Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The River: Writing Challenge Day 31

Music is part of my soul. When I sing in church or in my chorale or in any other chorus of voices -that in that moment I am part of something bigger than myself, with the power to touch the hearts of others. It is amazing.

Monday, January 30, 2012

The River: Writing Challenge Day 30

You know when you dread something - you know you can do it but you really don't want to and you resent the world that makes you have to do this think that you dread doing?  And then you do it and it's really not that big of a deal and when it's over you are just relieved all over the place?  That's what's on my mind tonight!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

The River: Writing Challenge Day 29

I am feeling that familiar feeling that I wish I could be alone. Just by myself, away from the hands and voices that pull and compel, and the noises and habits of my closest circle...to reset my systems and remind me why I have chosen a more complicated life than perhaps my solitary nature can akways take in stride.

The River: Writing Challenge Day 28

Purchased Just Dance Kids 2 for the Wii this week as a surprise for the kids. Very well received but now I am cursed with the earworm of "I'm a Gummi Bear"  And I thought "It's A Small World" was an annoying song!

Who would you invite?

I don't know if anyone else does this, but from time to time I have been known to practice interview-type questions, out loud, usually in my car.  I am not always the quickest thinker, at least when unexpected questions are asked, so when I hear of some random interview question, sometimes I ponder what my response might be...

I've heard of a couple that stump me still - what books are on your nightstand?  Most of the time, I forget a book as soon as I put it down so, for all that I read voraciously, I can't often tell you the last 3 books I read.  Another was what woman in history do you most admire - uhhhh...yeah, I still can't think of a good answer for that since I know almost nothing about history nor do I consider anyone a real role model.  But one time someone told me they'd been asked what 3 people they would invite to a dinner party, if they choose from anyone living or dead.  At first, I thought this would be another stumper - but then the invitees came clear:  Amelia Earhart, Jacob Wetterling (for any who haven't heard of him, this young man grew up in a town near mine, and was abducted at age 11 by a stranger and never seen or heard from again - his family started a foundation to help families of other missing children), and my Grandpa Ray who died when I was only 5. 

Of course all these interview questions are intended to elicit the personality of the interviewee, and I often consider what my answers to random questions say about me.  I think the dinner party question, and my answers in that moment, certainly sang out loud and clear that I am curious about unanswered questions and always wonder about "the rest of the story". 

The River: Writing Challenge Day 27

My children are in 1st and 3rd grade.  It was impossible when they were babies to know what their personalities would be like in elementary school, but I wondered.  It is impossible now to know what they will be like in middle school or high school, but I find myself wondering what activities they will enjoy and what challenges they will face.  As I watch my nephew and niece consider their college plans and look ahead to their first jobs and young adulthood, I can't help but wonder about my own children and the paths they will choose to follow.  I am torn with the desire to keep them young and safe at home, while at the same time I celebrate every move toward increased independence and I am so optimistic that the future holds such great things for each of them.

How did I get here?

I wrote a post a day or two ago, here, where I tried to make a list of things I'd done in my life that I loved.  As often happens, when I start working on a project like that, I start reflecting. My reflections this morning were considering that list and wondering how it came to be that I started law school at age 30 and what I hoped to accomplish by that step.

I was about 28, living in Seattle, and finding little satisfaction and finding a lot of internal questioning about the purpose of my life.  I was unmarried, childless, living paycheck to paycheck in a rental property, working as a office support person, and not seeing any way that my life was going to change without someone disrupting the status quo.  Of course, I had always expected (assumed?) Mr. Right was going to come along and sweep me into some other life, but as I worked my way through my late 20s, I was starting to doubt Mr. Right's imminent appearance, and I think I was finally realizing that perhaps life would be more rewarding if I was the one moving myself forward, rather than waiting to be "rescued".  I spent some months pondering what I might do with myself, I applied for a bunch of jobs in diverse industries - thinking maybe I could find a business where I could advance.  I actually had 2-3 interviews with a shipping company in Seattle, starting out in a support role, but with the possibility of moving up if I earned it.  I was pretty disappointed to get passed over for that job actually and wonder sometimes how that might have worked out. 

Ultimately I decided to go to law school.  I needed to prove to myself that I was smart enough to do it and I knew from the moment I decided to do it that my goal would not be to work in a fancy law firm and get involved in the corporate rat race - instead, I wanted to help regular folks through the regular struggles everyone faces in life, like divorce and other everyday occurrences.  I knew I was good at problem solving and accepting of the jams people can find themselves in, and I felt I was honest and straightforward enough to help.  Doesn't sound very lawyer-like does it?  Ha ha.  Truly, though, when I was in private practice, I would tell people that came to ask about divorce or custody matters that I would gladly help them, but they needed to accept that I was not the kind of lawyer that would posture and preen and call the other person names and try to smear them or otherwise get their pound of flesh for them - if they wanted that kind of lawyer, they should hire someone else. 

