Let’s Go Home

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home-is-life

T came to visit us early last weekend.  He had to be in Milwaukee for a second interview on Friday, so he came to my house to stay the evening before to cut down on travel time and the need to get up ridiculously early.  He had never been here for a visit on a “regular” work/school day, and he asked a lot of questions.  “Is this what you guys usually do?”  “Do you want me to do that for you?”  (As we all prepared our own dinners and did the evening household chores.)  He seemed like an observer in his own “home” as the girls and I went about our regular routines.  He observed it all with a smile.  The three women in his life may not be doing things the way he would do them, but we had somehow managed to come up with a routine that worked for us.  Four months apart, four months in separate homes, has changed all of us.  We have all grown, and we have all found the strength to face a multitude of changes.  With all of the growth and strength, we have also discovered something else.  Even with all of this new-found independence sprouting up all over the place, we have learned (the hard way!) how very much we all need each other – not to do things for each other or because we can’t live without each other.  We have found that our lives are BETTER when we are together. Continue Reading »

Tell Me A Little About This Karma Thing

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Without fail, whenever all four kids are home, we have a few Hallmark moments.  It’s wonderful to see them come together now as adults, to see that they have missed each other, and to listen to their conversations.  On the other hand, things eventually disintegrate, and the siblings revert back to competitive children vying for attention.  Those Hallmark moments often turn into something you might see on the Jerry Springer show.  It is exhausting to keep a lid on things and to monitor the situation. Continue Reading »

A Cold Hell

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If Hell is a hot place, then sign me up.  The past couple of weeks have been miserable on so many levels.  Hell, right here on Earth.  Underlying all of it has been COLD.  I haven’t been able to warm up.  I have been taking hot baths and drinking tons of coffee.  I’ve made pot after pot of hot, nourishing soup.  I dress in layers and huddle under blankets when I am home.  Nothing I do seems to warm me up completely.

Mom is still hanging in there.  She is failing, but it is a slow process.  We have begun hospice care, and she seems to love the extra attention.  She isn’t in any pain.  Something hovers around the corners of the room, though, and it chills me.  She is often confused, and she has lost her hearing.  Visits are brief and quiet.  I spend more time talking on the phone talking to the legion of healthcare providers than I do to my mother at this point.  Of course, life does not stop while we wait for death.  Four kids, work, my own physical needs, all of these things keep inserting themselves into the mix.

Last weekend T and I took Luke and his girlfriend back to school in Milwaukee.  I couldn’t/wouldn’t commit to going along until practically the last moment.  Mom was stable, and T insisted that I come along.  Luke wanted to show us the house where he would be moving at the end of the semester.  He had been looking forward to the four of us hanging out together on his turf.  It meant a lot to our son.  I knew that, so I went along.

I had been doing a pretty good job of concealing (denying!) the fact that I was sick.  I had too many things that needed my attention.  My mom was dying, for God sakes!  What did I have to complain about?  I pushed through it and collapsed at the end of each day.  The trip to Milwaukee took things over the top.

It was bitterly cold when we left that morning.  I got chilled and couldn’t seem to shake it.  (uh….a fever tends to do that!)  We moved the kids back into their dorms, T and I checked into our hotel, and we all headed out for dinner.  By the time we finally settled back into our room, I was shaking with cold.  I took a hot bath, but I still shivered.  By the time I crawled into the bed, T was concerned.  He wrapped me in his arms and held me close to warm me up.  Eventually, I stopped shivering, but my sleep was fitful.

The next morning, hours from home, I was still freezing.  I tried to ignore it.  I wanted to get out of there as quickly as possible and make the drive back home and to the hospital to check on my mom.  I jumped into the shower, and I don’t really know what happened.  Suddenly T was there.  I had passed out.  My first thoughts were disappointment in myself.  How could I be sick?  I had too many things to do!  I had too many people depending on me.  I couldn’t be sick now.  Not now.

I saw the doctor on Sunday when we returned.  Of course I didn’t listen to his advice.  Take it easy?  Uh huh.  No.  My mother was dying.  I couldn’t take it easy right now.  I was planning a meeting later in the week in Chicago, an important meeting.  Very.  “Taking it easy” was not possible at this time.  Thanks anyway.

