March Secret Subject Swap Friday, Mar 15 2013 

This post was supposed to post at 10:00 a.m. this morning…I am not sure what bizarre computer glitch kept it from doing so, but I’m elated because I had a chance to add a thing or two.

So — Welcome back to Take Two of March’s Secret Subject Swap. This week, 13 brave bloggers picked a secret subject for someone else and were assigned a secret subject to interpret in their own style. Today we are all simultaneously divulging our topics and submitting our posts. Here are links to all the sites now featuring Secret Subject Swap posts.  Sit back, grab a cup, and check them all out. See you there:

My subject is “: When did you realize that you were an adult?” and it was submitted by:

Oh geez!!! An adult? Me?!?!?!?

This is where it gets tricky. Sometimes I’m amazed that I am at that age where my kids look at me and think “old”. Sometimes I am amazed when people look at me and say “You can’t possibly be that old!” Sometimes I’m amazed when I realize I’m not even close to acting my age — or, on the other hand, I’m amazed when I do…Age is, after all, relative. I love the expression “You’re only as old as you feel”…

If you were to ask me when I did or do NOT feel like an adult — or at least not quite my age, well — that’s just easy! I’d say when I’m out on a “date” with my husband, playing trivia or singing karaoke. Or feeling like I still have time to accomplish my dreams. Or dancing in the living room with my children and their friends. Or driving down the road in the summertime all alone, windows down and radio blasting or while I’m singing in the shower at the top of my lungs. Or when I’m chatting with an old friend and the years evaporate into “it can’t possibly have been that long ago!” Or maybe even when I’m writing about my most secret thoughts and feelings and re-read what I wrote and realize I am still such a child in so many ways. Or when I have a childlike faith and optimism that something good has to happen, because God is good and life can’t — just can’t — be all that bad, even when things are seemingly crumbling around me. Or when I can’t figure “it” all out…That overwhelming melancholy may set in, and then I certainly do not feel adult.

But adult??

Well, here’s a story some of you might find amusing…Once upon a time, believe it or not, I was younger than ten with a very (VERY!) over-protective mother. Who let me walk alone (gasp!) to the corner store. For something trivial like bread or something. I felt so very adult. Until later in life when I learned she had walked through the neighbor’s yard and kinda sorta followed me the whole way there and back…Don’t get me wrong, I love her for it. It instilled in me that feeling that I was responsible. At least at the time. And that I was old enough to do something important. But did that mean “adult”? At less than age ten I wonder. But then…Many children have been forced to grow up beyond their years due to circumstances beyond their control. I think, for instance, of some of my own children, who were put into foster care and saw some pretty bad stuff before they were even close to the tender age of ten…

I remember when I first got my driver’s license. In New Jersey, that meant age 17. And though my birthday was in October, we were taking driver’s ed my junior year. Most of the class consisted of simulated driving, but there was also a written test. If you passed the written test with a decent enough grade, you could use that at the Department of Motor Vehicles to get your permit. So I had to wait. Til March. I was, of course, anxious to get my license and gain some independence. But when I finally passed my test, my mom was a “little” (noted understatement) paranoid about letting me drive. Anywhere. Well, growing up in South Jersey across from Delaware, one of the things we did was shop across the bridge to avoid paying extra taxes. The price tag you saw was the price you paid. So most of my friends and I frequented the mall in Christiana, Delaware – no sales tax. I mean, we did that when we could find a ride. One day I asked my father how much longer he thought it might be before I could venture across the Delaware Memorial Bridge by myself (well, rather with friends). And he gave me permission. I really felt “adult” then…expanding my horizons and traveling further distances independent of parents than ever before. I appreciated his trust in me.

Then there was the time I moved out to college for a short while, before illness got the best of me. I felt so grown-up as I walked to and from classes, implemented my own schedule and decided everything from when and what my meals would be to when I would work on my assignments.

It could have been when I was working for a law firm and moved in with my grandparents, and my Gram gave me a house key because they didn’t really impose a curfew.

But maybe that wasn’t quite “it”. Maybe it was when I was working in Philadelphia. I worked for a law firm on Spruce Street, catching the Patco Speedline from New Jersey to Philly five days a week. I was learning to manage my own money and feeling very “adult” as I stepped onto the car every morning and night in my business attire. Well, that year my only sibling, a younger sister, was a senior in high school. She was in the choir and had the most amazing voice! She was practicing a solo from Les Miserables, which, coincidentally, was scheduled to run at the Forrest Theater that December. So I purchased tickets as a gift for her birthday. She came over on the Patco Speedline and met me after work. We went and viewed the light display at John Wanamaker’s, wandered around the city for a quick bit, and ended up at Moriarty’s for a lavish supper after the play, all my treat. I felt so adult being able to show my sister how special she was to me and to be able to afford to do something nice for her for that particular birthday.

