Snakes and Other Dangerous Creatures

6 Comments

This blog post has been brewing for a few days.  It wasn’t until very early this morning as I sat drinking coffee with T that I even began to attempt to put the words together.

T and I had fallen asleep on the couch as we often do on the weekends.  We watched a movie all snuggled up and warm on the couch.  When the movie was over, we turned on an episode of The Office.  It was the one where Michael proposes to Holly.  I had watched it the other night with Em.  It was so sweet that I wanted T to see it, too.  I loved watching it again, and I loved seeing T smile at all the right parts.  Even after the show was over, we stayed in our spots on the couch.  We halfheartedly talked about getting ready for bed, but it was so warm and cozy.  We were so sleepy and so comfortable.

The next thing I knew, it was morning and T was in the kitchen brewing a pot of coffee.  I wandered in with a smile on my face and told him that I was kind of enjoying our weird pack mentality when it came to sleeping.  There is something so delicious about drifting off to sleep right where you sit compared to the formality and routine of getting ready for bed.  He agreed.  Falling to sleep like that is wonderful, but damn, are we ever sore in the mornings from sleeping all night in awkward positions.  We laughed a little more as we both stood there trying to stretch out the kinks.

These odd sleeping arrangements have become our habit as of late on Friday and Saturday nights.  We skip the bed and the bedroom.  We nest and nestle in for sleep wherever we are comfortable at the time.  The best thing of all are the mornings.  It is just the two of us wandering around downstairs.  We haven’t had the luxury of lingering over coffee and conversation in the kitchen for many years.  Strangely, I am reminded of my grandparents.  As a child, I can remember waking up at their house and coming into the kitchen as they both sat at the table sipping their coffee.  It was a warm, peaceful feeling of contentment to see them there.  Now that is T and I.  It makes me feel old, yet content, all at the same time.

As we finished up in the kitchen this morning, I told T that I was going to go upstairs and write before the girls woke up.  He stopped and looked at me.  “What are you going to write about?”  He had never, ever asked me that question before.  I have been blogging for two years, but he has never asked me one question about it.    I don’t hide the fact that I’m writing.  Many times I have come to him to talk about a particular blog post or a comment that I have received.  Until this morning, though, he has never asked me what I was going to write about.  Today he asked, so I poured another cup of coffee and asked him to join me at the table. Continue Reading »

Ugly Girl

8 Comments

Last night I packed my suitcase once again.  I’m leaving this afternoon to attend another conference.  While I am looking forward to spending time with my friends, I don’t find myself very excited at the prospect of leaving the peace and safety of my home.  Home seems to be the only place where I don’t doubt myself.  It’s the only place where I feel like ME anymore.

As I looked through my clothes, I couldn’t find one thing that I really wanted to pack.  It’s not that I don’t have a closet full of nice clothes, the problem is that I don’t think I look good in any of them.  There is a formal awards dinner tomorrow night.  Instead of thinking about the award I SOOOO want to win, I found myself more concerned about what to wear for that event.  Everything I looked at, I decided against once I imagined it on me.  “No.  This will make me look frumpy.”  “No.  This will make me look like I am trying to be too young.”  “No.  My arms don’t look good in that.”  “No.  This makes my breasts look non-existent.” “I look fat in that.”   “I look ugly.  Period.”  The voices in my head were not being kind.

I once enjoyed these conferences.  I enjoyed the company.  I enjoyed new ideas and learning new things.  Now, all I can think about is not acting like there is something wrong with me.  I wonder if friends that I have not seen in months will take me aside (again) and ask me what’s wrong.  Will they wonder if I have been/am sick?  Will they talk behind my back at how dramatically Pam has changed?  I can put on the most lovely clothes in the world, but clothes can never cover up the things that I would like to hide.  My hair can be perfect.  My makeup can look great, but nothing can put the sparkle back in my eyes.  That’s why I feel ugly now.  The way I look hasn’t changed all that much, but what is on the inside of me has been altered dramatically.

When I am home, I can feel the me I once was beginning to emerge.  I feel safe at home, and I am able to take things at my own pace.  I don’t have to be “on.”  I feel supported by my family.  Healing can take place at home.  It is these times out on my own that shake me up and fill me with doubt and fear.  I am afraid to be alone with my thoughts.  I’m afraid to be without the distraction of my daughters.  I miss having my cat curled up on my lap.

