Friday, December 19, 2014

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever

Christmas Eve 2004
For the past 12 years, Christmas Eve has been marked by the 4 PM Christmas pageant at church. I am the Cecil B. DeMille of this spectacle, featuring a cast of young performers ages 4 and up. We run on one rehearsal. The only speaking parts are narrations. Mary, Joe and the gang emote silently as they traipse down the "road" to the manger.

From time to time, we’ve had a bit of backstage drama, mostly in the form of a mis-matched Holy Couple. I have photographic evidence that Jill Stevens and Devin Griffin would NOT have fared well playing The Newlywed Game. Those forced smiles through gritted teeth! That undercurrent of "I'm not rocking the baby, YOU rock the baby!" In real life, young Jesus would have ended up on a therapist's couch.

The tradition is to have a "live" Baby Jesus. Many young moms have been prescient enough to deliver in October, the optimum age for our tiny Star of the Show: not yet crawling, yet sturdy enough not to cause cardiac arrest (mine) when carried to the cradle by a 6th grade Head Angel. One year Jesus was Eliza Russell, at 4 months old a bit long in the tooth (she could only be quieted by being given a bulletin, which she proceeded to wave back and forth for the duration of the pageant). One year we were gifted with twins, Rileigh and Austin Smith. That was awesome, knowing we had an understudy in the wings in the event of infant meltdown.

This year, little Daniel Adebayo will be carried by Head Angel Jillian Jacoby, and I have every confidence in her ability to ferry Baby J. safely from Point A to Point B (don't wear heels, Jillian!) The supporting cast should do fine, especially since their teachers will sit in the back of the church with them to cue their entrances.

As I watch my 12th pageant unfold, I know I will be struck by the passage of time. 6th grade Mary, Jill Stevens, is getting married in June. Baby Jesus, Eliza Russell, is in 5th grade now. Where did the years go? I mean, I still FEEL 46. But I am almost 58 now. And all of my much-loved little ones are growing up, way too fast.

It makes me wonder: what does God think of this? Is He amused and touched by the children's worship? Does He, like me, marvel as they age over the years? I know that He is eternal, beyond the boundaries of time and space, but I still believe He has a soft spot for His kids on Earth, and marks their growth with pride and even a little pang. After all, He is their Abba (Daddy), and Daddies love their children in such a special way.

Christmas Eve 2008

So, Christmas Eve: bobby-pins flying (darn those halos!), earnest young pianists cranking out the prelude music (and yes, we'll take Jingle Bell Rock.) Once more, Christ is born. Let all the world rejoice.







Monday, December 1, 2014

Whaddayaknow?

The Family Seyfried (Aiden got a pass at speaking this year)
Written Saturday night:

As of today we have a new Seyfried post-Thanksgiving activity .  A few weeks ago, we all got an email from Evan, suggesting we each prepare a 5-10 minute talk explaining something to present to the clan this evening. Now, Evan is an encyclopedia of info on everything from nuclear fission to Russian literature to artisanal breadmaking, so no doubt his talk will be fascinating. Everyone else in the fam knows a lot, about a great many things, as well; for them it will just be a matter of selecting from a variety of topics.

And me? What, exactly, am I an expert on? Alas, nothing springs to mind. I know zero about how anything works, nor am I particularly curious to find out. My proudest production (my children) was the result of much trial and error and MUCH good fortune. Otherwise? I am a decent cook (but entirely recipe-bound), an OK church worker (though totally untrained), a so-so actress (ditto) and a good-enough writer (maybe). Aaaand that’s about it.

I seem to be losing ground as I get older, too. Forget attaining wisdom with age for me! I have completely lost my ability to speak a foreign language, to drive a car with a manual transmission, to swim (not that I was ever particularly buoyant, but time was when I could at least do one lap in the pool without my lungs exploding). Fast-forward 10 years and I will probably be hard-pressed to remember how to dress myself.

Which brings me to tonight. While I would love to just sit back and listen to my offspring instruct us all, I know I will be expected to make some sort of contribution. I guess I can do it (it’s only five minutes, right?), so I’d better stop blogging and think about what to say. Stay tuned for an update!

LATER

So here’s how it went down…

PJ was working and unable to participate:-(

I went first and talked about the art of writing and delivering a children’s sermon.

Steve shared fascinating tidbits from his study of the Reformation (and the run-up to).

Evan schooled us in why some billionaires with a social reform agenda still can’t effect governmental change the way you’d think they could, and how companies buy back their own stock and drive up demand.


