Not Much Time

Yesterday, I attended the Oberlin Choristers concert at the Breen Center in Cleveland.  My daughter has been a part of the organization for three years, two in the Touring Choir.  Last year, she got to go with them on tour to Ireland.  This summer we will go to Chicago, and there are great plans already in place for next summer (not sure I’m supposed to tell!).  I sit on the Board for this great group, and I volunteer as much of my time as I can — chaperoning, playing, consulting, etc.  The concert yesterday including Touring Choir, the most advanced treble choir, and Youth Chorale — the 4 part choir of high school students.

I got to see the kids fill different roles on stage.  My daughter played violin on one of the pieces.  One young lady played recorder on another piece, while two other kids played percussion on the combined choir piece.  Each choir has a small ensemble of its members that performed yesterday as well.  Every child on that stage did a beautiful job and brought many in the audience, including myself, to tears.

At one point in the concert, the director of Youth Chorale honored his seniors in the group.  This was their final concert as members of Choristers.  It was a bittersweet moment for him and for them.  One of the young ladies honored had been with Choristers for 12 years!  I watched as my friend Shelly, the Executive Director of Choristers and mom of three Choristers singers, cheered on her eldest child who is one of the seniors.  I could feel her pride and the small pang of sadness that comes from realizing one of your babies is leaving home.

I don’t have much time.  My girl begins high school in the fall.  I remember her first day in preschool at age two.  She walked in the door confidently, turned to me and said, “Bye, Mama.  I can do it by myself.”  I was a wreck!  Yes, she could do it by herself and that’s what scared the shit out of me.  She didn’t need me like she had as a baby.  Everyday since, she has needed me less and less — although even my girl needs some intensive mama-time occasionally.  Pretty soon, my baby girl will learn to drive, graduate high school, go to college…  The list goes on and on.  It all happens in the blink of an eye.

Whenever I see a new mom with a baby, I make sure to give only one piece of unsolicited advice — take pictures of everything, all the time!  I have an entire album of my girl sleeping as a baby.  I don’t regret a single shot.  I always have to get my hubby to take pics of the kids at every event, every milestone.  I don’t want to miss a thing because I know how precious and fleeting this time is.

I love the band The Cars, and I was happy that they released a new album last year.  On it there is a song called “Soon”.  It has a lot of very appropriate lyrics that apply so directly to my life, but one pops into my head right now: “Soon, the time will run away from us like time it will do.”  Yes.  The time runs away from us.  My 8 lb. 6 oz. baby girl is now 5 foot 8 — a good four inches taller than me!  She is smart, beautiful, and talented, and the sky is the limit for her.  I don’t have much time to enjoy her, or her little brother.  I hope I don’t waste a second of it.

Today, on my Boo Boo’s birthday, and just a few weeks away from my birthday and our 20th wedding anniversary, I want to take just a moment to say thank you to John for this beautiful life and these beautiful children.  Baby, we don’t have much time.  Let’s enjoy it together, with them and with each other.  I couldn’t have done any of this without you.

Hug your kids today, my friends.  I wish I could hug my brother Grant, but he’s been gone eleven years.  You never know what tomorrow brings.  Do it now.  Love them now.  Be here, right here — right now.  As hard as it is, that’s what I intend to do today.

Why Mama Cries

Dear Baby Girl and Little Man,

Mama loves you so much.  I remember the two days I gave birth with great joy and happiness.  You two are my greatest works of art, my greatest moments of collaboration with God.  How else could I have created such amazing people!  What blessings you are!

Yes, I love you and I marvel at how you grow and change every day.  You are both so big now that it is almost impossible to imagine that you both began your lives inside my body.  It is so wonderful to see you spreading your wings and going out into the world, to see you develop your talents and interests.  I am so proud of both of you.

So, you may ask, why does Mama cry?

