Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Tough on Crime

Bronia was a Holocaust survivor. A young teen when the war broke out, she was sent to Auschwitz for the first part of her imprisonment, then to Germany to work in the factories where she finished out the war.

Once the war ended, she came to Kansas City with her husband. (I asked her once, "why, of all the places in the world, Kansas City?" She replied, as if no further explanation was necessary, "that's where Truman was from!")

Bronia stood all of five feet tall, maybe, and in her younger days was a slim girl. (By the time I knew her, she was quite round - she told me once she didn't care how much she weighed, but after her experience in the camps, she was determined she would never be hungry again. And she wasn't.)

After they arrived in Missouri, she and her husband opened a bakery at 31st and Woodland. The neighborhood there wasn't a bad one back then, but there are always a few bad apples about.

One day, a normal business day, a man came in with a gun. He pointed it at Bronia, standing behind the register, and demanded she give him the money.

Rather than money, she gave him a piece of her mind. What did he think he was doing? Didn't he know how thin their margins were? She had no money to spare! This was America, and she hadn't come this far to get all she'd built since arriving here taken away!

He'd picked the wrong bakery to rob. Back in the day, she'd faced down Eichmann. Some punk with a gun wasn't going to worry her any.

As she berated him for his lack of good sense and manners, she was busy packing up a bag of doughnuts. She finished up her tirade with a bit of compassion - surely, he wouldn't be trying to rob Bronia's bakery if he wasn't hungry. She came around the counter, put the bag of goodies in his free hand, and pushed him out the door, telling him not to come back again until he'd learned some sense!

I can picture the man, standing on the sidewalk, looking at the gun in one hand and the bag of bakery goods in the other. A bit dazed, not sure what just happened, he goes on his way, still puzzled and definitely well-chastened - never to bother Bronia again.

If only all robberies could end the same way. A well measured dose of compassion dished out alongside an eye-opening moment where the would-be-criminal learns to see others as something other than marks to be taken.

We might need more bakeries then, but we'd definitely need fewer prisons.


Thursday, September 28, 2017

Miniatures

I sometimes have a hard time getting me to get out of the house and socialize. I almost always enjoy it when I go places, but I usually have to promise me I don't have to stay for more than thirty minutes if I'm not having fun before I can get me out the door.

The neighborhood picnic a few weeks ago was no exception. There WAS the added lure of free food, so I walked the block from my house to the party after it was in full swing. I grabbed a plate, looked around, and saw my neighbors sitting at one of the tables. Score! I joined them, figuring this was an easy way to use up those minutes.

They introduced me to Bill, one of their longtime friends, who lives fairly close by. I politely asked what Bill does for a living - turns out he makes miniatures. For real. Well. Suddenly I wasn't in quite such a hurry to move along. I've always wondered how they managed to make small replicas - there's a Toy & Miniature Museum just down the street; I spent a fascinating afternoon there with my family a few years back, marveling at the teeny-tiny beautiful furniture in the doll houses.

It took me over an hour of fast talk and (sincere) flattery before Bill agreed to show me his workshop. We were both busy the following week, so I finally got over there this past Tuesday.

I was amazed, enthralled, intrigued.

The best part?  He let me hold some of the art. Unlike in the museum, where they sensibly place everything behind glass, he had a few pieces scattered about the shop. It was so fun to get to touch them!

He made the toolbox pictured here - and had a similar one he brought out for my inspection. The tools are made of hardwoods and real steel. The calipers work, the inch-long, quarter inch wide ruler has proper hash marks and itty-bitty numbers engraved along its length. The tiny saw (a little longer than an inch stem to stern) had even tinier teeth. I couldn't quite see them, they were so small, but he let me hold it and I could feel them with my fingertips - they were sharp enough to cut! He made the tiny working lock and key, the box and all of the tools and supplies inside right there in his brightly lit basement workshop.  Wow.

He plays for a living; termed it that way himself. He works when he wants to, doesn't when he needs a break. His love for his craft is evident in his creations. I felt honored because he took a few hours to share a piece of his world with me. (And maybe, just maybe a little envious of his skill and abilities.) He was patient with my thousand questions, let me run his tiny plane along the side of a handy pencil.

I came home with thoughts of all I'd seen and learned spinning through my head, the frustrations of the work day distant and forgotten.

See?  Sometimes good things happen when I stretch the boundaries of my comfort zones!

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

I Know a Dreamer

Adriana* (*not her real name) was assigned to work with me in the tech room my first year at Cristo Rey. She was a shy girl, quiet. Beautiful and bright; quick to catch on to what I needed her to do, a diligent and loyal worker.

Adri had a beautiful smile, marred by one tooth which had decided to head east instead of south when it came in. I wanted so badly to take her to the orthodontist to get it fixed, but reminded myself my job wasn't to rescue her from the circumstances which made orthodontia unaffordable, but rather to help make it possible for her to open the doors to a future where she could afford to take care of it herself.

While she worked for me, we had a staff workday; an all day required meeting. I knew one of her passions was photography, so rather than have her sitting bored and alone in the room all day, I brought in my good camera and gave her an assignment - to go take 50 pictures on and about the school grounds. When I came back on break, I showed her how to download them to the computer, and had her select the five best photos.

