What’s In a Year?

holding handsKisses were exchanged as the clock struck midnight and one by one the couples announced their plans for 2013.

“We’re gonna pop out a kid, honey!” Said the couple excitedly expecting their first child in the spring.

“We did a pretty cool thing in 2012 and it looks like we’ve got an exciting year ahead of us.” Proclaimed the pair of newly-minted parents whose baby girl arrived the previous fall.

“Here’s to the first year in our new home.” One of the two newlyweds seated on the couch replied to the other.

Looking out across the snowy landscape in the wee hours of a brand new year, we couldn’t help but consider what 2013 might hold for us. “2013.” Lee said as he navigated the snow-covered roads back to our house at the conclusion of the party. “Twenty years ago…” We began to say at the exact same time. Twenty years ago we graduated high school together before heading off in two very different directions. “It’s just so hard to believe.” One of us exclaimed… preaching to the proverbial choir.

We will get married this summer. That much we know. The planning has begun and as a picture of our wedding day emerges, our excitement grows for the anticipated date. But beyond that, it is unclear where we will go and what life will look like. We have a home and friends and belong to a community. He has a real job and I am hoping that the new year brings permanent employment (beyond contract work) my way. But for the most part, we are settled. Much of our picture is already colored in.

“So I suppose they’ll have their own little club once they all have babies.” I announced over lunch today while referring to the growing enclave of which we are not a part. “There’s no one else like us, you know.” I muttered with a mouthful of food while considering what the words “like us” meant exactly. I decided I was referring to couples in their late 30’s who don’t have children and aren’t sure they want any. I suppose it is as simple as that.

“I like us.” Lee stated very matter-of-factly as he shrugged his shoulders in a perfunctory but decided sort of way.

And I was reminded—all over again—why I love him as much as I do.

“I like us, too.” I said and reached for another slice of pizza.

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The Most Valuable Thing

I am sitting at the computer in my childhood home. The windows are open and a fresh, cool breeze is lightly brushing my face and neck. The birds are singing and I can hear children’s laughter just outside.

It is definitely springtime and the world is coming to life again.

Recently I have been reminded that life is the most precious of gifts with health and family coming in at a very close second. These are the things which should never be taken for granted.

Sadly, Lee’s mother passed away suddenly yesterday afternoon after a brief illness. We were not prepared for this — though no one ever is. And it has been an in-my-face reminder that life can change in an instant. In the blink of an eye or the brevity of a single breath our lives can be altered eternally and irreparably.

This week as you’re rushing from here to there to take care of this and that and all of the other “things” that we may deem important — take a little bit of time to stop and look around.

As you experience your surroundings—hopefully enjoying the very life and health that has been given to you—say thank you and tell your people just how very much you love and value them.

Easily Distracted by Shiny Objects

When I was little I was obsessed with clear things. Bottles, containers, glass, clear beads and stones… you name it. If I could see through it, I was completely transfixed by it. My parents have photographs of me as a toddler, sitting on the couch or the floor, playing with little plastic bottles, pouring the contents from one into the other over and over and over.

I know. Apparently it didn’t take much to amuse me then either.

For a while I had a clear, turquoise, glass stone with a flat bottom that I carried with me EVERYWHERE. I kept in my pocket for safekeeping and took it out whenever I was bored just to look at it. I held it up to the light and laid it on top of the papers on my desk at school to see how the page changed colors or the words became distorted and magnified through its unique shape and shade.

I was heartbroken when I lost it. To this day, I still don’t know where it is. But on occasion, I think about that treasured gem longingly as though it were a misplaced fortune.

My mother—witnessing this interesting behavior in her child—wondered if perhaps as I grew, the obsession would turn to diamonds, crystal and costly glass items. I cannot say that such has been the case, though I do still find clear things quite captivating. Perhaps it is nothing more than the artist within. I am a designer by trade… a visual person drawn to the properties of light, color and shape as they relate to the world around me.

Though never driven to obtain diamonds, gems or crystal — I will admit that the lovely, sparkly diamond now resting on my ring finger has become quite a distraction to me. I enjoy gazing at it in all sorts of different kinds of light. The sunlight streaming through my window on my commute to work… the flourescent light in my office as my hand hovers over the keyboard… the soft glow of candle light in the evening… the bright bathroom light and resulting reflection in the mirror… and yes, even the lighting in the cat food aisle at the grocery store.

But while I am utterly enchanted by the beauty of this intricately-chiseled stone, I am even more enraptured by what it signifies. The unspoken promises of hope, unconditional love, friendship and companionship captured within its glimmer… Things that sparkle no matter the amount of light or darkness that surrounds me.

