Monday, December 19, 2011

Hark the Herald, Angels Ding!

This time last year I wrote a blog where I mentioned trying to learn to live in the moment. While I felt that I had a pretty good grasp on the issue, I have spent the better part of this year learning even more what it really means. I haven’t made it a secret that I regularly see a therapist (I affectionately refer to her as my Shrinky Dink) and by regularly I mean more than once or twice or thrice a week. Now, when people find that out, they say to me, “You must be really messed up.” I laugh, because the reality is I am not really messed up, I just need the on-going conversation to help me stay focused. I think I now have a much better understanding of what “living in the moment” really means.

The Holiday Season really tears at the fibers of living in the moment. I want to continue to create fabulous memories for my children; as they grow-up we find ways to include them more and more in the makings of our traditions; Christmas tree decorating, baking, general decorating, gift selecting, and other merriment. My Norman Rockwell image is that we’re bundled up against the elements, on a sidewalk, under a street lamp at night, out in the snow, excitedly pointing at the perfect gift for a loved one beautifully appointed in a storefront window or we are all in the kitchen surrounded by mountains of home baked goodies that shimmer with tastiness; the kids’ faces flushed with excitement, the kitchen is a manageable mess, and outside the kitchen window, snow is gently falling, alluding to the feeling that we are cozy and safe. (Notably odd is that we live in the Pacific Northwest, so that snow that I long for is more likely to come in a liquid state.)

The combination of the Norman Rockwell moment with reality is that some tasks now come with discussion (Why is our tree so colorful, why don’t we pick a specific palette of colors?), some with dissent (I don’t really like decorating the tree, it is so boring and takes all day!), some with disappointment (No! We are not buying you a (fill-in-blank)!) So that living in the moment concept has to be revisited… yes, it is okay if our child would like to have a different kind of tree in the future, it is okay that our other child lay on the couch and chat with us while those of us who want to, decorate the tree, and it is okay to say to our children, “You’re older now and the things you want are more expensive, so be prepared for fewer gifts.” The trick I find is to reconcile the two… not just say it, but feel it. It is okay that there may be a feeling of loss, because I may really want my Norman Rockwell image, but I need to let my kids be who they are, and somehow I need to do what I want to do for the Holiday to have meaning to me. Tricky, but it can be done. The next sentence would have me saying how, but I don’t know how. I’m in the phase where I am figuring that out. I think it has to do with the belief that if acceptance and love is involved all will be well.

Holiday issue number two… I love, love, love Christmas carols, caroling, old carols, new carols, country carols, rap carols, carols, carols, carols. It harkens back to many memories of sitting in church and watching my father who was the Priest and Choir Director, leading the volunteers through the scales. My all-time favorite holiday carol story has to do with a tiny church in Texas, a very tall boyfriend of my sisters, and “The little Drummer Boy/Carol of the Drum.” On Christmas Eve that year, I was nine; I sat cozily ensconced between my mother and brother while watching my two sisters, my sister’s friend, the other sister’s boyfriend, and father sing.  Honestly, I was drowsy and only partially aware. All I really remember is there were too many “rum-pa-pum-pum’s,” the choir dissolved into a fit of giggles, the 6’3” boyfriend was trying to hide behind a gaggle of giggling petite girls hiding behind sheet music, and the audience was laughing. To a nine year old this was quite funny.
This is a giant admission for me to make, so as I draw a deep breath and put myself on the line, I am hoping that all of you read this with very open hearts and minds… I don’t believe in organized religion. “Church” has seriously let me down, religious leaders have broken the hearts of many, and though many have found comfort in religion, I have not. To this day I cannot enter a church during a service without crying and feeling the need to flee. I think the most honest thing I can say is that Christmas Carols hold so much power and promise and are heavily laden with memories that the holidays are the closest I can get to God. As before, I can only say that in the “what’s next” department, it is a slow journey towards honesty and hopefully meaningful conversation. As for this moment, I can only say that it has taken me years to be this honest about who I am and what I believe. Dissenting from what I was raised to believe and separating me from those I love in this respect is a challenge. However, it seems that in living in the moment one must be true to oneself to succeed. A return to the phrase, “Action speaks louder than words” applies. Having spoken my truth about not believing in organized religion shouldn’t alter what people have experienced me to be. I allow for that fact that it may.
If I had to define my faith, I would say my faith is in Humankind. I know plenty of people would say that people do bad, even terrible things. The simple answer is yes they do. My belief is that very few people do bad things for absolutely no reason. Abuses, deprivation, addiction, abandonment, lack of education, mental and physical disability are the cause for many wrong doings; I am convinced of this because if one looks below the surface, most offenders have serious problems.

The media weighs much more heavily to ensure that we know the bad, but truly with very little effort you can find stories of inspiration everywhere. At my children’s elementary school we held a food drive before Thanksgiving. We raised almost six hundred pounds of food; people didn’t have to give, they chose to. Our Japanese community was very involved. They had been so touched by the outreaching of Americans and our local community after the Tsunami hit their shores in March. In my eyes this was global healing.

Just last week there was an article in the newspaper about a man who had committed heinous crimes and had escaped capture. While running from the law he saw a young woman who had fallen into a river and was drowning. He jumped in and saved her life. He was captured. When asked why, his answer was simple, “I couldn’t let her drown.” Even those we judge to be contemptible are human, and who knows why this particular man committed the crimes he did, but when living in the moment, he chose to save a life.

This past weekend I had the opportunity to spend the day with my family… the one I was born into. Given that we have vegans, hunters, humanists, priests, and everything in between, conversation could be tricky. When we were younger there was a great deal of conflict because we didn’t know how to handle the fact that there was such massive discrepancy in beliefs and lifestyles. With age and life experiences I feel (not think, believe, but feel) that a great deal of acceptance has occurred. Though I don’t believe in religion I can hold hands with my family and share a prayer. I completely and utterly support their beliefs and translate them to my world. Because at the end of the day we are praying for the same thing, that our loved ones are healthy, those in need find peace, and that we can be of service to each other.

Often I sit in my car and see someone holding a sign that says, “Please help!” When I sit there and see these people I cannot help but think that some of them must be in genuine need, and for all those I uncomfortably observe there are thousands of faces that I don’t and many of those faces do need help. I always drive away thinking that there must something that can be done, some way to be helpful, to find balance. It is not in my nature to ignore issues; I much prefer being proactive.

So in keeping with my need to Live in the Moment and to be true to my belief in humankind, I decided to organize a Hygiene Kit Drive for the Women’s and Children’s Shelter nearby. The local elementary school was once again asked to support this cause. When I was chatting with my son about it he said, “Didn’t we just do a food drive? Isn’t it too soon to ask people to donate more stuff?” While his point was valid, my answer was, “I read about a girl who didn’t eat for 26 days.” I suppose I could have cushioned my response given that he is ten years old, but I couldn’t because I was making dinner in my new kitchen with a fire blazing in the living room, the Christmas tree decorated, and my holiday shopping mostly done. How do I help my child learn to understand our over-abundance?

