Silver Reflections

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Since mid-life is often a time when we feel the need take stock of our lives, it seems our 25th anniversary is the perfect catalyst for some self-reflection. The meanderings herein are my way of processing and organizing my feelings about marriage and my journey through it, thus far. Make of it what you will.

Quarter Notes
I am not quite sure how Darren and I find ourselves celebrating a quarter century of shared experience; almost 30, if you count dating in high school and college. Yet, here we are upon the doorstep of our 25th wedding (elopement) anniversary. I can only speak for myself with regards to this experience. But, having known Darren since I was fifteen years old has given me ample opportunity to notice how his brain works, and, though he would likely express it differently, I suspect we are on the same page… or, at least, in the same book!

I could share some trite anniversary sappiness about the joys of marriage, and my anticipation about what the next twenty-five years will bring. But, truth be told, it has not always been easy, and such sentiments would not express the full picture. And, though my anticipation for our future is real, the reality of our journey to the present cannot be summed up in an inspirational social media meme. Marriage has been the breeding ground for personal growth, fraught with communication hurdles, individual differences and moments of downright doubt and uncertainty. Yet, amongst these challenges have been many beautiful moments, fun adventures, lots of laughter and plenty of valuable insights, some of which I will try to articulate here.

I had just turned twenty the month before we crossed the border and applied for our marriage license in Bangor, Maine. Needless to say, I didn’t really know who I was, or what I wanted in life at this point. But, I knew I wanted to figure it out together, and I had relative faith that when I arrived at this place of “knowing,” Darren and I would still be on the same path. If not, whatever. I would deal with that later. Impulsivity came easy at twenty. It felt good. We eloped and lived with my parents in Connecticut for six months, while I worked and we waited for Darren’s green card.

Then, just a little more than a year into our time as husband and wife, we moved to Italy, where Darren would be stationed for three years. This was one of those things in my life that I feel like I truly manifested, out of sheer clarity and desire. Ever since I had lived in Spain in my early teens, I knew I wanted to return to spend time living abroad when I “grew up.” A few years later, when I met Darren in Canada in high school, he was inspired by my European vision and made it his own. This shared focus eventually got us to Italy, via the U.S. military, when Darren enlisted as a helicopter mechanic.

Since then, I now see a few other clear manifestations of intent; those times when there was no doubt about what we wanted and the only thing standing in between us and the outcome were the steps we needed to take. The first of these intentions was to get our education. Whether this was fueled by social conditioning or a love of learning was a later point of contemplation, when we began thinking about homeschooling our own kids. Nonetheless, while living in Italy, I plodded away at my bachelors degree, and during his six year enlistment, Darren did the same. At the time, this felt purposeful and I [mostly] enjoyed the experience.

The next intentional pursuit, a handful of years later and back in the States, was starting a family. That took a little introspection, working on my health, and some medical intervention to get the ball rolling. But, three kids later, we had created a family that looked a lot like we had envisioned. Of course, there were a few unexpected twists and a whole new set of filters through which to see the world, too. No regrets there!

One last vision, though mine alone, but impacting both of us, was my conscious effort, starting in 2005, to bring my physical and mental health into better balance. Over the course of a couple years, I released around 100 pounds and a lot of emotional weight, as well. I am thankful for the support I always felt, as I navigated that challenging task and layed down some new neuropathways in my always-busy brain.

Other smaller focused endeavors were scattered around these milestones of travel, education, health and family. Some included career development, more education, creative pursuits, homeschooling our kids, and building community. It seems the first fifteen years of our marriage were a whirlwind of striving towards goals and “building a life,” whereas, for the most part, the last ten feel more like the “maintenance years.” But, even in the process of maintaining status quo, there are creative elements to sharing space, experience and time that have definitely been enhanced by our partnership.

Sailing Away
Yet, in between all these collaborative efforts towards growth, there were times of pulling apart; times when I felt we were not compatible for the long-run and times when I knew Darren felt the same. In the first decade, there was some therapy. It was helpful. Then, life took on a pace of its own. Though our choices have led us to have what would be characterized as a “traditional” relationship, with me fulfilling the role of “homemaker” and, Darren, that of the “breadwinner,” I have never felt traditional or stuck in a role that did not suit me. But, if I’m keeping it real, in the early years of parenthood, my financial dependence on Darren might be a factor in our long-term togetherness, in the sense that it gave me the need to pause and think before acting. Had I had my own financial autonomy, there was a time, or two, when I may have jumped ship when things were not matching up to my soulmate ideal, Oprah-empowered, romanticized vision of the relationship I thought we deserved. And, there was a time when Darren had heard enough Oprah quotes and wanted to take the whole ship and sail away by himself, too!