I cry because I will have no more babies.  That time is finished for me.  I loved having the two of you and I had hoped for more babies, but it was not to be.  As you grow and become your own people, I know that you will eventually leave our house to make your own way in the world.  As I was for you in the very beginning, I hope you will always know that I am your home, your comfort, and your refuge.  I am so glad that both of you still love to cuddle up on the sofa with me, and I hope you will for a long time to come.

I cry because you are going through challenges in life and I can’t take away the pain you feel.  Every tear you cry in anguish rips my heart out.  I want to stop whatever it is that’s hurting you, and I know that I can’t.  I’m powerless to help you with so many things, things you must go through to become strong adults.  I want to tell you that things will not always be this way and that you are tough and will survive.  I can see in your eyes the disbelief and skepticism.  Trust me, my loves, I have been where you are and I have cried those same tears of pain and anguish.  Life changes, and with those changes come new challenges that will make these seem small in comparison.  I hope that you know, deep in your hearts, that I will love you and be here for you no matter what may come — no matter what mistakes you make, or failures you face.  Your friends may come and go, but Mama will never leave you.  Mama never, ever let you fall.

I cry because I’m proud of you.  I cry because you are both so beautiful, inside and out.  I cry when you achieve things you’ve worked hard for.  I cry for you, my Little Man, because I was told by doctors and specialists that you would never do so many things.  I never believed it.  They did not know you like I do.  I know the secret hearts of both of my children.  I know your bright lights and darkest corners.  I know your fears and your dreams.  I know you may feel like you will crumble under the weight of the world, but I know you are fighters — and champions!  Every day you step out into the world and give your best effort, you win.  The only way to lose is not to play.

I cry because I miss the little things you used to do.  I cry because I know the things you do now will pass.  I cry because sometimes I am overwhelmed by the beauty of what you are and the promise of what you’ll become.  I cry tears of joy and tears of pain, tears of sacrifice and tears of selfless giving, tears of understanding and tears of frustration — and I wouldn’t trade a tear for a life without you both.  No matter what challenges you’ve brought to my life, I cannot imagine life without you.  The two of you made your Daddy and me a family, and you made our house a home.  I would not be the woman I am today if I weren’t your Mama.

Ever since you first spoke that simple word, Baby Girl, Mama has been the most beautiful word in the world to me.  It is the sweetest music to my ears.  Being your Mama is the one thing in the world I’m most proud of.  I can fail at everything else, but I will have lived a meaningful life if I succeed at loving you and raising you the best way I can.  I have no greater gift or more important job.  Everything else is a bonus.

If you see me cry again, don’t ask why.  Just know that I love you more than life itself, and that I look forward to crying at your graduations, weddings, etc. — and I look forward to the day you have kids of your own and can truly understand why I cry.  Then we can cry together because we share the secret joys and sorrows of parenthood.  I can’t wait for that day, but don’t hurry.  There’s plenty of time for that.

My babies, I love you so much.  You are worth every tear.

All my love,

Mama

Letting Go

Ah, sweet surrender, the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do.  I’ve always thought of myself as a fighter — I’ve had to be.  Then, in the wake of some sweeping changes I’ve made in my life in the last three years, I had to come face to face with my limitations and give myself over to a higher power.  I had to tackle the third step.

Yeah, I’m a friend of Bill.  I’m glad to be.  It’s brought a peace and focus to my life that I hadn’t ever had before.  The rooms have been good for me and have helped me to shift my focus away from my pity party and on to more important things.  My husband and kids are far more important than anything else in the world. Now I can appreciate them so much more than I used to.  Life is simple, but not easy, and it’s good.

I’ve also had to learn to let go of some people in my life.  It’s not that I did a friendship spring cleaning and said, “Peace, out!” to anyone.  Not at all.  I simply had to acknowledge that I am powerless to change anyone other than myself.  I love my husband, but I cannot change him (don’t really want to…).  I love my kids, but they have their own unique personalities that are only peripherally influenced by their parents.  I love my parents, but they drive me bat shit crazy.  I have dear friends in my life, and I see some of them careening into miserable existences — and all I can do is watch.  What I can hope to do is to write my story, my truth, and maybe someone will read it and the light will go on.