The results were amazing, and showed an artist's soul. (I had the top five developed into 8x10s, gave her a copy, and proudly displayed another set in my room.)

By her accent, I knew she hadn't lived here her whole life, but there are questions one doesn't ask in this day and age, and so I didn't ask them.

Fast forward a couple of years, and she shyly approached me after school one day. Would I sign the papers documenting she'd been here, as required by DACA, so she could register to legally stay? Would I? Of course!

Fast forward another three years, and my young friend is working her way through college. She recently married, and her Facebook page shows a tender smile as she looks lovingly at her newborn child.

Adriana is a Dreamer. She is one of those who Trump is threatening to send away (not home - her home has been in the US for almost all of her memory). She didn't choose to come here as a young child. She is an asset to her adopted home.

He would send her, where?  She has no home in her country of origin, her family is here. He would tear this young family apart because...  why? She has done no wrong. None.

I don't have words to describe the depth of wrong it would be to send her away. America will never be great if we treat our children as disposable pawns in a political game. My head hangs low in shame, watching how we treat the vulnerable and innocents ones in our midst. My heart cries, because there's nothing I can do. I voted, I've written my congressional representatives, drops of effort that evaporated unnoticed in the desiccated heat of today's divided government.

I can pray.
I can hope anyways.

but, dammit! Leave the Dreamers alone!
please?

Thursday, September 7, 2017

The First Year is (not) the Hardest

A former employee of my new company came by yesterday to catch up with some of his old friends. The group gathered just outside my cube; I didn't know him, so I said hello, then got back to work.

He perched on my neighbor's desk as the group caught up his life. As he related the story of his mother dying earlier this year, my heart went out to him. He's obviously still in shock, was telling the story of how they've all worked together to help his dad learn how to keep house and pay bills and do all the things his mother used to do for him. He swallowed hard, then said, "they tell me this first year is the hardest".

At that, I closed my eyes to squeeze back the tears. Mom died forty years ago today.  Forty.

I didn't tell him my perspective; I didn't speak up to say I disagreed with 'them'. For his sake, I hope his story will be different than mine. I hope he will allow himself to grieve, and to move on with his life. I hope this first year WILL be the hardest one.

For me, I can barely recall the first year after she died. It was hard, yes, but my life was so upended I didn't feel much of anything except the need to keep a stiff upper lip; to keep a smile on the face the world could see.

It was later when it was hard. Not all-at-once hard the way the first year was, but knock-your-knees-unexpectedly-out-from-under-you hard. I'd be going along just fine, and then something would happen where she should have been there; a day she would have been proud of me, a day she would have given me comfort and advice.

Those were the days when the grief came back in force; unanticipated, unlooked for, unwanted. It dimmed my joy, it magnified my sorrow. Now those, those were the hardest days.

I've learned much about grieving over the years. Grief only eases when you don't stuff it away; when you move the rug and shift the floorboard and let it out of the hole you shoved it into when you weren't allowed to work with it. It doesn't go away tucked into its hiding place. Rather, it grows. I've learned, when it surfaces, to let it out, to air it in the sun. Sunlight heals. My grief only began to fade after I learned to greet it when it had something to say, and walk with it for a piece before once again laying it to rest.

I still miss her, will never know how life shoulda-woulda-coulda been different if I'd not grown up too young. But I've learned to see the silver linings behind the cloud; to acknowledge, and yes, even celebrate, the strengths I have only because she died too young.

All this, yes.

But while I think the hardest days are finally firmly behind me, 40 years later, my heart still breaks just a little when the calendar turns again to the day she died.

Rest in Peace, Mom.
I love you.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Hurricane Harvey

Like everyone else I know, I spent the last week riveted to the the stream of pictures and stories streaming out of Texas in the wake of the hurricane.

I felt - awe, sorrow, horror, gratitude.

The storm escalated so quickly - from a something-in-the-Gulf on Wednesday to it's-a-category-4-hurricane-coming-straight-to-Texas! on Friday night. My mind worked to grasp the sense of a storm system large enough to cover much of the Gulf of Mexico. I listened with dread to the predictions of 40-50 inches of rain. I studied the beauty of the swirling clouds in awe - how can anything so destructive be so majestic?

I empathized with the Houston mayor who asked people not to evacuate - the numbers were hard, but I think he made the right call - homes are safer than cars in a major event like this, and there is no way for five million people to leave town safely under most any circumstance, let alone with the threat of flooding at their heels. One overheated, broken-down car would have endangered thousands of lives.

I tried to imagine myself watching the waters rise up to my home, feeling wrenching tears as I mentally cataloged what I could safely get above the flood in time. Feeling watcher's guilt as I knew that level of flooding is highly unlikely to hit me personally.

I found myself angry at the climate change deniers and those who built in flood plains despite warnings from scientists and engineers. I'm guessing those who did the building were not the same people doing the watching as all they owned was destroyed. Just because you don't want it to be true, just because you ignore the facts, just because you choose to be ignorant; these things don't mean Nature will pay you a bit of attention or alter her implacable step.  You idiots! (speaking to those builders)

I felt hope and gratitude. The Cajun Army rode in to the rescue when official forces weren't able to get there in time. Ordinary people who felt a call to help, and unblinkingly answered the call, risking their property and their lives to rescue people and pets, to deliver supplies.

