Hamilton: Still Processing

This past Friday, I went to see “Hamilton” in New York City with four friends from Concord.  I am still processing the weekend, because it was huge for me for many different reasons.

About two years ago, my friend Pam told me I should purchase the music from this new musical “Hamilton”.  That hot July Saturday, I went out to Barnes & Noble and bought both the book and the CD from musical.  And started reading and listening.  And dreaming about seeing the play in person.  But I said to myself that I wouldn’t see the play until I finished the book.  Listening to the music, I began to learn about the good and the bad about Alexander Hamilton.  The reading went slowly….A year went by and I was still not done, and not even close to being done reading the book.  More and more friends were going to the show and I started to check out ticket prices.  They were really high in New York City.  They were not as high in Chicago but I would need to fly there.  I started checking out flight prices. Could I fly in, see a matinee and fly out that same night?  What would one night at a hotel cost?  Could I justify this type of expense as a single person?  It would be an extravagance for sure.

The reading was still going nowhere.  During the Patriots playoff games this past season, a pair of friends, Lynn and Chris, were talking about how their daughters just gave them Hamilton tickets.  The other pair of friends, Lynn and Rex discussed how much they wanted to see the play.  Lynn and Chris said they should try to get tickets for June 29th.  I chimed in that I would also like to see the play.  And so the plot was hatched.  Lynn found three seats together for her, Rex and myself; Lynn & Lynn found a really cool AirBNB; the tickets and the AirBNB were paid for; a dog sitter was arranged; and all we needed to do was wait for June 29th to arrive.

And as the day came closer and closer, I knew there was no way that I would finish reading the book.  I mentioned this to a friend and they suggested I download Audible and listen to it.  And with several weeks of the school year yet, and a 30 to 45 minute drive each way,  I figured I could get the book done this way.  When I downloaded where I had left off reading, I had 25 hours to listen.  So, listen I did. And, I learned a lot by listening.  I had never listened to a book this way and I found that it was a great way for me to get a book done and to use time that was otherwise just down time (which isn’t always a bad thing) into a learning time.  So, as an educator, I learned the value of providing different alternatives to meeting an end goal to students.

As the time trickled down to a month to go, Lynn, Lynn, and I met to discuss places to eat and other activities to do during our three days in New York.  New York City is very familiar to Lynn R and Lynn S has a great amount of experience finding good places to eat, so we quickly came up with a rough idea of what our three days might look like.  We discussed and then found a 3 hour tour to do on Saturday that focused on Hamilton and Washington.  As time got closer, a few other recommendations were added to our Google Doc.  And finally, the morning of Friday, June 29th was here.

me
In front of the theater

Deciding what to wear to the theater was surprisingly easy.  I had asked my friend Nancy, a frequent Broadway play audience member, what to wear and she said, really anything goes.  However, after shelling out the amount of money I did to see the play, I knew I wanted to wear my “little black dress” (don’t worry, it’s not that little!).  I treated myself to a mani-pedi and had my nails painted a bright blue to match the scarf I was planning on wearing with the outfit.  I packed other clothes, suitable for the predicted very warm weather.  After giving Gus one last pat, I threw my bag into Gigi and headed for Concord, where we would all rendezvous at Lynn R and Chris’s house.

Lynn R. was out running a few last minute errands, so I waited with Lynn S and her husband Rex.  When I met them, I was overcome with emotion for several reasons.  First, this was the first real vacation that I had taken since my marriage fell apart five years ago.  All of my vacations since then mostly involve seeing my boys, whom I absolutely love seeing and seeing their worlds.  But this vacation was different,  There were no boys involved (in fact Christopher was on his way to my house while I was leaving for New York).  This felt strange and disorienting, yet exciting at the same time.  And I was also overcome with emotion about being included in these two couples’ lives as well.  Since being single for so many years now, I am always touched by my married friends’ always including me on activities and never make me feel like a third, fifth, or seventh wheel.  So, tears of happiness briefly streamed down my face before packing up the car and heading south to New York.  This was a huge undertaking for me for many reasons and I was so grateful to have the opportunity to share this moment with friends.

The ride down to New York was pretty uneventful and before long, we found the parking garage right up the street from our AirBNB.  After a short stroll around Chinatown to stretch our legs, we went back, changed (and coincidentally, all three women were wearing black dresses!), found the subway station and ate at a delicious French restaurant.  The streets were crowded with people as we found our way to the theater.  When I spotted the sign, I was overcome with happiness to finally be seeing something that I had been dreaming of doing for several years.  Lynn S., Rex and I had tickets in one

theater
View from our seats

section, while Lynn R and her husband Chris, were sitting elsewhere in the theater.  Lynn, Rex and I climbed up staircase after staircase to reach our section of the theater.  And finally, we were there – in “the room where it happened…”  Yes, our seats were literally in the last row of the theater, but none of us cared.  We were there.

