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Stories

On Sunday, June 27th, at the ripe old age of 52 and with approximately 3 months worth of informal training, my business partner, Jennifer, and I participated in our first Triathlon Sprint.

Before the big race

Now, before anyone gets excited, let me just clarify, that the word “sprint” indicates that these mini, mini, mini triathlons are designed to help serious triathletes prepare for big, hard, rigorous races.  These elite athletes use these “sprints” as training venues.

Not so for Jen and I, and as it turns out DOZENS of other triathlon enthusiasts.

Initially, we thought we would be surrounded by a bunch of hard bodied, serious, elite athletes, and there were plenty of those folks to be found.  But as we looked around,  we realized that we were also surrounded by average, every day people of every age and fitness level who looked as equally excited and nervous as we did.

Suddenly, I realized that each and every one of these participants had a story.  After all, we did.  We didn’t end up at Lake Dunmore at 6:30 am dressed in our new tri-suits, looking like sausages for lack of anything better to do on Sunday morning.  No – we had a story.  And the story was more than the 5:30 am training swims and learning everything I could about a technique called Total Immersion Swimming, or the hours learning the difference between big gears and small gears and how they would impact my ride, or learning a technique called Chi Running to help me enjoy the entire process of running a bit more than I do.

The real story is this –  two women who were aging, who were more sedentary in their jobs then ever before and needed a real kick in the ass goal to get them back into gear.  More importantly for us though was this –

“Do not ask your kids to do something,

that you yourself are not willing to do!”

In this case, the something was going out of our comfort zone.  Taking a risk.  Pushing ourselves past our threshold.

Looking across the park at the people, Jen and I were reminded that each of our lives are made up of a series of stories.  Stories that help define who we are, inspire us to go further, warn us of impending danger, communicate what is most important to us.

On one overcast Sunday morning, standing on the grass with 200 other competitors, Jen and I were reminded that we are all connected through our stories.  And as we made our way to the water, we shared snippets of stories with some of our fellow competitors.  We heard about a mother-daughter team that was mending after years of turmoil; about a woman who raced the year before 90 lbs heavier; about a cancer survivor who needed to feel fear in a completely different way; about the loss of a spouse and the emptiness that could only be filled by competing.

As we  listened to the stories, our own personal trepidation washed away and was replaced with a deep sense of being truly present in the moment – of being connected to everyone on the beach waiting for the bell to ring.

Jen and I entered the water as lone racers.  We finished our runs as lone racers.  But we were never alone.  We were connected through our individual stories and a part of a collective story about competing in a triathlon sprint.

We came back to the house to celebrate our success.  We barbecued at 11:00 am and drank cold beer and spritzers and then – we did what our fellow competitors were probably doing – we relived each and every glorious and painful moment of our race.  The story continues.

As I continue to reflect today, I am reminded of the deep respect I have for stories.  I promised myself I would be more mindful in my daily life of honoring stories told and untold.  Of looking past first impressions and pausing for just a moment to honor the story that resides inside the unique human being I am communicating with.

Jen and I will be back next year to race again.  Our story will be different.  So will everyone elses.  I’m counting the days.

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The Resort

It wasn’t really about the resort, or the lavish accommodations.  But after almost 24 hours on the road, 4 hours of it driving down a 2 lane highway 220 kilometers from airport to entrance, we were ready to be WOWED!

We were.

Because we arrived at midnight, we had no way of knowing just how amazing El Tamarindo was.  We greeted what few guests were still up when we arrived, had a bite to eat and headed to bed for some much needed rest.

The next morning, this is what we saw.

A View from our Casa

Our Casa at the end of the beach

I know!  What a view.  I thought to myself – this is the kind of place movie stars stay.  But here I was.  And it got better.

This is what we saw from our bedroom looking down onto the patio.

Too good to be true.  And finally, the inside.  AND, for anyone with children, you will understand just how luxurious white furniture felt to me.  I tried to find as many excuses as possible to sit inside – even if it was for only 5 minutes.

White Furniture? Are you kidding me?

And finally – just me hanging.  Enjoying the view, the sun, the water – but most of all, the family.

Chillin!

In my wildest dreams, I never could have imagined that a destination wedding would turn out to be such a magical adventure for all of us.

Next up, friends and family.

And yes, there are lots of pictures, and I could post them on facebook, but I’m not going to because they tell a story.  And that is what this blog is about.  Stories of my life.  And this is one wonderful story that deserves to be told.

