The Sounds of Love Return

In exactly ONE WEEK I will have my B back under our roof for the first time since starting college.  It’s only been 90 days, but it feels like a lifetime.  I’ve had the joy of visiting him during Parent’s Weekend, the gift of talking to him every Monday and the freedom to text with him whenever my hearts desire (although I haven’t abused that privilege)!  But none of that replaces the feeling of having your cub back in the cave.  I’m SO looking forward to the simple things, the ordinary things, the everyday things that I’ve missed these past 3 months.

As I was living through his senior year in high school, anticipating what it would be like to not have him in my day to day life,  I wrote this post about noticing and loving all the noises he makes, The Sounds of Love as I called them.  In exactly ONE WEEK – those sounds of love return!

Over the Thanksgiving holiday, as you spend quality time with the people in your life – pause to notice the simple, ordinary things that make your family and friends distinctly who they are.

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After our first yellow lab Jake passed away, the loss was undeniable.  I knew I’d miss the feel of his warm tongue licking my feet, his soft fur as I ran my hands the length of his back, and the weight of his body propped against me as we cuddled.  What I was not prepared for though, was missing his sounds.  The intense panting after a good hard play.  His nails as they clicked across the wood floor.  The non stop lapping of water to complete his meal.  The thud of his 85 lb body finally collapsing onto the floor after walking in circles searching for the perfect spot to rest.  The clinking of metal as he licked the food crusted silverware propped in the dishwasher.

 

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Those noises were distinctly his.  After his passing, the house was quiet and I desperately missed his noises.  They were the sounds of love.

School was closed on Monday in honor of Veteran’s day.  Although Ben, my senior, typically studies in his room, I casually asked him if he wanted to join me in the kitchen to do homework while I wrote.  Without hesitation, he said “Sure!”, headed upstairs to grab his books and promptly joined me at the kitchen table.

So there I sat, attempting to write, but instead I was distracted by my 17 year old man-child as I like to call him, sitting just ten feet away from me.  There wasn’t anything in particular he was doing to distract me.  Simply by being there with me, even though he could have chosen any number of other places to spend his morning, was distracting in and of itself.  The harsh reality hit me that this time next year, this scenario would not be an option.

My fingers were propped on the key board, my brain willing them to start writing.  But all I could do was breathe and be present, drinking in every ounce of that moment in an attempt to hold onto it, to stop time.

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Suddenly the sound of gum cracking and bubble popping startled me from my Hallmark moment.  I chuckled inside thinking about how his brain was able to command him to solve calculus problems and manipulate large quantities of bubblegum all at the same time.  Like a flash from the past, it hit me that his gum chewing is just one of countless sounds that are distinctly his, and I’m instantly transported back to the days following the passing of our yellow lab Jake.

This time I will be better prepared, making sure to notice and appreciate all of Ben’s sounds before he goes off to college, and they become a distant memory.

When I think of Ben, what I hear is….

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Beard scratching – It doesn’t take but a day or two for Ben to transform from my man-child to my mountain man-child, complete with a scruffy beard.  Given that it’s day eleven of “No-Shave November”, his cheeks are a jungle, and apparently it’s quite itchy, because I can hear him feverishly scratching his face from across the table.

Insanely rapid texting – Ben is by far the fastest texter I’ve ever met.  It’s visually compelling to witness the speed of his fingers moving across the tiny keyboard, but even more startling to hear the pace at which he can knock out a 2-thumbed conversation.

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Heard of Elephants – Ben has an unmistakable sound to his walk, which is only enhanced when he travels up or down our staircase.  Sometimes it’s gazelle like as he prances up or down the stairs.  This morning, however, it was more like a heard of elephants stampeding as he took them by two’s.

Music, music everywhere – Wherever Ben is, there is music.  His playlist constantly blasts through his iPhone, MacBook or car stereo.  The only time I find him music-less is when he is reading or sleeping.  Yes, he’s even rocking out to tunes while doing homework.

Bad Karaoke – If you haven’t had the pleasure of hearing Ben sing, be thankful.  The poor guy was born tone deaf and can’t carry a note to save his life.  As much as it hurts my ears at times, I embrace his bad karaoke, because he’s never let his inability to sing on key stop him from belting out his favorite songs with passion.