And while one might have not been happy about being literally in that last row of the theater, this was another important lesson to learn.  Sometimes, having a different point of view offers you more opportunities than one might had originally thought.  In our seats, we could see the entire stage and set.  I could see some folks in the front row straining to look up.  Our seats enabled us to see the big picture.  This would become more important as the play went on. Being back there also permitted us to see some of the inner parts of the theater as there was a ladder leading up to more sound or lighting parts of the theater. Again, one wouldn’t had known about this if we sitting more towards the front of the theater. Before long, the lights dimmed and the opening notes of “Alexander Hamilton” started. I knew these lyrics well and I did sing along with a big smile on my face.

A friend asked me the next morning about how it was like seeing the show after knowing the story/music so well. While I certainly did know all of that well, what I was not prepared for was seeing the actors’ personality both light up the stage in certain sections as well as feeling their pain at other sections. The choreography was brilliant, complimenting this musical biography. And another unexpected pleasure was the lighting. During “The Eye of the Hurricane”, the lighting formed an outline of a hurricane, again adding a visual element to these haunting lyrics. Add in my just general joy and excitement, and everything that I had known before went to a whole new level. Think about the best meal you have ever had. You loved how it looks and smells. It tastes scrumptious. There may be a sound associated with this meal. When you meld it all together, you savor every morsel. That’s how Hamilton was for me. Every line, every dance step, every facial movement I savored. It was that good. And worth every dollar that I had spent on this experience for me.

The next day, we continued to immerse ourselves in learning more about Hamilton by doing the walking tour “Washington & Hamilton: Secrets of the Past”. We met our tour guide, Bruce, at the steps of the Alexander Hamilton United States Custom House. For the next three hours, he led us through the streets of lower Manhattan where we continued to learn about one of our Founding Fathers and his connection to perhaps the most famous Founding Father, George Washington. These two men possessed a very unique relationship where they balanced each other’s strengths and weaknesses. But the part of the tour that really tied the weekend together for me, was the stop that happened at about 2:35 p.m. at Trinity Church. In the burial ground next to one of the oldest churches in New York, lie Alexander and Eliza Hamilton. Alexander Hamilton’s grave was undergoing renovations, so we could not see what it said or what it looked like. My Eliza1favorite song is the 46th song…Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story? If you think about history, you get the side of who is telling the story. Growing up, I never learned about anything controversial that may not have painted the United States in the best manner. The Japanese internment camps during World War 2, Angel Island, and the Trail of Tears were things that I learned about since I became an elementary teacher. And by listening to Hamilton: An American Musical, I learned about a story which never was part of “the narrative”: Eliza’s story. While there may have been some dramatizing about the burning of Hamilton’s letters after his affair was publicly revealed in the song Burn, what was not dramatized was how Eliza, despite being publicly humiliated by her own husband’s writing about the affair, told his story after his death. Her story was not told the following day when we visited the Hamilton Grange. On her grave, were many coins and notes. The notes ranged from a “Rise Up” sketch to “We Tell Your Story”. I was so

touched by the fact that without this musical, Eliza’s story would remain relatively unknown. Where she could had become bitter by the scandal, but instead, she remained steadfast in her beliefs to help others. She started the first public orphanage in New York City, raised money for the Washington Monument in D.C., and kept her husband’s story alive. I think by doing this tour, it provided me with another dimension of learning about Hamilton and the important people in his life. It is important to have all of those perspectives as part of history and by doing the tour and the subsequent visit to the Hamilton Grange, I felt like I walked away from my Hamilton Immersion weekend with a true and deep understanding of this most important part of our country’s history. What a weekend for so many reasons. Rich, engaging, leaving you with more questions. Wow.

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Stay the Course

IMG_0266Several weeks back during April vacation, I went to Science on State Street, which was sponsored by my alma mater, Framingham State (now) University.  I had been receiving emails about this event, and in particular, information about the keynote speaker, a scientist who works with the Mars Rovers.  If you have known me for a long time, you know, my first foray into robotics in 2004 was based on the two Mars Rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, that were launched at the beginning of 2004 and were suppose to last 90 days.  The next Mars rover, Curiosity, also peaked my interest when it was launched.  So, I was excited for this opportunity.

