A Lesson in Goodbye

Living in beautiful farm country, we are surrounded by acres of gorgeous country side, serene views, peaceful mornings (no sounds of traffic ever!) and some of the most beautiful bike riding trails around.

However, we do have our share of heartache.

I’ve lost count of all the stray cats, most barely surviving on the scraps of food they find and the kindness of busy people who take the time to feed them.

Enter Little Mommy Cat, the feisty, but sweet girl who appeared on our doorstep a year+ ago with her brother, both emaciated. Like all of the other strays, we started feeding them. They would disappear for days then reappear intermittently, always looking thin but determined. Little Mommy got pregnant twice and after many fruitless searches, we were never able to locate her kittens. It broke my heart knowing they were out there without anyone to feed or protect them. And even though she seemed tough, there is only so much a small stray cat can do.

This summer she got pregnant a third time. This time I was determined to find her kittens no matter what. We followed her repeatedly across the road to our neighbors barn but she would never lead us to her hiding spot. Several evenings when our neighbors were not home, my daughters and I would search their barn. My older daughter would shine the flashlight from her iPhone while I searched every crack, crevice and hay stack, while my younger daughter, who is afraid of spiders (ha) would keep watch outside, warning us each time she saw an oncoming car. [And yes I do believe that might be considered breaking and entering but the door was unlocked, so..].

After 2 weeks of ardent searching, we finally found them. She had made a nest in the corner of the barn. Six, 2-week old kittens, hiding in plain sight on the floor of the barn where 75 + cows walked, ate and slept. It amazed me that one had not accidentally stepped on and killed one.

That evening we had 6 beautiful two week old kittens in our house. *heavy sigh*

My daughters were thrilled. KITTENS. However, I felt my usual range of emotions: exhausted, overwhelmed and yes, also KITTENS. I am human of course.

The next few weeks were fun. We layered the floor of our guest bathroom with soft blankets and cat toys. We kept them isolated with their mom so she had a quiet place to feed them and rest. Every evening we would let them explore and play.

If six kittens sounds like a lot, let me reassure you. IT IS A LOT. A lot of fun but also a lot of work.

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That was 4 weeks ago.

Today they are 6 weeks old and running and jumping and playing and so much cuteness. They are the most adorably sweet kittens I have ever seen. And I am not biased at all.

But unfortunately it’s not fair to keep six, ever-growing kittens locked up in a small guest bath all day long. They have outgrown the room and need space to exercise and play. They need forever homes.

I posted photos of them on social media (IG, FB and twitter]. I shared photos and videos with people I work with and I even stopped a man in the cat food aisle at Target to show him how cute they were.  I am not proud to admit that I did this, but he was sweet and actually considered taking one. Still,  I was unable to find homes for any of them. *even heavier sigh*

We always knew we could take them to a shelter but still, I was hopeful I would be able to find them homes myself.

From day one, I decided we would keep the mom because I knew she would be considered un-adoptable. No one ever wants a grown cat, especially when they can have a kitten instead.  So for 4 very long weeks we tried to make it work. Although she was friendly around people, she became very aggressive and defensive around our other pets, repeatedly attacking our older cat and dog. But 2 years of barely surviving had hardened her.

This week, I finally made the extremely difficult decision to give her up. 😦

The plan is to take her to the shelter [along with her kittens] and hope with every ounce of my heart that a kind person will see through her tough exterior and give her the loving home she deserves. Even as I write this, my heart is breaking. Because even though we’ve only had her in our home for a short time, I know her tough exterior is just that: a wall she created to protect herself out of the need to survive. I also know that underneath lies a beautifully sweet animal that is so deserving of kind and loving home.

And as horrible as I feel about giving her up, I know that is just how life is. Each one of us does what we can to make the world a better place. We help each other out. We volunteer our time. We rescue stray dogs and cats.  Even if it’s just one small gesture, we do what we can and hope someone else comes along and picks it up from where we left off.

Life is sort of like passing the baton. You pass the baton to the next person and hope they’ll keep it going. You hope they’ll pay it forward too and help the next person (or animal) who is in need.

