, despite how much being ‘us’ means to me, that if I had the power to reach into the sky and peel back the veil of time to save Meghan, I would do it in an instant, even though it might mean we wouldn't be standing here today.

Many speak of ‘knowing’ when they've found their partner.  I had fear for years.  Fear that I would never have that ‘knowing’.  Fear of being oblivious and not acting on it even if it did happen.  Fear of not even knowing what I was seeking in a partner.  After I met you, I learned to act on love and not fear.  It was then it became so clear.  I listened to my heart, and it told me everything I needed to know.  I now know, with all the certainty I can muster, that you are my partner.  

I admire your compassion, your great strength, and your capacity for love.  I love your understanding, your comforting touch and your knowing gaze.  I am humbled that you see the real me and help me bring that out into the world.  You are the other piece of my puzzle.  My companion, my confidant, my best friend, my love, the one I would give anything for and for whom I would work tirelessly to bring happiness.

As you already know, two cannot truly become one.  Instead, on this day, I will promise you that we will walk this path of life together hand in hand, bonded by love, trust, and respect.  We will walk stronger and prouder than we once were but not as strong as we both can and will be.  As we walk, when you stumble, I will catch you, just as I know with all my heart you’ll do so for me.  I promise I will comfort you during rough times, celebrate with you during good times, and bridge our differences with love, patience, and understanding.  Whatever the path of our future holds, I promise that we will face it together.  I promise I will always keep myself open and share myself with you.  In sharing, we will draw strength, for pain shared is pain halved, just as joy shared is joy doubled.

I am touched and honored that you have invited me into your family, as I know how significant a decision that is.  I promise I will do my best to raise your children as if they were my own.  I will never forget they are a part of you and I will love, guide, and nurture them to the best of my ability, even the step daughter I will never get to tuck in at night.  I look forward to watching your boys become the fine young men they are meant to be and I will swell with pride for all they accomplish.

Know that, above all, I love you.  When I ponder the many futures my life could take, none of them are without you.  Our connection, our ‘fit’, is what completes me.  As I mentioned before, this is neither a beginning or ending.  These are the next steps on our shared path forward.  We’re not ‘done’.  There will always be work to do and struggles to overcome, both individually and as a couple.  Nothing is perfect.  Times will be hard.  Always remember that I will never stop trying to make our journey better with each step as we continue on our path, hand in hand.  This, I promise.

Kim’s Vows to Joe

Six years ago, the Universe presented to us an opportunity. We almost missed it yet again, except that day, it was finally the right time.  There was this bottomless glass of wine, some bet about a kiss and a strong energetic connection to this guy on the dance floor whose first words to me were, “Do you swing?”

I couldn't figure out why I was so instantly and energetically drawn to you, until I looked into your eyes and recognized your soul.

Over the next several months we cultivated a relationship built on open and honest conversation.  It was as if we’d known each other forever.  It was so familiar and so right.  I could feel it with every ounce of my being.  We were meant to be together.

We bring out the best in each other.  We challenge each other.  We nurture each other.  Our connection, our love, it transcends the physical, the emotional and the spiritual.  It is pure, honest, and true.  It is built upon mutual respect and trust.  It is surrounded by light and peppered with laughter.  Lots of laughter.

Joe, you have been the greatest gift to me.   At a time when my world was nothing but gray, you were like a ray of light.  You accepted me as I was.  You held me, you laughed with me, you cried with me.  You reminded me how important it is to play.  You showed me unconditional love and respect. You brought the color back to my life.

I promise you, I will always be there for you.  In joy and in sorrow, in sunshine and in rain, but in the cold I’ll need a blankie...  I’ll be your partner for life, both on and off the dance floor.  I promise to keep your food from touching, to protect you from vegetables and to do my best not to confuse Star Wars and Star Trek.

I will honor and cherish you and be grateful for every day we share.  I will love you joyfully, with laughter and playfulness.   I will strive to inspire you, grow with you, encourage you, empower you and support you in all that you desire.  I will love you wholly, truthfully and honestly.  I will nurture you, our relationship and our family with tenderness and care. I will love you passionately with all that I am and all that I have.  I will love you always.   With my heart, my mind, my body and my soul.