When a handful of us were still living at home with our parents my father went to college. My brother lamented that we were so poor we’d be lucky if we received an orange, pencil box, and a penny for Christmas. I don’t know if it hurt my parents to hear his concern, but they made sure that our gifts that year included an orange, pencil box, and penny. We laughed so hard that Christmas. Yes, we were scared and things were tight, but my parents helped us laugh. So in dealing with my own children I want them to learn that it isn’t quantity that defines a successful Christmas, it is the fact that we listened to them and tried to hear their wants and needs.

A few days ago we were at a holiday party and people were sharing how close to Christmas their birthdays were and how it affected the gifts they received. I shared that my mother-in-law was born on Christmas Day and how she didn’t like it. My son said, “I wonder if it bothered Jesus that he was born on Christmas.” Most of us laughed until we couldn’t breathe. When I could breathe again, I reminded him that Christmas was the celebration of Jesus’ birth. His answer was, “Oh yeah!”
In wishing you the Happiest of Holidays, I close with inspiring words from Love Actually:
Whenever I get gloomy with the state of the world, I think about the arrivals gate at Heathrow Airport. General opinion’s starting to make out that we live in a world of hatred and greed, but I don’t see that. It seems to me that love is everywhere. Often, it’s not particularly dignified or newsworthy, but it’s always there – fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, old friends. When the planes hit the Twin Towers, as far as I know, none of the phone calls from the people on board were messages of hate or revenge – they were all messages of love. If you look for it, I’ve got a sneaking suspicion… love actually is all around.
Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

More than Squash and Corn

For our family the Fall and Winter take on a life of their own and at a speed diametrically opposed to the pace we live at in the Spring and Summer. Often at this time of year I feel a bit schizophrenic and it’s a good thing that Thanksgiving exists, because I need the opportunity to reflect, and conveniently the Pilgrims built it in for me.

It isn’t so much that we are busy 24/7, it’s just that I am a 4/2 kind of gal. If I believed in reincarnation I would have to say that I was from a culture where life was slow and laid back… maybe Hawaii… because oddly enough there is nowhere on this earth that I would rather be than on a warm sunny beach listening to the pounding of the surf and palm fronds clacking in the breeze. We live in the rain infested world of the Pacific Northwest, so I’ve made MacGyver swear that if there are any indications that my last breath is going to be drawn within twenty four hours he is to get me on a plane headed for somewhere tropical. I am thankful for the fact that he will do this for me!

An odd lead-in to a blog, but there you go, another insight into me. This leads my mind to wander to a very important thank you. Many kind and loving people reached out to me after reading the blog I wrote, “When it’s not your story to tell.” I cannot thank you enough for offering me love, open-mindedness, and strength. For those of you who shared your personal experiences, I thank you for your trust. Every time I send a blog into the universe I am terrified and vulnerable. Wanting to develop my writing skills requires practice and exposure, and to share something that pokes at my most primal emotions was challenging. Nothing but good came from the experience.

Sometimes it is very challenging to figure out segues, and that is when I walk away from the keyboard and stew. Hence the reason it can take a while to write one blog. I’m pacing, racking my brain for segues. This segue’d my thoughts to a wise neighbor. This past winter her granddaughter was born. We had a gift to offer, but due to exceeding the 4/2 rule, there was little time to get the package wrapped. When I admitted this to her in the late spring my wise neighbor told me not to worry about it, that it was only paper and the gift would still be appreciated. Ironically this coincided with a wise fourth grade teacher letting me know that it would be alright for me to return her book without a thank you card. So, I gave an unwrapped gift, and returned a book without a thank you card, and have proceeded likewise the rest of the year. (Remembering last year’s Christmas blog, I am endeavoring to hold this philosophy with me when it comes time to wrap gifts). I am thankful to people for giving me advice that is useful.

Leaping down other paths… (a commonly used segue) On a miserably cold and rainy night in October there came the tapping of knuckles on our front door. Now this is odd because we have a red “Do Not Solicit” sign right next to our doorbell AND we rarely have uninvited guests. I was home alone with the kids, so I carefully opened the door. A very kind looking man of about fifty was standing there in the rain, his truck parked in my driveway. “Hello Mam. Would you like to buy some beef or chicken? One of your neighbors was going to buy it but her purse is in her boyfriend’s truck and he’s gone off with it. I’ll give it to you for a good price.”

I stepped out a big further to take a look at the truck and only saw that it was bright yellow, quite large, and the engine was running. Methinks this is really odd. So I ask him, “What kind of beef, and for how much?” Well the next thing you know I have boxes of vacuum sealed meat displayed on my front porch and I’m squatting over it trying to figure out what’s what and if it is a good price. He has handed me a flyer from the company he represents and it’s all feeling a little more legit. In the end I bought half the beef, none of the chicken and put it in the freezer. I paced back and forth a bit wondering what in the heck I was thinking, still trying to do the math to figure out if I’ve paid even a reasonable amount of money, and wondering why I did such a thing. (I figured it out: I would love (would beg and plead) for you to look up Bill Porter, Door to Door, starring William H. Macy.)

A few hours later my husband came home from a night out with the guys and he sits down beside me to watch a favorite show of ours. As the closing credits begin to roll, I lead in with, “Well, I did something kind of odd tonight.” After saying “What?” a few times, we traipse out to the freezer, unpack the boxed up meat, Mac does the complicated math, and decides that the price was good, the packaging looks professional and we wrap up the whole experience with a “Well, we’ll find out if it’s any good when we eat some.” It’s still in the freezer. I’m thankful that my husband rolled with this random act of meat purchasing and I’ll be a whole lot more thankful when I finally cook some and we’re delighted. I’ll let you know the results.

Around this same time, perhaps the same night, my husband agrees to shave his head if “the guys” agree to donate money to a charity of his choice. He announces this to me as if this is no big deal. I’m looking at his head and before I know it my thoughts blurt out of my mouth, “It’s gonna be big, white, and I love your hair!” We jokingly say that Mac has “God-like hair.” It really is a marvel to behold. Freakishly thick, soft, and an elegant salt and pepper mixture. Well, the guys came through and many dollars later, my husband came home with a bald-ish head. It was big and white fortunately there weren’t any strange lumps and scars. After stroking it several minutes the kids and I decided we could come to terms with it. This somehow implied that I would be okay with him going down to stubble a few more times. Momentarily I’m thankful that we live somewhere rainy and cold, because my husband has decided he likes having a lush full head of hair which helps keep him warm.

Not long after, our little pink fluff ball had a birthday. She is on the cusp of being a teenager in age, but with regards to the subject of shoes, make-up, independence, and just a touch of ‘tude, she exceeds her actual age by a few years. This year’s birthday party theme was “Spa-tastic.”(Her brother much preferred “Spastic.”) With the help of four wonderful girls, we made and used spa products, ate an amazing amount of chocolate fondue, and our daughter was ushered into the next year of her life with a lot of giggles and affection. Someone asked me afterwards how I managed to survive the party. I didn’t even need to reflect on this; my daughter, her friends, and the much beloved Auntie Pammemelis deserve all the credit.

