Need a Refill


I don’t even know what to write about.  All I know is that it helps me to write.

I’m traveling again, and I am lonely.  This is a trip that I’ve taken too many times.  I am at the state capitol for a legislative forum.  While I know that this is important, I also know that I have more important things going on locally.  More immediate issues require my attention.  I have brought staff along with me on this trip so that I can hole up in my hotel room and work from my laptop.  I wish that I could have stayed home, but the bureaucracy I am part of requires that I attend this forum. I tried my best to delay my appearance for an additional day, but that same bureaucracy won’t allow my staff members to drive an official car.  I could have asked them to take one of their personal vehicles, but I just couldn’t.  Even though they would have been reimbursed, it didn’t feel right to ask.  So I drove the official car.   It feels like I am their mother chauffeuring them on a field trip.  They are excited, and I’m happy to see that at least. 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.








Snakes and Other Dangerous Creatures


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


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.


Vampires, Heroes, and Victims

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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 »


Not That There’s Anything Wrong With That…



A day of travel, and then conference Day One is over.  I’m already worn out, and I have three more days of this ahead of me.  Tomorrow, I’m going to be kind to myself mentally and not feel like I have to socialize quite as much…or at all if I don’t feel like it.

The conference is fantastic, and I get re-energized to be around so many people who care about all of this as much as I do.  I read “Winning Strategies in Economic Development Marketing” over my solitary breakfast, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.  Before dinner, I headed down to the bar for a drink before meeting up with everyone, and I read, “The Case For Business Investment in High-Speed and Intercity Passenger Rail.”  It was gripping!  The United States ranks 8th worldwide in high speed rail investment.  That is shameful.  As you can see, I’m having a WILD time!!!

Tonight I had dinner with four other women.  Three of them were lesbians.  “Not that there’s anything wrong with that.”  It was strange, though, and although I am most definitely NOT attracted to women, as I sat there, I thought about the merit of not having to deal with men!  (Just kidding, my male friends!)

After dinner, my one non-lesbian friend and I had a nightcap in the hotel bar.  She was upset.  Her boyfriend was on a business trip and had not called or emailed the entire time he had been gone.  As we sat there, she opened up her iPad and looked at Facebook.  Of course, he had been on Facebook.  He’d uploaded pictures, updated his status, and checked into restaurants.  There was something else, a woman he had “mentioned” several times  was commenting and LIKE-ing almost everything on this guy’s page.  My friend asked for my advice, and I said, “DITCH HIM.”  I told her not to even give it a second thought.  She didn’t want to rule the guy, all she really wanted was to be treated with decency and common courtesy.  If he couldn’t manage that, then get rid of the loser!

My friend had sent him a brief email from the airport as she set out on her own trip.  “Have a great time in DC.”  He hadn’t called.  He hadn’t emailed back.  He hadn’t even sent a text.  Is it really asking too much for someone you care about to acknowledge your existence?  She and I sat and discussed it.  We live almost 200 miles apart, and communicate often.  If she emails me, I respond.  She responds to me as well.  I asked her if it would hurt her feelings if I didn’t reply to her.  What if I ignored her if she sent me an email or a text?  What would she think?  She said, “I’d think you were a bitch!”  We laughed about it, but it made us both pause.  Why then, would she even consider continuing a relationship with this man?  Why try to keep him as a friend, let alone sleep with him?  Why do we hang onto toxic relationships?  Why do we try to “teach” or “help” those around us be who or what we need them to be?  If the guy is a jerk, then he is a jerk.  My friend agonizing over it is not going to change a thing.  She is fun, intelligent, and extremely successful.  She would not allow anyone in her life to step all over her, yet when it comes to her “love relationship,” she is vulnerable.  She doesn’t apply the same criteria to that part of her life as she does to all other areas.  Too many of us are guilty of doing that same thing.  I know I am, have been.  We value ourselves less than those around us, and it needs to stop.  Expecting to be treated decently and fairly by those we allow into our heart and our lives is NOT expecting too much.  I reminded my friend that she was not expecting one thing from him that she was not willing to give in return.  She would never treat someone she cared for in such a callous manner.  She should expect no less in return.

I’ve spent a great deal of time lately in quiet observation of those around me.  Common themes, behaviors, and actions are beginning to surface.  I am learning, or I am trying to learn.  I am attempting to concentrate on peace, inner peace.  What I am trying to avoid is becoming brittle or self-righteous.  I want to trust.  I want to love.  I want to continue to have high expectations of those around me.  I want to treat people with care, respect, and love, and I want to receive those same things in return.

Today I stepped outside during lunch and wandered around the area.  I discovered a meditation garden behind the chapel across the street from my hotel.  It was lush, green, and beautiful.  There was a sign that read, “Shhhh…  Peaceful Meditation Area.”  Just seeing those words allowed me to take a deep breath.  I wished to enter the garden, sit, and cry.  I’m not sure why, but that is what I imagined myself doing.  I didn’t have time to indulge in a good cry at that moment.  I had another conference session to attend.  In the morning, though, I am going to take some time for myself and visit the little garden.  I don’t want to cry, but probably though,  I will.  Even if I do, I hope that peace, even a little tiny fraction of peace, awaits me.



Fear of Tomorrow


....So I Will Ruin My Public Servant's Life Instead...

