Pinch Myself!

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I can remember the moment almost ten years ago when I told T, “Someday I’m going to work for The N…”  At the time, it seemed like a pipe dream or a joke.  Living in the Midwest, how did I ever think I would work for a national organization based in Washington, D.C.?  Of course, I was only kidding when I said that years ago.  I had just gotten home from my first big conference.  T and I were talking in the kitchen of the old house.  I was sitting on the counter in the corner where the edges met, and T was leaning up against the island listening while I talked.  I was full of enthusiasm as I told him all about it.  I felt like an entirely new world had opened up to me.  I wanted to learn more and more, meet people who knew more than me, and get more involved.  I had found my niche.  Fast forward ten years to yesterday.  I started a new job working for THE N…  No, I didn’t have to move to Washington, D. C.  There are field offices across the country, and I was in the right place at the right time (for a change!)

I took a week off between jobs.  During the entire time I was home relaxing between jobs, I held my breath.  I waited for them to call and tell me that there had been a terrible mistake.  “I’m sorry, but you weren’t really our first choice for this job.” or “I’m sorry, we just don’t want YOU.”

I took a picture of the building as I walked up to my new office.  Tears welled up in my eyes.  I’m here!  They’re actually going to let me do this job!  I stood on the drive as the humid, summer morning air wrapped around my legs.  I looked at the beautiful, old building before me, and I vowed to care for it and protect it.  I walked through the impeccably manicured gardens, and knew I would find time during my days to know these plants and help keep them free from weeds.  I entered, and I looked up the expanse of the spiral staircase to the galleries above, some full of art while others were full of potential.  I sat my bag down and positioned myself behind my desk.  This is where I belong.  I felt it immediately.  Like a mother knows her own child, I knew that I was meant to be in this place at this particular moment in time.

I hope I can live up to my own dreams.  So many times in the past, as quickly as a dream has come within reach, it was just as quickly snatched from my grasp.  Feeling happy or excited scares the hell out of me.  I don’t trust those feelings.  Is it because I don’t feel deserving of happiness?  I’m afraid I’ll mess up.  I’m afraid I don’t deserve anything good.

I hope so much this time is different.  I feel a kinship with this place, and I want to make us both proud.

Offended, Because I Am A Woman

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Today my Facebook news feed has been flooded with the bizarre Bruce (Caitlyn) Jenner photo shoot from the recent Vanity Fair magazine.  The photos have been called “stunning.”  Yeah…I was certainly stunned.  More than that, I was offended.

Bruce Jenner’s claim is that his facial-feminizing surgery is about “who he is as a person.”  WTF?  I’m sorry, but what does that mean?  Has Bruce spent his entire life wishing that he/she had the face of a woman, large breasts, and a penis?  Bruce is now calling himself “she,” and he’s taken the name Caitlyn.  Once again…WTF?

This evening, I read more about Bruce’s transformation.  I wanted to figure out why I was feeling so offended.  I have friends, both men and women, who are gay, and I am not offended by their lives.  I finally figured it out.  What offends me about this is the fact that this man thinks that he can just suddenly become a woman.  A couple of large breasts, long hair, and feminizing facial features do NOT make a woman.  That is what offends me.  Just as I do not know what it means to grow up as a male and grow into a man, Bruce cannot so easily claim entry into womanhood simply by surgical alteration.  Would I be a man if I grew a beard and had something hanging between my legs?  NO!

I am not defined as a woman by my facial features, my hair, or my breasts.  I am not defined as a woman because I have ovaries and a uterus.  These things could be removed, and I would still be a woman.  I am not a woman simply because I have carried my children within my own body and given birth in pain.  Without these things, I would still be a woman.

I am a woman, because of the generations of women who came before me.  They are who guided me and taught me what it means to be a woman on the inside.  I gathered eggs with my ancient great-grandmother as she told me the stories of her life.  I sat on my grandma’s front porch as we shelled peas into a bowl while I soaked in even other lessons.  I learned gentleness and strength from these women.  They prepared me with stories, laughter, and love for what would lay beyond my years of childhood.  They prepared me for the secret, magical, sometimes scary world of womanhood.

