Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Truths and Consequences

Subtitle: Now where did I put me?

I've been on a downward spiral mentally lately and I finally landed, I think. Yesterday it culminated in a strong feeling of discontent and restlessness that I couldn't put my finger on. It felt familiar and suffocating. Overnight it became clear: I've lost myself again.

Over the past few weeks, I've been feeling unanchored, thoroughly unmotivated and quite unbusy work-wise. So I've tried to solve it by taking on more projects around the house and helping our daughter Erin with their daughters and generally hanging out. It got to the point where I found myself waiting for someone to need me or ask me to do something. I just haven't checked with myself to see what I wanted to do, what I needed to do for myself. I forgot that I need to find a share of myself to keep for me.

So my next project is to find time for me and remember to focus some of my attention on what I need to be content and feel fulfilled. I don't know why this slips me up periodically but it does and then I just get lost.

And on another level but in the same vein, I'm grossly disappointed in me. I have been watching with embarrassment (and not a little horror) as my weight has stayed firmly pegged (about 30 pounds above where it should be) despite my halfhearted efforts to eat properly and exercise. I'm eating well enough that I'm not gaining weight but I'm not losing, most of my clothes don't fit and I won't look in the mirror if I can help it. Along with that, I think I'm enjoying wine a little too much and believe that's also contributing to my lack of motivation, will power and overwhelming feeling of apathy. I worry because my father died of cirrhosis so I'm painfully conscious of my heritage and losing myself that way too.

When I was in b-school, my favorite saying was "if you keep doing what you're doing, you'll keep getting what you're getting." That pertains to my constant but self-sabotaged efforts to whittle my waistline and drinking now as it did then with studying. So the obvious answer is fix it or make peace with it. I can't make peace with it so I must find a way to resist my natural inclinations and habits.

A third part of this discontent is that next week I'm scheduled to assume the role of president for two non-profit church-based ministries in our community and I really, REALLY don't want to do it. I'm happiest in the background getting tactical things done, not being in the forefront crafting policy and leading. Yet another thing I need to make peace with that, incidentally, takes away a piece of me for the next two years. It isn't something I can avoid. So my attitude must slowly come around to what won't kill me makes me stronger.

More on this as I take a new deep dive into self discovery.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

High Maintenance

Maybe every woman is high maintenance at sometime. But it strikes me that some women I know are high maintenance pretty much ALL the time. My sister-in-law May is one. Her poor husband (even Johnnie and me) is constantly tending and running to keep up with her requests. As in "Teddy, can you get my jacket?" "We need more napkins." "Teddy, will you go ." She isn't debilitated just sort of a low level constant demanding. I don't mean the kind of demanding as when a person is ill and needs more tending than usual from their significant other or spouse.

She interrupts and frequently doesn't listen (guess those are two sides of the same complaint). Continually, usually with complete departures from the current conversation. My favorite is "Look, Teddy, a pergola," uttered as we're driving anywhere and not talking about pergolae/pergolas. (What's the plural of pergola?) They were on a pergola kick a few years ago and she was apparently on the lookout for every one in the county. Sometimes Johnnie and I will compare notes about how many conversation threads were actually taking place at a single time and how much our ears hurt from people talking over people.

Going to a restaurant is an anxious exercise in watching the waiter/waitress zip back and forth fetching lemon slices, napkins, more water, another drink, getting her bacon done extra crispy, taking the drink back because it isn't right, taking her dinner back to get it more done, changing her order, you get the idea. Sometimes there are thank yous but sometimes not. I sure hope Teddy tips well.

At home, Teddy and May have an arrangement. They have a two-car garage but it's full of Ted's woodworking equipment. It's a sore point with Mare as they live near Cleveland. Cold, snowy Cleveland. So it's Ted's job to go out and clean off May's car every day and warm it up in the winter. While they were here a couple weeks ago, Ted was dispatched to warm up their car in our driveway. It was easily 55 degrees outside. Not car-warm-up weather, according to me.

For a couple weeks after we've been with them (at their house or ours) I fret that I'm high maintenance which I absolutely positively do not ever want to be. Johnnie assures me that I'm not but I still worry. To me, high maintenance means being demanding and being served. In Googling the phrase, it seems that others interpret high maintenance to mean expensive clothes, Botox and lots of personal maintenance services. Perhaps so but that's not what I'm referring to.

I want to do things for myself. More than that, I get uncomfortable if I feel I am being waited on hand and foot. At restaurants we specify how we want food prepared but then we tip well to compensate the staff for taking care of us. And thank them copiously. We tend to patronize the same places all the time so they get to know us and our idiosyncracies.