Private practice lost its appeal however, the first time I had to deal with the business end of the deal.  I did a fair amount of work trusting that folks would pay their bills and not demanding retainers out of my clients.  I learned fast that you had to be cold blooded about the money - requiring those retainers and billing accurately rather than discounting your time for this and that.  The firm I was in had its own issues and I left after 3 years.

Now I'm a government lawyer. While I am still helping people, it comes from a different angle (governmental intrusion), and our efforts are often not appreciated.  I still get to problem solve and work with other people and agencies to craft what we believe will be helpful for the kids we serve, but ...

The challenge of law school and of practicing law has been a good one for me overall.  I have learned a lot about myself and my abilities, I've met a lot of people and learned a lot of things about law and about things way beyond it.  I have left a mark, though that is much less important to me than it was years ago, since I now have a much more well defined mark on the world through my children.  So the question the becomes whether I am now headed for a new challenge, or whether the real challenge is to find new purpose in the place I'm in now...

Friday, January 27, 2012

The River: Writing Challenge Day 26

On a late January day back in 1985, I was driving to my parents' home when I tapped the brakes to cancel the cruise control, having no idea I was on black ice, and lost control. I four cornered the car on guard rails on the other side of the road and the recrossed back to the ditch on my side. The car was totalled but I was fine. At about the same time, about five miles away, another car did much the same maneuver only a UPS truck was coming from the other direction and the car driver was killed. 

This afternoon I was driving home from Duluth on somewhat icy roads. I was taking it easy and came up a small hill where the road bridged over some railroad tracks I think and all of a sudden I saw a car crossing my lane on the other side of the bridge WTF? said my brain as I slowed as quickly as I could and stopped just before the spot where a young lady had come to rest in her car - blocking my lane. 

I went around her and stopped to make sure she was OK. She was probably a high school student, and we looked her car over, she started it as it had stalled, and she drove it up to the shoulder and all appeared to be in working order. I made sure she was OK and had a phone in case there was something wrong with the car as she continued on her way. She was so grateful and thanked me profusely for stopping and we parted ways. 

I was ten miles down the road before I realized I'd kind of just met my 1985 self and was again reminded of how lucky I was all those years ago.

My heart is heavy...

Sad sad Al Anon meeting tonight...sad news all around the table and my heart is just aching.  I remembered at Family Group how we closed every night and stood together with our left foot forward - in remembrance of all those "left" (those who had not yet found the path toward recovery yet was my interpretation). I always do that now at my meetings and the names and faces of those who struggle cross my mind as we close...tonight those struggles were particularly pronounced right there in the room and it made me want to cry. And it made me so grateful for the grace that has carried my family through the last year.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

The River: Writing Challenge Day 25

Togetherness via technology!  I am watching my niece play basketball via live stream over the internet, while texting my sister, talking on my cell with my husband and kids, emailing my mother, and communicating with all of you nice people on my blog.  Oh and tweeting - don't forget that!  All while sitting alone in a hotel room.  Amazing.

Now here's a thought...

Someone shared this link on Facebook today.  It's an article by Jon Acuff from Dave Ramsey's site about how to figure out what your dream job is ... obviously I checked it out and read a very interesting idea.  Totally paraphrasing here, but what I got out of it was the idea that the path to figuring out what you want to do with your life is to consider what you have already done that you liked...

I want to spend some time thinking about that...what have I done in my life that I liked?
  • I have always always loved to read - nothing "like" about it. 
  • I have always liked to tell stories and make people laugh (especially myself)
  • I like keeping in touch with people
  • I like to bring people together - find common ground and create unity.
  • I love watching sports - particularly high school sports involving kids I know.
  • I like to solve problems by breaking down the problem and trying to think things through in variable ways - particularly problems faced by others.
  • Best job I ever had - bar none - was the season I got to keep stats for the mens basketball team in college.  I love love love keeping stats for sports.
  • I love being on vacation.
  • I love to bake - that might be the only housekeeping related task I actually enjoy.
  • I enjoy making certain kinds of jewelry.
  • I like mowing the lawn and I liked gardening when I lived in Seattle (where there were no biting bugs and lovely things grow like crazy).
  • I have enjoyed various athletic pursuits over the years:  volleyball, downhill and XC skiing, step aerobics, kick boxing, racquetball...
  • I am good at, and have always enjoyed, being a student.
 So Mr. Acuff, what do you make of that?  Again with the new ideas to bounce around and see where they take me!  Kind of an exciting place to be right now!