I have a dear friend in NYC who is one of the first friends I had from the Program (I will not mention her name, but I hope she reads this).  I met her years before I went to my first meeting, but I cannot deny that her example was always there for me in the years that preceded it.  In my darkest moments of depression in the last 3 years, she’s been there with a kind word and encouragement that I could get to the other side safely.  She was willing to listen and willing to share her experience, strength, and hope with me.  She is my cheerleader and I am one of her biggest fans.  She is a huge example of how it is impossible to know how someone you meet will impact your life in the long run.  I thank God for the day we met.  Love you!

This is another scary admission for me.  My sobriety is a great gift to me and to my family and friends, but it is scary to talk about it so openly.  This is the bravest thing I’ve done, openly admitting that I have a problem and I’ve taken steps to tackle it.  I have a disease, but I am not my disease.  Through God’s grace, I am able to be a living example of what we can all be if we want — healthy, whole, and happy.  Yes, I am, for the most part, happy — for the first time in a long time.

I used to think I’d be happy when… (fill in the blank).  At forty I found myself with all the trappings of a “successful” life — a house, two cars, and a whole bunch of stuff I thought would do the trick of making me happy.  I was always living in the future, the “everything will be better when…”.  Ironically, that’s when I realized that I was the only common denominator in my misery.  There was no outside person making me unhappy.  I was making me unhappy.  I had a full set of designer baggage and I needed to unload it.  Rather than face myself, I turned to every quick fix I could think of, every available band aid for my gunshot wound.  It wasn’t until I looked up and saw my life was on fire that I made the decision to change me.  It’s been a long painful road, but I can see that it was the right one.  My life is my own now and now I can share it with those I love.  I no longer have to give myself away to find myself.  I’ve been here all along.

I can do things for me and not feel guilty.  I can give my family what they need and not resent them.  I can listen to other folks’ problems and not focus on my own all the time.  I may not be the most awesome person in the world, but I can be the most awesome me in the world.  All I had to do was give it all away  — the stress, the pain, the depression — and know that it would all be okay.  And it is okay today.  I am okay today.

I will put my head down to rest tonight (soon, I hope, to make up for the 2 1/2 hours of lousy sleep I got this morning!) knowing that I’ve done my best today.  Tomorrow, I’ll try again.  It may sound Pollyanna, but it works for me.  I just gotta be me!

Let it go.  Let it all go.  Give it away to the higher power you believe in.  God has held me in the palm of His hand for so long.  I know He will never abandon me, and I trust that I will get through anything with His help.  I’ve been to Hell and back, and I’m still alive.  As long as I get up in the morning, I have a shot at life.  I can’t be anything but grateful.

Peace and love, my friends.  I love you all.

Sleepless Sans Boo Boo

It’s 2:38 in the morning, and I have an alarm set for 6:30.  In fewer than 4 hours I have to drag my ass out of bed (not that I’ve gone yet…) and help get my kids on their way before I head off to my long day’s labor.  I am sleepy, but restless.  It is always in these wee small hours of the morning (ah, Sinatra — yeah, I like Frank Sinatra, and I HATE Elvis, so sue me!) that I think about why exactly I can’t sleep.

It may be because, as my mom LOVES to remind me, that I am pre-menopausal.  Joy.  I’m nearly 44 years old and I’m just finding myself in so many ways, and now I gotta deal with this shit?  Really?  I’m still crying at the idea that my childbearing years are behind me, and now I have to acknowledge that they are really behind me, like not even in the freakin’ rear view.  Dude…

More likely, I think, I can’t sleep because I’m alone.  My kids are upstairs and snoozing, but my bed is empty.  Hubby is away (again) and I have not enjoyed sleeping alone for many years (since the summer of 1986, but I digress).  I just can’t sleep without John.  He and I have shared a bed for over 20 years and I miss him.  I miss the weight of him, the smell of him, the warmth of him.  He is my teddy bear and I, like a child, feel lost without him.  He is, and has long been, my Boo Boo.

