When You Know You’re Home

It’s been less than a year since we moved from Bath to Boothbay. That’s about a 35 minute distance, so the change wasn’t exactly monumental, however, I was  deeply attached to my social circle in Bath and I knew that some things were going to have to change if ever I was going to acquaint myself properly with our new residence. Last night, I realized with certainty that I’ve made the transition and I couldn’t be happier about our new home.

In the summer, Boothbay’s population explodes with summer residents clamoring to see the ocean.  They take boat rides along the jutted coast. They poke into souvenir shops, sample fudge, and indulge in gourmet popcorn. The restaurant selection goes from about three in the winter months to around fifty in the summer. It is a fantastic vacation spot.

We were warned that Boothbay was extremely uneventful in the cold weather season; many of its residents leave for tropical spots, and the remaining population of about 3,000 includes a lot of senior citizens. Although my bedtime says other wise, I am not yet a senior citizen. We have our two small children to entertain even when the snow flies, so I was a little concerned about how we’d fare this first winter in Boothbay.

As it turns out, we are in love. The benefit of being in a small town is that you see the same people over and over again. The man at the coffee shop knows immediately that I’m coming in for a raspberry latte, and he lets Harrison and Ella pay for their cookies with change. The bartenders make room for us at the bar when we come in for a drink. The deli workers at the grocery store come from behind the counter to say hello to the kids when we pass by. We’ve found other families with small children, whom we meet on occasion for play dates at the local playground. I’m part of a book club, I joined a workout class, and I started a child care program at the YMCA. I’d say it’s been a pretty good year. This community is really tight-knit, and I found out last night that they support their own through thick and thin.

Last night, I attended a celebration of life benefit for the son of a friend of mine. In a tragic scenario, Christopher passed away this week. Jill, his mom, is obviously devastated. This benefit was put together by the community, especially her co-workers from The Boathouse Bistro, where she worked as a server. That is actually where we met Jill, and we saw her there on a regular basis because we tend to eat out all the time. It was a beautiful event, overlooking the water on the second floor of a local restaurant, with great food and drinks, and tons of donations for a fund raising auction.

But the beauty went beyond that. What I noticed is that pretty much every person in town was there. Every person knew this family in some form and they all knew each other. It was the love that these community members held for Jill and her family at this time of need that made the place truly shine. The auction donations were from local shops. The bids went soaring high, not just out of pocket, but out of love. There was this natural coming together of people to make their weak one strong again.

I would never ever in a million years wish this experience on a person. But I do know that for any of us wondering, “why”, we might have been answered with a whisper in response: “Look what you can do for each other. Look what you can do together.” I never had the pleasure of meeting Christopher, and I sincerely wish I had, but now I can honestly say that he has touched my life because I see through him and his family what true community and belonging means.

In the past year, I have known that I want to become an active part of this new community, to give what I can, however I can. I have had a few opportunities to do some volunteering, and I love that I can contribute. At one point last night, I found Jill amidst the crowds, and hugged her real tight. She smiled and said, “Your blog has been keeping me going. It makes me laugh.” Dumbfounded, I looked at this woman, who was going through the worst thing imaginable, and wondered how she found the time to pass a compliment to me. But then I realized it wasn’t as much of a compliment, but more of a calling. Even though I haven’t been setting enough time aside to write lately, here is someone saying that my writing helps her. Of all people in this universe right now, I want more than anything to help her. And so I will write. It doesn’t matter if I am gaining readers, or going viral. It matters that I could give back to this community, to make someone smile (when they REALLY needed a smile). I went home knowing I didn’t make the biggest monetary donation, that I don’t know Jill the best, that I can’t fix what is broken right now. But I can help. Thank you Boothbay, for showing me that we all fit in here. And most especially, God bless you, Christopher.

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The Balancing Act

Being a stay at home mom, I feel like I really should have it together all the time. But I don’t. It’s not even close. As a matter of fact, I am a mess. Everything is a mess.

We moved into our home last August. It happens to be literally three times the size of our old place, so obviously it has taken me some time to get used to all the space, and all the cleaning. There was an initial overwhelming feeling about it all, but I’ve settled in and it is getting easier. It started with a frantic unpacking of things and once that was done, it was the organization of things. And now it’s down to cleaning.

Oh, God. The cleaning. Four bathrooms. Four toilets to clean. Think about that people. It’s like I’m spending half my day with a scrub brush and some Lysol in hand. I’m not saying that this house is palatial or anything, but it is a big adjustment to what we were in. And also, I don’t want to hear you say how lucky I am to have this great house, because I KNOW that. This is not about me whining that I have such a difficult life. I don’t, I know that. My demons are all living inside my head and I’m trying to find my way out. Except for the demons who constantly spill the cheerios and add to the laundry pile. Those demons are here to stay.

I finally got around to making a daily checklist of things that I need to do on a very regular basis to maintain this place and my sanity. I also made weekly and monthly lists. I color coded them. I printed them on pretty paper. I am SO good at making lists, and PRETTY good at following them. I really thought that this would be the solution to the anxiety I feel, and the despair that what I do doesn’t make a difference. I thought that a checklist would give me a sense of accomplishment, and I’d feel great at the end of the day looking at all I had done.

But I don’t. I am in this rut where I am completely sad. I walk around the (clean) house and I don’t feel like I’ve done anything. I look at my children, and if I have time to ponder for a moment before they’re whining for snacks or coloring the furniture with a red sharpie, I think about how the hugs I give are somehow never long enough and the activities we do are never fun enough. They’re just like the house: when they were infants, it was the frantic survival mode, then it was figuring out a routine, and now it’s a lot easier, but I struggle to maintain a consistent balance with them. Or at least I think I do. I’m always wondering if they’re watching too much TV (they are), or eating enough vegetables (they’re not). And even if I have a great day where I think I’ve got it all figured out, there’s still some sadness.

If you’ve read this far, you’re going to want to tell me to take care of myself and I’ll feel better. I agree with you. I’ve been doing that-I got the highlights I’ve wanted for years. But did you know that you still have to wash and style your hair even after it is the right color?! Exhausting. I also exercise. But I just found out in a “helpful” book that if I want to count my walking as exercise I need to do it for 90 minutes. Even with back to back episodes of Pretty Little Liars, I can’t handle 90 minutes. But this is ridiculous. It seems that no matter how much I try, I can’t find that balance that I am seeking. My skin can’t even find it. Somehow, at 34, I’m breaking out and getting wrinkles. Bring on the Clearasil, friends.

As I write, I know there are more of you out there who are unbalanced like me. As a writer, I’m encouraged to find purpose in the words I put on paper. I’m hoping we can help each other. I am hoping we can find balance together, whether it be within our homes, in raising our children, or in our skin care regimen. I truly believe balance is out there and I will continue to search for it.944304_10151708788956383_976372895_n