Rebuilding my self-confidence is a monumental task.  It doesn’t take much to shatter the delicate beginnings.  Rebuilding who I once was is much more difficult than it was getting there the first time around.  I suppose part of that is because I blame myself for ever letting anything, anyone, or any situation undermine what was such an essential and important of myself.

As I’ve thought about what the next few days will bring,  I have decided to just accept feeling ugly.  What I look like does NOT matter.  What is important is who I am on the inside.  I will go, and I will learn.  I will catch up with old friends.  I will direct my care and concern outward instead of keeping my focus on ME.  I will stop caring so much about the ugly girl on the OUTSIDE, and concentrate more on on nurturing the beautiful woman on the INSIDE.

The Best People I Know

Leave a comment

I have been one lucky woman this past week.  I spent time with each of my kids.  Spending time with my kids was once something I took for granted.  I am their mom.  They woke me up in the morning, and they were by my side all day long.  I remember craving time for myself during those years.  Mommy sometimes took a 15 minute break when the kids were little.  I would sit quietly in the living room for a few peaceful moments and enjoy a cup of coffee while the kids peeked around the doorway wondering why I wanted peace or quiet.  How could that be fun?

Where did that time go?  Where are those little blonde, big-eyed children who always had hundreds of  questions?  I can close my eyes and see the faces of those little children  so clearly.  Now they, except for Lola, are all grown up.  Their lives are busy.  My life has changed, too, since those days of sunshine, swings, and the sandbox.  While I miss those days, there is something equally exciting in seeing them become adults.  Their choices are their own.  Of course, as parents we try to help and guide them, but now it is up to them to fulfill their own destinies and make their own decisions.  It is rewarding to see them become such fine adults.

Luke was home from Marquette for three days.  T and I drove to pick up  Luke and Shannon from the train station late on Wednesday evening.  It had been a long week for them of mid-term exams followed by a day of travel.  They were travelling home together for the first time.  I felt such joy to see them stepping down from the train.  They have such deep love and friendship between them.  Beneath all of that is a steady mutual respect.  I love seeing my son become a good, kind, considerate man who treats his girlfriend with admiration and support.  I savored those moments as the four of us drove home on the winding country roads.  I felt so safe and secure to be snug in the car with people I loved so much as we drove through the dark.  The girls were waiting for their brother when we made it home.  There was laughter and LOUD once again in our house as we all welcomed Luke back home.

I enjoyed having my grown up son home for a few days.  I had missed his sense of humor.  I had missed his banter with his sisters.  There was a sense of celebration for those days when our son was back home.  He took Lola to the corn maze and the pumpkin patch.  We celebrated with extended family.  We shopped with him for a few things he needed to take back to school.  We had a final night as a family at our favorite pizza place.  That last night, Luke and I sat up late together in the living room and watched Netflix.  I don’t even know the name of the show.  It was about aliens.  It was stupid, really bad, but that didn’t matter.  I loved being snuggled on the couch under a blanket.  I loved sitting up late, sipping a Pepsi, and munching on popcorn with my son.

Luke headed back to Milwaukee early on Saturday morning, and I headed to Chicago to see Andrew.  Andy needed a few cold weather things from home.  He had tickets to a movie screening on Saturday night and wanted company.  I was happy to bring him the things he needed and to have a chance to hang out in the city with my son.

I was apprehensive about seeing him.  I hoped that he was adjusting well to this move.  I had been concerned after his recent visit home.  He seemed to be homesick at the time, but I had not mentioned it to him.  My oldest son, this young man who has faced more challenges in his young life than most people will face during a lifetime, oh….how I worry about him.  I want his life to fit.  I want him to feel self-confidence.  I want him to succeed.  As I rode along on my way to Chicago, I wondered what I would find.  A mom “knows.”  I would know the moment I saw his face if he was doing as well as his phone calls would lead me to believe.

I was thrilled the moment I saw him come around the corner.  His eyes sparkled.  He looked GREAT!  OK, other than the facial hair and the fact that he needed a haircut!  🙂  He was happy.  He was actually happy!  He had so much to tell me.  He told me about a girl he had met.  She’s a teacher specializing in ADD.  We laughed.  Where had she been all of his life?   He talked about school.  He laughed about cleaning his apartment furiously the night before.  He had graded papers from school strategically placed on the kitchen counter.  He is doing fabulously!  The very best part of all, though, was the huge squeeze he gave me and the genuine smile on his face.