Today was my first day in the office this week.  I returned from my conference late yesterday afternoon.  I’m a little worse for the wear.  It wasn’t a great trip or a great conference.  My head and my heart were not into it.  My health didn’t help at all.  I’m still recovering from this nasty illness, and it wasn’t until the final day of the conference that I even felt a little bit human.  I should have stayed home, but I couldn’t.  Or I should say, I wouldn’t allow myself to stay home.  I had already paid the registration fee.  I had SAID that I would be there, so I went.  Stupid.

While it’s good to be home, last night was not relaxing.  The house was a mess.  I had laundry to do (for six people!) Finally once I was able to relax for a moment, the flash floods began.  Our little down was practically under water for a couple of hours.  All the roads in and out-of-town were closed.  T, the girls, and I hopped in The Trooper and drove all over town exclaiming at all of the water.  It lifted my heart.  It made me remember why I love this little, goofy town.  There were about 200 pickup trucks and SUV’s driving around to see , all the excitement.  It was a great deal of fun, and we were all soaking wet by the time we got back home.

Unfortunately, the lighthearted moment didn’t last long.  We soon discovered that our basement was flooding…and fast.  We swept and pushed the water toward the floor drain, but it was coming in much faster than it was going down the drain.  Luckily, we were somewhat prepared.  Twenty years of living in this house has taught us to keep things up on shelves and off of the floor.  The house is over a hundred years old, and while we use the basement for laundry and storage, there really isn’t anything that can be damaged by a little water.  We were just careful to make sure that the drain didn’t clog, or heave forbid, back up.

It feels like I jump from one IMPORTANT thing to the next IMPORTANT thing.  The only thing that doesn’t seem to be important in my life is downtime and relaxation.  I’m not sure how to change that.  I’m not even sure that it is possible at this point in my life.

I wasn’t dreading my return to the office, but experience has taught me that chaos usually awaits me when I return from a trip.  Well, I wasn’t let down.  Chaos was right there crouched behind my office door.  I could sense it the moment I walk in.  My plants were all wilted.  I had forgotten to water them before I left town….too sick to care at that time.  My coffee cup was dirty.  Yuck, cold coffee from six days ago with a nice, little gnat floating on top.  Not the greatest welcome back.

I took care of the mess in my office and sat down to begin trudging through my emails.  Just I began, my phone rang.  It was the City Administrator’s secretary telling me he would like to see me in his office.  ***OMG****  WHY???  Yeah, I was a little freaked out.

Thankfully, the City Administrator and I have a very good working relationship.  He and I have faced some sticky situations in the past, and he was always been a great ally.  As I walked upstairs, I wondered what I had waiting for me.  Ah….it was the same old issue in one of its many forms.  The Good Ol’ Boys Club had gotten their feathers ruffled.  Seems that I don’t follow the unwritten rules of this tight-knit city.  I don’t give a shit what the GOB Club thinks about me or my organization.  It’s not my job to kowtow to the elite of the community.  I certainly don’t disrespect them, but I also don’t give them undo respect simply because of who they know or who their father (or grandfather) might have been.  It is my job to represent the little guy – – the small business owners.

I was asked to join a meeting at 10:00 where the City Administrator would be addressing some of their concerns.   Everything went well.  The word “Control” was thrown around a lot.  Control?  I believe that these pillars of the community were feeling their control slip a little bit.  Interesting.  I said it.  “Control?  Hmmmm….  That’s something that I hadn’t really thought about.  Who controls downtown?  Well, I don’t have any interest in controlling a darn thing,” I assured them.  “My only interest is creating events and promotions that bring people through the doors of these businesses.”

By the time the meeting was over, we were all smiling and spewing (false) niceties.  I was asked to sit on one of their planning committees.  Yes, we should all be working toward a common goal.  Yes, we should all work together.


And it gets even better, my friends.  A letter of complaint ABOUT ME had been circulated to City Administration.  Yep, that’s one of the beauties of being a public servant.  People are so rude and proprietary about our position and our jobs.  They “Pay our Checks.”  They “Have a Right” to this or to that.  You fill in the blank.  I have been in jobs in the private sector.  I have worked as the director of two different non-profit organizations.  Working as a municipal employee is simply the most thankless, humbling, often hateful job.  There is not a day that goes by that myself or one of my co-workers is not verbally abused either by telephone, email, written letter, or in person by the general public.  Yeah…then there is the press.  That’s another story altogether.

Today was MY TURN.  I read the letter.  It was from a well-known crazy.  Everyone shrugged it off.  Some even laughed.  Had I read that letter, if it had been written about someone else, I would have laughed, too.  It was about me, though, and it stung.  It HURT like hell.  God…why are people so cruel to each other?

I thought about it all day.  I consider myself to be insignificant in the grand scheme of things.  I can’t imagine that ANYONE would really care enough about ME to even have an opinion.  I don’t even really know this woman!  I have met her a couple of times.  She is on my mass email list.  I do many promotional  E-blasts, and she receives those.  As I said, she is crazy.  The letter made little sense.  Still, it was mean.  I really don’t “get” mean.  It hurts me to see people being mean to others.  It hurts like heck to be the one singled out.

Tonight I am worn out.  I am still not feeling well.  Being this sick has freaked me out.  I don’t trust my normally healthy body.  Lola said to me, “Mom, you always say that you NEVER get sick.”  Yeah…that’s what I thought, too.  I’m afraid that I am run down.  When will I get caught up?  What if I get sick again?

I am afraid, dreading, reluctant to go to work tomorrow.  What in the heck waits in store for me tomorrow?  I don’t even want to think about it….