The River: Writing Challenge Day 24

I am so oppositional at trainings. I dislike being trapped in a chair and forced to sit quietly - as a result I am very prone to internal critical dialogue and internal eye rolling (note: I know enough to keep this internal). But I scream inside my head "quit telling me what you plan to tell me and f-in teach me something!"

I'm stuck here for two days.

The River: Writing Challenge Day 23

Lake Superior is gorgeous any time of year.  But on January 26th, having the opportunity to enjoy a walk along her shore without hat or mittens, she was spectacular!  Still open water though I'm told the big boats are done for the winter.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Open up, dammit!

A friend just showed me her newly restarted blog and something I read there has stuck with me today - the concept of becoming "open and more open".  I have found myself struggling lately in a few arenas, and I think it is a function of my shutting down in my recovery work and in my relationship at home - not intentionally but perhaps one of those situations where you just get tired of working and start to coast.  It is not a secret to folks who know me that, despite my propensity to jabber and despite my willingness to talk freely about *some* pretty personal topics, I am not a particularly open person.  I talk all the time, but it is entirely selective and I tightly control certain information.  It is a damn struggle to keep pushing myself to not only knock holes in those walls, and I think I have kind of plateaued in that process when I think ahead to the work of keeping the holes open and then turn the holes into windows and then doors and then maybe an entire open floor plan.  It is daunting.

Open and more open...at first blush my mind says "oh I can't!"  But life is just one step in front of the other - not marching in place, but one step in front of the other.  And all these great ideas, and I immediately suspect something is a great idea for me when I become decidedly uncomfortable, give me a direction in which to step.  I love my friends (both in blogland and in real life, and especially those who have a foot in both worlds) who inspire me, and intrigue me, and give me options I perhaps never would have conceived on my own.  I'm not sure what I can do with this new great idea, but I suspect that once something like this is bouncing around in my head, something good (great?) will follow...

The River: Writing Challenge Day 22

Our cat has taken to sleeping in bed with us - at least for part of the night.  I welcome his warm self, curled up next to me, and am (oddly) not irritated by having to work around him when I change position.

Monday, January 23, 2012

The River: Writing Challenge Day 21

Austere:  I will admit I need to do first things first (just to be sure I know of which I speak):


  1. Severe or strict in manner, attitude, or appearance: "an austere man with a puritanical outlook".
  2. (of living conditions or a way of life) Having no comforts or luxuries; harsh or ascetic.
So perhaps "severe or strict in manner, attitude or appearance" works for me...along the lines of the word stern, ramped up a bit further.  When those eyebrows really bottom out and my sense of humor entirely disappears.  But beyond that I cannot go.  No puritanical outlook here.  And I am definitely not doing anything too harsh and ascetic - I like my running water and king sized bed. 

The River: Writing Challenge Day 20

Stern:  I love this word.  Overall, I am not a stern person by any stretch of the imagination but boy howdy can I put on a stern face and voice when the occasional presents itself!  It has its moments and I have the eyebrows to work it! 

The River: Writing Challenge Day 19

Refined:  this is a word that has no application in my life.  I can identify nothing that fits the word "refined" in my life.  Not my speech, nor my taste in entertainment, nor my personal style, nor my favorite foods.  I have pretty good manners, if you can excuse the occasional f-bomb, but that's about as far as I can stretch my imagination to fit this word onto me.

The River: Writing Challenge Day 18

Patient:  I used to joke that pregnancy, for me, was a lesson in patience.  There is nothing to do but wait until the baby says it's ready.  That is a tough lesson for me.  I learn a new facet of how to be patient every day.  And I need to keep learning because it does not come naurally to me.

The River: Writing Challenge Day 17

Sincere:  I am a truthful person - I pride myself on being honest and straightforward when I speak, and I think I stay true to myself in what I say.  However, there is much that I do not say, and I know there are times that I want to speak and don't, which is where I need work. 

The River: Writing Challenge Day 16

Gentle:  I am gentle with the feelings of others.  I am more often than not gentle with myself.  I need work on speaking more gently to my children on a more consistent basis.

My favorite color is green!

It is very important to my kids that we all have favorite colors.  It takes me no time at all, when asked - green.  Absolutely green.  Green in all it's various shades and glory.  For the record, the girls mix it up between pink and purple at various times, and Sean is red. 

