Sunday, April 28, 2013

Love is spelled, T I M E.

At a recent Toastmasters conference I had the pleasure of hearing Dana LaMon speak on “Making the Moment Meaningful”. During his presentation he posed the question, “How are you spending your time?”

That simple question got my head spinning. School days and story days split my time and leave me in a daze. Every day is filled from morning to night. Sleep is an elusive luxury. Dreaming big requires big work I tell myself as I hurry from place to place, from task to task, from story weekends to busy school weeks. And just when I’m feeling smug and self important in my busy life something happens to remind me of what’s really important. A simple question, “How are you spending your time?”
I fear I have become the hare, when perhaps I really need to be the tortoise. As I pondered the hare and the tortoise, I began to ask myself who in my life does time well. I thought of my dad.
As a little girl and even through my teen years, I knew that if I asked my Dad to play a game with me, he would stop whatever he was doing and play a game. Sometimes he would pick the game and sometimes I would pick the game. That was the only decision to be made. There was no question about whether we would play a game, and there was no delaying the game. The same rule applied for my brothers and sister as well.
What I didn’t know was just how busy my father was. He taught full time, pursued his love and talents with photography and attended graduate school throughout my childhood. He eventually completed his dissertation and earned his doctoral degree. It takes a long time to accomplish your goals when you’re constantly asked by children to play games. But he stuck with both - his education and his children.
When it came to playing games, Dad never let us win. We had to learn to win. He began teaching me to play chess when I was small. He played with just a few pieces and taught me the strategy of the game. When I was able to beat him three times in a row, he’d add another piece to his side of the board.  Christmas vacation of my freshman year in college I arrived home and marched into the living room, calling to my Dad, “Hey, let’s play chess”.  He looked at me and said, “How many pieces do I get?” I answered, “All of them.”

It was the first time I ever beat Dad with all his pieces. It only took ten years. But we stuck with it. And now at 80, he still wins more often than not.

As I look back at those chess lessons, and all the other games we played, I realize that chess wasn’t the lesson. Time was the lesson.  Love was the lesson.  And love is spelled T  I  M E.
So for today, I cut my story writing time short to love my sons. Perhaps we’ll play a game.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Love is the Journey

There are times, people and places along our journey that stick with us and gnaw at our souls, challenging us to move forward or change the way we think. Yesterday was one of those times for me.

I was hired by the Carolinas Writers Conference to share stories at the evening event and given the opportunity to attend any of the offered workshops and presentations of the conference earlier in the day. Two things in particular have stuck with me and kept me up most of the night.

The first was a line from a story-song performed by Michael Reno Harrell during the evening story performance:  “The journey is where you’re going but it’s also where you’ve been.”

The second was a writing prompt given by Marjorie Hudson during her workshop on writing about life experiences. The workshop brochure had indicated that we were supposed to bring a small object with us that we valued. Being the scatter-brain that I am, I of course arrived with no object. As she gave us the prompt to write about what it would be like to lose our valued object, I looked down at my paper and pen and thought, “what the heck am I gonna write . . . I forgot to bring anything” but then as I looked at the pen in my right hand, I noticed the small silver band on my ring finger.

That little ring has been on my right hand since my wedding day in 1989. I was married on my grandparent’s 60th wedding anniversary. Before I walked down the aisle my grandmother gave me her wedding band and whispered in my ear, “Always remember the love you come from.”

The gold band placed on my left hand that day has been gone for awhile, along with the husband. But my grandmother’s ring remains. I cannot imagine it not there.  It is what I fiddle with when I am feeling lonely, afraid, or far from home. The simple band grounds me and reminds me of who I am, where I fit in the world and where I am going. It reminds me of my grandmother’s voice on the phone after the birth of my first son, “what a blessing child.” Or her voice after the birth of my second son, “two boys . . . bless you child . . . let the games begin”.  It reminds me of the ugly, frilly Christmas dresses she always gave my sister and me. We hated those dresses, but we loved her. It reminds me of my father, the son she raised. As I twirl that ring I am surrounded by the love, laughter and craziness that has always been my family. It is who I am, part of something much bigger and long lasting than me.

But what would happen if I lost that ring? Nothing I suppose. The stories are deeper in my soul than the small band on my finger. It really is the stories that hold us together, not the objects. It is the stories along our journey that form us, heal us and change us.

Michael Reno Harrell said it right, “The journey is where we’re going but it’s also where we’ve been.” My grandmother got it right too, “Always remember the love you come from.”  Love makes our storied journey a little easier.