I visited my mom, unpacked, did laundry, ironed, and went to work on Monday.  By Tuesday, I wasn’t even able to get out of bed.  I tried.  Believe me, I tried.  At 6:30 a.m., I dragged myself into the bathroom to get ready for work.  I sat in the chair by the counter and laid my head down for a moment.  I thought it would be a moment, but I fell asleep in the bathroom before I was even able to begin getting ready for work.  That was it.  I was toast.  I had to admit it.  I was sick.  I spent the day sleeping, and sleeping, and sleeping some more.

I was back at work the next day.  By now, everyone was looking at me like I scared them.  I must look like hell!  “Why are you here?  Go home!”  I couldn’t.  I had meetings all day in preparation for the trip to Chicago on Thursday.  I had to meet with the hospice staff in my mom’s room later that afternoon.  I had too many things going on and too many people depending on me to go home and be sick.  I pushed through.  I kept going.

On Thursday, I huddled in my seat on the train to Chicago.  I froze the entire time, wearing my layers of clothes, wrapped in my scarf and coat.  At the hotel, I begged for some coffee from the front desk.  A kind woman brought coffee and cream to my room.  I sat on the heating unit, looked out the window, and drank my coffee while I warmed my feet.  I looked down at the people below.  Everyone was scurrying to get where they were going.  The wind was biting and bitter.  I could feel it sweeping into the cracks around the window far above the people I was watching.   I had hoped to see my son while I was in Chicago, but he had been given tickets to a concert.  I told him to go.  I insisted on it, and then I sat in my room crying because I was so cold…and now alone, too.  I had come to the city hours earlier than the others so I could see Andrew.   Now I had four hours to sit there freezing and alone until I met them for dinner.  Once again, I hated Chicago.  The city felt impersonal and uncaring.  I was just a speck, a cold, lonely speck.  Pathetic.  I really, really hate feeling sorry for myself, but I was doing a stellar job of it!

The dinner was work.  Schmoozing is work.  I had to be ON.  We all had to be ON.  It was OK, though.  The whole dance of egos was interesting to observe.  I soaked it all in.  The parrying and the posturing amused me.  Several people attending the dinner had obviously spent a good deal of time in the bar before they arrived, so things were interesting from the word go.  Once again, I was glad that this is my job, but not my LIFE.  While some people live and breathe this kind of thing, I have my secret.  In my heart, I am a country girl.  At the end of all of this, I will be smack dab in the middle of a cornfield, safe and sound, with my ego checked at the door.  The reality of my life, mom, wife, daughter, hillbilly at heart, keeps me grounded.  I was amused as I watched the dance of self-importance at the table.

I was up at 5:30 this morning to get ready for the meeting.  I was excited and the adrenaline was flowing.  This was it!  This was an important step in a development project that I have been a part of for several years.  The results of this project will have a significant and lasting impact on the entire region.  I was/am thrilled to be able to be a part of this process.  The Willis Tower (forever the Sears Tower to me) is where we held the meeting.  As I stood in the lobby, I remembered a time years ago, when Luke was 3 years old.  He had broken his leg months earlier, and the treat that kept him going was knowing that once his cast was off, we would take him to the Sears Tower.  That day, years ago,  had been a victory for him.  Now, years later, I was humbled once again.  As I stood in the lobby, mentally preparing to make my presentation, I took a deep breath.  The Sears Tower!  I was giving a presentation in the SEARS TOWER today!  Well, look at this little country girl!  I squeezed my eyes shut and soaked in the thrill of that moment.  People strode purposefully past me.  Everyone seemed to have somewhere to go.  Everyone seemed confident.  I was a part of that!  REALLY??  Me???  Yet again, I felt amazed by the journey of my life.  The meeting was amazing.  All of the planning and hard work paid off.  More meetings are set for next week, and our project is not only on track, but it is gaining momentum.  I am so very proud (and lucky) to be able to play a small part in this project.

Several hours later when we stepped outside, the snow had begun.  It was beautiful, yet daunting.  This was not going to make the trip home an easy one.  I had train tickets for late in the afternoon.  By the time my train arrived, it would be dark, and I had an hour’s drive to make it back home.  I cancelled my train reservations, and accepted a ride home with a co-worker who had driven to the city.  Once we got on the road, I wondered if I had made a mistake.  It was a white-knuckled four hour drive in the snow.  We saw one accident after another and had a few near-misses ourselves.  All the while, I was freezing.