Rose gave us the lowdown on dialogue sound editing in film (tedious, meticulous, who forgot to unplug the refrigerator in the restaurant kitchen scene?)

Yaj gave us a great breakdown on the dos and don’t of recycling (inspired by the critical importance of such in her island nation of Taiwan).

Julie discussed her widely varied work experiences, what she’s learning in college about business, and why she plans to defer her bed-and-breakfast owning dream.

Sheridan showed us why he is a gifted teacher, waxing both eloquent and enthusiastic about patterns and deviations in pop and classical music.

For me, this intellectual exercise beat any hike we could have taken today. Thank you, family!!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Drive My Car

PJ's new, very blue car

 Hallelujah!! PJ has a car!! He’d been the owner of a 1983 (yup) buggy which gave out awhile back. Since then, he has been begging and borrowing—thankfully, not stealing—rides everywhere he needed to go. His plan for this post-graduation year was to substitute teach at various schools in the area, most of which are not accessible by public transportation. So he’s been on the hunt for wheels for months.

Finally, a couple of weeks ago, he found a 2005 Elantra. Low mileage! Reputable dealer! Alas! The dealer was an hour north of here. I hightailed it up with Pieg to seal the deal, expecting we could quickly part company and he could tool off in his new car. But no! The dealer had to power wash the Elantra first; it wouldn’t be ready for hours. Finally, we really did part company, and PJ drove home to his apartment. En route, however, the “check engine” light went on. Drat!! Back to the far-flung dealership the next morning, to discover that the power washing had left water in the spark plugs, causing a misfire. Happy ending: quickly fixed and PJ is in business. Whew!

I totally get the ease and convenience of autos. Indeed, looking back I marvel at my relatively car-less childhood. It was all well and good when we lived in NYC, but as soon as we hit the suburbs it was a different story. By the time we moved to Atlanta, we were truly stuck all week (Dad was a traveling

Ah, Pumpkin memories! Thanks to Michael Baran for sending this along!
salesman, Mom didn’t drive). It was a happy day in the   
Cunningham house when we bought the Gremlin (a “sporty” bright orange number we dubbed The Great Pumpkin), and sister Mo and I could take over weekday driving duty.

Nowadays, while I can’t say I drive for the fun of it, I can’t imagine NOT driving, and dread the day to come when I’ll have to relinquish my keys. My Grandma Berrigan was almost 90 when The Moment of Truth arrived (she’d remarked to my uncle, “How strange, lovey. People are planting trees in their driveways!”) Grandma clearly had to stop driving, but it was painful. Driving is a Declaration of Independence, and who wants to give that up? Ours is a nation of highways, and Lord help you if you can’t navigate them. So on we motor, guzzling our gas and racking up the miles in our Volvos and Chevys and Toyotas.

Watching PJ drive away, I said a little prayer:

Dear Lord, May we remember how lucky we are to be able to get so easily from Point A to Point B in a car. May we also remember to slow down sometimes, turn off our ignitions and enjoy being right where we are. Life is going fast enough, and there are many pleasures to be had at walking distance. As the Thanksgiving holiday approaches, with its massive traffic jams, I pray for safe travels for all, and many happy reunions. Amen.






Saturday, October 18, 2014

Joyful Noise

Today we’re headed downtown for a concert, and I can’t wait. It’s going to be performed by the Pennsylvania Girlchoir (Ya-Jhu is pianist, my goddaughter Abbey is one of the singers). One of the pieces, “When I Am Woman” was written by the very talented composer Andrea Clearfield. Andrea has a special place in my heart because she was so encouraging to Sheridan when he was younger (his pieces were performed at her monthly Salon quite a few times when he was in his late teens).  Looking forward to a great musical experience!

When Rose was a young teenager, she sang with the Temple University Children’s Choir. Again, I always loved attending their concerts, because the songs were beautifully written and performed.  There’s something about good vocal music that really speaks to me. Every week I look forward to hearing our church choir sing, and I am aware of how lucky our congregation is to have such a terrific group. I also love going to the opera, infrequent as these opportunities are.  Last December, Sher and Yaj gave us, as a Christmas gift, tickets to The Magic Flute at the Met in NYC. Delightful.


So with this background of intense music appreciation, why don’t I like to sing?

