Scituate, A Love Story

Dear Scituate,

It was love at first sight.

For days we had been driving, looking for the perfect town to move our family, up and down the coast from Portsmouth to Plymouth.  Newburyport, Marblehead, Hingham, Cohasset – all beautiful in their own way.  Lots of harbors.

“What the hell are we going to do in a harbor?” I asked Phil. “We’re from Philly.”

“There’s one place we didn’t hit.  It’s off the beaten path a bit – Scitu-ate? I’m probably saying that wrong.”  (He was.)

“Ok, sure, we’re here, might as well.”

IMG_3656

That ain’t no harbor.  I turned to Phil: “This is it.”  He smiled.  He knows I don’t mess around.

Things moved fast, as they tend to do when you know what you want.  Our courtship was complicated. Sacrifices had to be made before we could make it official.  Like the temporary lodgings we found online – in a house that happened to be on a marsh.

IMG_0670

But we did it willingly, because love is blind, and you were worth it.  I braved the late night marsh sounds of a coyote mauling an egret because I knew we could do this, we could make this work.  And then, serendipity stepped in.  We met the right agent who happened to know of a winter rental in a neighborhood overlooking the ocean called Third Cliff.

IMG_0774

Phil looked at me and shook his head. After a decade of living in a landlocked state, he knew I was a goner.  I think I was weeping.  “We’ll take it,” he said to our realtor.

Of course, no relationship is perfect.  We had some bumps in the road, like a hurricane

IMG_1012and a blizzard.

IMG_1452IMG_1455But somehow these challenges seemed more like adventures.  They made us feel tough and resilient, like we could roll with anything life threw our way. And for the times when our energy flagged, the right people always seemed to come to our aid.

IMG_1473

When I discovered that the big blue house across the street was for sale, I imagined myself living in it.  I saw Phil and I with cocktails on the wrap-around porch after rolling back from the beach, sandy and starving.  I imagined the girls dozing in a hammock, being lulled to sleep by the clang of the ocean buoy.  I actually printed a picture of the house and carried it in my wallet – my own little secret fantasy.

I didn’t think it would actually come true.

IMG_1984

But it did – all of it.

The sandy walks home from the beach…

IMG_0710

the cocktails

IMG_2310

the hammock.

IMG_2133

While I hoped it would last forever, I fought back feelings of impermanence.  It all felt too magical to last.  I blamed my fears on my pessimistic set-point, on my leanings toward fatalism – that everything good is just one heartbeat from being taken away.  But in my gut I think I always knew that we wouldn’t last forever.

And that made me pay attention.  For the first time in my life, I was present.  For every sunrise and sunset, for every run on the cliff or walk on the beach,  I was there.  I didn’t want to miss a thing.  When I look back at my photos from this experience, I notice that I am always walking behind.

DSC_0178

IMG_3006

IMG_2318

IMG_1205As a mom, I often find myself behind things: a swing, a stroller, a wobbly kid on a two-wheeler.  Phil likes to lead the charge, but I love to walk behind.  It’s where I can see everyone, where all are accounted for.  I can read their body language – if they are happy or tired or holding something in.  I think mothers prefer the panoramic view.  The big picture.

And in the big picture, our move back to Philadelphia is the right decision.  My instinct was probably right all along – this was a passionate fling, a summer romance, not a long-haul kind of commitment.  But for a blissful 18 months, we found ourselves on your rocky shores.  Why? What did we come here to learn?

You taught us awe.  To have our breath taken away daily by nature.  To truly comprehend the vastness of the ocean and how small we are in comparison.  Hopping from rock to rock on the cliffs became a meditation for me.

IMG_0606

Especially when I stumbled upon messages I felt destined to discover:

IMG_0739

You taught us that people are good, welcoming, and kind.  I have yet to meet a Masshole. Ok, there was that one.  Our neighbors – loyal like family – kept us from feeling orphaned.  They even attempted to make sailors out of a bunch of Philly landlubbers.

IMG_2643

You taught us to be brave.

IMG_2558To try new things.

IMG_1959To take care of each other.

IMG_2688

To feel alive.

IMG_0935

But mostly, you taught us how to be together.  Just us.  And have that be enough.

IMG_2583

IMG_1203

IMG_3458

IMG_0773

IMG_0698

Better than enough.

It was here that Phil, Emma, Phoebe and I learned how to depend on each other.  And while we may not always get along, we are all we’ve got.  Moving someplace new is like a Family Immersion Program.  It is exciting and terrifying, and at times, really fucking lonely.  But we road that roller coaster together.  We learned by trial and error when to make someone laugh…

IMG_3676

Or give them a hug

IMG_3482Or just leave them the hell alone.

Image 1

You taught us how to be a family.

IMG_3016

And for that, a piece of my heart will always belong to you.