I know you will be a wonderful husband and a fantastic step-father.  You will always be my super-hero, even when you are not wearing your superhero jammies and cape.  I am forever grateful for all that you are and all that you've given me.  

I told you very early on in our relationship, I’d walk this path with you. I know not where it will take us or what terrain lies ahead, but I know it was meant to be with you and we shall always walk it together.  Heart in heart and hand in hand.  

I promise to you a lifetime of love, light, laughter and friendship.  It is an honor to take your hand in marriage and to be your wife.  I love you.

For those who shared our day, we are so grateful you were able to be there with us.  So many more were with us in spirit.  For those who wish they could have seen the uniqueness of the day, I give you these snippets of our unique day.  

Our wedding ‘trailer’ as created by our videographer

Joe’s Lightsaber Battle/Processional (or what happens when you marry a geek who has a love of performance art)

Our First Dance.  A Viennese Waltz to David Cook’s “Time of My Life”
The lyrics spoke to us, thus, we learned to Viennese Waltz.  It took us 9 months to learn the choreography!

Most of all on this day, I am reminded of the fragility of life.  How short it can be.  How important it is to live each day to the fullest because we do not know what tomorrow will bring.  How out of crisis can come something wonderful.  And just how good it can get.

Happy Anniversary my love!  Happy Birthday Gram!  Always thinking of you and Aggie watching over my Meggie in the next place.  So grateful to all of you who read this.

May this day of equal light and dark bring balance to your life and joy to your heart.


Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Sixteen candles

Sixteen years.

Sixteen years ago right now, I was wide awake.  Lying on the couch on my side watching the early morning news.  A cat on my big pregnant belly, looking strangely at it every 15 minutes or so when it got hard and disturbed her comfort.  She responded of course, by kneading it with her paws.  I know distraction is good in labor, but seriously!

At that time, I wasn't convinced I was in labor.  I was 40 weeks and 5 days pregnant.  I'd been tossing and turning for hours.  I had to pee every 20 minutes.  At some point it occurred to me it might be early labor.  Thus, I got up and headed for the couch.

I watched the sun rise.  It was a lovely day.  When my husband got up, I told him I might be in labor. He had an important meeting.  He went to work with stern instructions to keep his phone nearby.

I sat at my desk in my white nightgown.  I rubbed my belly.  I sat quietly in awe of it's roundness.  Of the sensations I was experiencing.  I was excited that today might just be the day I'd finally meet this baby.  My first child.  Would it be a boy or a girl?  What would this baby look like?  How long would it be before I got to meet this little person I'd grown to love over the past 9 months?

I remember getting restless.  My contractions were a bit closer together.  Now every 15 or so.  I ate graham crackers and applesauce because that's what I wanted.  I took a shower and packed my bag.   I turned on Chicago Hope.  It was 11 am.  About halfway through the show, I realized I couldn't get comfortable.  I was sitting.  On my hands and knees.  Rocking.  Hmmmm.  Oh, 10 minutes apart. Getting stronger.

By the time Chicago Hope was over, they were close to 5 minutes apart.  I had a momentary panic. My husband was an hour away. My husband!  I should call him and tell him to get his ass home.  I did.  He took his time...

By the time he got home I was pacing around the kitchen, hanging off the island every 5 minutes. Yep.  I was in labor.  No doubt in my mind now.  This was getting less fun.  Let's go meet this kid.

He was on the phone with work most of the drive.  I got so annoyed I took the phone out of his hand and told his then boss he had to go.  I was in labor and today, I was the priority.  Then I hung up on his boss!  I should mention, I was kneeling on the floor of the front seat of the car because I was not comfortable sitting at all.  We arrived at the hospital around 3 pm and I was solidly in labor with contractions about every 3 minutes. It took forever to walk from the car to labor and delivery!

Fast forward to 7pm.  I was 6 cm.  I asked for the epidural after nearly passing out and vomiting when I arrived at the hospital.  I felt so alone.  So unsupported.  My nurse had an attitude and I hardly saw her.  I didn't know enough to ask to get out of bed, into the shower or change position.  Just like they tell you, you forget what you learned.  I think I decided right then and there I was going to become a doula.  I desperately wanted and needed one.

