Monday, August 14, 2017

Loud Drumbeats

The drumbeats of war are loud this week.

North Korea.
Charlottesville, Virginia.

Voices raised in anger and scorn, fear and hate.

I hear them, and their anger is strong and their fear is contagious. I must hunker down, gather and protect my own, and find a place where we will be safe.

But there is no safe place - and I start to panic.

Then, reason returns.

I remember again, the only constant is change. Our days are not guaranteed. The only thing I can control is my reaction to what happens in my world. (Thank you, Viktor Frankl.)

I was reading Ken Follett's Edge of Eternity these past few weeks. I've read historical fiction before - this is the first time I've been old enough, and the period covered recent enough, for me to parallel the events in the book with my life.

I was born the year the Berlin Wall went up. I toddled my way through the tumultuous civil right's movement of the early 60's. The Kennedys were shot; the trajectory of our country changed - and I was learning to read. It struck home in a way it never has before - even in time of war, there are pockets of peace.

I can't control what's happening in the world around me. Heck, I count it a good day if I manage to keep the cats off the counter while I fix dinner.

But I can control my fear and decide not to panic.

Hate is loud, but Love whispers anyways.

It doesn't seem possible Love could ever win, even for a moment, but it does.

I can listen for Love's whispers, add my voice to the quiet, steady chorus when I can, because I can. Anyways.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Changing Rhythms

I'm one of those people who prefers my life to have a steady rhythm.

On this beat, I sleep.
On this beat, I rise.
On this day, I work.
On this day, I play.

These are the people who share the rhythm of my life.

But, wait.

The rhythm has changed.

My baby bird has left the nest again, and I'm learning again how the rhythms of my life sound when I live alone.

The beat changes when I am left to my own devices. The fridge is emptier, the house tidier. I am learning again to be content to come home to the quiet. Learning again to listen to the sound of my heartbeat when there is no counter-rhythm in the house to balance it out.

I go to bed when I am tired, no longer do I wait to make sure everyone is safely home and settled - for I am home, and I am safe and there is no one else to worry about.

I delay getting up in the morning until the last minute. Oh, wait. That rhythm hasn't changed a bit - I've been having to have serious conversations with me to get my rear in gear in the morning since he left home the first time some years ago.

Last weekend was cool, rainy. I spent most of Saturday and all of Sunday by myself. I procrastinated some, napped some, worked some. I marveled to myself at the spectacle of the rain.

Being alone is daunting. A bit scary, a bit freeing.
I'm finding again my own pace.
It takes practice.

I'm out of practice.

This adjustment is not easy. But there is beauty there when I remember to look.

And, I don't have to share the ice cream.
There is that.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

MIddle Age

In 2006, I was still driving my red 1997 Taurus. It had been a great car - invisible, reliable. It was a top-seller for its year; I once pulled into a parking lot, and added my car to a line of five identical red Taurus's. It was the perfect car for a busy mom, able to buckle six people in a pinch, comfortable on the road, plenty of room in the back seat for restless children.

But in January of 2006, it was starting to show its age, and I was restless; looking forward to Joe's graduation later that spring, ready to spread my own wings a little. I'd always wanted a convertible, and while I was diligently doing my research, I knew, in my heart of hearts, that I really wanted a Mustang. Back in the seventies, when I was learning to drive the full-sized Chevrolet van, Mustangs were 'the' car. As I researched and mulled it over, I finally decided that if I bought any other model, I'd still be wondering if I should have bought a Mustang.

Rumor had it Ford had made great strides in the handling of the car on snow and ice, so I moseyed on over to the local dealer one sleety day, and asked if I could test-drive one to see. They reluctantly let me out on the road, after first copying both my driver's license and insurance card, and then spending an inordinate amount of time cautioning me to drive carefully.

I gingerly got behind the wheel, turned into traffic, and instantly fell in love.

Now, I wasn't ready to buy a car just yet; I wanted to wait until I got my tax refund in March, but they had this car on the lot. It had been traded back in with just 3500 miles on it, and they were willing to dicker. I went home to sleep on it, but I knew before I left that I'd be figuring out a way to rob tuition funds to bridge the time until my taxes were done so I'd have money for the down payment.

Sure enough. Three days later I owned my dream car.

Far from invisible, the Mustang is a cop magnet. The bright yellow body can be seen for miles on the freeway, and draws the attention of every cop it passes. It's been good for me - I'm now among the most law-abiding drivers on the road. I have to be - I didn't have to get pulled over more than once to learn that lesson. (He gave me a warning...)

It's been a wonderful car. Mechanically sound, it's needed almost NO work thus far.