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This weekend we are taking Little Mommy and her kittens to a wonderful shelter in Baltimore. Unfortunately, we have gone through this process before. We know the shelter staff are kind and that all of them will be safe. We’ve done all we can do and now it’s time to pass the baton.  All of the kittens are healthy and sweet.  We know that anyone who is lucky enough to adopt one will have a loving and affectionate friend for the rest of their life. And they are still young enough where they have a really good chance of being adopted.

So this weekend we’ll make the hour long drive to the shelter. My daughters and I will cry as we attempt to say goodbye to each one. Our hearts will break when it’s finally time to leave. The drive back home will seem even longer. I’ll stop along the way to get them ice cream in the hopes of cheering them up. But it won’t make a difference.  When we return home, we’ll all cry again because the house feels so empty. Each time we use the guest bathroom, we’ll remember how excited they would get each time we came home and opened the door, and we’ll feel sad all over again.

We hope that some kind person at the SPCA will watch over them until they find homes. And I hope that one kind stranger, an angel perhaps, will see Little Mommy cat and decide that she is the one they want and that she deserves a loving forever home, too.

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If you are reading this and think you would like to adopt either the mom or one of her kittens [or if you have any questions at all] please contact me ASAP. Thank you.

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Christmas Trees For Sale

When I was 4 years old, my father lost his job on the Friday before Thanksgiving. All throughout his adult life, my father never once called in sick. Even so, due to the lagging economy that year, he and many other employees were laid off from the local aluminum factory. With less than a month before Christmas, a mortgage to pay and three children, my father had to figure out a way to support our family. My sisters were 7 and 8.

One week later, on the day after Thanksgiving, my mother walked 5 miles in the snow down to the shopping center in our town. Her plan was to apply at every single store until she found a job. The first store on the strip mall was Kinney Drugs, a small drugstore chain in upstate NY. She walked in and asked if she could fill out an application. Within an hour, the store manager had hired her. Because Christmas was just a few weeks away, he asked her if she could start right away. The following day she made the 5 mile walk back down to the shopping center and started working as a store clerk. My mother, who had been a stay-at-home-Mom for 8 years, was now supporting our family. She was making minimum wage, less than $6 an hour that year.

*

With Christmas just weeks away, my father decided to take advantage  of  the  season. He thought that maybe he could make some money by selling Christmas trees. Since my mother was now working full-time and we were all too small to stay home alone, Dad loaded my sisters and I into the car and drove us out to a tree farm in Brasher Falls, about 30 minutes away.  When we got to the farm, my father asked my sisters and I to get out of the car. That’s where he left us.  He drove off and we never saw my parents ever again. [Just KIDDING. Just wanted to throw some humor into this sad story.]

At the tree farm, my oldest sister, who was 8, helped my father find the best looking trees while my other sister and I played in the snow.

Dad tagged as many of the best trees as he could find and hired a man to deliver them all back to our house. Later that afternoon, a giant truck pulled up in front of our house and delivered 75 beautiful Scotch Pines. My sisters and I helped Dad tie ropes to the trees so we could drag them into our yard. Living in upstate NY, we had several feet of snow, which made it much easier to display the trees. Dad arranged them neatly in rows, leaving  room  for  potential  customers  to  walk  between  and  around the  trees as they searched for the best ones.

Being only 4, I didn’t really understand why our small yard was now suddenly overflowing with Christmas trees. And I’m not sure what our neighbors thought. But what I do remember is how much fun it was suddenly having 75 trees in our front and back yard.  While Mom was at work at the drug store, my sisters and I were outside in our snowsuits with Dad each day, running and playing in the snow and interacting with the customers. It was a small town, so I’m sure many people knew about our situation.

And even though Mom wasn’t making very much money, Kinney Drugs was one of the biggest toy stores in town at that time. Employees were able to make purchases at cost (which was less than half price), including toys. And because my sisters and I all believed in Santa, Mom made sure there were plenty of presents under our tree that year.

One afternoon a man named Ross  Violi, a local business man and owner of the most popular restaurant in town, came by and bought enough trees  and  boughs to  decorate  his entire restaurant for the holidays.  He could have purchased Christmas trees from anyone else in town. But instead, he decided to buy them all from Dad. Anyone who knows the Violi’s knows what a wonderful and generous family they are. And to this day, my family is very grateful they were so kind to us that year.

After that, word spread throughout town, and soon we were running  out  of  trees.

What had started out as as a risk had paid off. Once again, we made another trip back to the tree farm with Dad for 75  more  trees.