Thankfully, these experiences helped me learn, early in, that I was responsible for my own feelings. And, though I didn’t always feel understood, I did feel supported in my efforts to sort myself out. We learned that when we endeavor to really understand another person, we feel invested. When we sense the other person is equally invested, we feel we are creating something worthwhile and purposeful. And, meaning and purpose really are the good stuff; the armor that protects us against the apathy that can accompany aging, the fear of the unknown and the inevitable challenges life presents.
Though, with these challenges, there have been times when our understanding of one another has not felt complete, and our desire to “work on” the growth of our relationship has waned, mostly, there was patience, empathy and commitment to sticking with this joint endeavor to see where it would take us. And, as middle-age approached, a deeper appreciation for our shared journey seemed to settle in. That “soulmate” notion of mine had come to see the value of being life partners, each tending to our own souls, and learning the lessons that only existing in relationship can provide.

In the context of marriage, the need to focus on communication revealed itself slowly over time in our relationship. Coming to understand that good communication was something that needed to be cultivated and nurtured, not a skill we inherently possessed, was a lesson we had to learn through trial and error. The foundation of any relationship is built upon the capacity of those in it to understand one another and a willingness to do the work necessary to reach that place of understanding. The old saying “absence makes the heart grow fonder” has a statute of limitations. Whether it be a physical or an emotional absence, there is a threshold at which we stop creating connection when we are not communicating regularly and/or effectively. Communication is our most valuable tool within relationships and the fuel for the flame of love. And, I have definitely done my part to fan that flame over the years.

I will admit that in the early stages of our relationship, I likely tested the limits of Darren’s love for me. My youthful inner turmoil spilled out all over his placid demeanor and he often got caught in my emotional ramblings, philosophical debates and misguided efforts at communication and personal growth. Over time, I learned to “tame my Gremlin,” and recognized that the expression “don’t dish out what you can’t take,” is a solid guideline for any relationship. And, in hindsight, I can see where, without this dynamic of our distinct personalities, I might have missed the opportunity to move through these lessons with as much clarity and grace. And, I am sure Darren has received a few lessons of his own, too.
Parenting and Marriage

Becoming parents most definitely changed the landscape of our relationship, forcing us to consider, more deeply, the people we wanted to be. I cannot imagine any more profound teachers than my children. They shifted my internal compass away from navigating solely by my own ego, towards the instinctual path of selfless love. They provided the mirror I needed to see my reflection more clearly. Of course, I do not doubt that the complexities of existence could have conjured up some other life path to offer similar wisdom, but, parenting is definitely an efficient means. And, parenting in partnership provides an even better opportunity to know the stuff we are made of. Darren and I are no exception. The insights have been profound and the lessons have not been lost on us.

Marinating in Monogamy
As we became parents, and explored alternative lifestyle choices, like veganism and homeschooling, we naturally started becoming aware of other divergent paths, including the variations of healthy relationship dynamics that fall outside the social norm of monogamy. Early on, had the right opportunity presented itself, I am not so sure we might not have explored those variations, for better, or for worse. But, despite my hesitancy to label relationships or put love in a box, the default of monogamy, with its inherent flaws, always seemed most constructive for us. And, twenty-five years in, its parameters do not feel binding, but rather provide a context in which to narrow my focus, in a world that seems to pull it all over the place. I, also, have a strong sense that Darren and I genuinely want each other to be happy in this life, and work to have open communication, which, I think, allows us to feel like there is always room to grow.

When we are young, in our surge towards independence, we often question the institution of marriage, the need for financial partnerships, and the efficacy of lifelong commitments. I would encourage all young people to consider these topics! Though, I really didn’t. I just jumped in, eyes closed! So, maybe I would caution against too much scrutiny and throw out a reminder that relationships are the fabric of life. Within our social structures, our creative potential can be magnified. Whether it be romantic or otherwise, our connections to others create our story, through which the depth and enjoyment of our experience are dependent. There is only so much we can create in isolation; we need others. But, in hindsight, contemplating those needs early on and defining your own expectations can give you a head start in the relationship department, may save you some personal turmoil and expedite the productivity of your future partnerships!