They sent my husband to get dinner.  The anesthesiologist walked in a short time later.  He was cute! I looked at him and then at the nurse and realized I had to push.  No epidural for me. Turned out to be the best thing ever!  How empowering!  My husband returned about 7:20 to a room full of people, just in time to realize this kid was coming fast.

7:42 pm, he made his appearance.  With a giant knot in his umbilical cord.  It was a boy!  We had a son.  No drugs.  Natural childbirth.  I was higher than a kite.  Laborland is such a lovely endorphin rush!  I am woman!  I just birthed a miracle!

I knew becoming a mother would change me.  I had no idea how this child.  My first born.  Would change me and change my life.  How he would challenge me.  How much we would learn from each other.  Where our path as mother and son would lead us.  He has taught me so much.  He changed my perspective, my career path, my life...

He is not a baby anymore.  He is a sixteen year old 6 foot 1 inch 150 lb young man.  A handsome kid. A brilliant kid.  A headstrong yet sensitive kid with a wonderful sense of humor and a gentle soul underneath his stubborn demeanor.  I guess he is a lot like his mum...

Don't get me wrong.  He's also loud, temperamental, and messy as all hell!  Some things never change I guess.
I am proud of the young man he's become.  Sure, he makes me crazy sometimes.  That's what parenting is about.  He brings me great joy at time and great frustration at others.  He makes me laugh and he makes me cry.  We've had a rough ride at times.  Challenging barely touches the reality of what the past 16 years have been like for he and I.  He's been through far more than any child should ever have to endure.  He has emerged compassionate and caring and I pray, with solid values and a good head on his shoulders.  I want nothing more than for him to be happy, healthy, and successful in all he does.

On this day, a milestone for both of us, I decorated his bedroom door with streamers like I always have.  I woke him up singing 'Happy Bird Day".  I made him breakfast which he did not eat since he was late for the bus and I refused to drive him to school.  His cards and gift sit unopened on the table.  I will arrange my day so I can be here for him.  Birthdays are sacred in our family.  Favorite dinners, favorite cake, truly celebrating the joy of having each other in our lives.  It's your special holiday in our family.  Your Bird Day!  (Meggie got us going on that one!)

I sit here in awe.  So proud of him.  So astounded at me.  I'm not old enough to have a 16 year old child!  OK I am, but that's my issue about where the hell did the past 16 years go and how did they pass so quickly?!

I am also kind of sad.  He's growing up.  My baby has a girlfriend.  Another woman in his life! I was supposed to be the only one!  (Ok, I know that's not true, but you other mommas of sons know what I mean).  He's old enough to drive (OMG, that scares the hell out of me!)  He'll be off to college in 2 more years.  *sob*

I can only hope and pray I'm doing right by him so that when he is ready to leave the nest, he will soar.  Confident and proud.  He just thinks I'm a pain in the ass that doesn't understand.  Ah, teen angst and egocentricity...

I, on the other hand, will be over here.  Filled with pride and sadness.  My baby is growing up.

Happy Birthday my first born son.  I hope someday you truly understand how much I love you.  How amazing you are and what a difference you've made in my life.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

The secret to successful aging

It's a milestone day.  In my world, milestone days tend to inspire introspection.  Given this day is the 45th anniversary of my arrival to this earthy journey, it's a particularly introspective one.  

It's also my cake day!!!! If you have followed this blog for a while, you know of my love of cake and particularly chocolate cake!  I'm far more excited that my birthday means I get my favorite cake than any other traditional birthday things!

As I celebrate my 45th birthday I realize I am now solidly middle aged.  It's quite possible my life is half over.  Perhaps more than half over.  I know all to well how short life can be.  None of us know when our time to transition will be.

That said, it's all about how you look at it.  Is my life half over? Half full?  Or simply in it's 45th year and in the grand scheme of things, the only thing that really matters is the gift of today?  I sure as hell don't feel 'old'. Well, most days, anyway.  I'm pretty sure I'm *really* in my early 30's at best.  Hell, I still don't know what I want to be when I grow up!

I chose to celebrate the day with a run this morning.  I ran 4.5 miles.  One for every decade I've been blessed to be on this journey.  As I ran, I thought about how fortunate I am.  How absolutely blessed I am.  In so many ways.  On so many levels.