Big love Brie, Michael and the rest of the group.

A Wedding

On Saturday, May 29th, Michael Goebel and Brie Wexler were married.

Michael and Brie invited all 7 of us to attend their wedding.  It was touch and go  for a few weeks, but in the end, there was only one thing to do.  Join them as they embarked on what I suspect will be the most amazing adventure of their life.

A Moment in Time

There are a thousands pictures and ten thousand words rolling around in my head that I want to share – but it’s to overwhelming to think of sharing everything in one blog.  So I have decided to do this in pieces.  This picture is what is most important about this entire experience.  So today, I will settle on this very small post with this beautiful picture that takes my breath away each time I look at it.

Over the next few weeks I will be posting every few days.  I hope you will join me for this magical journey of love, laughter, and the meaning of life – at least for me.

Next Up – WE ARE STAYING WHERE????

Part 1

Back when I first started this blog, and I was writing the “about” section, I mentioned that I am the mother of 6.  I have raised 5, but I am the mother of 6.  In May, the entire Hoefenway crowd, all 7 of us (that’s Hoefle and Hemenway combined) will travel to a quiet little resort in Mexico to see my oldest son Michael and his incredibly wonderful fiance Brie, begin their journey as husband and wife.  Colin will fly in from Chile, Hannah from Arizona and the rest of us from Burlington, Vermont.

We will spend 4 magical days with Michael and Brie and their families and closest friends.  I will meet everyone who is important to Michael and Brie in this very short, highly charged 4 day extravaganza.

Everyone who is close to me knows all about Michael and my decision to give him up for adoption when I was 19.  I had not business raising a child at 19.  The good news is, I knew it.   My family…..my amazing family, was – well…amazing.  That’s a story for a different post.  This post is about introducing Michael.

Michael contacted me a little over a year ago.  Out of the blue.  He said he had an “epiphany”. Yeah, I know.  He had me at “epiphany”.  What 32 year old even uses that word let alone uses my favorite word in a  sentence about why he decided to find me after all these years?  This epiphany went something like this:

“I thought to myself, Michael, what if all these years, she has been worrying about you?  Worrying about your life.  Worrying about the parents who raised you.  Doesn’t she deserve to at least know that you are okay?  That you have great parents.  That you were loved and taken care of and that you are a successful, happy man.  Don’t you at least owe her that?”

And so the journey began.  We talked on the phone and within weeks it was as easy to talk to Michael as it was to any of my other children.  We met in Arizona and spent 2 days together.  By the end of the first day, we were bored.  Bored because there was no drama.  Just a quiet, intense, heartfelt conversation about our lives.  We asked each other questions and we answered every one of them.  We scratched the surface and then dove deep.  What we found was a connection to each other that you just can’t explain to anyone not involved in that connection.  It was there.  It had always been there.  Just waiting.

We returned to our homes.  We planned a trip to Las Vegas where he would meet his brothers and sisters and they would meet him.  He said he missed not seeing his “eyes or his nose” on another person.  He saw his eyes, his nose, when  he met us in the lobby.  He saw his face, his mannerisms, his laugh, his sense of humor in  his siblings and in me.  It was all there.  Waiting for him.  Welcoming him home.  To another family.  To his family.  The trip together was magical.  All the kids clicked.  It was easy for everyone to be together.  We were all in awe of our time and the memories we made in just 2 short days.

A few months later we took at trip to SF and he showed us his town.  His life.  His loves.  His passions.  His work.  We were captivated.  We were impressed.  We wined and dined and giggled and shared more stores and made new stories.  The connection deepened.  The love expanded.

Last summer, he and Brie came to visit us in Vermont.  Iain and I met them in Boston where we spent 2 glorious days.  We ate and drank and sailed and went to a Red Sox game.  We cooked and walked and talked and then drove to Middlebury.  The kids were excited to have Michael on their turf.  We played in the pool, jumped on the tramp, played charades and foosball, took walks and cooked.  We sat by the fire in the evening and our connection to each other grew deeper.

When it was time for Michael and Brie to head back to Boston to board their flight home, a funny thing happened.  On their way to Rutland to pick up their rental car, all the kids in tow, Michael suddenly blurted out that he had left his passport at the house.  The kids turned around, drove back to the house and Michael asked everyone to gather on the back deck, around the fire pit.  We couldn’t imagine what he had in store for us.  Hadn’t we already said our tearful goodbyes?  What could he be thinking?