My sister used to say that her daughter was high maintenance and I guess maybe she is, in a different sort of way. Must have her Starbucks every day. Must drive a high value car. Spends money like it's water (and they don't have it to spend). I never thought of her as high maintenance, more just indulged and unwilling to change her habits. Perhaps that is another version of high maintenance. Interestingly, my sister was a hugely high maintenance person but it never seemed that way until you were the one jumping to keep up with her requests.

I suppose it isn't necessarily a gender thing and that men can be high maintenance too. I just don't know any personally. And probably there are more high maintenance men and women in certain cities -- Los Angeles or New York City for example -- where wealthy or famous people are accustomed to constant tending and servitude from others. It just seems way out of line to me.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Picture Post

While reading other people's blogs, I've noticed that I really enjoy the ones with pictures. No surprise, really as this is the classic age-old marketing communications principle: people like looking at other people. So as I was lying awake at 3 am this morning, I was thinking that this post should be all about pictures of Juniper (aka Juni) our 15-week old chocolate lab puppy and our big weekend in early October with the granddaughters, Emily and Elizabeth and Lucy. (I'm also learning how to work with pictures in my blog - please be patient with me!)

Above left, granddaughter Lucy (15 months) tries coming through the tunnel slide from the bottom up. Right, granddaughter Emily (3 years old and fashionably clad in her Oscar t-shirt) climbs up to another slide.

Poor Juni, such a rough life. She played so hard she had to take a nap on the step for a while.

Juni relaxing on the front steps a couple weeks ago while we worked to put away lawn and deck furniture. She even has milk chocolate lips and eyes. Her cuteness works greatly to her benefit when she's been naughty and, for example, chewed the dryer vent on the outside wall of the house.

Above left: Judy (at our favorite coffee shop) cuddles Juni while she still fits on a lap. She is a chocolate lap-rador (Juni, not Judy)! Right: Daisy and Juni take a well deserved nap in the office while I work.

Above: Sister-in-law May, her granddaughter Elizabeth and our granddaughter Emily snuggle in a tent momentarily at The Sandbox. The girls were wearing matching candy corn shirts from Target.

Happy Halloween everyone!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Y'all broke my kid

We had a huge weekend. That's why there have been no posts since last week. Sorry. Back to the weekend. John's brother Fred, our sister-in-law Mary and their three year old granddaughter Elizabeth (called Lizzie or Liz) came up to visit. In turn, we had our three year old granddaughter Emily for the weekend too. The two girls are about eight weeks apart in age. We've had them together before but now they're old enough to really have fun and actually play together.

The idea was for the two grandmoms to take the little girls and go play on Saturday. The brothers would go off and do brotherly things, then we'd have everyone over for dinner on Saturday evening.

Fred, Mary and Liz arrived on Friday afternoon. Emily had spent the whole day asking me when "wibet" (the best I can do of her version of Elizabeth) was coming. And spotting every car or little girl and asking if that was Wibet. (We've always called Liz Elizabeth, it's just a nicer version of the name although Liz is easier for her to spell and manage name-wise I guess.)

For her part, Liz was doing the same thing to Fred and Mary -- asking where Emily was and when she was going to see her.

We met at our favorite restaurant (you have to get there early to get served without a long wait beforehand) and the girls immediately began playing and being super excited: jumping up and down on the benches, yelling, crawling under the benches, spilling chocolate milk and much more. I eventually got up and apologized to the people in the next booth as both girls had hit their heads on the back boads of the both MANY times. The family there was really cool about it which was great. Still. We've been there and had kids clunking on the booth and know it to be irritating depending on the type of dinner you're having (if it's a romantic evening, forget it).

After dinner, we went to a farm market that puts up giant teepeesfilled with hundreds of illuminated elaborately carved pumpkins. The girls picked out pumpkins and we went on a short unscary hayride into the woods. Then we came back to our house, got them into jammies and into bed. The room Emily sleeps in has a queen bed in it and we also put an aerobed up so each little girl could have her own bed -- didn't think trying to put them into one bed was going to work. Neither did the aerobed/big bed arrangement. There was plenty of talking, squealing, bouncing and then crying. Emily sleeps with white noise (radio tuned to static at our house) and a nightlight. Liz sleeps in quiet. Just wasn't going to work. So we moved Emily into our room and both girls promptly konked out.

We rigged a bed on the floor from pillow shams and extra pillows and blankets so that's where Emily slept when we came to bed. That was fine until about 6:30 Saturday morning.