Second Chances

The year was 1985. It was the start of a new school year at Mary Irene Day Elementary School in Minerva, OH. And this was no ordinary year. At M.I. Day, the start of the 5th grade not only ushered in a new school year but a whole new brood of students from the tri-county area as well.

This was the year that all of the other kids from the smaller, more rural, K-4 schools joined the “townies” at the larger, local elementary. And let’s face it… Who likes outsiders anyway, right? This concept was particularly difficult for a bunch of bratty, pre-pubescent, middle-schoolers-in-training to deal with in a graceful manner.

But there I was, a little blonde girl who probably thought she was “all that” sporting a sassy new 80s get-up while unpacking my sharp #2 pencils, fresh notebooks and admiring the front of my new Trapper-Keeper. And there he was—reeking of new-kid-ness—a sheepish, chestnut-haired boy with kind brown eyes, turned backwards in his chair and staring right at me.

“Why don’t you take a picture. It will last longer!” I snapped at him in the nastiest pre-teen tone I could muster, trying to make my friends laugh and ease the heat that I felt rapidly spreading toward my face. He quickly ducked his head and turned away. I had obviously hurt his feelings by acting like such a little bitch.

Little did I know that 26 years later that same sheepish boy with the kind brown eyes—now a grown man with an even kinder spirit—would escort me to that same spot, kneel down in front of me and say: “A picture would have been nice, but I want something that lasts forever.”

It wasn’t easy for him to pin-point the exact spot where I’d hurled those hurtful words at him so many years before… but somehow he’d managed to pull it off. You see, our school had recently been torn down and a new one built in it’s place. But with an uncanny sense of direction and the assistance of Google Earth, Bing and Yahoo Maps… he found it. THE very spot where our 5th-grade classroom used to be was now the new playground.

The school as it looked in 1985.

A clever story about his role on the Building Leadership Team at the school where he teaches convinced me to go with him to the playground to do a little “research” for his district. Feeling like a kid again, I teased him about the brat I’d been back then and took a trip down the slide. He was waiting for me at the bottom poised to ask this life-altering question.

After a lot of tears and shouting “Yes, a million times yes!” we couldn’t help but laugh at the sheer amazement of how life works sometimes.

By the time we were in high school we had become great friends. Kindred spirits some might say. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, but I liked him. He was one of the good ones and we could talk about anything. We shared a taste in music, books, movies and deep conversation. We tried “dating” for awhile but I did not yet understand the importance of dating someone who was also a friend… so we parted as friends.

Off to college and separate adventures that would take us in completely opposite directions… To him, I was “the one that got away” when he read of my wedding announcement 4 years after graduation. And to me, years into a destructive and abusive marriage… he was “the good friend that I desperately wished I hadn’t taken for granted.”

By the time we met again at the age of 34, you could say that our lives—much like that old school building—had, over time, been completely torn down and reconstructed. We were different, and yet somehow exactly the same. And we realized that we’d been given the very rare gift of a second chance.

Since we first laid eyes on one another two years ago—after half our current lifetime had passed by—we have not looked back. Perhaps 26 years ago he saw something in that bratty little blonde, and thankfully he didn’t give up on me right then. Thankfully he stuck around and waited. Waited for something that would last longer than a picture. Something that would ultimately last forever.

Slightly Preoccupied

With the turkey fully digested and the official “decking of the halls” close at hand, I encountered what you might call a slight distraction during this busy holiday time.

Down on one knee, velvet box open in his hand… my best friend popped the question last Friday. It happened so fast that seconds after I cried and shouted “yes, Yes, YES I’ll marry you!” I slipped the ring off my finger, stuffed it back in the box, shoved it into his hand and yelled at him: “OK… Now… DO THAT AGAIN!!”

He of course looked at me like I was completely insane and I’m certain wondered to himself: I don’t think this is the way it is supposed to go down, but whatever. And he indulged me. Yes, there have been times when my sanity MAY have been called into question, but on this occasion… I just wanted to make sure I’d remember the moment forever.

Well… there’s that… and the fact that I knew I’d have to be able to recount the story on command in the coming days and weeks to friends, co-workers, aunts, uncles, cousins, neighbors and probably the town crier.

So I hope that you’ll indulge me as well, dear readers, while I think of just the right way to craft this very special story that began 26 years ago… all the way back in the 5th grade. You see, it’s not your garden-variety boy meets girl, boy falls in love with girl, boy marries girl, boy and girl live happily-ever-after kind of story. It’s more like… Boy meets girl and a lifetime of detours later… Life gives them a second chance.

So I promise that just as soon as I get done returning phone calls, answering texts, Facebook messages and emails… and pull my head out of the clouds… and my eyes away from this lovely, hypnotic, sparkly thing on my left hand… I will find just the right way to tell you the story.

To be continued…