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My youngest son is heading off on the first of his summer adventures abroad. He and a group of classmates and two teachers (about 20 total) are leaving this evening for Boston and heading to Costa Rica where they will do a service project. Since it’s not all work and no play, they will also be hiking at La Fortuna National Park (volcanos), zip lining, hanging in the hot springs and white water rafting. They are spending several days with an indigenous population where they will work on a school/playground renovation.

I wasn’t particularly concerned since the group that is sponsoring the trip is organized and sends thousands of kids all over the world on these types of expeditions. But still, as the days have grown closer and closer, a mom’s instinctive worry has began to creep in. I am fighting to keep it at bay and imagine what wonderful experiences they will have as they undertake this expedition.

Safe travels Mill River kids — have a great trip!

My beautiful picture

Miss my dad everyday since he left us, but especially on Father’s Day.

He would be very proud of his grandsons and I know that they would have loved spending time with him.

Warmest wishes to all the dads celebrating today, especially the man that has helped me through the craziness of parenthood and helps me everyday to raise three wonderful young men –

today and always, I love you.

 

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Photo credit: Peace Corps

There are people who enter your life and leave an indelible impression on your soul. Ones that impart lessons and leave a mark that lives with you for all your days. When you least expect it, you hear their words echo in your head or feel their presence as if they were there with you. For me, one of those persons was a man that I met as an employer, learned to admire and respect and became a second dad to me as I grew into the woman that I have become. When I lost my own father, he was someone that was always there to lend a gentle, guiding hand – a person who was truly happy and proud of my accomplishments, much as my own dad would have been if he were still with me. I came to know his family, watched his daughters grow into wonderful, amazing women of whom he was immensely proud.

Today is his birthday. The last time I spoke to him was on this day several years ago, just prior to his death. Unbeknown to me at the time, he was ill and would died less than two weeks later from an unknown ailment that he most likely acquired while he was doing something that he loved and aspired to do for a very long time, working with the Peace Corps. He taught me lots of lessons in the years that I had known him, how to be a good lawyer, how to treat people fairly, how to be ethical in my profession and how to never be afraid to learn something new. I remember that when his daughters learned the violin, he took lessons right alongside them, never having played the violin himself. He decided that he wanted to learn Spanish (which he would later use in the Peace Corps) so he enrolled in college to take Spanish lessons. He learned Pilates and took dance lessons. He was known for the fedora hats that he sported on a daily basis, both around town and in the courthouse. He was a proud Marine and the father of three West Point graduates.

He taught me that a lot of things can be worked through with a simple “walk around the block”.

He was, for all intents and purposes, in the decades that I knew him, a second father. I cried almost as much as I cried for my own dad when I learned that he passed away. Just like my dad was the only one to call me “Babe”, John was the only one who could call me “Kiddo” (beside my own husband) and get away with it.

After he passed away I made a trip to New Jersey to help his wife go through old files. I sat on the floor of the room that contained years of legal work, much of which I was a part of, and cried alongside her. They were, and still are, like family.

You never know when the stranger that entered your life will leave that kind of mark. You never know how you are touched by those, once strangers, who become family. You never know how they will shape the person you become. Just like I miss my own dad, I miss him too. I always think of him when June 15th rolls around and smile. He was one of a kind and will always hold a special place in my heart.

Happy Birthday John Dolan Harrington, you are very much missed.

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Tonight was one of the big milestones on life’s path – our oldest son graduated high school. Last night was the Senior Awards Ceremony and I am proud to say that TJ was the recipient of two scholarships and a bunch of academic commendations. He and his fellow classmates have a lot of talent and it was apparent at the awards ceremony, where there was much to celebrate over the course of the evening. As eloquently stated by our principal last night, the awards ceremony celebrated the students’ differences, their different achievements — be they in academics, community service, athletics or music. The graduation ceremony tonight celebrated their similarities – each and every one of the students tonight received the same diploma marking the conclusion of their high school careers and marking the same milestone on their life journey. They are a wonderful group of young men and young women that I have had the pleasure of watching grow in the years that I have known them. They have grown into amazing people that will do wonderful things in the years to come. I am very proud of TJ and his friends. They are amazing and I wish all good things to them.

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I think that the older they get the boys realize more and more how important they are to each other and how important their friends are to them. Tom and I have often told the boys as they were growing up that one of the best things to come out of our school and college years were the dear, dear friends that have shared many laughs and many tears in the years that followed college with us. Together, we have celebrated marriages, births, graduations and the growth of our children. We have cried together over the loss of family members, and other devastating life events. Good or bad, they were there for it all. Today, two of our very dear friends drove up with one of their daughters, our goddaughter, to be here for TJ’s graduation. It was a wonderful gesture and I know that they know how much it meant to both of us and for that I will be eternally grateful.