Little Mac has spent the Fall developing his sense of humor and soccer skills. One of the things I love the most about him is he is who he is and he knows who he is. His brain and his heart are massive and the only person he really needs to prove anything to is himself. When he was four he was at a soccer camp, the ball literally rolled over his shoes, the herd of kids were heading straight towards him, and he calmly looked at me and said, “I want to play golf. There’s no running in golf.” He then sauntered after the ball and watched admiringly as a team mate made the goal.  I laughed until I cried.

The very much abbreviated story of Little Mac is that he almost wasn’t. We had a very eventful pregnancy with him and for a brief moment in time scary words like Cerebral Palsy, blindness, and learning disabilities, were being used. Every day I look at him and remember the miracle that he is, because while he may not always run after the ball, he can run.

Moving all the time as a child proved challenging, and I developed what I call “chameleon skills.” The need to fit in superseded the need to be me. I spend quite a bit of time these days learning who I am and helping people rethink me. When I have the chance to observe my kids interacting with other children I am in awe of their acceptance of themselves and each other.  I could write endlessly about why I am thankful for my children, but how does a parent ever express this in a way that gives true understanding and meaning to the reader/listener?  There isn’t a way. I’m thankful that some force far beyond my ability to comprehend or augment whispered relentlessly to me that I have children. That force exceeds all that I’ve ever experienced and I’m eternally and daily grateful.

Upon reflection I must admit that my life has been remarkably fabulous this year. I am among those who have all that I need, most of what I want, and the strength to figure out life's challenges. My Thanksgiving prayer is that all of you who are searching for what you need do not give up, it is a hard job, but who better to do it than you?

Happiest of Thanksgivings! Thanks for reading.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Our Song - Roll To Me by Del Amitri

Not long ago MacGyver was telling some friends at work “our story.” Apparently they found it compelling enough that MacGyver came home and suggested that I write a blog about it. In thinking about sharing our story many thoughts came to mind. For some reason it feels comparable to New Mom groups and women sharing their birthing stories… so here goes, I will birth the story of our relationship.

Long ago, I had been living with my boyfriend for a little over a year, when his parents decided to come for a visit. It was the first time they had come to see us since I had moved into his house. His house had been full of student furniture, odds and ends from previous house-mates, and there wasn’t a speck of hominess to it. Over the course of two weeks I decided to pull the house together. I’m not talking throw cushions, curtains, and hand towels. No! I’m talking stripping wallpaper, painting, new flooring, and furniture. (Okay, there were throw cushions, curtains, hand towels and some new art thrown in just for fun).

At the time, where our current Sleep Country USA exists, stood a lonely DIY store. After getting all the other projects completed I took on the last one! The kitchen floor. I purchased the needed supplies for the flooring project which included, a trowel, adhesive, sheet linoleum (still cool then), and a roller of sorts. On a bright and sunny Thursday morning I took the trowel in one hand, the adhesive in the other and followed the employees’ instructions and proceeded to “butter the floor.” I then wrestled the linoleum into the kitchen, not having pre-fitted it, and proceeded to lay it out and get to cutting.

To make an extraordinarily long story short I was down to my knickers (having lost clothing to adhesive and the countertop) when I gave up all hope, called my boyfriend and told him I needed his help. He hoofed it home, took one look at me, obeyed my instructions to strip down, and we got to the business at hand. He read the directions on the adhesive can. It turns out that you are supposed to only leave trace amounts of adhesive behind. So we spent a whole lot of time removing the extra adhesive and my listening to him lecturing me on the finer points of reading directions. Many hours later the floor was done, I had thrown my work clothes away, the boyfriend had been washed down with paint thinner (it turns out adhesive sticks really well to body hair), and we were exhausted.

The next day the parents were due to arrive late in the evening. So, I spent the whole day cleaning, fluffing, and airing out our very stinky house. At some point my boyfriend called to find out if I was ready to have the fridge moved back into the kitchen. Since the fridge was huge and the floor had yet to dry, this was going to be tricky, as the fridge couldn’t be rolled, it had to be lifted.

Smelly from not having showered for a few days, adhesive still splotched all over me, my long greasy hair tucked up inside a baseball cap, I answered the door when the bell rang. I opened it, and came face to face with MacGyver.

Now, I have freely admitted to having read a Romance Novel or two, so what I’m about to relate may seem a little over the top, but I swear every last word is true.

I looked at MacGyver and thought, “Oh Shit! Here’s my future.” I was completely and immediately smitten and I was living with someone else whose parents were about to come for a visit. Fortunately I wasn’t anything to look at and a whole bunch of my boyfriend’s other friends showed up at that moment to help lift the fridge. Phew, I dodged that bullet.

A week or so later my boyfriend wanted to invite a new guy home for dinner, to say thanks for helping move the fridge. I knew who it was; shamelessly I fluffed, spritzed, polished, and groomed every inch of me, knowing that my commitment to what’s-his-name was at an end. I was flustered, giddy, and euphoric and then I was crushed. MacGyver announced he’d just married a few months before.One minute I was sitting at the table trying to figure out how to break up with what’s-his-name and the next I was watching my Cinderella story blow up inside my head. I spent the rest of the night feeling sad, resigned, and jealous.

MacGyver’s wife was finishing her degree in another city, so when she was in town my jealousy reared its ugly head when MacGyver would open her car door, or invite us over just to try her banana bread, or show me photos she’d sent. He was in love and I was in hell. When she was gone I used to do the laundry at his place (we didn’t have a washer/dryer) and we spent hours chatting. It was a bit masochistic. The more I came to know him the more I liked him. When “she” finally moved to town on a permanent basis, I made myself scarce.

Perhaps I’m not painting a very good picture of myself, so I need to interject here. I was committed to making my relationship work. I did in fact love my boyfriend. I constantly reminded myself that I had been convinced he was the one before Mac came on the scene. We had a house, travelled, and stayed together for seven years. In none of that time did anything other than my eye stray. I convinced myself that what I felt for Mac was just a passing crush, a physical attraction, and that it would go away with time. So for almost one year I deliberately avoided seeing MacGyver.

Alas, I ran into them at Safeway. I had seen them from a distance and had deliberately pushed my cart in the other direction. Unfortunately we both needed cheese. So there I was, alone with my groceries, when I came face to face with the happy couple. They matched so well, in looks, intelligence, temperament, and they were together. AND they had just purchased a house AND he was willing to grocery shop just to be with her. A lot of salt on very big wound is how it felt.

Another year or so passed, during which time I became loosely engaged to my boyfriend. I use the word loosely because it was more of a “either you ask me or I’m leaving” type of situation. No grand gestures of love, or any desire to share the information with family and friends, and we were in couples therapy. Does that sound like “happily ever after?”

Moments after the sham proposal occurred came the most amazing news, Mac was getting divorced. I kid you not. Another Romance Novel moment, but true; I had become someone’s Ball and Chain just as Mac lost his. What did I do? Well, by then I was so committed to making my relationship work that I stayed put and watched MacGyver date all kinds of women.