Without warning, Michael began to talk about the importance of family, of his love for all of us and of his love for Brie. Quietly, without even a pause, Michael proposed to Brie – in front of his new family – he decided to share one of the biggest decisions of his life – with us.  The moment was still and then Brie, as only Brie can – screamed

“Shut Up!  Shut Up!  Michael Shut Up!”

I think it was shock as I have never heard her say anything like that in all the time I have spent with her.  What a moment.  What a scene.  The cheering, the crying, the hugs and the toasts.

When we received the invitation to this destination wedding there was a moment of pause for Iain and me.  We started with the rational thinking – the price for 7 of us, the college tuition piling up,…….and then we looked at each other and together we said – this is our son – this is his wedding – we are his family.

Together in Boston

Iain, Vicki, Brie, Michael

So my friend J has this really, really, REALLY cool business.  It’s called INLU.  If you haven’t heard of it, check it out now.  It’s just so cool.  Why am I promoting J and INLU?

Because Zoe is graduating this year.  Yes, another one flies the coop.  Ya know, its funny.  I have been saying to my kids since the time they were babies that when they turn 18 or graduate from high school, which ever comes last, I will walk them to the door and kiss them goodbye as they walk into their adult lives.  The image of this is crystal clear in all of our heads.  But here’s the funny part.  I am NEVER excited about my kids leaving.  Oh, I am excited for them, but I am not in the least excited that I won’t get to see their mugs every single day.

I love my babies.  Love them so much I could just scream.  I don’t need little cuddly kids on my lap to appreciate the pull of motherly love.  A 6’2, smelly boy with acne will  illicit the same undying, unwavering, knee quivering response from me every time.

Back to Zoe and INLU.  So plans are being made.  She has already been accepted to her number one school and that’s really cool.  Thing is, she has the travel bug like her brother Colin.  Zoe is deferring for a year so she can return to – drum roll please – ARGENTINA.  Yes indeed.  The girl has decided to enroll in a 4 week TEFL – (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) program so that she can stay in South America and work, travel and volunteer.  This girl knows where she is going, how she is going to get there and what she will do when she arrives.  Sound like a roadmap to anyone?

The conversations about graduation have begun and Zoe was wondering how she might “encourage” her family to support this adventure of hers without coming right out and asking for the cash.  Good question Zoe – how does one ask for cash and not sound crude?

SOLUTION – INLU

Suddenly it occurred to me.  This is a win-win-win,

Win for Zoe – She not only gets what she most needs in order to walk into her life as an independent young adult, she has also included an option for folks to donate to the orphanage in Ecuador she worked with last year.  Cool.

Win for her family and friends – This is easy, straight forward and they will feel great knowing they supported something Zoe is excited about.

Win for INLU because, well heck, it was there idea to make “green graduation” a reality.  It’s just so perfect.

I talked with J about the idea and she was all over it.  She helped us create a “rough” for Zoe to check out that we will send to friends and family when the times comes.  Wanna peak?  Here it is.

Friends and family will see this:

They can leave a note for Zoe, it will be seen here:

You can thank everyone from the dashboard:

And TA-DA! Zoe will get a chek for all CASH collected. The charity will get ALL DONATION FUNDS in one sum.

The site is http://www.inlu.com/home.  If you are stumped for a graduation, wedding, birthday gift, try thinking out of the box and give INLU a peak.

Chapter One – Earthquakes!

Ah life!  Isn’t it just a mystery.

So, yesterday, while I was in Boston, I turned on the TV at 6:30 am est. to find that Chile had experience an 8.9 earthquake.

Gulp!  Colin, my 18 year old child is in Chile.  He is in Chile with his buddy who is visiting from our town.  Gulp!

I was up.  I was alert.

  • When did I talk to him last?
  • Where did he say he was going?
  • Is he completely off the grid or is there a chance I could get him on skype?
  • Where was the epicenter?

A thousand questions raced through my head and answers to most just as quickly.  I settled down.  I knew it would be a long wait.  Iain and I talked, reassured each other, reminded each other of  Colin’s strengths, what we know about him and his ability to navigate his life.  We talked about earthquakes and cancer.  You can’t do anything about either.  There is a place in the world for life and death.  And no amount of gnashing of teeth, railing against injustice or being overtaken by grief or worry will do you any good.

