Thursday, August 27, 2009

20 years ago

20 years ago, I was reconsidering the course of my life. I wasn't happy with my salary, I wasn't happy with my love life, and I was feeling the need for some change.

I had moved back to Norfolk from Houston, a little over a year after my father died and we settled his 'estate' (paid off the bills, sold the house, sold the boat, split up the stuff...) I was working in a law office, and while I made good friends there, I never cared for the stuffy environment as compared to the "we're all in this together" style of working that I had experienced in Houston. I was working a lot of overtime. I had a cute little duplex near the Chesapeake Bay and a dog and a cat.

One of the things I considered at this time was moving to DC and working with some attorneys that I had known in Houston. They took me to lunch, and I scouted possible areas to live based on an estimated salary for a legal secretary in DC. While I was intrigued at the possibility of working with these guys (we all got along great), the DC life didn't appeal. I'd just left a big city and while it was fun for a while, I was over it.

So, I declined that opportunity. Then I briefly considered the military, as a way of getting an education. I distinctly remember talking to my mother about this, along with her tips on changing my diet to lower my cholesterol (my father had died in '86, massive heart attack.)

But a few days later I was asked by a co-worker if I would be willing to go on a blind date. Her husband had three buddies who wanted dates for the Hawkeye Ball. The Hawkeye is the E2C, the "eyes" of the aircraft carrier, first planes out, last retrieved. The guys were getting home from a six month cruise the day of the ball. And that's how I met my future husband. And why I didn't join the military. (Really, I considered that...?!)

This comes up because Rebecca recently asked how I'd met her dad. And it had dawned on me earlier this summer, that was 20 years ago. It is incredible to me that so much time has passed. And Rebecca has asked me, "Are you sorry you married Daddy?" Well of course not. We shared some real adventures together, and have a beautiful and loving daughter who is well on her way to becoming a pretty amazing young adult.

It all leads us to where we are now. No regrets. But wow, 20 years ago...

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Summer of Love

This will probably read more like a rambling than a coherent blog post.

Just a coincidence that this year marks the 40th anniverary of the quintessential lovefest, Woodstock. Didn't make sense to struggle with something so insignificant as the title of this blog post, so there it is.

Feeling very alive lately. Nerves right at the top of my skin. Awareness heightened to a ridiculous level: words mean more, music affects me more profoundly, and tears come more easily. My heart feels very open right now. And on top of all of this, I feel calm. Peaceful. Nothing significant has happened. I noticed a difference earlier in the summer, like I'd turned some kind of emotional corner. Hard to explain, but the feeling has held in any case. And yes, this does sound a lot like the "twitterpated" feeling discussed in the spring. I suppose in a way that's what this is, but more twitterpated with life, living, and love (not the sappy stuff, the real stuff, the enduring love of real connections...)

I do know this: I have connected and reconnected with so many extraordinary people and friends over the summer.

SUUSI, of course, is always an experience in connections. No need to go into that again, but it definitely grounded me and gave me a renewed sense of self.

The reunion in Norfolk was almost magical. Friends and acquaintances I hadn't seen in over 30 years, all together for a weekend at a beach house. We exchanged stories, memories, joys and sorrows. We came together from all the different places we'd been scattered, both geographically and in our life's journeys; we have different political views, different religious backgrounds, and yet we enjoyed food, drink, music and dancing, and came away with a renewed sense of where we come from and a deeper connection to each other. Now there is talk of making this an annual event. I hope so.

And at home, in our little town, it seems that some fences are being mended, and misunderstandings forgiven. There have been many occasions for deep connections and strengthening of friendships. Even the most cynical among us has felt the love. I can't attribute it to anything specific. But I do know that it makes me happy. I have friends in my life who 'get' me, and that is priceless. They recognize things in me that I forget, and they remind me. They gently encourage me to be kinder to myself, to love myself. And I am so very grateful.

And I know, the one constant in our lives is change. Impermanance. Nothing lasts forever. I'm about to turn 50. Not sure what the future holds. All the more reason, then, to embrace the now. My heart is open, my mind is open, and nothing really matters but right now.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

My Summer Vacation

The dog days of summer have arrived. This area has been blessed with great weather this summer, so we were bound to pay eventually. Fortunately, the weather stayed amazingly nice through our vacation at SUUSI (Southeast Unitarian Universalist Summer Institute) at Radford. It was downright chilly at night, my three hikes were all very comfortable, and when it did rain it was brief and welcome.