It was a painful and torturous year or two, but I supported his endeavors to find love. (In the blog, “My Girlfriend loves… (11/30/10) I mention my helping Mac date a mutual friend). At this point my boyfriend/fiancĂ© and I began what would later become known as “the longest break-up of all time.” It needed to be done, but was messy, complicated, and no one wanted to be the bad guy/girl. I don’t even remember telling more than a handful of people. I certainly didn’t tell MacGyver because that would have just complicated things even more.

Fortunately I had long since left Microsoft and was buried in my studies at the UW. Fleeing MacGyver’s love life and to drive the final nail into the death of my relationship I decided to participate in a Study Abroad program. A few days before leaving the country I invited a bunch of friends to have dinner. Mac was one of the invitees. I fluffed, spruced, shaved, and used my last few dollars to buy something girly and fun. After everyone was settled in at the tables at the restaurant I asked a friend where Mac was. He said, “Oh, he isn’t coming. He’s busy falling in love with someone.” Well, I was crushed, what more can I say. Again, just like a Romance Novel our timing was impeccably off, but only I knew it.

The next night (the night before I left) mutual friends of Mac and I invited us to dinner. I re-fluffed, shaved again, and steeled myself to hear all about his new love. Then the inconceivable happened. He showed up alone. Then another inconceivable thing happened… he offered to come to Europe and travel with me.

So off I fled to Europe more confused than ever. I decided to do what any sane thirty year old who is participating in a student exchange program would do. I immersed myself in the experience; travelled, studied, pub crawled, and had a fling with a twenty two year old. Now don’t judge me. The twenty two year old didn’t want a relationship and was a happy boy. In all that time I suppressed all urges to e-mail or call Mac. I just couldn’t leave my euphoric world to be grounded in the agony of his love story.

Upon returning I lasted all of two days before calling his office. He had quit! What did that mean? Where was he? Had he moved? I called the friends who had had us over for dinner the night before I left and subtly asked how they were, how life was, and where was Mac. Okay, maybe I wasn’t so subtle because they offered to have Mac and I over for dinner the next night. Yippee!! I set about trying to find something to wear when the phone rang announcing that Mac was out of town. I was both disappointed and relieved because I wanted to see him, but was terrified to find out the state of his love life.

A few days later Mac called me. “Did you want to have dinner?”

“I thought you were out of town.”

“I was, but am driving home from the airport.”

“When do you want to have dinner?”


 My brain overloaded… I wasn’t fluffed, spritzed, shaved, or mentally prepared.” Yes!”

To my delight I found out that Mac and what’s her name had split up just after I left for England. So after a few dinners strictly as friends I worked up the nerve to kiss him quickly. He didn’t respond, didn’t say anything, just smiled and waved good-bye. My brain was all over the place and I berated myself for crossing that line! I had revealed myself and he wasn’t interested. Where are twenty two year old boys when you need them??

So, we have a few more dinners (where he didn’t try to kiss me and I sure wasn’t going to kiss him again), while I tried to regain some dignity by saying things like, “I’m not interested in having a relationship after having just finished with what’s his name.” My other brilliant idea was to tell him about my fling with the twenty two year old (if you don’t want me, someone else does). All a bit confusing and juvenile, but critical to my self-esteem!

One night Mac came over to hang out while I studied for a mid-term and fell asleep while I pondered the mysteries of soil science or some such thing. I couldn’t focus and kept peeking at him. Finally I woke him up so he could sleep at home and I could study. He was standing outside the front door, and I was inside the house with the door open. In what had to be a moment of pure nerve, I grabbed his hand, pulled him in and kissed him. I deliberately left my eyes open to see what he would do. He left his open! Yikes. Pulling away from me he said, “You’re taller than I thought you’d be.” Then he left. I walked around berating myself and wondering what that was supposed to mean.

Brace yourself, it gets goofier. The next time I see him I declare again that I am still not ready to be in a relationship. Self-preservation I’m sure. Not long after we are sitting in a very nice Italian restaurant having dinner discussing how you know whether you are ready to move on and fall in love again. Has anyone besides me realized that he and I were spending a whole lot of time together? Pretty much every free moment I had.

I pushed back my empty plate while he and I discussed sharing a dessert. Just after the waiter took our order I looked him square in the eye and said, “I know whether or not I am ready. I love you.” It got really goofy. He didn’t tell me he loved me, he just looked at me as if he didn’t hear me. I wanted to die. I don’t know what happened at the restaurant, I’m assuming he paid the bill; I died the death of total embarrassment and berated myself for once again putting myself out there and getting no results. I was certain I had just lost a very important friendship.

Much to my surprise we ended up at his house. Knowing his seduction scene well from our many conversations during his dating frenzy, soon a fire was blazing, music was playing in the background and the knots in my stomach unfurled just a touch. I came to find out that he had broken up with what’s-her-name when he found out my boyfriend and I had broken up. He had waited for me to come home. He was disappointed I hadn't called him so that we could travel together. He hadn’t reacted to my overtures because he hadn't wanted to rush through any stage of the relationship because he had waited a very long time to be with me. It turns out that while he wasn’t prepared to divorce his wife for me, he too had struggled with his feelings for me. Then the most wonderful thing happened, he told me he loved me!

Within a month we were engaged (I waited for him to ask me this time) and got married very shortly thereafter (at my insistence). Our story, unlike a Romance Novel, doesn’t end with the declaration of love and proposal. From the day I met him until the day I married him (almost six years) I saw aspects of him that still prove to me over and over that he is what I want and need. We had seen how each other handled relationships, watched each other struggle through the end of a love, talked through what we needed and how to make changes, we talked politics and religion, we had shared our dreams and hopes for the future, all without the misty cloud of a new romance enveloping us. We had been friends for a long, long time.

One of my favorite memories of our relationship is one day I was shopping in Costco, and had a full cart, and was waiting in line to pay. I looked up and saw Mac walking towards me with a big smile on his face and in my giddiness I thought, “Wow! Mac's here.” We had been married for about a year at that point.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

