Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Fear and Courage

I title this Fear and Courage, two emotions or states of being I've spent time with recently, time both personal and professional. What occurs to me is to question whether they are two sides of the same coin or entities that battle as poles of a magnet. I have no answer.

I have a preference. Courage.

There is more to say, but not at the moment.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Found Tears

This is the post I've meant to write, tried to write, for 38 days...8 past my 30 day commitment theory. This is what I am blessed with, what our daughter and son-in-law brought into the world and into our family on September 4. This is Cody Jackson Beyer. This is our grandson.

So why the hesitation? Why the inability to put into words what this was like, what it was like during that day, that evening, that night. What it was like to stand by her side and watch her labor, watch her work, watch her look to her husband and her nurses and her doctor. Watch her bring her son into the world. Into our family.

I think I know. I think I know what it was, what it is that has held me back, stopped me from writing what it felt like that day. Not what it felt like to see him and hold him and hear him. That was the easy part. That was the joyous part. The hard part was my daughter. The hard part was her.

Childbirth is a universal experience. A common experience. A shared experience. But shared only to a point. A point that doesn't cross a line. A line that we hold deep within us, a line I've held deep within me.

In the moments before Cody's birth, those moments when I stood outside the door (right outside) I traveled. I traveled not from one place to another, but from one time to another. From one birth to another. From my grandson's birth to my daughter's, and in that travel, in that time I spent in her room and out of it, I had her to myself again. I had her like no one else has ever had her, not her father, her one. No one but me.

She is my first. That only happens once. She grew in my body and in my heart and when she was ready she slipped from my body and she joined the world.

I haven't cried for a long time. A very long time. Outside the door of my daughter's labor room, I cried. I cried for her pain. I cried for my pain. I cried for the loss I felt with her birth. I cried for the joy of Cody's birth. I cried.

He's a beautiful baby, our Cody. He was perfect and is perfect. They are beautiful parents, our Michelle and Jay. They love each other and love him.

I found my tears.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Monday - August 30, 2011

This is my 30 days, my 30 days of posts. I have finished what I set out to do one month ago. I hear from some of you that you are reading this, that you are enjoying what I write. I don't know if there are more of you than a few, but I have enjoyed doing this knowing you are reading and taking this journey with me.

I have a decision to make. Do I continue? Do I make myself post every day? Every other?

I will make the decision, I will post, I just don't know how often or on what subject.

Keep checking....

Sunday - August 29, 2011

We have been waiting all week for Hurricane Irene to hit Maine, to hit us with the force of a storm we haven't seen since Gloria hit in 1985. We waited, we listened to the weather, we watched the news, watched the video of wind, rain and flooding as she worked her way up the coast. We watched and we waited.

We waited, and she passed. Not without damage to Maine, but she passed without significant damage to us and for that we are grateful (we'll be even more grateful when we have our power back!), grateful for the lack of force, for the lack of hurricane force winds and floods. Grateful for her lack of damage.

Not having power for a day is humbling, it forces stillness in this era of technology. It was a good day, a quiet day, a day to be thankful for the lack of damage, a day to be thankful for the quiet.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Saturday - August 27, 2011

She makes me weak in the knees, this girl, this granddaughter of mine. Her eyes, her smile, her way of loving with her heart wide open.

There are things I want to protect her from, painful things, sorrowful things, things that make her sad. Things like losing a quarter in the grass at the Farmer's Market.

She carries a picture of my mother with her through her day and sleeps with it by her bed so if she wakes up at night my mother will be there to keep her safe.

A life as pure as this one, a love as pure as this deserves the joy she carries with her, the joy she spreads with her smile. What could be better?

Friday - August 26, 2011

Throughout my career as a nurse (and during the time I was in school) there were people rooting for me, people hoping I made it, that I achieved my goal. They cheered me on, wished me well and supported my every step.

When family does this (as my family has done without question) it makes the journey easier, it encourages you to stick with it, to work harder, to not let them down. When others take an interest in you, in your goals and your work to achieve them, their encouragement, their opinions matter. They matter because, unlike family, they don't have to care. They don't have to participate. (It's like when your mother tells you you're smart and beautiful you tend to think it may not be true, she has to say it, she's your mother. Except in my children are smart and beautiful!)

Today I sat with Eloise, a woman of undaunted professional courage, a woman of personal integrity, a woman of genuine kindness and commitment to our profession. We sat in the afternoon sun overlooking harbor and talked. We talked of our careers, our work, our family and our friends. We talked of travel and adventure and career choice. We talked of giving back, of having an impact. We talked as peers.

To have this conversation, this time with her (and her wonderful husband) was a gift, just as her support and encouragement for the past many years has been. We don't know where our lives will lead us, where we will be years from now, where gifts will be found.

Today my life led me to a friend and I am thankful for that gift.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Stop the Presses

I was told when I started this job, when I took on this public role, to ignore the papers, to stop reading what others wrote. It is not so much the articles, the reporting of the stories, it's the comments people post online, the latest way people get to show their ignorance. I was told to stop reading those. I should have listened.

Tough decisions require thought, tremendous amounts of thought. We did that, we do this, this remarkable team I work with, we think, we process, we seek guidance and then act.

