Patience is a virtue. Who knew?

Looking back at my blog from January 1st 2012, I have to pat myself on the back a little.  As I put a batch of granola in the oven I realized I’ve been cooking and eating clean for over a year.  Sure, I’ve fallen off the wagon from time to time, but as I’m down 5 pounds from last year, I’m happy with myself.  My cholesterol has improved so much  my doc said I was one of the healthiest patients she has 🙂  Can’t beat that!  So, was 2012 all happy smiles and healthy recipes?  Hell no.

I was taught from a young age to be self-sufficient.  To not only take care of my own breakfast, but to take care of my emotions.  After many years and several failed relationships, the constant deluge of “No one else can make you happy, you need to make yourself happy!” began to sink it.  I began to take trowel to brick and build a wall that ensured I kept my happiness my own responsibility.  In my typical all-or-nothing fashion, I stopped having expectations from people.  Except for my children, who give me unending happiness, I never quite let anyone in. After all, why bother?  Why did I need to?  My husband and I have been married for 19 years and it’s been a good ride, a great 2 decades.  One of the reasons we’ve made it so far is that I’ve had low expectations and have never left it to him to make me happy.  I rearrange my own furniture, paint my own walls, go on my own vacations, and find my own pleasures in life.  I’ve always been content with this arrangement; heaven knows he has.  There are few emotional responsibilities to uphold.  I don’t ask him (or expect him) to shop with me, take me to dinner, snuggle on the couch or watch sappy movies.

But in my birthday blog I set out to figure out who I was.  I wondered “who is JULIE now that MOM is becoming more and more unnecessary?” Let’s stop right there.  Unnecessary? I think I underestimated my mom abilities.  Sure, the kids are getting to the point where they don’t need me quite as much, but they still can’t find the butter on the shelf behind the milk.  Still, I had few friends to fill my time now that that the kids were busy with their own lives.  The same doc that bragged about her healthy patient this year, told me I had to start letting people in. I needed to have friends or I’d crash. Quickly.

Again, that all-or-nothing trait came into effect and I tore down the wall all at once.  I put all my trust into my new friends and expected, very unfairly, for them to fill the hole that had been growing for so long. I gave up all responsibility for my own happiness and lost myself in this new world.  I gave over the wheel and expected them to drive my soul to joyville.  It was not only unfair to them, it was unrealistic.  It was a long, crazy summer and fall.  I laughed a lot.  I cried a lot.   I was on a constant swing of emotions and it was exhausting.  So I took a step back and returned to who I used to be. I stopped drinking. I stopped going out.  I picked up my trusty books and dove back into my cave.  But it was too late.  I’d fostered true friendships that wouldn’t allow me to curl up and be alone.  Emotions had been stirred and while the wave of chaos was now a slow ebbing ripple, there was no denying it was there.  I just needed to figure out a middle ground.

And that’s where I am today. After journaling hundreds of pages of gunk out of my soul, I’ve found that while no one else can make me happy, they can be there to share in the fun.  They can bring out the good in me, enhance my life, and keep me on track. While it would be nice to have someone else take the wheel for a while, I’d never be happy in the long drive that’s left.  It’s just not who I am.  I need to drive my own destiny. But, I really like having someone riding shotgun.  Besides, as Dean Winchester says, “Driver picks the music, shotgun shuts his cake hole.”

While I’m still cooking the same granola a year later, I’m certainly not the person I was last year, nor do I want to be. I’ve grown. I’m stronger, happier and more satisfied. I have amazing people in my life.  They make me laugh. They make me feel comfortable in my own skin and they don’t mind that I’m not perfect.  I’ve settled back into my comfy chair with a book and a cup of tea. Only now my book is on a Kindle, the tea is decaf, and I’m a lot more content in the life I lead. I’m older, wiser and learning a new virtue. Patience. Patience with life. Patience with weight loss. Patience with myself above all else.

