How To Become A Grace Graduate

“I am not a grace graduate,” I speak this out loud to an empty room, because I am continually in need of rescue, not from the world, but from myself.

That was easier to type than to finally realize.

A grace graduate knows when to let things go, she’s wise, compassionate, tolerant, and frugal with her impatience. #Aspirations

Life is stressful by nature, and as usual, I’m not handling it well. I literally checked out from all social media, social obligations, and more importantly, I took a break from writing so I could focus on what’s in front of me. 

A barren kitchen, a family wedding, and chronic rib issues.

The thing about pain is it’s constipating, I’m bloated with the need to expel my thoughts, but the words won’t come, and the discomfort is real.

I know, I’m sick of me too, but getting away from myself is difficult without copious amounts of wine and repetitive games of solitaire. I’m not proud, just honest. 

The lack of sleep along with a plethora of obligations that I’m successfully avoiding have taken a toll. I’ve doled out my sanity as if I could print lucidity without inflatable repercussions and my common-cents is in a period of temporary decline. See what I did there?  

Believe me when I say no one wants to spend time with me except my sister, and maybe the dog, but only when it’s time to eat. That applies to Shaggy not Nancy.

The kitchen remodel is essentially done and one by one I’m bringing in the boxes that have been stacked in the garage for months. Painstakingly (literally) restocking the kitchen in slow motion, rearranging my old things as if I’m rearranging myself, obsessively repositioning pots, dishes, utensils, and out-of-date accents to accommodate the new space. Amazon is filling in the gaps as if some sort of inexhaustible grout that compliments my every scheme.  

I’m having a micro identity crisis as the new improved kitchen emerges from the foundation of her former self, it’s as if a snake, slipping out of her old skin. The process of shedding skin is called ecdysis, meaning to cast off, or in my case to let go. There are many factors that affect how and when we shed, including age and weather, the applications are endless, but I’ll leave that one to your imagination.

If Amazon had gold status I would be a founding member, arriving daily (much to Larry’s duress) are packages filled with drawer organizers, rustic picture frames, farmhouse clock, colorful mixing bowls, dish towels, spice racks, garbage cans, and an adorable cake plate because I’m irrational when it comes to black and white accents. 

For Mother’s Day, the kids surprised me with a Wolf toaster for my new kitchen, it comes with these adorable red knobs, wide setting for bagels, and a warmer button if your toast needs to wait for the eggs to finish cooking. I know, it’s decadent, but please don’t judge me because I’m in love with a knob. Wait, that didn’t come out right. 

This toaster has become the new benchmark for evaluating all things relevant or irrelevant to life. As Tony claims, “for the price of sixteen toasters I purchased an entire car.” 

Larry can’t resist, “for six toasters I purchased a 70-inch flat-screen T.V.” 

Me, “I could own two Dyson vacuums for the price of one flat-screen television.” They all look at me as if I don’t understand the game, I say, “trust me, I know more than you think.”

Some things look better in the new space but most of the basics I’ve been saddled with for the past thirty years have to go. The problem is I’m loyal to my old things and I find myself not only grieving but trying to repurpose every discarded item as if St. Peter at the gates of heaven. Those deemed unworthy are directed towards the Goodwill. It’s merciless. As Shannon L. Alder claims immorality is the word we use to describe people that are not sinning the same way we are. Bahaha.

No wonder I’m wearing so much black. 

It took an hour to bring my Mom’s old KitchenAid mixer back to life. As I scrubbed away old stains and debris I couldn’t help but wonder about the last thing she made with this appliance? I’ll never know but in my head it was a batch of cookies for me. Can we all agree to agree? Excellent.  

I suppose I’ve been thinking of my Mom lately because she was the one who made things better especially when I was hurt and it’s her birthday today. She would have been 85. It’s disorienting to be in the world without my Mom because she was my mirror when I lost sight of myself, my anchor in a storm, the acme of home.

In a few days, the entire Oreglia clan will be gathering in Utah for a celebration of marriage between our godson Adam and his beautiful fiance Kiana. 

My son Tony flew in from Portugal several days ago as he’s a groomsman. Due to a series of unfortunate events it took him over 50 hours to arrive at the compound reserved for the wedding party in Hatch, Utah. He had a difficult time acclimating to the altitude which is somewhere around 8000 feet and suffered a bout of intense jet lag. 

