The Only Things I’m Certain About

I’m certain about death and taxes, love and life, rainbow sprinkles and mashed potatoes.

I’m certain about death and taxes, love and life, rainbow sprinkles and mashed potatoes, and that I was handmade and homemade and home-grown to be a mama, writer, photographer. And I’m certain I’m even-tempered, but only as even-tempered as someone who is HIGHLY sensitive to the changes and the shifts, the tastes and the smells, the FEELS… oh, the FEELS – like fingernails lightly down your back, or staring into space for five minutes after an evocative episode of This is Us.

Ok, they’re ALL evocative. For me, it’s the doctor character. And William. Sweet, sweet William.


I’m certain about legacies.

Sometimes I feel it coming – these changing tides – even while they’re still being born and unfolding, and I have to type fast before they implode. Or I have to race to a computer or phone before I explode. Today is a mix, like sun and clouds.

I’m certain about loss and grief, but not about the paths they take. I’m certain we have to rise up to move through paths and waves, and probably not as seamlessly as we’d like. Life’s greatest challenge. I once wrote a piece about grief that has since disappeared, but I think of it every now and then. Since I can’t get it back, I can rewrite it and give it to you right here and now. So let’s ride the waves together. FTSF Topic: “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes ..”

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I once wrote that grief is like “the princess is in another castle” theme from Nintendo’s Super Mario Bros. games.

grief

Just when you have confronted demons, fought valiantly, been sucked through warp zones, and fought on in endless pursuit of fireballs, feathers, mushrooms, and frog suits, you arrive at the castle level to fight the next big bad buy. And you do it, and you do it in style. You fight so hard and so well, only to be rewarded with a simple message printed across the screen.

Super Mario Brothers

So then you leave to enter a brand new world – full of brand new demons, and one brand new big bad guy at the end of the castle at the end of this world. You defeat the brand new bad guy, only to be greeted with the same disappointing message.

When does it end? Where is your reward? Where is your princess?

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Eventually in the game, you get to the real end, you defeat the final bad guy, and you get your princess. For keeps, this time. It doesn’t work that way in real life, although we certainly do have our rewards – like learning to unlock new layers and worlds within your own heart and mind. And finding yourself to be stronger and smarter than you ever thought possible.

The problem is that grief doesn’t have a set endpoint – there is no final big bad guy you can defeat, and then expect to never be challenged again. You will most likely continue to unlock new levels and worlds – through warp zones and not – collecting gold coins and stars, new weapons and new rewards, only to find yourself once again at the doors of a gated fortress.

It’s disorienting, isn’t it?

grief

My life has been full of such fortresses. After my father passed away suddenly from a heart attack when I was just about four-years-old, there was that first night without him. And then there were subsequent nights of resisting but having to let my sister and my mom out of my sight during day to day life. There were the weekdays that I waited for him to come home from work. There was the year following his death which I have mostly blacked out from memory. Therapy. A fear of loud noises.

A new home, a new dad and new siblings. A new school – the start of kindergarten.

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When I thought I was past a lot of my anxiety and grief, there were new challenges in young adulthood – going to college and falling in love. Moving several times. Becoming a mom to a girl who looked like me. And to a boy who reminded me of me.

A challenging time for me was being pregnant with Des – a baby due right around my father’s birthday. It wasn’t until Scarlet approached her fourth birthday that I began a new grieving process. My father had passed away three weeks before my fourth birthday, so I breathed a huge sigh of relief when that day passed, and we sailed through her fourth birthday party happily and whole. I then had a calmness I hadn’t thought possible, until a new trigger revealed itself – signing her up for kindergarten. I showed up on the first day of registration, as the first parent there, and my heart was pounding in my throat and my chest was constricting. How could I be back here – so far and so grown, but still shaking at the thoughts of change?

We defeated that bad guy, and now it’s Des’ turn for kindergarten.

Where is my next castle/challenge/bad guy? I don’t know what it will be and how it will hit me. I know I will probably live my life with challenges, but hopefully with gaining new skills, weapons and tools too. Moving through, as I also move on.

I’ll live my life fully and effectively, until I get the next message – “Great job, but your princess is still in another castle, and probably always will be.” And then I’ll stop, reassess my tool belt, add new weapons, and learn to move through.

This brand new world, until the next one comes along.

This week’s Finish the Sentence Friday topic is “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”

Come link up with your spin on the matter: HERE.

What are you certain about?

You Say Stop, I Say Go, Go, Go.