I have never written my man a love poem, though I have written plenty of them over the last 30 plus years.  I used to worry about that — that maybe I didn’t love him enough.  Now I realize that we are living our love story.  I don’t have to write it.  I have always written about love I long for and can’t have.  I live a real love, not a fairy tale.  There was no white knight (per se, ha ha!), no damsel in distress, and the story didn’t end with our wedding.  For the sake of our privacy I won’t go into the hairy details of our lives, but I will say that there have been troubles and that I have made mistakes.  By his own admission, John has too.  Neither of us is perfect, but together we are closer to perfection than either of us could ever be separately.  I don’t want to go all Jerry McGuire on you folks, but we do in many ways complete each other — not in a codependent and sick way at all, but rather in the way that two parts with rough edges knit together to become a whole.

I have never understood what he saw in me.  We are so radically different as people, and I am so far from anything John knew growing up in rural NH.  I am a girl who grew up in one of Philly’s toughest neighborhoods in the 70’s.  I saw more violence in a day than Law and Order showed in a season.  My family put the “funk” in dysfunctional, and I consider myself lucky to have loved them and survived them.  The most unconditional love I had in my life came from my grandmother.  John has come a close second to that.

John and I met in eighth grade — really.  We sat across from each other in homeroom.  I dated his best friend.  He finally bit the bullet and told me he loved me, right before his family left Philly for VT.  I dumped him for another guy two years later — on Valentine’s Day (yeah, go ahead and boo me — I deserve the hit on that one).  Then John and I, along with the other guy and John’s best friend all ended up at Oberlin together.  I always laughed about that and how it gave new meaning to “all roads lead to Oberlin”, a popular slogan on campus at the time.  I won’t say how many frogs I kissed before I realized John was prince charming.  No one needs to know all that about me, yet.  Give me time, though…

He asked me to marry him on November 4, 1988.  How do I remember?  First of all, it was my friend Heather’s 21st birthday.  Secondly, it was the date I voted in my first Presidential election.  George H.W. Bush won over Michael Dukakis that night.  To cheer me up, John proposed.  I thought he was kidding until I saw the look on his face.  He was deadly serious as only my man can be deadly serious.  I said yes…

… conditionally.

My only condition was that my grandmom give the okay.  My parents didn’t matter nearly as much as Grandma.  She needed to give the final approval on that one big relationship decision.  She loved him from the moment they met, especially when she saw him eat!  (That’s a big story for later.)  She loved John down to the ground and loved him for giving her two beautiful great grandchildren.  John carried her casket at her funeral, as he had for my granddaddy six years earlier.  His grief was as deep as my own.  The love they had was based on respect and appreciation — his because she had practically raised me, and hers because she saw how much he loved me.

I remember when the reality of impending fatherhood really sunk in for John.  It was the first time he heard Imani’s heartbeat.  He got this wonderfully sheepish look on his face as tears welled in his eyes, and he asked the midwife, “can I hear it again?”  It was only fitting that his hands were the first to touch our daughter as he delivered her — in the back seat of the car service on the way to the hospital (again, another story for another time…).  He was there again five years later holding me and keeping me strong through the birth of our Iain.  He has had his struggles over the last few years, as have I, but he is always here even when he’s gone.  He is Daddy.  He is hubby.  He is the head of our house (but I’m the neck, if you know what I mean…).  John is the man of this house, my equal partner in every way.  I love him so much.

You see, I don’t need to write him a love poem.  This is our story, at least part of it.  There is love in every word and every memory.  There is joy and sorrow, pain and forgiveness.  This is not some fairy tale.  This is life.  This is a 20 year life of two people entertwined by love.  No silly sonnet can outdo this.  This is the stuff life is made of — the stuff John Lennon says happens while you’re busy making other plans.

I miss you, Boo Boo.  Come home to your Baby Bear soon.  I love you.