This was our second year at SUUSI. It was our first staying in separate dorms, and I have to say, I am very proud of Rebecca. Even though she had a 1 a.m. curfew and most of her friends stayed out/up as late as they possibly could (some stayed in the common room all night long), she had the good sense to get to bed by midnight most nights. Good to know she has her own mind and doesn't feel the need to follow the crowd. I hope that remains to be a part of her character. She had a great time, cultivated some old and new friendships, and was completely thrilled with participating in Teens Way Off Broadway. She even took a Making Truffles workshop (they were yummy!) My dorm experience was great: my room mate and I got along famously, our suitemates were nice and very considerate...I barely noticed we were sharing a bathroom with them. We stayed in a quiet hall, so sleeping was never a problem. And most nights we could sleep with the windows open, thanks to the cool temperatures.

I enjoyed my time immensely. I was in a very mellow, calm mood, which made for a very positive experience. I worked in the nursery for part of the time, and really enjoyed holding the babies and generally helping out with lots of other amazing volunteers. What a well-run operation (SUUSI in general, and the youth program in particular.) I also participated in the Fun Run (run by friend Bill Brooks) and finished, approx. a 13 min. mile. Good enough, but I wouldn't call it fun...

The three hikes I participated in were all enjoyable and unique in their own way. The first was to the Falls of Dismal. Beautiful area, but a very short hike to the falls, so several of us went on to hike on a path above the falls and saw some beautiful scenery and had some nice conversations.

The next hike originated at Mountain Lake, the site where much of Dirty Dancing was filmed. There was a fog on this morning, which made the temps very nice. We hiked a fairly steep path (had to rest several times) up to Bald Knob, which I believe is one of the highest points in this part of Virginia.
Unfortunately, our view was obstructed by the fog, but still an exhilarating accomplishment. We went on from there and hiked to Bear Cliffs. This was a gorgeous area, and I was fortunate to be walking with a woman well-versed in botany, which helped in identifying many of the plants along the way.Bear Cliffs is a fairly treacherous area, with deep chasms and large crags of rock. Most of the rock is very slippery, and two in our party took a fall. Not an area to be treated lightly.

Amazingly, one of our party had just turned 80 in February. While his going was slow, he accomplished the hike and we were all supportive and encouraging. Good for him!! The highlight of the nature portion of my SUUSI experience was the Travertine Falls Silent Hike. The hike was conceived by one of the Nature staff, Dave Shellman. He had experienced a hike last year during which one participant talked non-stop. He thought it might be nice to lead a hike that was based on silence, immersing the participants in their surroundings. Well, it was a huge hit. Everyone who signed up did so specifically because it was billed as 'silent.' We determined the parameters (no talking zone, time to meet back, etc.) and were on our way.

Oh, the things you can see when you have the freedom to be silent, stop, sit, go back, and contemplate. Truly a wonderful experience, and the bonding seemed even more deep without the talking. Thanks, Dave.
The rest of my time at SUUSI remained fairly open. Outside of set dining times (which were very accommodating) I had no real agenda. I attended a few theme talks and worship services, always a great experience and very grounding, I attended several of the concerts (great talent there), and did a little shopping at the SUUSI store and Artisan's Bazaar. In the afternoons we would gather in the quad for community time, sharing our thoughts on the day, the services, the weather, and just generally enjoying each other. Our circle invariably grew, as folks stopped by to say hello, and we all made new friends this way. We would often gather back in this area after dinner, and on a couple of occasions talked and laughed (oh how we laughed!) into the night.

And several nights I would end up at Serendipity, for cocktails and dancing. One night as I walked home, I came upon a labyrinth that had been set up by a participant, lined with white lights. I dropped my shoes and walked the labyrinth, enjoyed the coolness and moisture of the grass, and welcoming the tranquility of 1 a.m., after the thumping of the music and dancing. Lovely way to end the night.

When it was time to come home, Rebecca and I were both ready. We loved the week and we look forward to next year. But home is a good place to be. I've always felt that vacation is good for that...helping me to appreciate home. There's no place like home. See you next year, SUUSI...thanks for the wonderful week and unforgettable moments.