In case I never told you, Scarlet was born to “Hello, Goodbye” by The Beatles. (hence, the lyrics title)

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Des was born to “Touch of Grey” by the Grateful Dead. It’s one of my lifelong anthems. They played it during the encore of their last show ever (in theory) last night at Soldier Field. They played “Scarlet Begonias” (a Scarlet song) and “Fire on the Mountain” (a Des song because his middle name is Blaze) on Friday night. Last night they played “Cassidy” & “Touch of Grey”.


They played each of our songs.

I found myself feeling very moody and broody yesterday. I’ve talked a lot in the past about my Beyond Birth group of friends – the women I sat with weekly at our hospital postpartum group from when our babies were born until they were four-months-old. Since we’re talking about a range of four months here, we all dropped in and out of baby groups and hearts (although mostly in, where hearts are concerned) and then we made our own baby group, and then we made groups of groups. We paired off. Some of us went to work. Some moved away. Some weren’t very close anyway. Six years ago, nearly to the day, I joined the ranks of motherhood and I found myself so utterly lost and so utterly found within a group of local women.

friendship

So much has changed, and the tightness of the original grip loosened in some ways, and grew stronger in others. So much has changed for all. For me, my anxiety was manageable for 33 years, and then got a bit unmanageable and then got manageable again. I went through about 17 jobs, then a second pregnancy and birth, and then some more jobs – before settling a bit comfortably in my work now. There was finding playgroup friends and preschool friends and daycare friends and kindergarten friends. There was finding blogging friends. That’s big. That’s you, isn’t it? This is all rather big, just how I like it.

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I am forever intimidated and inspired by friendship. It’s the most fascinating relationship to me. You fall in love with your friends, but it’s not romantic love. (I think?) You choose to share your hearts and thoughts with people who aren’t your family, but they become your family. Like I said, fascinating and baffling. With staying power. It all rushes back, doesn’t it?

Yesterday, I found us all together again, but not necessarily for a happy reason. It’s because one of our own is moving to Austin, Texas. So I sat there at the party and I saw all my beautiful friends and I thought about Cassidy on his Chicago, Fare Thee Well adventure, and I thought about my friends on their Austin adventure. Then I wondered about my own adventure – who, what, where, when, how it will be. I felt overjoyed and destroyed at the passage of time and the connections we make.

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You don’t feel lost if you don’t feel love. They are partners in that way. And even if my friends never move back here, to this wonderful place, I know I will see them on the other side, and I know they’ll come back here for Thanksgiving someday. Soon.

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I’m so heart-crushed and so bewilderingly inspired that we could all find ourselves together again at this beautiful picnic, a little more battered than ever before, or a little more bolstered. Maybe in my case, it’s both. I love you guys.

These seems like the perfect introduction to participate in this week’s Tuesday Ten – Ten Things I Love About Where I Live. Of course, that could be a whole other post (or three) so I’ll simplify the beautifully complex as best as I can.

The Liebers

Ten Things I Love About Northampton.

1. Food. Organic and local – and however you want it. Gluten-free, vegan or macrobiotic? Sure thing, if that’s your bag. 17,000 homemade ice cream parlors within a ten mile radius? Yes. That’s my bag. If you turn left out of my driveway, you arrive in a thriving small city and you may or may not have to wait for your brunch, but it will be worth it. If you turn right out of my driveway, you find my favorite farm restaurant or even a sugar shack in the woods.

2. Folks. I’ve met some incredible friends. I could probably do that everywhere, but these are my people. Sarcastic and kind, or just kind. Most of us are politically on the same page, and we look out for each other too, especially during winter.

3. Fun. Well I had to go food, folks and fun there, didn’t I? Fun is.. everywhere. Mountain tops and forest parks. Mini zoos and mini golf. Six Flags and Yankee Candle – if big tourist attractions are your bag, baby. And they’re mine, sometimes. I’m an ambivert. I could go left or right out my driveway. I seek both adventure and solitude. There’s something for everyone!

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4. There are moose here. I have never seen one here, but there are moose here.

5. Downtown Northampton. That was Scarlet’s suggestion, but I love it too. The food, folks, and fun. The rainbow crosswalk.

6. Did I mention our town has its own Pride Parade? I’ve been to one in San Francisco and one in NYC. Ours holds up to those.

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7. October. Just October. And all of the many places I do photography jobs. This place is gorgeous.

8. The celebratory nature of Northampton. It’s a place of tourism, which feels so alive. People travel here from all over.

9. It wasn’t a terrible transition to move from San Francisco to Northampton. It was just about right.

10. It’s an incredible place to raise kids. It celebrates life, love, diversity, nature and rainbow cookies.

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**This post has been sponsored by LOVE, friendship, Northampton (although not formerly), and all of the places to love. I haven’t been compensated for this post, unless you count nearly six years of awesomeness, rainbows, cookies and friendship.