In the Cold Light of Day…

… I have absolutely no regrets about what I wrote last night.  I thought I might, mostly because I was afraid to make such a strong statement.  Then again, anyone who really knows me, and is therefore my friend on FB, knows that such strong statements from me are not uncommon.  I only hope that I am learning to step back and think before I speak.  My beloved Granddaddy, of blessed memory, used to say about me, “You know Lisa.  If it comes up, it comes out.”  It took me years to figure out that those words were not necessarily meant as a compliment.

I have a short fuse and a sharp tongue.  Just ask my husband, who has seen more than his share of my blow ups and heard more than he wanted of my passionate rants.  I am trying, and sometimes failing, to wait a beat (or two, or three…) before I open my mouth.  My goal is to respond, not to react.  I want to be seen as someone with a reasoned opinion, not as some hot-headed and sassy black girl with an attitude.  I may be the latter, but that is not all I am — there is so much more.

I am overwhelmed by the positive feedback on my blog in general and about “Trouble Afoot” specifically.  I felt I took a big risk in writing all of that so openly, but I’m so glad I did.  I do get so tired of having to explain my existence and of hearing folks say dumb stuff around me because they “forgot” I was black.  Yeah, sure you did.  Uh huh…

Those who know me may also notice a distinct lack of something they know I use often — profanity.  Yes, I am a world-famous potty mouth for sure, but I am trying to clean up my act.  I’m not saying I won’t drop the f-bomb at some point in my writings, but I am trying to express myself more often without it.  Profanity in writing should be more of a seasoning than a whole meal.

I am at work now and have to get to teaching my young charges.  I may check in again, but I’ll be thinking of what to write next if I can’t get back to this today.

I am learning to live my life with no regrets — a la Phoebe Snow (one of my favorite tunes of hers — check it out!).  Last night, I laid down some heavy stuff.  Thanks for reading, identifying, and understanding.

Trouble Afoot

I will take a moment to weigh in here about the hot topic among African American students and alumni.  I don’t yet feel that I have enough info to sign the letter the alums have drafted, and I don’t want to do anything in haste — as I have been wont to do all my life.

Let me say this: as someone who lives in Oberlin as a “townie” and no longer as a student, I see things I was blind to when I was locked in my own world in the Oberlin Ivory Tower (my words, no one else’s).  Yes, there is racism here.  I say that from my personal experience and not just as something I have witnessed.  No one I know of has called me a nigger, either out loud or on the web, but there are assumptions that are made, comments that come up, and a whole host of little things that white people just never have to deal with.  I had a woman ask me, out of the blue, if I was Puerto Rican.  I understand why.  Because of my racially diverse and rich background, I don’t look like someone white folks think of as “black” — I don’t fit their image or stereotype of “blackness”.  Still, though I hope I handled the answer to the question with grace, I was pissed!  What white person do I know that has to endure a question like that?  Why are blacks constantly asked to explain themselves in ways that whites don’t even know are offensive?  Do I assume that all the white folks I know grew up in rich suburbs?  No.  Then why do they assume that I didn’t grow up in the ghetto (which I did, by the way) because I don’t look, act, speak, or otherwise carry myself like someone who came from the ghetto?

I am a black woman.  Both of my parents are black, though one of them had a white father.  I know who I am and where I came from.  I am not decended from kings and royalty in this country or in Europe, but I am not ashamed of anything in my heritage.  My hair, my facial features, my body, and my mind are shaped and formed by genetics — my character is shaped by the dents and scars that life has left on me.  I stand as one with my sisters and brothers of all colors who want to be heard for what they have to say, and not have their words invalidated, twisted, filtered, or dismissed.  My experience is the black experience, just as the experience of my brothers and sisters is the black experience.  We have a voice and it must be heard equal to all others.  We fight until it is.

Then, there are those who will say, “Aren’t you married to a white guy?”