I forgot a notebook to jot notes on, so I found an envelope from a card that my little former next door neighbor gave me for my birthday.  The title of the talk was “Exploring Mar’s Past: The Epic Journey of the Spirit, Opportunity, and Curiosity Rovers.”. The speaker, works at both the Smithsonian Museum as well as being the Chief Geologist for the Mars Rover Mission.  Some of my key takeaways from his talk are:

  • As a young child, he wondered if there was life on Mars.
  • The mission is focused on a big question – the role of water on Mars.
  • Coming to consensus is really important when your team is no longer located in the same area of the building but are located all over the world.  The need to be able to collaborate online with one another.
  • Problem solving is such an important skill.  Spirit lost one of its front wheels.  As there is no easy way for this wheel to be replaced, the scientists and engineers needed to think outside the box.  They decided to run it backwards.  While driving it backwards, the researchers were able to find out some interesting things that they may not have discovered without a bum tire.  In fact, this is when they discovered there was silica on Mars.  Silica needs water to be formed.
  • The scientists were doing much of their research by examining photos of the landscape and rocks and by the readings.  This verified a discussion in a recent professional development where I stated the importance of children being able to use similar type of data in our classrooms.
  • The science and engineering practices were evident through out his talk.

Attending this talk reaffirmed my belief that our K-5 science and engineering curriculum is heading in the right direction.  Listening to this esteemed scientist discuss many of the skills that he and his team have used to make this mission such a success are many of the same skills that I believe are important for our students to also have in their K-5 science education.  I am starting to see some really inspiring science happening in our K-5 classrooms.  It has been a journey and there are some days that I feel like this boat is being buffeted by waves, but the important thing is to stay the course.  Thanks Dr. Grant for your story.

Missing an Aunt

BetsyI received the call I had been expecting Thursday.  My uncle called to let me know that my Aunt Betsy, whom I just called Betsy, had died.  I had fortunately seen her over the holiday break and I knew how hard it was for her to keep breathing.  I am grateful for those two plus hours that we spent together, discussing the current state of affairs in our country, our respective boys, and our relationship over the years.  Since the beginning of my memories as a child, Betsy had always been part of my memories and life.  Being not quite 16 years older than me, Betsy was always the cool aunt.  Being the oldest of five children (with the first 4 of us within 5 years), it was wonderful to have an adult to pay you some special attention.  Betsy and I spoke about how she took us to see Mary Poppins at the movies, and how we then spent weeks singing the songs and dancing around our Arlington house.  I remember going into Boston with her.  I remember her “cool” boyfriend Johnny Purcell.  That boyfriend went to Vietnam and brought back two Vietnamese dolls for Margie and I.  I remember visiting her and my grandmother at their apartment on Newton Street in Cambridge.  She had a really cool creature, called a Wishnick, that she would in the end give to me, that provided me with hours and hours of fun in my childhood.  She then had a new boyfriend, one who managed a restaurant that was a Western theme.  She then started wearing a cowboy outfit when she started working in that restaurant.  On the day that we were moving from Arlington to Hudson, her and that boyfriend, Al, came and picked us up and brought us to that restaurant.  We ate cereal there and they later drove us out to our new home.

Betsy and Al later got married, on the day after Christmas, in 1966.  While we were allowed to go to the wedding service, afterwards, we ended up at friends in Watertown, banned from the reception.  I held this grudge of being excluded from the wedding until the day my baby sister Jennifer got married.  She included my two sons in the wedding.  Ben started crying right when the organ started playing.  Suddenly, I saw the logic of not having children at weddings!

Throughout the 1960s, we were frequent guests at Betsy and Al’s houses in Cambridge and in Medford.  Their son Geoffrey became my favorite cousin to play with and to protect from my brothers.  In Medford, they had a big industrial spool as a table – how cool was that?  And we were introduced to Baskin and Robbins Ice Cream whenever we visited Medford.  My parents went away for a weekend and left us for the first time.  Off the four of us went to Medford.  And Betsy found the four of us out crying by the garbage cans, missing our parents.  She was caring and empathetic to our sadness.  When my baby sister Jennifer was born, who came to stay with us while my mother was in the hospital?  That would be Betsy.  And when my mother had her legs operated on, Betsy came back to stay with us and help out my mother with her now five children.

During the 1970s, Betsy and Al moved to Candia New Hampshire.  I remember as a high school senior, going up there for a weekend with my best friend Jo-Ann to watch her then boyfriend in a play in Manchester.  They then moved to Newburyport, where we had lots of fun visiting Plum Island and also hosting my parents’ 25th anniversary party.  I went up before hand to help her set up the party and it was awesome spending a weekend with her, Al, and her boys.

In the 1980s, Betsy, Al, and boys moved to Duxbury on the South Shore.  There were lots of beach outings on Gurnet Beach, holidays at their home at the bottom of a big hill, and even a wedding shower for me at their home.  Betsy was always a center attraction to any family outing and holiday.  I always enjoyed visiting with her and watching her boys grow up.

During the 1990s, her next set of nieces and nephews – aka, her grand nieces and nephews were born.  She became a “great” aunt, but we always knew she was pretty great anyways!  Her and Al became charter members of my now ex’s law practice and I always appreciated their supporting us by working with David on various legal matters.  While the family was expanding and also, not getting together as much, it was always awesome when we did get to see Betsy and Al.  Al continued his dressing up as Santa and surprising the new grandnieces and nephews at the Hunter Family Christmas party.