Part of it surely is my lack of training. I can only take a stab at reading music (and the wound is usually fatal). I have zero breath control, too; by the end of the first verse of “A Mighty Fortress is Our God” on a Sunday morning, I am panting as if I’ve just run a 5K. The other, honestly, is intimidation. I am surrounded at home by so many solid musicians that I really hesitate to open my mouth. Indeed, the only times I remember being comfortable crooning were when I sang silly made-up songs to my babies (“PJ Sparkles” and “Julie Boolie” were big hits). 

The kids have been very sweet at their last few Christmas concerts, and given me small singing parts. Luckily, teamed up with them, my shaky warbling faded into the background for the most part. I am already stressing about Holiday Concert 2014, and think I would be rather relieved if I just sat in the audience instead.

I believe it’s a mind-over-matter thing with me, this vocal phobia, and I’m determined to conquer it.  Who cares if I don’t sound fabulous? At least I have decent pitch (or so I’ve been told) so my solos have never been complete train wrecks. So what if Rose brought down the house in 7th grade singing “Your Daddy’s Son” from Ragtime, while I didn’t even make the cut at the 1973 St. Pius High Talent Show (remember “Killing Me Softly”? My killing, alas, was not so soft). I need to lighten up! I too can make a joyful noise!

There’s a wonderful children’s song that says “All God’s Critters Got a Place in the Choir.” I need to remember that, and let this critter take her place.

"All God's Critters"

Thursday, October 2, 2014

"Company" Revisited


Several years ago, I wrote an essay about my manic party preparations. I described the Extreme Home Makeover that I attempted every single time someone was invited over. I meant it to be funny, but alas it was all true. I did indeed become the Maid from Hell; I was indeed always too pooped to enjoy my company.

Some of my attitude stems from my childhood. Both Mom and Dad were pretty messy people, from the ashtrays always full of cigarette butts, to the dishes piled in the sink, to the laundry that never got put away. I grew up in this chaos, and never learned anything about keeping house. I still remember the panic I'd feel whenever the doorbell rang, as I'd frantically kick all sorts of random stuff under the sofa or into the closet on my way to answer. We never, as far as I can recall, had anyone over for dinner (if we had, they would, like us, have had to plop in front of the TV set with a plate of fish sticks.) I knew most of my friends did not live like this.  Their furniture was dusted!  Their moms were always whipping up homemade breads and soups! There was no random stuff to kick out of sight when company came!!
Wedding day with Joanie and Tom
When Steve entered my life, I'm sure it must have been a shock for him. His own parents were total neatniks (even while raising five kids).  Leona ironed the sheets! Phil catalogued all of their photos and home movies and souvenirs of every family trip! And here was Steve, about to marry a woman who wouldn't know a floor mop if she fell over one!!
Wedding day with Leona and Phil
Aiden invites you to join him!
 Over the years, my cleaning habits improved markedly (even while raising my own five kids). We divied up the chores, and by and large it all got done. But at some point, "clean-ish" was not enough for me, especially when entertaining. I remember trying to converse with a very interesting guest, all the while staring, horror struck, at a major cobweb I'd missed earlier. It was all I could think about, and I was sure he was registering the web-festooned corner with utter disgust.

Now we have Yaj and Sher and Aiden living with us, and my point of view has gradually been changing. They are ever-gracious hosts, and invite their friends to dinner on a frequent basis—and I don’t notice them having heart attacks beforehand. And me? I still make a sweep for cobwebs, and do my best to tidy up on a daily basis, but I am no longer hesitant to invite friends to the house on short notice. So what if the dining room features boxes of Evan's rice, pasta and spices from his old apartment? Does it really matter that baby Aiden's play mat is out on the family room floor in full view? 

I’ve missed out on the fun part of company for too many years. So…It's party time, and you're all invited!!!


Friday, September 12, 2014

Experiencing Technical Difficulties


Just made the slideshow for Mission Sunday at church. I attempted this feat only because Julie the Video Queen is away at college and everyone else in the house is too busy for me to ask. It took me many hours to sort through all the photos that I took or had been sent to me from our week of service in rural Virginia this summer, still more hours choosing the music and arranging everything in a pleasing order. Finally, this morning, I finished, and burned the DVD on my computer. I burned two, just in case. Whew, done with two days to spare!

This one was a dud

So of course when I tested it out in a DVD player, the ominous words “Unknown Disc” appeared instead of the cute pic of Liz holding a live crab. Didn’t read the DVD at all. I went home then and tried it on our home machine—same result.  But then, when I put the backup in, lo and behold it worked. Problem is, I don’t know why it worked with one and not the other. I’ll make a copy of the copy to bring to church, but have a sinking feeling the congregation will be treated to “Unknown Disc” again. Why? Because that’s just the way I roll.

