This Life is the Best Life Ever

He turned to me and smiled.  It was a flash of a moment.  A quick grin.  In total, it probably lasted less than a second, and when it happened, I really didn’t think too much of it.  But, it was the same smile – the same welcome – the same hello – the same moment of family affection – that we have shared over the past 50+ years.

Throughout the day’s activities, I probably saw that same smile a hundred different times. . . when we loaded into the boat . . . when we jumped into the lake . . . when we prepared to eat . . .when we ate . . . when we cleaned . . . when we sat and talked . . .  when we drank . . . when we reloaded into the boat . . . when we watched fireworks.

I can honestly say that I can only recall a fraction of our topics of conversation.  We talked a lot, about a lot of great subjects.  But if pressed, I must admit that the specific details are more than a little bit blurry to me.  The smile, however, is etched clear as a bell in my mind.

And that is fascinating to me.

I find it interesting to think about what I retain in my memory and what I don’t.  It is a filing system that I have never really understood.  I have memories and the ability to remember, but I have no idea how it all comes together.

That part’s a blur.

I think I have a solid ability to memorize, which means I can actively place something in storage and bring it to the forefront when necessary.  That part isn’t random. It is intentional. Sooooooo comforting to know that the memory part of my mind is not just a vast wasteland!

I also have memories that are linked to sounds and smells and sights and tastes and touches.  Drinking lemonade brings out memories of my grandfather.  Carole King songs take me back to 8th grade backyard camp outs.  If I smell suntan lotion, I am time-warped back to every Florida vacation I ever took as a child.

My interest isn’t in the fact that there are sensory associations to my memory.  Moreover, I would like to know why these particular associations.  What clicked in my brain to forever link various everyday items with happenings in my past.

All I can say is  – interesting!

In addition, I have taken my fair share of general education courses targeting the memory topic. Somewhere in my educational background is a stream of knowledge on this very issue. I spent credit hours and clock hours of time reading books, listening to lectures, writing papers, and taking tests to expand my mind about what memories are.  The good news is that I can recall taking those classes.  The bad news is that the exact content is a little vague . . . until and unless I read my college notes as a refresher or I utilize that Scholar-Google for a little assistance.  My memory on memory is less than memorable.

I am the type of person who tends to have an imbalance in terms of positive/negative memories.  Like everyone else, I have had my fair share of not so pleasant circumstances in my life, but I only really remember the glass half full times.  Bad moments, hard moments, sad moments are in that great big filing system in the sky, but happy, crazy-funny, joyous moments are the easiest for me to recall.   I assume it is like that for everyone.  I know it is for me.

The 2018 July 4th weekend brought all kinds of moments into my life.

I will remember the outline of young Brooke sailing towards us on the paddle board in the dim of the early evening on the lake.

I will remember the laughter of Max and Cosi as they were pulled behind a slow-moving boat.

I will always see the gentle hand of Craig as he kindly moved a rope back and forth to ensure the safety of several young charges being towed behind the boat.

Without any trouble at all, I will hear the chatter coming from the cousin table – a group of nine lake-logged guys and gals, boys and girls whose ages ranged from 6 to 39 – as they sat outside together eating, talking, laughing, and bonding. And the chatter coming from the adult table – same activity a mere few feet away from the first group.

With all of these memories, I cannot recall any of the details sandwiched in between the moments. Many hours passed, so I know a lot more actually happened.  But I can barely recall exactly what we ate.  I have no idea what everyone was wearing, and I am quite sure I can’t remember who arrived first or departed last.

What I will remember of these times is much more stark and simple.

My daughter’s twinkling eyes . . .  my sister-in-law’s laugh . . .  my brother’s hug . . .  my cousin, Carl’s smile.

This life is the best life ever.