If only those who post, those who do not know the whys or hows, gave as much thought before using their keyboards to attack, to judge.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Tough Decisions

Each day I wonder what it is I will write about, what will occur during the course of my day that will make its way to this page, make its way to you. This morning I thought it would be the laughter that accompanied my ride to Skowhegan, laughter I shared with a friend, a new friend, a friend with a badly sprained ankle and a wedding to attend (it's her right driving yet). Riding with her, my car filled with guffaws and smiles (particularly when she described the look she received from a friend after a comment she made..."she looked at me like I'd slept with her father" you understand the guffaws!).

As we drove and talked and discovered that it is highly likely our fathers knew each other professionally (they both died young) I again assumed that would be the blog post, that realization that long before we met, before we shared our writing together, before we introduced our husbands to each other, before we shared our grief, we were somehow united.

But as the day passed, as difficult decisions and tough conversations overshadowed my work, the laughter of the morning faded and the reality that the decisions I make, the choices I choose have an impact and that impact is powerful, even when the decisions and choices are the right ones. Right doesn't equal easy.

I'm glad the day is over. I'm glad the work of today is finished. I'm glad the day started with laughter. I'm glad the memory of my father surfaced....I needed him today.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Looking Forward

Americans live in the future. We look forward to what comes next, what we will do next, where we will be next. It is important to us to have plans, to be prepared, ready. I try to live in the moment and make a conscious effort to be present in the here and now but admit that more often, I join the rest of you and live in the future.

Lately, even though I love the work I am doing, I find myself looking to retirement, to those days when the alarm will not go off, the emails and phone calls will cease and the days will be mine and I will fill them with whatever strikes me as important at the time. I think about that a lot on my drive to and from work. I particularly think about it when I see a car or truck pulling a camper along the highway.

I see those campers and look forward to the day when my husband and I will take one and let it take us, take us down roads and through towns across the country where we will visit old friends, make new ones and relax and enjoy each day as it comes.

But mostly what I think of when I see those campers, is not where we will go or what we will do, but the preparation, the anticipation of the trip itself is what I look forward to. I picture us packing our clothes, carrying them a few at a time from our room at home into our room in a camper and it is that thought, the picture of that future event that makes me long for the time to pass.

We live in the future and while I do look forward to those days, I grow more conscious every day of how quickly the time is passing and how soon these days will be gone, these days of work, of emails and phone calls and meetings. Of decisions and excitement and work.

I look forward, but hope it takes a long time to get here.

Monday, August 22, 2011


We find inspiration in many places and through different people. It is inspiration that holds us up, pushes us to be our best. With inspiration we do better. Today I was inspired by a friend from my undergrad days, my former Biology lab partner, a Nursing colleague. Today I was inspired by Pat.

Today, throughout my day at work, a day filled with meetings, calls, e-mails and decisions, Pat was on my mind. She was with me when my alarm went off, on my drive to work, in my meetings and as I answered emails. She was with me when I checked her blog off and on all day (if they check my computer at work tonight they will find all the internet time!).

Today, Pat inspired me with her courage, her dedication, her commitment and her strength. She inspired me with her excellence. She inspired me.

Pat is in the record books now. She earned her place today. Her place among others who inspire. Today Pat did something no other 60 year old woman has done. Today Pat swam the English Channel. never know where you will find it.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

My Mother's Clothes Are Not My Mother

My family is not the only family to grieve the loss of a loved one, to mourn the passing of time and the absence of someone in our daily life. My family is no different from yours. Our experience no different than yours.

After my mother died, I spent several days on the coast of Maine in the company of writers, a company I crave, a company that drives my creative side, my love of the language. Over the course of those few days I shared my grief with one of the women there. A women who was an acquaintance then. A women who is a friend now.

We talk now about a lot of things, our jobs, our writing, our husbands and our mothers. We talk about that weekend. We talk about our grief.

We shared a lot on that weekend and from that has come a friendship, a sharing in each other's lives that has gone beyond our grief. But while we have gone beyond our grief, we still carry it with us, hold it deep inside where is rests sometimes peacefully and other times enraged.

We have both used words to heal our grief, mine here in this blog, hers in a more formal fashion, a play. A one woman play that premieres next month (see the notice below and if you are in the Portland area I encourage you to attend...I've heard some of this and you will not be disappointed!).

Words hold great power. They can cause tremendous harm or bring true healing. My friend and I prefer the latter.

premieres at the St. Lawrence Arts Center in Portland on Sept. 15. For information, go to

Saturday, August 20, 2011

A New Life

Soon, very soon, we will welcome our grandson into our family (as you can clearly see from this picture...). He is due to arrive mid-September but we are ready for him any time he chooses to join us.

Today I watched people show my daughter how much they love her, how much they care, how they share with her the anticipation of this life. Today, she and her husband and their son were showered with this love and I was there to see it, to feel it and to recognize how loved she is. Today I got to love her all over again as I remembered how I felt when I carried her, when I had her all to myself in a way that only mothers know.

We cried together today, something we don't do often. We cried when she opened a gift, a simple gift, a gift of a blanket. A blanket for her baby.

My grandson will have a blanket like his mother has, one stitched by hand with a flannel backing. One with animals and bright colors and love sewn into every thread. The difference between this blanket and the one my daughter, her sister, her brother and all her cousins have is this one was not made by my mother. This one, this blanket filled with the love of a family was made by her husband's Aunt.