I bought a Square credit card reader a few weeks ago. These handy little gadgets attach to your iphone and enable you to accept credit cards, something I’ve really wanted to do when I have speaking gigs and sell my books. So yesterday I spoke to the Huntingdon Valley Women’s Club, a lovely group of ladies. At presentation’s end, my first customer approached with a Mastercard in her hand. Zip! The card slid easily through the reader. The next screen prompted the buyer to sign on a line with her finger. But as soon as she touched the screen it went black, and however hard I tried I couldn’t find the signing screen again. Meanwhile, other women who were lined up and patiently waiting, started to fish for their checkbooks and cash, because it was clear this technology, too, was failing me.

Easy breezy? Not so much.

Cheap boom box or the very expensive projector I (try to) use for Confirmation class—it doesn’t seem to matter. When I need it to work, it lets me down. Every single time.  I swear I emit a magnetic field or something that causes machines to go haywire in my presence.  And often, the very next person to try, can get whatever it is up and running again.

It doesn’t bode well for me, because the technical innovations continue to develop at a dizzying pace. I have to find a way to break the curse, or many more major malfunctions will plague me. It’s hard to reason with a machine, but maybe I need to try. Pretty please, Mr. DVD player? I’ll dust you off!  I’ll buy you some nice new batteries!  I’ll feed you your favorite movies! Whatever you want—just work on Sunday, OK? 





Wednesday, August 27, 2014

To the Teachers!


Do you remember your favorite teacher? I had several, from Mr. Engle my wonderful sixth grade English teacher, to Madame Kohn, thanks to whom I can still read (if not still speak) French, to Sister Mary Frances, who led the chorus, and also taught us about the philosopher Teilhard De Chardin.

My sister Mo and me the night of our chorus concert "Neath a Southern Moon"--Sister Mary Frances was ambitious!

  Each of my kids had some stand-out educators. Sheridan's first grade teacher Mrs. Weldon was a saint who also made learning fun, and annually directed the little ones in a play (Sher's year it was "The Happy Healthy Club." If memory serves, Sheridan played the role of a tooth.) She also let them watch Dennis the Menace cartoons while they ate snack, so she was popular indeed.

 Evan's fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Koch, worked hard to get him organized. At the first parent-teacher meeting, I walked in to the classroom and immediately located his sweatshirt, his jacket, a "missing" library book and so on. As I sat down with the stuff, she smiled and said, "Three guesses what I'd like to talk about!" It took the Naval Academy to finally pull him together, but it all began with Mrs. Koch.

Rose had a real gem for speech and debate her freshman year of high school, Mr. Redican. He challenged the students to become fine writers and even finer public speakers. I've saved several of her speeches, including one where she taught the class how to surf. Though Rose skewed more toward music than drama, I credit Mr. Redican for much of her poise in front of a crowd.

PJ had two amazing teachers in fourth and fifth grades, both men. At Mr. Goldberg’s "Fast Finishers" evenings, each child told the story of someone who overcame great odds to succeed. Mr. G would wear a tux to these events. Mr. Dillon was "so cool," and often told the kids about his many dogs and funky house, along with the math and science. I credit Goldberg and Dillon with PJ's decision to become a teacher.

Among Julie's instructors, one I recall very fondly was Mrs. Irvin, her kindergarten teacher. She was the gentlest, most nurturing soul ever. Julie (who was going through a shy phase) adored her and participated eagerly in all class activities, just because Mrs. Irvin asked her to.

Jules and Mrs. Irvin
 I get very annoyed when I think of how teachers are often regarded in this country. In many places they are woefully underpaid. I sometimes hear people talk about what a cushy job it is, with summers off, and I flash to the twelve hour (or longer) workdays that begin with early morning class and end with grading papers far into the night. I saw what goes into preparing lesson plans when PJ did his student teaching. It is one of the most important jobs there is, opening the world of learning to our children, and I wish we would treat it as such.

So here’s to the teachers, as the school bells ring again. God bless them, every one.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Heart of Darkness





Me on Lewes Beach 2006. ipod in my ear 24/7 to drown out the noises in my head

 A few months ago, I suddenly stopped taking my medication. There is no rational reason; I make no excuses. I had been on Abilify and Wellbutrin since 2007. Those two meds had worked wonders controlling my bipolar disorder, and I’d been so stable for so long that I thought it would be OK to quit. I had been feeling flat and emotionless, and I wanted to feel strongly about things again. And after all, it had been seven years—wasn’t there a good chance I was “cured” now? 