So here's what I find when I google "I love the color green":

Green: The color of harmony and balance, Green symbolizes hope, renewal and peace, and is usually liked by the gentle and sincere. Greens are generally frank, community-minded people, fairly sociable but preferring peace at any price. Green people can be too self-effacing, modest and patient, so they may get exploited by others. They are usually refined, civilized and reputable.

I have to giggle just a minute at the words "gentle and sincere", those just are not the first words that come to mind when I describe myself...and then I keep reading and see "patient" and "refined"...snort!  On a side note, it reminds me that one of my dear friends in Seattle thought I was "stern and austere" when she first met me at work, which equally makes me giggle! 

UPDATE:  I went to walk the dog after writing this post.  I was feeling really guilty about how I'd lost my momentum on the River of Stones Writing Challenge, and I was mulling about writing a post trying to see where those words that made me giggle actually apply to me...well, you perhaps have alerady seen where this little line of thought led me...funny how that works!

But I very much like hope, renewal and peace - as those are my hugest, greatest, favoritest words!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

"Us" against "Them"

I just read a couple blog posts that touched on censoring our children's music, which transported me back to I think the fall of 1980.  I went to a revival type meeting with a van-load of other folks.  There was a traveling pair of pastor brothers, who gave these presentations full of parsed lyrics and reviled album covers and, ultimately, urged kids and young adults all over the Midwest to burn records and pray for our classmates who were surely worshipping the devil when they listened to the Eagles' "Hotel California", Simon & Garfunkel's love letter to heroin, "Bridge Over Troubled Water", or those really devilish bands like AC/DC, etc.  It was wild how crazed everyone got at the venue, and then on the way home how everyone was ranting about what they had to throw away when they got home and how sad they were that all our friends were going to hell...I was carried right along for much of it - a credit to the frenzied fear-mongering power of these traveling brothers, as well as my own narrow "believe folks who speak from a position of knowledge and authority" upbringing.  But somewhere toward the end of the rant, they got to my favorite band at the time - Styx.  They added Styx to the list of "must burns" for the sole reason that their name was the name of the river to hell...I consider this a huge credit to my naive, 14 or 15 year old self, that I stepped back with a "What?"  It stopped me in my tracks.  "That's all the best you can do?  Fault them for taking a mythological name for a river?"
From there, I started to see the panic in the face and voices around me, and I wondered about the brainwashing that seemed to be occurring through that revved up panic mode.  And as everyone in the van on the way home talked about getting rid of albums, I was thinking "but then you'll just go re-buy it next week when you get over your panic..." which led to the novel logical realization that these revival brothers were probably putting more money in the pockets of the bands they revived against because of all the re-purchasing likely to happen, or the free advertising they were offering those bands...I wonder now if I was right about that.

I now attend an ELCA Lutheran church, as I have since my childhood.  My husband is a "recovering Catholic".  Last week, our pastor gave a sermon about faith and his opening statement was about how some people accept faith "hook line and sinker" and others question it and want proof.  He actually made it black and white like that - as if the questioners (often the scientific or analytical types, he said) have it wrong.  And he commented how two children, raised from birth in the same home by the same parents in the same way can be on either side of this line.  My brother and I being a perfect example of this - only 2 years apart and I am now virtually agnostic since my "questioning" makes me believe that no one religion can possibly have it all right, and my brother is a complete right wing Christian conservative.  But in our youth, I was the "hook line & sinker" and he was the religion rejector.  I'd like to ask my pastor to explain that evolution to me under his black & white theory.  But I digress.

It makes me sad to know I am one of those people that my brother doesn't trust since my beliefs, as he must believe them to be (even though he doesn't ask about them nor do I offer them up since I avoid political or religious discussion when we are together), are "choices" he doesn't agree with.  And you all might have some sense for the regard in which I hold my nieces and nephews, to be kept at arms length from half of them torments me on a regular basis.  I hate that there is "us" and "them" within my very small family, but I have to acknowledge that it's there. 

Thursday, January 19, 2012

One of the joys in my life...

I have four nieces and two nephews, and they are all truly a joy in my life.  But in particularly, my sister's three daughters are amazing.  My sister and I have been very close for the past couple decades and I would say that my nieces know me nearly as well as my own kids do.  They are 16, 11 and 7, so my girls at nearly 9 and 7 fit right in the mix, and they are the closest of cousins.  We lived nearby and saw each other weekly or more until five years ago when my family moved a couple hours north.  These girls light up my life and I can't get enough of them.  I try to get to their events when we can and, when I do, I find myself choking up routinely.  They are kind and smart and funny and athletic and beautiful inside and out.  I feel so lucky every time they email me, or let me in to their Facebook or Twitter worlds, so I can have some small part in that piece of their lives. 