How fortunate for my grandson to be surrounded by such people. How fortunate for my daughter. How fortunate for us all.

Friday - August 20, 2011

I saw this technique on a website and thought I'd try it. My granddaughter asked to have her picture taken with her great grandmother, to be with her again in any way possible.

She carries this picture with her, takes it to daycare, sleeps with it by her side and when she's stressed, when she's tired or isn't getting her way, she turns to it, turns to her great grandmother. She turns to my mother for comfort.

I like this connection. I like that my granddaughter finds comfort where I always did, with my mother. There is something about this connection that feels right. There is something about this connection that feels real. There is something about this connection that keeps my mother alive in the next generation of our family. This will be short-lived. But while it is here, while my granddaughter remembers my mother, I get to remember her, too.

Thursday - August 19, 2011

If you flipped the state of Maine on its axis at Kittery, Fort Kent would be in Maryland (at least that's what I heard somewhere). After this week of travel, I believe it.

Each time I travel, each time I walk in to another State office and meet those who work there I am overwhelmed by their generosity, their dedication, their devotion to our state and their work and I hope that I live up to their expectations, that I work hard enough to never let them down.

We've done good work during our time on the road, my colleagues and I. We've listened to each other, learned from each other, laughed together and put the needs of the state at the forefront of every conversation and plan. It is hard work, but it is good.

Wednesday - August 17, 2011 - Happy Anniversary

There is love in our family, deep love that crosses the generations and draws us to each other and holds us together. It is genuine, palpable. It runs over us and through us and brings us great joy.

We share our lives and share our love and when we see each other we show it. This is what we teach our children, this is what was taught to us.

My sister is the master of this. She is the one in our family we all turn to, she is the one who turns to us first when we need her. She is the one who says the right things, does the right things at just the right time.

We have long marriages in our family, strong good marriages. We had that example from our parents and hope we have set that example for our children.

Happy Anniversary to my sister and brother-in-law. Thirty-seven years, what a beautiful statement.

Tuesday - August 16, 2011 - The County

Once again I am in awe of my state, of the beauty that surrounds me at every turn. We have 16 counties but only one that has earned the distinction of being called simply "The County". Up here, here where Canada touches us, the air carries the scent of pine and water and the people carry a familiarity and friendship that welcomes everyone.

Today I am in The County with my colleagues and while we will enjoy some down time in the beauty of this place, we are here to work, to learn from each other, lean on each other as we seek to understand our new roles and how we can best serve the people of our state. Those who rely on us, depend on us.

Up here we will do our work, surrounded by all that is good about Maine, all that is good about us. We will work, but at the end of the day we will take a moment, a moment by the shores of the lake and be thankful we are here, we are together and we serve Maine.

Monday, August 15, 2011


A flock of geese, their V stark against the brilliant blue of the sky over the Reservation, their calls to each other lingering along with their shadows, brought with them the realization that the season is shortening. The sun sets earlier, the air cools sooner when a cloud hides the sun and our summer is passing.

I usually welcome Fall, look forward to the shorter days, the crisp air. The athletic fields of our local school are two blocks from our house and on fall nights the lights shine above the trees and the cheers of the crowd float to us and we count the touchdowns and goals by those sounds. All of these things, along with sweatshirts, fewer meals cooked on the grill and the rhythm of the school schedule separate Summer from Fall and I like the move indoors.

But this year, this year of change for me, I find myself missing summer already. I find myself hoping September is as warm as July was. That Fall won't be early.

Watching those geese fly overhead, watching them begin their journey toward winter made me stop and appreciate the summer. That is new for me.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Sunday - August 14, 2011

Traditions, those with ceremony and those without, draw us together, unite us in our beliefs, in our communities and our families. They are woven into who we are and we strive to preserve them within our families.

We teach our children and grandchildren what is important to us and hope they understand. Hope they understand and carry them forward.

Saturday - August 13, 2011

Walks are common these days. We walk to cure Cancer, Alzheimer's Disease, Kidney Disease and Cystic Fibrosis. We walk to thank our Veterans, to teach children to read and to build our schools. Today in Sipayuk we walked together. We walked side by side, different cultures, different religions, different governments. Young walked with old and old with young. The community opened its arms and welcomed everyone, welcomed us into their lives and their culture.

Before we walked, before the day started, while children were sleeping and breakfasts were being cooked, we met at the Community Health Center, and prepared the diabetes screening clinic. Tents, tables, glucometers, blood pressure cuffs, tee shirts, water, pens, health information sheets, clipboards, chairs, gloves, sharps box, bandaids and volunteers....lots of volunteers....came together for the Tribe. It was all for the Tribe, for their health, for their community, for their future.

We walked together.

Friday - August 12, 2011

This is one glimpse into the scenery that surrounded me as I drove north to work this morning, this morning that dawned with me at one end of the state and ended with me at the other. Today begins another step in my career, one that is a true journey, a journey of miles, a journey of cultures and a journey of people. Today my office walls disappear but the work continues.

