Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Paying attention

I'm writing this with one white cat sprawled across my lap, belly up, head on my right arm, so if there are a few typos, blame Cheswick. For whatever reason, he's begun to seek my lap when I'm at the computer -- he is Tony's cat, to be sure, but I'm apparently the pick of the month for the computer lap. Could be that Tony's is usually filled with McMurphy.

This white one is sleeping. Head tucked into the crook my elbow makes as I'm typing. Paws stretched up my chest. It is too cute for words.


I went to Redding today and as I was driving, thought about how January is nearly over, and how I've been so focused on meeting deadlines that the days have slipped by almost without notice.

This is not how I want to live my life! I want to savor each day for whatever experience, whatever lesson it may bring. I want to notice the food I'm putting into my mouth, the feel of the blacktop under my sneaker-shod feet as I walk in the mornings, the sound of the outdoors. I don't want to be so obsessed with work and deadlines that I go from one task to another to another, and then it's time for bed, and another day is gone!

This morning I started right, at least. As we were eating breakfast, I tried doing a little eating meditation -- noticing how the fork felt in my hand, the texture of the sausage or the egg, the tang of sage and pepper. The taste of the yolk -- all by itself, no bread, no egg white. And the mouthfeel of the food.

It didn't carry over into the other meals, of course. We ate lunch hurriedly so I could get on with errands; we talked over dinner. And here I am again, time for bed, and this day is gone for this year.

I've been walking the loop around our subdivision nearly every morning with neighbors and Tony -- about 2 miles, about an hour. I really like walking this road. Even though we're talking the whole time, I still notice things you don't see from a car: the thick pine barrier one neighbor has cultivated around his property, a buzzard warming his wings on top of a telephone pole, the slopes up and down of the land. I like that connection with the world -- and also with friends every day. It helps me to pay attention to where I am.

And every night as we snuggle down between the flannel sheets and the kitties come nestle into their favorite places, I think how grateful I am to have this. I pay attention to the feel of those sheets on my tired body, the warm bulk of the man I adore next to me, the quiet of the house as it settles down and shuts off for the night. I notice the moonbeams -- so bright as the full moon approaches! -- glowing whitely around the shuttered blinds on the windows. It is a blessed time and one I never take for granted or fail to notice.

I still have deadlines to meet on projects, but I'm going to try not to spend my whole days meeting them, glued to the computer screen. I want to pay attention to my house -- to finish a project or three I've had on my list but have put off because of responsibilities -- nearly all self-inflicted -- taking priority. Yes, they need doing because I made a commitment. But they don't deserve so many moments in the day -- ultimately they are not that important. Paying attention to the world around me, to the messages from the universe that come then -- that is what is important.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Gimme a P...rocrastination

It's my own fault. I've managed to put off doing an eight-page newsletter, an article for the local paper, and an e-mail composite of news items all week. So here it is Saturday night and I've been working for the last four hours, put in a couple more this afternoon, and will stare down the computer screen all day tomorrow.

I'll get it all done. I always do, even if I'm just under the wire. And none of these are a matter of life and death or critical to a good performance review, so if they're delayed by a day or so, it really won't matter much.


I have always worked to deadlines -- in grade school, in high school and college, in every single job I've ever had. If I don't have 'em, I set 'em for myself.

And I've always been a procrastinator. I skate verrryyy close to the edge most of the time, which used to drive my professors and advisor nuts. I suspect a few of my bosses worried too, but they also learned that I'd do what I said I'd do and make the deadlines.

I don't even know why I procrastinate. It's generally not because I don't like a project and therefore delay doing it. Part of it is that I process a task in my head -- such as writing a story or doing a layout. When I finally get going on the task, it almost always goes together quickly, but I like to think it's because I know how it will flow because I've thought it through. But I'll admit that procrastinating like that does not leave room for mishaps like computers not working or electricity going out.

So I did some playing last week, and a bunch of putzing, a few constructive activities, and not much on this stuff I'm facing now. And I've got a big itch to really spruce up the house, clean it really well, hang pictures, make curtains, weed out closets, invite folks to dinner -- and I won't let myself do that until I meet these other deadlines. *sigh*

I'll get there. The writing and the layouts will get done. I'll make a new list of things I must do next week and then find satisfaction in checking them off so I can get to the things I really want to do.

Unless something more interesting comes along.