I have four children – two boys and two girls.  I love them all immensely and without reservation.  Each one of them is an amazingly unique individual.  Still, I will admit that I have a special kinship with my daughters.  We are able to understand each other in a way that often astonishes me.  We can communicate without words, and we can communicate non-stop with words.  We speak freely of anything and everything, and we’re able to clear the male members of the family quickly from any room when our talk becomes too candid.

My daughters are the new generation in the long, long sisterhood of women.  I share my stories of magic and mystery with them.  Someday, if I am very lucky, I will be an ancient old woman sharing my stories with some yet-to-be little girl.  That is what it means to be a woman, Bruce.

 

Prioritize Much?

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Last weekend was a throwback to our lives of about five years ago; our house was full of people and bustling with non-stop activity.  Andrew spent a few days visiting, and Emily’s friend spent the night here on Saturday night.  I took a day of vacation on Friday, but there wasn’t a moment of quiet until late on Sunday afternoon.  While that was my normal life five years ago, the past weekend was a shock to my system.  Our lives have become quiet, peaceful, and ordered.  As much as I miss a busy household, I have come to appreciate the down time at the end of the day. It makes me realize how much has changed over the past two years.  So much.

T and I took a walk early Sunday evening. It was the first time we had been able to have a conversation alone in days.  We talked about the past weekend, and we talked about the future.  Where are we headed?  What is the next step?  We’ve made so many changes with our jobs, our home, our location, and we’re still trying to figure out exactly where it is we have landed.  Or have we really landed at all?  Is this home or is this still part of a larger transition?

Making this move was the right thing to do.  My motives were not pure, though.  I’m not sure if I was running to something or away from something.  Maybe a little of both.  Thankfully, this move has been good for my family.  The kids are all happy.  We are able to spend more time with the boys, and the girls have adjusted beautifully.  T is happier than I have seen him in years.  He loves his new job.  He’s made friends, and he has more free time than he’s had in years.  A few weeks ago, he told me that he feels like he’s semi-retired. Considering he works over 40 hours per week, this shows how much he really needed this change.

As for me, I’m not quite as happy or well-adjusted as the rest of the family.  I am unsettled.  I’m stressed out.  I’m not sleeping well, and I don’t know what I want.  If I take a step back and think about what in my life has made me happy in the past, none of those things are available to me at this point in my life.  I can’t go back to the time when I was home raising my children.  The band I once played with is no longer together.  Those were good times, but I’m not able to time travel or recreate those years.

I often wonder if I am destined to always be a step ahead or behind of really being content.  I get frustrated with myself for not just being satisfied.  We want for nothing.  We have a lovely home in a nice neighborhood.  Shouldn’t these things make me happy?  Yes, I should be happy, but it all seems kind of two-dimensional.  I feel like a sitcom family.  I have become the kind of person that I had always been secretly proud NOT to be.

I have spent a lot of time thinking about this situation over past few weeks, and T and I have spent a lot of time talking.  How much of myself do I really want to give to my career?  This job has become all-consuming.  I’m spent and exhausted at the end of each day.  Too many weekends involve some kind of work-related event.  I am overwhelmed, and I don’t feel like I am making a positive impact.  I don’t know if it’s even possible for one person to make an impact here.  I’m discouraged.  In the past, I didn’t let hurdles get in my way, but this time, I think the hurdles may be too large for me to move out of the way.  I lay awake at night analyzing and planning strategies, and I can’t seem to find a possible solution.  I am one person, and I may be in a situation that is impossible to change.  This situation is complicated, political, ingrained, illogical, and unkind.

The illness of my friend Glenn has shaken me.  Life is too short too spend time being unhappy.  In the time I have known Glenn, I have often wondered about the logic of some of the choices he has made.  He has turned down work opportunities if they would have infringed on his time with his children.  He lives in a small apartment, yet he took his kids on yearly vacations, concerts, and weekends of fun adventures.  I’m ashamed to say that I often saw those expenditures as a waste of his money.  I see it differently now.  Glenn has only a short time left to live, and I’m sure that he treasures the memories he has created with his family much more than anything he would have bought with the money he spent.  Glenn’s life may be cut short, be there is no doubt in my mind that he didn’t squander the time he has had.  He has been happy, and he loved well.  I’m not sure I could say the same thing about my own life, and that has caused me to take a step back and assess who I am, where I am, and where I am heading.

