Friday, March 13, 2015

One Fish, Two Fish, New Fish

In my haste to get my "spring" hairdo,
 I talked a friend into cutting my hair
with paper scissors in my kitchen!
Amy Smedley met me for lunch afterwards.
 She did not cut my hair!
When the clocks spring forward, the whining begins. For all of their grumbling about winter, my Facebook friends screamed even louder about the time change. For me springing forward an hour is a welcome sign that spring is mere days away and who doesn’t love spring?

Birds start singing, flowers are blooming and summer is right around the corner. Love is even in the air—there is a reason there are so many spring weddings and songs and poetry written about spring. Spring is full of promise, but spring also calls me to “spring” into action.  

The onset of spring pulls me to make a fresh start even more powerfully than the desire to make New Year’s resolutions. At the first hint of thawing snow, I am making my mental “to-do” list: pedicure (flip flop season), shorter hair (for the heat), more exercise (less clothing, and therefore less camouflage and—gasp—anticipating swimsuit season), clean house (sunlight shows dust), plant flowers, wash windows—you get the idea—all while taking time to enjoy the beautiful weather.

Maybe it’s the very definition of the word, “spring” that makes me take action. Spring’s synonyms, “vault, hop and leap” encourage action. The first birds chirping and even a hint of sunshine has me planning to reinvent myself—in addition to a new hair style and  weight loss, larger items, like a potential career change join the possibilities  this mild, hopeful season brings.

For me spring cleaning takes form in not only washing windows and vacuuming carpets, but in decluttering my life. This is a time of renewal and each year I get to decide what will make the cut. It’s time to look at habits, friends, family, hobbies, and time. More spring synonyms “originate, emanate, stem and evolve” call for me to dust myself off, shake off any cobwebs and evolve into a better me.

Spring is full of promise: flowers blooming, sunshine and breezes—an appetizer for summer. I feel full of promise too. I will take time to appreciate all that is beautiful around me and enjoy time with family, friends, and most importantly, my husband.  I will weed out the timewasters (cancelling cable is at the top of my to-do list!) and enjoy the fresh produce that will become even more plentiful in summer to nourish our bodies as we continue to nourish our souls.

Watching the snow melt & the cove thaw.
Another definition of spring is to “move rapidly or suddenly from a constrained position.”  A therapist could have a field day with that one, but for most of us it means taking our exercise and activities outdoors after a winter in hibernation.  Spring can also be defined as to pay for a treat for someone else (as in to “spring for”) —or my favorite, “to spring someone out of jail.” Hhhmmmm…

It’s no wonder that for me, spring means freedom, joy, fresh air, reinvention, renewal and hope.  When the clocks sprung forward last weekend, it was as if Nature listened—the snow began to melt, signaling the beginning of a myriad of promises I make to myself and a long list of to-dos.  On Monday I will join a group of folks promising to spend the next 21 Days getting into better physical shape. Our Challenge group is called “Hotter on the Boat.” Me?  Why not? Spring is after all, a hopeful season.

I want to take the time to enjoy all that the season promises of beauty and romance, which  sounds like a tall order for a season wedged between what was a cold, snowy winter and what will likely be a hot, humid summer, and yet, I feel hopeful. How could I not? The birds are singing.

 But wait, there’s more...

My partner in all things including fitness.
 Spring is also a special time of romance for me. Tony and I got married May 20—31 years ago. I still have to pinch myself that he is the guy I am spending my life with. We were so young and acted impulsively, and it has been the best, fast decision I ever made! Spring this year also signals our son’s graduation from West Point. He will be springing into his next chapter as an Army officer at Flight School. Where did the time go? Our daughter will finish her classroom graduate work this spring and head off for a Moroccan research adventure in the fall. Life is coming full circle. Just like the seasons.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Remembering Ruthanne

I can see her bouncing into my office and telling me in great detail all about that terrible morning.  One of her cute knit caps would be tilted to one side, and in a “can you believe this happened to me” way, she would tell the story as only she could tell a story.

Only this did happen to her and she will never tell me or anyone else about the day she opened her front door and was gunned down.

Ruthanne Lodato died just more than a year ago. Sometimes it feels like a lifetime ago and sometimes it feels like yesterday—still raw and fresh.  I cannot always get my heart to accept what my brain knows.

Ruthanne was a bubbly, tiny woman who loved her knit hats and would fidget her small hands around while she told a story, almost as if she were acting it out. She was a loyal friend and devoted to her extended family, but especially to her daughters, her now 90-year-old mom and her beloved Normie.

Besides her family, music was her passion. She played in churches and taught piano for years, but she seemed to really light up when teaching the very youngest to love music too. Ruthanne brought music to Alexandria, VA’s youngest set nearly 20 years ago when she started a Music Together business in Del Ray United Methodist Church. Infants through 5-year olds would sway, clap, dance and sing with glee at the classes she taught three times a day, most days.

When I started working at Del Ray Church some seven years ago, I was lucky enough to meet the energetic music teacher. Always friendly to everyone, she would pop into my office to say hello before teaching each day. Soon we couldn’t get all our storytelling done in 15 minutes and started meeting for lunches and then spending her rare weekdays off going to movies or having adventures. 

Ruthanne  enjoying a boat ride on Lake Monticello.

One of our "play" dates.

Ruthanne loved to amuse her students on Halloween.
I loved the time we went to a Spanish movie with English subtitles only to have to watch over the sound of toddlers laughing and running around the theater—apparently the movie was a favorite for several nannies. Or when we were flea marketing our way home from Lake Monticello and found a whole set of furniture for Ruthanne’s oldest daughter’s porch.  We could hardly see, breathe or move after we crammed my 15-year-old minivan to the brim with the furniture and even had to return for more. Or just days before she died,  when Ruthanne took my dad to her favorite Italian Market only to find it closed on Mondays and she and my dad pressed their faces to the locked glass door and willed the place to open (it didn’t work).

At a memorial window dedication in Ruthanne’s honor last week, the assembled wee ones sang “How Can I keep From Singing” with their wonderful Music Together teachers who have continued Ruthanne’s great work.  It was a moving and fitting tribute to a woman, who even in death brings us together to laugh, dance and make music. She would have loved to tell that story.                                                           

 Music Together teachers dancing in celebration of Ruthanne.
Ruthanne's family rocking out.

Some of the wee musicians.
But Wait, There’s More….

Being at a loss for words is usually not a problem for me.  But this story is different. There is no happy ending or funny punchline.  But despite that, there are blessings even in the sadness. I am honored to have gotten to know Ruthanne’s amazing family and some of her many friends. Even in death, Ruthanne has brought light to my life. She has also reminded me that there are no promises of tomorrow and I need to live each day as the gift it is.  Miss you, sweet friend.