I’m home now.  It’s pitch dark outside.  No city lights here.  The wind howling up from the fields is the only sound I hear.  I’ve been snuggled under a blanket ever since I got home.  I took a much-needed nap, and I am finally beginning to warm up.  There are many things I should be doing tonight, but none of them will get done.  Tonight I am taking care of more important things with a dose of Great-Grandma’s blanket and a warm, cozy house in the country.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A New Season of Life

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Life has changed in unanticipated ways these past two years.  Apparently, I don’t do well with change.  Wait…I take that back.  I welcome change, if that change is for the best.  Bring on something good.  Bring on something challenging even, and as long as there is a positive goal at the end of hard work, I’m all for it.  I am not stuck in my ways.  I am not afraid of new things or new experiences.  Unfortunately, though, the past two years have been full of changes that have brought loss and pain.  The past two years have been, without a doubt, the worst years of my life.

As Thanksgiving approached, I felt myself become happily excited by the thought of having all of the kids home and under one roof for the first time in months.  Something strange happened, though.  Each time I happily anticipated the days of togetherness, I found myself undermining my happiness.  I began to mentally “warn” myself to not expect too much. When I began to picture Hallmark moments, my mind quickly turned those moments into a Lifetime drama.  I pictured conflict and moments full of tension.  For the first time in my life, I was afraid of having my family gathered together all in one place.  I had come to expect loss, pain, failure, and dashed hopes.

To top it all off, and add to my endless stress, I was hosting the Thanksgiving feast for the first time in probably a decade.  We were expecting over 20 people for dinner, and somehow in the midst of preparing the food, I had to make arrangements for someone to pick up my mother and bring her to our home.  Between cooking, cleaning, and desperately wanting to redecorate the entire house, I worried that something was going to go terrible wrong and ruin the boys’ visit.  I wanted so much to have this be an enjoyable, special time for them.

I had taken several days of vacation so that I could be as relaxed as possible in getting everything ready for the boys’ homecoming and Thanksgiving dinner.  For the first time in years, I spent time alone in my own house.  I puttered around, organized, and cleaned.  It was a lovely feeling to get to know my own home again one on one.  While I enjoyed my quiet time at home, I also realized once again how lucky I am to have a job that I love so much.  I missed the hustle and bustle of the office.  I missed the purpose I feel in my workday.

The boys both had midterm exams early on Thanksgiving week.  They would both be taking the train home, but would not be coming in at the same time.  Andrew’s train was coming in late on Wednesday afternoon.  Luke was disappointed that he had a late afternoon exam.  He wouldn’t be arriving until 10:00 p.m.  That was OK, because his girlfriend was travelling home, too, and her parents were going to pick them both up at the station.

On Tuesday evening, the girls were in bed, and T and I had finally settled down in the living room to relax for a few moments before going to bed.  We both perked up when a car pulled into the driveway.  We looked out the front window, but didn’t know who it was.  T walked to the back door to welcome our guest, but no one came.  We rushed back to the front window.  Who was it?  By now, the girls had come downstairs.  All four of us stood looking out the window like a bunch of hillbillies!  We saw people milling about the car.  It was two men.  Finally, the suspense won over, and we opened up the front door (which no one ever uses) and stepped out onto the porch.  I’m not sure what we were thinking or assuming, but we just stood there….looking, not making a move toward the driveway.  T, the girls, and I just stood there looking out into the darkness.  Then, Lola bolted past all of us.  “It’s Luke!” she yelled.  Hallmark moment number one was watching her fling herself at her big brother.  We all ran out.  He ran towards us.  It was noisy, happy, and full of laughter.  Luke had surprised us.  He had come home a day early.  I called Andrew to tell him, and he said that he could hardly wait to get home.  By the next evening, Andrew was home, and my family was all gathered around the table together once again.  Happiness.  It was real.  Even after the past two years of hell, I was feeling crystal clear, pure joy.

