Today someone yelled at me. It was at the end of the day. I am sick and exhausted. My energy was already depleted, and the yelling sucked away whatever remained. Even now, hours later, I am shaking. I didn’t deserve to be yelled at. While I spoke in a calm, reserved voice, this person blamed me for causing their lack of control. No. No person deserves to be yelled at, and no person can be the cause of another’s lack of control. Hang up the phone. Walk away. Table the discussion. Mentally healthy adults do not yell…..under any circumstance. Yelling is a selfish, weak, self-absorbed way to handle a difficult situation. Yelling is cowardly. Continue Reading »
Andrew called home on Monday night asking for some advice. Why might water be leaking from his freezer? While we suggested that perhaps his freezer door hadn’t been properly closed, that was only wishful thinking. On Tuesday morning, he called to tell me that he had gone to the fridge for a glass of milk, and everything was warm. He called the building super and was told that a repairman would be sent out the next day. The next day??? I wanted to hop in my car immediately and bring my son a cooler and some ice. He doesn’t have a cooler in Chicago, and he doesn’t even know anyone to call to borrow a cooler. Continue Reading »
I had such a bad, bad day. It sucked. After one particularly God-awful, horrible phone call, I decided to stop at 7-11 for a Big Gulp. On my way into the store for a much-needed Pepsi, I decided to throw away some trash from my car. I was so stressed out, and flustered, and upset that I accidentally threw away my car keys along with the trash. From what I understand, the cost to replace one of these keys is several hundred dollars. That wasn’t the biggest problem, though. My car was locked. Unless I found that key, I was stranded. So there I was, as if I my day wasn’t already bad enough, I had to dig through a damn trash can like a bag lady to retrieve my keys, the keys I had absently mindedly, idiotically thrown away. Yeah, my day wasn’t so great. Continue Reading »
I am too easily influenced by the emotions of those around me. I seem to feel the pain others experience on a gut or a spiritual level. I’m sure a lot of people do that, but sometimes I wish I could be more aloof to the feelings of those around me. I wish I could have more of a “not MY problem” mentality.
As much as I love my job, working for local government is challenging on even the best days. The general public doesn’t understand allocation of funds. They don’t understand that if we spend in one area (because grant funds were received) that those funds can’t be used to save jobs in another area that is undergoing budget restraints. It is often frustrating to be accused of wasting taxpayers money instead of being thanked for writing a compelling grant narrative that resulted in a grant award for our community. Stimulus money was being thrown around right and left. Shouldn’t we have tried to get as much of that as possible to flow into our community? Of course we should, but now that the projects are underway, the perception is that we’re wasting taxpayer dollars to fund them. What the public doesn’t understand is that those grant funds MUST be used in a certain way and for certain projects. It’s not a blank check. It’s not fun money. Grant funds were awarded for a specific projects.
The people in my department are some of the most conscientious, intelligent, talented, hard-working people I have ever known. A great team has been assembled. Years of planning, pushing, politics, and a tremendous amount of work are culminating into an economic building boom in our community right in the midst of a “mini-depression.” Our unemployment rates are among the lowest in the state. Our local businesses are seeing steady improvements in their sales. They are hiring additional staff.
You would think that our community would be proud, right? Wrong. While our local economy has been booming, our City budget has not kept up pace. City Council has refused to increase taxes even as expense are on the rise. During the first wave, all non-essential staff was let go. As positions became vacant due to retirement, they were not filled. The work was absorbed by others. That was last year.
This year, all non-union workers were told that there would be no pay increases until further notice, not even the increase we had been promised six months ago. We were also required to “donate” three days back to the budget. That meant we had to take three unpaid days of leave. That’s OK. I didn’t hear any complaints. We were all happy to still have jobs.
Still…City Council would not consider a modest increase in taxes. Still…costs continued to rise. Our elected officials were listening to their constituents. No more taxes!!! (Oh, and City services? Please continue those without interruption.) Everyone worked harder. I’m here. I can attest to the truth of that. We all worked harder, longer hours, with more responsibilities, and of course, the promise of no financial incentive as a reward for the increase in those duties and responsibilities.
It looked like it was working. “See? We didn’t raise taxes. We trimmed the fat. Those under-worked, over-paid city staffers are finally pulling their weight!” Still…City Council was advised that if there was not an increase in taxes, the budget would continue to be in the red. But why would City Council listen to the finance department staff? They listened to their constituents. “No more taxes!”
It’s that time of year again. Budget hearings have been going on this past month. There wasn’t much more “fat” to be trimmed from City staff. More cuts would be forthcoming, though. Should garbage service be privatized? Sure! What about EMT Service? HUH???? Well, wait a minute. We can’t cut firefighters’ jobs. They are heroes. Why not take the money from that economic development project? Well, you can’t. Those are grant funds. So what!