Our daughter Kelley has been in California since late May, she spent the 4th of July with us up at the lake, and has been working remotely from our house while she catches up with family and friends from all over the state. 

Tomorrow morning Larry, Kelley, Nono, Nana, Julie, Nic, Audrey, Cora, and Sienna, and I are catching the same flight to Salt Lake City. If the plane goes down four generations will be wrangling with St. Peter! Yeah, let’s not go there. 

I’ve rented a place called the Jones Cabin which should accommodate my entire family. It’s always exciting when I have all my chicks in the same henhouse and I’ve been clucking with joy for weeks. I have this fantasy of the entire family gathered in our pajamas sipping coffee and razzing each other like the good old days. One can always dream… 

After 5 hours of driving through extraordinary scenery, we arrive at the resort in the pouring rain and race to unload our gear. The cabin is perfect, Nic ordered several pizzas, and the entire Oreglia clan gathered in our living room to shoot the shit, sip wine, and anticipate the wedding tomorrow afternoon. 

It was an intimate gathering, celebrated under the cliffs of an ancient canyon, with the sounds of a waterfall in the background, a single guitarist, and joyful guests. My granddaughters stole the show as they waltzed down the long runner spreading greenery before Kiana’s gracious arrival. The bride and groom wrote their own vows and the ceremony was presided over by Adams’s best friend Connor. It was a heartwarming service without a dry eye in the house.

Tony and I kicking it up.

The alarm went off at 6:00 am the following morning as we crammed our luggage and ourselves back into the huge van we rented and made our way to Salt Lake City and our flights home.   

My son Tony turns to me, we’re sitting side by side on a Southwest flight bound for San Jose, and somehow we scored bulkhead seats, which means we can stretch our long legs. He says, “did you know the word hypocrite comes from the Greeks? It’s what they used to call actors because acting is hypocritical to your true nature.” 

I say something profound, “interesting,” glancing down at the book he’s reading while simultaneously taking notes in a journal, I’m left wondering who sired this kid?  

Glancing out the window at the formations of clouds and blue sky I consider the word hypocrisy? It’s universally despised (unless you’re an actor of course) because hypocrite pretends to hold beliefs, feelings, standards, opinions, virtues, and other characteristics that a person does not actually hold. It’s living inauthentically because it’s always been easier to toe the party line and live out our truth in the shadows or on stage as it may be. 

If I were honest, I would admit I am guilty of this on multiple occasions, maybe we all are?  

So this morning while Tony and I are enjoying coffee I tell him about a book I want to read. It’s called, Before the Coffee Gets Cold, by Toshikazu Kawaguchi, a story about time travel. 

The premise explores the possibility of going back in time and having the opportunity to change something you’re not proud of, maybe when you were living like a hypocrite? But it turns out time travel is not so simple, and there are rules that must be followed, most important, the trip can last only as long as it takes for the coffee to get cold.

Tony says, “order two copies and we’ll read it together, sounds interesting.”

I say, “absolutely, I’m a founding member of Amazon, with a prime membership,” which gets me the look. 

The books come tomorrow, this of course got me thinking about the past, what I could possibly change in the span of time it takes for a cup of coffee to get cold? George Washington Carver claims how far you go in life depends on your being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving, and tolerant of the weak and strong. Because someday in your life you will have been all of these. 

So I consider the times I haven’t been tender, compassionate, sympathetic, or tolerant, and I lean into these memories. The failures are so intertwined with the successes they’re hard to distinguish, raising kids, harboring friends, climbing the ladder, taking care of aging parents and each other. Is forgiveness retroactive? I decide it is because a wise Jewish man said as much 2000 years ago. I proceed to process those olden moments, which doesn’t change a thing, but I’m beginning to realize you can not move forward until you release yourself from the mistakes of the past. Wish I understood this pre-wrinkle but better late than never.

It’s quite possible that everything we encounter is something identifiable within ourselves clamoring to be loved. The truth is I’ve been letting things go for months, if I had bothered to look I could have seen it for what it is, preparation for a more fulfilling life. Maybe that’s always the case but we’re blinded by the minutiae of ordering, protecting, inventorying, and rearranging our lives. I wonder if that is how forgiveness buds, says Khaled Hosseini, not with the fanfare of epiphany, but with pain gathering its things, packing up, and allowing them to slip away before the coffee gets cold. I may never become a grace graduate but I’m learning as I make my way home to let it go. 