With Christmas only a week or two away, the second load of trees disappeared as well and soon only two or three trees remained in our yard.

On Christmas Eve, there was only one tree left. Just before dark there was a knock at our front door. Outside, a man was standing on our front porch. Dad recognized him. He was a local elementary school teacher with several small children of his own. Because our town was so small, Dad knew he was unemployed too.

He asked Dad, “How much for the Christmas tree?” It was the only tree left on our lot. For several minutes, Dad tried over and over again to get him to take the tree for free. But despite Dads efforts,  and the man knowing that Dad was out of work, too, he insisted on paying for it.

*

Santa visited our house that year and my sisters and I had more than enough presents. I can’t tell you what gifts I received that year. And at the time, I had no idea that Dad had lost his job.

What I do remember is how much fun it was having our yard temporarily transformed into a winter playground filled with snow and hundreds of beautiful Christmas trees. I also remember how Dad, in between selling trees, had  turned part of our back yard into a small skating rink for my sisters and I.  He made trip after trip from the house for boiling water, carrying it out, one kettle at a time, and poured it out onto an area of snow he had smoothed out and turned into a rink, so that my sisters and I could skate in our back yard.

And I’ll never forget how both of my parents, working as a team, made sure that my sisters and I had one of the most beautiful and memorable Decembers I will never forget.

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First Date

She couldn’t stop thinking about him, so there was only one thing to do: go out with someone new, of course.
They agreed to meet at 7pm. She knew even before she met him that she wouldn’t like him. It wouldn’t matter how smart or charming or how handsome he was, she just knew. Simply because he wasn’t him.
She didn’t want to seem as though she was trying too hard, when in fact she didn’t care at all.

The problem with first dates is that every word you say, what drink you order (Scotch or a martini?), the buttons left unbuttoned on your blouse, even the way you look at him- every single thing takes on a particular, subliminal meaning.

But she was the type of girl who wore perfume and her favorite heels to run out for milk. It didn’t matter where she was going. That’s just who she was. So if she just happened to look a certain way, it had absolutely nothing to do with him.

She arrived at 6:48 and ordered a glass of Bordeaux. At 7:02 he walked in. She looked up from her phone. He was taller than she’d expected. He was wearing a suit jacket, a crisp white shirt and dark jeans.

He smiled as he walked toward her.

Why had she agreed to this? If he knew she was out with another man, she wondered, would he be upset?

“Wow. You’re even prettier in person,” he said.
She got up from her chair to greet him. “Thank you.”
They discussed their children and her recent trip to San Antonio (one of her favorite cities) and his job on Capitol Hill. The conversation and wine flowed easily. He was witty and charming.

He even made her laugh. She found herself smiling.

And even though he wasn’t him, the thought occurred to her that maybe, just maybe, she could enjoy spending time with someone else.

She had warned him she needed to leave early, but somehow 8:37pm turned into 10:49. She needed to be up early the next day.

“I really should go,” she said.

“But you haven’t even finished your drink.”

He smiled at her. His eyes were the perfect shade of blue.

She smiled back.

She knew she needed to go.

Finally he walked her to her car.

The moon was full.

“I’d really like to see you again,” he said.

“I’ll text you,” she said.

How did this happen? She should have stayed home.

As she drove home, she received a message. She looked down at her phone. “I’d like to see you again. Any chance you’re free Friday night?”
Suddenly she felt guilty. She hadn’t expected to be interested in anyone else. This wasn’t supposed to happen.

This was only meant to be a distraction from another night spent sitting home alone, thinking about him, with an empty ache in her chest,  waiting for him to finally make up his mind.

She thought about all of the nights spent in his bed. All of the nights they stayed up talking and making love. His hands all over her body. The way he kissed her. How could he just throw that all away?

As she lay in bed that night, the rain poured down outside her window.

The next morning she checked her phone again. No missed calls.

She had been thinking about him. But he hadn’t been thinking of her. Even so, she decided to give him one more week. Maybe he would figure it all out and realize he really did want to be with her. Or maybe she would finally decide to walk away for good.

Just then she received a text: “Looking forward to seeing you.”  

It had finally stopped raining. She needed to get dressed. She didn’t want to be late for work.

She looked out her window. The sky was slate blue. And she was indecisive.