When both kids (and the new puppy) were up and ready for the day, we headed out to one of our favorite breakfast restaurants. Both girls had new Barbie dolls brought by Fred & Mary so they were reasonably occupied while we ate. After breakfast, Mary, Liz, Emily and I took off for an indoor playground called The Sandbox . We had the place almost to ourselves and had great fun. Then we headed to the Scarecrow Festival that the village puts on -- organizations decorate scarecrows and they're displayed along Main Street. Another great excuse for a festival - food, lots of families out walking through the sunny October weather to look at all the scarecrows. We took the kids on an antique fire engine ride and had ice cream for lunch. In total, we walked probably close to three miles, more than plenty for the little ones!

We came back and all of us took naps. Then Erin, Mike and Lucy (15 months) came up for dinner. The weather was so good we ate on the deck rather than in the house. It was beautiful outside. Even the yellow jackets didn't bug us. After Erin, Mike and Lucy left, we got the kids into their jammies and watched Toy Story. They were both mesmerized and stayed up until about 10:30. Emily leaned over to me at one point and said "When the movie is ovew, I want to go to bed." Never thought I'd hear her say that!

We tried putting them in the same room but it was clear almost from the start that it wasn't going to work again. So we moved Emily to our room and Liz had the aerobed. Ultimately, Johnnie ended up on the makeshift bed on the floor of our room and I slept with Emily.

Sunday morning, Liz was up early and we were on our way to breakfast by 9ish. We stopped for coffee and Erin met us to trade Emily back. By then we were REALLY ready to be on our own for a little while. Fred, Mary and Liz took off for home and Johnnie and I went home for a nap. Naps are really lovely, aren't they? Very restorative.

Erin called about 6pm to tell us that Emily slept from 1:30 to about 5:30. Her comment: "Y'all broke my kid!" comes from keeping Emily going so much that she took such a long nap. Let me tell you, the kids broke the grandparents too!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Snowflake on the Dashboard

When Johnnie was still working a 40+ hour a week job at the corporation-not-to-be-named, we decided to get him a more cost efficient car for commuting -- he was traveling about 20 miles each way to work. We bought a Prius before it was an economic imperative.

Now he's a school bus driver at a neighboring district. I don't have to get up in the morning with him but I do because I work better in the morning and getting started that early helps me establish a reasonably efficient routine, especially when I have paying work to do. So we get up about 5am and we're out of the house at roughly 6am to get coffee, then Johnnie heads off to the transportation office and I come home to really wake up and get my day rolling.

As we drive in our respective vehicles to get coffee, we talk by cell phone. I know it's goofy but we've been doing it for years. Our kids think we're silly. We have a set couple-chat patter that we go through each morning. Johnnie calls, tells me the current conditions and then we exchange a series of waves for the day. (Even though the wave thing is dippy, it helps us both know what's on each other's schedules for the day so it has become a valuable ritual for us. What's strange is when we're with someone we know and have to do the wave thing in front of them. We validate our weirdness for our family that way, also valuable.)

Today is October 7th. We had a mostly killing frost last night (btw, isn't it EARLY this year??) so the allergy sufferers among us can begin to get some relief. So in Johnnie's description of the current weather conditions at 6:05am this morning he said, for the first time this fall season, "There's a snowflake on the dashboard." Sigh. Groan. The Prius posts the temperature on the status screen and posts an electronic snowflake on the dashboard when the temperature gets close to freezing, usually shows up about 37 or 38 degrees. And cheerfully puts the @#$% snowflake up here every time the temps are below 37 degrees. I seriously think I can see the car leering gleefully at me as it puts up the snowflake every morning without fail from October until April. Grrrrr.

It isn't that I mind the snowflake on the dashboard per se. It's what it means: several months now of wintry yucky cold GRAY weather. I'm a warm weather girl and I begin about now to question my/our sanity in staying in this part of the country. We grapple with snow where other states battle mudslides, hurricanes, wild fires, floods and tornadoes but that is absolutely no comfort (to me at least) when we're being battered with snow and ceaseless grayness for 30 consecutive days in January and February. The snowflake on the dashboard is the first harbinger of those things to come.

We lived in Minnesota for 11 years and while it was bone chilling cold for weeks on end, it was sunny and pretty outside. Here? Not so much of the pretty part. And definitely very little of the sunny part. Cheerful and comfy become challenges.

