A Sister’s Birthday

This is my sister Diane Colby Zaun D’Leon. Today is her birthday and she would be 58 years old. However, in 1985 she passed from colon cancer at the age of 26. While I miss her physical presence on a regular basis and think of her often, I continue to celebrate her birthday because it is a day that always makes me remember the joys of having her as a sister.

The three girls in my family were all born in July and we used to have group birthday parties with the family. We had two cousins who also had July birthdays so they often joined the group party. For many years my mother and aunt would take us all to the Highland Lodge in Greensboro for a special birthday lunch and we always looked forward to that.

Who would think that after 32 years one would still miss someone so, but I do miss Diane. She had the kind of loving and gentle spirit that is easy to get attached to and so easily missed. I am gifted with many opportunities to think about her and cherish every one.

Each year at the high school we graduated from, I make a presentation to a graduating senior in her honor and I think about the similarities I see between Diane and the recipients of that award. They are always other gentle and caring souls who I know will make a difference in the lives of others, just as Diane did. This year’s award was especially meaningful to me because it would have been Diane’s 40th reunion. During alumni festivities I knew that her classmates would be remembering her fondly. Looking over the photos from that weekend I see many faces of her friends from those years and can recall them together on the track at school, or trotting horses around the yard.

Daily I drive past our childhood home and see her hanging clothes on the line out back, or somersaulting across the front yard. And when I occasionally drive by the home where our grandmother used to live I am reminded of the many hours of fun we had there. Each fall we raked up leaves and jumped in them for ; we had family reunions there in the summertime, spending hours in the playhouse; we learned to sew and bake from Gramma Colby; and we shared years worth of traditions.

When I play board games with my granddaughter I am reminded of hours spent on the living room floor at home or at card tables at Grammie’s playing Checkers, or Chinese Checkers, or King’s Corner. Colby Diane and I laugh and tease one another just as Diane Colby and I used to do.

Occasionally I run into classmates and friends of Diane’s and I will forever see them as they were in their teenage years, worry free and enjoying life.

Today I am thankful for the 26 years I knew my sister. She was a strong enough spirit that over the past 32 years I feel her with me daily and I am thankful for that as well. She was a gift to many she encountered in her short life and I know that many of those people remember her with great fondness from time to time. And isn’t that a strong testament to a person’s spirit? To be remembered with great fondness is indicative of a life well lived. It’s not so much about the years in your life, but about the life in the years you have. Diane’s 26 years were full and well lived.

Happy Birthday Sister!

Life on the Bike Trail

I am sad to say I have not been for a bike ride on the Kingdom Trails yet this year.

Between work, the oh so wet weather in April and May (and some of June) and interests in other things like boating and golf and gardening, I have just been too busy.

However, last weekend was NEMBAFEST here in Burke, VT ~ which means it was one of the biggest bike weekends on the trails, which do pass right in front of our house. The White School trail passes through our property and so it is not uncommon for us to see bikers passing by.

This year, since we had company and were planning a family barbecue, I knew I would be around the house all day so I decided to count the number of bikers who passed through on Saturday. I used my little chalkboard to keep the tally throughout the day.

As we sat on the deck, visiting with our guests and counting bikers, my husband had the brilliant idea to ‘honor’ the 500th biker that passed. Everyone was in agreement and so we watched and waited. When the 500th biker came around the corner we all started to hoot and holler and yell for her to stop.

I think our yelling scared her a bit – she thought we were yelling because she was going the wrong way or had run over something. We assured her that we were simply entertaining ourselves and she graciously posed for pictures. Here she is with my landowner husband.

We hadn’t really planned this adventure so didn’t have a big prize for her, but we did sent her on her way with an ice cold Corona. I think she was appreciative – and very relieved that she hadn’t actually broken any biking rules.

By days end we had a total of 585 bikers pass by and we enjoyed every single one of them.

Just another day of fun and adventure on Sweetwater Lane.

Benefits of Yoga

It has been a stressful few weeks at the job. I love my work and can identify wonderful things that happen there every single day. However, sometimes it can be trying. Sometimes people seem to be at odds with one another; sometimes someone misinterprets your words or actions; sometimes I misinterpret the words or actions of another; sometimes students are angry, frustrated, embarrassed, or sad; sometimes co-workers are angry, frustrated, embarrassed,or sad; sometimes educational decisions make no sense for students. . .