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Toe tapping, hand rapping, pencil slapping – This should come as no surprise, given Ben’s propensity towards music.  When he’s not singing, he’s rhythmically keeping beat to his music.  They say music and math go well together, which is probably why he’s able to drum to Coldplay while solving calculus problems (and scratching his beard, chewing gum and texting!)

Soothing deep voice – I wouldn’t call it a radio voice, but he has such a deep, soothing tone when he speaks.  My two favorite things to hear him say are “Hey Mom” and “I love you”, because they make me feel special.  How lucky am I that I get to hear those words every day?

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Those are just a few of the sounds that are recognizably Ben.  For me, they are the sounds of love…..

with Joy, Gratitude & Love

50 Ways to Celebrate 50 Years

I love celebrating birthdays….OTHER people’s birthdays!

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I have this strange  love – hate relationship with acknowledgment.  Sure, it feels good when a friend remembers or offers to celebrate with me, but at the same time, I do NOT like being the center of attention.  Bottom line, I’d rather celebrate someone else’s birthday than my own!

But here I sit, EXACTLY 365 days away from turning 50 – and I’m realizing it’s kind of a big deal.

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Don’t get me wrong!  It’s not that I’m all of sudden seeking or wanting birthday attention.  It’s just that I can’t stop dwelling on this concept of turning 50 YEARS OLD.

It’s technically not the half way point of one’s life (unless they live to be 100), but it IS one half of a century, and that’s a big number to wrap my brain around.

When I was younger, and turning 50 felt a LONG way away – I had a preconceived notion of what that would look like – frumpy, frazzled, middle aged woman, dressed in a stained apron, baking cookies.  Kind of 1950’s – I know!

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Regardless of the picture in my head, my prior belief was that turning 50 was the beginning of the end, the prime had passed and it was all downhill from there!

The good news is…..NONE OF THAT CRAP IS TRUE!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Here I am, in the best mental and physical shape of my life!  I don’t for a second view this impending birthday as an ending, but rather a beginning.  I feel a sense of freedom that I’ve never had before.  It’s not freedom based on the age of my children, our financial status or having paid my life dues.  It’s an internal freedom – a freedom to do and go and be ME  – authentically!  A freedom to LIVE LIFE without inhibition.

Why the heck am I writing about this today, when I have a whole year before I turn 50?

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Because I’ve decided to not wait until October 27, 2015, my 50th birthday, to celebrate being 50!

If you think about it – TODAY is the first day of my 50th year.  So I’ve declared this a BIRTHDAY YEAR – as such, I will celebrate throughout the entire year!

That’s a little daunting, to say the least.  But also somewhat exciting, with a bit of liberating mixed in.

Looking at the scope of my whole life, it feels kind of like an intermission; a rest period, a break from the action, time to stand up and stretch before hunkering back down for the rest of the show.

Or as my BFF and favorite Aunt Barb called it – my halftime show!  I won’t be hiring a marching band, pom pom girls or baton twirlers – but that doesn’t mean I can’t fill this year with some HOOPLA of my own!

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50 WAYS TO CELEBRATE 50 YEARS

  1. Buy fresh flowers
  2. Go dancing – with my husband
  3. Go dancing with my girlfriends – because that’s a whole different experience than #2!
  4. Drive somewhere I’ve never been, using an old fashion road map to get there (NO GPS!)
  5. Stay in my pj’s and watch 3 movies in a row
  6. Spend the night at a bed & breakfast
  7. Open up my memory box – and read every card and diary entry from my childhood
  8. Have (or go to) a Sip & Paint party
  9. Get a facial
  10. Keep a journal / scrap book documenting my celebration this year
  11. Visit a vineyard to experience real wine tasting
  12. Go to the theater to see a play
  13. Dig my flute out of the junk closet and PLAY it again (maybe take lessons?)
  14. Plan a girl’s ski weekend
  15. Make a photo wall – blow up and frame my favorite pictures from the past 50 years
  16. See a ballet
  17. Get tickets to a concert (U2, Bruno Mars, Maroon 5)
  18. Experiment wearing new lipstick colors
  19. Go on a weekend bike trip (New England, Colorado?)
  20. Make chocolate fondue
  21. Travel back home to Connecticut for a walk down memory lane
  22. Buy a convertible sports car – a girl can dream, right?
  23. Take a surfing lesson
  24. Go to the park – and swing
  25. See a live comedian perform
  26. Prepare my childhood favorite dish – Chicken Divan – and don’t attempt to make it Paleo
  27. Grow a vegetable garden – this could fall under the “a girl can dream, right?” category too!
  28. Write a letter to my grandparents – recalling memories I had of them growing up, things that have stuck with me and traditions I have passed onto my children
  29. Drink an expensive (relative to my norm) bottle of wine
  30. Get a tattoo!
  31. Visit an art museum (in Norfolk….or New York?) with Peter
  32. Return to Burlington, VT to reminisce on my college years
  33. Watch the sun rise at the beach