In the 2000s, Betsy and Al bought a house in Falmouth and always opened their doors to anyone who wanted to come down and visit.  There were many fun occasions with the boys, on the boat when we learned that one should really heed small craft warnings, and having great family gatherings on the wonderful deck.  Betsy and Al were always generous to all, and being with them was always such a gift.

During this decade, there were lots of changes.  Betsy and Al sold their Falmouth house to be closer to family and to the city.  Betsy had health issues and it was better to be closer to her doctors in Boston.  I remember in the very early 2000s, Betsy had some serious health issues and I remember being scared that I might lose her.  From their new home in Norwell, they comforted me as I went through a divorce.  I went down for an overnight, and I treasured that evening as we watched Shark Tank and Nurse Jackie and for the first time in a while, I felt normal.  When I was bidding on my new home, they were the first folks I called for advice on how to go through this real estate process.  And then after I moved, there they were again, with my uncle putting up 19 shades for me, while Betsy and I were the helpers.  They were there for graduation parties and for going away parties.  Suddenly, the almost 16 year gap didn’t seem so large any longer.  Over the past two years, Betsy battled numerous health issues.  There were times that they didn’t think she would pull out of it, but she always did.  And finally, this September, I called her to check in on how she was doing, and she told me she wasn’t very good, and that this was it.  I could not believe that, and called my uncle back later to see if what she was saying was true.  Sadly he said, it was.  During that time, I began to realize that I was not going to have another decade of memories that involved her.  It is the end of an era, but I rest easily knowing that she will always have such a big spot in my heart.  She leaves quite a legacy as an aunt:  on her side of the family, she had seven nieces and nephews.  Those seven nieces and nephews have 11 children of their own, so she has been a “great” aunt to 18 of us.  I am happy to have had her in my life for so many years, and the memories I have can never be taken away from me.  As I fell asleep on Thursday night, thinking about her, I smiled, remembering the time during one family function, that involved the southern cousins, her and my father doing the famed “Rabbit Dance”.  Rest easy my great aunt.  You were always one that we loved to have as part of our lives.  Our lives are so much better for all the love and support you gave all of us.

Abandoned: Good or Bad?

As a former consistent blogger, I have totally felt like I have “abandoned” my writing.  Perhaps the doctoral work was what started the demise; perhaps not having a full time classroom position any longer to supply me with ideas contributed to the demise; or perhaps the emotional rollercoaster ride that I have been on for the past four years led to this blog’s demise.  It has become just a New Year’s blog… a time to reflect on the past year and look forward to the New Year.  Not bad, perhaps it has been repurpopicture3sed but not abandoned.

As some folks know, I’ve been working on a series of photographs with the theme of “Abandoned” over the past year.  The incentive for this series of photographs began while walking on my favorite trail, the Battle Road Trail.  When I first started really exercising on this trail, there was a lot of cows that used to hang out on the trail (in a fenced in area!).  After a while, the cows disappeared and this little shed, that I wrote about last year, was sitting lonely in the field.  I had never really noticed it with all the cows around it, but since the area had been abandoned by the cows, it suddenly stuck out to me.  I loved photographing it throughout the seasons, at different times of the day, and from different view points.  Even though it had been abandoned by the cows, it still had purpose.  Lately, I have also been fascinated by several farm stands that are on Lexington Road.  These use to be working farm stands, but when the National Park Service took picture4over this area, this was the end of the businesses that once existed.  To me, Concord lost a part of its agricultural history through this move to make the area more like it was in colonial times.  On examining these buildings, there are still signs of their past history.  One has a “We’re Open” sign still in the window.  Another has several framed pictures out on a bench on the porch.  There are beautiful vistas from both locations.  It is sad to me for these buildings, once part of the fabric of Concord, sit alone. It just doesn’t seem right.

I also liked the theme of abandoned as I felt it also related to my own personal life.  Some of you know my story.  While yes, I kind of was abandoned by someone I loved, I refused to be defined by that story.  In fact, when I started to dig in deeper to this theme of abandoned, I began to explore whether perhaps being abandoned might perhaps lead to new purposes.  If you explore the definitions of abandon, you will find various definitions such as:

  • cease to support or look after (someone); desert.
  • give up completely (a course of action, a practice, or a way of thinking)
  • allow oneself to indulge in a desire or impulse.

But, can abandonment lead to better things?  Repurposing yourself or a structure?  Does being abandoned let you pursue different avenues or pursue interests that you may not have had the opportunity to explore before in your previous life?  As I moved from my theme of abandonment being a negative thing to it being perhaps an enlightening moment, I began to think about how different my life is now from what it was five years ago.   And it is different, but a good different.  I have traveled to more places in the past three years than I did in the previous 23 years.  I have lots of great friends whose company I greatly enjoy.  I have a challenging but wonderful new job, that I probably would not have pursued had the situation not occurred.  And finally, I have two wonderful sons, (which I did before) but I treasure my relationships with them more now than ever.  Some of the things that I enjoyed doing many years ago, but I abandoned doing, I have picked back up again over the past four years.  So, as the new year begins, what things can you abandon to move yourself forward as a new and improved version of your old self?