Today at work a colleague was expressing her frustrations with recent challenges in the work place and in the middle of her diatribe she stopped and said, “You are so calm, despite everything that’s going on. It must be your yoga.”

Oh, yeah.

She is correct. Yoga has most definitely had a calming influence on me. Yoga and aging. The two together are a sure cure for angst and sleepless nights. At times it is difficult to define the benefits of yoga because there are so many. For me, yoga has gone from a practice to a lifestyle. It’s a lifestyle that I practice regularly, which is probably what makes it a lifestyle.

Moving through a series of asanas (poses), using my breath as a guide, allows everything else to melt away. When I step on the mat and take a moment to set an intention and look inward, my body leads the way to exactly what it needs at that moment. By focusing inward I am able to get outside my head and let go of all the thoughts from the day that are the real stressors. For me, the practice of yoga, and mindfulness through yoga, has helped me to be aware of the thoughts that come into the mind, but not to dwell in them. I have learned, through practice, to notice and let go.

Once I can get to that place of noticing and letting go I am then able to select the ideas that actually need my attention. By noticing and letting go I can later determine which of the ideas that come into my head actually need more of my attention. I find that most do not need much further reflection on my part ~ the comment a co-worker made to me is not my issue, so I can let it go; the opinion expressed to me by another is simply that – an opinion and does not warrant more of my energy. Yet, the student who came to me recently with a concern may need more of my time and energy.

Honestly, it only takes a few minutes each day to practice mindfulness, and for me it works best when I do a few asanas at the same time, getting my body moving a bit while using my breathing in an intentional way. When I have a choice to spend 10 minutes obsessing in my head over something I can’t control, or taking the time to let a multitude of ideas pass through my mind, notice what comes, and then let it go, I can take control of what I need to focus on.


Happy Mother’s Day

I originally published this here five years ago, but feel it’s worth a second shot today. Love you Mom!

This is my mom when she was four. She gave me this picture last year on my 55th birthday.

There are so many things I love about the photograph. Mom wasn’t sure, but suspects it was taken by my Great Grandmother Powers. She was a photographer and was the one who colored the picture.

As I look at the photograph now I think of Sandra Cisnero’s story “Eleven”. It is about a young girl just turning eleven, but the day doesn’t go as she hoped. She reflects on how, sometimes, “What they don’t understand about birthdays and what they never tell you is that when you’re eleven, you’re also ten, and nine, and eight, and seven, and six and five, and four and three, and two, and one.”

I realize that never before have I thought of my mother as any age except the one she was at any given time. Today I know that she, like all of us, has carried all her ages with her through her lifetime.

I wonder how many times in her 80 years she has felt four. How many times has she gone back to that day on the beach when she was alone with her thoughts, listening to the sound of waves and laughter behind her?

I suspect there have been many of those days. Perhaps in July of 1951 when she married my father she was feeling timid and naïve, like a girl younger than she was. Or in May of 1952 when her first child was born and she held him with the same love she’d once felt for her dolls, when she was four. In November of 1963, when her first love passed away suddenly; unexpectedly, she must have wanted to crawl onto her own mother’s lap for reassurance and comfort.

When I look at my four-year old mother on the beach I see the precision she is using to place shells on the sand. It is the same precision she used when she cooked for us or when she created quilts, or rugs, or stained glass. I can see her in her forties kneading bread dough on a Saturday morning with that same concentration, and I can see her in her fifties planning lessons for her students, and in her sixties reading to her grandchildren.

Having lived as my mother’s daughter for more than 55 years I recognize that look on her young face. It is the same as mine and underneath it I know she is thinking deep thoughts, even at four. Thoughts that she may never share with anyone because then they would not be hers alone.

She seemed content to be four years old. And today, she seems content being eighty. I understand now, that when you’re four, or forty, or eighty you are all the ages that came before. You don’t leave them behind, but carry them with you, and sometimes clutch them tightly like a child clutching seashells in her hand.

Thank you Mom, for being there for me, no matter what age I am or what age I’m feeling.

Happy Mother’s Day.

Gentle Sunday Morning Yoga

This Sunday morning practice is designed for those new to yoga. The practice will focus on proper alignment, gentle stretching to avoid stiffness and asanas (poses) to improve balance and flexibility.

Sunday, April 23, 2017
9:00 am to 10:15 am
East Burke Club House
$10.00 per person/per session

This week we will focus on lengthening and restorative poses, along with a full body scan to check in with how we are doing.