Standing on the shore of Passamaquoddy Bay awaiting the arrival of the canoes that left two days ago from Indian Island, a whale breached the surface of the channel and led the way for the canoes. Amid cheers, drumming and traditional singing, the whale appeared to perform for the gathered crowd and lent a spiritual overtone to the opening festivities in Sipayuk, the Passamaquoddy Reservation just outside of Eastport, Maine. A tone that hovered over the day, a day filled with family, community, tradition and a reverence for the earth and our place in it that I have read about but never witnessed. Never until today.

It is a privilege to be here and be so welcome.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Melissa and Gayle...

Tonight two of my dearest friends are together ( I exclude my sister from this list of one can come close to who she is to me), they are together away from me, away from me in miles but not in spirit. They are together for drinks and dinner in Montana and I am alone in a hotel room in Maine....miles separate us, but tonight I have had calls from them and even without those calls, without those familiar voices, I was with them.

These friends, these two women I introduced to each other, are friends to me in a manner no others can compare to. They are women I trust, women I love, women I have lived with and worked with and shared with in ways that cannot compare to other friends. These two women are friends who know me on a level I find myself at a loss to explain. They are the friends who came in to my life later, arrived at an age when I didn't think I would find new friends, when I thought all the people I knew were already in my life. They are old friends who are new.

I didn't expect these friendships, this late in life recognition of kindred spirits and I am blessed to have them. They do not share my history, but they do share so much with me, so much that many of my long time friends would find foreign, would not understand. I have stood with these women in the chaos of work, in the heat of the mission field and in the comfort of my home. But, regardless of where we stood, we stood together.

Tonight my friends were together and although I was alone, I was with them.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

It's Just Who We Are

I have written a lot about my family throughout the time I've had this blog. To some I know we sound unusual in the closeness we share, the way we tumble over each other's lives, the visibility of our love for each other, but it is who we are. It is how we live together.

We laugh a lot, we do silly things, we dance together at random times or when particular songs come on the radio (our favorite is the country song, "Why Don't We Just Dance"), we sit on each other's lap (my favorite time to do this is when my daughter has friends visiting) and we take the phone out of each other's hands in mid-conversation. In this picture we are in a full fledged Silly String fight. The neighbors hardly raise an eyebrow to us anymore.

We are not without our problems, we have had our share (and then some) and there are times when I have to remind myself to look for the love we have for each other. But when I do that, when I look for it, actively seek it, it's easy to find.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Tree Hugging

I learned something about myself a long time ago....I love trees. Not in the tree hugging eco-zealous chain myself to logging trucks kind of love, but in a simpler way, in a walk through the woods enjoy the smell listen to the birds sing kind of way.

All trees are not equal in my eyes, family rises above all others in its beauty, the pine. I never tire of them.

When we studied the eco-systems of the world in school (forgive me my southern friends) I failed to see the beauty in the lazy drapes of heat laden equatorial branches, those moss drenched trees that rise out of bayous and swamps or the large leafed trees connected in their canopy by vines and roots that grow above ground (the ones Tarzan and Jane swung through calling on the elephants). Their beauty still escapes me.

But the pines, those trees brave enough to hold their needles through fierce weather, those that stand straight above all others, those that fill my state, I can't get enough.

On my daily commute, and as I work my way around the state over the next few months, I will watch the trees, the pines. I will look for them, watch them, and love every one I see.

Monday, August 8, 2011

A Little Strength

When I was young (I use the term young rather than little because I haven't been little since I was 6 months old) I used to wear my mother's shoes. I would walk around in her high heels and try to recreate the sound of her walk, the sound I associate with Sunday mornings, the sound of her heels on the brick sidewalk outside our church. My mother was a small woman so I wasn't very old when I could no longer fit into her shoes.

People refer to me as strong, they assume that within my 6 foot frame there is strength and in many ways they are right. Like everyone, I have strengths and as I've grown and had different experiences I have nurtured those strengths. Some are obvious, some less so. Some old, some new. But strength, true strength of character and spirit needs no physical presence to be present. It simply is.

I misunderstood my mother's strength. I thought her strength was in direct proportion to her size. I wish I had realized this mistake before I lost her, before she faded away before my eyes.

My mother was a strong woman, she just carried her strength in a small frame.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

A Reminder

I was reminded this week that it has been a full year since we welcomed home our son-in-law and his troops. A year since we paced in anticipation of their arrival, since we waved our flags, made posters, held the hands of the 'wives' and mothers and fathers and sons and daughters. A year since we stood in the hangar and let the emotion of that day wash over us and spill into the air in the form of cheers and tears.

In this year, this very full year, so much has changed in our lives. Events have occurred, the holidays came and went, the seasons changed, jobs
changed, transfers happened and new
life was started. We breathed again. We relaxed. They were home and they were safe.

The wars continue, their controversy spelled out daily in the news, the arguments over whether we should be there or not go on and while we care, while we want it to be over, want everyone home, I am embarrassed to admit that it became somewhat distant for me again. Distant in the sense that those soldiers I know personally are not in danger, they are away from the front lines, they are home.

My complacency was shaken, shaken violently a few weeks ago when we received word that someone was injured, injured beside others who were killed, someone who means a lot to one of our soldiers, someone who by the nature of her relationship with one of ours, means a lot to us.