It is, what it is.  It may sound callous, but I assure you that when you live your life from this perspective, your level of commitment TO LOVE – as in the verb –  is deep.  We don’t pay the “To Love” lip service.  We practice it.  So that when, not if, but when something happens, because it will, we will have no regrets.  This is our personal mission statement.  To Love.

We went to our appointment and kept Colin on the periphery of our thoughts.  We had however,initiated yellow alert at our home.  Our 3 kids manned the phones, began facebooking friends and created a whirl wind of activity.  Colin is well loved by his siblings and he is loved by his town as it turns out.  We heard from people we didn’t even know.  Crazy stuff.

When we finally arrived home the tension was palpable.  The kids dove into our arms.  They needed their mom and dad.  They needed reassurance.   And at that moment, so did I.

I hugged them, kissed them, hugged them some more and  slowed things down.  I looked at each of them long and hard and reminded them of who Colin is and how he handles life as it comes.  I reminded them of who they are and how they handle life, as it comes.

They began filling us in on all that was happening and Iain and I got  caught up in the frenzy – and then the alarm bells went off in my head.  Not about Colin.  About the way I was dealing with this small crisis.  It was time for a quick redirect.  So I do what I always do.   I cook.

I decided on Risotto.  It requires thoughtful attendance.  It requires cutting and stirring, smelling and tasting.  It requires time.  It demands attention.  Perfect.   Slowly everyone moved to the kitchen and the cooking the bonding the settling down began.   We created a safe space to process our feelings, our concerns and our love of Colin.

The phone continued to ring, skype continued beeping, and emails continued to fly.  We found safety and connection in the kitchen.    The love we felt for Colin spilling into our meal.  Read “Like Water For Chocolate” if you haven’t already.  Amazing.

Chapter Two – Apologies

Eventually, I decided to try twitter.  I heard stories about how twitter could be helpful in a crisis – but truthfully, I thought it was crap. So I would like to publicly apologize to those who tweet.

For the life of me, I just didn’t get the twitter thing until yesterday.  I tried.  I really did, but it just didn’t make any sense to me.  First of all, I am fanatically private so chatting about anything that has to do with me is excruciatingly painful.  I also hold the belief that NO ONE could be the least bit interested in anything I have to say.

But twitter – holy crap.  I heard from people.  I- heard-from -people. Do you know what that is like?  First time that day I cried.  I cried because there were people I had never met, taking the time to send me links to the Chilean Red Cross and numbers to call and sending me prayers and feeding me info as it became available.

Chapter Three – Gratitude

People I don’t know – they care.  So to every person out there who has ever reached out in this kind of way to another human being – thank you.  You became my strength in that moment of doubt.

And oh the gratitude I felt when we finally talked with Colin.  The stifled sniffles from his siblings.  The chorus of cheers when we contacted all the concerned relatives and friends to reassure them that all was – is – well.  Gratitude that again, people we know and love held us in their arms.  Held our worry for us so that I could tend to the 3 kids in my house who could not find solace in the questions hanging in their heads until they heard their brothers voice.

Gratitude that I am part of a family that pulls together and allows each other to find comfort and share love and celebrate when the crisis has passed.

Clearly, our hearts go out to every family who is suffering both in Chile and in Haiti and around the world.  These families are never far from our thoughts.  Our kids travel.  At some point, they will be deeply effected by the events of the world – if they haven’t already.

Oh, and today, when I chatted with Colin who was kind enough to call is Mama for a quiet chat – he informed me that he would be heading south to Santiago and further south to volunteer in the hardest hit areas.  After all he told me – I am fine and I am strong and I have a responsibility.  Of course you do my darling.  You are a global citizen.  Chile has your heart and your heart has the Chilean people.

Thank you.  From all of us here in East Middlebury – thank you!

Colin & Iain in Chile

Happy 21st Hannah

Happy Birthday Hannah!

You are the most extraordinary 21 year old I know.

It is a pleasure being your mother.

21 Things To Do Before You Turn 22!

1. Do something so daring and ridiculous, that just thinking about it makes your heart race and your head spin.  Make sure to take pictures for later.  Your kids will want to know that you did indeed live life to the fullest.