I am not unhappy; I’m just tired and stressed out.  I am discouraged.  I have been chasing something that I’m not sure I even want.  There’s no passion in my life, just empty acquisition.

Today I spent hours alone my car.  I listened to music as I drove.  There were memories attached to so many of the songs that played.  Some songs I remembered playing with a band.  I thought of musician friends, smiles, shared jokes, camaraderie, and good times.  Other songs brought back memories of loved ones, times and places from the past.  What was special about each of those memories was what I felt in my heart.  My memories were connected to my life in a way that is not present in this drone-like life I am now living.  That makes me sad.

Losing

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My friend Glenn’s prognosis isn’t good.  There is absolutely no hope.  None.  Nada.  I have been in constant contact with him since his diagnosis, and absolutely nothing good has happened.  He can’t swallow, so a feeding tube has been placed.  It boggles my mind how quickly he has deteriorated.  A trip to the Mayo Clinic only brought him a second opinion that was just as bad as the first.  He said that at least a consensus on his diagnosis has removed the need to make decisions.

This past weekend, I called the boys to tell them.  Those were difficult conversations.  The kids consider Glenn a part of our family.  The boys were shocked, quiet, and deflated.  In many ways, Glenn has been a larger part of our family than many of our closest relatives.  We’re all in disbelief that such a senseless thing would happen to a man who has already had too large a share of misfortune.

There is never a time when I think of him that I don’t hear his voice.  I knew his voice before I ever met him in person.  We had been hired as a team, and our first contact was over the phone.  I remember exactly where I was the first time he called me.  I was filling up my car at a gas station by our local airport when my phone rang.  His Jersey accent was strong, and his gregarious personality came through loud and clear.  I was smiling ear to ear during the entire conversation.  I knew immediately that I would enjoy working with this man, and I was right.  There was never a cross word exchanged between the two of us.  We were a team immediately from the moment of that first conversation.

I have spent some time considering this unique friendship, and I know that I have been blessed to have had such a good friend in my life.  Glenn is the brother I never had.  He’s the brother I wish I could have had.  He has interfered in my personal life without asking and without being asked.  He has given me advice.  He’s known my deepest secrets, and he never judged me harshly.  He has worried along with me, and he has shared joyous times.  He has spent holidays with my family and evenings around the fire.  He came to concerts when I was playing and to my kids’ graduations parties.  He often over-stayed his welcome, but he never expected to be treated like a guest.

He kept his eyes on my kids.  He told me what he had seen on Facebook that I may have missed (or had been blocked from seeing.)  While this annoyed the kids at the time, years later they have understood that he was simply looking out for their best interest.  He cared.  No one asked Glenn to adopt our family, and we probably never lived up to the family he deserved to have, but he adopted us nonetheless.

And so now I am the annoying friend.  Not a day goes by that I haven’t asked how he’s doing, if he needs anything.  I remind him that I love him, and that I’ll be there for him in any way possible.  Tonight he told me to sit tight.  He said, “As things progress, I’m going to need you.  For now, just pray.  I’ll need you soon enough.”

My heart is breaking at the thought of a world without Glenn.

Worry For A Friend

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dandelion

 

I’ve been feeling really burned out and frustrated.  The past two years have taken a heavy toll on me.  One thing I have learned for sure is that change causes stress, even if those changes have been good.  I’m simply worn out and exhausted.  Moving, starting a new job, making sure that the kids are adjusting has made my head spin.

Weeks ago, I decided to take a short trip back home by myself.  I planned on getting my hair cut by the same person I had trusted for years.  (The ordeal of finding another stylist could be a blog post all by itself.)  I was going to call a former co-worker and see if she wanted to meet me for dinner.  I planned on doing a little shopping at places that I miss and then meander around my hometown on the way back home.  I looked forward to a low-key getaway BY MYSELF.  I just wanted 24 hours of not having to work, worry about work, or kids, or anything.

I emailed my hairstylist, and asked her to let me know when she could fit me in on either a Thursday night or anytime on a Friday.  May 1st was the first available date.  I was excited to plan my getaway, until I went to schedule the day off.  I sat down at my computer and opened up my calendar to May 1st.  Right across the top of the page I saw “Lola – No School.”  I knew immediately that I wouldn’t be able to go away by myself.