The years will come and go and the only thing we can do is continue to grow. Continue to learn more about ourselves without sacrificing who we are.   When we stop growing we become stagnant and unhappy.  I was stagnant for a long time, but now I can feel myself growing into the woman I need to be.  I have two more tattoos, a new, short haircut and a sassy, yet classy attitude going into 2013.  Bring it. I’m ready.

It’s the end of the summer…

It’s the end of the summer, it’s the end of it all

Those days are gone, it’s over now, we’re moving on

It’s the end of the summer, but we’ll see it all again

~  End of Summer, Theory of a Dead Man


It’s been a while since I’ve written. Life seems to be traveling at warp speed and I never find the time to just sit and think. When I do, I’m generally lost in thoughts too complex to put on paper… or it’s 3am. But this weekend is the first in a long season of cold, crappy, home-bound days spent cooking, cleaning, and [hopefully] writing.

Usually I see the seasons as an opportunity to reinvent who I am. I dig deep, find a new section of my personality and drag it to the top. I toss aside anything that might be boring or stagnant and brush off the new and exciting aspects of my life, whatever that may be.  As summer comes to an end, so too does a part of me. But this year, while I’ve put away the shorts, tanks and flip-flops and pulled out bulky sweaters, boots and scarves,  I’m hesitant to pull out a new facet of my personality. It seems that for once, I like who I am.

It’s been a crazy summer of discovery, friendship and awakening. I traveled to New Orleans, Miami and Atlanta. I made new friends, strengthened bonds with old ones, and began the long process of giving my children the wings they ultimately need for their own growth. I met celebrities (yes, DJs are celebrities too), got tattoos, discovered new bands…but most importantly, I realized I’m capable of having friends again.  Cresting a mountain surrounded by familiar, smiling faces is absolutely better than hiking alone! Having a beer and sharing laughter with friends makes my soul happy. Allowing people into my life for the first time in years has made me stronger and weaker at the same time. The vulnerability that comes with letting others in is a tough concept to accept, but the outcome is certainly worth it.

Perhaps I’ll just put away the summer attire and leave the feelings, experiences and lessons right where they are. Instead of falling back on old habits and getting stuck in the same routines, maybe it’s time to build from what I’ve learned instead of creating a world where I’m in control. Maybe, just maybe, reinventing who I am every season isn’t what it takes to grow. Maybe, just maybe, it takes facing who I am and embracing it.  Sure, summer is over, but autumn has only begun…

Cabin meets Cottage

My mother-in-law calls our house “The Cabin.”  While it’s just a modified ranch, I suppose it’s as close as we can get.  The inside has tongue-and-groove pine ceilings, hardwood floors and earthy colors.  Deer heads and turkey fans line the walls while Budweiser mugs gather dust on high shelves.  Moose and deer antlers, found throughout the years, are placed artistically on a corner shelf, some large enough to touch the vaulted ceiling. My grandfather’s old fishing rod is displayed along with pictures of him in his youth.  Running on high, long shelves on opposite walls is my complete Yale collection of Shakespeare, sitting (mostly) idle.  Tins in the shape of Big Ben, a London phone booth and a London post box sit randomly among the kids’ art projects from years past.  Old world Santas, a Scottish bagpiper–my shelves have it all.  Even a picture of the bard himself.   Just like my marriage, I’d say my home is more like a mellowed blend of Hunting Cabin and English Cottage.

And it doesn’t end at the door. Sitting on the deck, I’m surrounded by culture.  Thai Basil, German Thyme, Italian Parsley and what promises to be a  beautiful eggplant.  Cherry tomatoes are ripening on the vine as bee balm dries (reluctantly) on the clothes line.  If I look off to my left past the small, Mexican pottery chimenea, I can see a plethora of green spilling over the edge of the raised beds and mixing with tall daisies; bright yellow squash blossoms bursting towards the sun and promising an abundant harvest.  The view to my right is blocked by a large, stainless steel grill.   Even as it sits idle, I can almost feel heat coming off it.