I'm reading Anne Rivers Siddons Sweetwater Creek.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Running down the trail

to the presidency, that is.

No, I'm not going political here. (Not yet anyway.)

But Tony has an interesting analysis of the currently-declared or nearly so presidential wannabes on his blog.

We have interesting conversations at the kitchen table -- we don't see eye-to-eye on some of the issues. However, I'd like to think that some of my liberal observations have rubbed off on him, just as his neocon declarations have at least made me think.

Matalin and Carville. Only without the salaries.

Ya gotta have friends...

Long ago in another life, a friend gave me a little framed quote done in scherenschnitte: Friends give joy and divide sorrow. It's moved with me for years, sometimes displayed on a little stand, sometimes on the wall. It reminds me of that friend, of that time in my life (plus the craft itself is remarkable).

I feel truly replete with the friendships I've found here -- very blessed with friends. I'm not quite sure how it happened, except I know you have to be a friend to find a friend. But we were talking the other night about all the activities we're doing with neighbors and friends, and how wonderful that feels! It was one of the reasons we changed our lives four years ago: we wanted more than going to work, coming home, doing chores, watching a little TV, and repeating that pattern -- there was just no time for anything else.

So we visualized that, along with some other things. Another friend, knowing what we were trying to do, gave us It Works! It is a short little book that focuses on asking very specifically for what you want and then visualizing that every day. I suppose it's a very simplistic approach to visualizing, but it helped us tremendously. And the goals we visualized have all happened.

I think that when you actively visualize an outcome, you also unconsciously align your energy and your actions to make it happen. More than 10 years ago, I began to realize that I needed to make some changes in my life -- big ones -- because I knew that when I was at the end of my life I didn't want to look back and say "I wonder what would have happened if..." I was no longer willing to settle, to allow life to happen to me instead of actively working to make the life I wanted. An Internet buddy told me, after listening to me talk yet again about wanting to change, "Then make it happen, sister." And I did.

Right now I'm working on new goals --especially for business -- and always giving thanks for those we have attained and continue to cherish. It is a blessing to start the day walking with friends, to exchange e-mails or phone calls with faraway friends, to share a cup of tea with friends, and to have fun going places and doing things with friends. To share joy, to divide sorrow.

Monday, January 22, 2007

The 'I got them tears in my ears and drool down my chin goin' to the dentist' blues

I go to the dentist regularly because I know that dental health is important to overall health. I get 'em cleaned every 3-4 months. And I hate it. All of it.

My dentists through the years have been good people: sensitive, caring, efficient and thorough, and skilled. With the exception of one mean old endodontist long ago, they each have been very understanding about my dental phobias. And I'm a good patient, I might add, although when I've moved from location to location, I've usually procrastinated finding a new dentist until it's clear that something is wrong (usually a missing filling or a toothache), and then I go, cry at the first appointment, and then am fine (more or less) for any subsequent appointments.

(Even though I still need to take enough anti-anxiety meds to allow my whole body to rest in the chair instead of tensely balancing on my hands and heels and back of the head.)

Don't laugh. I'm serious. When I was a child going to the dentist -- sans any meds, and at least once sans any novocaine -- I was so afraid of being hurt that I'd be tense as a board. While the hygenist/assistant and dentist always told me to raise my hand if it hurt, I'd still cry through the procedure, a slow drip of tears. And more than once, when I did lift my hand, the assistant gently put it back down again, which just increased the tear flow because it hurt and because I was so intimidated.

Because my head was lower than my feet, the tears would leak out of the corner of my eyes and drip into my ears. I'd end up with wet face and wet ears, and feeling very sorry for myself.

I even wrote a column about it when I was a cub reporter back in the late '60s for the Springfield Missouri Daily News, and I got mail -- mostly from dentists, who were not thrilled that I'd talked about how the drilling hurt and the rather unsympathetic assistant who put my hand down and just patted it when I'd lifted it to indicate pain. One of them admired the bright smile shown in the photo that ran with my byline, noting that the dentist had had something to do with that. There also were a few who completely understood how I felt since they are also dentalphobes.

So today I got my teeth cleaned. I've been brushing with an electric brush and using all the little dental torture instruments the hygenist has recommended. And I wear braces, which makes all of it more time consuming and tedious. She commended me on the wonderful job I've been doing, but then pointed out the places I've missed. Eh. So we'll try to hit those -- at least in the couple of weeks before my next appointment.