The sacrifice our soldiers make for us, their selflessness, their willingness to leave all they know and love and bear the burden of freedom overwhelms me and I am grateful once again.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Unexpected Time

When you live on the coast, when the ocean and the tides are such an intrinsic piece of your life, you often take the rise and fall of the tide for granted and before you know it days and weeks have passed and you have barely noticed the salt in the air. Tonight we not only noticed, we breathed it and lived it and as I write this my body hasn't fully recognized the fact that it is solid earth under my feet and not the rise and fall of the swells of the ocean.

Today was supposed to be a quiet day at home, a day of puttering, a day of doing all those tasks and chores that need to be completed but take time to do. A day of weeding the garden, mowing the lawn and finally getting all the laundry washed, dried, folded and put away. Instead, an invitation to spend the day on the ocean brushed the chores aside and replaced the tasks with time and sunshine and laughter and family.

It is hard to describe the ease of our time with family. Our time with those who know us so well, have known us for so long and love us no matter what we say or do. Those who have a history with us, a history filled with time and events and people and love and laughter. A history filled with each other.

Today was a day that began as ordinary and ended filled with the extraordinary. With moments on the ocean and then beside a fire. With time together with those we love. Time that lets us know we are connected and loved. Time we are fortunate to have. Time we treasure.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Please Pull For Service

Today I took a step, not a giant step a little step, a step back in time. Back to a time when fall approached and school was about to start. Back to a time when my mother took my sister and I to get school shoes at Roy's Shoe Shop.

Roy isn't there any longer but when I pushed the door open, the door covered with signs and stickers that indicate the store hours, handwritten on cardboard, the bells above the door and the aroma of old leather, shoe polish and some mixture of cements and glues ambushed me and I was drawn into the shop as if through a tunnel that led to a time machine.

Across the floor, past the vinyl covered chairs with the silver arms and above the counter the string with a handle made from the piece of a shoe mold holds a note that reads, "Please pull for service". I hadn't thought of that sign for more than forty years but when I saw it, when I held it in my hands an tugged on it, the sound of the bells at the other end of the string, the bells that hang in the working part of the shop sounded the same as they did when I was a little girl and my mother was the one to pull the cord. They sounded like my childhood.

The man who came through the door wasn't Roy, or Roy's long time assistant (I never learned his name) but his smile and approach were similar to Roy, a shy smile, an unhurried walk, calloused and black/brown stained hands, an expert inspection of my shoes in need of repair.

The orange ticket, handwritten with a Bic pen, is my ticket to return again to my past. It is my assurance that I can go back again, that I can walk in to that place, step back in time. I don't really care that the shoes I left there will be repaired (they aren't all that comfortable anyway), what I care about now is that my orange ticket will take me back there, take me through those doors and back through time to my childhood.

Thursday, August 4, 2011


Even after living my entire life (so far) in Maine, I am not tired of how beautiful our state is. Every morning I get on the interstate and as I round the corner the view never fails to please me, it does not lose its beauty. My parents appreciated Maine, too and passed that to me.

When we were kids, my sister and I would sit on the rocks at Two Lights with our parents and watch the waves for hours. On rides, either family trips or Sunday drives, we'd point out the horses and cows, or count the birds on a wire (I always claimed to see birds on a wire whenever we played Car Bingo.....we didn't need a DVD player, we had windows) and watch the forest or ocean pass. In Rockland with our cousins we had the boats in the harbor, in Winter Harbor with the Billetts we had the ocean. And now, every morning I have the ocean, the forest and a variety of pine trees, birds and meadows that I count on to start my day.

So when people ask me if I mind my hour long commute every day, I think of Mackworth Island in Casco Bay and how it appears to float on the ocean in the morning sun, the bald eagle that overlooks the wetlands from his perch in a tree at Exit 43 and the stand of pine trees at mile marker 41. I hold these images as close as I hold the images from my childhood and say I don't mind the commute at all. And then, with those thoughts in my mind, I think how lucky I am that tomorrow I get to make the drive again.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011


I don't necessarily have the fondest memories of High School, achieving the height of 6 feet in Middle School (or Junior High as it was called at the time) didn't lend itself to strong feelings of security. But tonight, 38 years post graduation, I sat with more than a dozen of the 'girls' who share that past with me, that past of homework, tests, finals, teachers, leaving campus for lunch, boys, sports, boys and boys. We sat together in the evening sunshine and talked of what was, what has been and who we are now, now that we are the parents and grandparents. Now that we are comfortable in our own skin, in our lives.

We talked of then, of who was who and we talked of now, of jobs and husbands and children and grandchildren and 'what was his name' and 'didn't she marry...' and 'whatever happened to..', but mostly we talked of time, that sweet measurement of life that moves faster than we thought it could.

I don't have the fondest memories of High School, but tonight I built a memory, one that will become a fond one. One that picks away at the other memories, those that aren't so fond, one that brings to my life a group of women with lives rich and strong, lives filled with people and jobs and friends and memories. Lives well lived.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Grammy Time

I seek moments of joy in my life and the good news is that I find them. I find them in the ordinary days, the ordinary actions of our family. I find them in the moments when we're together doing ordinary things. I find them in the routine and rhythm of our days and again in the special moments, those special times when we're together. I find them in my grandchildren.

