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A large trunk with leather handles

A large trunk with leather handles (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We all have baggage. It comes as part and parcel of who we are, the sum of our experiences and our relationships. How we choose to carry that baggage is what differentiates us from each other. Some of us are like the pack horses or the pack mules of olden days. The weight of our burden is equally distributed and while the load is still there, it is not as noticeable. If our baggage is carried correctly and the weight properly and equally distributed, the burden isn’t as heavy and we are able to navigate forward, even if the pace at times is slow but steady. There are times when the load may shift, suddenly or temporarily, but we are able to recognize that the burden has shifted, stop and repackage ourselves. While no one travels through this life without baggage, these folks have their baggage well distributed and except for the occasional shifting which they recognize and adjust for, they move forward accepting and adjusting to each shift and each new package that is added to the load.

For others of us, we don’t distribute our baggage equally or properly during our journey. We sometimes load it all on our shoulders or our back or it weighs heavily in our hearts or on our minds. We cannot shake it, we cannot bear it and we cannot ignore, even for the slightest second that it is there. Our journey through this world is painful, uncomfortable and we are forever looking forward and back for a way and a place to unload our baggage. We cannot accept that we have a load to bear and we have to figure out the best way to carry it with the least impact on ourselves and the most grace and ease.

For different people, at different times, the baggage represents different things. It can be a wronged relationship- be it with a partner, a parent, a friend or a child. It can be poor health or a work or school related challenge. It can be the upheaval that comes with change – be that change good or bad, related to a job, a life circumstance or a move.

As the week opens, I realize that my load will shift this week. Everything that I have known for the past 18+ years is about to change. The first of my three boys will be like the little robin on the edge of the nest, ready to take off into the world starting with this week’s graduation. I cannot stop the journey, I cannot protect him from the world that awaits him for as much as I may try, I cannot take the next steps of the journey with him – not at least in the same way that I have journeyed with him for the past 18+ years, first when he was a physical part of me and when he entered this world breathing on his own his first breaths. All I can do is hold my breath and hope and pray that the wings work when he leaves the nest and that the fall is only temporary and he will rise up on the gentle breeze to the new challenges and experiences that he will face in college with grace and integrity and a smile on his face. I will have to sit back and hope that the job that I have done is a good one.

Over the weekend, at the orientation sessions we attended, we were reminded over and over again, that this transition to college will be difficult – more so for some than for others but hardest of all on each and every one of the parents involved in it. The load that we have been carrying as parents, balanced carefully if we have more than one child, will shift. We have to realize that the shift in our load will require adjustment – a breathing rest if you will, while you unload and reload the baggage that you carry to make the load more bearable, more evenly distributed and more easy to bear. When you start the journey again, it will be different, not as before.

My hope for each of you who are also experiencing your own shifting in the coming months from whatever source, I hope that you are afforded rest in a shady spot, where you can unload your baggage, examine each part of it and secure it again with the least discomfort for the journey ahead. That you may then take up your journey, with a new perspective and a steady pace.

My hope for my son and the others who will be making the same journey starting this week, take time to pack your load evenly and realize that the journey, while at times difficult, will be well worth the effort.

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I have started and stopped, typed and backspaced this post several times to get to this sentence. I know that I need to write something to get it out of me. Words have always been able to help me see things better, fell better and writing helps me cope– it’s my therapy. So bear with me.

Let me start by saying, “life is not fair”. Big surprise. We all know this but sometimes something happens that just smacks you in the face and you have to say it out loud. This is one of those times. We learned some devastating news about a friend. Both Tom and I are beside ourselves. It is because we feel for the friend and the family. It is also because of the sheer hopelessness that we feel in not being able to do more than the mere paltry offer of help wherever and with whatever we can, which is so inconsequential in the scheme of things that lie ahead for them. But it is the only thing, besides our friendship, that we have to offer. It is the empathy of knowing that we live by the fickle hand of fate, and it could easily have been any one of us touched this way. Life has a way of grabbing your attention and focusing your priorities. What you think today is so damn important may not be so tomorrow.