Those days when all of the kids were back home were like none other I have experienced as a mother.  This visit was different.  We all seemed aware that these moments of family togetherness were now a rarity.  What was once a common, everyday part of our lives, was no more.  Luke lives in Milwaukee.  Andrew lives in Chicago.  They don’t just go to school in those places.  It is where they live.  They have signed leases.   They won’t be coming back next summer.  Home is now a place where they visit.  Of course, it is still their “home,” but it is no longer where their lives take place.  It’s where their memories are kept.  It’s where we gather as a family.  Although these facts were not spoken aloud, we all felt the change.  A new season, new dynamics, more changes had occurred in our family.

Thanksgiving day was wonderful.  I loved cooking, and T was a huge help.  I loved having the house full of family.  My mother was on good behavior.  The kids’ significant others joined for the day, too.  Emily’s boyfriend, who is absolutely wonderful, was also home from college.  It was his first time meeting the extended family, and as expected, they all loved him, too.

The biggest pleasure of all was the day after Thanksgiving.  While many people were hitting the Black Friday sales, we all headed out to the country.  Ever since I was a little girl, I have attended “Julmarknad” (Christmas Market) in a tiny village near my town.  I was shocked and filled with pleasure when boys both asked if we would still be going this year.  We headed out the next day, Christmas music blasting.  We feasted on Swedish rye bread and bought candy sticks in the general store.  On the way home, we pulled over to the side of the narrow country road to give Emily’s boyfriend, who grew up in a city,  a chance to pet a cow.  It was a wonderful, wonderful day.  Many times that day,  I held tight to moments I knew were perfect.

I had not planned any of the kids’ time beyond Thanksgiving dinner.  I didn’t expect the boys to hang out at home during their visit.  I had expected the usual comings and goings as they visited friends or invited people over.  That was fine with me.  I knew I would be happy just to visit with them during the times in between.  That didn’t happen, though.  They didn’t run around very much with friends.  They didn’t invite their buddies over.  For the most part, they were happy and content to be at home.  It was a wonderful surprise. We sat up late and talked.  We watched movies.  We ate, and we napped.  It was truly a wonderful visit.  No, it wasn’t a Hallmark movie, but thankfully, it wasn’t a Lifetime drama, either.  It was my life, and it was wonderful.

Change, Letting Go, Transitions

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Changes.

I am back from Chicago.  I made it through alive, a lot less sane, but still breathing.  This isn’t a travelogue.  This trip was much less about where we traveled, but much more about our experiences while we were away from the safety and routine of home.  This trip was about change, opening new chapters, and continuing to work on silencing the lingering strains of old memories.

Once again, Andrew and I stayed at the Palmer House.  If ever there was one thing that helped ease us through our fears of the city, it was the staff at the Palmer House.  They were ever helpful in answering my endless questions about navigating the city.  The weather was beautiful as we set out for our first solo trip on the L.

We didn’t even know how to pass through the gates.  The only transportation I have ever had to pay for was a cab.  That’s easy.  Just look out the window, watch the meter, and let someone who knows his way around drop you off at the door.  We stood in front of the ticket kiosks as hundreds of people passed by around us.  I watched a few people put in money and take their cards.  I watched for a few minutes, but I still had no clue what they were doing.  I read the posted instructions.  It might as well have been written in a foreign language.  I looked for a brochure!  🙂  Of course, there was no brochure,  “Mass Transit For Dummies.”

Finally, I went over to the ticket booth where a CTA employee sat behind glass.  I knocked on the window and asked her to help me out.  With obvious impatience, she helped us put in our money and take our cards.  She asked us, “What line?  How long will you be gone?  Is this round trip?”  I suppose all of those things mattered, but I’m not really sure how they affected the amount of money we put in the machine.  There was no ATM nearby.  They don’t take credit cards.  If you put in a $50, then by God, you would not get change back, but you could ride and ride!!

The confusion didn’t end even once we had our cards in hand   The poor over-worked woman had to come back out of her glass cage and show us how to pop the cards down into the machine that activated the turnstile gates.  I must say, Andrew and I were both impressed with the spunky pop up of the cards.  That was most satisfying!

Once we were through the gates, we descended down to the platform.  Andrew’s eyes were huge as he saw the subway for the first time.  Everyone around us looked preoccupied.  Everyone looked like they knew what they were doing and where they were heading.  There were tracks on both sides.  We knew that we wanted the red line, but which side was right?  I knew the address of our apartment finder, but I still wasn’t sure which train to take.  Once again, I wished for a brochure with maps.  Instead, I found a man who looked trustworthy (and I am NOT a good judge of character!!!)  and I asked him which train would get us to Belmont.  I was pretty happy to discover that my hunch had been right.  We were in the right spot, and within moments a train whizzed up to the platform.