The storm passed, as storms always do, and I felt inadequate. How can one help? I will send some money to the Houston food back. It will ensure at least one person won't go hungry for a few days. And I know many people are doing the same, but in the face of the massive destruction, can it help?

Yes, it can. Money won't fix the problems, but together, it can help to ease them. Troubles are more easily borne if one's stomach is not screaming for sustenance.

and maybe, just maybe, this will be a wake-up call to the powers that be. It's too late to do what should have been done twelve years ago after Katrina drowned New Orleans, or after Sandy decimated the east coast in 2012.  We can't change the past, but it's not too late to do what we can do today to get ready for the next storm - because it will come.

Climate change is real, and it is here.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Eclipse

I can't remember ever feeling so simultaneously profoundly disappointed and supremely satisfied.

My inner science geek was SO looking forward to the eclipse. The forecast kept wavering between cloudy and sunny - and when it happened, if you were in the Kansas City area, it was a crapshoot as to whether or not you got to see it between gaps in the clouds.

We were up north a ways - and got to see just a few tantalizing glimpses of the eclipse through the clouds. One of the moments was when the sun's corona looks like a diamond ring - if I had had to pick a one, that would have been it.

I was SO disappointed we weren't able to see more of it.

But.

Because I couldn't see the sun and moon in the sky, I focused on all the other signs of the eclipse around us. I saw a sunset in the south, and the light took on an eerie quality I've never seen before. The bugs and birds went to ground, just like I was told they would. The wind stilled, the temperature dropped, and the sky darkened for the shortest night ever.

If I'd have been able to see the sky, I can promise you my attention would have been totally focused there, and I'd have missed all the other beauty of the moment.

Once again the Universe took it upon itself to remind me to look always for beauty; if I look, I will see it. The beauty I saw was not the beauty I'd sought, but the beauty I saw was still able to capture the wonder of those otherworldly two minutes.

It's hard to let go of dreams, to accept less than an optimal experience.

I did my part. I was watching and waiting and ready. If the Universe didn't deliver on her side, well, at least I was there and ready and open to see whatever there was to see.

What there was there I will long remember.
And who knows, perhaps I'll get another chance.
There's always 2024...

Monday, August 14, 2017

Loud Drumbeats

The drumbeats of war are loud this week.

North Korea.
Venezuela.
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.
Anyways.

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

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.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

I Don't Have

I woke up this morning in a difficult place, still feeling the sting of disappointment from last week's job rejections.

I STILL don't have a job.

I started to follow the thought down the rabbit hole of grey thoughts, disillusionment and fear.  Then, I paused on the edge, and started thinking about the other things I don't have.

I don't have a broken leg.

I don't have a sick child.  (thank you, thank you!)

I don't have a hole in my roof, and there are no cracks in the house's foundation.

I don't have squirrels living in the eaves.

I don't have to say a prayer each time I turn the key when I get into the car. I'm pretty sure it will start. And if it doesn't, I have a good mechanic to fix it, AAA to tow it there, and friends who would help me get to where ever it was I wanted to go when I got into the car.

I don't have flood waters lapping at my door, and there have been no armed thugs lurking in the yard.

I don't have an appointment for a meeting with Trump on my calendar. (I can't think it would go well.)

There are no odd, suspicious smells arising from underneath my cabinets or anywhere in the basement.

I don't have any wasp stings.

Yes, I don't have a job. But there are so many other troubles I also don't have.

What I DO have is today, today is the only day I have, and I will choose how to spend it.

I will step back from the edge of the rabbit hole, and enjoy the thousand shades of green highlighted by the cloudy sky. I will take some baby steps in my job hunt. I will check off a few of the things on my long list of 'Things To Take Care Of Before The Wedding'.

And I will take a quick moment to send a prayer in the direction of the people who have more troubles than I.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Permission to Fail

I'm still spending my weekday mornings searching for my next job. It's turned into a routine. I scour the job sites, follow up on any actual possibilities, sigh when I find out, once again, I have not been chosen for the position.

This past week, my job search took off. Monday, it was business as usual - I found three or four jobs to apply to, one or two were promising enough to follow up on after the initial application. By Wednesday, I'd heard back from five, count them, five, different companies about viable openings - jobs that could actually come through.

One would think this is a good thing, and it is, but the multiple options threw me into a tizzy. Too many choices! What if I pick the wrong one? What if I blow all the interviews? What if none of them come through?

Somehow, in my head, these jobs turned into the last jobs I'd ever have a chance to get, and I had one last chance to choose and choose correctly, or the game would be irretrievably lost. I wasn't sleeping well; I blew one interview because my head was in the wrong place.  Arrgghhh!

Then, I took a deep breath, and gave myself permission to fail. I still wasn't glad to have blown the opportunity, but sometimes, I mess up. And that's OK. I'm not perfect. Sometimes, my head IS in the wrong place. All I can do is to stop, breathe, and resolve to do better next time.

Because there will be a next time. These jobs are not the last openings I will ever see which are a promising fit for my skills.