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Unhinged

 

A strange thing happens when I cry
My eyes turn a dark blue green
And it’s impossible to hide the fact that I’ve been crying

 

What is it about the feeling of love that makes us feel invincible

When suddenly everything in the world just glows
Including you
And when we lose that feeling of love – real or not- it seems like the entire universe crumbles and falls apart around you
And for a short time it seems nothing can make you smile
Because all you feel is the loss of something missing

The ache of emptiness that temporarily consumes you

When you cry so much that your heart and your head just ache


There are some moments of sadness when it feels like you’ll never recover
But deep down inside you know you will

Because you always do

But in that moment you feel like you want to disappear
And you replay it all over and over again in your head
Wondering what you did wrong and wishing you had done something differently
Worrying about the most pointless things
Like maybe you weren’t good enough
And how you spent hours preparing and trying to make everything perfect
When the reality is none of those things matter
Not one little bit
It doesn’t matter how beautiful he thinks you are or how perfect your body is or is not or if you or how much you care or how hard you tried
The truth is you probably didn’t do anything wrong and sometimes you can do everything right and it still doesn’t matter
Because it has nothing to do with you and absolutely everything to do with the other person
You have no control over what the other person says or thinks or does
No control over what they do or if they decide to leave

And I understand why men think women are crazy sometimes
Because love makes us crazy
It makes you say and do unthinkable things because you can’t possibly think clearly when you are in that state
When someone you cared about walks out of your life forever
When something that was meaningful and important is suddenly
Gone
You become unhinged
It’s like stopping your car in the middle of the road or reading a book only halfway through
You can’t abruptly slam on the brakes and stop somewhere in the middle
You can’t make sense of something when a huge part of it is missing
You have to go all the way through and complete the entire journey
Love and relationships need to run their natural course

In the end you have to accept that there are certain things that you’ll never understand
Some people do things and you have no control over their actions or why they did it or the outcome
All you can do is control how you think and how you react

And it’s not that much different than being in an accident when you’ve been thrown from your car and you’re in a situation that’s suddenly unrecognizable and foreign and confusing

It’s impossible to brace for the impact

And it takes time to recover and to make sense of something you don’t recognize or fully understand
All you can do is to allow yourself time to grieve and heal


And you know you’ll recover because you’ve felt this way before and you’ll feel this way again

But that doesn’t make it easier

Because you only meet amazing people a very few rare times throughout your life

People who have the ability to touch you in some invisible way, who change you forever

And no matter how many times you’ve imagined it happening, it’s always devastating and it always hurts like hell

Because you can’t walk into someone’s life and share a part of it, then just walk out without feeling some kind of loss

People are not cars that you take out for a test drive

A persons life isn’t a revolving door where you can swing in and out without affecting them in some way

And your presence – and eventual absence- in someone’s life does matter

It changes us in some small or significant way

And the people we cared about and maybe even loved – even for a short time –  in some small way, stay with us forever

“Love is a temporary madness; it erupts like volcanoes and then subsides. And when it subsides you have to make a decision. You have to work out whether your roots have so entwined together that it is inconceivable that you should ever part. Love itself is what is left over when being in love has burned away, and this is both an art and a fortunate accident.”

Louis de Bernieres

Unhinged: Random Thoughts on Love, Loss and Pain – Just some random personal thoughts strewn together.

 

The Letter

The forecast was calling for hurricane like winds. It was Friday afternoon.

We had plans to stay in a beautiful, romantic hotel in Arlington all weekend. It was part of my birthday gift to him. But 2 weeks before, we broke up. It was too late to get a refund so I decided to go anyway. Without him. I asked my girls “Who wants to stay in a 5 star hotel this weekend?”  They were ecstatic.

As we drove to the hotel Friday night, it was pouring rain. Luckily the hotel had indoor parking. I parked, we grabbed our bags and went to check in. The lobby was beautiful but all I wanted to do was get into our room and fall onto the bed. It had been an emotionally exhausting few weeks.

As we checked in, the manager overheard us and asked me my name. “Are you Nicole? Someone left a package here for you.”

At first I thought he was mistaken. No one knew we were staying there. Except for one other person.

I walked over to him and he handed me a large manila envelope. I couldn’t imagine what was inside. I’m the girl who can’t wait until Christmas to open a present. So I opened it in front of him as I stood in the lobby.