Anecdotes:

  • “To err is human, to forgive, divine.” Alexander Pope
  • “Love like rain, can nourish from above, drenching couples with a soaking joy. But sometimes under the angry heat of life, love dries on the surface and must nourish from below, tending to its roots keeping itself alive.” Paulo Coelho
  • “Forgiveness is not an occasional act, it is a constant attitude.” Martin Luther King Jr.

47 Comments

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    1. Thanks Nana, what a whirlwind it has been, with challenging travels, wonderful weddings, and all the kids in town. Life is never easy but deeply gratifying nonetheless. xxoo

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  1. Happy Birthday to your sweet Mama, enjoy the wedding and your family time, and remember grace for yourself as you move toward graduation. I have a feeling your mother could tell you all about grace.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Crystal, I might need to do a hearty toast to my Mom tonight! You’re right, she was the epitome of grace, and life is schooling me along just fine. Although I would never want to graduate early, I’m having way too much fun. Thanks for the comment, always appreciated, warmly, C

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  2. I’m currently away from home visiting my son and grandson, and my Mum is buried not far from here, so many memories of happiness, and also pain. I fretted for a long time over past mistakes, all the things I wish I hadn’t done, or had done better, and it took a long while to let all that go, to realise there is only what is, and to enjoy that ‘is’ as much as you possibly can. Fab post Cheryl, but never mind the coffee getting cold, drink tea, preferably Yorkshire Tea, it’s medicine for the soul 🙂

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    1. Oh my, what a lovely and thoughtful comment Fraggle. I feel as if we have much in common and I would love nothing more than to sit down with you and explore our commonalities, the wisdom gleaned, how one lives and remains in the present. Thanks for the kind words and the Yorkshire Tea suggestions I’ll enjoy sipping on both. Enjoy the visit with son and grandson, sending you my love, C

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  3. A wonderful post Cheryl. I feel you. Change and growth can be difficult even when we want them. When I was purging kitchen items, mine and my moms, I checked with my fellow teachers to see if they knew someone who could use things. It felt disingenuous to just drop things off at a thrift store. (that’s for items without attachment) When one secretary knew of a woman starting over on her own, I brought in tons of stuff. The china, the dishes, the small appliances all got a new happy home. Things she didn’t want, went to the church for others in need. It made a huge difference to me being able to let things go.
    Your anecdotes are spot on. Enjoy the new phase.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Lauren, I loved how you released your things to those in need, instead of just dropping them at the thrift store. It’s the sense of peace and contentment that comes with knowing they will be of use to someone else and you’ve let them go with the best of intentions. It’s difficult work nonetheless. I am enjoying the less cluttered spaces and I’m determined to keep it this way. Now I wake up in the morning, wander down the hall in my pj’s and just stand in the kitchen, me and my coffee, bursting with gratitude. All my best, C

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  4. You look absolutely gorgeous in that dress Cheryl! You know how you were worried about retiring from teaching? Well, I can say without the slightest hesitation that you’re still teaching and imparting wisdom. I’m the type of person who worries and obsesses over past mistakes but I’m going to make more of a concerted effort to, if not completely stop, at least embrace the live in the moment and seize the day attitude!🤗

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  5. Weddings are events, wonderfully frozen in time forever. I love them. Sounds like you all had a fantastic time. My Grand-Mother would say the day of a wedding: “Splendida Giornata!”
    Loved reading “I consider the word hypocrisy? It’s universally despised (unless you’re an actor of course) because hypocrisy is pretending to hold beliefs, feelings, standards, opinions, virtues, and other characteristics that a person does not actually hold.” I always thought it was being critical of others for things you chose not to be critical of in yourself, or in your family or friends. Hmmm, I learn something new every day 🙂

    Words I strive to live by, that I thank you for sharing: “George Washington Carver claims how far you go in life depends on your being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving, and tolerant of the weak and strong. Because someday in your life you will have been all of these.”

    And once again, you take me aback, with the last sentence written attributed to MLKjr., but you genuinely do have a knack for doing that with your prose.
    Blake Shelton as your music choice? Spot on for me with the feeling of returning from a special event. The video touched my heart as well, seeing Gare De Nord, my typical entry point/first meal in Paris stop, and then my exit point back to London or Calais in the day, to catch the hovercraft before they built the Chunnel.