Then, last week as I was walking by it in the garage, I picked at a spot of dirt on the rooftop.  Nope, it wasn't dirt, it was a vinyl bubble. A close inspection revealed worn spots pocking the entire top. It looks like a well-worn pair of jeans. You know the type - you carefully choose where you're going to wear them because you know, one day soon, you're going to sit down, then stand up with a new air vent displaying your fine underthings for all the world to see.

I'm not complaining, I figure after eleven years, it's due for something to give way. But it's a little sad to know the car has caught up to me in middle age.

We're not exempt from damage from the elements we're driving through each day. Our paint is dinged, and our bodies have been in the shop a time or two. But the joy of being able to put the top down and look up to see the sky hasn't paled a bit during our time together.

All good things must come to an end - but not yet. I have an appointment in two weeks to get a new top installed. (In the meantime, I'll forego lowering the roof - no need to help those rips along their inevitable paths.)

We've got some miles left in us, me and the Stealth-mobile.

Sunday, July 23, 2017


The good and the bad news about not working for a while is that weekends lose their luster.

When I'm free to set my own schedule, when I have time to work and shop and clean on whatever day suits my whims, when every day is a sleep-in day, weekends begin to look a lot like weekdays. Mondays lose their sense of "it's time to buckle down to work", Fridays lose their sense of impending freedom. Saturdays are notable mostly as a day to avoid going to the store, since they're twice as busy then as they are during the weekday.

I miss that part, and yet...

There's something to be said about becoming aware again of the precious value of free time. Time to work on the house, time to set my personal world back to order, time to relax and enjoy the sunset - all compressed into just two days of the week.

When my work schedule was self-imposed, I started to forget to take time to relax. Without the structure and rhythm of the work week to force me into a pattern of work and rest, I started to work on all of the days. I have type-A tendencies anyways, and there was always a to-do list (I had a wedding to get ready for, don't 'cha know!). I didn't know when my time off would end, so I forged ahead on my project list on most all of the days.

Not so good.

I worked hard to learn to relax (and stop and breathe). And I forgot to remember the learning.

I guess this is one of those lessons I'm going to have to learn more than once: there's more to life than getting all the items on my to-do list checked off.

Powering through the weekend isn't really an option these days; this working stuff is still leaving me pretty drained. So Saturday comes and I work a bit and rest a bit and then, poof, it's Monday.

But after Monday, comes the rest of the week and then it's Friday, and then, I get two magical days to structure as I see fit.

Time to stop. breathe. relax. Weekends are great!

Monday, July 17, 2017

Yellow Jackets

It started innocently enough - these bee-looking creatures crawling near the light fixture on my porch.

I'd see one, then another. Did I just see one crawl underneath the fixture?  ooh. that's not good.

But, wedding.

Life was busy and I didn't follow up and pay attention, and what harm will a few bees do anyways, and then, last weekend, as I was sitting on the porch with a friend, I looked again. They'd found themselves some friends, those bee-things. And, I had a sneaking suspicion they weren't bees.

So, I called a local bee service this morning, and sent along some pictures. Nope, they weren't bees. They were yellow jackets, a member of the hornet family.

I'm well acquainted with yellow jackets. The summer I spent in Minnesota with Kate, I had some time on my hands, and thought it would be nice to clean up a neglected little flower garden at the end of her building. It was a nice day, just on the hot side of warm, and I was pleased with myself as I weeded and trimmed, exposing the beauty of the little space.

Then, I pulled one more weed, and a swarm of insects boiled out of the ground in a stream that reached at least three feet high. I'm not sure how high they ended up streaming - I didn't stay to watch the whole crew come out to fight. I hightailed it out of there, but five of them still got me. It wasn't too bad at first. I went inside and washed off the sweat and the dirt, and put some cream on the bites. Then the bites swelled and they grew (the circle around one bite was a good six inches across) and they itched like none other. For several days. And, I counted myself lucky - since the bites were all on my arms and legs, nowhere near my neck or face, I didn't have to visit the emergency room.

I AM capable of learning from experience, so quickly availed myself of Matt's offer to send someone out this afternoon to wipe them out. For $199, my porch is yellow jacket-free.

A bargain. Just ask me.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Getting Older

It occurs to me, not for the first time, that I'm getting older.

I'm not old yet. I'm pretty sure once you hit forty, and until you're somewhere in your sixties or maybe even early seventies, old is defined as "twenty years older than I am right now".

But I am getting older. Surprisingly, I'm good with this.