Yes, I married a white man.  We have two children.  Our daughter is easily mistaken for a white girl — until she turns around and you see her very obviously African posterior.  Our son is my olive complexion and looks exactly like me.  I fell in love with a man, not a skin color.  Yes, there are things I have had to explain to him, just as there have been things he had to explain to me.  This tall, handsome white man is my lover, my friend, my rock, and my support.  He is my life partner and we have weathered many storms together.  The house and family we’ve built are strong because they’ve been tested and tried.  There is racism and bigotry in both our families (and we’ve experienced it within the last year — we’ve been married for 20 next month), and it could easily have driven a wedge between us.  Members of our families have tried to use our children to divide us, but we will not be divided.  My husband is not black, but he has never tried to make me “white”.  He has had to separate himself from members of his family who refused to accept me or our kids, and he has done so without hesitation.  He knew what he was choosing when he chose me, and he continues to make that choice happily.  He is not black, but I have never known a white person who loved and understood black people like my husband.  My husband is often more comfortable around my family than I am, and he has been accepted by the vast majority of them with open arms and without condition.  Our difference in skin color is not irrelevant, but is not the focus of everything we are and do.

So, how do I feel about the goings on here on the campus I love so much?  I’m not shocked, but I am sorely saddened.  The sign from Afrikan Heritage House that was defaced was one representing the 7th principle of Kwanzaa, Imani.  Imani means “faith” in Swahili, which is still spoken as a trade language in parts of east Africa.  Imani is also the name my husband and I gave to our first born, our beautiful daughter.  When I heard that that particular sign had been defaced, my heart was broken.  My faith in God was so strong, and my love for my African heritage was so strong, that I gave that name to my daughter — I felt as though her name had literally been dragged through the mud.  Defacing that sign was a cowardly act by someone who either understands what “Imani” means and doesn’t care, or by someone who is truly ignorant and just wants to lash out at what he/she is too small minded to understand.  To me, that and the phallic grafitti on the House’s artwork are the acts of a mind full of hate, prone to being influenced by stereotypes, and of someone who does not deserve a place on Oberlin’s campus.   If these are acts perpetrated by a student, that student needs to leave this campus and never be allowed back.  Obviously this person does not subscribe to the Oberlin ideals of tolerance and understanding, so why should Oberlin waste time trying to educate someone who doesn’t want its ideals and philosophies as their own?

As for the Oberlin mythology — yeah, I said it! — the African American alumni of Oberlin know that there has always been a discrepency between the public Oberlin legacy and the private Oberlin’s struggles with race.  I myself saw a tremendous example of racism on this campus while I was a student, though it was, admittedly, an attack by citizens of a neighboring town (so we were told).  I was likely one of the first people to see the banner, words painted crudely on a white sheet, that said, simply, “Niggers Go Home!”  It hung like a plague over the front porch of Wilder early in the morning the week before fall break in 1987.  I was tired from studying and lack of sleep, but I know I saw it and I still shudder to think of it.  Now, 25 years later, it is appalling to me that students on this campus actually feel comfortable using the word nigger to describe their classmates, their professors, and even the President of our country.  That these are college students anywhere makes it appalling.  That they are Oberlin students makes it a tragedy.

What good is our legacy in educating black students if we cannot protect them, if we cannot keep them safe on a campus that is their home too?  I don’t give a damn if every single black kid on this campus pays a full ride or has it paid for them by someone else, this campus is everyone’s — black, white, and every other color of the damn rainbow!  Every student on this campus has a right to feel safe here and to feel that they are judged only by their grades and conduct.  There should be no divide on a campus this small, yet I know that there has always been something dividing us (I’m especially thinking of how I was shunned because I was a Con student living with College students who thought I didn’t belong).

President Krislov is a remarkable person and I respect him a great deal.  I hope that he makes every effort to tackle this problem and to, perhaps, be the president of Oberlin who finally can bring all facets of this campus together.  I know that the president during my time here was not the man for that job (no names…), but I believe that Marvin could be.  That is not in any way a challenge, but rather my opinion only.