Permission to fail worked. For the next two phone screenings, I was able to show them my best self - the one who has the skills they're looking for to get their job done. For both screenings, I was asked to come back for an interview. And, if I hadn't been, it would have been OK. While these endless rejections feel personal, they're not. There's a person on the other end of the line who is looking for the right person to fit into their job as earnestly as I am looking to fit into it.

I still have my fingers crossed, hoping one of these two remaining positions will be "the one". (if you're keeping count: of the other two, one turned out to be an entry-level position, and wouldn't have been a good fit for me, and the other just disappeared, as some 80% of the openings do.)

If one comes through, I will be most pleased. There's a part of me that's good and ready to get back to work. If it doesn't, well, I have another screening interview lined up for later this week.

I will breathe, I will bring my best self to the table.
And one of these times, I will find the elusive right fit.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Other Mothers

As my thoughts turned to Mother's Day today, I kept reflecting on the other mothers.

Mothers who don't have legal custody of the children they are raising, yet love the children in their care as fiercely as any 'real' mother could.

Mothers who love their children enough to know they won't be able to give them what they need - who surrender them to another mother, and sunder forever their own hearts.

Mothers who choose to foster children from troubled homes. They take a child in and love them and hand over a piece of their hearts, knowing all the while that this precious child can and probably will leave their home - and take that piece of their hearts with them when they go.

Mothers who oh-so-desperately want to have a child, but cannot.

Mothers who carried a child who never drew breath.

Mothers who loved a child who died too soon.

Mothers who, after teaching other's children all day long, have no energy for their 'own' children - and so choose never to bear them.

Mothers who reach out to another mother's lost, broken children, giving them a solid example of love in a world gone crazy.

Mothers who have to say goodbye too soon - who death claims before they are allowed to see their beloved children grown.

I know at least one woman who embodies each of these other mothers. Their courage amazes me. Their ability to love beyond reason moves me to tears. They are my touchstones, my heroes. I hope I can be just like them when I grow up.

They are living examples of Good in our world.

Goddess Bless all the Other Mothers.




Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Monster

 Monster, cat of boxes, blankets and bugs, is still learning how to trust.

He spent quite some time as a young cat in an apartment where he was physically cared for, but where his owner was hospitalized - so there was no one there to actually spend time with him and his mom. He wasn't abused, but had no time or reason to bond with the caregiver who took care of food, water and litter box.

When Joe first brought him here, he was much afraid and hid in the basement for days. We made sure there was food and water down there, and checked on him often, scouting the rafters for his telltale white ears. We'd reach up, let him smell our fingers, scratch his head between his ears, and let him be.

He's lived here now for almost three years, and is a much happier kitty. His fur is thicker, he's lost most of the excess weight he carried, and he no longer bolts from the room when someone new enters. And, when he purrs me to sleep (I'd keep him around for that if no other reason - when I lie down, he'll come next to me, place his paws on my arm, and purr for 15-20 minutes. The best sleep machine out there!), he no longer automatically jumps away if I so much as twitch a muscle. Sometimes, he just waits for me to resettle, then finds a new spot and begins to purr anew. I REALLY like those times.

This past winter, he decided that perhaps, just perhaps, he was a lap kitty. I'd see him watching the mis-named Angel as she curled up on my lap with an appraising eye. Then, one day as I was sitting at the table, up he hopped. It's taken some practice. Monster is a big cat, and takes a lot of room on a lap. Where she can gracefully balance along one thigh when my legs are crossed, he takes up the lap, the whole lap and there's no room for anything but cat on the lap. We've learned together that a cat sitting on a lap needs to be properly balanced and their weight must be kinda-sorta centered or said cat will slip off and ungracefully fall to the floor. (It still helps sometimes if I'll tuck one hand around his back to help him stay on.)

It's heartwarming. He'll climb on up, and start his deep purr, tucking his paws, closing his eyes until they're satisfied slits. He's king of the lap. Any books must be held to one side; no sharing the prime center-of-the-lap space for him. It's taken him a long time to come this far - and I feel privileged to be on the receiving end of both his trust and his purrs.

Healing is good.

---------------------
P.S. I thought I should share a picture of the artistry of wastebasket, radio, and broom placement I spoke of last week.  It truly is an art form (and yes, they had to be placed just that way for the radio station to be clearly received):


Sunday, April 23, 2017

Wasted Brain Cells

Joe's new house is about thirty minutes west of mine, and so, if you put the radio with the broken antenna in just the right place, and push the tip of the antenna against the metal handle of a broom leaning against the door, you can pick up a radio station out of Topeka that plays country music classics.

When I don't bump the radio and reduce the music to static (I haven't quite mastered the trick of the proper antenna / radio / broom placement), I've been enjoying hearing songs I haven't heard in ten or twenty years.

As I was painting and singing along last Friday, I realized I'd been working for five solid hours, listening to the radio the whole time, and had only come across one or two songs I didn't know. For some of the songs, I knew most or all of the words. (A rousing chorus of 'Delta Dawn', anyone?) For all but those few, I at least knew the chorus.

It was fun, but it's a profligate waste of brain cells. Do you suppose, if I didn't have so many cells taken up by the second (and third) verses to Christmas songs, I'd have been able to pull up a few more names of people I hadn't seen for a while at the event I was volunteering for last night? Or, perhaps, if I couldn't sing all of 'Country Roads', I might be able to remember the different ways java can instantiate variables when faced with the question on a test, which would enable me to go back and get another programming job.