Five years ago, I ran my first 5K.  This girl who always hated to run decided I needed to get my ass into shape and running was the best way to do it given my crazy schedule.  I hated most every minute of the 3 months it took me to be able to run 3 miles without feeling like I was going to die.  As I ran 4.5 miles this morning, a short run for me now, I gave thanks.  So grateful for the gorgeous day today is.  Thankful that I have the physical ability to run.  I work with so many people who are not as fortunate.  Some because of bad luck, some because of their own self-neglect and self-abuse by not taking care of themselves.  When my legs want to stop and my brain echoes the legs, it's the fact I can run when others can't that spurs me to finish.  Oh, and much to my surprise, I now enjoy running!  I enjoy the solitude.  The chance to be out in nature.  The fact it helps me clear my head, manage my emotions, and provides a healthy outlet to process and decompress.  I enjoy being part of the runner community and the wonderful opportunities, friendships, and joy it has brought me. Oh, and the endorphins are a lovely bonus!   I actually look forward to training and will be running my 3rd half marathon in October.  Who the hell am I?

That's not to say I don't 'feel' the effects of physical aging.  Peri-menopause interesting experience.  I do not have the energy I did in my 20's.  My joints let me know I am no longer as spry as I once was. My brain... well, let's just say according to an in-service I attended, I clearly have signs of early dementia!  But let's just say I'm forgetful and have increasing word finding problems when I speak.  ;-)

There is gratitude for the emotional maturity my life has led me to.  My life has not been all roses and butterflies.  I've had some pretty significant and devastating losses and challenges.  Burying a child and a contentious divorce were two no one should ever have to experience.  They have taught me so much about myself, what's important in life, the power of choice, the importance of healthy relationships, and love.  They have made me who I am today.

I have also had some amazingly positive and fun experiences with family, friends and my soul mate.  I have many families.  My running family, my dance family, my biological family and of course my friends.

My children amaze me and continue to teach ME so much about life. Right now, it's about self-sacrifice and letting go as I strive to support them in their educational goals and in their elite soccer playing and foster their independence.  And dear God help me, my eldest is about to turn 16!

I am grateful for my many jobs along the way and all the amazing people I've met as a result.  I am also so thankful for the many that have come my way recently and that I am able to follow my inner compass and calling to teach, mentor, and support those who need it.  I am grateful for the support I've had for my writing and look forward to holding that long awaited completed book in my hands in another month or two.

Of course, I am eternally grateful for the guidance of Universal love and light to follow my path.

I am both astounded and yet deeply grateful that I am so not the person I expected or thought I would be way back when I was a teen or young adult.  I am so much bigger and better than that!  I can't help but wonder if I had not had the life experiences I did, if I would have 'settled' for who I thought I was supposed to be.  If I'd have accepted the challenges life thew my way and continues to throw my way instead of allowing myself to learn, grow, and change as a result of them. Of course, I'll never know. I'm OK with that.  I know I am on the right path.

I often ask my clients who are in their 80's, 90's, and beyond, the 'secret' to living that long.  Most tell me what you'd expect.  Good genes.  Drink whiskey every night.  Never go to bed angry.  Stay active. Some are miserable they are still alive and can't wait to die.  Others fear death and speak of regrets. It's so sad to hear that.

You know what I think the 'secret' is?  I think it's about being authentic.  Simple as that.  Not being afraid to be the real you.  Not pretending to be something or someone you are not.  Not being afraid to speak your mind or stand up for what you feel is right.  I think it's about being respectful and understanding of others and accepting differences of opinion for just that.  No judgment.  Just being who you are and who you were meant to be.  Letting go of what no longer serves you with love and gratitude.  Being able to forgive.  Welcoming new experiences and being willing to learn from every experience life sends your way.  Learning lessons, growing, changing, and all the while, being true to your soul.  True to YOU.  We are supposed to change as we age.  It's why we are here.  To learn, to grow, to serve, to flourish, to love.

We should be able to live our lives without regret.  We are all holding the power to our success or failure.  The choice is ours.  Entirely ours.  We've no one else to blame.  No one.

My glass, my life, is beyond full. It is overflowing.  I am so blessed and so grateful for everyone and everything in it, from my very first breath 45 years ago to my very last, whenever that might be. Thank you for being part of my journey.

My cup truly overfloweth.

Now, if my plate could just overflow with cake...