But it’s all good.  The mix of his and mine mingle together throughout our lives to make the perfect melody.  Our children, prime examples of our mixed personalities, are (of course!) the ideal mix of us.  They hunt and fish yet they study other languages, watch foreign films and even enjoy the theatre.  (Well, Bethany does anyway)  We’ve traveled to Ireland and can’t wait to return; the quintessential travel vacation for our family!  Next?  Tuscany or the countryside of France.  If money were no issue of course.

In this life you don’t always get what you want, but if you try real hard, sometimes, you get what you need.  I may not have the ivy-covered cottage in the Cotswolds of England and my husband may not have that log cabin stuck out in the middle of the woods, but what we do have is the simple mix of a loving family in a modest house.  And that’s good enough for me.

A Plastic Buddha on a Spring

On a road trip to Sugarloaf Mountain to see family on Saturday my car broke down on the side of the road.  3 hours from home and 2 hours from our destination, my children and I sat in the car and waited to be towed.  4 hours later we were rescued and then I borrowed my mother’s car to complete our trip.  The next morning we turned around and drove the 5 hours back home.  It was a beautiful weekend in the mountains. We spent it in a car.

It was a good thing we broke down where we did; another 5 miles and we wouldn’t have had cell service.  I would have had to take all the kids (Dakota had a friend with him too) back down the road in search of service.  But we were able to call for help.  While it was hot, there was a cool breeze coming through the windows of the car and we talked and laughed and made the most of a bad situation.  I truly love my children and their ability to adapt!


While I could complain heavily about the wasted weekend, the lost money (that I don’t have) and the forecast of shelling out $1500 for a new engine, the only thing that really sticks in my mind is the plastic Buddha on a spring that my daughter found in our condo.  After a LONG, tough day, there he was, bouncing, smiling, bringing a calming presence into my life!   I have no idea how he got there.  Bethany opened up the closet to put our stuff away and excitedly brought him to me, knowing it would make me feel better.  And he did! That serene, gentle face reminding me that everything happens for a reason.  Be grateful and see the lesson.  He was propped on the nightstand watching over me as I slept, keeping my thoughts on the positive and not the negative.


It’s not always easy looking on the bright side of life, despite Monty Python’s signature song.  But this time I found out a lot about myself and my ability to deal with adversity.  There was a time I would have complained, cried “why me!” and had a good cry.  There was a time when I would have thought the world was against me and I was the victim yet again.  This time something was different. Call it age or call it wisdom but I was just thankful it wasn’t worse.  Thankful I had someone to call.    Thankful that I wasn’t cold and snowing and miserable out. Thankful I had such awesome kids to spend the time with (and that they weren’t tiny and a handful!). Thankful I had a boss that let me borrow a company car.  Don’t get me wrong, I sputtered, I swore a few times and I may even have hit the steering wheel a time or two but then I shrugged and let it go. It reminded me that some things may be out of my hands, but how I react is always my choice!


Do what you love. Love what you do.

As the Life is Good people say, Do what you love. Love what you do.  I can’t tell you how many times that saying has grounded me and made me adjust my goals.   Being happy and content (to me) is the most fundamental piece of the puzzle of life.   But we can really only find out what makes us truly happy by taking it step by simple step. Let the journey take you where you are meant to go.

We’ve all heard stories of “Divine Intervention”, fate and miracles.   Someone stops to tie their shoe just as a piece of metal flies over them, right where their head would have been.  Someone takes a different route or has to go back to get something and misses a horrible accident.  They can’t get a seat and are saved from an airplane crash.  There are thousands of these stories.