 Love is the journey – stories the thread that weaves where we’ve been with where we’re going.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Traveling Solo with Detours

Is it possible to travel between Georgetown, Massachusetts and Florence, South Carolina without ever getting on Interstate 95? Of course it’s possible, but who would do that? I would. Traveling solo has its benefits. One of which is that I get to choose the route I take. So here are the some of the lessons I learned last week while on spring break.

The direct route on Interstate 95 can only be described as YUCK, boring and stressful. Everyone is in a hurry and the scenery leaves much to be desired. Road side stops along the interstate look the same regardless of what state you’re in: McDonalds, Burger King, Cracker Barrel, Dairy Queen, Dunkin’ Donuts, Exxon, BP, Flying J  . . . etc.  Nothing very story worthy along that route – just franchise city, loud trucks, highway backups and cranky travelers.

However, the route off, way off, Interstate 95 was wonderful!! Friends, beautiful country side, wineries, scenic vistas, happy travelers and stories along the way made all the difference. My GPS gave up “recalculating” and instead just said, “find your own damn way!” And I am ever so glad I did.

First stop was in Rockaway, New Jersey to visit my college roommate whom I hadn’t seen in nearly twenty years.  Deb and I met on the field hockey team at Hood College in 1982. Last week we reconnected over a Lacrosse game watching her son play. It seemed like just yesterday I heard her voice yelling in my ear from her goalie position, and now I could hear her yelling from the sidelines cheering her son on the same way she cheered her team on years ago. It seems the lapse in years make no difference between friends; we just picked up our stories where we had left off and filled in the gaps in between.

Next stop – Unionville, Maryland and a visit with my dear friend Margie. Stories and conversations at the Black Ankle Vineyards sure beats a “drive thru” franchise stop off I95. The picture perfect farm lands in Maryland and Virginia are well worth the trip. There is a slow and peaceful pace through those rolling hills that permeates one’s soul.

After leaving family and friends behind I continued my solo journey south, toward home. I had fallen into the slow, peaceful pace of travel and was in no rush to get back to the hurried pace of “normal” life.  So I guess it wasn’t surprising that after a walk around the beautiful Lazy Days Winery when I spotted a sign that said, “Natural Bridge” next exit, I took a little detour. I have always wanted to see the Natural Bridge but each time I’ve traveled passed it I have had other travelers with me who were not so inclined toward scenic detours. But traveling solo has its benefits. I took the scenic detour.

WOW! Scenic vistas, winding roads, mountain rivers, spring flowers and the Natural Bridge.  My soul was singing and my GPS just said, “you’re right . . . this route is WAY better”. Indeed it was and here is what I learned along the way:
1. Friends are priceless.

2. A wine tasting and walk at a local winery is a great “rest stop” that beats any franchise “drive thru”.

3. Traveling is all about the journey, not the destination – take the scenic route.

So is it possible to travel between Georgetown, Massachusetts and Florence, South Carolina without ever getting on Interstate 95? Absolutely! And I highly recommend it.
Cheers! It's time to start planning my next trip . . . but perhaps not planning is better. See you on the road . . .
Don't drink and drive . . . walk and wander the wineries & take a bottle home, pop the cork and savor the stories found along the way  :)

And if you're visiting my neck of the woods, check out one of my favorite spots: La Belle Amie Vineyards

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Crazy Dad

Dad, 40 years after Vegas
Traveling with my dad was always a little bit crazy. Or maybe a lot crazy. Having just arrived home at 10:00pm after traveling twelve hours solo in my car today, I have had a lot of time to recall some of the crazy trips I've been on in my life. Traveling with dad was always an adventure.

Dad was never really in a hurry to get anywhere. Travel was an experience, not just a destination. I recall one anecdote from our cross country travels that pretty much sums up my dad. Upon arriving in Las Vegas, after traveling from Massachusetts with four kids in the car, Dad pulled into a local bar and unloaded mom, me (age 8) and siblings (ages: 15, 13 and 6). It was 3:00 in the morning, we were exhausted and just wanted to get to the campground. Dad announced that we were in Las Vegas and we were going to gamble, no matter what time it was.

He gave each of us a quarter and marched us into the bar where the slot machines were lined up against the wall and commanded, "Gamble!"  We did. We lost our quarters and crawled back into the car and proceeded to our next experience.

Seems sort of silly, I know. But from that day on I have always been able to say, "Yes. I've gambled in Vegas."

Knowing the type of traveler I come from, it will probably not surprise you to learn that this weekend I traveled from Georgetown, Massachusetts to Florence, South Carolina without once getting on Interstate 95. If you check the map you'll understand this took some creative planning.

So tune in next week to hear the stories and lessons I collected along the way. For now, it is time to crash . . . school tomorrow.