There was no place to sit when we boarded, so we stood holding onto poles.  Andrew’s eyes were huge.  He looked pale, almost sick.  At the first stop, people got off of our car, and I grabbed a couple of seats for us.  I was scared to death that I wouldn’t know when it was time to get off the train.  Thankfully, I found the map of the red line on the wall above Andrew’s head.  I was happy when the next stop was announced, and I could see that we were indeed headed in the right direction.

We made it to Belmont and from there it was an easy walk to our apartment finder’s office.  He turned out to be a very nice man.   He asked us questions and made a few phone calls.  Soon, we were on our way to the first apartment.  It was located in a fantastic old building in a beautiful tree-lined neighborhood.  I loved the feeling and history of the place.  I was excited as we climbed up six flights of stairs.  He unlocked the door, and I couldn’t help but laugh when I saw was on the other side of the door.  This was a studio apartment?  My God!  This “apartment” was smaller than my bedroom!  I could not stop laughing and saying, “$895 a month for THIS?”  I had never seen anything like this in my life.  Luke’s dorm room was bigger than this apartment.  I mentally cut the list of furniture I had planned to send with Andy in half.   Still, there was something so cozy, cute, urban, and exciting about seeing this tiny little place tucked under the eaves of this beautiful building.  By the time we went to the next listing, I was prepared for the shocking lack of space in a city apartment.    I thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to look inside each of the buildings that we visited.  The vestibules, tiny courtyards, iron gates, and ancient elevators charmed me.  I envy Andrew the chance to get to experience this new way of life.

We knew that we would have to act quickly or we would stand a chance of losing any one of these listings.  The list of available apartments near his school with a September 1 move in date was tiny.  Andy made the final decision.  I should say, he decided the moment he walked into the third apartment.  I could see it.  He felt at home in this one, and it was the one he finally decided upon.

We had done it.  We rode on the L.  We figured out where we needed to go.  We looked at apartments IN THE CITY! Andy filled out the paperwork, and signed his name in a hundred places.  We even found our way back to the Palmer House.  By the return trip, we knew what we were doing.  We bought our tickets, popped them into the jaunty machine, and found our seats.  By the return ride, Andrew had lost his look of panic.  I could see it in his face.  He was imagining himself as a part of this hustle and bustle.  We had a great night of celebration.  We had a fantastic dinner sitting outside along the river.  As I talked with my son, the lovely Tribune building decorated the front of the skyline over his shoulder.

Letting Go.

I had looked forward to my morning Chicago walk.  Before bed, I told Andrew not to be alarmed if I was gone when he woke up.  I planned on heading out for a walk as soon as I woke up.  He could go explore on his own for a while, and we could catch up with each other later.  I knew he wouldn’t mind the time alone, and I knew that I needed some time for myself as well.

I said that I looked forward to the morning walk?  I looked forward to it  in a way, but I knew that it would not be easy, carefree moments.  Once again, I would retrace steps from my past. Bit by bit, I would release a few more pieces of that past. I wandered.  I remembered.  I touched the handle of the door at Miller’s Pub.  I touched the lions at the Art Museum.  I touched The Bean once again.  I found my favorite little park tucked in next to the museum and sat on a bench for my “Chicago cry.”

I am beginning to understand now that some things in life follow no reason.  People don’t always act in good conscience or in good faith.  Life is not fair.  Oh, I have known that all along.  After all, I have buried two children.  I almost lost Andrew.  I have suffered the unfairness of life many times.  Those thing were random, though.  Bad luck, horrible luck.  Never before, though, had I ever encountered the cruelty of human nature.  Sure, I knew it existed, but for some reason I had thought that I was safe from human cruelty.  After all, I had already suffered way too much unfairness in my life. Why would any person knowingly add to that pain?   I had trusted.  Misplaced trust is truly the worst pain of all, and I think that I am a pretty good judge of pain.  Perhaps I am an expert.