During my brief, prescription-free hiatus, I cried, a LOT. I awoke feeling crushing despair, and nothing good that happened during the day alleviated that overpowering emotion. I didn’t experience any manic episodes (those had been my hallmark, pre-diagnosis), but I was plunged back into the depressive part of my illness. The deep, deep sadness never lifted until I got myself back to the psychiatrist and went back on the meds—and even then, it took a while to feel any improvement.

I’m back to “normal,” but I live with the knowledge that someday pharmaceuticals may stop working for me, even if I keep taking them faithfully. I am haunted by the memory of the feeling of complete joylessness, of hopelessness, and I cannot bear the thought of ever going back to that dark place. 

My mom also battled depression, many years ago. In those days, mental illness had even more of a stigma than it does today—Mom didn’t even tell her own mother. When Mom finally saw a doctor, she told him she had to stop herself from walking in front of a bus; it was that bad.

So when I heard about Robin Williams, I thought: how terribly hard it must have been to be loving and giving and funny and productive, all those years, all the while battling this monster called depression that I couldn’t handle myself.  He was living in the dark place, that place where it seems there is no way out. And I understood why he would be sad enough to finally take his life.  

Mom and I survived. We were the lucky ones. Robin Williams, and too many others, were not.  I look at my own kids and worry about their mental health. We talk very openly about our family history, and they know it’s absolutely OK to ask for help if and when they need it. 

Centuries ago, people like us were said to be possessed by demons.  In a way, they were absolutely right. With luck and the right treatment, the demons can be defeated. But sometimes, despite everything, the demons win.

Jesus heals woman possessed by demons
It is my prayer that our world will someday become a place where no one suffers alone, where everyone can get help.  And I believe, with all my heart, that in the end, there is a Heaven where the demons are banished for good, and where all the sufferers step out of the dark place at last, and into the light.


Wednesday, July 30, 2014

SO Annoying

OK, major admission time.

Apparently, I snore.

For most of our marriage, Steve was the big snorer, to the point that I really worried about sleep apnea. I remember kicking him, shoving him, anything to get the nocturnal noise to stop so I could get a little shut-eye. Though he protested that he didn't make a nighttime peep, I had the witness of the kids (and the occasional dinner guests) to back me up.

And now? Well, he still concertizes every night, but he has assured me that I am now no slouch in
girls' room on mission trip
that department either. And it's mortifying. The entire mission trip to Virginia this month, I forced myself to remain semi-conscious until dawn so that the girls in my room didn't hear anything remotely noteworthy. I realize that I have no control over this malady, and I'm nothing if not a control freak. Arrggghhh!!

 What else do I do that annoys people?

I interrupt. I began doing this as a small child, when my sisters just didn't spit it out fast enough (especially my poor Mo, who was no match for Motormouth Moi) ,when I just had to get a word in edgewise with my mother, who literally talked from daybreak to midnight. I finish Steve's sentences, even when he tells me that he was NOT planning on wrapping up his thoughts that way. I get nervous and talk too much in general, and I am sure my kids recall my endless blathering humming in the background of their childhoods.

I also don't listen carefully enough, and have to have information repeated to me often. This has gotten markedly worse since menopause, though I remember bad spells when the kids were little. If I had a dime for every time a family member has said, "Don't you remember? I told you that yesterday!!" I would be able to buy a yacht (called the SorryIForgot). I am 57. Reverse those digits and you will have a 75 year old who can't keep track of her pills, or her meals, or her life.

My peculiarities are, over the years, threatening to overrun my personality until someday I will be the interrupting, snoring, forgetful old woman the nursing home visitors avoid like the plague. This wasn't supposed to happen. I wasn't supposed to be an irritant. I wasn't, Lord knows, supposed to snore.

Or…was I?

There is no danger of my family putting me on a pedestal of perfection, and maybe that’s a good thing. It gives them permission to be pains in the butt themselves once in a while, with annoying habits of their own. It gives them a chance to be gracious and patient with others, too.

Like it or not, we are born to get old, with all the attendant quirks and flaws. So let’s be gentle with each other as we age, and cut one another some slack.

As for me, I will buy everyone in my sleeping range earplugs for Christmas. Least I can do.

Mo and me: "what my sister is trying to say is..."




Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Running on Empty

Half-marathon finish line
Julie is training for her first marathon, which will take place in Philly in November. Her running schedule looks grueling to me (weekly loooong runs, punctuated by almost daily shorter ones), but she has both a 10 miler and a half-marathon under her belt so far, and I have no doubt she will complete the big race, and make good time. Julie is very focused when she has a goal, a trait I have always admired greatly in her.

“Focus” and “goals” are in short supply in my life these days—unless you count my focusing on the goal of making it through another day without a major mishap or mistake. Oh, I have plans, but they are vague and dream-like, and I do precious little on a daily basis to bring them to fruition. My sister C, a demon planner if ever there was one, went to the trouble some years back of working with me on some long-range (and short term) planning for my writing career. People to contact, websites to explore…there is so much out there for a would-be freelancer. But C’s efforts with me failed, and my folders and notes gathered dust and eventually became too dated to be of use.

Recently, I attended the Philadelphia Writers' Conference, a step in the right direction for me. Again, I came away with folders and notes that, I hope, I will use this time. The bottom line is, writing isn’t the easiest path to take in life, but there are many (and varied) ways to succeed—if you really commit to it. Am I ready to commit? I don’t know. I do know that I am running on empty right now, and need to be refilled.

So what is my focus, what are my goals for the rest of the time down here in Lewes? Yes, I will continue to write. I will finish editing the new book and get that published. But I will also take days, even lots of them, to just sit on the beach, read and rest. I will have family and friends down to visit, and reconnect with the dear friends we have at the shore. I will do some physical activity that I truly enjoy (there must be SOMEthing) in the hopes that my spirits will revive as I improve my fitness level.

And then it will be time to plan, plan for the fall and way, way beyond. Knowing that the best of plans don’t always work out, but that no planning, letting life just happen, is worse. Let me step out in faith that there is a bright future ahead, for myself and those I love.

As I watch Julie tie her sneakers and head out once again, I realize that life itself is a marathon and I am running it, one step at a time. But Julie paces herself, and I should too. May I cherish my “down time,” and then come back strong, ready for all my tomorrows.


Lewes, DE: my happy place

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Packing Time



I should be a world-class champion packer after all these years. My family moved around a lot when I was young. Steve and I lived out of suitcases for nearly two years when we were first married, on our Northeast children’s theatre tour. For the past 30 years, we have moved our sizable household to the Delaware shore for two months. For the past 12 years, I have moved our youth mission teams to locations near and far (including copies of passports, medical cards, etc. etc.)

And every July, I need to pack for two separate experiences: mission trip and beach. It should be a piece of cake, right?

So why am I standing in my living room, paralyzed, as July 5th rolls around once again? My suitcase
my empty suitcase
is still empty; our kitchen equipment remains in the cabinets and NOT in boxes. Haven’t made my mission trip photocopies of youth covenants and release forms yet. With my luck, I will open my luggage on location in Onancock, Virginia tomorrow, only to find my herb and spice collection, while my Rehoboth-bound belongings will include the mandatory Youthworks mission trip paperwork and not one single thing I need for my shore vacation. 

I have a hard time with leave-takings of any kind. If I don’t adequately pack, maybe I don’t have to go. Deep down I know that isn’t true, know that, ready or not, there I’ll go—and it’s a heckuva lot better to be prepared for the journey ahead. But still I lollygag until zero hour. I daydream that my circumstances will suddenly change radically, and I will become free to remain exactly as I am. Unpacked.

Also, I am far too dependent on my Steve, packer extraordinaire. Most of the time he is around, willing and able to help me inflate my air mattress, cram a ridiculous amount of items into my small satchel. When I think of the horrible possibility of being without him for good someday, beyond the incredible emotional angst, I worry about my ability to cope in general. I am still, at age 57, pretty shaky at the prospect of navigating life on my own.

Whether I like it or not, it’s packing time. Time to embark on two entirely different summertime adventures. Both involve a lot of prep. Both require me to be much more organized than I naturally am, and call for me to take a giant step outside the comfort zone that is East Oreland. And this time I am also saying goodbye to my little Aiden for awhile, and I don't want him to change an iota, even as I know he is changing hourly.
How can I leave Captain Adorable?

So what should I pack this time? How about some courage? Some flexibility? Some humor? How about a little passion and a lot of compassion, along with the sunscreen and bug spray? How about faith, faith that all will be well this summer as it has been in summers past? 

Off I go, then. Wish me luck?