When It Isn't Your Story

Seven years ago my life was unalterably changed. I didn’t find out I had an incurable disease, that my husband no longer loved me or lose a loved one to death. My challenge is two-fold, my loss is massive and it isn’t my story to tell. Even if the person whose story it is would tell me that I can share what happened, I cannot. The world doesn’t want to hear certain stories. I have learned this the hard way.
The truth of the matter is that I did suffer a loss so significant that to this day I can barely think of it without breaking down, but I have so profoundly developed the skill of burying my head in the sand that there are days I am able to pretend that all is well in my world. Except that at the jittery quaking core of me I know that I am fractured, loved ones are divided and avoidance is on the verge of lying.
The day I received this news I was sitting amongst loved ones at dinner, with nothing more on my mind than how I was going to get my toddlers to eat their spaghetti without making a massive mess; a typical mothers concern when eating tomato sauce at a friend’s house. Minutes later the world began to reel out of control and truly what I remember of those next few days is very limited. Then the real nightmare began.
Amidst this massive loss and pain I struggled to go through life as if everything was fine. I took my kids to preschool, swimming lessons, gymnastics, play groups and smiled as if all was normal. I began to envy others calm lives and divest myself of relationships that I couldn't superficially manage. I did this for over a year.
In the fall of the following year, my children were in the play area of the local IKEA when my cell phone rang. I answered it, sweating, because I knew I was going to be receiving more bad news. I had purposely taken myself somewhere I couldn’t fall apart. I was wrong. I found myself sitting on the floor in the kitchen utensils section crying, sobbing, oozing snot, and shaking with pain. Once I had been picked up by employees and taken to a private room, where I inwardly raged and prayed, I finally pulled myself together, declined the very kind staffs help, and took my children home.
I was raw. When my doorbell rang a few hours later I was in a vulnerable state and functioning on autopilot. I answered the door, and to this day I am at a loss as to understand why, other than I simply wasn't thinking at all. As it turns out a close friend stopped by with her kids to say hello. We sat and chatted for a while before she asked me what was wrong. We were close enough that I told her my story. When I finished, I expected to feel better, to feel the healing begin, because isn’t talking supposed to help? What I learned in the next ten minutes went on to shape my life all these years.
Already a wizard at compartmentalizing my life, this person’s reaction was so unexpected, so insensitive, that I learned to seal off this pain and to push it so deep that I could forget the truth from time to time. Life’s event; birthdays, graduations, baptisms, births, or weddings all continue to happen, and that face isn’t there, and while you try to smile and move on, the overwhelming weight of the loss lingers on the hearts and minds of those involved.
In trying to put some purpose to my loss I realized quickly that I needed to teach myself to look beyond the surface and recognize that I wasn’t the only person who was suffering. That neighbors, friends, and strangers may have had these pivotal and painful experiences that they were pushing down deep or being swallowed up in. When the rare few come forward to share their story I listen and try to learn. To some it might be odd, but I consider myself blessed when someone shares their pain with me. I want to offer them a judgment free set of ears and heart so that they can move through their pain and with any luck find some relief, even if temporary.
I try to understand what it is that makes me hold my story so close to myself. I’ve only recently started to delve into this and the part that I feel certain of is that I don’t want to feel that vulnerable ever again. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t understand my friend for not seeing past her own opinion to try to help me make sense of my loss and grief. I tried to convince myself that she and I weren’t truly friends, because a friend wouldn’t do this. But she was, she was a friend, she was just a friend who had arrived at that moment in her life without the skills I needed.
My early life taught me to look for the path through chaos and to find out whom to be wary of.  I generally consider myself to be very good at this and this is the part that kills me. I missed this one, but not in the way some might expect me to acknowledge the loss. I see it as having missed the chance to help the person, to prevent the crisis, to change the path and redirect the situation. I didn’t, I couldn’t, and it breaks me all over again. I have spent the last six years trying to perfect this skill. It is a hollow skill even if achievable. I feel no relief, no freedom from my loss, I’m not invincible.
So, why am I sharing something so painful and personal? I’ve been writing around this particular experience ever since I started blogging and I have avoided true exposure. The reason is my birthday. It was last week. And this person whom I love so much, who is gone from me, shares my birthday. For the many of you who sent your birthday wishes, you cannot know how much I needed it. I needed the reminder that the day can be happy. Because on this day, I am the most broken I can be.
It was unexpectedly warm on my birthday so when a friend stopped by and suggested we sit in the sun and chat, I was delighted. We chatted about all kinds of things, most of them sad, and I found myself telling her my story; not unexpected given my state of mind, completely unexpected given how long I’ve held my emotions inside. She listened to me and tried to help me find some peace in my confusion. When she had to leave she said she was sorry that the conversation hadn’t been about happy and cheerful things, but I thanked her. For in the true sharing of pain I finally began to believe that I will heal.
Thank you.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

She's Back

If anyone has been wondering if I have quit writing the blog, the answer is No. I have made several attempts over the last few months, but there were a few reasons that my train of thought was uncontrollable and so now with a quiet morning ahead of me I thought I would give it a whirl.

Reason number one for having thoughts derailed: I am absolutely terrible at maintaining any sense of routine when my kids are on summer vacation. I tell myself I will write, work out, meet friends for coffee, clean my house, grocery shop, shower!! Yet when they are around it is so easy to slip into the vegetative state. The kids are also avid readers. So a typical summer morning has us wandering around the house in our pj’s with a book in hand, eating something absent mindedly, and finally ready to move onto something else at lunch time. So, having read half the day away and with questionable substances in my stomach I am disinclined to work out because then it will be even later before we get going and my body is all jittery from whatever I’ve consumed.

During the school year I do a reasonable job of working out three or four times a week, cooking with regularity, and keeping us all on track. By June it’s all too much and I need a break too. To be honest, by the end of summer I am pulling out the draw string shorts. I gotta, for reasons easily figured out.

Reason number two for derailment: “The Summer of Decorating!” Four years ago we bought the worst house in the neighborhood and have gradually fixed it up ourselves. We have now survived “The Summer of Demolition,” “The Summer of the Deck” and “The Summer of Flooring.” At long last we undertook having our kitchen remodeled, painting walls, and general fluffing up. For those of you who don’t know me, I’ll explain one or two apects of myself, but very quickly. I don’t like clutter, tolerate change, and love to daydream.

The daydream is that the house will reflect who we are, and be both cozy and comfy without looking full. The reality is that for three weeks we had furniture from all the bedrooms all over the house while we painted, and then we began the kitchen. At some point we restored the bedrooms to order, somewhat decluttered the family room, and I declared that we needed one public room in our house that didn’t have kitchen stuff in it.

I can be a bit like Gollum. Walking around the house whispering under my breath, pacing back and forth wondering where all clutter comes from, focused on the ring, the ring being uncluttered beauty. Here’s the problem, it’s all a day dream. For every project anyone takes on it begets two or three more. If you clean a closet you end up at making a donation to the local second hand store, buying organizing devices at another stop, throwing stuff away, and then the culminating project which is trying to get what’s left back in the way you want it. (This often necessitates another trip to a hardware or general purpose store.)

My husband is Samwise Gamgee. Steadfast, patient, willing to bear the burden of wearing my ring… hmm, that could be taken literally. I really mean the ring of uncluttered beauty. Last winter we finally finished remodeling the downstairs, and bought new furnishings for it. For three weeks it was as I had wanted. Then Kinect came into our lives. The furniture started being pushed this way and that to create the optimal playing space, and after five minutes (which was interminably long to me) my husband saw the terror in my eyes and put it all back where it had started out. We laughingly joke that I have OCD, but sometimes I think I’m one laugh away from going over the edge.

Always, always, always, keep your eye on the prize. It is now September, and I have worked out a handful of times, I am writing a blog, our bedrooms are ship shape, the kitchen is mostly finished, and all that I had hoped it to be. All is perfect… well, mostly.

Oddly enough Tori Spelling comes into the story. I was reading an interview of her in Parent Magazine. She was laughing at herself because she thought that once she got her children past the toddler phase life would get so much easier. Her children are three and four. In my world that is still toddlerish. I have always said that having children are the great equalizer in life. Whether you are rich or poor, you will have to deal with a cranky, stinky, over tired child. You will find out who you are and what you are made of.