I sat there in that peaceful place in the big city thinking about my Chicago Morning Walk, the revisiting, the remembering, the loss, and the pain.  Why do I do this to myself?  Of course, it makes little sense to set out on this path knowing the painful memories that will hold my hand, my head, and my heart as I make my way down memory lane.  Why?  As I sat there and thought about it, I realized that it is little different than visiting a cemetery.  We revisit the memories so that eventually, we are able to let go.

We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the life that is waiting for us. ~ Joseph Campbell

 

Transitions.

The sadness couldn’t last long.  I wasn’t in Chicago to be sad.  This was a time of planning and moving on to the  next stage.  Andrew and I still had a lot to accomplish while we were in the city.  Our next step was a visit to the school, which actually meant I had to write a giant check.  It was exciting to see him entering the doors as an accepted student.  What a program this will be for him!  He will have the opportunity to experience his dreams.  We finished up our business and headed to Millennium Park for a late lunch.  With The Bean in the background, we enjoyed the BIGGEST hot dogs I have ever seen.

We had a great evening with friends.  A dear friend (and co-worker) was also visiting the city with her sister.  Her daughter and daughter’s boyfriend had recently moved to a great apartment on Lake Shore Drive.  We all met for cocktails before a fantastic night out on the town.

This friend of mine “knows all.”  We have no secrets between us.  When we met, almost four years ago now, we knew there was a connection.  We recognized something in each other.   It wasn’t long before we both knew why.  We were both survivors.  Years ago, my friend had lost her young son to cancer on Christmas Day.  Even though many of the people around us don’t know of either of our losses, we recognized the survivor in each other.  It is a deeply, deeply hidden knowledge.  There is something in our eyes that never truly clears away no matter how much time passes.

Last night, as we sat sharing beer and ribs with each other and the children we are so very proud to claim as our own, she leaned over and whispered to me, “This is good, isn’t it?  Are you doing OK?”  I hugged her.  I hugged her, because I love her and because she truly does know me.  Change is not easy.  Letting go is not easy.  Good people are out there, and she is one of them.  Sad memories can be replaced (or at least minimized) by other good memories.  Time and new experiences are the stepping stones to healing.

It was very late when they threw Andrew and I into a cab back to the Palmer House.  It had been a long day, and Andy was asleep within minutes.  My mind was still racing from the events of the day, and I ran a hot bubble bath.  I grabbed my phone and called T while I soaked.  We had so much to talk about in these quiet moments without kids observing our discussion.

So many changes were happening all at once.  So many changes.  My emotions were all mixed up.  It was now official.  Within the next two weeks, both boys would be gone.  I felt exhilaration and loss all at once.  I saw the big blue eyes and soft cheeks of my baby sons all mixed up with the huge shoes and whiskers of my adult sons.  How did this part of my life end so quickly?  I am not ready.  I want to push Luke in the swing again.  I want to watch hours of Thomas the Tank.  I wanted to make roads with bulldozers in the sandbox.  On the other hand, I am tired of waiting up for them to come home at night.  I am tired of laundry, cooking for so many, and girlfriends over all the time.  I needed to talk to T to sort out all of these conflicting emotions.

He listened to me.  It was 1:30 in the morning, and he patiently listened to his weepy wife on the phone.  In his calm way, he asked me if I remembered the times when I felt overwhelmed when the three oldest were little.  We had multiple kids in diapers.  We couldn’t catch our breath some days.  Yes, I told him that I remembered.  He reminded me that we got through those times just fine, then we had a number of years when things had settled down.  Now, here we are again.  Our lives are so crazy that we can’t catch our breath again.  He said this, and I think he is wise.  He hit the nail on the head.   He said, “This is the infancy of our boys adulthood.  It’s like they are back in diapers again, and it’s overwhelming.  It will be over soon, though, and we’ll catch our breath once again.”

I asked him what that would mean, though.  Where will we be once the dust settles?  Will we have enough of ourselves left after all of this?  He said, “God, yes!  We will have each other once again.”

High Horse

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What an odd day.  I had an appointment with a wine distributer first thing this morning.  I am organizing a wine tasting next month as a kick-off to our latest promotion.   As much as I like wine, I’m not sure if it’s something I necessarily like to think about first thing in the morning.  It ended up being fun, though.  We’re going to have special give-away wine glasses and eight different selections of wine.  I’m really looking forward to the kick-off party.  I have had such a good time planning this event. 