Lola is 11-years-old.  While she is sometimes home for an hour or two after school, she doesn’t like it.  There is no way that I would leave her home alone all day while I went off to selfishly spend time alone.  My next thought was that if I asked Lola to tag along with me, then Emily would expect to come along, too.  I took a deep breath and emailed my hair stylist to ask if she could also fit the girls in for a hair appointment on that date.

That evening as we sat on the patio, I asked the girls if they’d like to come along with me.  They whooped with pleasure, and I felt like a heal for wishing that I would have been able to have some time to myself.  Then T said, “Hey, can I go, too?”  The girls let out a big….UGH!

When T stepped inside the house for a moment, I talked to the girls.  I told them that they needed to apologize to their dad and tell him that of course he was welcome to come along.  So there I was, both girls and a husband coming along on my alone trip.  Oh, the dog was coming, too, because no one was going to be home to let him outside.

In my head, I was griping and complaining.  Even as I made hotel reservations for two rooms, I was wishing for the weekend trip I had planned by myself.  I arranged for a friend to keep our dog as an overnight guest, because I couldn’t find a hotel that would allow pets.  The dog will be with us, just not at bedtime.  When T started making arrangements for us to visit his mom and then invited his sister to join us for dinner, I wanted to stomp my foot and say, “Quit hijacking my trip!”  Then something happened to make me take a step back and realize what is really important.  My family wanted to be included.  They want to spend time with me.  I should be grateful, not griping.

Just yesterday, I received a text from a dear family friend from back home.  Earlier in the day, he had been diagnosed with cancer of the esophagus, and the doctor’s prognosis was grim.  Damn cancer!  My friend has three children, and the youngest isn’t even out of grade school.  My heart sank at the thought of what he will be facing and what he will be missing.  He had been misdiagnosed for too long.  Now it appears as if it’s too late for any treatment to have much of an impact on the disease.

I can’t stop thinking about him and remembering times together and our many conversations.  Our backgrounds are so different, but we have been friends from the moment we met.  He is from New Jersey, and I’m a small town Midwesterner.  Years ago, he and I were hired by an organization as a team.  Technically, I was his boss, but we worked as a team.  I can still remember our first conversation.  We hadn’t yet met, but we immediately hit it off.  He was my muse, and he inspired creativity in me.  I owe much of my success in that job to him.

My family became his family.  As a divorced man without extended family nearby, he often spent time at our house and joined us on holidays.  Eventually our jobs took us on separate paths, but our friendship has continued.

He is younger than me.  He’s too young, and he has so much left to accomplish.  Nothing about loss is logical.

He and I have exchanged many texts since yesterday.  He’s not able to speak right now, and I’m thankful that we are able to text as a means of communication.  I asked him if I can come see him, but he keeps saying, “Not now.  Soon.  It’s really bad now.”  I’m afraid, because I don’t know what that means.  I’m praying that there will be a time soon.  I have told him that all he needs to do is let me know.  I can be there in two hours…day or night.

I feel petty and selfish.  All week I have been complaining inside.  I wanted my trip alone.  I resented the fact that first my responsibilities changed my plans, and then everyone else climbed on board.  I feel like an idiot for concentrating on the negative instead of being grateful for a day off work, a trip back home, my health, and the chance to spend time with people I love.

Life is too damn short, precious, and fragile.  I have lost too many people that I love.  We all have…or eventually we all will.  One day, someone will mourn the loss of our lives.  No one escapes death.  In the face of certain tragedy and loss, how is it that we human beings are able to lose sight of the precious gift of each new day?  Why do we waste time complaining, or stuck in jobs we hate, or live our lives plodding from one day to the next?  Obviously, I don’t have the answers to these questions.

We are all human, and it is in our nature to carry on in the face of all the uncertainty and loss that life throws our way.  We are resilient and relentless in the pursuit of another day.  We adapt.  We make do with what is available to us.  We cherish the memories, and we make new memories to pass along to those who follow along behind after we’re gone.

Please say a prayer (or send good vibes and strength) for my friend that he will be granted a little extra time to make a few more memories with the people who love him.