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Fireworks on the Lake

39 Years

It was October in Paris, and he asked me if I wanted to take a walk.  It is a question that he has asked me many times in the past, and it is one that I never tire of answering.  With an enthusiastic yes, I grabbed all necessities – including camera – and stepped out onto the street with him.  It was cold and raining, but right away, I knew that I was on another lifetime adventure.  We had no map and no agenda.  We were just out . . . in the city . . . walking . . . to anywhere.

From early morning to late evening, we walked throughout the city – browsing, touring, chatting, pondering, eating, and drinking.  We saw both the glorious and the ordinary – with both sides of that spectrum equally as interesting.  Our feet led us through the inside of famous and not-so-famous museums, through elaborate and not-so elaborate churches, down prominent and nondescript boulevards, and towards both landmarks and unknown hidden gems.

Heading for home at the end of the day, we took a right turn and found ourselves in what can only be described as a park of plenty.  I saw remarkable gardens and teenagers – dressed in preppy school uniforms – playing pick-up games of basketball.  At the edge of a large fountain, which state side we would call a pond, I saw a line of children using sticks to push small sailboats across the water while their parents relaxed nearby reading books.

In the middle of the park I witnessed two men, both dressed in “Jimmy Fallon – I love my tight” pants, playing tennis as if their lives depended on the outcome.  Fifty yards away, I saw an additional ten men, pairing off for friendly yet seemingly fierce chess matches.  And fifty yards from that point, I saw an endless stream of mothers with strollers, infants, and toddlers playing on some of the most extraordinary playground equipment I have ever seen.

But what caught our attention  – as if gardens, tennis, chess, basketball, sailing, reading, and the merry-go-round wasn’t enough – was actually tucked away near the edge of the park. Initially, we were drawn to a bench – more importantly a vacant bench.  We had journeyed for several hours, several miles – all by foot, and as we closed in on the bench, the idea of sitting became more and more appealing.

Had we not sat down, we would not have noticed the rest of the story.

For directly in front of us were two of the most interesting teams of people, playing one of the most interesting games, for what looked like was an interesting mix of both pride as well as a few, no doubt lucrative, side bets.  All of the members on both teams were seemingly old enough to be my parents, with only one of the approximately twenty team members being female.

In the middle of Luxembourg Gardens, these two teams were sparing and jarring over a very competitive game of Boules.  They would toss balls, run to the side of the court, measure the proximity of balls thrown to the stationary ring, and shout out words in their language that needed no translation to be understood in mine.

There were players with their own polishing rags and players wearing specialized shoes and players using pocket play-books to strategize with each other.  The most interesting feature, however, was something that I just had never seen in a park – or anywhere outdoors for that matter. It made me chuckle; it still makes me chuckle.   For sitting just outside the rectangular, rocky playing field was a sturdy, silver, shiny coatrack.

A coatrack. A coatrack.

The day was chilly and wet, but no one was wearing a coat. They were all carefully hanging from the court-side coatrack.   Crazy-funny at its best.

Moments – or an eternity later – we continued our walk.

Like many moments over the past 39 years, neither one of us said a word about what we had just witnessed.  In a relationship, there are many times when words are really pointless.  A look, a smile, a frown, a glance, a wink can convey an entire conversation. Words just lack the power, the ability, the nuances.

I am not sure when we learned the art of not speaking. I am quite sure it wasn’t in our first decade. I do know that as our early years passed, our security in our ability to speak without words has grown.

And in that moment in the park, as we watched twenty people shout and skirmish over a game played by grown-ups tossing balls on a pebble-laden court, with a random coatrack in the background, i knew that I was experiencing a day for the ages.  It is a memory that needs no words, that is memorable, in fact, because of the lack of language – which to me – is nothing shy of awesome.

Soon thereafter, we walked in silence for quite awhile – beyond the Boules courts, the tennis courts, and the chess courts.  I snapped a few more photos, we laughed at the young boy who accidentally fell into the pond chasing his boat, and noticed that the boys in the school uniforms had left for greener pastures.

We, too, did the same, with the silent hope that we will experience more such moments.

The coat rack :-)

The coat rack 🙂

Though I don't know the rules, the game was beautiful.