My favorite selection for the wine tasting is Bitch Bubbly.  It has the cutest name, cutest label, and it actually tastes pretty good, too.  I bought a bottle last winter when my daughter was making pink champagne cupcakes.  She only needed one cup for the recipe, and I was able to enjoy the rest of the bottle. 

When I got back to the office, I walked down to the conference room to get a cup of much-needed coffee.  I was standing there kind of gazing out the window, when I realized that I wasn’t alone.  Three people had followed me into the conference room.  They had been waiting for me.  They had a question for me.  “So, who IS Dilbert.?”  Uh oh…  Yeah, I had posted a picture of Dilbert on my Facebook page with a caption that read something like, “Really ticked off at someone who looks exactly like Dilbert.  There is no shame in being a team player, Dilbert.”  They wanted to know who is “Dilbert ?”  They were laughing, because they already knew.  The said as soon as they saw my post, they knew just who I was talking about.  Truthfully, I felt a bit ashamed to have put that out there.  It was petty and immature of me.  But hell….this guy really ticked me off! 

I did end up going into his office to discuss the matter.  I told him that while I did take ownership of missing the meeting, it had shocked me that he had not been considerate enough to take a moment to come back downstairs to give me a head’s up.  For goodness sakes, he could have used his cell phone and called me.   I would have done that (and have!!) for anyone in the building. 

Turns out, there was a NEW employee in the Planning Department who also missed the meeting.  She felt horrible.  She was really shaken up, took it personally, and worried that it would be viewed as shoddy work.  Apparently, this poor woman was a wreck when she found out that she had missed this same meeting.  We both felt much better once we realized that we weren’t alone.  This jerk, Dilbert, had not sent either of us a meeting request to schedule on our calendars.  He hadn’t even bothered to send us agendas.  So, in the end, Dilbert may have learned a lesson.  We all live by our calendars and the friendly beeping meeting reminders on our phones. 

I stopped by the woman’s office to try to cheer her up.  I told her to please not take it as a personal affront or to worry about it being viewed as unprofessional.  We are all busy as hell and juggling numerous projects simultaneously.  Mistakes happen.  All we can hope is that we have all learned a lesson and that we’ll do a better job of communication and organizing our time in the future. 

As I said, it was an odd day.  I felt unbalanced, and it seemed like those around me were also out of sorts.  I met T for lunch, and he was grouchy.  We argued as we made our way into the building.  We hadn’t even taken our seats, and there we were arguing.  He thought I was running late.  He was pressed for time.  He had things to do besides wait for me to get there.  He almost left.  Grrr….  As we waited for our food, we sat silently and breathed deeply without talking.  Tentatively, we readjusted our attitudes and had our usual mundane conversation.  As we got up to leave, I told him that I didn’t know if I really enjoyed meeting him for lunch today.  He just laughed.  I think he felt the same way.

Hillbilly Heaven

Tonight was our usual Thursday night dinner at the local tavern.  We take the kids and whoever else happens to be around.  Tonight it was just the girls and one friend.  The place was packed.  We ordered our food at the counter and then realized that there was nowhere for all of us to sit.  The kids all took a high bar table while T and I sat down with a couple of guys we knew from high school.  Well, I guess we’ve known them forever.  They were happy enough to have us join them and sat drinking beer while T and I ate our dinner.

It’s funny to go from a high-stress day to an evening at a local bar with a couple of beer drinking rednecks.  I laughed all night as they told their stories.  One of them is a carpenter and the other (toothless, I might add) installs hot tubs for a living.  As we sat there, I felt the stress drain away.  I looked around at the people.  I knew almost everyone.  It was unusual to see any man who was not wearing a baseball hat of some kind.  (Thank God, T does NOT wear a hat!)  There were John Deere caps, lots of hats supporting our high school, and plenty of  folks displaying their Nascar preferences.  There were a lot of flannel shirts, plenty black t-shirts, and not one necktie to be seen. 

I love my life in Hillbilly Heaven.  I told this to  T when we were sitting at the table alone.  He asked me why.  Remember the phase, “She needs to get off her high horse?”  Well, it’s tough to stay on that high horse too long in Redneck Country.