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Clearly my celebration list is a work in progress.  Celebrating me and my life is not something I do naturally.  This will surely be an interesting year as I dabble in and practice this thing called CELEBRATION.  Since today is the first day of my 50th year – I better go get this party started!

with Gratitude, Joy & Love,

My New Normal

I don’t know what I thought life after taking Ben to college would be like…

I don’t know that I had a plan for how to deal with my roller coaster of emotions…

I don’t know that I was prepared to actually live through this transition, this time of uncertainty, this new normal…

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The 24 hours leading up to moving him into his dorm were a whirlwind.  I was so busy I didn’t have time to feel.  Looking back, I think I was numb or that I had somehow compartmentalized and shut down my personal emotions, and instead focused on everything and anything that Ben needed.

I was holding onto my last few opportunities of this chapter to really play the role of Mom – the planner, organizer, scheduler – the one that could make it happen, fix it, get it done.  But I also found myself doing so with reservation, as though I had one arm tied behind my back.  I was that Mom figure, with permission and by request….instead of the one taking charge.

It was all good, until the moment when I had to actually say Good-bye….

That was like having my heart ripped out of my chest.  I kept it together, in the sense that I didn’t crumble to the floor in the fetal position.  But I cried.  In that very moment, all I wanted was to show Ben my joy, confidence, pride and belief in him.  But instead I cried.  As the tears rolled down my cheeks, he wrapped his arms around me and loved me anyway.

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Boarding the plane less than 24 hours later was even harder.  On the outside, I looked normal, except for the tears spilling over my eyelids and dripping down my face.  But on the inside, I was screaming, having my own personal tantrum.  All I wanted to do was drop my bags and literally run, as fast as I could, out of that airport.  Just run….

Boarding the plane was the final reality check that I was in fact leaving my baby all by himself, thousands of miles away from home, from the life he knew…..from the life I knew!  Boarding the plane snapped me out of any last bit of denial I had been hanging onto.

The first week back home was fuzzy at best.  I was in survival mode, living on auto-pilot.  But the days are getting easier.  Even as I write this (then delete it, then type it again) I wonder what easier means.

What I should really say is that I’m crying less often.  But honestly – that worries me.  I’m afraid of the day that I don’t cry.  I’m afraid of what that will mean.  I’m afraid it will signify that I’ve gotten used to Ben being away.

I’m not so sure I want to get used to that!

Apparently, this is my new normal…and yet it doesn’t feel remotely close to normal.  It feels empty, awkward, unfamiliar, strange, and lonely.  If feeling like part of my heart has been ripped out of my chest is my new normal – I want nothing to do with it.

There are moments where I feel like an addict going through withdrawal and all I need is a “Ben fix” and I’ll be fine, for the time being….

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It’s been four weeks to the day since I last hugged my B.  Four weeks since I kissed his cheek, looked into his dark brown eyes, touched his muscular arm.  Four weeks since I’ve seen the joy in his face as he laughs.  Four weeks since we’ve enjoyed a meal together.  Four weeks of living this new normal.

In just a few short hours the hole in my heart will be healed, temporarily, as I spend the next 3 days sharing his college experience with him, getting glimpses of his new life.

I’m consumed with JOY – but it’s a guarded joy.  The kind of joy that you know is short lived, only to be followed by pain.

When Ben’s best friend left for the Air Force Academy, just 10 days after graduation, I watched him experience a pain and sadness I had never seen from him before.  Knowing that I couldn’t fix or change it, I offered him the only words that came to me – I offered him the truth.