Possibly it was the time I had a place all my own…A small crappy excuse for an apartment that didn’t even have a separate bedroom (I childishly called my living room the “living bedroom”)…I loved being on my own in so many ways, and I took meticulous care of — because I had pride in — the little house. It was amazing to be in charge of myself and my living quarters.

Still, maybe that wasn’t the defining moment of my adulthood. I could say school or marriage brought it about, but neither of those things really made me feel any more “grown up” or “adult”. I often lacked confidence and certainty, which made me feel that I had not quite “arrived” at adulthood. Even buying our first house didn’t quite push me forward – at least not in my own mind. And earning my college degree was done over long periods of time through internet classes and late study nights as I tried to balance my wife/mom schedule with being a student.

I think that what made me finally feel “adult” was not one defining moment, but a series of little moments, most of them dealing with trust in some way…

* Babysitting and even house-sitting for various people during my young adulthood — I felt trusted and that was a big step.

* When I was a young adult, I taught 4th grade CCD at the Catholic church my grandparents all attended (I’m no longer a practicing Catholic)…It was so fun to be with the children, so interesting to be influencing their lives…And my young cousin would pop in to see me before and after class, which I really enjoyed because she confided in me  – See? Again with the trust…

* Gaining trust from my aunts, so that I was able to take two of my younger cousins on a trek to the Jersey shore. We went to Wildwood, walked the boardwalk, rode some rides…It was nice to be old enough to take them anywhere!

* Not long after my husband and I bought our first house, we hosted a party for the 7th grade CCD class (which we taught) around Christmas time, making some kind of cookie or craft and then delivering them via caroling to the local sick and shut-ins in our parish.

* Helping with a program called Journey, where my husband and I gave the “sex talk” on weekend retreats (I still blush!).

* Applying to do foster care as a young couple…The children placed with us were between 11-15, and we were newly married…It was interesting to be trusted to mentor children and provide guidance to pre-teens and teens, though we’d never been parents ourselves.

* Adopting our first five children — first a son who was 3-going-on-4 and then a sibling group of four children ages 18 months through age 7…Wow!

* Influencing an excitable, interesting and fun group of young ladies as a Brownie Girl Scout Leader.

* Having our first baby, after fostering and parenting and mentoring so many children…

* Losing two babies and having to explain miscarriage to my six small children.

* Being asked to lead the nursery room in our current church – a huge responsibility – and help choose the preschool curriculum.

Those experiences probably propeled me into adulthood faster than anything, because with each successive step I was relating to young persons who needed me to act mature and be “the grown up” even when I didn’t feel all that grown-up. There were, of course, many other situations where I needed to relate to people in an adult kind of way, which made me feel that I was edging my way there, slowly but surely.

I am still a scared little girl in some ways, not always in charge, but I can see the adult me peeking out more and more as life goes on and I move along with it.

A busy melancholy week… Thursday, Mar 7 2013 

I know I’ve been a bit quiet. I have an explanation — there was an unexpected death in my extended family this week.

It’s one of those kind of things that just unfortunately happens, usually with no warning, causing you to think about your own approaching mortality, and making you wonder if you’re doing enough, not doing enough, could be doing more, etc. You know how those thoughts roll — on and on like a broken record, driving you crazy. You cry, you reminisce, you put your energy into everything and nothing all at once…Yeah, death is quite the fiend…I hate the way he creeps in and steals, destroys, snatches someone with vigor and unapology.

This will probably be one of the few times I’ll wax religious, but I don’t know how people handle the thought of death without belief in God, without hope for a future reunion. It’s what kept me sane when I miscarried my two babies, or lost two beloved grandparents, or other family and friends…What do you have if you have no hope?? My personal belief is that I serve a living, loving, righteous and redeeming God who allows us the hope of eternal life. If you are curious, please leave a comment so I can message you. Otherwise, no personal attacks please. After all, I am grieving and trying to process…In my own way, this is part of how I cope.

So today, while I’m sitting at home with my children as the funeral is being held in another state, I am trying to think about several things…The memories I have of the person who has passed away, the memories I still have time to make for myself and my family and friends (God willing), and the things I cherish and enjoy about my own life now, such as it is.

Don’t wait to say the things that need to be said or spend the time that needs to be spent. Life is fragile and fleeting.