Sunday, July 23, 2017

Weekends

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.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Find a Job: Check

It was the week before last. I was in the midst of wedding mania, with a to-do list as long as my arm and another hundred things I was hoping to get done if I could before everyone got here. So, you'll understand if my job hunt wasn't my first priority. I was kinda-sorta doing it; responding to emails, checking the listings, but my attention was elsewhere.

That Monday, when yet another recruiter called about a possible opening, I was polite, but dismissive. I didn't hit all of the employer's checkboxes, and I'd been turned down more times than I could count for such a gap in my resume. But, he thought they'd at least want to talk to me, so I told him to go ahead and submit me for the job. What the heck.

Tuesday, to my surprise, he called back - they wanted to talk to me! I told him Friday was out of the question, but I should be able to do Wednesday or Thursday. To my surprise, he called back shortly - Wednesday was a go!

So, Wednesday afternoon I put on my best interview duds and trucked on downtown for the interview. I managed to put all thoughts of wedding preparations out of my head, and focus on the task at hand. It went well, I liked them well enough, they were still smiling when I left. As I was leaving, the manager told me they'd be making a decision the following week. "Great!", I thought. "This frees me to focus on the wedding; I don't have to worry about how the interview went until next week."

I got a call from the recruiter's office on my way home, which I returned as soon as I walked in the door. He asked how the interview went, I told him I thought it had gone well. Then he said, "It went more than well. You blew them away! They called me and told me to cancel the rest of the interviews and offer you the job."

I can't recall another word of the conversation. Presumably I was properly enthusiastic and professional. Talk about being blown away - they had made up their minds to hire me within 20 minutes of my leaving their office.  Really??? Really!

I start tomorrow.
Ready, set, go?



Saturday, June 17, 2017

Happy Father's Day

I miss my dad.

but it's not with the same intensity as I miss my mom. Recently, I've started to dig into the why's of that just a bit. His death certainly wasn't as wrenching; by the time he died, he was retired and living in Arizona, and I saw him at most once a year; talked maybe three or four times beyond that.

He was just 69 when he died - old enough to have lived a good life, young enough that he never got to be old. The week he died, he'd visited me in Kansas City on his way to Maria's wedding, then stopped in Iowa to see my brother. He died of a heart attack in his sleep. This may well be part of the lack-of-intensity-why - he didn't suffer, he just went to bed and forgot to wake up.

These past few months, as I haven't been working at a job, his voice keeps coming back to me.

I hear him finishing my bedroom when I was eight or nine - and making a common cutting mistake; he cut the mirror image he wanted of the paneling he was installing. Rather than getting upset, he calmly matched his cut and installed the board, telling me, "the important part is not that you never make a mistake, it's that you know how to fix it."

I see him fixing the old lead drainage pipe, embedded in the concrete floor of the second story bath in my old house. "That should hold for a while", he said, "just don't try to poke anything down it". It did - for at least another fifteen years.

I hear his voice telling me evenly, after I told him I was thinking of getting a divorce (when I was young, divorce was not considered one of the options within a marriage; I feared his disapproval.), "I can't tell you what to do here - you need to do what you need to do."

When he arrived for that last visit, he and my step-mother had just had a fight and hadn't quite resolved it. It seems she was upset about something, and was having her say. He was quietly nodding along, and she was fine with his nodding until he nodded in the wrong place. It was then she found he had turned off his hearing aids, and couldn't really hear what she was saying at all. She was still a tad bit upset; he just admitted being in the wrong with a small half-smile that told me he wasn't really sorry.

Yeah, I miss you, Dad.
Happy Father's Day.


Friday, June 16, 2017

The Wedding

A while back, I wrote about Joe and Rita-Marie - how I'd set something in motion between them - but they had taken it from there.

Well, they've taken it to a happy conclusion - they were married last weekend.

It's been a long time since I was closely involved in planning a wedding. It was madness, and theirs was low-key! Rita-Marie was the opposite of Bridezilla, whatever you call it. (Must not happen very often, if we don't have a word for it...) She just wanted her friends and family there to celebrate with them. Really. No discussions about colors and dresses and menus. Their attendants were free to wear whatever they thought would look nice, and they had a pot-luck dinner reception. (thank goodness for my friend Karlie, who organized the dinner and cleanup - she made it look effortless, but I know it was a lot of work; she obviously really loves Joe!)

James, the best man, offered to do the flowers. I was pleased, was picturing some bouquets from Costco; I couldn't have been more wrong. Turns out he worked at a florist for a while in college. He spent hours the day before the wedding creating over a dozen lovely arrangements to grace the altar and the reception tables. amazing work.

It was a beautiful ceremony, if I do say so my unbiased self.

Two flower girls, thrilled to be included; one carefully dropping one petal at a time, one dropping handfuls as they went up the aisle. Two attendants - both best friends from college. Rita-Marie and Kate, Joe's sister, had one of those adventures in college where you either end up friends for life, or never speak to each other again, so the groom's sister was the maid of honor. Joe and James met up his freshman year, and spent their last few years in Rolla bunking together, while in grad school.

And the bride and groom - so happy, so tender. I love them both; my heart was full; my eyes overflowed with happy tears.

Rita-Marie's family came in from Texas and Nebraska, all my siblings and some of Joe's cousins came in from Iowa and Minnesota. My friend Mary came in from Colorado, Rita-Marie had friends fly in from New Mexico and Canada. And lots and lots of local friends took time from their day to attend.

So many beloved people, so little time to talk to each of them. It was the only sad part of the day for me - not enough time to connect to each and every one I loved who was there. They understand; for some occasions, brief hellos are all we have time to share. Knowing this would be the case, they came anyways.

Lots of love, lots of joy.
Lots of hope.  Amen.