I told him that feeling the depth of sadness he was experiencing, like his heart was breaking, was directly proportionate to how much he LOVED.  In this case it was a love of a friendship built over 8 years, a brotherly love.

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I will embrace the next 72 hours with all the joy and gratitude that my heart can hold – knowing that saying Good-bye, and boarding the plane on Sunday, will be no easier this time around.

I pray that in the midst of the pain and sadness I will feel as I walk this path again, I will remember it is proportionate to how much I LOVE!

with Gratitude, Joy & Love

I just want to STOP time!

Just 3 weeks.  That’s all I have left…

That thought doesn’t turn me into a sobbing mess, as you’d probably expect.  NO – it just makes my heart race, my palms sweat and my head spin.  I feel like I’m having a panic attack.  Like there is an impending doom that I can’t escape.  Like a huge black cloud hanging over my head and no matter which way I turn, it follows me.

I try to get lost in the busyness of preparing for my first born’s departure for college.  I try to get lost in living in the here and now, the present moment.  I try to get lost!  But no matter what I do, the 24 hours in each day seems to be speeding up.  The faster they go, the more constricted my throat feels, like I can’t breath and I’m going to vomit all at the same time.

There is so much in my life that I CAN control, influence, or manage…..

But when it comes to the ticking of time, I am at its mercy.

This is it.  Just 3 weeks until D-day (drop off day).  I’ve tried to prepare myself for this day.  But how can one prepare themselves for a total and complete life change unlike anything they’ve ever experienced.  I often wonder if the “thinking about it” part is worse than just doing it, and getting it over with?

I don’t need my children to define who I am.  And yet…..for 18 years I have been Ben’s mom.  His cheerleader, voice of reason and life teacher all in one.  I’ve been his Mommy, Mom, and Ma.  I’ve been there when he needed me, when he wanted me and when he wished I lived in a different house (or state).  In 3 weeks I will wake up and while my title will not have changed, my role will.  I don’t know how to parent from a distance.  I don’t know how to do this and I’m terrified that I will fail miserably!

A dear friend gave me a piece of advice a few weeks ago.  I didn’t like what she said.  But I trust her and I will follow it because deep in my heart I know it is right.  She told me once I leave Ben in his new home, I should not email, text, facebook, call or write him…..not until he reaches out first.

But what if he’s alone and afraid and doesn’t want to appear weak.  Worse yet, what if everything is great, he’s meeting awesome people, he’s involved and loving his new life…..and he forgets about me.  What if he doesn’t communicate with me for a few days or weeks……or ever again.  What if the role I thought I played in his life wasn’t all that I believed it was.  What if we’ve been living 2 different realities.

Some people are afraid of snakes, heights, or the dark.  Me?  I’m afraid of not having an awesome relationship with my children.  That realization is almost shocking enough to make me gasp.  But then I have flashbacks of my relationship (or lack thereof) with my mom, and I suddenly understand…..it’s not shocking at all.

I KNOW it will all be ok!  I KNOW this is exactly what is supposed to be happening, for him and for me!  I KNOW there is awesomeness on the other side of this transition.

I KNOW….no matter how much my head knows, my heart still hurts.

Twenty-one more days and this angel that changed my life the moment I held him in my arms will be starting the next chapter of his life.

For now, I’m finding comfort in my memories….

INQUISITIVE

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HANDSOME

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KIND

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FREE SPIRIT

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ATHLETIC

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HAPPIEST IN THE MOUNTAINS

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With joy, gratitude & love

Spending My Time Being a Mom

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Yeah, I know.  It’s been a while!  I guess on my journey to awesomeness I got slightly sidetracked.  Isn’t that kind of how life works?  So I’m trying to stop feeling guilty about not writing my blog posts in a while.  But I can’t quite shake my sense of obligation to you.  I feel like I started a journey with you, like I grabbed your hand and said “come on, let’s go on this ride together”, and somewhere along the way I let go of your hand.  I feel like I let you down.

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So what have I been up to?  Some unexpected awesomeness!  This past year, with my oldest son living out his senior year in high school, has really, and I mean REALLY, taught me the meaning of living in the moment and being present.  I thought I had learned that lesson before.  Now I know I was just dabbling in the concept.