On the other hand, perhaps the words to 'Yesterday', fill the place where I can't quite remember the pain of the weeks following the operation that removed my breasts five years ago. Do the words to 'The Servant Song' stand in stead of the memories of the months immediately following mom's death?

Funny, the things we remember.
A blessing, some of the things we forget.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Time To...

I'm continuing to look for work. There is activity and motion, but nothing concrete is happening.  **sigh**

Back when I was working, when I pictured unemployment, I figured I'd have some trouble filling my days.

Not yet.

I'm still faithful about looking for work each morning. (Mornings are my best time for thinking and being creative.) But I can't look for work eight hours a day. I run out of leads to follow after three or four hours.

So then, I get to take a nap. (If I can't take naps when I have no specific time pressure, when will I ever be able to take one?) The good part is that when I lie down, sometimes, I don't actually fall asleep - I just ponder the state of the trees outside my window for a bit. It's hard for me to believe, but I think I'm finally catching up on my sleep.

Then? (This is where I thought I'd be bored...)

For the past few weeks, I've been heading out to Joe's new house. It needs some serious TLC before it's ready for he and Rita-Marie to move in. She's working some ungodly hours, is totally stressed and can't help with the cleanup. It would help her to be able to move on into the house; it's much closer to her office. I can't do anything about her job, but I can ease her stress a bit by helping to get the house ready.

Each room needs to have the popcorn ceiling scraped down. Assorted wall holes need to be patched and spackled. Everything needs to be washed down and Kilzed. Then, finally then, I can paint.

As I've been working, I have been so aware of the gift of time available to me because I am not working at a paying job.  My unemployment frees up my afternoons, so I can spend several hours painting on most days. (I don't do it every day - even when it's unpaid work, you can't do it every day, right?) I've been able to spend a good ten days out there already; the way job hunts go, I'll have the time I need to spend the additional ten days I need to finish the job. It feels good to be able to help make Joe & Rita-Marie's lives a little easier; to be able to remove just a bit of stress from their days.

Good Is.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Job Hunt

I keep telling myself this is the part of my camper van saga where things don't go so well. When I left AT&T, I knew I was trading safety and stability for a wilder ride down an uncertain course. And, here I am, looking for my next great opportunity in the world of work.

I find job hunting tedious and demoralizing. A gazillion listings out there, a million of which I qualify for, yet I haven't yet found the magic words to make the job listers stop in their tracks in sudden realization that they need look no further to fill their position because the resume of the most absolutely perfect hardworking and qualified candidate just landed in their inbox after I, Janice, hit the apply button. (what is wrong with these people???)  I haven't let that stop me, it just gets harder to muster up the discipline to scour the job listings day after day when nothing seems to 'pop'. (I've found good probable matches, had two interviews in the five weeks I've been looking, so it's not an all-bad-news story.)

On the upside, after three weeks of cool temps and daily rains, Spring has decided to come back! The rains have washed away the winter dullness, the grass is green and the trees are in bloom. It's a rare day outside, and because I don't have to spend time in an office today, I get extra time to enjoy it. Blessing and Bonus all rolled into one.

I'm amazed at how quickly my days go. I keep thinking I'll run out of ways to fill my time; I will get bored with not working, but each time I complete an item on the top of my list, another appears to attach itself to the bottom. So, on the days when I can set worry about money aside, which is most of them, I find myself enjoying the luxury of time to work with my hands. Time to whittle down the list of to-dos that called to me all last year as I commuted between home and Seattle.

And. AND. All the days are sleep-in days. I realize my years of work have fostered an unreasonable attitude towards my alarm clock. Truth be told, now that I'm caught up on my sleep, I wake up just a few minutes later than I did these past few years when I was still working. The difference is the time I take to wake up slowly. To peek from one barely opened eye to check to make sure the sun remembered to rise. To mull over my dreams and set a tentative order to the tasks of the day. To stretch and doze a bit - and then, finally get out of bed some thirty minutes later.

Stop.  Breathe.  Relax.



Saturday, March 25, 2017

Connections II

I went to Rose's dad's funeral today. He'd gotten sick about a month ago, and last week, after 94 years of life, he died in his sleep. I cried though his funeral - even when they are at the end of a long and good life, goodbyes are still hard. I cried for Rose. I cried again for Maria; my wordless grief over her too-soon departure is still near the surface.

My mind keeps circling back to connections.

I'm developing a vivid mental picture of a multi-dimensional web, surrounding, sustaining us, lifting us up, holding us when we'd otherwise fall. I sensed it surrounding us all last month, I saw it cocooning Rose today.

The strands are formed by love; frayed by distance and dysfunction. They connect us one to the other - to the people part of our lives today, to those who we have lost track of but still hold a place for within our hearts, to those who have traveled the path of death before us. When we die, the sections of the web connecting us to those who have died before us tingle, and the people at those connection points stop and turn back to pull on the strings to help us along the way.

I think this is why I've always found the saddest lives to be those where the web is sparse; the connections few. Their road to the afterlife is the hardest because they travel alone with no one ahead to encourage them and pull them across the tough and scary parts of the path.