And then she fired up the ultrasonic de-plaquer, whatever it's called.

When I get my teeth cleaned, I go pre-medicated for pain and at least a little bit for anxiety. Digging around these old teeth and new crowns can really hurt. And despite all of this, I had puddles of tears in my ears by the time she'd finished.

The sonic thingamabob whines its way around the gum lines and in between teeth with the occasional oopsie into gum or lip tissue which hurts like someone stuck a hot needle into it. She had both hands in my mouth (and it's big, but not THAT big) and my neck was crooked. There was a heating pad behind my back, which is supposed to help relax me, but all it did was make an uncomfortable hump between my shoulder blades and the back of my head.

Oh, I always bring a CD player with some kind of loud music that will drown out the whine and help me concentrate on something besides what's going on in my mouth -- but it only partially worked today. I could feel my body begin to levitate off the chair into the three point (heels, hands, head) position and my jaw was locked so tightly that the whole side of my face hurt. The little suction thingy hung over my lip, but trails of saliva mixed with water still drooled down my chin and I worked hard not to gag as it pooled in my throat.

I felt very sorry for myself. snifflewhimperpoutwhine

When she'd finally scraped the last shreds of plaque (and a little enamel and gum tissue too), I was offered a choice of chocolate, raspberry or bubble gum flavored tooth polish. Bleah. (Maybe they should offer adult flavors: scotch on the rocks, martini, merlot...)

And once my teeth were raspberrily polished, the doc came in, poked around with his needlenosed probe, and pronounced me fine. Thankyouverymuchseeyounexttime.

So I made my way to the lobby and scheduled another appointment in four months, and then went to the car where I wiped my ears dry and let my chin quiver and the tears flow. And I wondered just how old I'm going to have to get before I stop feeling like this every time I have to go to the dentist. Pretty old, I'm guessing, and probably with a goodly dose of dementia or amnesia thrown in.

I'm reading Picoult's Plain Truth.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

From Grey's Anatomy to the great wheel

I just finished watching this week's "Grey's Anatomy," the very hot series on ABC.

The father of one of the primary characters (George) died following surgery: they took him off life support, with his family standing around his bed, touching him. And Christina (another character, not known for her empathy) told George that he now belonged to the dead dad's club -- one that you're not in until you're in, and you wish you weren't in it. When George told her he didn't know how to live in a world that no longer had his dad in it, she replied, "That doesn't change."

It made me cry. I know how that feels. And my daddy died following surgery, and we also took him off life support, although I was 2000 miles away and connected to my mother and brother only by phone and heart when he died, although I flew there later that day. So it hit big time with me tonight.

I know it's just a story on a popular TV show. I cry at movies, at sappy Hallmark commercials, at sad books or stories in magazines -- and TV programs. One of the reasons the show is so popular is that the characters are not perfect, and they arouse empathy as they struggle through relationships and failures and fears and joy. Their emotions and experiences resonate with most of us -- one of the reasons that show is so successful, I think.

I miss my parents tonight. I wish I could pick up the phone and listen again to my dad tell me about -- oh, just tell me about anything. When I'd talk to my folks each Sunday, first Mother would tell me what she'd been doing, how she was feeling, who she'd played cards with that week, the bits and pieces of life. Then Daddy would get on the phone and we'd often talk about politics: national, sometimes state or local, and sometimes he'd really get on his soapbox and marvel at the stupidity of this or that. I didn't care what he was saying. I just cared that he was saying it: I'd close my eyes and just soak up his voice talking, storing as much as I could of that sound in my head. Especially after he died, I'd listen that same way to my mother. I could see her expressions in my mind's eye as she spoke-- I knew how her face looked when she was animated, or when she was tired, or worried, or discouraged.

Oh, I know it's all part of the great wheel of life, that it turns slowly from birth until death, and while our stories are different, the basic evolution is the same for each of us. We're born. We live, love, laugh, sing, dance, cry. We touch others' lives and they touch ours, and nothing stays the same. Our actions affect not only ourselves but the lives of everyone we love who also loves us. And we die. And the wheel keeps turning, again, over and over through the ages.