As the boys grow into their own lives and their own friendships, I hope that they are fortunate to find such dear, loving friends — friends that I have always liked to refer to as my “2 a.m. friends”. These are those friends that I know without any doubt whatsoever that I can call upon in the middle of the night  to ask a favor or talk to or cry  with or whatever and they will do it or be there without any question or any hesitation. These are the friends who were there when I miscarried and later when I was put on bedrest with TJ who brought me yummy muffins and smoothies and who believed in my ability to nurse when I wasn’t so sure myself;  the friends who did all kinds of amazing things for which I am eternally grateful for me and my family when my dad passed away suddenly; the friends who watched my boys when Tom and I came down with the flu at the same time and couldn’t move a muscle; the friends that would leave breakfast foods on my doorstep when we got here in the middle of the night or had dinner waiting when we arrived from New Jersey; the friends that come and spend the holidays with us and make me feel like we haven’t missed a beat in years; the friends that would drive 6 hours in total to be there for your son’s graduation because they know how much it means to you. These are the friends that I hope that my boys have the good fortune to have in their own lives.

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We are so fortunate to have such wonderful friends and such great sons. They have made me so proud that I think my heart will just burst at the seams. Tonight was an amazing ceremony and we are so proud of TJ and his fellow classmates and friends.

“I hope your dreams take you to the corners of your smiles, to the highest of your hopes, to the windows of your opportunities, and to the most special places your heart has ever known.” – Anonymous

I love you TJ and am so very, very proud of you today and always. ~ Mom 

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.

Yesterday was the day that drive-in theaters were first created in of all places — New Jersey. They were originally referred to as “park-in theaters” and the first one was created by a gentlemen by the name of Richard Hollingshead. He was a sales manager at his father’s auto parts store in Camden, New Jersey and an avid movie fan. After several attempts at trying to make movies and motor vehicles compatible, the young Hollingshead mounted a Kodak projector on the hood of his car, mounted a screen on a nearby tree and used a radio behind the screen for sound. His idea was patented in May 1933 and one month and $30,000 later, his idea became reality – the first drive in theater was created.

The drive-in theater was wildly popular in the 1950s and 1960s and waned in popularity thereafter. At one time, it is reported that there were over 5,000 drive-in theaters in the United States and now there are approximately 500 that still remain open.

I have very distinct memories of traveling to the Route 303 drive-in located just over the border in Rockland County when I was younger. On a warm summer evening, my brother, sister and I along with our parents would pile into the station wagon, the pre-cursor to today’s SUV or minivan and drive the 25 or so minutes to the drive-in. We would get to leave the house in our pajamas with our toys, blankets and pillows. There was always the stop at the deli in Northvale to get salads and cold cuts for sandwiches. I remember specifically that my parents would park right in front of the deli so that they could leave us in the car while they went inside to get the goodies. There was an incline and I being the worrywart that I was at my young age, would panic that the car was going to tip over. My sister would love to take advantage of this totally ridiculous fear and purposely sit on the “downhill” side of the car, bouncing around just enough to give my young self a near heart attack, fearing that our car would flip over and we would all die. In later years, driving by that same deli and the “hill” in front that I was so darn afraid of, made me laugh. It was not nearly as ominous as the imagination of a 9 or 10 year-old made it out to be and absolutely no danger of anything rolling down that hill, much less tipping over while parked on it.

After securing our goodies, there was the short trip to the actual theater. There, we would drive on up to the entrance and pay our fee to get in and then enter the seemingly “immense” parking area with its cool playground and refreshment stand. Sometimes, if we were good, during intermission, we were allowed to do both – play in the playground and also get a special treat from the refreshment stand.

Here are some pictures of that drive-in theater that was such a big part of my early memories.

Photo:www.newyorkdriveins.com

Photo:www.newyorkdriveins.com

 

 

 

 

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Sometimes, life takes you to strange places. Places that you never imagined in your wildest dreams that you would be going. For example, I was asked to speak more than once regarding the integration of children and adults in various community groups. Somehow, and I don’t really know how, I have become somewhat of an authority on this topic, a motivator of sorts. So, as I was walking out the door on Saturday morning, bright and early, to give my talk at a local church group, it hit me. Nowhere, in my wildest dreams, did the thought of me being any type of motivational speaker co-exist in the same sentence. Sometimes, people see you differently than you see yourself. In fact, sometimes, people see you as you could never see yourself.

I was asked to speak a few months ago about some ideas of how to bring younger people into a community group and get them more involved. I agreed to speak, mostly because it was a topic that I was somewhat comfortable with, I am the mother of three teenagers and my boys and their friends are pretty involved kids. They have jobs, they volunteer and they are involved quite a bit in what goes on around them. I taked from experience, from what I know and gave suggestions that I hoped fit into their particular situations.

I, however, do not consider myself any type of authority on this topic. Others evidently do, as evidenced by the responses that I received both times I’ve spoken.

Go figure, life can be strange.

 

Evilwife on the move

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