Can you picture it?

Your eyes close for the last time, your soul prepares to depart from your body. With the eyes of love, you look ahead through the darkness to see a web, its strands made of light. At the end of each line is someone you love. As you begin to walk, the web closes in around you, showing you the way onward. Behind you, the lines flow to those who are sending you on your way with love; those for whom you will be one of the guiding lights when their turn comes, as it will.

Connections.
I'm going to have to keep thinking on this.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Spring???

It seems spring has changed its mind about arriving.

Last Friday, for Maria's funeral, the weather in Minnesota was brilliantly sunny, but cold.  Single digit temperatures.

We were only up there for a couple of days, and late winter decided to follow up back down to Kansas City. It's snowing outside again now, the second time this week. It didn't snow all winter, but now, in March, it's here.

The previous weeks of unseasonably warm weather had all the trees blooming - too soon, it turns out. The fragrance of their flowers has been abruptly cut off; the petals are brown, sad.

I can empathize.

The last few days have been tough. I've continued to look for work - fortunately for me, the computers on the other end can't tell how half-heartedly I push the apply button for the jobs. (If / when one of these pretend jobs turns into reality that, in itself, will boost my enthusiasm for the process.)

Yesterday, I was back to my January pattern. It's gray, it's cold. Time for a nap. Time to look out the window and contemplate the beauty of the bare branches waving gently against the gray sky. Time to retreat into a contemplative state. Not thinking, not trying to process the events of the year, but rather, just being with wherever the heck it is I am for a few minutes.

Processing hard things takes its toll. I'm sending a lot of healing energy in Tony (my eldest brother) and Libby's directions.  (Libby starts round II of chemo next week, Tony's prostate cancer surgery is scheduled for the end of the month.)

At the funeral, people kindly asked how I was doing. I had no answer, so deflected the question to a heartfelt, "it is good to see you - I am glad you are here today". If I were to be asked the question today, I would still have no answer. No idea how I am.

Winter 2.0 is scheduled to last only a few more days. Spring will return.

This, too, shall pass.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Not Fair!

Once again, I run up against the enduring unanswerable question stemming from my bout with cancer. Why not me???

Libby, my younger sister, is also battling the demon. But her demon is triple-negative and when they did a first round of chemo to shrink the tumor before surgery, it only partially worked. The tumor did shrink - but also started to grow back before she had her surgery six weeks later.

Fortunately, she has a good surgeon; the experienced kind who relies on what her fingertips tell her as much as the data from the scans. She found and removed the original tumor - then found two other spots where it was growing, and took those out, too. She removed the sentinel lymph nodes, and then, when her sensitive fingers sensed 'something off' about some of the others nearby, removed those, too.

The good news part is that they were able to remove all the cancer they found. The hard news part is that Libby will start a second round of chemo in a couple of weeks - a stronger one. Stronger is good for killing cancer cells. Stronger is harsh on the rest of the body as the doctors do the best they can to seek the delicate balance between killing all the cancer cells and leaving the rest of the body in a place where it will be able to recover when the treatment ends.

Chemo II will be followed by radiation - the cancer is gone, but statistics say the long term survival rate is better when radiation is done anyways.

When she heals from the radiation, she'll finally be able to get her implants filled and replaced with the permanent ones. I remember those temporary implants. They feel a lot like someone stuck a shower curtain under your skin. It's a creepy kind of feeling - and I know she's not looking forward to the 5-6 month delay in getting them out of there.

Libby is coping with all of this by searching for the good things anyways. (It's the same coping method I used to get me through my cancer, and then Kate's.)

The delay between the chemo and the surgery which allowed the cancer to grow back is not all bad - if they'd done the surgery right away and the visible tumor cells were still gone, they could very well have missed the signs telling them how aggressive the beast is.

She was worried from the get-go about the other shoe dropping. Now it has, and she as she put it, now she has a matching pair of shoes.

Knowledge is power.

You can do this, Libby Elizabeth Leonard the last (in line, licking lollipops, late at night)!
One step at a time, you can do this.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

New Beginnings III

Well, that job was fun while it lasted.

It was short term anyways, but disappeared a week before it was scheduled to - I'd finished the work they initially hired me to do.  There was talk about having me do further work, but the end customer lost their funding, and *poof*, it was gone.

I am grateful it lasted while it did - it got me through the last of winter,

Job hunting in the winter was hard(er).

I'd get up and do the job hunt part OK, but then, once I'd finished for the day (I've discovered I can only look for work half time...), I'd grab some lunch then look outside. It would be gray. Which means it must be time for a nap. I'd sleep for 30-45 minutes then wake up and gaze lazily out the window at the gray sky for a while. I'd finally get up, futz around for a bit, then look at the clock. Dang! It's three in the afternoon already. I can't start anything now, it's going to be dark in an hour!

So much for getting things done around the house.

I started looking for work again this past Friday, and the after-looking part of the day has gone much better. It's been unseasonably warm - climate change, anyone? But even though I KNOW sixty in February is not a good thing, and I'm worried about the long term implications, when I'm in the moment, it's hard to deny the joy that springs from my soul when I step outside and raise my face to the warmth of the sun.