Inside was a ring box and this letter:

My sweet Nicole,

I love you so much. The thought of losing you causes me great pain. You will always be the only girl for me. I know how to make this work and I want to be with you and the girls. Please accept this ring as a token of my commitment to you. We can get a nicer one later. I want to be with you forever. I’m asking you to marry me. Please say yes.

 

It was from him.

The rest of this story doesn’t matter. What does matter is this:

Most men are too afraid to open up and say how they truly feel. They think it’s cool to keep a girl guessing and to never show their emotions. Usually until it’s too late.

It’s okay to tell a girl “I like you” or “I love you” or even “I don’t know where this relationship is heading but I want you to know I care.”

Or even “I’m sorry. I messed up.” Anything is almost always better than nothing.

The important thing is to be honest and say something.

Ask any guy and most will have a story of how he was dating this amazing girl at one time — and ultimately how he lost her. Because he was too afraid of opening up. Or how he went out and got drunk with his friends (again) instead of returning her call. Or because he let his friends’ opinions dictate what he should do, instead of deciding for himself. Because guys like that are too cool to ever let a girl know they actually might care.

And it doesn’t have to be as dramatic as leaving a beautifully romantic letter (and a ring) in a hotel. It could be as simple as a text that says “I’m sorry. I messed up. I miss you.”

If she still has any feelings left for you, she will probably respond to pretty much anything you say, as long as you are honest and sincere.

The guys who wait too long to tell a girl how they feel, usually lose the girl. Because great girls don’t sit around and wait for a guy to come to his senses.

Great girls bounce back and move forward and go on living their interesting, busy lives. And it’s usually not long before someone else takes notice and sweeps them off their feet.

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The Age Factor

The first time I ever dated a considerably younger guy, I repeatedly asked myself “What in the hell are you doing?”

It’s not like I was new to dating younger guys. In fact my first boyfriend was younger than me, my ex-husband was 7 years younger and my most recent LTR was with a guy 12 years younger. It wasn’t exactly new to me. But then out of nowhere it seems, the 20 year olds started appearing. I’d been hit on by 20 year old guys before, but none of them were ever able to truly capture my interest. There’s nothing remotely appealing about “Heyy whats up babe?” or “How r u?”  If he can’t string a simple sentence together, you kind of already know the deal.

But then twitter happened and it opened up a whole new group of guys – of all ages – who were actually thoughtful and funny and intelligent. Then add tinder (no explanation needed there) and the flood gates opened.

That’s when I decided to rethink the whole age thing.

I started out with just simple conversations.  I’d often ask these younger guys why they were interested in older women? Their answers were always the same:  Girls their age demand too much. They get upset if you don’t text them 20x a day. They don’t give a guy his space. They need to know where you are every minute of the day. They’re too dramatic. She was only interested in money. She wanted a serious boyfriend. She wanted to get married.  She was insecure. She was extremely jealous. The list goes on. All huge turn offs to a guy of any age.

Which brought me to why they were drawn to older women: Older women are confident. We don’t need to know what you’re doing every second of the day. We don’t care about that girl who you were talking to at the bar. We’re too busy to text you every single day. We don’t care how much money you make. We are busy with our own lives and careers. We’re more open minded and experimental when it comes to sex. And we certainly are not looking to get married.

Maybe dating a 20 yr. old would be fun.  I decided why not.

One guy in particular made me change my mind. It all started with a few sweet words. Not only was he articulate but extremely intelligent. Two things I can’t resist (even though I tried). Instead of partying with his friends, he chose to spend time with me. He was emotionally mature and genuinely interesting- both extremely sexy- which made him irresistible.

One of my flaws is that I sometimes try to end things at the first sign of trouble. Even if the “trouble” doesn’t actually exist.  I’m like the Runaway Bride of dating. So after only a few months of amazing sex and great conversation, I told him I could never see him ever again.

WHO DOES THAT?

Me, apparently. Well, I used to. (But I’m getting better.) It’s easy to let your head overthink and complicate things, but sometimes you need to think with your heart, which is kind of the same as NOT thinking.

Then a friend told me “Just let the relationship run it’s natural course.” Words I sometimes forget but should definitely try to remember. It’s sometimes difficult to enjoy time with someone when you’re constantly thinking “This can’t last.”