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Gratitude

book-of-joyI admit, I have been thinking about my new annual blog post with some trepidation since I could not think of one word that may sum up the year well.  My past two years have been change and opportunity.  So, coming into this New Year’s Eve, I have been thinking hard how to best represent this year and up until about 45 minutes ago, I was pretty stumped.  There was a lot of good about the year that I will discuss later, but there were also some things about the year that were tough.  Both of my sons now live away.  As a parent, and as a single parent, that is tough not having my children anywhere in the vicinity.  But as a parent, you want your children to follow their own paths, and that they have and I am proud of them both for their choices.  After a grueling 29 months of doctoral work, that lack of “focus” has left me a little unhinged, which is what I guess can be referred to as post-doctoral blues.  Pursuing and obtaining my doctorate gave my life purpose and structure in a time of great transition (and I also greatly enjoyed my research topic), so at times, I struggle to get done simple tasks whereas a year ago, I was keeping a million balls up in the air.  And I admit, I am tired of being a single person and would love to have a new special person in my life.  18 months ago, I saw a psychic in Santa Monica who predicted that by the end of 2016, there would be a new light in my life.  With 2016 coming quickly to an end, that was not the case and I admit, it was kind of bumming me out heading into New Year’s Eve. Yesterday, I started a book that was recommended by a dear friend called “The Book of Joy” by the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu.  I thought I may find some nugget of advice there.    But as I read the table of contents, I wondered if I was truly at the “Joy” stage quite yet.  And there was a section called the “Eight Pillars of Joy” that spoke to me.  I don’t have all eight pillars yet, but I think I can speak to a few of them starting  with gratitude.

Gratitude:  Tonight, as I sat in my living room, with a flute of Israeli sparkling wine with my dear friends Nancy and Gregg, I thought about how grateful I am to have such wonderful people in my life.  We had just seen Lala Land (a must see).  While not giving away too much, it is about hopes and dreams.  Sometimes all your dreams come true, some time they partially come true.  Not everything in my life has gone according to what I had hoped, but I have to say, I am so grateful to have my people always in my corner.  The Dalai Lama said, “I am fortunate to be alive.  I have a precious human life.  I am not going to waste it.”  At the end of this year, I am extremely grateful for my sons who have grown into wonderful caring adults, the friends whom I have laughed and cried with over the past year, the support of my family, the incredible colleagues and friends that I have had from Natick Labs, The Discovery Museum, from the Concord Public Schools, and now in Weston.  I am grateful to have a wonderful home, kind and caring neighbors, and the beauty of our natural resources.  I am grateful to have had the opportunity to pursue a doctoral degree and was even grateful for having suffered so much in the 2014 Boston Marathon as that suffering provided me with good perseverance that I would need during the dissertation defense phase. Looking at Nancy and Gregg tonight reminded me that perhaps like Lou Gehrig said in his goodbye speech, I am the luckiest person on Earth.  I have people that I love and who love me, I have a job that stimulates me intellectually and colleagues who are incredible, I have a home that I adore and a dog who greets me every day with great enthusiasm.  I have much to be grateful for on this now new year.

Perspective:  Another pillar of joy is perspective in that there are many different angles.  One needs to look at an event from  a wider view.  I like to equate this with my photography.  As most folks know that follow me on Facebook, one of my favorite places to walk and do some photography is on the Battle Road Trail  This year, for some reason, I noticed a little shed that I had walked by hundreds of time.  But for some reason, it caught my eye this year and I spent a lot of time taking pictures of it from different angles, in different colors, in different times of the day.  All of these various snapshots contribute to this one place, but it is important to look at not just this shed, but many events and people with a wider lens.  I think going through the dissertation process was an example of having to look at the different perspectives of your dissertation committee.  One person would want one thing, another would question another thing, the third would want a focus on another point, and the fourth would have another slant to take.  I needed to consider all of those perspectives and by doing so, it created a stronger end product.  So, in the year ahead, we all need to look at events and people with a wider lens in order to look at all different angles that make up an event or a person.

Humility:  Some of you know I was selected to be the student reading at the Hooding Ceremony for Master’s and Doctoral students.  Here is a copy of my reading that I think symbolizes the need to be learners, to be kind to one another, and to keep your eye on what matters:

Bring your purpose. Find you path. Now that we are finished with our degrees, we need to find a new purpose that incorporates our learning that we have acquired along this path. To help us form a new purpose, I turn to Martin Luther King Jr., Albert Einstein, Fr. Pedro Arrupe, the Sisters of Saint Joseph, Psalm 118, and Ralph Waldo Emerson for words of wisdom.