We peg our yearly schedules to the snowflake on the dashboard, when the Erie Canal gets drained and refilled, when our favorite ice cream shop reopens, when we can sit outside at our favorite restaurant. At this time of the year I begin mourning all the lightness and warmth of the waning summer. We aren't considering moving (yet) because of Erin, Mike and the little girls. So we'll suck it up for another winter and continue questioning that sanity every day from now until April. Welcome back, little snowflake.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Got Change?

When I'm not hanging out with John, Erin & Mike and/or the grandkids, I really do still have a business (sort of) that I'm trying to keep alive.

My computer is my lifeline for my work since I'm a marketing and technical writer. Over the past few months, my computer has been getting decidedly more temperamental and hinky. It needed CPR to start in the morning and would freeze up or decline to respond during routine activities. Any time new applications were added it would need cajoling and sweet talking to wake up the following day. We added a new version of Weatherbug a few weeks ago and then the computer stopped shutting down gracefully too. I had to exit Weatherbug first, then shut down. We discovered over this past weekend that it hasn't been backing up my hard drive since late August and hasn't been alerting us that it wasn't happening. Aggravating!

The handwriting was clearly on the wall that it was going to need to be replaced sooner rather than later. A couple weeks ago Johnnie suggested that I pick up a new PC at Aldi's (of all places!). Besides the strangeness of my shopping list that day (peanut butter, refries, cauliflower, PC, little carrots) was the bizarre feeling of putting the PC box on the conveyor belt and then checking out with a $500-something charge.

So Johnnie has been working to get my new PC set up while I continued to work on the old one. He switched me over to the new one yesterday. Please let me say how wonderful it is to have a husband with such comprehensive geekiness skills. He does computers (even owns an iTouch), auto/truck repairs, woodworking, electricity, plumbing, etc. And he's really normal, except for that early childhood foray into accordions -- but that's for a future post.

While sometimes it's tough to get his attention to get things done because he has such varied skills and interests, it is wonderful to have a resident expert who doesn't have an overly inflated concept of what he can and cannot do. Usually I'm the one who won't allow him to do things such as building an additional garage or cleaning the gutters. Been there, done that. No need to prove you can. Write a check and have someone else do it is my motto.

Anyway, so now I'm on the new PC and the old one is sitting here silently (probably sulking) under the desk. I really hate changing PCs. You never know what didn't transfer successfully. And I know where I put things and my own special filing system that Johnnie doesn't necessary comprehend. What's more, this is now a Vista operating system so we don't know whether all my specialized applications will make the trip. That's the next step.

I just discovered that I can't IM with Erin this morning. My calendar transferred OK but it lost the most recent appointments I've put in it. Offered to scan a couple pages of cross stitching patterns for Erin and realized my graphics packages aren't here yet. Sigh. Patience is not my strong suit on all this stuff.

Generally I can tolerate change fairly well. But changing PCs taps every drop of patience I have. Please help me pray for patience. And I want it RIGHT NOW!

Friday, October 3, 2008

Army of Women

This wasn't actually the second post I was thinking about writing. However, we saw a feature on the ABC national news last night about the Army of Women. And it's important enough to get the word out.

A research doctor, Dr. Susan Love, and Avon have teamed up to recruit one million women in every age, ethnicity and breast cancer risk-- to contribute to the research to find the common risk factors for breast cancer. Dr. Love's theory is that without studying representatives across the entire spectrum of women we cannot determine how to isolate and eradicate breast cancer once and for all.

So far, 68,000 women have been recruited. Signing up is simple so please go to the site today and sign up, then send the link to every woman you know. Participation in research may mean anything (quoting from the site here) "from filling out a questionnaire to donating blood, breast duct fluid, saliva or perhaps a core biopsy of breast tissue." You decide whether you are interested in taking part and to what extent. The researchers will then call to let you know what they need next. Each woman's safety and privacy is protected and each project undergoes scientific, safety and ethical reviews before it is started.

Our oldest daughter, Holly, lost her birth mother to breast cancer when she was only two years old. I adopted her after I married her dad and she's as much my daughter as Erin, despite the fact that we don't share any DNA. Obviously she has significant risk factors predisposing her to breast cancer since her mom was only 31 when she died six months after diagnosis. She's been getting screened frequently even in her 20s to make sure she stays cancer free. I hold my breath for her all the time.

One of the quotes on the site says, "Writing a check isn't as gratifying as being a part of breast cancer research." She's right. As part of this country's population (whether male or female), we have the opportunity to remove breast cancer from the legacy we leave for our daughters and granddaughters. Do this now, please!