    Brilliant Cheryl!

    CT

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    1. Hi Chris, I’ve been shadowing my son Tony who is spending a few weeks in the states before returning to Portugal and as you can imagine he’s thrilled! I’ve read your comment at least three times and finally I have a cup of coffee by my side and an empty house! I thought the interesting thing about the word hypocrite was the orgins in acting? I never knew that either. Glad you enjoyed the Carver quote, I read that weeks ago and was determined to use it somewhere. It’s strange how things fit when you want them to. There’s something pognigant about home this week especially seeing my son walking the halls as if he never left. I love how you have first hand knowledge of the places in Paris and London. I hope to one day be as familiar. Thanks for your insights Chris, always appreciated and enjoyed. Love and hugs, C

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  6. Missing those who have passed from this life and understanding ourselves in the midst of our inevitable mistakes is hard work. Doing these things while in physical pain would be much tougher. You seem like an incredibly strong and capable person Cheryl💗. I hope these transitions move at the exact speed needed to get you prepared for the next phase. It will surely be full of learning 💗. Thank you for sharing your heart and wisdom.

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    1. Good morning LaDonna, my house is finally empty and I’m spending some time enjoying your comment. I love how you weave wisdom from the messages you draw from my words. It’s extraordinary. My son from Portugal is staying with us for a few weeks so I’ve been distracted lately. It’s interesting to me how much I miss my Mom when there’s change going on in my life, whether it be an injury, my son visiting, or a remodel. I spent several hours unwrapping her beautiful crystal wine glasses I inherited when she passed (they’ve been boxed for 4 years), washing them, and placing them in the bar. Poignant work indeed. I used to consider myself a strong person but this injury has reminded me of my fallibilities in numerous ways. It’s been good and maybe your right this is just what I needed most. Thank you for your thoughtful comment, always appreciated, my love to you, C

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  7. Fraggle is right about Yorkshire Tea. It’s the best. Drink it strong, and add a small amount of milk. You look great in that colourful dress by the way, Cheryl!
    I had to look up Wolf Toasters. The 4-slice retails here for £400! ($550)The 2-slice we use at the moment cost us £19 ( $26) and works well. But it has no red knobs!
    You have a 70-inch TV? Ours is 40-inch, and when I suggested changing for a 55-inch, my wife said that would ‘dominate’ the room.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Pete, my son from Portugal is staying with us for a few weeks and much to his chagrin I’ve been shadowing his every movement. Larry and Tony are out this morning riding mountain bikes and the house is finally empty. I have my coffee and I’m enjoying your comment immensely. I’ll have to try some Yorkshire Tea someday, sounds fabulous. Thank you for the comment about the dress, I’ve been feeling so awful lately, and you made me feel lovely. Okay, the toaster, I was shocked when the kids presented it to me on Mother’s Day. I had made some comment about the beautiful red knobs, okay at least ten comments, and there it was. It’s a true indulgence. So after I got my toaster, Larry went out and replaced his old 60 inch television. He watches a lot of sports and is thoroughly enjoying the large screen. He can’t get over the clarity of the picture. It’s as if you are there in the sporting event. It’s quite amazing. Next I’m catching up on your new car series which I’m enjoying. Warmly, C

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        1. Okay! I’ll send you my email straight away, real Yorkshire Tea from England, what a treat! Let’s hope it makes it through! You are such a thoughtful man Pete! I might have to have a tea party to celebrate! C

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  8. Cheryl, I love how you celebrate your mother. She would be quite proud of the group in the beautiful family picture. As for those constipated thoughts, you do need to release them some way, shape or form. We like reading them, so please indulge us from time to time. As for social media, I am not on Facebook, Instagram, etc. To be frank, it can be depressing when people compare their real lives to the Sunday best dressed versions of others on social media. Everyone has issues or problems, but they are often hidden from social media. Keith

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Keith, I have a quiet house finally, a warm cup of coffee by my side, and your comment is making me cry. Thank you for your poigant words. She was an amazing woman. And onto the “flow” of thoughts and words, yes, I was stuck for a solid week, pain can be so overarching but I’m thrilled to report the pain is subsiding and I’m getting back to normal. Social media is difficult, mostly I use the different venues to publicize my blog but shy away from the controversial stuff. I so agree with you, no ones life is perfect, and that’s the beauty of blogging, we can find common ground. Warmly, C