  • Persist in striving for excellence, but as the Sisters of St. Joseph suggest, “temper that excellence with peace, joy, and gentleness”
  • Fall in love with your new path. Arrupe tells us that “What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination, will affect everything”
  • Continue to ask questions about the world around you. As Einstein stated, “Be passionately curious.”
  • Use your knowledge to help others. King would assert, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, what are you doing for others?”
  • Define success in the words of Emerson as “laughing often and much, appreciating beauty, and finding the best in others” rather than defining success as the amount of your paycheck, your job title, or the size of your home.
  • Enjoy each and every day. Life is a gift. “This is the day the Lord has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.”

Humor:  Laughter and Joking is Much Better.  This year, I started to feel like my old self when I had a few episodes of just laughing and laughing.  Boy does that feel great! The first time was when at friends, three of us were trying to light 50 candles on her brother’s birthday cake.  You can take a look at this movie of that moment here.  What you can see is that clearly you would never accuse any of us as being pyromaniacs, but you would clearly see that we can laugh at ourselves.  Another moment was up at a friend’s New Hampshire lake house, two of us took out a paddle boat.  But unbeknown to us, a cable was disconnected and we ended up just going in circles.  I was laughing so hard I was of no use but boy again, did that feel great.  I hope 2017 holds many moments of laughter for us all.

So, as we are now in another year, I wish you all joy in the coming year.

 

Opportunities

Since I became a doctoral student, I have had to “quit” blogging as my blogging writing style and APA style are not really simpatico.  My last blog post was last New Year’s Eve, and I thought that once a year should not interfere with my doctoral writing.  Yes, on this New Year’s Eve, I could continue on with Chapter 4 of my dissertation, but thought that perhaps a blog to reflect upon 2015 would be more appropriate.

Self_Motivational_Quotes_Wallpaper-3.jpg_20120826Tonight, I had New Year’s with dear friends once again.  One of my friends, who has also had her share of difficulties over the past year, remarked when leaving. “We made the best of opportunities that we weren’t looking for”.  While last year’s post was about the chaos that led to many changes in my life, I thought about how this year, the opportunities that arose out of many changes that I did not actively seek out would be good to reflect upon.

So how did these changes represent opportunities?  First, let’s talk about my new (well not so new now) job.  It is true that I was not actively looking to change jobs in the midst of all the other big life changes occurring in 2014.  But the life changes freed me up in a way to seize on an opportunity.  And I can say, Screen Shot 2015-12-31 at 10.36.46 PMnow that I have gone through one year of my new professional opportunity, that it is precisely what I needed to recharge my professional battery.  I am so blessed to work along side some of the most talented, funny, compassionate and caring group of five women that I call both colleague and friend.  Despite any difficult moments, we have each other’s backs, and I am very grateful for their friendship.  I love the work I am doing and yes, it is still my “dream job”.

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Prospectus Defense

Also, on the professional opportunities category, I have to reflect on the opportunity to work on my doctorate.  Some might have thought this was an absolute crazy move, especially in the midst of the chaos of spring 2014 (death of my dad, divorce, and moving out of my house), but this opportunity has been stimulating, challenging, overwhelming, and quite the ride.  The opportunity to have this set of classmates in my cohort on this ride has been great.  We are each other’s support system as we travel through this EdD journey and I too am grateful for their gift of friendship, the laughter, the ability to reach out to anyone about how to run a certain statistical test, and sharing burgers and beer at our doctoral hangout.  To my professors, who have accompanied us throughout this journey, I am also grateful to the opportunity to learn from you.

Snowshoeing - lots of opportunity last winter!
Snowshoeing – lots of opportunity last winter!

If you had asked me three New Years ago about the opportunity to move, I never would have seen myself leaving West Concord.  But now after being in my new home in Maynard for over a year, I love the opportunity to live in a town in a new home that I love.  This “opportunity” has provided me with the chance to shovel through 110 inches of snow last winter and figure out what has happened to the electricity on several occasions.  Yes, I have had to be dependent on only me and this

Many veggies from my garden
Many veggies from my garden

opportunity has been empowering.  I feel stable once again, an opportunity that probably would not have existed if I had stayed in my old home.  This opportunity allowed me the chance to have a wonderful vegetable garden, and to take up snow shoeing since I live nearby to a golf course.   I love the opportunity to host family and friends in my new home.  I love the opportunity to be two minutes from a movie theater and from fun shops, restaurants, and cafes.