We had a wonderful day and night.  We took the train around the city.  We walked for miles and miles.  We shared wonderful food.  We tried new beers. We went to the zoo.   He took me to his favorite neighborhood hang-outs, and it was so good to see people call him by name.  It was good to see that he is making a life for himself.  The visit was short, but it was perfect.  I am so happy for him and so darn proud!

Back home now, and while I love the city and have developed such a soft spot for Chicago, I am experiencing a new-found appreciation for my quiet country home.  I’m beginning to see this wonderful place where I live as the best kept secret in the world.  It’s safe and calm, beautiful and peaceful.  I’m happy to be here….right here.

Tonight the girls and I were happily catching up and enjoying the whole “Girls Rule” feeling in the house again.  As much as T pretends to be horrified to be the only male in the household, I know he secretly loves being surrounded by the female members of the family.  He often looks baffled as the conversations swirl around him, but I can see his enjoyment as he witnesses his daughters becoming young women.  Lola was happily chatting about her Halloween costume choices, and Emily was telling me about her fantastic weekend.  Em’s boyfriend had been home from college, too.  They had a great time together, and she was sharing every detail.  She seems to be shocked that he “really likes her.”

Later, the girls and I were all in the bathroom painting our toenails while T was watching football.  We were still being silly, talking, and enjoying our time together.  Em told me that she had bought some Nair over the weekend, but hadn’t tried it out yet.  I laughed.  The last time she tried Nair on her legs, she freaked out in the shower.  She accidentally touched her head and was afraid that she was going to end up bald.  We laughed as we remembered that day.  She had screamed bloody murder in the shower, and I had come running.  I had to scrub off her legs for her while she protected her head hair.  Knowing that her last Nair experience had been traumatic, I asked her why she would even want to try it again. “Oh, you know me, Mom.  I make the same mistakes over and over before I finally learn.”  Ha!  I laughed.  Like mother, like daughter!  I certainly hope she learns to stop doing that much earlier in her life than her mother did.

Vampires, Heroes, and Victims

Leave a comment

Today was a long day, and I am surprised to find myself writing a blog post.  I didn’t get home from work until after 9:30.  It was a draining day, and on top of that, I haven’t been feeling well.  All I wanted to do was sit down and relax for a while before going to bed, but the words were brewing and bubbling up inside of me, so here I am,  writing again.

As I sat here quietly trying to unwind, my head was replaying moments from my busy day.  It was a strange day that seemed to take place like scenes from a play.  Scene I:  a morning phone call.  Scene II:  a quiet, contemplative drive to work.  Scene III:  a meeting with mega-rich hoteliers.  On and on, my day went from one scene to the next.  The only player that was constant was me.  I walked out on the stage never knowing what I was going to get.   Everyone else seemed to know their lines, but not me.  Maybe I was feeling a bit scattered because I didn’t feel well.  I felt like I was a step behind.  I felt uncertain and unsure.

As I sat here tonight replaying the scenes, I thought about the interactions I had today with such a wide variety of people.  My work day ended by giving a presentation to a large group of business owners and residents at a public meeting.  Each scene of my day had a different tone, and I thought about that as I sat on the couch trying to relax.  Moments can go well, or they can be fraught with difficulty.  It can go either way.  So much is dependent on the people involved.  Kindness seems to be the key element.  The addition or the lack of kindness can tip a situation in one direction or the other. Continue Reading »

Mixed Emotions

2 Comments

 

I haven’t written in this blog for about a week.  I’ve been writing, but just not here.  As summer ends and cooler weather settles in, I find myself recalling many moments from my past.  I have been concentrating on remembering and gauging my progress from season to season.  I suppose you could call it a “self-inventory.”  Am I better off this year than I was last year?  Am I happier?  What lies ahead?  What do I keep?  What do I throw away?  What do I change?  What are my goals?  What am I striving to achieve?  Where do I want to be in my life next year at this time?

These past two years have not been happy.  Yet in the midst of all of the sadness, moments of joy continue to shine brightly enough to make their way through the murk and lighten my life.  Life has a way of doing that.  There is so much beauty and joy to be had in this life and in this world.  It’s contagious.  It’s almost impossible to ignore.