To my alumni brothers and sisters, I understand the impulse to shut your purses and not give money to Oberlin until there is a “resolution” to this problem.  As long as there is racism in our world, there will never be a complete resolution to this problem on campus — at least not one that will fully satisfy any of us.  I think we should work toward progress, rather than resolution.  I would encourage us all to look at the problem this way: we as a group need to put our money where our concerns are and give to the areas of the College that are ready and able to address the problem.  We should unite and give as one to a specific cause.  We could earmark the money for the Multicultural Resource Center, for the benefit of the African American Studies program, or to the 1835 Fund.  Right now, the College does not necessarily see us as a united constituency of alumni givers.  What an impact we could make if they did!  Pointing a single finger will do nothing, but putting together all those fingers into a fist can strike a mighty blow.  We must take a step back and organize ourselves so that we can have the maximum impact on this problem.  The letter is a good first step, but I believe we need to know more of the whole picture before we react out of our emotion.  I’m enraged at what’s going on, but I want to channel that rage into a wave of truth and justice that cannot be denied or ignored.  I believe we can do that long term and effect real change here at Oberlin.

I know several of the black students on this campus.  Some have been to my home just to unwind and eat real food, and also to hear my stories of life here 20-odd years ago.  In telling my story to them, I realize that much has changed and that much has not.  I want to be an instrument of positive change for the alma mater I love and have supported as an alumna for 22 years.  I want young black girls from Harlem, Bed Stuy, Detroit, DC, Baltimore, the Bronx, Atlanta, my native North Philly, and anywhere else to come here if they want and can — and have peace in knowing that I have helped smooth a way for them to have better than I had when I was here.  We may not all have the same cards, but we should all be playing with the same number of cards…

I don’t know what my next step will be, but I know there will be one.  There has to be.  I’m an Obie — and I can’t just sit here and watch this go on.  None of us should.

Second Stab

Oh, the pressure!  The first post is easy because you don’t think anyone is actually going to read it.  Now, I know at least three people did — admittedly, one was my husband…

Good morning, world!  I’m not facing my day strong or healthy today, but at least I’m awake.  Sometimes waking up is the best we can do for the day, and I’ve learned to thank God for that!  I have no idea how much longer I’ll be allowed to be around.  I hope to live to a ripe (overly ripe!) old age and to see my kids have grandchildren of their own.  Even though I am a devout Christian (more on that later, I think…), I am afraid to die.  I’ve learned to thank God for that too, since that fear has kept me from taking my own life in my periods of darkest depression.  I’m not sure what scares me, but I know that I’d like to put off that trip as long as I can.

Whoa, that was deep for this early in the day!  Let’s take it back to happy, shall we?

One of the comments I got on my first entry (thanks, Susanna!) is that I should put my entries into catagories.  I will certainly look to do that in the future, but that will require me to actually focus my entries on one topic rather than allow myself to go off on the stream of consciousness rants I’m prone to.  I don’t doubt that I can do it, though.  I have found over the years that I really can do anything I put my mind to, and that I really am my own worst enemy.  If I could just get Lisa out of Lisa’s way, life would be far easier.

One of the things that I know will eventually appear on this blog is a series of entries about my grandmother.  I lost Grandma on July 25, 2010.  I was alone with her when she passed peacefully away, and I am so deeply honored that she chose me for that last moment on earth.  Our relationship was the most important of my life, so chances are really good that I’ll have some stuff to say about it here over time.  For now, I’ll say this: it was a privilege for me to have my grandmother for 42 years.  No matter how much her loss may hurt me, those 42 years with her have given me far more than I’ve lost.  Gladys Louise Christine Berkley, may your memory be eternal!

Hmm… how to follow that…

Ooh, I need to figure out how to post pics on this thing!  The one that’s here is nice and all, but it ain’t me.  I need to personalize this blog since it was/is intended to be sort of a public diary situation.  When I chose the name “violamom2tellsall”, it wasn’t meant to imply that I’m going to give advice like Oprah or Dear Abby — far from it!  This is my means of being accountable, of telling on myself.  These are the writings of a regular person trying to figure out an extraordinary life.  I need to let it all out for myself.  If I entertain or help anyone in the process, that’s gravy!  My mental health is the goal here.  This is to keep me moving forward and doing the next right thing.