Another unintended good opportunity has been the ability to travel and to try new things.  2015 brought lots of those opportunities.  Over the past year, I

Kayaking on the Potomac
Kayaking on the Potomac

spent Easter weekend with Christopher in Los Angeles.  I got to go to the Pacific Ocean twice, climb a dusty mountain with great coast vistas, and cook with my son.  In June, I traveled to Baltimore to see Christopher and Emma.  While there, I had the great opportunity to go kayaking on the Potomac River.  Being on the water in a small boat with yachts and pirate boats around was certainly pushing myself out of my comfort zone.  But in my old life, I probably would not have had the opportunity to do something like kayak.  In July, I traveled down to see my good friend in Long Island.  There, I got the opportunity to go to the horse races for the first time.  It was a blast!  For Christopher’s 25th birthday, we saw Billy Joel in Philadelphia.  And then in late August, I went to a silent meditative retreat in Barre for a weekend.  Again, I was presented with this opportunity from my angel neighbor Carly to apply.  If life had still been the old status quo, I would not have applied.  And this was a magical, incredible weekend.  I am looking for the opportunity to do this again in 2016.

Summit of Mt Monadnock
Summit of Mt Monadnock

And 2015 also provided me with the opportunity to do some new physical activities that I had either not done for 30 years or had never done.  Starting with my California trips, I started to do some hiking, an activity that I had not done since 1985.  In April, for my birthday, Ben brought me up to Mount Monadnock.  He elected to take me up the “shorter but steeper” route to the top.  After a tough winter, the mountain was still icy in many spots, the wind was gusting pretty hard, and this 55 year old was pretty dubious about climbing up some of the rocks that we would need to do.  But Ben was wonderfully encouraging and we made the top finally.  While it was really windy and I thought I would get blown off,  I cherished our time up and down that mountain that day.  Ben and I then did Mount Watatic on Thanksgiving and Christopher and I did Mount Tom the day after Christmas.  These opportunities have led to some wonderful moments with my sons (who sometimes I think they

Kayaking on the local rivers
Kayaking on the local rivers

forget I am old!).  The excursion on the Potomac led to four more times kayaking on the Sudbury, Assabet, and Concord Rivers with my dear friend Nancy, with Ben, and with Ben, Emma, and Christopher.

So, while I get ready to turn the calendar ahead to 2016, I wonder what opportunities await me in the new year?  Maybe the best opportunities aren’t necessarily the ones that you are actively searching for.  Maybe the best opportunities might be the result of the ones that you aren’t looking for and that arise from the difficult moments and changes that life sometimes throws you.  Something to ponder…….

Screen Shot 2015-12-31 at 11.27.49 PMThe pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity. The optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty. 
Winston Churchill

Never lose an opportunity of seeing anything that is beautiful; for beauty is God’s handwriting — a wayside sacrament. Welcome it in every fair face, in every fair sky, in every fair flower, and thank God for it as a cup of blessing. 
Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

Happy New Year to You All

“All Great Changes are Preceded by Chaos”

chaosAs I sit here with seven minutes to go until 2014 is over, it would be easy for me to want to burn the calendar as this year has been undoubtedly a tough one. With all the life changes that have come my way, it would be easy to say this year was my worst year on record. My almost 27 year long marriage came to an end, my father died, I had to move from the house where I had lived for 26 years and raised my children. It would be natural to feel bitter, to feel happy that 2014 is coming to an end. But as I read in the Tiny Buddha blog today, the author stated that instead of all the ball dropping, champagne popping of New Year’s Eve, that she likes to take stock of what she was grateful for over the past year and what her intentions are for the coming year. It sounds like she had a similar year and she started off by reflecting, “I am grateful that I have survived this year”. I would start off similarly, so here goes: I am grateful that I have survived this year. However, I don’t think I just survived it, I think I learned a lot about myself and about people in general along this journey. This year tested me in ways that I was never tested before. The circumstances allowed me to see what I was truly capable of doing.

In August 2013, after my life became undone, I wrote a series of questions in a journal. That journal became my mileage log and I just found what I wrote over the past few weeks. One especially deep question was “Who is Susan?”. I think today, now technically, January 1, 2015, I am more clear than ever on who Susan is and what Susan is truly capable of doing. In the book, “Broken Open”, the author discusses how hard it is for a seed to blossom. Sometimes, while it is easier to stay safe in that seed status, it is not always beneficial to one as a person to stay in that seed state and you need to start to blossom, even though it is hard work. Lesser also discusses the “Phoenix Process” , which is “reproducing ourselves from the shattered pieces of a difficult time” (p.55). I think that I am a Phoenix today – however, I don’t think I would be at this point at this New Year without the help of so many people. This past year held so many changes, however, I think the chaos that was surrounding me, almost freed me in a way to turn things even more upside down than they were. I think I decided to not stay frozen any longer and to take chances. I am grateful for so many people’s love and support over the past year. I would never have come through the chaos so smoothly without you all. So, here goes a partial list of some of my list:

I am grateful for two wonderful sons. They have grown into wonderful men who have been extremely supportive of their mother. They are my greatest pride.