Happy Valentine’s Day.

xoxoxo

Insomnia: Gettin’ Dumbah Everyday

We are moving in 17 days.  And while our previous move was only 18 months ago, I seemed to have forgotten one of the side effects of moving: Insomnia.  Of which a side effect is forgetfulness.  It’s a vicious cycle.

When I was paralyzed by sleeplessness with our move from Philly to Boston, I sought medical intervention.  I was given a prescription for Ambien…and then blogged about it here.  And, to be honest, I wrote the PG version.  Ambien had other side effects that I will not discuss because my mother-in-law is reading this, but let’s just say Phil really misses the crazy slut alter ego that was Ambien Jessie.  He misses her a lot.

But no matter how tired I am,  I refuse to go the Ambien route.  I can’t take the chance that I will answer an Evite with a 500 word run-on sentence that includes an in-depth analysis of a Scooby-Do episode and my social security number.  Again.

That being said, I have to do something, because I am tired – to the point where I feel like I am losing brain cells.  When I was 21, I went out on a date with a NYC transit cop, who was adorable but not my type.  When I asked him to describe his typical work day, he said in a thick NY accent, “Basically, I just get dumbah.  I get dumbah everyday.”

That’s me.  Gettin’ dumbah everyday.  The evidence:

  •  Emma’s 2nd grade math homework has become too challenging.  (17-8=…..wait…wait…I got this….).
  •  When my mom calls and asks if I received the book she sent me, my response is: “No.  Wait…maybe.  That sounds familiar. Yes, I did.”  The truth?  No idea.
  • Any thing that crosses my path goes in the washer and dryer, including cash, tissues, my iPod, and this wool sweater that is now keeping Phoebe’s American Girl Doll nice and toasty.

IMG_3952

  • While I have never been the most organized mom on the block, my current inability to retain basic info has forced me to rely on responsible (and nonjudgmental) friends. I’m the one in blue:

Image

So when drugs are not an option, the only thing left is to examine one’s habits, which is annoying, because I have a lot of bad habits.  But for the sake of this blog, let’s stick with two: Bedtime Ritual and Racing Thoughts.

Bedtime Ritual                                                                                                                     Every parenting book has a section on the importance for bedtime rituals for children:  no screens, calming activities, limit sugar, keep the actual “time” consistent, etc. It dawned on me that while I am the Sleep Warden with my kids, I am a rebellious teen with my own sleep hygiene.

The biggest offender is late night computer use. The kids will be in bed, I will be cleaning up the kitchen and feeling exhausted. Ok good, I think to myself, I am on the right track. Just finish loading the dishwasher and then I’m getting in bed.  But then….something happens.  Suddenly there is a piece of information I simply must have before I can possibly go to sleep, some ridiculous, non-essential tidbit that will then open the Pandora’s Box of nonlinear Google searches.

For example: “How EXACTLY did Yolanda from Real Housewives of Beverly Hills get Lyme’s Disease” leads to…..

  • Research on the 47 species of ticks in California
  • Real estate listings in Malibu
  • The distance from Malibu to Joshua Tree
  • The inspiration behind the U2 album Joshua Tree
  • Is Bono’s real name Bono? (it’s Paul).

When I am satisfied with my groundbreaking findings, I’m all revved up by the evil blue light of the computer and I start vacuuming.  One night Emma had gotten up to go the bathroom, and came downstairs: “Mom? Do normal mothers vacuum at midnight?”

I gave her a look that said, what makes you think I know anything about normal? Then I took her back to bed.  As I was leaving her room, I saw this book sitting on her dresser.

IMG_3953It’s a journal Emma and I write in together a few nights a week as part of her bedtime routine.  I grabbed it before closing the door, and sat on the stairs reading our entries.  This one hit me….

IMG_3954

….which brings us to

Racing Thoughts                                                                                                               Little kids resist bedtime because they are scared of: monsters under the bed, the dark, bad dreams.  I resist bedtime because I am scared of: moving, leaving our friends, the ocean, this house that I love, of the kids adjusting to a new school, are they going to need therapy, should we buy them a dog, should we join the Y, I forgot to order Emma’s uniforms…blah blah blah.

So, if my issues are not all that different from a kid’s issues, why not treat it the same way? This week I created my own firmly enforced bedtime ritual:

  1. No computer after 8:30 PM
  2. In bed by 10 PM
  3. Read a novel. (No self-help)
  4. Create a mantra: It’s going to be ok.  None of this is happening right now.  It’s going to be ok.  
  5. And the most important piece of changing one’s habits: Accountability.

Image 1

That’s right.  14 days of good bedtime behavior and mama gets a new pair of jeans.

If none of this works, there’s always the Ambien my mother-in-law slipped in my hand during our last visit, you know, “just in case.”

Just in case I want to go streaking while riding a purple unicorn that smokes cigars.

Time will tell.

My Dog Is Dead and We’re Moving: How to Choose an Attitude of Abundance

“My dog is dead and we’re moving.”

This was how Emma greeted her bus stop pals on the first day back to school in 2014.  Happy New Year!