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As this year unfolded, I grabbed absolutely every opportunity I could to spend any amount of time with him.  Five minutes chatting in the kitchen as he passed from the garage to his bedroom.  An impromptu invitation to join me at Starbucks on his way home from school.  A thirty minute game of cribbage.  A two hour shopping trip for some new clothes.  A morning bike ride through the park.  Anytime he was willing and wanting to be with me, I seized the moment!

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I didn’t just seize it – I soaked it in, I embraced it and sometimes I held onto it for dear life.

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Thankfully I’m a good student and learned my lessons quickly.  My youngest is just a freshman in high school, but I already know how fast the next few years will go.  So while I was learning the truest meaning of being present with Ben, I was also practicing it with Peter.

I guess you could say I’ve been focused on being a mom.

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Regardless of what I may have thought this chapter of my journey should or would look like, the reality is that it’s all about being a mom – being the most awesome mom I possibly could be.  All that really means is taking the time to focus on my kids, to be present to them and to strengthen my relationship with them…so that they know, regardless of time or distance, I will always and forever be the president of their fan club, the voice of reason when their perception is distorted, their pillar of strength when they need something to lean on, and their soft place to land when they fall.

Having said all that, I guess there’s not too much to feel guilty about!

with Joy, Gratitude & Love,

An Awesome Mommy Moment

I recently had one of those awesome mommy moments.  It wasn’t about a goal my children had achieved, nor was it about my ability to gently persuade them to see life from my perspective.  Although both of those could fall under the category of awesome.

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No, this was much different.  This was a light bulb moment, an “Ah-ha” moment, a moment of clarity that 18 years of motherhood can bring.  It was a moment of dueling emotions, each one vying for my attention.  A moment filled with joy, at the realization of the depth of wisdom gained through parenting.  A moment also mixed with sadness, wishing this nugget of knowledge had struck earlier in the parenting journey.

To all the moms out there with young children – I remember!

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I remember wishing my kids would get out from under my feet and let me cook dinner.  I remember praying for a few minutes of peace and quiet, with no Barney blaring in the background.  I remember feeling annoyed when the boys would interrupt my house cleaning duties, seeking my attention and approval.  I remember hoping I could find some time alone, for myself, to be just me….and not mom.

Sadly, somewhere along the line, without me even realizing it, all that I previously wished for became my new normal.  From toddler to teenager, in what now feels like a blink of an eye, I no longer have kids under my feet, no background noises, no interruptions.

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Sometimes I sink into the silence and solitude with a sense of peace.  But mostly, I wish my boys were around more, and I don’t just mean at home, but in my physical space, interacting with me.

Last week I was cooking dinner and being kept company by Dr. Phil, when my 15 year old bounced into the kitchen and asked if he could work on a project at the kitchen table.  While this may be a typical occurrence for mom’s with younger children, those with teenagers know that most of their kid’s work is completed in the teen-cave (aka – bedroom).

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Without a moments hesitation I exclaimed “Of course, the table is all yours”, with the level of enthusiasm I would express had I been asked if I’d like to get a massage, or go on a week’s vacation to a tropical island.  My kitchen table was instantly turned into an arts and crafts work station, complete with paint, yarn, scissors, styrofoam balls, glue and the like.  Dr. Phil was replaced with Mumford & Sons and Imagine Dragons.  What 10 years earlier felt like an interruption, now felt like an honor and a privilege.  Yes, my 15 year old wanted not only my attention and approval, but also my advice.

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The energy in the room that evening was different, in all the right ways.  When I could no longer contain the joy and gratitude I was feeling, I blurted out  “I love having you down here with me”, to which my son simply flashed his big brown eyes and smiled at me with a knowing, a wisdom that a 15 year old shouldn’t have, but he does.

My heart was exploding with love!

Love – that I had the ability to recognize the magic of this moment.  Love – that I could be grateful for this time together, regardless of how short it might be.  Love – that as my kids grow up, so do I, in so many ways.  Love – for the honor it is to be a mother, to be the mother of the two boys I get to live this life with.  Love – pure and simple!

with Joy, Gratitude & Love,