Only the Living Can Change their Story

Nana ElegantYears ago I began to write my family history. My goal is to chronicle the generations for my children. I envision leaving them a book filled with the stories of lifetimes, bits of wisdom, poetry, recipes and pictures that they can share with future generations.

My family history is filled with the tragedy of murder and the hidden secrets of organized crime – and like a super sleuth I wanted to uncover all I could. I searched old newspapers and court records and interviewed living relatives. The fact that so much of the past was still guarded only intensified my curiosity. There were secrets that still wanted to be kept and pain that would always be too fresh for the living to share.

After gathering all I could on generations past, it came time to chronicle generations present. Time to chronicle the chapters of my own life and marriage.

I wanted to present a love story to my children. A “fairy tale” of a love that was strong enough to persevere through years of stormy weather.

Stormy weather. Those two words weren’t big enough to hide the truth.

I struggled to write my own story and began to see that the story I desperately wanted to tell didn’t exist. Our life had deteriorated in recent years as he fell deeper into alcoholism and I enabled him by holding back the dam that threatened the life I had so carefully constructed. While I was so eager to know the truths that were buried with the dead, I struggled to face my own truth. I was keeping my own secrets.

And then I realized – Only the living can change their story.

My marriage has sadly ended and I am telling a new story, bit by bit. And someday I will finish the book for my children. And it will be rich with the stories of lives past and present, and the price they paid to teach their lessons to the future.

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Eulogy to a Marriage

March 12, 1988 – July 24, 2014

WeddingToday it was sealed and I say my final goodbye. I will remember your years with kindness for what they gave me.

The years were full. Laughter was common. Tenderness too.

I held pure love in my arms with each child born of this union. I never knew such love existed before they came along. They are my greatest treasures. No experience yet has compared to being their mother, watching them grow, and giving them wings.

We had some great adventures. The first time I noticed how many stars filled the sky was on one of those adventures; I remember how He and I pulled the car over to the side of a dark mountain road just so we could gaze up at the night sky in awe of how grand it was – and humbled by how small we are.

The bitter days served me too.

In them I grew up. I came face to face with myself. With my choices. I gained strength. I learned to forgive – myself included. Those were the days that forced me to see and invited me to make new choices – to step up and step into better fitting shoes.

I have grieved the loss of the fragile life I had planned. And now, as I step into the unknown future, I do so with confidence and gratitude for all that your years have given me.

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“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.” e.e.cummings

Slip n slide

Sarah at about age 6. Oh, how I wanted to join you on the slip and slide!

As a child, mom would send us outside to play for hours. It was in these play periods with my siblings that I had grand adventures and made delicious discoveries.

I was an Indian Princess riding a fallen tree that had become my majestic steed. I discovered that baby birds and frogs couldn’t survive long in a shoebox, and that butterfly’s and fireflies did not belong in mason jars. I was a circus performer on a bike and a star in a barn that doubled for a stage.

I loved to explore and create. I was amused by the simplest things. Like the way a velvety leaf felt in my hands or the way a buttercup’s yellow petals would reflect off my skin if it caught the light just so.

I remember being precocious and bold when I was young. If I had an idea that made sense to my young mind, I would pursue it. Such as the time in 4th grade that I persuaded a few of my classmates to sneak with me onto a basketball court and perform a roughly made-up cheer before a crowd of puzzled spectators – all because our school team had no cheerleaders and I plainly thought we should.

Aimee Sweet

Aimee – such a happy girl!

Unfortunately, well-meaning adults squelched my creative enthusiasm in their efforts to teach me more suitable skills – like sitting still and paying attention. Creativity and play became frivolous as I grew into adulthood.

I am not advocating for an undisciplined life, but play and creative expression can give birth to ideas and solutions to some of the most puzzling problems.

So, here I am on the other side of 50, and I am letting myself out to play again – liberating myself from old fears (fear of failure, of looking foolish, of disappointing), and small, narrow judgementsI am leaping out of my comfort zone to experience life and make new discoveries that I would never make by staying where it’s “safe.”

To all of my children – I’m sorry that I didn’t let you play longer, and for suppressing your creative virtues in favor of the more manageable ones, and for the times I was too busy to pay attention to your big, bold imaginations. Fortunately, you outwitted me. You never forgot how to play and you didn’t choose to follow the “safe” path; and as a result you are making amazing discoveries about yourself and experiencing all that you are capable of. You inspire me!


Jared, about age 6. I wouldn’t change a thing about you!

And what about you?

Can you remember when you had the boldness and creativity of a child? What were you going to do when you grew up? Who were you going to become? Is your grown-up purpose still locked in there somewhere? Or, have you exchanged the joy of creativity for more suitable skills?
If so, and if at all possible, please make time to go outside and play!

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“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.” – Melody Beattie

One of the greatest discoveries of my life so far is that I get to choose the lens that I see life through. I can choose to be grateful or grumpy.

No matter what circumstance I find myself in, I realize that there is always so much to be grateful for. If nothing else, I can be grateful that breath fills my lungs for another day of opportunity. And when I choose to live this way, I have enthusiasm for the adventure of another day – storms and all!

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“It is in your moment of decision that your destiny is shaped.” – Tony Robbins

So here I am at the center of a new beginning. Finally the air is a little less thick and I can breath. The days don’t feel quite so heavy and the nights are not so long. This new journey, though sad and scary – knee-trembling scary – is exhilarating. I won’t bore you with the details, although those of you who know me and are reading this already know some of them.

I’m writing this entry because I am charting a course. I write. I write for pleasure – and punishment, I think. I write because words build up inside of me and they must land somewhere. So here they sit. Sometimes, they’re just a jumbled mess, other times, they make a little sense, and occasionally I astound myself and wonder where on earth did those come from?

I want to tell a story, but I’m not sure just yet how this story is going to go, or who all the characters will be. It’s a simple story of a girl who made a new decision. And then she followed through with life.

That’s the story I’m going to tell. One entry at a time.100_1291

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This One Life

girl-107617_640With this one wild
and precious life,
I will seek to master
only me.

I will embrace
each glorious
and slippery day
with gratitude.

I will build a shack
on a rock,
leaving behind
my castle of sand.

I will furnish it with a table
to share my bounty,
and a bed
to share with my love.

I will ready my feet
for adventure,
and gather new stories
for the ancient days.

I will live bold,
fearless of the dark,
taking my refuge in the light
where nothing can hide.

and when I am tired
I will sleep,
and when I sleep
I will dream.

Lori Roa

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He lives on the outside
of himself.

His smile hides his fear,
but he doesn’t know
what he is afraid of.

He is fun
and his laughter

tickles the room,

but he is sad.
He is desperately sad.
And he is lonely.

His heart is eager
to love, hungry
to be loved, but

He has forgotten
the fragrance
of love.

He speaks words
that sound like love,
but they

to the

and S h a t t e r

because He doesn’t speak
the same language
of love

as She
and She can’t hear
him anymore.

Lori Roa, 2014

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