Monday, August 1, 2011

A Nudge

I have been nudged. You know the gesture, the communication that has no need for words because the people involved know what the other is thinking and confirm it with a physical connection, a touch, a nudge. I never gave nudging much thought before this but now recognize it for the intimate sign it is, the gentle message it sends from one to another. The level of 'knowing' that rests in it. The direction it gives. In my case, the nudge pointed me back here.

I miss my mother still. Sometimes with a passing thought that brings a smile, other times with overwhelming grief that twists me with the intensity I felt in those first hours after her death. Not knowing when which moment will occur is the difficulty with grief.

My life is different now. Much has changed. Some of it is simple, a new job, a new role, a new grandchild on the way, a new boat. But much of it is harder to explain. Harder to grasp. I am not who I was and I wonder what she would think of that.

On a TED video (if you haven't seen check it out, great speakers on any number of topics) a speaker challenged the audience to try something for 30 days. Anything for 30 days. It could change your life, he claimed, or, if not you can do anything for 30 days.

What does a 30 day challenge have to do with my nudge? It's simple...I will post.

What will you do?

Saturday, April 9, 2011

2 of 56

Growing up I was envious of friends who were born into a strong family, one rich with heritage, traditions that brought forward large gatherings of extended family with tables filled with food cooked for the celebration, those recipes handed down from one generation to the next with the origin of the dishes resting somewhere in lands with exotic names, names with syllables that began in the back of the throat and spilled forward and touched the tongue in places English never did. I wanted that, longed for that and at times resented the fact that I didn't have it, didn't have it in my genes, didn't have it in my history. My history was bland. It has taken time, time for me to see the beauty and richness of my history, my heritage. I saw it today. I saw it this morning when I sat with my sister and lifelong friend and talked and laughed and enjoyed our time together with four generations of a family. I saw it in the laughter, I saw it in the food, I saw it in my sister. Later in the day I saw it again as we gathered around our table and celebrated another year of life for my granddaughter, my daughter and for me. Surrounded by our family, our extended family, this group of people who make up our lives with love and laughter and kindness and joy and all that goes along with life, we stood together and sang and talked and smiled and ate and wished for another year of life, another year of success, another year. This is my heritage, my history. It is one of rich tradition, one of joy. It is all the things I longed for, what I thought I was missing, what I couldn't see. This is my life and I am thankful.

Friday, April 8, 2011

1 of 56

Of all the Birthday wishes I received today, and there were many, in the mail, in person, via email and on Facebook (say what you will about social networking....coming home to more than 60 Happy Birthday wishes really does feel good!), my favorite by far is the one pictured here.

Yes, it is an Anniversary card. But more importantly, it was chosen just for me by my granddaughter, my granddaughter who still misses her Great Grammy Lois, my granddaughter who took to heart the suggestion in our family that when you see a cardinal you see her great grandmother. When you see a cardinal, you see my mother.

No greater gift could I have received on my Birthday than the gift of my mother. No greater gift could I have received in my life than this amazing child who now fills it and keeps my mother with me.

It is Day 1 of 56 for me, and I am off to a great start.

Friday, April 1, 2011

The Grace of Opportunity

There are moments in my life when I realize, not simply in an Oh, isn't that nice kind of way, but in a full blown, historical magnitude, out of body kind of way, that I have had opportunities unlike any I might have guessed would come my way. Whether it was the privilege of sitting with someone at the moment of their death, witnessing the moment of a birth or being a guest in a home that holds only its walls and a dirt floor, there have been times in my life when opportunities have presented me with moments of grace that I treasure. There are moments in my life when I truly can't believe it is my life. That I have somehow found my way to where I am. In those moments I turn inward and remind myself that this life I lead is a gift and what I do with it matters. It matters to me, to my family, to my friends and now, (this is one of those moments...) to the people of Maine. Over the past months there has been almost nothing positive in the press about our Governor. (Facebook has been particularly unkind.) He has been depicted as a buffoon, anti-labor, union busting tough guy, unintelligent and heartless. What is most depressing to me is that so many people believe this....including a lot of my friends...people who ordinarily know better than to believe all that they read, people who think for themselves, question and seek the truth on all matters. The picture with this post is the Blaine House. The home of the Governor of Maine. A home I was welcomed into last evening for a quiet dinner with a family. A genuine loving family who happen to be the First Family of Maine. Through the course of the evening I asked myself why the man who sat with us, the man who graciously acted as our host, the man who articulated his thoughts clearly, who spoke of the people of Maine with respect, dedication and compassion, who outlined (complete with citation of Federal law) the budget, the process of legislation, the needs of the citizens of the state he governs and his admiration for the work being done, is so vilified by the same people he has committed himself to serve. I came to the conclusion it is because this is not the man we have been allowed to see. What I now have the privilege to know, to see for myself, brings me great comfort for my state. It encourages me when all other sources of information discourage. It heartens me when these same sources work to dishearten. It makes me question my opinions in the past, my assumptions based on second and third hand knowledge. It causes me great embarrassment to know that I, too formed (and readily shared) opinions, opinions formed without knowledge. That I jumped to conclusions about so many things without seeking the truth. I seek to learn. To pose questions. To know for myself. To teach others to do the same. To remind my friends and colleagues to remember we are a generation who prided itself on thinking for ourselves. I hope we haven't lost that.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Comfort Food

If you never had the pleasure (and I do mean pleasure in its purest form, the form of the ultimate happy place you go to when you need escape, escape from the reality of any given situation) of eating Hot Cross Buns, I truly hope there is something in your life that compares to this. Something that brings you joy. Something that feeds your soul. Hot Cross Buns are my comfort food.