We all have that in common despite our vast differences. We are not alone in our loneliness, in our sadness, or with our leaky faces, for each one of us experiences these in the context of our individual stories. I cry for your pain and sadness out of my knowledge of how it felt for me. I wrap my arms around you not so much to comfort but to let you know you're not the first or only person to be filled with such grief or pain, and that you are not alone in it.

We are all connected, we humans. And it's when we realize this and communicate on these very basic levels that we can finally accept where we are on that great wheel and move ahead into grace.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Where do we go from here?

The new year -- any new start -- brings with it some analysis about where you are and what you're doing, and if you want to keep doing what you're doing.

We were talking about that last night. It was four years ago today that we moved here from the Bay Area because we wanted more of a quality of life than what we had. We wanted to make the most of every single day that we have together. Working 10 hour days at high-stress jobs in the Bay Area was not the way to do that.

We'd talked about what we wanted to do and where we wanted to go "after" those careers came to an end -- and being in high tech corporate environments where reorganizations and layoffs came with great regularity, we knew that could be any day.

There are some good books out there about finding your passion, living your dream life, making a life while making a living. We read a bunch of them. And talked. A lot.

And it resulted in our move to Red Bluff, changing careers, changing everything about how we'd lived before. We'd do it again in a heartbeat.

But you don't just stop growing and changing and evaluating even when you're very happy with what you have (and we are thankful every single day).

In the Feb. 2 issue of Woman's Day magazine, there is an article about "what I want next" and a process to help you get there. It's amazingly simple. While I couldn't find a direct link to the article, this site has the bones of the process. (Cathy Bonner, the author, also has a Web site where she sells and promotes her book.)

I've been thinking about it ever since I read about it. Although you're supposed to spend only minutes answering the questions and formulating goals, I've found that the questions are following me through the day and giving me some insights into where I want to grow, if not answers just yet.

If you try it, let me know what you think. More to come....

Saturday, January 13, 2007

A tapestry of relationships

For some years now I've sent greetings to friends and family for New Year's, figuring that it'd have more of a chance of being read (yes, I write one of THOSE letters).

Usually I get them in the mail shortly after New Year's Day. Not this year. They're going out today.

Looking at all those names in my card list, though, conjures such memories. I send mostly to family these days with a smattering of friends from our previous lives, and it seems that every year a few more drop off the list. Lives go forward, and sometimes it's time to let previous relationships go.

There's a popular e-mail piece titled "A Reason, a Season, or a Lifetime" which speaks to the relationships we encounter throughout our lives. I can look at my Christmas card lists and clearly see these different friendships through the years.

I'm a very loyal person, however, and I'm also a very curious one. I want to know what's happened to these people I knew and loved long ago: what did they do? Were they happy? What was their life like, at least until now? If I knew their children, what happened to them? Are they still married (or did they get married)?

When you let a past relationship go, it's like reading a story without ever knowing the ending.

And yet I can admit to myself that I really have very little in common anymore with many people I knew 20 or 30 or 40 years ago. We were friends then for specific reasons: our lives shared common elements.

I can point to the seasonal friends, the ones who came into my life either to teach me something or for me to teach them something. Once those lessons were learned, we took them away with us and our paths split. And yet my life would have been so different had I not met them!

Most precious, and most rare, are the lifetime friends. Family members count here: even when we see each other rarely, we share a connection that transcends life experiences. Oh, we might not be close either emotionally or physically, and our lives and belief systems may be very different, but we are family.

I can count on one hand my lifetime friendships, though, and these are precious. These are the friends who know you and love you, warts and all. They are the ones with whom you can pick up where you left off, even if it's been years since you've seen each other. You have a soul connection.

When I address envelopes and fold letters, and add little personal notes, I hold each person in my mind, and send them love and blessings for where they are now. No matter if they're reason, season, or lifetime friends, at least for those few moments I remember our relationship and give thanks for it, acknowledging its importance to my life and to where I am now.

I may never know the endings to all the stories I have in my Christmas card list, but my life is a tapestry of those story threads. And as I send letters to those who still have running threads in that fabric, I am grateful that I am still part of their story too.

My current book is Picoult's The Perfect Match.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

REAL winter is on the way

I was up well before the crack of dawn this morning (definitely not my usual style) because I had to appear at an early morning meeting. It appeared to be very cloudy and dark -- but then it was before dawn..duh.