We are Family
Twenty-five years into this endeavor, our relationship feels like a permanent fixture. We are family. I feel fortunate to have Darren in my life and I feel resolute in my commitment to my own personal growth and to our relationship. I appreciate the platform from which this partnership has allowed me to experience myself. Maybe there have been no Jerry McGuire “you complete me” moments, but, there have been many moments of meeting halfway, sharing the load and giving each other perspective. I take full responsibility for completing myself, for filling up my own cup and for communicating my feelings in an authentic and caring way. This love story may not be one that inspires feature films or steamy romance novels, but it is my story and it inspires me to show up fully and honestly. It has allowed me to experience love, with all its nuances and intricacies. And, it’s not over yet! With any luck, there will be time for more lessons, more moments of co-creative inspiration and the chance to know more of ourselves within relationship to each other.

If I could give one piece of advice on marriage it would be to be kind; to yourself and to each other. From there, it will be easier to work out the rest. <3

The Symbology of the Cones

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The Symbology of the Cones

The front left cone represent focus; being fully in the present moment.

The front right cone represents opportunity, whether it be overlooked or seized readily.

The two side middle cones symbolize unseen Universal guidance, gently nudging us back on course when we lose our way.

The rear two cones, though lower in stature and seemingly less powerful, denote strength and contain the energy of a journey nearly complete.

And, finally, the rear center orange cone symbolizes the edge of our understanding; the possibilities yet unexplored.

Together, this cone formation represents the gift of flexibility life offers us to maneuver along our own path, providing endless navigational guideposts to help us along our way. They are there, whether we choose to acknowledge them, or just run them over.

OR… they are just seven plastic traffic cones at the community college, positioned to help fledgling drivers hone their parking skills.

But, having spent much time with one seeking to master the Path of the Cones and decipher their guidance, the symbology gives deeper meaning to the experience.


Family Circle ~ July 2014

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Family Circle ~ July 13, 2013

The Summer just seems to be flying by. Between flooded basements and out-of-town visitors, we haven’t been able to all sit down together for a little “circle time” for awhile. So, today, we purposely scheduled it in, and spent a half hour or so “unplugged” and connecting.

Today we talked about self-care, and how important it is to care well for ourselves, so we have something of value to give others.

Zofia was the source of many disruptions during today’s meeting, ranging from dissatisfaction over the order in which the candles were lit, to the color pen she wanted to use in our family journal. Nonetheless, we managed to have a few deep and meaningful moments with the kids, and enjoyed the time to connect.

Today’s fortune card to ponder was the Snake. ~ Keywords – deception, something is not what it seems, silence… Hmm…

Recipes For Self-Love

Take full responsibility for your life.
Stop blaming others.
See yourself as the cause of what happens to you.

Do things you like to do.
Don’t stay in a job you don’t like.
Participate in life at the highest level you can.

Stop terrorising yourself with your thoughts.
Be gentle and kind and patient with yourself.

Give yourself the simple pleasures of life abundantly.
Wear clothes you feel good in, get a massage etc.

Watch what you say. Avoid self put-downs.
Stop being critical of yourself and others.

Take care of your body.
Give it exercise and good food.

Be willing to create a life-style that generates and nourishes self-esteem.
Associate with others with high esteem.

Acknowledge yourself frequently.
Keep a diary of your successes and accomplishments.

Avoid comparing yourself with others.
Remember that it’s who we are, not what we do, that’s important.

Give yourself permission to do nothing periodically.
Schedule time by yourself.

Frequently take deep breaths.
Discover the benefit and pleasure of breathing fully.

Eat first class frequently.
Don’t look at the right side of the menu.

Stop trying to change others.
Focus your attention on being the way you want others to be.

Look into a mirror regularly and say “I love you, I really love you”.

Stop feeling guilty and saying “I’m sorry”.
See mistakes as valuable lessons and avoid judging yourself.

Consciously generate positive thoughts and feelings of self-love in place of old thoughts of inadequacy.

Be willing to laugh at yourself and at life.
Stop taking yourself so seriously.

Accept compliments from others without embarrassment.
Don’t invalidate their positive thoughts and feelings about you.

Be kind to your mind.
Don’t hate yourself for having negative thoughts.
Gently change your thoughts.

Keep your awareness and your thoughts focused in present time instead of living in the past or future.

Acknowledge others frequently.
Tell them what you like and appreciate in them.

Invest money in yourself.
Go to seminars, workshops and courses that develop your talents.

Make a list of 10 things you love doing and do them frequently.

Treat yourself as you would treat someone you really loved.
Praise yourself.