Each day we make choices that dictate how we react in situations.  As I stopped to let a cat cross the road (as they always do on our road), I thought “what if stopping for that cat saved me from an accident?”  Random? Yes, because that’s who I am.  I love animals and I love to see the kittens and cats that breed like wildfire on the corner of our road.  They are adorable! It makes me slow down every time I go around the sharp corner, and more than once it has saved me from being hit head-on by a neighbor going around in my lane.    It wouldn’t really be fate that made me stop but my love of cats.  But, the question can be…did fate guide my choices leading up to that life-saving moment?

Looking back, I can see the natural progression that has brought me to where I am.  A class in Shakespeare sends me spiraling into 6 years of college.  A class in winter ecology (to fill a science credit) brings me to my back yard and hiking.  A seat on the historical society, coupled with that new-found interest in ecology, brings me to pursue a Master of Education in Heritage Studies.  That pursuit brings me into contact with Questing (historical treasure hunts in local areas) where I create my own quest.  I hike more. I write more.  I become more in touch with my surroundings, with the woods, with my body.  I take up yoga. I become peaceful and grounded. I take better care of my body. I start to trail run… you get the picture.  One simple step leads to a whole world waiting.   Doors open, dreams are created, desires realized and most of all, your actions and reactions change.

When I get frustrated with my weight loss (or lack of it) despite all I do, I have to remind myself there is more happening than what I can see.  Muscles are building, repairing, building some more.  My lungs are gaining capacity, my heart beats stronger, my mind is more focused.  I’m less stressed, I sleep better at night and I feel a touch more confident.  While I don’t always see it, each day is a step towards something; a mountain, a race, a longer life.  Perhaps, just perhaps, this is part of my journey that will someday change my life.  Maybe my future doesn’t lie in historical fiction but in nature writing. Maybe I’m the next Annie Dillard 🙂  Maybe my future doesn’t lie in writing at all but in teaching others how to love the outdoors.  Maybe I’m gathering the knowledge and experience to be a guide someday.  Maybe what I write will someday change a person’s life.    Who am I to know?  Does it matter?

Lessons from Shrek

“Inside each of us is a core of essential goodness and purity.  Wrapped around this core–this Buddha within–are layers of conditioned responses, attitudes, patterns, habits, and obscuring behaviors.  Some of these layers reflect the goodness of our basic Buddha-nature; others do not.  To fully awaken and reveal the Buddha within, we have to honestly recognize, acknowledge, and deal with the ingrained problematic conditioning that we all have.  We must have the inner strength and fortitude to honestly face these parts of ourselves.” Awakening the Buddhist Heart~ Lama Surya Das

Just like Shrek, everyone is made up of layers.  Deep within us lies our true nature, our Buddha heart.  Surrounding this core areSamskaras, a Sanskrit word which literally means tendencies or inclinations.  It can also mean impulses or the choices you make due to karma imprinting.  These samskaras are the layers that make up our being.  How we react to things (likes and dislikes) and more importantly, why.  You can think of them as the proverbial buttons everyone knows how to push.

The Tibetans put the samskaras into eight categories they call either the Eight Worldly Winds or the Eight Traps.

  • Pleasure and Pain
  • Loss and Gain
  • Praise and Blame
  • Fame and Shame

Every person has these eight buttons and when one is pushed we respond based upon our conditioned responses.  When you allow these responses to rule your life, we fail to find the “joyous freedom” and “spontaneous expression in the present moment.” You are slave to your responses.

By examining why you react in such a way, you are released from the conditioning and you are able to have peace.  For example, my biggest problem is how I deal with situations at work.   When a co-worker is demanding or demeaning, I immediately tense up and become defensive.  But when I stop and think about my reaction, I’m able to change my thoughts and response, giving me freedom.  Only when I become aware of my response and make a conscious effort to change it do I feel better, leading to  a (bit) less stressful existence.  Unfortunately, a lot of the times I react first, stop second.  By then it’s too late.  My blood pressure is sky high, I’ve spouted off in anger and I’m left frustrated and angry.  It takes a constant vigilance and awareness to stop letting the little things turn into big issues.  When I am fully present and paying attention to my reactions I am able to make the response that comes closer to my Buddha core.  I am able to strip away those layers of conditioned response and be the person I truly wish to be.  It takes practice. It takes patience but most of all, it takes awareness.