I’m sure I’m not the only one, but it seems that way too often I experience mixed emotions.  Some things are really good in my life, while other things really kind of suck.  There doesn’t ever seem to be a happy medium.  Maybe it’s because I am in the middle of so many other lives.  I have four kids who rely on me.  I am responsible for my mother.  Then there is work.  I manage volunteers.  I have to deal with committees and a board.  I am the person responsible for getting the volunteers excited, thanking them, guiding them in the right direction.  I feel like so much of my time is spent being ON.  Performing.  After certain committee meetings, it takes me literally hours to unwind.  That was the case last night.  I had a board meeting, and it had gone wonderfully well.  I was dead-on.  I was well-prepared, and the initiatives I introduced were well-received.  My adrenaline was flowing.  It was great, but I was revved up for hours even after I went home.  I couldn’t stop.  I burned off my excess energy by cleaning like a madwoman.  I vacuumed three flights of stairs.  I made dinner.  I ironed.  Yet, I was still full of energy.  I told T that it felt like I had testosterone flowing through my veins, and he better watch out or I would kick his ass.  Of course, I am exhausted today.

Obviously, I love my job.  It’s been one of the greatest surprises and greatest joys of my life.  I certainly didn’t set out to do what I do.  A decade ago, I didn’t even know such things existed.  If I had heard myself speaking as I do now on a daily basis, it would have seemed like a foreign language created from acronyms.  While I love what I do, I seem to be lacking balance.  One look at my calendar, and it’s obvious that there will be no let up in my schedule until the holidays.

As well-prepared as I was for the meeting yesterday, I was not prepared for receiving a phone call as I was walking down the hall, arms full and coffee in hand, to the meeting room.  It was a number that I didn’t recognize, so I answered the call.  “Pam, this is the Kidney Center.  Your mom is fine, but we need you to pick up a kit for a test we would like to perform on your mother’s stools.”  (Yuck!)  It was 4:00 p.m.  I asked when they needed me to pick this test kit up.  “Now.”  I told them that I was just about to walk into a meeting and asked if I could call back around 5:30.  “We won’t be here then.  We close at 5:00.”  My gosh!  Pretty decent of them to call me at work and expect me to drive over there, at least a 20 minute drive, within the next hour.  I asked them if this was an emergency or could it wait until the morning.  Yes, it could wait.

Today I called the Kidney Center while I was driving to work.  Their answering machine informed me that their hours were 9:00-2:30 today.  Just great.  I was tied up in meetings until 4:00.  I had hoped to leave at that time and take care of whatever it was that I needed to do.  I still really had no idea other than that they wanted to test my mother’s stools.  Truthfully, I feel that it is more a matter of racking up as many charges as possible on their well-insured patient’s account.  I called and left a message, but my call was never returned.  It is these little out of the blue things that drive me nuts.  Just when I think I have a handle on all of my responsibilities, something else always surfaces.

As I drove home from work, I looked out across the fields.  They are all bare now, and they’ll look like this for many months.  Another season has passed.  Have I used this season well?  I don’t think so.  I seem too often to be stuck in a place of sadness and loss.  As much as I try to recognize the beauty and joy around me, I am pulled back into remembering.

When I walked into the house, Emily was waiting for me in the kitchen.  She had been working on a Senior Memory Book writing assignment for school, and she wanted me to proofread what she had written.  She was on her way out the door, but wanted me make sure to talk to me before she left.  Ugh….  I was tired, and I had just gotten home.  I had to make dinner, do laundry, help Lola with her homework, now this.  I told Em that I would be happy to help her out, and she was gone.

Here is a portion of what she wrote.  The subject was “What person has had the most significant influence in your life?”

My mom is my best friend. I would not be the person I am today if it weren’t for her guidance along the way.  She holds me up, and I hold her up.  Thinking about my life without her isn’t even feasible to me.  If I have a problem that I need help dealing with, she’s there no matter what.  Even though it seems like she has a million things on her plate at one time, she would drop it all to help me.  She helps me deal with my mistakes, whether it’s by telling me that she once made the same mistake, or just sitting there talking it out with me.  When she is going through a hard time and is in pain, I feel it along side her.  She and I are exactly alike in just about every way that I can think of.  She looks like me, talks like me, walks like me, thinks like me, and makes the same mistakes as me.  We even have the same favorite foods.  I can open my mouth and say one word, and I’ll have my mom rolling on the floor laughing.  Sometimes we get into fights that last a while, but we get over it and finally end up laughing.  I love my mom more than anyone on the planet, and I will never let our relationship fail.