Luckily, he wouldn’t let me end it, so we continued to see each other.

And each time I would start to overthink it, friends would weigh in with “Just have fun. Who cares how old he is?”

It’s our experiences and the people we meet and share time with who ultimately shape who we are and who we become. So I did my best not to overthink it and just enjoy it.

Here is what I discovered. Age really is just a number. Your brain doesn’t say “You cannot be attracted to this person because they’re not the *right* age.” It’s all about chemistry and connection. It’s probably true that a guy in his 20’s isn’t looking for a girlfriend and is more interested in just having sex.  But that’s often true about guys in their 30’s and 40’s, too. And it’s a common fact that women reach their sexual peak in their mid 30’s to 40’s. We think about, enjoy and want sex, too.

I had dismissed many guys simply because I thought they were too young.  But there’s a difference between someone’s age and  emotional maturity. And just because a guy is older doesn’t mean he’s emotionally mature either (I’ve been down that road before, too).

Age doesn’t determine chemistry. If you connect with someone who’s fun and interesting, why not just enjoy it?

It’s all about mutual respect and how you make each other feel. If he makes you feel sexy and beautiful, and he’s respectful and honest, where’s the harm in that?

It doesn’t mean it has to turn into anything serious. Having fun together does not always equal love. It’s not a promise for forever. (I admit that’s a beautiful and romantic notion, but it’s simply not realistic.) It’s just fun and enjoyable and one more life experience that makes you a more interesting person. I mean the world could END TOMORROW. Would you really say no to having fun and good sex if you thought you only had one more day to live? I THINK NOT.

Find a person who you connect with, who you feel comfortable with, who you respect and trust. That’s when the sex really becomes amazing. If those pieces are missing, then you’re probably just having mediocre sex.

And age has nothing to do with finding that connection. Connection has to do with chemistry. And you never know who will have chemistry with until you actually spend time with someone. You shouldn’t dismiss a person simply because of their age.

I don’t often meet guys who can capture my interest. So when I do, why would I dismiss him simply because of his age? It’s all about how he treats me, how he makes me feel and how we interact together. And if all those pieces click, then why not just take it for what it is and simply enjoy it?

 

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Perspective

The first time I ever saw Kate, I did a double take. She was the kind of beautiful that made every person stop and stare. She had shoulder length black hair that fell in soft waves over the tops of her shoulders and a flawless complexion. She was tall and thin and had the body of a runway model. I smiled at her and she smiled back at me. I envied her youthfulness. Even in my mid-20’s, I never looked like that. She had the kind of beauty you only see in photo-shopped photographs in a fashion magazine.

I imagined that she had her own apartment and was going to school part time. That she had fabulous friends and an equally fabulous boyfriend. I imagined her life as fun and carefree, without a care in the world.

So Kate. Not her real name of course, but the stunningly beautiful part is all true. Each time I would see her, which was always in passing, I caught her staring at me. I would always smile and say hello and she would politely smile back. The staring part seemed a bit odd to me, but I didn’t think much of it. A few months passed. She always looked beautiful but distant. The staring and quiet smiling continued.

A few weeks later, we bumped into each other again at work. I made small talk but she seemed to struggle even with that. Finally it was time to go home. As we were getting ready to leave, I turned around and there she was standing a few feet away, staring at me. I found it odd but she seemed sweet so again, I tried to make small talk. She asked about my girls and seemed genuinely interested in my life. She seemed touched that I was a single mom, struggling to juggle work and career and kids and a social life. After all those months, it was the first time we had ever had a real conversation.

Then out of the blue she said “You are so beautiful. I mean that. You really are so beautiful, inside and out.”

I was completely taken aback.

Here was this young, gorgeous model-esque girl telling me that I was beautiful. I really didn’t know what to say. I replied back “No, Kate, you are beautiful. But thank you so much.”

She didn’t dismiss me as old or faceless, as young people sometimes do. She admired me and looked up to me. I was completely touched.

She looked like she might cry. My natural instinct was to hug her and normally I would have. But we really didn’t know each other very well so I held back. She seemed so lost and sad.  She smiled at me and then, without a word, she turned and left.