2. Develop an educated palate as it applies to alcohol.  You will have a life long relationship with the stuff, so get to know it.  Ask the bartender for a recommendation.  Don’t mix, you’ll be sorry if you do and send the drink back if it’s awful.  Bartenders don’t mind.  I know this because I was one for 10 years.

3. Remember that it’s the sugar in the drink and mixing of alcohol’s that makes one sick.  So stick with one thing and limit the sugar.  Eat a Hershey bar if you must.  Drink lots of water and take 4 Advil before hitting the pillow.

4. Develop an educated palate when it comes to food.  Try something new on the menu.  Ask the wait staff for the specialty that no one knows about.  Eat at local establishments and stay away from the fast food chains  (including Apple…).  You will ruin your tender, delicate taste buds on crap.

5. Create a Hannah Roadmap for yourself each year.  Trust me, you won’t want the same thing in 2 years let alone 10.  So enjoy the process of change.  That’s what life can offer you.  Change.  Take a picture and send it to everyone that loves you – that’s gonna be a big list.  The more people who share your vision, the more likely it is that you will live it.

6. Buy one, really expensive piece of jewelry and then wear it.  This will establish you as a woman who believes she is worth the best, because she is the best.

7. Make sure you tell people, if they ask, that you bought the piece for yourself.  That’s how you roll.  You don’t need anyone else giving you beautiful things.  You are in charge of giving yourself a beautiful life.

8. Take a great picture of you and your girlfriends of the moment, sharing an exceptional moment.  Frame it.  Anchor this.  You will revisit the memory often.

9. Give back. In a new and exciting way each year.  Invest in your world.  Invest in your community.  Invest in an individual.  When you do, you invest in yourself.

10.Wait 2 years before you even consider another “ink” mark.  Celebrate the one you have before you make it take a back seat to another one.

11.Go someplace alone.  Yes, I know this is scary.  But I promise you this, you will learn more about yourself in this one experience then you will learn in the course of 6 months of average therapy.  And what you learn will change the course of your life.

12.Attend some kind of Womens Gathering or Retreat or as an alternative, have a mystic of any kind give you a reading.  You are part of a sisterhood.

13.Sisterhoods – as Kathy H would say, “Your tribe will be there for you when everyone else leaves for the fireworks.”  Find your tribe. Some of my best tribe members came from some women’s gathering that I wasn’t all that excited to attend.

14.Learn to make one signature dish that will have your guests raving about it for weeks.  Try at least 10 recipes before you settle on one.

15.Learn to create a perfect table for your guests.  This goes a long way in creating a memorable dining experience.

16.Take a class on choosing wine.  It will make every dining experience seem a bit more magical.  You don’t’ even have to drink the wine, but you will have the confidence to recommend one.

17.Clean out your closets once a year.  Remember, nothing new can come into your life, if it’s crowded with your past.  Don’t be afraid to say goodbye to what you have outgrown.  This goes for men, jobs and friends as well as clothes, home decorations and makeup

18.Read the “I love me” slogan each month as you enter the PMS stage.  It will remind you of  those that love you and may even help you get through the PMS, although I have no scientific data to support this.

  • I promise to fall more and more in love with myself every day for the rest of my life.
  • I promise to make my happiness a priority, always.
  • I promise to take every action and make every decision with self-love and happiness as my guide posts.
  • I vow to know my truest self, deeply.
  • I vow to freely & fully express myself, never apologizing for or holding back from who I am.
  • I vow to always be completely honest with myself.
  • I vow to love myself for exactly who I am right now.
  • I vow to celebrate myself.
  • I vow to make my happiness a priority.
  • I vow to forgive myself when I’m not perfect.
  • I vow to see my beauty everyday.
  • I vow to find kindness and compassion instead of judgment and comparison for myself.
  • I vow to never settle for less than my heart and soul desire.

19.Plan to attend one event this year that is out of character for you.  Surfing Competition, Red Carpet, Opening of a New Club or a Public

20.Surprise someone you love this year.  Send them a love letter letting them know how important they are in your life and why.  It will feed both of your souls and spirits.

21.Make plans to celebrate 22 with as much enthusiasm and excitement as you celebrated 21.

Remember, the only thing exception about 21 is that you are able to drink legally in the US.  There must be just as good a reason to celebrate 22!

Happy Birthday my darling!  I love you beyond words.

I love you Hannah Elyse!

How would your life be different if you kept these promises and vows to yourself?