As you walk through your life today and in the days that follows remember this

~~~~The things you take for granted, someone else is praying for. Be thankful.~~~~

 

We had been away for a couple days visiting colleges. Our oldest, who is 17 is entering senior year and the college application deadlines are looming before us. Decisions will be made in the upcoming months that will have a life changing effect on our family, changing our family forever in a good, but different way.

While we were in Rochester I received word that another part of my extended family was coping with news on the opposite end of that spectrum. They  are dealing with an irreparable change to their family. My cousin and his wife lost their 23-year-old son. He was struck by a car and killed walking home, probably after a night out with friends. The breadth of this tragedy I cannot understand. While he lived in Florida and I did not know him well personally, my heart breaks for my cousins and their remaining children. It is the tragedy that no parent wants to face, the death of their child — no matter the age of the child.

It reminds us that life is precious and fragile. It is a gift that we have, for as long as we have it, and in the blink of an eye, it can be taken from us. While we can often be aggravated by our children or annoyed with our spouse — we need to remember that all of that, all of the mundane aspects of our daily existence, pales in comparison. Who wouldn’t trade most anything for another day with a loved one, another chance to argue, to perform the mundane tasks of life together, to sit and enjoy a conversation or a laugh?

Maybe you can say that as a result of this news and this tragedy, I will dote over my own boys just a little more and worry even more than I do — stressing to drive carefully and pay attention — but that is the natural maternal reaction; gather the cubs closer, protect them. Be thankful and feel blessed that you are lucky enough to have those you love around to dote upon and yell at. Multiple times every day, there are parents in this world who have had that taken from them, in the blink of an eye with the last beat of a heart, like my cousins.

My heart breaks for their loss.

Rest in Peace Michael………

I live in the world of technology — whether I like it or not (but I do). When you are married to a techhead and have three teenage boys, your life is filled with contraptions, gadgets and gizmos. Technology is a big part of our everyday lives and Apple products make up a large part of that. Our house was saddened by the news last night of Steve Jobs passing from this life. Not surprised, but still saddened.

Why is it that we were so sad about someone that we never met? I have no personal ties to Steve Jobs, other than the devices that his company invented which are integrated into our house and our lives, yet we were very sad, quiet and reflective last evening. I think that such a public death is a reminder that life is finite for all of us — death does not discriminate between the rich and the poor, the famous and the unknown, the haves and the have-nots. One day, all of us will share the same fate. The question of course is whether in those minutes and seconds before we take our last breath, we can look back with a smile or with regret.

In Jobs’ own words, “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

In the wake of the announcement of his death, the world has been buzzing about Steve’s legacy. The imprint he has left on technology. It is without a doubt that his vision and demand for perfection has changed our lives forever. In addition to the Apple products that we are all too familiar with — the Mac, the Ipod, the Ipad and the Iphone there are those that are lesser known but still a part of our electronic lives — the trash can, the pull down menu, the menu bar and even the mouse.

Steve Jobs loved what he did and he stated so in no uncertain terms –

Sometimes life hits you in the head with a brick. Don’t lose faith. I’m convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did. You’ve got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don’t settle.

Yet, he knew what was important in his life and that is the lesson that we must take away from his passing. The lesson that can make us all a little stronger and a little wiser.

When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: “If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you’ll most certainly be right.” It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And whenever the answer has been “No” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.

Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.

The person that we saw portrayed so prevalently in the media was fiercely protective of the intimate aspects of his personal life.  A neighbor of his, Lisen Stromberg expressed it perfectly when she stated in her blog back in August:

In time, things changed. The walks were less frequent, the gait slower, the smile not so ready. Earlier this year when I saw Steve and his wife walking down our street holding hands, I knew something was different. Now, so does the rest of the world.

While Newsweek and the Wall Street Journal and CNET continue to drone on about the impact of the Steve Jobs era,  I won’t be pondering the MacBook Air I write on or the iPhone I talk on. I will think of the day I saw him at his son’s high school graduation. There Steve stood, tears streaming down his cheeks, his smile wide and proud, as his son received his diploma and walked on into his own bright future leaving behind a good man and a good father who can be sure of the rightness of this, perhaps his most important legacy of all.

I must agree with Lisen, I think that when you boil Steve Jobs down, he was just another man — who loved his job and evidently his family and was gifted with his technological vision and expertise, but nonetheless basically no different from any one of us. In my opinion, and from what I’ve read about his personal life, I think that if you asked him, Steve Jobs’ greatest legacy was not the devices for which he will be remembered but rather  — it was the children and love of his life, Laurene that stood with him and around him as he took his final breaths in this life and defended his privacy and his dignity to the very end.

Photo: Lea Suzuki - San Francisco Chronicle

Lea Suzuki, a photographer for the San Francisco Chronicle took this photograph after one of the recent Apple Product announcements. On the cusp of my own 20th year of marriage, the photograph is very telling and speaks a million words about the very private Steve Jobs and his relationship with his wife, Laurene.

