Crazy Stress

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The last couple of weeks have been a whirlwind.  I have missed writing, but I haven’t had time or energy.  The worst part was the fact that I have not allowed myself to write.  I have had nothing decent to say.  I have once again been mired down in frustration, stress, and depression.  Work has been a political, back-stabbing fest.  People I had once considered friends seem to be going out of their way to trip me up and make my life a bit uncomfortable.  Decency and kindness have been in short supply.  The past couple of weeks have been topsy turvy and confusing.  Mostly, it has seemed as if FRUSTRATION has been around every corner. Continue Reading »

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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

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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 »

God Bless the Gentleman

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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.

Things I Love…

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OK, I will admit it.  Yesterday I was wallowing in self-pity.  I’ve done a pretty good job of wallowing today, too, but I have tried my damnedest to remember that THIS, this self-pity phase, while it is really horrible to live through, is not all there is to life.  I have been down before, but I have never given up.  Ever.  It’s not in me to give up.  There is way too much beauty in life for me to ever forget what a privilege it is to be alive.

As I drove back to the office from lunch today, I tried to refocus.  I mentally listed one thing after another that make me happy.  Yes, many of them are worthless, superficial things.  Some of them are big…HUGE.  That isn’t what matters.  These are all things that remind of the joy in life.  These things, little and big, are what make it worth getting up in the morning and continuing to put one foot in front of the other.

Nail Polish.  I have a new obsession, and both of my daughters are right on board.  We buy nail polish, and more nail polish.  It’s not unusual to change shades each day.  I only paint my toenails, but they have been colorful this summer.  Our new favorite brand is Essie.  They have the most fantastic shades.  The girls have even gotten me to try shades of green and blue.  

 

8-year-olds.  I love 8-year-olds, and I am lucky enough to get to live with one this year.  8-year-olds are wise and innocent all at the same time.  They really have life figured out, and they aren’t messed up by the sexual urges and matters of the heart that lie ahead.  8-year-olds are perfect, little human beings.

Coffee.  Few things give me as much pure pleasure as coffee.  Thankfully, I work in a coffee-fueled environment.  There is always a fresh pot of coffee brewed in the conference room at our office.  We make a pot before meetings.  We make more after lunch.  We send out departmental emails to let everyone know when a fresh pot has been put on to brew.  In the event that there isn’t a fresh pot of coffee, there is a back-up plan.  There’s a Keurig brewer in an office upstairs.  We all keep Keurig pods in reserve.  I have a lovely tray with my supply of Caribou Obsidian Keurig pods.  Ah…  Delicious!

Caribou Coffee.  I love Caribou!  Hands down, it is the BEST coffee.  If you have never been to Caribou, GO!  Try the dark chocolate mint mocha or the raspberry dark chocolate mocha. Ahhhh…..  I was a happy camper today, because I finally bought a car magnet.  “I Love Coffee.”
 
Pepper the Wondercat.  I love my cat, .  He runs through the house calling “maaaaa maaaaaa maaaa,” until he finds me.  He makes a funny noise when he runs up and down stairs.  He “tells” me when he needs more food in his bowl.  Mostly, I love how he sleeps on my shoulder all night long.  He waits until I settle in, then he climbs up from my toes.  He walks up the length of my body, and settles in when he reaches my shoulders.  He curls up, and there he stays all night long.  He seems to know that I need him, that I need to be comforted.

My kids.  I love having the opportunity to raise my four children.  Highs and lows, ups and downs, dirty diapers, dirty words, achievements, laughter, hugs, and smiles.  There has never been one moment of regret.  They are all so very unique.  Such a surprise being a parent has been.  I am not necessarily a woman who has always loved being around kids, but my own?  Nothing in life could compare to the experience and privilege of raising these children.

Hugs.  There was a time long ago, when I was not a “hugger.”  Now, I have come to value hugs.  When you’re getting enough hugs, life is good, very good.  Other times, sad times, there is nothing I crave more than a simple hug.  I try to remember that.  I try to be generous in liberal with my hugs.  Each of my children are hugged each and every day.  The girls and I hug constantly.  Nothing feels better, nothing conveys love and safety like a hug.  I love the warmth, comfort, and scent of someone I love.

Pepsi.  Pepsi is perfect. After my first cup of coffee, I pour a Pepsi.  Perfectly bubbly.  Perfectly refreshing.  It tickles my nose.  It’s not too smooth or syrupy.  It cut through the morning feeling in my mouth.  Pepsi is perfect.  I really wish I could someday experience Pepsi in a tall bottle once again.  I remember from my childhood the old Pepsi machine on the Main Street of our little town.  Plug in a quarter, reach in,  the machine would release a bottle.  I can remember being scared that I wouldn’t be able to pull it out fast enough before the machine would once again maintain its grip.  That never happened, though.  Each time I was rewarded with the long glass bottle of pop that I would open on the front of the machine.
It’s not a long list, and it’s certainly not complete.  Life is full of wonders, large and small.  I’m sure I will be back again with my moments of self-pity, self-doubt, and self-loathing.  Today, though, it has felt good to take a short break from all of that.  It has felt good to remember a few of the things that make me happy.