These simple treats, humble mixtures of flour, eggs, yeast and raisins (not currants, please, the raisins are just enough) have historical significance in Christianity and carry with them a multitude of folklore tales (I particularly like the thought that they should be kissed before eaten, however this could bring about a 'kiss my bun' remark and that's been overdone lately). Regardless of their heritage, they are my comfort food.

With the closing of Piscopo's Bakery, our local bakery that truly mastered the art of the Hot Cross Bun, my sister and I have searched for a replacement without success. The grocery store bakeries try but cannot come close to producing the perfection of Piscopo's. Trust me on this, we've tried them all. They use currants and the frosting is too thin. I know what they should look like and what should or should not be in them, they are after all, my comfort food.

Last week I visited a homeless shelter, let me rephrase that, a homeless community, and was privileged to sit with members of this community and talk with them, hear their stories, see their courage (3/20 post - Courage) and learn from them what their lives are like. In that place, in that community of people who care is their bakery. A bakery they built and manage. A bakery that builds them and returns life to that community. I heard the people,their stories. I heard them. And before I left their community I bought bread from them and Hot Cross Buns.

I knew before I tasted them that they had it right, they were raisins only and their frosting was white and thick and held the shape of the cross. I knew I had found comfort again.

Yesterday, in my office, between meetings and emails and phone calls I had a rush of desire, a longing for comfort. I longed for the comfort these silly pastries bring to me, but not for their aroma or flavor. What I longed for was the sound of my mother's kitchen chairs as my mother, sister and I sat together on Saturday mornings with Hot Cross Buns and tea. I longed for the time we spent together, the sound of my mother's voice, her laughter. I longed for that feeling, that complete peace I held when my mother, sister and I were together on those mornings. That complete peace. That comfort.

Hot Cross Buns will always be my comfort food, but my mother and sister will always be my comfort.

Sunday, March 20, 2011


When we talk about courage what comes to mind most often are our soldiers, police officers, firefighters, rescue workers and those who put their lives on the line for our safety every day. Those heroes who, when asked, simply say they are doing their job are right, they are doing what they chose to do, choices that took courage and jobs that take courage to complete. While I take great pride in the fact that many of these courageous people are my friends and family, there is another brand of courage I witnessed last week that is not a courage of choice but of circumstances.

I had the privilege of attending a meeting last week of a community of people who live and work together. A small community that looked from the outside like any other with the generations intermingled, the children smiling and itching to get outside on an unusually warm late winter day, the elders smiling, the parents shushing while the presentations of accomplishment continued. The awards were greeted as all are, with smiles, enthusiasm, congratulations, support and applause, lots of applause. As always happens at events such as this, there is pride that runs through the room, contagious in its palpability, its presence.

Present also in this room and among the people of this community was courage. Initially I didn't see it, I missed it because I didn't expect it to be there (how easily our assumptions lead us from seeing the obvious), I didn't expect to find it there, I didn't know how much this community held itself together with courage. I'm not certain they even realize it, but it is there.

It was there in the award given to the man who had just entered this community and for the first time made his pledge for one day of sobriety. It was there in the award given to the woman who completed one week of sobriety and the man and woman who made it two weeks, the others who had survived thirty days, sixty days and even one hundred days clean and sober. One man told us he had not ever had more than five consecutive days clean and sober since he was twelve years old but now he stood in the midst of his community with one hundred days without drugs or alcohol. His friends and neighbors cheered for him and I admired his courage.

The stories I heard from this community are not the usual stories of courage. They were not the stories of rushing into a burning building to rescue a child or leaving a family behind to deploy to a war zone or even those of responding to a call for help. They were instead stories of individual courage, courage of a different kind. These stories were the stories of lives lived on the edge, lives lived immersed in risk, lives lived in danger, lives lived in fear.

Everyone knows we have a problem with homelessness in our country but when viewed from a distance, a comfortable distance, the image that comes to mind is not an image of courage. We do not see, perhaps we do not choose to see, the courage that it takes to survive in the homeless world. The courage of a person choosing to join a community when all they have known from communities is rejection. The courage of a parent to escape violence and bring their child to a community when communities have not been safe for them. The courage of a person who has been in this community before and left, to return and be welcomed. The courage to reach out to a community when all you have reached is the bottom. The courage to hope.

This is the courage I saw in this community. It was raw. It was painful. It was humbling. But it was there and I was grateful to be in their presence. My definition of courage has been altered.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Happy Birthday, Mom

Dear Mom,
I thought of you a lot today. So much has happened in our lives since you left us I thought I'd take the opportunity of your 86th Birthday to tell you about it all (or at least some of the highlights).

Of course the kids have gotten big, your great-grandchildren are something to see. It's so much fun for Penny and I to watch our children with children of their own. And there's another on the way! Michelle and Jay are going to have a baby! You would be so excited for them, I know how much you liked Jay, you used to tell me that you liked his face and then you'd smile as you thought of him. We're pretty excited for them. Ryleigh has named the baby Snowflake and is ready to move in with Auntie and Uncle Jay to take care of the baby. She's quiet the little mother herself. When Charlie, Isaac and Owen come over she's very protective. It brings back memories when they're all together.