His family’s loss is immeasurable. While the world lost a computer icon, they lost a husband of twenty years, a best friend and a father.

Condolences to the Jobs Family. Know the world aches with you in your time of grief.

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It has been a LONG week.

One of the reasons is that all week I have somehow thought I was one day ahead, thinking it was Wednesday when it was only Tuesday. Go through that for a whole week and it seems like it has been at least two.

The other reason is that Tom has been traveling on business this whole week. Not that anything horrible has gone on or the boys have been terrorists — in fact quite the opposite they have been great with the exception of  one night leaving me alone at the table to eat dinner and have a fine conversation with myself…well, okay maybe I was talking to the dog, but the only reason she was around was hoping that I was feeling pathetic enough to share my food with her; otherwise I am sure that she would have hightailed it out of the room as well. It’s just that when he is gone it gets lonely around here. It’s like being off kilter, things just don’t seem right when there’s only one of us around.

 

This is from the Jeff Bridges website. I heard about this when it hit the news, but as many other people at the train station that day, didn’t pay much attention. Given some recent circumstances in and around my life, I thought it was worth posting.

Washington, DC Metro Station on a cold January morning in 2007. The man with a violin played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes. During that time approx. 2 thousand people went through the station, most of them on their way to work. After 3 minutes a middle aged man noticed there was a musician playing. He slowed his pace and stopped for a few seconds and then hurried to meet his schedule.

4 minutes later:

The violinist received his first dollar: a woman threw the money in the hat and, without stopping, continued to walk.

6 minutes:

A young man leaned against the wall to listen to him, then looked at his watch and started to walk again.

10 minutes:

A 3-year old boy stopped but his mother tugged him along hurriedly. The kid stopped to look at the violinist again, but the mother pushed hard and the child continued to walk, turning his head all the time. This action was repeated by several other children.. Every parent, without exception, forced their children to move on quickly..

45 minutes:

The musician played continuously. Only 6 people stopped and listened for a short while. About 20 gave money but continued to walk at their normal pace. The man collected a total of $32.

1 hour:

He finished playing and silence took over. No one noticed. No one applauded, nor was there any recognition.

No one knew this, but the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the greatest musicians in the world. He played one of the most intricate pieces ever written, with a violin worth $3.5 million dollars. Two days before Joshua Bell sold out a theater in Boston where the seats averaged $100.

This is a true story. Joshua Bell playing incognito in the metro station was organized by the Washington Post as part of a social experiment about perception, taste and people’s priorities.

The questions raised:

*In a common place environment at an inappropriate hour, do we perceive beauty?

*Do we stop to appreciate it?

*Do we recognize talent in an unexpected context?

One possible conclusion reached from this experiment could be this:

If we do not have a moment to stop and listen to one of the best musicians in the world, playing some of the finest music ever written, with one of the most beautiful instruments ever made.

How many other things are we missing?

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What’s new? Nothing. Everything. Life has been busy – things have come in increments – soccer and cross country started, then school and now most recently – CCD. With each thing that starts comes more responsibility – for the kids, for the parents. More schedules, more rides, more accommodating everyone. Somehow, it all works out although there are moments and days when I might disagree with my old statement.

Navigating teenagers is difficult, no doubt about it. Sometimes you just need to hear something good, something inspirational.

Here’s a good quote for the day:

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

Steve Jobs

I love the ocean but probably not for the same reasons that other people love the ocean. I think that it is relaxing and mesmerizing. I love the sound of the waves connecting with the beach. Looking out over the ocean it is very hard to feel full of yourself or sorry for yourself, because you are so insignificant in the great scheme of things. The ocean is humbling. Looking out over the vast expanse of the ocean it is hard to imagine that I count much and that my problems or worries or concerns are all that important to anyone but me. It reminds me not to take myself too seriously or to stress too much over things which are really not that important. The ocean is powerful; it doesn’t care who you are or where you fit into this world. All the money and power in the world cannot save someone who is caught in its fury or is disrespectful to its power. The ocean is a reminder that life is precious and short and can be swept away in the blink of an eye.  Life is something to be cherished and enjoyed.

It’s the time of year when we give a lot of thought to what we have and what makes us lucky and happy. Basically, it is the time of the year to stop bitching and complaining about what we don’t have enough of – be it time, money, friends, work and to start recognizing what we do have. It is simply a time of the year to take stock of our lives and to enjoy the moment. All too often, especially in this country, we are bombarded with wanting more, needing more, demanding more and we rarely take the time to examine what we have, and how lucky we are for what we have in our lives at this moment in time.

For many, the next week starts a spiral of stress. The beginning of the holiday season all too often brings with it stress, social pressure to attend this event and that party, time management issues how to work and shop and do all those wonderful Martha Stewart-like things that we feel guilty that we don’t have the time or the money or the patience to deal with but we think that we should. Newspaper and magazine articles and blog postings are replete with tips for the “perfect” Thanksgiving dinner, turkey, pie, side dish, appetizer, table setting, house decorations – you name it, and someone, somewhere has the “perfect” tip to make you feel miserable, incompetent and less than perfect.

