Turning Ten…For the Fourth Time

I turn ten for the fourth time tomorrow.

That’s the big 4-0 to the rest of the world. As in, four decades.  Bless it.  I still can’t believe it. So cliche, I know, but until you’ve arrived, you will never fully appreciate how much your youthful brain is still telling you you’re not a day past 25. Seriously. The other day at school, I told my students that my Husband was planning a surprise for me, and one little guy who has taken to giving me engulfing bear hugs about five times a day looked at me incredulously and said, “You have a HUSBAND????????”

Which is to say (or, what I think he meant): “Your youthful appearance defies that you be old enough for such adult behaviour.” Something akin to that thought.


I am not dealing well with this “going past the thirties” birthday business, so thankfully Husband skipped the Over the Hill party and booked a weekend getaway instead.

Good call.

Except.  Now I feel like the comraderie would have helped- what with the onset of depression and all.  Feel free to message me with tips, if you have already reached this milestone. Every little bit of moral support I can muster helps. We need each other, Seniors. Or at least I do- for emotional reinforcement. And the odd back-rub or two.

Husband told me last night that he wasn’t going to lie: “Getting old is not that much fun.”

Thanks sweetie.  That’s just what a girl needs to hear from her OLDER spouse.

However, I do have to give him props for this: planning a semi-surprise for his wife and not letting her in on the secret. That is, not letting her in on the secret until Thursday.  Just three short nights ago, I was at this very instant (or close to it- who’s keeping track) walking hand in hand toward the setting sun, with Husband by my side, as we lazily travelled along the boardwalk at Peake’s Key. Kid-less. That’s “walking sans kidlets”, for those who are not yet fluent in this language. It all seems like a vague and hazy dream right about now.

I half wonder if it was.

Earlier that day, we had packed the van to the gills, dropped off one child’s stuff at Black Grammie’s house. Packed for another to go to across the road. And then packed snacks, games and more stuff for the other two to go to Charlottetown for the night to White Grammie’s house.

It is a lot of work to get away, people. And age has nothing to do with it…

Thankfully, Hubbie remembered this tedious fact and gave me a forty-eight hour heads up. So, it was with exhaustion and anticipation, we made the trek to Dundee Arms Inn in historic Charlottetown. Meanwhile, all that packing wore me out.  I won’t lie: I had a short catnap en route.

I am forty, hello.

At exactly 5:30 p.m., as we pulled out of my parent’s driveway, Husband looked at me and said with a smile, “It’s officially the weekend!”
And so it was. A beautiful weekend, complete with a lovely quiet supper with delicious food and a beautiful room furnished with antiques and an ornate four poster canopy bed. Such a luxury, this weekend getaway. Dearly needed and much appreciated.

And now it’s over. OVER.

I am back to reality once again, only three short nights later. Dirty dishes sitting in the kitchen waiting to be washed. Crud on the floor to be wiped up. Laundry waiting impatiently to be washed and folded. Children needing baths and stories and tuck-ins. Floors to be vacuumed and on and on the list goes.

Because life goes on.

It always does somehow.

Those moments we want to last? They sadly come to a close. As much as we try to hold on to them, they dissolve and fade into our memory. Leaving us with a sentimental feeling as a lasting token of their occurrence. Wondering if they truly ever really happened after all.
As much as we try, life just keeps forging forward.

And don’t we just wish we could, at times, press the pause button? Maybe not for every moment of the day, but certainly for some of them. Life is just moving past us too quickly.
I for one can hardly keep up.

And now that I am forty years old, I think time will speed by even faster.
It can seem just so discouraging, at times.

I was thinking about this thought the other day- about wanting time to slow down- and my thoughts wandered to some precious loved ones I hold dear. Loved ones who have suffered in various ways and through difficult circumstances. And I realized that for some, time  has been very long. Drawn out. Difficult to bear with and challenging to stay through.

For some, time has been short.  Abbreviated.  Time has quickly come to a close.

For time is only fast and full when we are enjoying and really appreciating  the circumstances of our lives. It’s extremely slow, and at times can even be short when we are not.

For those of us who are finding time is slipping away. Revel in it. Enjoy it. Take pleasure from that time and don’t try to squander it. Time is here for us to use. It’s ours for the taking. We need to make every effort to use our time to benefit the life we’ve been made to live.
And for those of us who wish for time to move a little faster: take heart. This time we’ve been given will soon move us to new horizons. The difficulties of this life and the pain of the here and now: this too shall pass. Time is still here for you who wish it away- it is here for the taking. Make every effort to use the time you’ve been given to benefit the life you’ve been made to live. All too soon, this present here and now will be gone.

We can never get this moment back again.  These moments- they are fragile.  Precious.  Take pleasure in them.
And neither should we want to live them over- there is just too much time in the present here and now to enjoy. To live and experience. To wonder and revel in. And there is always time enough to dream about our hoped for tomorrows.