So our daughter has dipped her toe ever so lightly into the pool of Middle School. With it has brought, through her eyes, tremendous change. She has a new school, new teachers, and mostly new classmates. No recess, gym every day, and all that goes with a little girl transforming into a young lady. We now get up an hour and a half earlier so that the preparations can begin. In truth she walks out the door looking very much like she did in elementary school, but it takes longer.

I will confess to the fact that no matter what time you make me wake up, I will always hate it. Even if I get eight hours of sleep, I hate getting up. I have to talk myself through it every day. But I digress…

There was choice in our daughter entering Middle School; she lotteried into a “choice” school, so there is the option of her returning to her elementary school and resuming life as she knew it. Just like her Mama, she tolerates change. She doesn’t long for it, she doesn’t hate it. I see my beauty struggle and every part of me wants to help her, and I know that accepting change is a necessary part of life. She keeps looking at me with these big brown eyes, wanting answers, suggestions and I think permission to quit.

As a person who moved often, I feel like I have a good understanding of what she is going through. So, we have been chatting about my life and how I coped, we’ve had family pep talks, and asked her to look at the pros and cons of her decision. Just last night she looked at me with tears and asked for help and I gave her my most honest answer, I told her that I had given her all the information I had, that I didn’t have anything new to share, and that I hadn’t purposefully held back the really useful pieces of help that I could give her for the most critical moment. I was tapped out. She just laughed.

I asked her when she thought she might feel like she had adjusted, her answer was, “At the end of the school year.” I’ve often sought a word to replace dazzle. But dazzle me she does.

I think back on the days when she was a toddler and how challenging some moments were, but in fact, they were only moments. Eleven summers ago I remember sitting in a rocking chair in front of wall of large glass windows with my daughter snuggled up in my lap. We were looking out at the garden and the several bird feeders outside. Quietly rocking. She and I watched the birds bob and weave their way to food and dart away from unfriendly feeders. She loved sitting there observing the world whoosh around her. Today when she climbed in the car to go to school she gave me a smile I remember first glimpsing eleven summers ago. There was something in her eyes that spoke of her soul, her mettle, her character. What exactly lies behind that smile I don’t entirely know, and never will, because it is only in the unfolding of her life that we get to know her.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

What I have learned since January 3rd 2011

So I’m certain many of you are wondering what is significant about January 3, 2011. Yes, it was the day our children returned to school after the winter holidays, but it isn’t that. I did do a little jig as they walked out the door for the day. We all love our children, but who doesn’t enjoy a little time to oneself?

My dance was halted mid-jig, foot and arm in the air, when I caught an e-mail out of the corner of my eye. If I was a smarter woman, I would have learned to not dance and open my e-mail at the same time. Rarely are there any e-mails that require or inspire “The Dance of Joy.” In my in-box was a warm and welcoming letter from the company the school PTA had contracted to assist our elementary aged thespians to put on a play. Some time ago, way back when, I had put my hand in the air and said, “Sure, I’ll help.” Help in this case came in the form of “Producer.” If you’re asking yourself what do I know about producing a play, you’re a step ahead of the game. Nothing. So with reality striking me between the eyes, I put arm and foot firmly down on terra firma and immediately went in search of the cardboard box the previous producer gave me last April.

Upon opening the box I saw a notebook with a checklist in it. I read for about thirty seconds when my stomach clenched and I realized I was a tad bit behind schedule. I quickly compiled a list, responded to the e-mail, and the journey began.

Don’t laugh, but when I was a child I dreamt of becoming two things; an opera singer or a writer. Perhaps at one of the many schools I attended there was some kind of drama program, but none that made its presence known to me. Here’s another thing to not laugh at, I’m shy. People don’t believe me when I tell them. I learned to cope with being the new girl at school by being out-going (pretty tough on my natural predisposition to hide behind a book) and as an adult I have learned that all the years of making small talk at church socials comes in handy. At this very minute many people think I’m busy. I’m just hiding.

So when you put these two topics together you get a shy girl who wanted to sing opera. As you can tell by the fact that I’m writing this and not performing on the stage, the writer in me won out after stumbling down many a precarious path (okay Microsoft isn’t dark and dangerous, but it isn’t for the faint of heart). This all leads to how I raised my hand to be the Producer of the school play.

After much pounding of my head on my desk, I pulled it together long enough to make a million phone calls and got the ball rolling. In early February we began with auditions. Keep in mind every child was going to be in the play, the auditions were so the Directors could see and hear the different skills each child had. I knew from my daughter’s first school play last year what would be required. Each child would recite a one minute monolog and sing a solo.

Watching the auditions I couldn’t decide whether to laugh or cry. Some kids squirmed, others forgot their monologs, some were so quiet you could barely hear them, and others were Diva in training. Regardless, every last one of them had the courage to go on, to push themselves and prevail. Not one dropped out. I have since sat through many a rehearsal and I have to say they dazzle me. I often watch them and feel profound gratitude for the example they set and it is my fervent prayer that the confidence that they have now stays with them forever.

Every time my children try something new I think to myself, “As an adult, if someone threw me out on a field, on a stage, in a competition of any sort, would I rise to the occasion or just quietly excuse myself and go find a book?” As with most people the answer relies on whether I stand alone or with my village.

I’ve been exploring the idea of the Chicken versus the Egg lately. What begets me?

There are experiences in my adult life that bring me to tears, to weep, to feel so intensely that I believe that there is something way way back there on the memory shelf needing to be heard and felt. Twenty-ish years ago I was at the wedding of the friends who now live in Moscow, Idaho (see the blog regarding country music). A woman stood up and sang a solo; I believe it was Ave Maria. I was so enthralled with her voice that I found myself thinking, “It isn’t too late, I could go to voice school. It could be me; I could feel this intense fulfillment every day.” Unfortunately the path I was travelling on was extremely complex, full of twists and turns that I was far too immature and frightened to detour from. In this case the Chicken or the Egg is still undecided. Did I not pursue this path because I was frightened to fail?

In my early twenties I ended up at Microsoft through a very circuitous and un-thought-through process. My boyfriend’s brother in law worked there and knew the International Department was looking for software testers and I kind of spoke Spanish. The stuff dreams are made of! I arrived at my interview late on a very dark and rainy January evening (yes, my interviews began at 6:30 at night). While I was waiting for the woman to interview me there was much hub-bub across the hall. Some guy ran into the office I was sitting in and said, “I heard you spoke Spanish.” The next thing I knew I was up to my eyeballs translating an error message with all kinds of software developers and testers standing around me. My interview was finished at 6:44 and I had the job. I left my job of six years (I had worked at the Shipyard in Bremerton since I turned 16) and moved out on my own. Based upon what? The word, Microsoft.

On my first day I dumped my cup of hot chocolate into my boss’s keyboard, deleted my operating system file, and sat in a cubicle not having a single idea of what I was supposed to do. Later that morning I found out I would test one international version of a spreadsheet per week and travel my way around the world by the seat of my pants.