“It’s never too late to be what you might have been.” ~ George Eliot

If you live in the present and are aware of your responses to each button when it’s pushed, you are given the ability to just be. You, and only you, have the ability to control your reaction to certain situations. Strip away (become aware) why you are upset, angry, fearful, ashamed, etc. and give yourself the freedom to respond differently.  As you peal away the “layers” of conditioned response, you get closer to your Buddha core and are able to live a more spontaneous, blissful life.

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

~–Reinhold Niebuhr



Hey! It’s you again!

It could be a meeting on the street, or at a party or a lecture, or just a simple, banal introduction, then suddenly there is  the flash of recognition and the embers of kinship glow.  There is an awakening between you, a sense of ancient knowing.  Love opens the door of ancient recognition.  You enter.  You come home to each other at last. As Euripides said, “Two friends, one soul.”   ~ John O’Donohue, “Anam Cara”

I’ve  believed in reincarnation since I was a small girl and am always drawn to karma and the concept of deja vu.  Father John O’Donohue’s book, Anam Cara has long been a favorite of mine.  Father O’Donohue explains Anam Cara, or soul friends, and how we are meant to meet certain souls in our lives.  He practices Celtic Christianity, a rich blend of Celtic traditions and early, pure Christianity untouched by Rome. While he considers Anam Cara pieces of the same primal clay, I prefer the Tibetan Buddhist belief that we meet the same people over and over each lifetime.  No matter their origin,  Anam Cara help you grow along your path in life, offering just what you need.  Acceptance. Love. Humor. Challenge. They can be a role model, a confidant, a teacher, a friend.  Each person/soul brings you something special to complete your journey through this lifetime.

ONE person (your soul mate) is not enough to make you whole. Not in the true sense of the word.  As you find each special person  you are pieced together like a puzzle.  You know it when you meet them:  the one you instantly click with, the one  you never forgot, the one you can’t imagine your life without, the one that comes in and out of your life  yet you can pick up right where you left off, finishing each other’s sentences or thoughts.  Despite the passing years, despite the growth you’ve both experienced, your relationship is natural, not forced or fake.   These people are real and so are the connections.

I’ve often consider myself a loner and wondered if I’d be friendless and alone someday.  But I’m not a loner.   I’m blessed with such great friendships, true, deep friendships that are so rich!  I’m very happy having lunch or dinner with one of the few, true friends I cherish. Much like a good piece of chocolate,  it’s all about quality over quantity and I’d much rather have a handful of amazing people in my life than a room full of acquaintances.  The people in my life are true friends; people I feel comfortable with, feel at peace with.  We can actually  spend time NOT talking.  We can sip a glass of wine (or beer, or tea) and just enjoy the silence and the beauty of life.  There is something to be said for what’s never said.

Think about the people in your life and those friends you keep close.  What does each one bring to your life or, more importantly, what do you bring to theirs?  Remember, you are in their life for a reason too!

Word of the day…REDEMPTION

REDEMPTION: salvation, rescue, liberation, deliverance, release.

(No, this isn’t about saving your soul or making amends…it’s about returning cans)

I know I go on about this all the time, but the simplest of things can trigger the best of memories.  Smell, sound, action…I ran into it all this weekend.  As we were heading home from vacation, I finally convinced my husband to stop at the redemption center and cash in the garbage bag of beer cans he’d accumulated.  It was a feat let me tell you.  It was as if returning the empties would take something away from the act of drinking the beer in the first place.  In reality, I think it’s just a new concept to NH people. 