A dear friend reminded me tonight: we don’t need to dread growing older.  It is a gift that many are unable to enjoy and experience.  So turning forty for the first time is a new pleasure I will revel in.

And I think I just might make this fifth decade of my life the one I cherish most.

Life at the end of the line…

My sneakers, Their shoes, all echo in the empty corridors as we walk the mile.  Take the elevator.  Ride the lift.  We see her then, slumped over on her tray and sleeping.  Her wordless daughter sitting next to her in the bulky wheel chair.  Neither indicating so much as a wave, by way of recognition as we approach.

“Hello Grammie,” I whisper.  Then louder, “Grammie, it’s Lori.”

Nothing.  She is figuratively dead to the world, locked in a dreamless sleep.

My Aunt watches us through dark sunglasses, twisted fingers ever pinching and pulling at her bothersome eye.  She winces as I place my hand on her shoulder. There is something there that still causes her pain, even after all these years.

My mind goes back to another time, another place.  When she was young and beautiful and life was full of promises.    And all these, these promises.    Abrupted by a man driving a truck with a snow plow attached one stormy evening.  Leaving her here, in this place.   In this desolate, helpless place.

I survey the others watching me carefully.  One looks to have literally gone through the war.  There are parts of her face missing, a huge patch over her eye.  I conjure up images of a war, the Korean war coming first to mind.  I don’t know why.  Others have empty listless expressions. Staring off into space, or staring right through me.  All looking lonely, lost and forgotten.  Waiting for the time to come when this room and these sad faces will all be but a distant memory.

Waiting for forever to start.

And I wonder how many stories, like my Aunt’s there are here in this room.  How much heartache, how much sadness?  How many have truly lived their life without regret?  And if so, why this place?  This now? This reality?  This forsaken place, their final destiny?

Was their life wonderful?  Was it all it was meant to be?  Was it full and beautiful?  Was it lived to the limit? Passionate?   Was it lived by faith through a careful recognition of their fragile humanity?  Did their life example Grace?  Mercy?  Compassion?  Did they live the life they were made for?

And it gives me pause to consider that life is about three parts which make the whole: the past, the present and it is about the future.

The past…was it painful?  Pleasant?

Have painful memories of the past scarred, leaving behind wounds that never healed over?  Marked by hurtful words, broken promises.  We can let them beat us.  Those unrealistic expectations others had for us.  The bar raised always just above our head.  We could let all these take us down. Knock the wind out of us.   We could let them win over our own relentless passion.  Our constant search for something more.

We could let pain own us. Or not.   I won’t live my life like that.  And I will fight to the end for what I believe is the better way.

We could continue running ourselves ragged, wearing out to the bone.  We could let the programs, the committees, the constant running in circles take its toll.  We could just keep this frantic pace, never stopping for a breath.  To smell the roses, to touch the grass, to feel the coldness of an icicle.  We could forget what it feels like to be real, honest, vulnerable.  We could live anywhere but in the here and now.

We could always be looking toward the future.  To what lies next around the bend, to tomorrow.  To what we will do or see or say or feel.  To the promise of a brighter day, of greener grass over the fence.  To the hope that life will not be the drudgery of the relentless here and now.  We could live for tomorrow.

But what does that bring?  One is never fully in the present when they allow the past and future to be the stronger influence.  Life is too short to let days slip away unnoticed.  The past is gone and the future lies ahead, less enticing than it seems.  All we have for sure, all we really know is today.

I kiss her softly on the forehead, tell her I love her.  Then walk away while feeling the urge to pause, look back one more time.  There are no words to use when describing heartache.  No words to properly explain how something beautiful has been broken.  Some things are better left unspoken.  And better understood through accepting childlike faith.

And some life experiences are better understood when they are viewed through the lens of perspective.  Because there is always an exception to the rule that interrupts the melancholy of the here and now.  And there is always a way out.  Because this is not the end of the road for her nor is it for them.  There is eternity awaiting.

And some sweet day, there will be dancing in those feet again.

Ya’ll come back, now. Ya hear?

My baby turned six today. Happy birthday, M.A. You bundle of energy, you ball of fire. You, my own little spitfire. I love you to the moon and back.

Who would’ve ever thought we would get this far, intact. Intact being the key word here, and don’t think I don’t mean it. Intact, with most of my sanity still hovering at even-keel. My gray roots still clinging to the scalp for dear life. Holding out for a brighter color wash tomorrow. If I am lucky.

Grey roots are so optimistic.

What I know for sure is this. What is going to happen tomorrow is NOT that color wash: instead, I am going to get up at the crack of…actually, make that get up in the dark. (darn time change) I am going to rush around like a chicken with its head cut off until it is time to load the Gard bus/mini-van. I am going to burst headlong into the school, second last to arrive. Yes, sadly arriving nearly last and only before the Grade1/2A teacher pulls in and parks beside me, at our usual spot… next to the ditch. (I can tease her…she’s not on Facebook. HA!)