One evening, when I was out with a group of mutual friends, I hesitantly asked “What’s the deal with Kate?” I wasn’t trying to pry, but something just seemed off about her.

That was when I found out that Kate was an alcoholic. She was living with her boyfriend who had been in and out of jail for heroin possession.  Some days she wouldn’t even show up for work. And when she did, she would often arrive looking like she hadn’t showered for days. Her boss tried countless times to help her. Instead of letting her go, she kept her on part-time. Kate would lie to people and say she had graduated from college, when the truth was she dropped out after only a few weeks.

Friends, family and co-workers all tried to help her. But yet she remained with the heroin addict and was struggling with alcohol.

My heart completely broke.  Here was this beautiful young girl, throwing away what should have been some of the best years of her life.

 

I’ve never struggled with an addiction, unless you count the high you get when you *think* you are in love with someone (note that *thinking* something does not always make it real), but I imagine it is one of the most difficult things to overcome.

Too often, we see someone whose life appears to be better than ours. It’s easy to think everyone else has it easier or has a more exciting life than we do. But the truth is our lives are exactly what we make of them, which has absolutely nothing to do with looks or money or appearance.

What we perceive to be true isn’t always. It’s easy to hide pain and sadness behind a smile or false exterior.

I may not be model thin or have flawless skin but I actually have a pretty great life. A beautiful home, two amazing little girls and a hundred other things I am grateful for every single day.

I don’t know what will become of Kate. That was the last time I ever saw her. I don’t know what events brought her to such a low point in her life, but I hope with all my heart she finds a way out.

What I do know is that not everyone is able to deal with the difficulties that life throws our way. I have been very fortunate in that I have been able to overcome most of life’s obstacles simply by finding the humor in most situations and by always keeping a positive outlook. But not everyone is able to do that.

Life is fair in that we all have our own share of hard times and problems and difficulties. The unfair part is that some people ultimately fall apart and are never able to put themselves back together again.

I hope with all my heart that Kate is not one of those people. I hope she can find a way to pull herself together and come out a stronger person. And if I ever do see her again, I’m definitely going to give her that hug.

No matter what someone’s life looks like on the outside, maybe we all need to take a closer look.

By Mai Ramai from abstract.desktopnexus.com

By Mai Ramai from abstract.desktopnexus.com

 

Old Man

The old man next door lives in a beautiful old brick house. The 3rd floor attic windows are framed with white curtains.

Each day as I drink my morning coffee, I can see him out my window, as he fills the many bird feeders in his yard. He comes out the side door and walks slowly to the old red wooden shed a few yards away from his house. He carries a large green bucket back and forth, filling it with bird seed.  He does this several times, as he has many feeders in his yard. I have never seen his face but he has a full head of thick white hair. He stands about 6 feet tall, but it’s hard to tell because he is slightly hunched over. He always wears a tall pair of black Wellingtons pulled up over dark gray pants and a plain brown coat.

Each morning when I open my back doors to walk the dog, I can hear all of the birds chirping happily, loudly.

The white flowered curtains in the attic windows suggest a woman lived there once, too. But I have never seen anyone but him. And because I don’t know anything about this man, I imagined his and her story in my head.

They fell in love at fifteen. High school sweethearts.  He thought she was the prettiest girl he had ever seen. Small and fragile. He waited patiently until after they both graduated to ask her father for her hand in marriage.  Very much in love, they dreamed of starting a family. They saved enough money and were able to buy a big beautiful brick house in the country. They imagined filling each room with small voices and little feet running and playing in the garden.

They tried for many years to have children, but were unsuccessful. They later found out she was unable to have children. Eventually they stopped trying. There would be no children to wake them up each Christmas morning. No birthday cakes to bake. No tiny hands to pick flowers from the garden on Mothers Day.

The years made her more fragile, but yet she spent her days outside, lovingly tending and planting her favorite flowers as he built beautiful bird houses from recycled old wood to hang in all of the trees.

Spring became their favorite time of year and they would spend their days outside, enjoying the beautiful sanctuary they had created together.

The years went by and she fell ill. In her final days, he never left her bedside. He hired a nurse to care for her in their home. One night, as he admired her peacefully asleep, she slipped away from him quietly, as he gently held her thin hand.

He retired and kept to himself, spending his days alone. Sometimes reading, but mostly looking out the window, watching the birds in their weed ridden garden. His nights spent warding off insomnia.