Though I don’t know the rules, the game was beautiful.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Positivity – – -ness

“It’s all in his positivity – ness.”

That is the sentence my son uttered and the word that he used.  And when he did, I did the eye-squint double take.  I certainly know what the word positive means.  And I am fairly skilled with the meanings of the common english suffixes. But when he put them all together, I paused.

Since that moment, I have thought long and hard about it.  Positivity – ness. What does it mean?  What does it mean to me?  What should it mean?

Many days, I find that all types of challenges, problems, dilemmas, tests, trials, and conundrums that are just waiting to be explored, solved, eliminated, completed, deciphered, and overcome.  All too often there seems to be far too few hours in the day to properly address everything that is on my short-term list, never mind everything that is on my long-term list!

In fact though I am embarrassed to admit it – but not too proud to face it – two days ago, though it is not something I do often, I did take a small pile of moments out of my day to stop and complain – about the workload in front of me, the mound of seemingly insolvable problems around me, and the lack of my ability to succeed with any of it.  Keep in mind, that I know that I should not be complaining. I know my world is kind, great, and wonderful. I have family, friends, health, security, and more; but, for some reason I took five and whined.

Today, I remembered my son’s word . . . positivity – ness.  It swirled around my mind for a piece of time, and became a little, silent mantra that I heard most of the afternoon.  Positivity – ness. Positivity – ness.  Positivity – ness.  As crazy-funny as it might sound, that most unusual word – a word that seems to have one too many endings – is one very powerful noun.  And for now, it is becoming one stunning part of my vocabulary.

Most vocabulary words have rather concise definitions.  Though not a genius, I can generally rattle off the meaning of everyday, ordinary words lickety-split, and for words that are more complicated, I can usually find sufficient dictionary definitions that are ten words or less.   However, positivity – ness is neither an ordinary word nor one that can be found in the dictionary.  It was one that was created and developed by my third son, the artist.

What I think he meant by it is only a guess.  However, I have had some practice with such word interpretation.  For this particular word isn’t the first that he has invented.  In fact, he has a fleet of great terms plus a few phrases that he has brought to fruition.  Some of his words have brought howls of laughter, some nods of agreement, others quizzical head shakes, all of them joy in the moment. I have truly grown accustomed to new language additions from this most unlikely source.

Positivity – ness is a term, however, that has done more for me than just increased my language.  Its meaning isn’t simple nor short.  I think when that third son invented it, he knew it was a word to be comprehended and understood after a long period of thought. In fact, I think he expected folks around him to consider its meaning and use it appropriately, kindly, and confidently.

Positivity – ness is what it takes to make it through a day when there is nothing else to consider.  Positivity – ness is knowing that we are all challenged each day, but we are also blessed, and it is the blessings that should be the focal point.  Positivity – ness is learning to enjoy and respect the differences within each other.  Positivity – ness is expecting that we will work to change the world in many ways, every day, all of our days.  Positivity – ness is relying on each other for the strength we need when we can’t muster the strength we need ourselves.

Today, I found positivity – ness in the smile on the face of the guy who nodded his head as I jogged past him on a sidewalk near my home town university.  I heard positivity-ness in the voice of my oldest son as he told me about the birth of a friend’s child, seven pounds, two ounces, healthy.  I felt positivity – ness when my golf partner told me about the joy of helping her daughter move into her first new house.  I learned positivity – ness through all of these events and so many more, too many to list, that occurred in one brief twenty-four hour period.

I think the beauty of the definition of positivity – ness is that it can not exactly be defined.  More importantly, as I use the word – positivity – ness – I need to make sure that I use it well and use it right, while undergoing and valuing that quirky unknown meaning sensation.

The world is a great place, filled with opportunity and possibilities.  I hope that I can use my positivity – ness to reach out to others, to find ways to make the ails of the universe fade away.

What a great word.  What a great day.