My life requires no research and no doctorate.  I am the sole expert on it.  It is, at times, alternately fascinating and boring, exciting and mundane, holy and profane.  It is extraordinary in that it is a constantly unfolding story of secrets, lies, and stuff that you don’t see or hear everyday; but, I’ve come to find out that my life, while extraordinary, is not unique.  I hope that some of those who read my stories will tell their own too.  We all need a witness, someone to stand and testify that we lived and that our life was not in vain.  I have witnessed the tiny, beautiful moments of several lives over the years: my husband’s, my siblings’, my kids’, my students’…  I’m blessed to have had many lives to touch and many lives touch mine.

Thank you for being my witnesses, and hopefully not my judges.  Part of this journey is also to help me move away from my judgemental natural toward one of forgiveness and compassion.  Tenth step work.

I need coffee and some music.  I’ll let you all know what I hear today.

Virgin Voyage!

Good evening!  This is my first attempt at blogging.  I’m not sure anyone will actually want to read what I write, but I wanted a place to put the detritus in my head — somewhere other than my trusty Facebook page.

I have been an Ohioan for 3 1/2 years now.  I’m slowly getting used to it, though I doubt that I will ever get over leaving the east coast.  I miss NYC terribly, but I know that coming to Ohio was the best move for my family.  My career is slowly making its way off the ground.  I’m teaching a lot and playing more and more the longer I’m here and the more folks I get to meet.  I will say this: folks in the music business here are really friendly and welcoming, which is not the experience I always had in New York.  The business in NYC is so tight and competitive.  Here, there is less to do and fewer opportunities for work, but folks are still always happy to see a new face.

Last night, I got to play a concert with Akron Symphony.  I had a lovely stand partner and the conductor was pretty good too.  It was a lovely experience (except for the late night drives back home to Oberlin from Akron!).  I hope that things will continue to pick up and that I can make more of a career/life for myself here.

At the beginning of our concert, we played Barber’s Adagio (commonly known as Adagio for Strings).  That piece never fails to move me.  There is a tremendous sense of longing, loneliness, pain, tenderness…  I understand it far better at (nearly) 44 than I did when I first heard it as a teenager.  Several of the pieces I’ve loved all my life hold an even more special meaning for me now that I’m older — and hopefully wiser!  Music has always been my outlet, my other language.  Music expressed for me the things I could not say and the pain I couldn’t share.  Music was my refuge and my strength.  It is still, but the stakes are somewhat higher now.

Today, in the car, I heard the last movement of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony.  The words moved me to tears right then and there, even though I’ve played the piece hundreds of times!  My German is non-existent, but I know that Schiller wrote some of the most wonderful imagery of brotherhood and divine love — “this kiss is for all the world”.  Maybe it’s hormones, or lack of sleep this week (“it must be the heat, or some rare disease — la la la — or too much to eat, or maybe it’s fleas!”), but I find that I am susceptible to crying at the beauty of everything around me, from birds in flight overhead, to the sight of my children’s beautiful faces.  I’m learning to be thankful for everything around me and to enjoy each moment.  I thank God that I learned to do that now, rather than at the end of my life when it is nearly too late.

There’s hope for this sentimental old cynic yet, I think.  I hope so anyway…

That’s enough for a first entry, I think.  I hope to write more every day, but I make no promises.  There’s so much to write about: food, music, marriage, motherhood, running, aging, friendship, addiction, fear, loss…  The list is so long!  With all that to choose from, I hope I can write things that are interesting, entertaining, funny, tragic, and generally good to read.  I hope I can make someone smile, or help someone in need.  I just want to write.  I’ve always just wanted to write.

Let the games begin!