But that’s my firstborn.  In all of her 7.5 years, she has never been one to sugar coat things, and she tells the truth.  The whole truth and nothing but, whether you’ve had your coffee yet or not.  So put on your helmet.

Our dog is dead, as you already know, and yes – we are moving.  AGAIN.  When I told my friend Kathy she said, “You move more than an army wife.”  Yes, except we are not nobly sacrificing ourselves for the good of this country, nor is Phil out in the trenches fighting for freedom and justice for all.   He is fighting to make “validation sexy.”

But hey, if he didn’t, who would?

Alas, it is a position within his current company that sends us back to our beloved Philadelphia – 18 months, 2 rentals, and 1 house purchase later.

This was a bit shocking at first.  We have only been in this house for six months.

IMG_1979

I’m still unpacking from the last move.  It was only a month ago that I got one of those silverware drawer organizers at Bed Bath and Beyond.  Opening that drawer gave me such pride in my attempt at organization.  But now, as I reach for a fork – destined to be thrown back in a moving box – I think, I can’t believe I actually used a tape measure for this shit.

I am not going to lie, I spent a day or three in my snowman pajamas.  I wondered if Phil had unconsciously manifested this re-re-location by never changing our license plates.

IMG_3657

I just felt so…..torn.  Sure, there are many benefits to moving back to Philadelphia:  family, old friends, the Phillies, WaWa….

God I do miss WaWa.

But, even a 24 hour store that has everything from Midol to mac-n-cheese cannot compare to this:

IMG_3656

Yet compare is what I continued to do.

In high school, I had a friend who was trying to decide between two colleges: Tulane and JMU.  They were both great schools and she was having a hard time choosing, so she made a comparison chart.  I only remember the first bullet point:

Tulane: Smelly

JMU: Not Smelly

She went to JMU.

I began to notice that both Phil and I were taking the Smelly-Not Smelly approach in order to feel better about our decision.  For example:

Boston: Crazy Cold

Philly:  Normal Cold

Boston: Lobster Rolls (no thanks)

Philly: Soft Pretzels (yes please)

One night over a bottle glass of wine, a rapid-fire compare and contrast ensued: Boston doesn’t have a Liberty Bell!  The ocean is too cold in the winter!  It’s a 30 minute drive to Target! I hate clam chowder!

Our Bash Boston list became increasingly more shallow and sophomoric, yet the negative energy and booze continued to fuel our bad behavior.  We finally hit bottom when Phil said, “The women at Lululemon in Philly are hotter than the women at Lululemon in Boston.”

Oh, Phil.  That’s just weird. Way to ruin the game.

With the Bashing Phase over, I moved into the Avoidance Stage.  I stopped going for runs along the rocky cliffs.  I drove circuitously in order to avoid the scenic route through the harbor, where, on a clear day, the sun reflects off the water and the lighthouse stands proud in the distance.

The Avoidance Stage came to a reluctant end when I ran out of episodes of The Real Housewives of Anywhere.  I had no where left to hide.  Now I had to actually let myself think and feel again (dammit!) and ask myself, Ok, what is going on, here?

I was scared.  Scared of feeling sad. Scared of missing this truly magical place and the people in it.  Scared of never being as happy as we have been here.

IMG_2133

Then I read this line in a daily reflection book by Julia Cameron:

Life is what you make it.

Our life here in Scituate has been awesome and abundant because we decided it was going to be awesome and abundant. When Phil’s work brought us to New England, we literally picked a town off the map of MA and said, “This feels right -let’s try here.”  This was huge for us, having always lived near family and in familiar places.  Sure, there was some lonely moments, but we dedicated ourselves to believing our own bullshit: “This is going to be GREAT.  This is going to be the best thing we’ve done YET.  We are going to meet some amazing people.”

And you know what? It was.  And we did.

But this move back home to Pennsylvania holds the same possibility of abundance and awesomeness – if we choose to invite it in.

Emma said at bedtime, “What if I don’t make any friends?”

“That’s impossible,” I said.

“How is it impossible?”

“Everywhere you have ever gone, you have made friends.  You made friends in the sandbox, at the playground, on the beach, in school.  You make friends because you love people.  So all evidence supports you making friends again in Pennsylvania.”

She seemed to accept this as plausible.  I think because I used the word evidence.

Acknowledging the good you already have in your life is the foundation for all abundance.   -Eckhart Tolle

Life is so good right now.  And there was a time where I might have said, “Well, this is as good as it’s gonna get. I’ve filled my happiness quota. It’s all downhill from here.”

But this line of thinking made me a miserable f***k.

So I’m adopting an attitude of abundance. Instead of assuming every blessing will be my last, I will assume there are an infinite amount still waiting for me…for us.

I am still sad to leave.

IMG_2318

IMG_2182

IMG_2343

IMG_2403

IMG_1012

IMG_2118

DSC_0232

IMG_0710

But I am even happier to have been here.