Positivity - ness from the artist. 2014

Positivity – ness from the artist. 2014

 

 

 

 

 

 

You’re In Luck

“You’re in luck,” I said.  And with that, I turned to my second son and smiled.  “I don’t need my car tomorrow, and am glad that you can use it.”

It was a beautiful March evening; and, Timothy and I stood for just a moment in the driveway before he drove off.  As I handed him my keys, he thanked me and added just a little more. I knew the next phrase was coming well before he said it, but I looked forward to him saying it anyway.

“We’re both lucky, mom, aren’t we,” he said.  And I replied with a “Yes, son, we are.”

As he pulled away from my house with what he came to borrow, I began to consider all the times that he and I have uttered those phrases.  I tell him he is in luck and he tells me that we are both lucky – a mantra we have completed a thousand times a thousand.  But this time, I think I meant it a little more.  And I was hoping that he equally heard my words and delivered his with more meaning.

For during the early part of my day, I wasn’t feeling the luck in any way.

Though my daily work doesn’t bring me into direct, one on one contact with students often, this semester, a series of unusual events had caused me to work with three very different people for three very different reasons.  Each of these three students had challenges throughout their lives that I nor my children had ever experienced or imagined:  parents who at best could have been described as absent –  a lack of funding not only for school, but for basic needs like food and shelter – no reliable means of transportation – no steady employment of any kind – non-supportive family and friends – and in general, a day-to-day existence that was more difficult than ever delightful at every turn.

Lately, I had spent a great deal of time wondering about the what-ifs for these three young students.  What if just one thing was different in any one of their lives? Just one thing? What if one of their parents put effort into raising them?  Just one? Just a little? What type of difference would that have made?  What if each one of the students could say that they had never gone hungry – not for one day?  That they never thought about how they were going to secure their next meal? Wow.  What type of difference would that have made?  Or what if they never once had to worry about transportation to and from college, to and from work, to and from anywhere? What type of difference would that have made? If they had just had a little luck, in any direction, for any reason, at any time, what type of difference would it have made for any or all of them?

My work is not to sit behind a desk and wonder all day long.  But, there are days that wondering is the best that I can do.

For although I tried my hardest with each student and they tried their hardest, neither my effort nor their efforts has been able to provide them with enough success to eliminate all of their problems and challenges.  In fact, we hardly made a dent.  The road in front of each of them still seems long and bumpy with admittedly a tiny glimmer of light at the end  – but I wouldn’t call it a streaming beacon at this point.

Through my contact with these three individuals, I swiftly came to realize that all they really need is a little luck.  Somewhere in their frantic worlds, they need to come across a road block and suddenly be handed just a bit of luck and . . . voilà . . . the challenge is averted, the problem is eliminated, the story has a happy ending.  In fact, all anyone really needs is just a little luck.  Trouble is . . . getting to the point that such luck appears is often a journey of a million miles.

That’s why it is so important to recognize and realize when luck occurs. For when it does occur, we have normally waited a long time, planned a great deal, put in time and effort, tinkered around, and worked hard to reach such opportunity.  Benjamin Franklin said it well defining “diligence as the mother of good luck”.  Likewise, Tony Robbins calls luck “the meeting of preparation with opportunity”. Neither diligence nor preparation has a short time frame.  Both take awhile, a long while. Likewise, luck takes awhile, even for the luckiest of folks.  In considering how luck works,  I sincerely hope that the three students I have personally met during spring 2014 are in it for the long haul and are willing to persevere, waiting for their lucky moment.

Connecting all the dots in some fashion, I am grateful for the conversation between my son and me on that beautiful Wednesday evening.   He and I – in less than 100 words – acknowledged that luck had been a part of our lives and that we were and should be thankful for it and for each other.  Such a brief conversation between two people, but an important one – a conversation that gives me plenty to wonder about. A conversation that I am hoping that we will continue to utter and build on for years to come.

 

A flower seen on that Wednesday evening. Lucky me.

A flower seen on that Wednesday evening. Lucky me.