I took advantage of the warm afternoons last week to clean winter's debris from my yard. I've made progress on my cabinets. I've been working on cleaning up the odds and ends in the corners of the house; the things that got put there, just for now, until I have a minute to get to them - and have been sitting there for six months. (It REALLY feels good to get those things knocked off the list.)

I haven't gotten any bites yet, but I've been diligent about looking for work. This soon after looking just last month, I'm finding it hard to press the submit button on the applications. My heart is convinced that they're just going to say no anyways, so why even try? I am discouraged. But I hit enter anyways - because if I don't, the right job won't have a chance to tell me yes.

The days are getting longer, winter is alllmmmoooossttt past. The cycle turns, and I am ever so grateful for the coming of spring.

Life Is!

Monday, February 20, 2017

Hard Things

I don't like to do hard things, but.

There are different types of hard things.

Hard Things 1: Things like slogging through the aftermath of my bout with cancer as I dealt with the effects of that damn shot. (Last week marked five years, cancer free! Yay, me!) It was hard, the days were long, my brain was foggy, my heart and body were tired. The best I can say about it was I got through it.

Hard Things 2: Things like helping Juliann to deal with Maria's death a couple of weeks ago. I've been wanting to ride in on my white horse and rescue that child for years. (Not that she needed rescuing, she has grit and determination and smarts enough to rescue herself.)

But as Maria's liver gave up functioning, and the end she both feared and wished for came to claim her soul, I decided the time was now.

Juliann did a marvelous job of taking care of her mom during the last few years of her life, but it's a whole 'nother level of hard to clean up the pieces after someone dies. This is where I gave myself permission to ride on in. Hi, Ho, Silver!

I spent a week helping Juliann clean up.

One day, we went over to Maria's and picked up every piece of paper we could find in the place. I spent the next two evenings sorting through - working to find the car title, the outstanding bills, the stuff that needed to be dealt with. I threw out bag after bag of old checks and bank statements that no longer had relevance. I smiled as I went through a box of Juliann and Connor's old school papers. I set some personal papers aside to be read later, once the dust has settled and hearts have healed.

I helped pack up Maria's apartment. This to Goodwill, this to Juliann's garage to look through later, these things back to the people who had loaned it to her, this to the trash.

The day after the move, my sister-in-law and I went back and gave the place a thorough cleaning.

After we were done, when I went back to Juliann's and handed her the keys, I was physically and emotionally exhausted, but in a good way. Finally, I was able to make her life a little easier, a little better. Because I'd been able to lift a few of the burdens off her slim and tired shoulders, she had the energy she needed to make the decisions only she could make.

As I got back on my white horse to ride off into the sunset, I decided I couldn't have asked for better payment for helping with a week full of hard things.

Hi, Ho, Silver!

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Goodbye, Maria

Maria John  1965 - 2017
How do I begin to say goodbye to my little sister?

She struggled with alcoholism for years, and lost the battle a week ago.  

Alcoholism is a cruel disease. It kills slowly and eats away at the mind while it tilts the body's systems beyond repair.

She was beautiful, intelligent and generous, and loved her children more than anything else in the world. But her disease destroyed her censors and brought out her dark side and drove her to actions and words she deeply regretted when she was sober.

Her disease took away her home and her laughter. It drove her to lose daily contact with her children. It stole her joy, her bright wit, and at the end, it took her beauty.

I'm not used to feeling so much anger swirling around someone's death. But as my sister-in-law said this morning, anger stems from a sense of injustice - and there was so much that was unjust around her last years. I can feel the anger, hot in my belly - but I loved her anyways - and we all did.

And, Grace Is.

This morning, all of my family who were able to be there gathered to empty Maria's apartment of the boxes we'd packed over the past few days. Her daughter was delayed, and stepped from her car to find herself surrounded by people who loved her and who had come to help. The scene was far from one she'd envisioned - the one where she labored alone to carry the boxes down the long unsteady straight flight of twenty stairs because the family still wouldn't come. She took one look around at the crowd and her eyes filled with tears - tears she couldn't wouldn't allow to fall. It took a little less than an hour for the eighteen of us to empty the three rooms of all their contents, Juliann's eyes bright with unshed tears the whole time. Her eyes reflected the tears hiding behind my own.

Tears of sadness, tears of forgiveness. Tears of love, tears of regret.

Her disease built walls between Maria and her family. This morning, some of those walls took a serious battering. It's hard to hold righteous anger in your heart when you are surrounded by love.

Maria's funeral is scheduled for March 10th. She didn't want her farewell to this world to happen in the cold and dark days of February. In this, I agree with her. Easier to say this final goodbye with the promise of new life and new beginnings in the air.

Sleep in peace, Maria. May your soul and your body finally be at rest.
And, yes, as I promised, I will do all I can to be there for your children.
I love you...

Thursday, January 26, 2017

New Beginnings II

I wasn't out of work for long.  Eight days, but who's counting?

I've found a short-term consulting job that started already this past Monday. The job will only last for 6-8 weeks, but I'm good with that. If I must be unemployed, I'd much rather it be in March than January.