And now he gets up with the sun each day, and sometimes before the sun. He sits on an old painted bench next to the back door, resting his weary hands on the worn wood. He puts on his Wellingtons and his old brown coat and goes outside to feed the birds.

The garden is overgrown with leaves and vines, but spring is just around the corner. Soon he’ll be busy pulling and tending and planting again.

I saw the old man yesterday. The sun was out and the air was crisp. A bag of soil, a watering can and some gardening tools, all lined up carefully next to the shed.

Each spring he does his best to restore the garden to it’s original beauty, knowing it will never be the same.

He does it because it reminds him of her.

But it will never be as beautiful as the woman whose hands can no longer hold his.

11Saint Luke Arch Vertical

bird-pine-warbler-yellow-beauty-travis-truelove

Words

I wish I could look into your eyes and tell you everything that would make you understand.

But I don’t know what those words are. Or if they even exist.

Maybe we would see each other and the words would just fall naturally in that exact moment.

And we would sort them out together.

Or maybe we would simply look at each other and we would both just know.

We would see everything we ever needed to say in each others eyes.

But mostly, all the things we never needed to say.

Because we both know.

And maybe no words would be needed at all. – MMP

BW

They would walk for hours through the streets of each new city.

Laughing and talking and discovering each one together. Creating memories.

And discovering each other along the way.

The Trunk in the Attic

I found an old trunk in the attic of my new house.

Ironically, my new house is actually a beautiful old farmhouse. It’s 120 years old to be exact.

I often imagine who might have lived here 120 years ago. There are two front doors. One is the original front door and the second is the old back door that was removed from the rear of the house when it was restored six years ago.

The original front door has the letter ‘G’ scrolled on the front. I imagine the ‘G’ family that once lived here all those years ago. I imagine the children running through the house on a hot summer day screaming and laughing, as their mother called after them to go outside and play.

There is a large back yard that borders the huge brick farmhouse next door. A massive tree, most likely 100+ years old itself,  connects our yards. And across the road, two farms are the home to forty or fifty-plus cows, peacefully grazing.

So back to the trunk.

The day I signed the paperwork, the owner and I walked through the house. He explained how he had restored the house and had done all of the work himself. Finally,  we went up to the attic and I asked him “Who’s trunk is that?”

“I don’t know,” he replied. I moved toward it and almost as in slow motion, I reach my hand out, ready to open it. But then I stopped.

In such an old house I wonder how old must the trunk be? And all I can imagine is ghosts are locked away in the trunk. Yes, it’s silly, I know.

So I backed away and headed back down the narrow stairs, closing the attic door behind me.

The attic door itself is a bit unusual. And I am certain it’s the original door. It faces the hallway connecting the master bedroom to the master bath and you have to pass it each time you are in the bedroom.

A week later, I moved into my beautiful new, old house. The movers helped me move a few things into the attic. It was sunny that day and the bright light shined through the small attic window. But yet, it still felt a bit dark.

And there stood the trunk. Still unopened. Still a mystery to me.

I hesitated and looked at it from the top of the attic stairs, wondering what could be inside? Again, I decided not to open it and went back downstairs.

When you live in an old house, it’s almost impossible not to imagine that perhaps ghosts or spirits live there, too.

But it wasn’t long after we moved into our wonderful old farmhouse that I realized that if there really were ghosts living with us, they had to be friendly ones.

The only noises that I hear late at night are the ones my cats make as they stretch during their sleep. Or the soft padding of their feet on the freshly waxed hard wood floors.

And sometimes when I think I hear something odd, I stop to listen. Only to realize it’s just the sound of the November wind reminding us that winter is almost here.

And although the house is large and quite old, I feel very safe and happy here.

There is something very calming and peaceful about living in the country. It can’t quite be explained unless you have experienced it for yourself.

How could such a charming and beautiful old home have anything but friendly ghosts?

It’s only been a few weeks, but between working, unpacking and trying to organize my new life, I find my days are quite full.

There’s no time to explore abandoned trunks or old attics.

And so the trunk will have to wait. For now anyway.

And maybe when the spring and the longer, warmer days arrive, I’ll decide to open it then.

Or not.

attic bonus roomwb

For now, I’ll leave the attic undisturbed. – MMP