Brandon is really growing up fast. He just did a big report in school about Teddy Roosevelt. He worked hard on it and was very excited to tell everyone in his class all he knew about him. He's fascinated with the Presidents. I told him the other day that you could recite the Presidents in order of their terms. He thought that was a pretty good thing to be able to do. He's a sweet boy.

Jen and Rob are taking good care of the house. It looks great, I think you'd really like the colors and it's fun to see Charlie growing up in the same place her grandmother and I did. It's a great house for a family.

Joel and Kelley have a nice home, too. Kelley puts a lot of videos of Owen online and it's like watching Joel all over again. Joel likes his truck driving job (a little Uncle Kenny in him?) They're a happy family.

Sara and Ian are settled into their new place, too and it's fun for all of us to be so close. Isaac has a great playroom and he's talking a mile a minute. Sara started a new job and seems to be happier there.

Lacey and the kids are fine here with us. She has had some changes in her job, but all in all it's going okay for her. We talk about when she moves out, but I don't think any of us really want that to happen. We have fun together and I think Kenny would go nuts without the kids here.

Penny and Jim just got back from vacation and it was a long week without her for me. (Yes, we're still on the phone or together a lot.) They are wonderful grandparents and loving every minute of that.

I've been in touch with Jeff lately. It's tentative and we don't talk about some things, but at least we're in touch. I know how it upset you that we were estranged. It's not easy or even comfortable, but it's a step in the right direction.

Kenny and I are good, too. We just got back from a great vacation in the Caribbean with Garry and Jane. It was a lot of fun and everywhere we went I saw all those little things I liked to buy for you. I walked away from them this year and pretended to be interested in other things. My job change has been hard on Kenny, but as you always said about him, he is a good man. He takes good care of me, Mom.

I thought there would be more to tell you, events and celebrations, major changes in the world and in our lives but now I realize it's not the big events, the holidays and celebrations when I miss you the most. What I've found over these past two years is it is the every day stuff, the day to day moments that I miss sharing with you over cups of tea in your kitchen. I even miss watching Ellen with you at the Nursing Home.

I think of you when I drive to work in the morning, in the middle of my day when I should be thinking of work, on my drive home and in the evening when I'm alone. I think of all the ways you influenced me in my life and look for signs of you wherever I go. The kids think of you when they see a cardinal and I think of you even when I don't see one.

I have met so many people since you left and at times I can't believe I have people in my life who didn't know you. I told someone about you the other day. I told them how strong you were and how proud I was to be your daughter. I told them how much I missed you.

A lot more has happened over the past two years but it all seems a bit irrelevant to me now. The days have come and gone and your family has stayed strong, we've stayed together and loved each other just like you taught us to. I think you'd be proud.

I miss you, Mom, and hope you spent some time today with your mother and that now you know how special it is to have a mother. I know how special it was for me.

Happy Birthday, Mom.


Wednesday, March 2, 2011

My Mother's Cats

From the moment I first considered accepting this position, this new role that charges me with caring, gives me the responsibility of caring, I have wanted (not wanted...longed for) my parents. I wanted to talk with them, seek their counsel, listen to their advice about my choice, my future. I wanted to hear my father's voice, hear his words. (I wanted to hear his mock horror that I would join a Republican Administration!) I wanted my mother, too. I wanted her with me, I wanted to share this with her.

This wanting, this longing, has been my partner for the past month, these past weeks of decisions and farewells and hellos have been shadowed with absence, with the space in my life they held.

So why a picture of a mug with a cat in a window? Because it is my mother (not literally, I'm okay), it is a duplicate of the picture that hung on her door at the Nursing Home. It is the picture she and I talked about every day during the last months, weeks and days of her life. (See my 3/30 post.) It is a memory for me. A memory of her and all she was to me and how I miss her.

This mug, this mug with the cat in the window, will go with me to my new office, to my new role, my new role of caring and it will remind me. It will remind me of her and how hard it was to lose her, how hard it was to watch her slip away from us. It will remind me of all of this but it will also remind me that she is with me. In a small way, in my small way, she will be with me.

Saturday, February 19, 2011


Throughout my career in healthcare I have often wondered where my 'checkered' path would lead. From the first stirrings of interest in caring for people that resulted in several years as a CNA in both long term care and critical care (a combination that on the surface appears incongruous), through Nursing School, through the difficult decision to not attend Medical School, to insurance, back to long term care, back to critical care and finally to Nursing Administration, I have built an enormous repository of skills, knowledge and understanding of the needs of people, systems, institutions and organizations. All of which I must now call on to take this next step in my 'caring' career.

I love Maine. It is my home, it is my heritage, it is my future. In all my travels, when the end of time away approaches, my head, heart and soul turn northeast and I know when I get off the plane, bus or car it will be the Maine air that welcomes me, soothes me and allows me the comfort of home. I breathe here.

We can make it better, this Maine that I love. I believe that. I know that. To be entrusted with such responsibility is humbling, frightening, but trusted we are and with that trust we will take our first steps, my first steps, and carry with me all that I know, all that I have learned and all that I love.