I'm afraid I didn't utilize my time off as well as I'd hoped I would. I did the looking for work in the morning part pretty religiously. It was the work around the house in the afternoon part that fell kaput. I'd finish scouring the job sites and putting in my apps, then turn off the laptop and eat lunch. Then, when I should have started working, I'd look out the window. It was cold, gray. Surely, I told myself, a little nap wouldn't be out of order. So, I'd lie down for a bit, then I'd putz for a bit, then it was after four, and it gets dark at five and surely you don't expect me to work on stuff after dark!

I think I only talked me into getting stuff done on two of those eight days.  Not a good track record, unless I consult the "I'm free" voice - it LIKED the putzing and napping part.

How do I like the new place? So far, so good - the company is really small; an interesting change from the larger places I've worked. The job can be done mostly remotely, except for client meetings. This means I get to work from home. I like working from home.

Maria (my sister who's health has been on edge these past two years) took a turn for the worse last weekend, and my heart is calling me home to Minnesota. I need to be there for her daughter; I need to be there for me.

Fortunately for me, one of the hallmarks of a small company is flexibility. When I went in on my first day, I told them what is going on. I said I needed to go to Minnesota for a bit; that I wouldn't blame them if they wanted to rethink their decision to hire me and look elsewhere instead. They told me they didn't really care how remote I was; that as long as I was online, they didn't care if it was MO or MN that I was working from. I am most grateful.

More hard stuff.
I'm rather tired of hard stuff.

But grateful for a couple of weeks off to gather my strength before facing down this latest heartbreaker.
Grateful for a company that will trust me to work completely remotely.
Grateful to have money coming in.
Grateful that beginnings follow endings. Even the hard endings.


Friday, January 13, 2017

New Beginnings

My last day at Ericsson was last Friday. It was with much regret that I finished up my daily team call, wrote up the notes, sent them out, and shut down my laptop one last time. I didn't want to leave - I HATE leaving things uncompleted. I worked hard almost right up to the end; I wanted to hand over my project neatly wrapped with a red bow.

I worked around the house over the weekend; got started on building the closet shelving system.

Monday, I got up and started to look for work. There's not a lot out there right now, but I'm looking anyways. I figure that if I never hit the submit button on these job ads, they'll never have the chance to tell me no. Or ignore me completely. I mean, what fun is life if you don't have job applicants to ignore? And, eventually, most likely, one of them will look at my resume and say, 'yup. that's what we're looking for', and I'll be back to work.

I have competing voices going in my head:

Voice 1:  OMG! I'm unemployed and I don't have any money coming in and I'll never find a job and I'll be bankrupt and on the street and then I'll be homeless and... You get my drift.

Voice 2 (talking quietly, underneath Voice 1):  I'm free! I'm FREE!

Change is easier to adjust to when it's self-initiated, but I'm working on it.

Realistically, it's a bit much to ask that a job show up right when I need one.
Also realistically, I needed this break. I enjoyed my work at Ericsson, but constant time zone adjustments made me tired. Already, after just a week off (and my fourth week in one spot), I feel less tired. My body and the clock are in agreement on when it's time to sleep, time to eat.

It's good for me to have some time free. Time to look for work and work on my long-neglected projects, yes. But also time to take naps and do not much at all. Time to look around and breathe.

Someone once said it was good to have times in life where one can stop, breathe and relax.

Maybe the universe is trying to tell me something.


Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Happy New Year!

My sister's family has a quirky tradition they follow to ring in the new year. At midnight on the 31st, they run out the back door of their house - to usher out the old year, then run around the house barefoot to the front door, where they bring in the new one. The tradition wouldn't be quite so quirky if they didn't live in Minnesota, where the ground is quite cold come New Year's Eve. My brother-in-law is kind enough to clear a path for them on their annual jaunt - no need to add injuries from errant branches stuck in the snow to the mix.

This is the first year I've had a chance to join them for the festivities, and I must say, it wasn't so bad. I followed the teenagers out the door and almost to the corner of the house before my feet figured out what was up. From there, it was a quick sprint across the gravel (what, exactly, do you think you are doing???), a short jog across the concrete driveway (OUCH!  that bit of gravel that decided to quick-freeze to the bottom of my foot hurts!) with a few hops to remove the gravel bit, then up the front steps (whose idea was this???) and back inside (Made It!).

Once inside, feet tingling, bodies revved, we toasted the new year with a glass of sparking cider - and I was in bed within thirty minutes. (One can only take this acting like a youth thing so far, you know.)

I see a lot of life changes in this new year, starting with my job. I thought an issue with a non-compete agreement had been settled. My former company's lawyer disagreed and threatened to take me to court, so I have resigned my current position effective this coming Friday. Going to court is expensive, and I have lots of higher priority uses for my money than to use a good chunk of it to keep a contract job.  **sigh** Once my travel cut back to every other week, I really liked my job, and I was good at it. I'm trying to look at it like one of those nudges the universe gives from time to time - pushing me out of my comfort zone to a better place. It's not working, yet, but I'm trying to look at it that way...

The other life changes are more positive - Joe and Rita are engaged and have a wedding plan, so he'll be moving out. Kate, God willin' and the crick don't rise, will be graduating before summer. All good things.

5... 4... 3... 2... 1...  Happy New Year!