As I drove into town, cloud fingers tinged with pink began creeping across the eastern sky , and I thought of "rosy-fingered dawn" -- a quote I knew had to have roots in literature somewhere. It's from Homer's Odyssey, Book II, and is fairly overused -- but it was all my caffeine-deprived mind could conjure. Nonetheless, the sky was reddened in anticipation of sunrise as I walked into the meeting -- and full sun greeted me when I came out. I also thought of the old "red sky at morning, sailor take warning" adage -- which, much to my surprise, has its roots in the Bible, in Matthew 16:3.

Oh how the mind follows such trivial threads!

Anyway, clouds have covered all that red stuff now, at noon, and we're told a true cold front is moving in that will bring temperatures into the low 20s with highs in the 40s. And while much precipitation isn't expected, we may see snow flurries.

So I'm making soup from leftover prime rib bones: a thick, hearty beef and barley concoction that scented the house with garlic and onion last night as I was cooking the broth. I'll throw some flour and oil and herbs into the bread machine, and we'll feast, snug and warm with the wood stove glowing.

I'm putting extra blankets into the kitty houses to keep them warm, although their fur is thick and all of them have put on weight to get them through the winter. And we'll do the cautionary faucet drip to keep water moving through the pipes, and open cabinets to allow warmth into faucets on outside walls. Outside pipes are well wrapped already.

But the 20s is not really cold -- well, it is for here -- but I was in Indianapolis the year it hit -27 -- that is BELOW zero. The car engine block froze. THAT is cold. And I don't ever again want to live in that kind of winter weather.

So we'll remember our days in the frozen Midwest, Tony and I, when he lived in Chicago and I lived in Indianapolis. And we will sip our hot soup and put another log on the fire, and give thanks that REAL winter in Red Bluff means lows in the 20s, and not the below zero 20s, and that even those temps will be short-lived this year, as highs are expected to go back into the 50s over the weekend.

Monday, January 08, 2007

A sight for a sore eye

My left eye has a big scratch on the inside of the upper eyelid, making it feel like I have a sand dune in it. It's tearing constantly, it hurts, and it's sensitive to light. ~whine~

Not sure how or when it happened, although when I put in that contact this morning, it burned like crazy and then it was hard to remove (it was fine yesterday) to check it. After I'd been out and about this afternoon, lenses in place, I tried to pop the lens out because it was clearly irritated and tearing. Well....just as I pulled on the eye to release the contact (they're hard lenses), Cheswick strolled just under my nose along the countertop, plumy tail high in the air and brushing my face. The lens did not fall into my hand, and it felt like it was still in my eye, but not over the iris.

Every contact lens wearer has "lost" a lens in the eye at some point. It slips onto the white and can be pushed, using fingers just below the eye, back into position. First you have to chase it all over the eye, however. It slides to the nose side. Then just under the iris, slipping away just as you think you've got it in position. Ooo..then let's go to the top of the eye, waaayyy back so you have to look down and at the same time manipulate the elusive disk into a place where you have a chance to slip it back onto the iris.

Except I couldn't find the lens. I turned on all the lights and checked my eye in the mirror. I pushed. I rolled my eyes. I got Tony to look with a magnifying glass and a light. It FELT like it was there. It certainly wasn't on the counter, or in my hand, or on Cheswick (I checked).

The eye got redder and redder, tearing more and more, so I called my eye doc and explained the situation (it was, at least, just before they closed -- not my usual luck) and was told to come in. At the clinic, the doc flipped on the very bright light and looked. Up. Down. To the side and up...then down. Nothing.

Except, she said, a very unhappy eyelid. Swollen and angry red with a big scratch.

So I'm stuck with glasses for this week, plus 4x a day eyedrops, a red, watery eye, and -- I thought -- the cost of a new contact. Not a good Monday.

Once home, I took a flashlight into the bathroom to go over everything once more, although I knew it had to be gone. Patted down the throw rugs. Examined every crumpled Kleenex discarded as I was mopping the teary eye. Moved glass, toothbrush, lotions. Peered into the hairbrush.

It's just money. Right.

Tony came into the bathroom to check on me and to aid in the futile search....and as he was looking on his side of the counter, he spied a greenish disk in his sink...probably a good 3 feet from where I was standing when the removal-with-Cheswick-strolling action went down.

Yup. That's my lens.

He said he'd probably have turned on the water without noticing it, and washed it down the drain. (Oh, I've taken wrench to pipe to retrieve a lens -- long ago when I first started wearing them. Since then I always, always close the drain.)