I have twice had to cross picket lines to get to my office. It has been hellish these past few weeks, and it all came to a head last night. The final vote on the privatization of EMT service was going before City Council. A dozen firefighters were potentially going to lose their jobs. Emotions were running high. Police protection was requested to bring a routine economic development matter to Council.
More picket lines. Red in the face yelling. Gavels pounding. TV cameras all around. Some of the nicest people I know being harassed, threatened, and criticized. None of it was said to me. I am hurting because I have watched human beings FORGET that they are dealing with other human beings. Who tells someone that they hope they have a heart attack as they leave the building? This was said to such a gentle, kind-hearted woman. She is overweight and terribly self-conscious. I hurt for how those words must have stung her. It was proclaimed that others would burn in hell or rot in hell. Take your pick.
Today an angst-filled group was once again hanging around in the lobby of City Hall. As I crossed the foyer, I smiled at the group of people standing there, and said “Good morning.” I received a scowl in return and heard colorful, muttered comments as I passed by. What did I do? I had nothing to do with this decision. I made no recommendations regarding this matter. They hate me anyway.
I felt the weight of their anger pressing down on me. At lunchtime, once again, I sought the peace of the river. I sat there in my car, my beloved old car. I sipped a Pepsi, and dipped my fries in ketchup. The world is a mean place. People are just mean. I wished for a place far away…a safe place.
When I got back to the office, I spoke to someone who was there last night. I said that I was sorry. I said, “My heart hurts to see such anger and meanness,” and I gave her a hug. As I walked back down to my office, I passed others in the hall. Everyone wore a haggard, haunted look on their faces. There is a black cloud hanging over City Hall today.
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.
I can talk about this now. The crisis has passed, but I’m still feeling a bit traumatized.
It has become a tradition for Emily and I. We wear skirts all summer. As soon as the weather warms up, Em and I ditch our pants. That includes shorts. As any woman knows, there is a particular sense of freedom in wearing a skirt on a warm summer day. Our skirt wearing has nothing at all to do with being fancy. Not at all. Sure, I wear skirts to work that are professional-looking. After work, though, or on the weekends, I wear a skirt much like any old pair of shorts paired with a tank top or a t-shirt. Skirts are cool and airy. They are flowing and forgiving. Oh…and yeah….your butt can get pretty big under a skirt, and no one will notice, not even yourself.
As the weather became cooler, I began to think about blue jeans, khakis, my usual work pants. After a day of shivering in my office due to my bare legs, I went home and took an inventory of my closet. As I looked through the long pants, I decided that I better try them on before I decided what to wear the next day. Lola was in my room “helping” me. When I tried on the first pair, she started laughing. I was trying them on to check of moth holes or rips. I wasn’t expecting what I actually found. “Mom! It looks like you painted those on your legs.” Oh boy, out of the mouths of babes! I tried on one pair after another. None of them fit me!
OK, I should not complain. I know that. I am not overweight in the least bit. I NEVER step on the scale, and I NEVER watch what I eat. In fact, it’s not uncommon when I order a mocha to tell them to make it with as many calories as possible. Well, all of that caloric freedom had caught up with me. A six-pack of Pepsi everyday probably hasn’t helped either. After failing to find a pair of pants that didn’t look like I belonged on a street corner advertising a booty call, I ran downstairs to the bathroom and stepped on the scale. 10 pounds! I had gained 10 pounds since the last time I weighed in. When had that been? Probably six months ago. How had I not noticed this change? I went back upstairs and hung up all of the now-too-small pants. I had no choice but to continue to wear a skirt at this point. I would be warm enough if I took along a sweater. Ah….. Skirts. Skirts were my downfall.
After a day or two of mourning my large ass, I decided to talk to Em about the matter. We were shopping, just the two of us. I said, “Em, I can’t wear pants! My butt has gotten too big. I didn’t even know it was happening!” She looked at me, and her mouth dropped open. She admitted that she had the same problem. We both said, “Damn skirts!” We discussed it. What were we going to do? Buy bigger pants? Wear tights? We could wear skirts all winter with tights and a pair of great looking boots. We refused to buy pants in a larger size. That would be admitting defeat. We didn’t want to buy “fat butt” pants.
That was a couple of weeks ago. Many miles on the elliptical, fewer mochas, fewer Pepsi’s, and I am proud to say that I wore a pair of jeans last weekend. OK, they were not as comfortable as last time I put them on, but at least I was able to zip them up!
I’m sipping on a Pepsi as I write this. I’ll never give that up, and I refuse to drink diet, but I am learning moderation. I think it’s about time. 🙂 Moderation in Pepsi. Moderation in mochas. Moderation is my new word. I think it is high time that I applied a sense of moderation to many areas in my life. Does this mean that I am growing up? I sure hope so!
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.
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.”
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.