Peapod

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Recently, I read an article bemoaning the fact that we have become a “society of shut-ins.”  I suppose the intent of the article was to shed a disparaging light on the trends of online shopping, food delivery services, and cyber friendships.  People don’t ever have to leave their homes if they don’t want.  In fact, most of the people in this article also worked from home.  On the day I was reading this, it all sounded great to me.  I had been away from home for almost a week.  I came home to a messy house, an empty refrigerator, piles of laundry, and a broken dryer.  The idea of sequestering myself away from the world in general sounded wonderful!

To be fair, T had been working crazy hours while I was out of town.  He had prepared meals for the girls and tried to keep up with the laundry.  Emily was back to work, but still recovering from her lengthy illness.  She was sleeping almost every moment she was home.

I spent my Good Friday “holiday” calling around to find someone to repair the dryer, cleaning the house, and fighting traffic and crowds to buy groceries for my family.  That evening I readied the house for company and the holiday.  By the time I sat down late at night, I realized that almost every single moment of my life was claimed every single day.  Work, the responsibilities of running a household, four kids…there was always something I needed to do.

When I finally collapsed in bed, I tossed and turned.  I was back home from Atlanta, and the stress had been patiently waiting for me.  Emily didn’t seem to be getting better, and I was worried about her.  Luke sent me a text at 2:00 a.m. to let me know that his plane had landed in Arizona.  He and Shannon were visiting his former college roommate for the holiday.  At 8:00 a.m., my ringing phone pulled me out of a fitful sleep.  Andrew wanted to know what the password was on our cellphone account.  He was going to upgrade his phone.  Thankfully, he had the sense to quickly tell me that he would be the one paying for the upgrade.

I had been allowed six hours to sleep, but I hadn’t done much sleeping.  My mind had been busy swirling around from one thing to the next.  It seems that the moment my eyes begin to close in sleep, the worries and concerns of the day crept in to wake me up.  I pulled on my robe and shuffled out to the kitchen to get a cup of coffee.  T was already gone.  Although it was Saturday, he had gone to his office to catch up on work.  Work.  Our lives seemed to revolve around work – work at our jobs, work of being parents, work of maintaining our house and household.  I sat down to drink my coffee in the morning quiet of the house.  The girls were still asleep, and the cat curled up on my lap.  I sat listening to the birds outside.  Over the sounds of nature, I could hear traffic, and I remembered a time when our lives were not like this.

Once again, I missed our old home.  I remembered other early mornings from years ago, mornings when I would walk outside and across the dewy grass in my nightgown.  There were no neighbors to worry about.  There was simply us, our home, our family, and nature.  I could look across the fields and see nothing but earth, sun, and clouds.  Of course, I am romanticizing things.  Was it really like I remember?  Yes and no.  There were those perfect moments, but there was also stress and worry.  There is always worry in life, the subject line simply changes.  What I do know was that our focus, our driving force back then, was always the same, and that has changed.  There was a time when we placed family first.  Somehow that has shifted.  Careers, success, material things, have crept up to a higher ranking in our list of priorities, and I don’t like that.  I’m not even sure how it has happened.

We are here now, in this new place, our new home, and honestly I don’t want to leave.  I have made friends here.  In many ways, we are happier now.  I don’t want to look back or try to recreate who we once were years ago.  What we need to do is make adjustments and minor tweaks to our lives so that we can capture moments of happiness again.  We need to look at what is possible to change and make those changes happen.  We need to be proactive instead of reactive.

I can’t do it all.  I can’t work all week and still be a housewife in the evenings and on weekends.  I am NOT superwoman, and I don’t want to be.  No one expects that of me.  I have just kept doing it all, and that’s my own fault.  As I sat there on Saturday morning, and I took my first stab at being a shut-in.  I placed my first grocery order on Peapod.

My order arrived tonight.  I was impressed by how easy and economical it was.  Instead of fighting traffic and shopping for two hours, I spent ten minutes putting away a week’s worth of groceries.  I stood in front of the pantry and marveled at the shelves full of food that I didn’t have to leave my house to buy.  The next step is a cleaning service.

My goal is to reclaim my weekends, myself, and my happiness.

Waiting For A Plane

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People-watching is one of my favorite pastimes. I don’t often have the luxury of time to just sit back and be an observer. While I could have slept in this morning or lingered over breakfast, I rushed to finish packing my bags and headed to the airport as quickly as possible. I checked my luggage, made my way through security, and planted myself in a prime people-watching location.

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