Prioritize Much?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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I’ll Share Your Mid-Life Crisis

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I love my brother in-law.  I’ve known T’s brother longer than I’ve known T.  We were in the same grade from Kindergarten through high school.  We went trick or treating together.  We went to the same birthday parties.  As kids growing up, our families lived within a couple of blocks of each other.  I don’t ever remember a time when my brother in-law, Jack, was not a part of my life.  He’s one of the kindest people I’ve ever known.  He was with me when I was in labor.  He was the first person I saw when I woke up from almost losing my life.  Our families have vacationed together, mourned together, and celebrated together.  Jack and his wife have raised their children about a block away from our home. Continue Reading »

Little Girls, Little Dogs, and One Old Cat

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Finally…this crazy week is over.  The past couple of days have been a whirlwind of activity.  Working with the consultants and conducting public meetings, hosting a concert last night, responding to phone calls and emails.  It was a busy, but productive week.  I enjoyed working with my friend.  His assistance as a meeting facilitator was invaluable, and we were able to accomplish more than I had hoped.  I’m excited for the next phase of this project and many of the potential pitfalls and road blocks I had anticipated were never encountered.  Not yet, anyway.  This is a good project.  What was initially an economic development initiative has blossomed into a community development project. Continue Reading »

The Best People I Know

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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.