Then, I will greet the various students who are gathered at the front doors, and eventually make my way to my classroom, which will be half-organized because I was at the school the night before past ten o’clock. Then, I will have first and second recess outside duty, I will have afternoon centers/mad mayhem, and I will help load the precious little students on the bus so they can go home to their families. If only for the better part of an hour. (more on that later)

And if I am lucky. I will have pulled out in my Gard bus/minivan with my own three children in tow before the school buses leave the school parking lot. And all this so that I can pick up Son up at his school for a three o’clock dentist appointment. After which, I will indeed head to the beauty parlor. But I will sadly, as I mentioned above, not have time to cover those blasted roots. Instead I will comfort myself with freshly plucked and shaped eyebrows. This is what I call a good time.

While I am lying horizontal on the esthetician’s bed, my darling children will be somewhere, talking to someone and doing something over which I will have no control. Because I will be lying prostrate in a very compromising position, and I will also be in no position to get up. That’s what getting my eyebrows shaped really does for me: it gives me the great satisfaction of thinking that I am totally off the hook for the well-being of my three girls for those five minutes.

“Que sera sera, my generous beauticians.”

“Don’t break anything, lovies.”

I will then leave at exactly 3:15 p.m. for Alberton where I will persuade the bank to entrust me with some American money which I will try not to spend the first five minutes I land in an American mall. I will leave the bank, and head back towards home. Only I will stop before the bend. And that stop will land me directly at the Alberton Baptist Church gym. And I will stop because I have invited 20 children and various adults, (seven children of whom have already spent six hours with me today), to bounce basketballs and scream very loudly in a very ‘sound-inefficient’ gymnasium. And this fun will carry on for, oh say, the next two hours.

In other words, I am planning on having a migraine.

After succoumbing to which, I will head then to the bowling alleys for my eventual and imminent demise. And if I am lucky, someone will roll me down the lane into the gutter. I will be able to take a nap behind the curtain.

And to cap it all off, this fun day ahead, I will come home and finish packing for a trip which I still have yet to finalize the details regarding my return trip back home. Which really means: I have been very interested in Florida real estate lately.

My crazy schedule combined with my sudden interest in the housing market in Florida…coincidence? I think not. I am already looking into a green card. I hear they give them out on St. Paddy’s Day.

(and of course y’all know that I’m kidding. I love that word…y’all. I hope I get to use it in Florida…)

Joy of Being Transparent…

My students are all colouring pictures of teddy bears which they have all coincidentally named after themselves.  I am standing in front of them trying to re-cap a lesson we have just finished on healthy living.  A visit by two public health nurses, one teddy bear clinic and seven booklets of information later, we are at that point of the day where teacher and students are all waiting for the recess bell to ring.  So, out of curiosity, I quiz them on what the highlights of the morning were and try to figure out if they retained any of the valuable information imparted by these two most knowledgeable ladies.

We talk about how food and exercise and sleep are important factors in healthy living, and then I get the bright idea of making a practical application to today’s review.  I stand up and say to the students:  “Look at Mrs. Gard’s head…is it bigger than yours?”  “Yes,” they all say, “Your head is bigger.”  So, I proceed to tell them that my head is bigger because I am older and have more things that I think about inside my head, and that I have fed my brain with healthy foods so as to grow it to this size.

One little guy takes a look at me and he says this: “You also have more lines across your forehead than we all do, so that means you are older.”

Ooomph…deflate my balloon.  Blasted wrinkles!

You gotta love the absolute, unabashedly honest answers that come out of a five-year old’s mouth.  If we could all only be so transparent!

I have been thinking about transparency.  I strive to lay it all on the line when I write, and in doing so, I take great risks: the risk that people may misinterpret my writing, the risk that some may judge me, the risk that some may label me as too happy or too sad, too sarcastic or too saccharine.  And on and on it goes.  And I realize that we are not to care what others think about us, but let’s be real.  Of course we do. We care because inside us all is a place that craves acceptance and understanding.  This desire is there to greater and lesser degrees.  And because it is there, we try to find a way to satisfy the desire, by connecting to people around us through private conversations, Facebook, activities, dialogues, writing, book clubs, organized events, e-mails and letters of all sorts and on and on it goes.  Through that connection, the hope is that understanding will light a flame of acceptance.  And that acceptance will lead to deeper connection, and that we will find ways in which to see each other through eyes that do not belong to us.

We will then view life through another human’s eyes.

And when this transformation of thinking occurs, we will be that much closer to understanding and acceptance.  And that much closer to tolerance and peace.  To joy.  And we will truly know what it is to love others and see them as God sees them.  Wonderfully and fearfully made.

Wrinkles and all.