I was honored.  I was happy, yet sad, all at the same time.  She does know me.  She knows how she has propped me up these past years.  Yes, she has been my best friend.  She has held my hand, laughed with me, and understood those moments when all I have needed was to have her quietly by my side.  I am so proud of the loyal, compassionate young woman she has become.  I am so very thankful that she feels that I have been there for her and that I will always be there for her.  Even while I am proud of her, I am ashamed that she has not had a better, happier, more perfect mother.

That is life, though, isn’t it?   While we strive or wish for a “perfect,” happy existence, that isn’t the real world.  Life is full of challenges and disappointments.  As hard as we try, sometimes things just don’t go our way.  I am sad that my sweet daughter has had to learn those lessons already at her tender age.  Sad, yes, but proud that she has continued to love through the pain of loss and  mistakes and has learned that laughter often follows tears.

 

 

God Bless the Gentleman

Leave a comment

 

I had a lovely morning coffee meeting today with a retired gentleman.  He was a gallant gentleman.  He stood up when I approached the table where he sat waiting.  He shook my hand in both of his hands.  I sat my bag down next to my chair and placed my black binder on the table before I moved to go to the counter to order my mocha.  He was immediately up and out of his seat again.  He wanted to buy my coffee.  I wouldn’t allow it.  I had invited him to meet me.  I wanted a mocha (really, really badly!) and I couldn’t expect him to pay $6 for my indulgence.  We bandied back and forth over it for a moment until I put my hand on his arm and told him that I insisted on buying my own mocha.  We got our business discussion out of the way immediately, and then we settled in to a lively discussion about travel, Italy, architecture, and historic preservation.  I thoroughly enjoyed his company, and I smiled as I drove back to my office.

I was still happy and excited as I sat down behind my desk.  I had asked the man to volunteer his professional services and serve on a committee.  He is a retired architect, and his knowledge will be such an asset to the committee, but that isn’t why I was so happy to have made the connection with this gentleman.  He may not know it, but our gentle conversation this morning helped me in a way that he would never understand.

Being treated with kindness and respect is something that meant more to me than his willingness to assist me by serving as a volunteer.  These past few years have been difficult, and I have been stripped of my trust in my fellow man.  I am like an abused dog at the animal shelter.  You know the one.  The little guy who cowers in the back.  All the other dogs horn in and grab the food first.  She doesn’t step up to the cage when people come in looking for a pet.  She hangs back.  She is wary.  She doesn’t know whether the hand reaching out towards her is going to hit her or pat her on the head.  She startles easily.  She doesn’t like loud noises, because LOUD reminds her of yelling.  I am that scared little dog in the back of the cage.  It is not impossible to turn that poor little dog around.  All she needs is consistency.  She needs to be removed from the situation that caused the distress.  She needs to be around people who are kind and gentle.  She needs to learn to trust again.

Late this afternoon, I sent the kind gentleman an email thanking him for taking time out of his day to meet me for coffee.  I thanked him for agreeing to assist me as a volunteer.  I told him how much I enjoyed our conversation and told him that I would enjoy sharing a cup of coffee with him anytime he would like some company.  Before you get the wrong impression, this man was elderly.  There was NO possibility of mixed signals!  I simply enjoyed his company, his intelligence, and most of all, his kindness.

While I was able to send him a simple follow-up thank you email, I was not able to tell him how much it meant to me to connect with a good human being or that he helped in some small way bring me closer to the front of my cage.

Long Distance Parenting

1 Comment

It was great to see Andrew last weekend.  I picked him from the train station on Friday afternoon, and we headed straight to the grocery store.  I wanted to make sure that he had everything he wanted to eat during the time he was back home.