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    1. Thank you LA, you’ll appreciate that this is the first time in weeks my house is completely empty. The boys went mountain biking, I’m sipping hot coffee and enjoying reading comments and blogs. I’m in my happy place. Thanks for the kind words, C

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  9. I loved this! I went through months purging while preparing to leave my home of 28 years where we raised our kids. It was a very emotional time. I’m happy with the things we brought to our new home. They fit perfectly and add comfort. As for to err is human…I had a sign on my desk at a corporate PR job that said “To err is human. To forgive is not our policy.”

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    1. Hi Elizabeth, thank you for your kind words. I can’t imagine how you purged 28 years of things and moved to another state? I know how emotional it’s been just redesigning the kitchen and family spaces. It’s work, both physically and sentimentally. It must have taken a lot for you to get through all that and maintain a positive attitude. Love your little sign…”to forgive is not our policy,” that’s hysterical and so true. It seems this move all worked out for you, I imagine you still miss some things, but change is good in most situations. Warmly, C

      Liked by 1 person

        1. I imagine those familiar pieces anchor your past to the present. I think it’s important as we move though life, that some things remain the same, and that’s good for Cheryl.

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        2. I agree. We have a unique table for off the kitchen in both houses. It’s a tree stump with a travertine top. My kids did homework on that table and we ate all our meals on it. It makes me smile everyday.

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    1. Hi Cynthia, yes, other than my husband who had to be scolded about wearing his mask properly, there were no problems on the plane! The wedding was so very lovely and today I’m finally enjoying some of the pictures the bride’s been posting. My house is quiet today, husband and son went biking, and I’m enjoying catching up on my comments. Sending love your way, C

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  10. Sounds to me like you have all the essential ingredients for a life of love and creativity. “Everything’s gonna be all right.” I hope any pain you’re feeling gets resolved quickly. It’s hard to enjoy life fully when the body hurts, but we have to learn to do that, too. Sooner or later. It sounds like the wedding was so, so sweet. Now if you could only pass some of your kitchen stuff to them…

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    1. Hi Elaine, yes indeed, I have all the ingredients for a life of “love and creativity.” There’s always a lot going on which provides the material needed to write but quiet time is rare. This morning my son and husband went mountain biking, my other son is on a business trip, and the grand kids haven’t stopped over yet? I’m enjoying hot coffee, the quiet, and catching up on comments. The rib is feeling so much better, the doctor says 6 weeks for the pain to subside so a few more weeks and I should be good. I’ve been really enjoying putting my kitchen back together and redesigning the new spaces. You’re right I should see if Kiana needs any kitchen things? Mostly I’ve been passing things to my daughters and neighbors but they have most of the necessary appliances and paraphernalia. It’s been a freeing process. Sending my love to you Elaine, hope all is well, C

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  11. Hi Cheryl!
    Great post. Your writing serves as a constant reminder of what is important in life. Family, Faith, friends, love and compassion, along with more family. In addition, it can at times provide a code to live by. Love all of the anecdotes.
    Sounds like a great wedding. Your family looks fantastic.

    About that toaster….Don’t you get a pass on it because they gave it to you? In love with a knob!? Tee Hee.
    Looking forward to seeing you and the gang.
    Hope the ribs are fully healed.
    And of course, in honor of Jeffry Bezos and your Amazon account….

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Mike! I’m sitting here in my newly revised kitchen watching Julie and Nic planting their front years. The grandkids have shovels and are “helping” work around their frazzled parents. I don’t know why but the scene is rather gratifying? I remember all too well… We’re still reeling from the wedding and having all the kids together. Dante flew off to South Carolina for a business trip, Kelley back to Boston, and Julie stayed in Utah to visit with Nic’s folks. We did get Tony all to ourselves so that’s been nice. I’m sure he’s loving his mother as shadow. We’re so looking forward to your visit and getting to know your daughters. It’s been far too long since we’ve been together. We’ve been collaborating on our menu with Jim and Sue so please come hungry for food, fun, and sun. Thanks for the comment and your generous words, hugs to all, Cheryl

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