A few years later I sat at my desk at (in my own office) and watched the landscapers planting pansies one rainy spring afternoon and realized how far out of my element I was. Chicken versus Egg moment: Was I good at solving problems due to a chaotic childhood or was I naturally predisposed to it? Was I choosing a safe path versus following a dream? At that point I hadn’t dreamt in so long I didn’t know what my dreams were.

Fortunately I bungled my way through a very unhealthy relationship back into school. I took classes for two years in just about everything before I found my passion, my dream, my harbor; art. Whether it be art history, painting classes, design studios, or even the most hated urban planning classes, I found that I could ride the roller coaster because it was all leading me, for the first time ever, to a place where I felt successful, confident, and talented; Landscape Architecture. Chicken versus Egg moment: Was I good at this because my “good problem solving skills” had evolved into “great problem solving skills” or would I have been good at this if at some point along the way I had sat down and given my path thought? I didn’t even know I liked art before returning to school.

Life is what it is. I am the youngest of five children who had very busy parents and we moved every two to three years. I spent the better part of my childhood in coping mode. Move to a new place: (problem solving skills kicked in) who to hang out with? Who was cool? Who wasn’t? Who was safe? Who would accept me? Were my clothes right? How quickly could I figure out slang/vernacular/points of reference? The second year (if there was one) was spent in some state of moving out of original group of friends into new group of friends (those who fit better) and trying to figure out what I was supposed to have learned the previous year and get up to speed. The third year: spent get ready to say good-bye to friends, let myself believe I didn’t care we were moving, finding reasons to believe moving would be good, packing, saying good bye to my space.

I’ve learned that “my space” means everything to me. Establishing a space means a return to some normality. If the picture is on the wall and bed is neatly made, this must be home. My space has become to me what most people call friends.

As an adult I rarely say no to an event that means helping children. I walk into a place and my eyes immediately search for the children who need help being drawn into the group. I walk into a space and my heart feels for the children who need someone to believe in them. As an adult I choose to invest in children versus having a job because I must. Everything that lives inside of me, tells me, informs me, that what I get back is so much more than I give. I don’t know what the Chicken versus the Egg moment here is. It is all very convoluted, but what I do know is that no child was ever harmed by having adults in their life who believed in them.

So, on January 3rd, 2011 I began the journey with forty eight kids and their families towards a school play. This experience has had its highs and lows, but every step of the way I have watched a lost child gain confidence, a shy child say their line proudly, and a very popular child befriend someone who needed a friend. The play is being performed this weekend and I have to say I’m torn. I feel absolute relief that the intensity of the experience is coming to an end, while the bigger part of me will miss watching this self-discovery in motion. These kids who may not even know that I am in the room have taught me so much and I will be forever grateful to them.

If you are ever in doubt as to what you should or could be doing, find an organization that helps children. Even if you learn it isn’t your thing, I promise you that during that time if you call a child by their name, chat with them briefly about something that is important to them, or help them solve a problem no matter how big or small, you will have changed a life.

Friday, February 25, 2011

I remember when I was twenty one I asked my mother how old she thought of herself as being. She didn’t hesitate, “28 or 29,” was her answer. She told me that it startled her when she looked in the mirror to see someone so different than how she pictured herself. I myself am now just a handful of years younger than she was when I asked her that question, and how I can identify with her.

I wouldn’t say that I am having a mid-life crisis. I don’t think women have mid-life crises. Thanks to the twisted sense of humor of Mother Nature we get to celebrate our physical evolution on a regular basis. I will risk the wrath of the men who read this and say that I think that it is this continual physical self-awareness that prevents us from having the clichĂ© mid-life crises men do. Women have to rethink themselves when they begin to develop curves, ovulate, give themselves over to the physical process of creating life, live with the emotional and anatomical changes that giving birth and raising children incurs, and then accept that lifts and tucks may be the only way they’ll ever cough again without peeing their pants.

Perhaps you could equate a breast lift or tummy tuck to a sports car… but if you are a man, I wouldn’t recommend it. Keep thoughts such as those firmly inside your head. As my husband always remembers, men can never trump the “giving birth” card (one of the many reasons why I love him.) The reason you can’t equate them is because no one worth a grain of salt would put loss of bladder control due to childbirth on par with thinning hair or “this is as good as it going to get.” You know why… cause women feel the same thing AND they pee their pants.

Back to me not having a mid-life crisis! I attempted to grow my hair long in my early thirty’s. I had lovely thick hair when I was younger. Back then I spent more time in the stylists chair having it thinned than cut. I would have people ask me if my hair was naturally that shiny, or did I put something on it (truly). The hair I grew in my thirty’s was an imposter. It was thinner, lacked shine, and turned odd shades of caramel-orange. To be fair, it served its purpose when my kids were really young. No time for a shower, great I can pull it back. Needed to entertain my daughter? I gave over my freshly washed and styled hair to hair clips, scrunchies, and red gel.

I remember Christmas of 2009, standing with my sisters-in-law and discussing dyeing our hair. We all swore we’d never quit, we weren’t interested in seeing how much grey had snuck its way in! Two things took place just six months later, I decided to cut my hair and quit dyeing it. Now to the men in the group, this may not be earth shattering or even interesting, but every woman who dyes her hair is now sitting before their computers wondering, “Why? Why would she do that? Think of all the quality salon time she is missing out on. Think of all those horrible grey hairs springing forth from her head. Think how different (code word for ‘old’) she must look.” I made such drastic decisions because I decided that my hair was never going to start growing thicker (I think 12 years of trying thickening and strengthening products, changing my eating habits, and giving it stern looks qualifies as giving it a chance). I also decided that the hair dye might just be adding to the weird caramel-orange hair color.

A friend who always has great hair sent me off to her stylist. I pleaded to not be given the proverbial “mom do” a.k.a. The Bob! I left the salon with a great asymmetrical chin length cut. I think the technical term used was “stacked.” I walked in the front door, showed off my new do and announced to my husband that I was finally stacked, no push up bra required.

I have to admit that the jury is still out on the hair color. While I am fortunate to have silvery grey hair, and that it is fairly evenly distributed, I get that jolt my mom mentioned every time I look in the mirror. On the one hand I give myself a pat on the back for being who I am, but then I realize almost immediately that I cannot quite believe how quickly time passed and that it cannot be too much longer before there is more silvery grey than caramel-orange (turns out that is my hair color, not a reaction from chemical treatments). Is it wrong to long for the days when my hair was thick, shiny and deep auburn?

To take my mind off of that I switched to my eyelids! Oh yes, you can see where this is all headed! Minutes here and there standing in front of mirrors spent pulling eyelids and forehead up, to the left, to the right. To be completely fair, I’ve always had these eyelids, but as I said, I am looking for distraction from the grey hair issue. It didn’t take long from me to start in on my jowls and neck.

By now you must have quite the image of me created in your mind.