As we drove home through the countryside, he said how much he enjoyed riding in a car again.  His commute in the city entails blocks of walking to the train station and then more walking once he gets downtown.  He loved riding in the car and couldn’t wait to get home and drive his own car.  As we rode along, he kept saying, “Oh, it’s so beautiful here.  I love this place.”  Interesting.  All we had heard from him for the past year was how much he “hates it here” and what a dead-end place this is to live.  Very interesting what a month in the city and away from family can to do change a person’s perspective.

He grabbed his laptop out of his bag as we drove.  He wanted me to read a story for a screenplay that he was working on for a class project.  Read it?  I reminded him that I was driving the car.  He read it to me.  It was really wonderful, and I was impressed with his writing style, but that wasn’t what touched me the most.  He talked about what inspired him and his thoughts behind the story he had written.  It was absolutely wonderful to see him excited and engaged in this project.

Andrew didn’t spend a great deal of time at home during his brief visit, but that was OK.  T and I had plans of our own, and we were happy to see him catching up with this friends.  He called me on Saturday afternoon.  He was walking home from a friend’s house to hang out with us for a while before we all went our separate ways for the evening.  Once again as we talked, he kept saying how beautiful it was here, how good it smelled, how much he loved the fresh air.  I knew where he was walking.  He was along one of my favorite roads next to a field of tiny, but dramatic little hills.  This time of year, the little hills are sparkly and golden in the sunlight.

On Sunday morning, Andrew was quiet.  He had to be at the train station by noon, and I could tell that he wasn’t looking forward to leaving so soon.  None of us mentioned it, though.  He needed to go back to Chicago, and we needed to make it as easy as possible for him to leave once again.  As much as I wanted to throw my arms around him and tell him that everything would be OK, I reminded myself that he wasn’t my little boy anymore.  He was a grown man, and as his mother, I needed to be strong enough for him to leave with his self-respect intact.  I knew he was struggling to keep it together as he faced going back to a life that was full of stress, fear of the unknown, frustration, and a little scary.  I made it through the goodbye at the train station without shedding a tear, and sent him on his way with a smile on my face.

Honestly, it was a relief to have him back in the city.  I’m proud that he is taking this leap to pursue his dream.  I know it isn’t easy.  The work is difficult, the hours are long.  Being back home is probably appealing to him on some level, but it isn’t where he should be at this point in his life.  It’s time for him to grow up, and with this child I feel like I am literally having to push him out of the nest.  All the while, I miss him.  I want him home!  I miss my buddy.

I didn’t hear from him on Monday.  On Tuesday night he called me and said that coming back home, and then having to go back to Chicago, had not been easy for him.  He said it was a struggle just getting out of bed on Monday.  I knew that.  I had felt uneasy all day on Monday.  Andrew was on my mind.  Thankfully, his excitement for school had pulled him out of the doldrums.  It will just take some time for him to adjust.  He wants it to happen NOW.  I can’t imagine where he gets his impatience!  😉

Last night I got a call from Andrew.  “Mom, do you have a copy of my lease?”  Yes, I did, and I wondered why he wanted to know.  Well…it turned out that he had locked himself out of his apartment when he went down to do laundry.  I searched the lease for a phone number, called it, and of course, I got an answering machine.  He said that he had a number for the building superintendent, but it was inside of his locked apartment.  Ugh!  I felt so helpless.

T called him and told him to try to pick the lock.  Andrew found a piece of plastic and attempted that to no avail.  T was ready to leave the house and drive to Chicago.  Andrew’s phone was dying.  I was getting scared.  Just this week a homeless man stabbed two people on the Red Line at the station near his apartment.  The day before, a robbery had taken place at the Starbucks near his school while he was there!  I imagined my son standing outside in the dark, a target to all the crazies of the city.  It was such a helpless feeling.  He didn’t know one person living in Chicago that he could call, and neither did I.

Thank God for the Internet!  My moment of panic only lasted for about a minute until the Rational Mom kicked in.  I found a locksmith in his neighborhood, called him, paid his exorbitant after-hours fee over the phone, and Andrew was back in his apartment in less than an hour.

Later he called me.  He had made dinner, finished his laundry, and calmed down.  He called and said that he felt like such a screw-up.  He felt stupid.  Ha!  I told him that this was just a dumb mistake and nothing to feel stupid about.  It’s how we learn.  It’s how we grow up.  It was just a glitch.  Probably, the first of many to come.  That’s life.  Pick yourself up, brush off the dust, and move on.