So I'm squinting and swollen and red-eyed tonight, but I don't have to buy a new lens. And the eye will heal. I am grateful for that, and reminded of how precious our sight is. Thanks to the universe for watching out for me today.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

I'm a bookie

That is, I love to read. I love books.

And right now most of mine are scattered all over the den floor in heaps and piles. I'm rearranging stuff to fit in the aforementioned photo albums, and while I was at it, decided to alphabetize everything and separate fiction and nonfiction. It may take a while....

In another blog I read, someone mentioned keeping track of the books they've read over the course of the year, so I'm going to add that every time I finish one.

Now be warned if you're thinking you're going to get some high-class book list that will warrant careful and serious discussion of the deep thoughts contained therein. While not impossible, it's not likely.

I'm a fiction junkie. I love 'beach-reading' books. Trash books -- okay, a step up from Harlequin romances -- I just cannot stomach those, nor others of that ilk, although I've read a few bodice-rippers that were fun. And I'm a serial reader. When I find an author I enjoy, I often read everything I can find that s/he has written, and watch publisher lists for new ones. I like escape reading -- stuff I can read every night in bed and blot out all the monkey-mind thoughts whirling in my head.

Jodi Picoult is my current obsession, and I'm on book four of her 14, although not in date order. She writes about families and relationships, often with situations paralleling real stories, with a twist near the end. They're good, engrossing stories.

Nora Roberts
and her alter-ego JD Robb, are good storytellers too -- sometimes a little magic, sometimes a little fantasy, a little sex -- and very easy reads. Fun stuff.

Oh, there are so many others...Diane Mott Davidson and her caterer-heroine Goldie Baer Schultz; Barbara Delinsky; Anne Rivers Siddons whose book Fault Lines -- sappy though it may be -- hit me at a time in my life when I was deciding what to do about a life that no longer suited me. And I know I'm forgetting so many others.

I suppose those could be classified as 'romance' novels. Definitely chick-lit.

But I also like Stephen King and Dean Koontz, although not everything from either one. I don't want to see movies based on their books, though. That's someone else's interpretation, and a little too intense for me.

And I like Thomas Harris of the Hannibal Lecter entrees. The first one I read of his was Silence of the Lambs and I was hooked -- this before I had a clue that it was going to be a movie (which I've never watched in its entirety). Gripping storyteller, if fairly macabre.

Love mysteries. I've got the entire Nero Wolfe series on my shelf. Daddy was a die-hard fan too, and gave me his Rex Stout collection years ago. Oh, they're fairly old-fashioned -- no sex, for instance, and no detailed blood and gore, but hey -- they're about an obese, obsessive-compulsive, designer-beer drinking, orchid gardener who wears yellow pajamas and rarely leaves his house, and solves mysteries when he chooses to with the help of his go-fer (and narrator) Archie Goodwin.

Years ago I also read all the James Bond books: did you even know they were books before they were movies? Michael Crichton. Robin Cook. Robert Ludlum.

And then there are the treasures: John Updike, a prolific and versatile writer who I got to hear lecturein the '80s; Tom Wolfe, a journalist-turned-novelist whose richly descriptive Bonfire of the Vanities was simply ruined as a movie (and I got to hear him, too!). The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings series -- among the few I re-read.

It's always been my belief that you can't appreciate the truly wonderful writers until you've also read the bad and so-so ones. When I read truly wonderful books, I savor them and will go back to re-read passages just to enjoy the flow of the language. I speed-read most everything else.

We're not done with this topic. I'll never be done reading.

My current book is Picoult's Vanishing Acts.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Being a mom

One of the joys of being a parent is when your child -- your grownup child -- calls to tell you about the new job they've accepted, and that they negotiated for the salary they wanted and got it. And you get to congratulate them and mean it. It'll require a move back to the city where she went to high school and college -- and from which she longed to escape a few years ago -- but that's a good thing at this point in her life.

We were talking about where she's going to live --and knowing the area, I said, "You'll need to be careful about some of those areas...I don't want you raped or shot when you get home at night.."

To which she emphatically said, "MOOOOOOMMMMM."

Meaning "Shut up. I'm plenty old enough to make those kinds of decisions for myself and I'm smart enough to be careful since I don't want to be raped or shot either."