I went to a day-long retreat when I was in my early thirties. The group numbered around ten, ages ranged from mid-twenties to ninety. As we were going through our responses to one of the meditative exercises, the topic turned to getting older. Without exception, the older women in the group - about half our number - said their lives had gotten easier after they turned fifty. These were women I admired. They were classy, smart, kind.

And I thought, if this is true for all of these women, perhaps getting older isn't so bad after all. I tucked the thought away in the back of my mind for future reference, and there it has stayed, coming out at random moments as my life has flown by.

Some things surprise me still - evidence of how quickly the flow of time runs often pulls me up short. Can it really be true I graduated college over thirty years ago? That my grandbaby is six already? That my son is married - and high time; he's almost thirty!

I look down at my hands. Sure, there are some wrinkles, but my fingers still work just fine. My brain cells still have some empty storage; it may take a bit more effort, but I can still learn new things (and some things are easier to learn since they build on lessons learned in the long-ago). I can't run anymore, but I can walk just fine. Thanks to karate, I can easily balance on one foot for over 45 seconds. I couldn't do THAT when I was younger.

I take great comfort from my long-lasting friendships. There's something nice about talking to someone who already knows the back-story - even though those events happened last century. It's true that some fiend has taken the many of the pictures from my Facebook feed and run them through one of those 'this is how you'll look when you're a grandparent' filters, but I know how those I love really look. My memory is clear on this.

As Victor Frankl wrote in Man's Search for Meaning:
"In the past, nothing is irretrievably lost, but rather, on the contrary, everything is irrevocably stored and treasured.  People tend to see only the stubble fields of transitoriness, but overlook and forget the full granaries of the past into which they have brought the full harvest of their lives: the deeds done, the loves loved, the sufferings they have gone through with courage and dignity.From this, one may see there is no reason to pity old people.  Instead young people should envy them.  It is true that the very old have no opportunities, no possibilities in future, but they have more than that.   Instead of possibilities, they have realities in the past – the potentialities they have actualized, the meanings they have fulfilled, the values they have realized – and nothing and nobody can ever remove these assets from the past."
The granaries of my memory are fuller than they are empty. I've let many of the things I used to worry about fall by the wayside without regret. Carpool headaches, gone! Worries my kids will grow up warped and stunted because they had a 'mother who works', no longer a concern - my kids are doing a bang-up job of adulting! (Yes, this was once a concern of mine - the generation before mine stayed home when their children were young, had great doubts about the commitment of mothers who didn't do the same, and passed these convictions on to me.)

Those women from the retreat were right.
It's good to know.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Back to Work Again

I started my new job two weeks ago already. I think I'm going to like it here, but the going back to work adjustment has left me pretty darn tired.

When my kids were young, I got up between 6:00 and 6:30 every workday morning. I did this for twenty some years. When Joe left for college, a decade ago already, I couldn't do it anymore. No matter how I'd try to convince myself it was a good idea to get up before 7:00, I just couldn't do it unless the consequences of sleeping in involved missing a plane flight or some such nonsense.

My new job allows for flex time, I'm back to working downtown, and the traffic is a lot nicer if I get to work by 7:30. I I want to do this, and I do, I need to be up and at 'em shortly after six. It's been quite the shock to my system.  My inner two year old is decidedly NOT happy.

My outer adult is in a much better place with it. This company actually works a 40-ish hour workweek. (I really like that part.) Which means that if I get in at 7:30, I can leave between 4:00 and 4:30, depending on how long my lunch break is. I LIKE leaving work at 4:30. Traffic is lighter and I'm home in time to have time to enjoy my evening.

Or, to be more accurate, I will have time to enjoy my evening once I settle in at work. I've been asking my brain to assimilate a lot of new information these past few weeks. New software tools, new people, new relationships. By the time I get home, my brain is numb; it's reached its maximum capacity to process new data. Good thing I've had a well-stocked fridge - asking me to cook after I get home would be asking a lot.

In a twist of fate, my new company is located in the same building I worked in for a long time while I was with AT&T. I haven't been downtown much at all since we moved out of the building some fifteen years ago, and the changes keep messing with my brain. Where I used to come out of the parking garage into a bustling food court, the retail space is long gone, replaced by blank office walls. Where the surrounding blocks were once run-down, filled with surface parking lots, the city has been revitalized - new buildings have gone up, the streets are full of people, there are more than enough restaurants to fill the gap made by the missing food court. The change is good, but I still keep coming up short as I run into yet another spot that doesn't look as my brain insists it should. Memory plays funny tricks sometimes.

As another small bonus, they pay for parking, and the garage they assigned me to is right next to the new library. Unlike most boring garage facades, this one is lined with the spines of giant books. A small thing, but it makes me smile each evening as I approach my car.

Yes. I think I can do this.