Well, fear not! I am an improved version of who I was ten years ago, and I’ve decided that I would rather have my kitchen and bathrooms remodeled than avert the eyelid/jowl/neck issues. Just last night I was fortunate enough to attend a fashion show at the University of Washington with my tweenie daughter and our fabulous friends. The event wasn’t to showcase designers, it was to celebrate the wide variety of body types there are in the world, and some of the models spoke of their self-acceptance and the journey they’ve been on to embrace who they are.

They were college students, so sagging skin and grey hair are distant thoughts for them. However, sitting there I did give thought to the fact that every generation wonders what has “become of today’s youth.” Well, the people I saw applauded their friends for courageously being who they were in front of 700 people. The people I sat amongst clapped when an openly gay rather dramatic looking guy modeled skinny jeans in platform shoes. The people in the auditorium were silent and held to attention when a young woman read a poem about a girl struggling with Anorexia.

Needless to say that part of what was on my mind was how my tweenie was taking this all in. In my eyes she is all things beautiful. She is at that phase so eloquently described by Ray Bradbury, “all elbows and knees, and legs that are long like a colts.” I worry about words like Anorexia even making their way into her vocabulary, let alone her thoughts. As always she dazzles me, because she swatted away my gentle attempts at talking to her about her self-image with her excitement about a bridge building project at school. “I’m fine mom!” and off she went.

So, am I having a mid-life crises? Well, of a sort, yes. It is hard to articulate, but it has to do with how quickly time passes. When I was a child I had the absolute belief that at some point I would know I was grown up because I wouldn’t want to eat candy anymore. Well, that hasn’t happened. I like things neatly organized, paths to follow, hoops to jump through, boxes that I can check off. But life just isn’t like that. I have these moments when I absolutely forget that when my kids are grown up, I won’t be thirty.

I remember reading “The Places You’ll Go” by Dr. Suess and I dreamt right alongside my children. “Out there things can happen and frequently do to people as brainy and footsy as you. And when things start to happen, don’t worry. Don’t stew. Just go right along, you’ll start happening too.”

There are so many choices. Me, who rarely cries, is a puddle watching American Idol, because I worry that those who don’t make it onto the show feel like life is over. How can you tell them that at 45 they would [probably] rather have a lifetime of memories of singing in a hotel bar than working all day in a job where they barely recognize themselves? That is what age gives you. Perspective. The knowledge that you may not know what you do want to do, but you do know what you don’t want to do.

So, I am learning, deep down emotionally, that most of life does not unfold neatly with one clear path to follow. No, it is messy. There are parallel paths and it is in the intertwining of these paths where the truly beautiful moments of life exist. It is here where we can fulfill ourselves, listen to others with both ears, and reach for dreams versus just dream.

If you're of a mind, listen to Alan Jacksons "Remember When."

Thanks for reading!

Monday, January 24, 2011

You Put Your Right Foot in You take Your Right Foot Out

Instead of putting off various blog ideas for another day, I have decided to write down all the things running through my mind.

Thought number one: I finished wrapping my Christmas presents three days ahead of time! Yea for me. I was able to have my longed for Christmas Eve. I will confess that I bought one present on the 24th and instead of wrapping it, I put it under the tree as was. I am here to officially report the gift was still gratefully received and there were no comments resembling, “What the heck, I don’t want this. It wasn’t wrapped.” So next year, I’m going to get even braver!

Thought number two: New Year’s Resolutions! We had a lovely New Year’s Eve dinner at home with our children. At the end of dinner, where much of the conversation revolved around the idea of “dining” versus “eating,” our daughter asked what our resolutions were going to be. Well, I just get the heebie-jeebies at the thought. I have made them, never kept them, learned not to make them, and so the world has continued to happily revolve year after year since said lesson learned. Deflecting back to her for a while, I thought of one I could add when the topic returned to me. “I am going to try and not worry about the things I cannot change,” I said with conviction.

So here we are on January 14th and the question is, “Have I been successful?” The answer is, “Of course not.” I have learned to look at life a little more gently, a little more kindly, and I give myself permission for “do-overs” all the time. Honestly, I am rather impressed with how little the number of “do-overs” is. I was the Queen of hashing, rehashing, debating, berating (myself), and angst. Most people who know me well know that faster than Superman can fly, I can take myself to the worst case scenario in any situation and work my way backwards. I jokingly say that “this way I am always pleasantly surprised when the worst doesn’t happen.” Over the last six months I have really focused on living in the moment and many other issues, so the reality is, I had a pretty good head start on this resolution and it may be the first I have a good chance at achieving.

More on resolutions! A biggest loser scenario came up at the house. Mac and I would both like to shed a few pounds. So, what better way than to have a little healthy competition? I’d just like to report that by the time you read this I will have yet to weigh in… this directly ties into the other resolution, “I am going to try and not worry about the things I cannot change.” I go with the “How do my clothes feel” method. Since that fluctuates I’m assuming I will do better on some days than others.

Yes! I have complete control and can and will lose weight. I just keep giving myself do-overs on the actual weigh-in. I have worked out regularly, cut out a lot of unnecessary snacking, and have increased my water intake. I just have no idea how much I weighed when I started, so therefore I have the luxury of deciding how much weight I’ve lost. When I nail the number down, I’ll let you know.

Ironically one of my son’s first writing assignments on his return to school after the holidays was on Resolutions. He wrote a well-crafted essay on what his resolutions were and what needed to be done to achieve them. The last question he was to address in the essay was whether or not he thought he would keep his resolution. Boldly, the answer he wrote was “No.” He explained that he’d likely forget and that it was a lot of work, and so, he couldn’t see it happening. I tell you, I laughed so hard. He was candid, honest and human!!

Thought number three: Maybe this should have been thought number two, but since the conversation has been on-going since the Holidays, it is getting last billing. Tying into the whole dislike of wrapping, I have now learned from several parents that the secret of Santa has been revealed or that the parents would like to reveal the secret of Santa.

We had a similar conversation at our house. Since “Supreme Ruler” is what appears on my husband’s caller ID when I call him at work, I invoked my powers and kiboshed this notion. Everyone must make their own decisions, but I’m not ready to leave that part of our life behind, and I think that counts. In my most authoritative voice, somewhere around midnight on December 23rd, I asked why we went down the path in the first place if we weren’t going to see it through (yes, another insight into my personality). Well, needless to say, you don’t want to be dragged through that entire conversation. All I know is we were really tired, and someone compromised (it wasn’t me), and we’ll rehash this at some later date.

Maybe I’m the only one fooling myself at our abode, but I need the magic to continue, and we don’t live in Disneyland. It isn’t because I’m not ready for the kids to grow up. I think it has more to do with the fact that I found out through my siblings, not self-discovery and I wasn’t ready. I wanted to believe, but I was still wobbling on the path with one toe in the pool of childhood, and one toe in an ocean of puberty. When our kids arrive at that moment, the one where they verbally acknowledge beliefs and suspicions, I will pony up. I just need them to do it.

Thought number four: A Happy New Year to you all. (Just so you know, I began writing this on 1/14, finished it up on 1/24 and still haven’t weighed myself.)

Thought number five: I have no idea where the green underline symbols came from, so please ignore. I will attempt to solve this. (No hidden messages.)

Thanks for reading!