I am grateful to have the best friends in the world. You are my stars. Even though I may live alone, I know I am always surrounded by your light. You have sat with me in divorce court, you have been my before school therapy, you have been there to “talk me off the cliff”, you have fed me both physically and spiritually, you have let me use your home when I didn’t have anyplace to go, you have cheered me on every step of my marathon – both literally and figuratively. You have laughed with me, you have cried with me, you have been happy for me, you have been sad for me. I will forever be in awe of your friendship. I am so blessed to call you friend.

I am grateful for my family. Knowing that you always had my back helped me trudge through some of the more difficult moments of 2014. I am grateful for my aunt and uncle who have supported and loved me since I was the littlest of girls. I am grateful for the technically not my brother in law, but who I now call brother, who recognized my grieving process and stood by me, especially on that last hot July day on Laws Brook. You all are my foundation and even when there are cracks that appear, I know I can always count on you.

I am grateful for the awesome opportunity to work for 15 years in the Concord Public Schools. It was the most wonderful and awesome responsibility to teach 15 classes of children and to work alongside with dedicated educators who always put the students first. I am grateful for the support that I always received in pushing students to new levels.  I am grateful for the support of the many parents that I had the opportunity to connect with over the years, I am grateful for the continued opportunity to work at Regis College as an adjunct and to work with a wonderful colleague as we hopefully impact teachers in a positive manner. I am equally grateful for my new opportunity to work at my dream job in the Weston Public Schools. My first four plus months there has been extremely nourishing and working alongside a team of creative specialists is an incredible experience. I am extremely grateful for being a doctoral student at Regis College. My professors are simply incredible at pulling me to be a better student by providing authentic learning experiences. But most importantly, I am grateful that they see me as a person first and foremost and they supported me during some really bumpy moments. I am equally grateful to have wonderful classmates. I am so lucky to have met folks who are fun to be with and who are supportive of one another. It has been a great first year of studies.

I am grateful for the opportunity to be a home owner once again. I love my new home. I am aware that I am very fortunate to be in this type of position as I realize that many divorced woman do not end up so fortunate. To that end, I am grateful that I had a great divorce attorney, who recognized the emotional side of  divorce as well as the legal side of divorce. I am so grateful for my wonderful realtor, who was more than just someone who wanted to make her commission and move on. She provided me with a lot of advice, not just about how to stage a house, but on moving through this grieving process. And my great real estate attorney was not afraid to sit me down and tell me like it was and that I needed to trust the process.  I love my home and as I start 2015, I am not uncertain like I was a year ago when I didn’t know where I would go. I am grateful for my angel neighbors at 457. They snow blowed the monstrous amount of snow last year, left little gifts and cards on my stoop, and made me feel like one of their family. And I am grateful for spending four months at “The Cottage”. My wonderful landlords were more than just picking up the rent check. Their friendship and beautiful spot started to provide me with a sense of security once again.

I am grateful to all of you who supported my Boston Marathon effort. Your donations to the MGH Children’s Cancer Center had a big impact. Walking for this cause helped put my life into perspective. I am grateful to those of you who came and cheered me on in April, who partied with me after the marathon, and who I knew were with me every step of the 26.2 miles. This was undoubtedly one of the most difficult things I ever did and there were times that I wanted to quit, but your support kept me going. I am also grateful to all of the folks who have supported JHYSF. To think that this little grassroots organization has donated 1.1 million dollars is incredible. And it is because of your support over the past ten years that sarcoma patients now have more options than ever before. Thank you.

I am grateful for the help of a wonderful therapist to help shepherd me through this process. Her humor and compassion are wonderful gifts as I start to heal.

I am grateful to live in an area where natural resources are treasured. Walking on my trails brings me a sense of peace and calmness. I am grateful for my dog Kyla, who greats me enthusiastically every day. I realize I have probably forgotten someone, but let’s just say, I am grateful for so many reasons. I am a rich woman who isn’t going to be defined by the bad events over the past several years. I’d like to close with this poem that really summarizes my deepest gratitude:

Kindness

Before you know what kindness really is you must lose things, feel the future dissolve in a moment like salt in a weakened broth.

What you held in your hand, what you counted and carefully saved, all this must go so you know how desolate the landscape can be between the regions of kindness.

How you ride and ride thinking the bus will never stop, the passengers eating maize and chicken will stare out the window forever.

Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness, you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho lies dead by the side of the road.

You must see how this could be you, how he too was someone who journeyed through the night with plans and the simple breath that kept him alive.

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside, you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.

You must wake up with sorrow. You must speak to it till your voice catches the thread of all sorrows and you see the size of the cloth.

Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore, only kindness that ties your shoes and sends you out into the day to mail letters and purchase bread, only kindness that raises its head from the crowd of the world to say it is I you have been looking for, and then goes with you every where like a shadow or a friend.

Naomi Shihbab Nye