~ Author Unknown ~

Megan: From Montana to Maryland

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Megan Arrives!

Flo’s friend, Megan, came back from Montana, braving a twelve day stay with our family to visit with Flo. Despite our basement flooding twice right before she arrived, and several other stressful events, she and Flo had fun hanging out, visiting old friends and just catching up and creating some new memories.

As I get ready to go to sleep to take her to the airport in the morning, I face the reality that when setting the alarm on my cell phone, it says it will go off in 2 hours and 52 minutes.  This is when when you start to contemplate the worthiness of that sleep versus the discomfort of being abruptly awoken from it. I think I might be napping in the airport after we bid Megan farewell. 😛

Black Spot on the Ceiling

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Black Spot on the Ceiling

After noticing a sizable black spot, that looked like mold, on the ceiling of our bedroom closet, we had to force ourselves not to think the worst. After our recent basement floods and failed HVAC system, we were thinking maybe a leaky roof or condensation causing mold. Oh no!Black Spot on the Ceiling

Since it was nighttime, and the coolest time to check things out during this hot weather, Darren headed up to the attic to investigate.  Turns out it was a dead bird that must have gotten sucked in through the vent fan. Bad luck for the bird, but fairly easy fix for us.

Black Spot on the Ceiling

I’m choosing to to see the symbolism in this. A dead bird in the house is often compared to the death card in Tarot, which is rarely interpreted literally, and can offer us some insightful interpretations. 🙂

Family Circle ~ May Day 2014 (Almost)

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2014-04-29 14.35.03

We have a crazy schedule this week, so we had to schedule our May Day or Beltane family circle a couple days prior to May 1st. Nonetheless, we talked about the significance of the day, the shifts in seasons, and the things we’re looking forward to this Summer.

The beginning of summer heralds an important time, for the winter is a difficult journey and weariness and disheartenment set in, personally one is tired down to the soul. In times past the food stocks were low; variety was a distant memory. The drab non-color of winter’s end perfectly represents the dullness and fatigue that permeates on so many levels to this day. We need Beltane, as the earth needs the sun, for our very Spirit cries out for the renewal of summer jubilation.

Beltane marks the passage into the growing season, the immediate rousing of the earth from her gently awakening slumber, a time when the pleasures of the earth and self are fully awakened. It signals a time when the bounty of the earth will once again be had. May is a time when flowers bloom, trees are green and life has again returned from the barren landscape of winter, to the hope of bountiful harvests, not too far away, and the lighthearted bliss that only summer can bring.

We watched a couple new Spirit Science videos on YouTube about black holes and singularities. That was some food for thought and interesting conversation, too!

Next we drew cards from the fortune cards deck, and had fun pondering the significance of the cards we chose. We then read a poem (below), and wrote in our gratitude journal.

Before closing the circle, we had a little gift-giving fun. Flo’s been wanting a portable electric piano, and Zofia has outgrown her bike. So, we decided to present them with print-outs of their new toys, currently being shipped across the country. Joe was appeased with a new Nerf gun he’s been eyeing on-line. I didn’t know it made noise! Darn! But, it was fun seeing their excitement. Although, Zofia didn’t quite understand the delayed gratification aspect, and kept asking why her bike couldn’t be here tomorrow instead of in five days!

“The Summer Day”
by Mary Oliver

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean—
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down—
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

Family Circle ~ Spring Equinox 2014

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Family Circle ~ Spring Equinox 2014

Due to scheduling conflicts, our Spring Equinox celebration was a bit belated. But, we managed to all sit down tonight for a simple candle ceremony, where we place a candle in some dirt and reflect upon and share new beginnings we’d like to start in our lives.

“I light this candle in honor of Ostara, the Spring Equinox! I honor the changing of the seasons, and the reawakening of the earth. With Spring comes lighter days, sprouting seeds and new beginnings. With the Spring comes my vow to work towards these new beginnings in my own life. So mote it be!”

The kids had some snacks of fresh oranges, honey spoons with hemp seed and some veggie chips. We drew cards from the Fairy Tale Fortune Cards deck and talked about the meaning of the cards we drew. We also wrote down our cards and Spring-inspired thoughts in our family journal.

We thought about Springtime garden preparations, and talked about keyhole gardening, which is a concept that has intrigued us lately. But, the weather here in Maryland is still chilly today, so we still have a few more weeks to incubate our Spring desires. But, there is no doubt, the season is shifting… as it always does…