And she is, too.

But I've been looking at photo albums -- four big boxes worth -- that came the week before Christmas. They chronicle my parents' lives, from long before they were married until 1999.

Here's the story: My brother and I got them a year ago -- three weeks before Mother died -- from the storage unit where we'd put furniture and household items right after Daddy died so suddenly in 1999 and we had to move her out of their senior community apartment into a nursing facility. Over the years we'd swapped out things from that unit into her room, or when one of us was going to be there long enough, sorted through some boxes, gave some stuff to the kids, threw some away.

The books had been sitting there all this time, though, and I was worried about mice and bugs, so I sent them home with him (he drove) so he could ship them to me.

So as I've unpacked them, I've looked at them. Here is my mother as a 20-something school teacher in Wisconsin. My dad playing Cyrano de Bergerac in college. Me as a newborn, a gawky teen, a very young bride. My brother in his 1970s Burt Reynolds look-alike phase. My daughter as a babe in my arms, an eighth-grader with one of those awful curly perms, a beautiful young woman.

My mother must have felt this way when she looked at those photos of me and my brother through all those growing-up and young adult years, or when we'd call to tell her and Daddy about our new job, a big award, or a move to another state, or a troubled marriage.

Once a mom, always a mom. Or a dad. No matter how old your child is, they're still your child.

They were better than I am about not giving unsolicited advice or cautionary words. Oh, I know they wanted to on many occasions, partly because we talked about their feelings and opinions at some point long after the incidents, partly because I knew my folks had good sense and good advice even if I didn't want to hear it.

And I've been much better about it since last summer when I realized that I have friends who are my daughters' ages and I certainly don't ask my friends the sorts of questions I'd asked my children, nor do I give them unsolicited opinion about how they should be living their lives and making their decisions! That was another one of those lightbulb moments -- when the light finally goes on in your brain and clearly illuminates your actions and words for exactly what they are. And you go "Oh my. I was acting like THAT?"

But they're going to have to allow me a slip now and then, like the one I made last night about safe areas. I AM a mom. She IS my babygirl. Who'll be 31 next month.


To my credit, I shut up about it right then. I'm proud of myself.

Even if I have been looking online for apartments in safe neighborhoods and sending her links.

Old habits die hard. Especially the mom ones.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Finding the gems

Especially for the last couple of weeks, it's been veerrryyyy quiet both in the office and the house. Business -- never particularly hot in December anyway -- has slowed from snail's pace to sloth speed (sloths move very slowly to avoid detection by predators). With no guests coming for the holidays, there was no rush or pressure to clean, cook, wrap, shop, nor need to be chauffeur or activities director, to ensure everyone had a good time.

So we were free to do as we liked: sleep late, or not, or read until the wee small hours. Eat what and when we were hungry. Hang in sweats all day. Watch movies whenever. No obligation to do anything other than please ourselves.

It was a little strange to do that, to do what I wanted to do without feeling like there was something else I SHOULD be doing.

(Okay, so I did feel guilty, a little, for ignoring the to-do list, the piled-high desk, the dusty floor. And I did give in to a little work on both home and office fronts, mostly just maintenance, no new projects.)

But I got to read big chunks of books at a time rather than the 20-minutes of in-bed reading I do nightly before I get too sleepy to continue. I finished magazines at one sitting. I cooked if I felt like it, or we ate soups or casseroles I'd frozen some months ago. I took naps and slept late. I watched Oprah. Only went into town if we had to. Went days without makeup and often wore my glasses rather than contacts. Didn't "do" my hair.

And these were the gems hidden in those quiet days: the freedom to choose, the pleasure of the choice, the lack of pressure to produce any kind of result.

I think the challenge in this new year will be to find the gem in even in the busiest days of obligations and meetings and projects. I'd like to drive my feelings and choices rather than to be driven by my admittedly overdeveloped sense of perfectionism and people-pleasing. I'd like to find a little more pleasure in my activities and ease off on the mostly self-induced pressure to produce results.

I want to remember how it felt during the holidays, and spread it through the year rather than wait for another quiet time to come around some time, some year.

Wait (lightbulb moment). It's about finding balance, isn't it. A little of this, a little of that, every day. It's that same lesson the universe keeps throwing at me.

So I'll work on it this year, seeking the gems, finding the balance, one day at a time. Again.