To quell your anxiety and mine and put life back into perspective, both for this Thanksgiving and the upcoming holidays, take a breath and read this post. Realize that the background of this family is that one of their children has leukemia. Keep them in your thoughts and prayers as I am certain they would appreciate all that they can get. Realize that your life, however miserable you think it is, or how sorry you might feel for yourself with all you have to do in the upcoming weeks, really isn’t all that bad and you really have a lot to be thankful for. I know that I am thinking exactly that this holiday and realizing just how fortunate we are as a family and how lucky I am as wife.

So, today was my birthday. Happy to report that unlike last year, there were no trips to the emergency room and no broken bones (for anyone). So, you might ask, what does a mother of three teenage and almost teenage sons expect on her birthday? What does she do? She almost cries when she gets cards made by her sons that remind her of exactly why she spent the better part of the afternoon and evening carting kids to and fro – even when it meant not eating a real dinner but rather sneaking a turkey sandwich around 9:30 tonight. She remembers what makes family and friends so special, whether they are near or far, but care enough to track me down for birthday wishes. She opens her birthday present, presented to her in grand fashion at 10 p.m. tonight by a parade of smiling, smirking, giggling boys who laugh their pants off when she opens her present to find this:

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and for those of you who cannot quite make out my array of lovely presents crammed into my gift box so skillfully wrapped with at least one whole roll of invisible tape there were:

1 used can of Axe (otherwise known as boy air freshener-while it stinks, un-showered boys tend to stink more)

1 Matchbox fire engine (to remind me that they are really still kids at heart)

1 XBox headset (to remind me that they are teenagers)

1 DVD of Elf (why?- I have no idea but maybe they are telling me that I am short since they are all either taller or just about as tall as I am)

1 Boy Scout hat (again – why? I have no idea)

the rest of the roll of invisible tape (which I cannot exactly figure out how they got it inside the box that they wrapped – but hey, some mysteries are better left unanswered

and last but, certainly not least:

1 extremely dirty, stinky sock (because I am the Queen of Laundry living with 4 men) (Also note my lovely birthday dinner sitting there in the corner – I treated myself to swirled pumpernickel bread for my turkey – my birthday pleasures know no bounds!)

So…..after the boys composed themselves and got up from rolling hysterically on  the floor, they let me open the smaller wrapped present that was in the bottom of the box.

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A bright red, shiny new digital camera.  I had to wrestle it free of Tyler’s hands in order to actually get to hold for this picture. (Note his scowl). Seems he likes it too, maybe more than me, if that is even possible.

So you see, being a mom of three sons isn’t without its humor. And the lesson in all of this is – sometimes if you look beyond the stinky sock in life, there is a real gift in there somewhere.

Today we lost a member of the family. Not a human member, but a member just the same and we are sad. This morning we found one of the chickens dead in the coop. I know that there are some that would laugh that I am pausing to remember a chicken, but she was a good chicken, and she will be missed. More importantly, her death is symbolic of how precious life is and how quickly it can be gone. I think that everyone needs a wake up call now and again, when we think ourselves invincible and we think about material things that are so inconsequential in the great scheme of things and we afford them such a great place in our world. Life is precious. We forget that, regardless of who or what we do or do not believe in, life is a miracle and a gift. It is fleeting and it should be lived to its fullest. I don’t ever recall anyone lying on a deathbed and wondering whether their business would be okay when they are gone, or gloating in the their material accomplishments. All too often, people, usually too late, regret that they have not lived their life and enjoyed it.  Some of them, close to me, forget that life is very special and very precious and should never be lived as an afterthought. After work, after business, after things….. Each life is special and precious and unique….even a chicken’s.

Rest in peace, little chicken, you were loved and you will be missed.

Today was a busy day. Tom was away on business leaving me to tend to the kids, the goat kids, the dogs in addition to the usual house stuff and my work. I have just finished up the laundry from our vacation in addition to the regular laundry but I still have not finished up my issue. It is very frustrating, so close and yet…not done. I am still acclimating to TJ’s soccer schedule and we are trying to work out the carpooling situation so at least 3 of us aren’t all running back and forth to school to drop and pick up kids from practice. The boys also had scouts tonight which meant dinner had to be done pronto and we had to be out the door. We weren’t especially good about the getting out the door part and were late getting there. Oh well. In the midst of all this chaos that is life, I always have to remember to take a minute. Take a minute to breathe, to admire the world around you, to enjoy your children and think about how fortunate you are that they are healthy enough to be a pain in the rear sometimes and how fortunate you are to be here to take it all in.  Sometimes life gets so hectic that you forget, forget to just “take a minute”. Yesterday I had to explain to my youngest son that sometimes it is just as important to take care of yourself as it is to take care of someone or something else (such as an animal). It’s an important lesson that all of us have to re-acquaint ourselves with so we can better do all that chaos that is life. I am trying really hard to take a minute and post something every day. Consider it my “me” time.

Evilwife on the move

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http://tammyheff.wordpress.com
2012.
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There have to be 5 things even on a really bad day.

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