            Not for me.  I grew up in Maine and it was old hat.  Besides, it helped buy gas for my Chevette or beer for the weekend.  So, I grabbed the bag of cans, strolled around the side of the BEVERAGE AND REDEMPTION CENTER and pushed open the door.  Wow…The smell of stale beer, the clink of empty bottles being tossed from bag to box, the crunch of cans being artfully counted and sorted in one foul swoop.  Ah…redemption.  Suddenly, I was 17 years old back in Lewiston, half expecting that handsome, cocky boyfriend of mine to be there: feet on desk, smile on face, cigarette hanging out of the corner of his mouth.  I tried very hard not to smile as the pudgy teen in front of me counted out my $3.85 worth of Bud Light cans and handed me a voucher.  It lasted a total of perhaps two minutes, but for the rest of the day I was cast back 26 years. 

            What an odd name to give to the act: redemption.  The same name we give to saving our soul is given to the return of bottles and cans for cash.  I’m not sure how it’s rescue or salvation, but it was deliverance for me that day.  A bit of a liberation from the ho-hum of daily life with a dive back to my past.  One memory plays off another and soon I’m wondering where in the hell time went and when did I stop being a kid? When did I become this 40-something mom getting all misty-eyed over returning empty beer cans?  Did I appreciate life then?  I know I wanted to be older, wiser & liberated.  Yet, my salvation comes from slipping back into memory more often than I should.  I have never once considered myself one of those people who dread getting ‘old’, but right now I do.  I wonder if it’s behind me now; if the best has come and gone and the only thing left to look forward to is being older, wiser and liberated.   

            The redemption center in Lewiston is gone, torn down and replaced by a parking lot.  A new one took its place further up the road in a nicer building with easier access.  It doesn’t matter.  To me it’s still there, still busy, noisy, smelling of stale beer.  To me it’s still 1984 and I’m anxious to embark on the whirl-wind journey of growing up with my whole life in front of me!  I just wish I could just travel back and tell myself to stop! enjoy what surrounds me, and stop wishing it all away.  All too soon it will be gone and I’ll be sitting here, wondering what in the hell happened.

On Shoulders of Giants

I dreamt last night of a place where boys played;

A house made of memories my ancestors made.

Rooms of knowledge, etchings of names

On walls, staircases and window frames.

Books were written about their lives,

Each one had a chapter, even their wives.

As I wandered through rooms looking for more,

I awoke with the knowledge of what is in store.

No easy task this path will be,

No rooms full of answers are waiting for me.

Instead there are stairways, twisting and old,

There’s a wealth of life wanting to be told.

It’s all here in this house of my soul;

And when I’m worthy it will open and I’ll become whole

With the knowledge of giants on whose shoulders I walk,

As their memories speak- I will listen when they talk.

I wrote this poem several years ago and have always loved the title…hence the title of my blog.  (I’m not the best at poetry…)

First Kiss…

Sitting down to a mockingly empty sheet, I’ve spent all morning trying to describe what my characters are going through as they lock eyes, ready for the ultimate moment…that first kiss. But it’s hard to write about a first kiss when it’s be sooooo damn long since you’ve had one! And we’re talking the first kiss with someone you really, really, really like—not just your first kiss. Specifically, that one kiss when you’re a teen that blows your socks off!

I remember it… how can you forget? I just find it really hard to write about! What a time of seemingly infinite bliss! The whole world is ahead of you and nothing matters except that person you’re with right then and there. Life hasn’t knocked you down and tramped your heart yet. You’re optimistic! You’re sure you’re in love! You can’t believe life can be THIS good!

Of course, it rarely IS that good ever again but it’s the ideal we strive for, the archetype that holds all other kisses in judgment. How do you put all of that into words?

Perhaps the fact that it was fleeting…that it didn’t last years and years is what makes it so amazing still. Perhaps so many unknowns bouncing around make it stand out after all these years. Oh, what could have been! It wasn’t played out long enough, leaving the rest to imagination…and fodder for novels!