I thought after my sort of morose posts lately, a big dose of remembering my joy was in order!  I get to go see my eldest niece play basketball tomorrow night in a big game, and the rumor is some boy is intending to ask her to the junior prom at the game, so I absolutely can't wait to be there!  The only downside is that my sister, and my other two nieces, can't be there...

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Career path...

The Starfish StoryOriginal Story by: Loren Eisley

One day a man was walking along the beach when he noticed
a boy picking something up and gently throwing it into the ocean. 
Approaching the boy, he asked, "What are you doing?"
The youth replied, "Throwing starfish back into the ocean. The surf is up and the tide is going out.  If I don't throw them back, they'll die."
"Son," the man said, "don't you realize there are miles and miles of beach and hundreds of starfish? You can't make a difference!"
After listening politely, the boy bent down, picked up another starfish,
and threw it back into the surf.  Then, smiling at the
man, he said "I made a difference for that one."

And this my friends (Mark, I will get to your topic of friends vs. acquaintances in another post), is the crux of my problem. 

I work in a field where we like to think we make a difference for one or more children along the way.  I think that I make life easier for others on my team by my "middle child" talents of bridging gaps between departments and personalities, I have no doubt that I do my job well and have a good understanding of the system within which I work, but I also know that this job is sucking the life out of me.  In the face of so much ugliness (neglect and emotional abuse is so prevalent and so much harder to do anything about), I am not convinced that I/we are making a difference often enough for me to tip my internal balances toward the positive.  It seems to me that I could put up with the hard work if I truly believed the outcome will result in a worthy goal.  But too much of my job now is beating my head against certain political walls...fighting for the "right" outcomes in certain ridiculous situations, when the best interests of the child(ren) involved are being patently ignored. 

Believing that good can come from walking through the fire, or plodding through the tough times, I have continued the good fight.  It has been a slog for about two years now.  My tolerance for bullshit is at an all-time low and my belief that the system will work in the long run is tapped.  I dislike coming to work at all, and I constantly fight my internal voice that "it just doesn't matter".  I am burned out and I truly believe I need to walk away.  But to walk away implies to walk toward something else and I can't do one without at least a plan for the other...and that spells s t u c k. 

Sunday, January 15, 2012

The River: Writing Challenge Day 15

I have so many internal defenses.  I see them, and I have a pretty good start on understanding where they come from.  In my quest to open up, I know I shouldn't and yet I watch myself use them.  Until I stop doing it, I will continue on much the same path ... and yet I watch myself use them. My word for 2012 was resolve - I need to hold on to my resolve to change, so that these walls can come down.

Football...and what is up with the Tebow frenzy?

I love football - well, I love high school football and the NFL.  I've never gotten caught by college aports for whatever reason.  I probably could love that too.  I know football, I can talk football, and I used to have a favorite team, but as free agency took over the NFL and no-one stayed put for long, I lost that feeling.  In season, I could (and often do) watch football all day - no particularly interest in who wins or loses but I enjoy the excitement and athleticism. 
I have been well aware of the "John 3:16" signs in the end zone seats forever, and have been hearing "I just thank God and my mama" from every interviewed player ever.  I never heard of Tim Tebow until a couple months ago, so do not pretend to be exactly sure what the fuss is about him and why he is the focus of so much hysteria.  Is he so different from all those other guys, praying and pointing to God, and thanking God in interviews throughout the decades?  I don't know - whatever - but it seems ridiculous to me that anyone could believe that taking a knee after a touchdown and bowing one's head means a darn thing.  Does he take a knee after a 3 yard run and thank God for those 3 yards?  Or after a sack, does he take a knee and thank God it was only a 12 yard loss and not a 30 yard loss?  I just don't get it. 

Saturday, January 14, 2012

The River: Writing Challenge Day 14

My kids knew I had chores in  mind today.  What they did not know is that I didn't want to do them and just wanted a quiet day of reading and relaxing.  I told them that at the first sign of disagreement between the two of them - harsh words, fighting, arguing over something, etc. - we'd start the chores.  It is now 30 minutes before bedtime and I have not heard one bad moment out of them.  Yes, that means the chores didn't get done, but neither did I have to break up a fight or intervene in an argument once.  Amazing!

Off you go now!

My children are in 1st and 3rd grade this year.  Other than crying like a baby when I first took daughter #1 to daycare at age 7 weeks (cripes, you'd have thought I was giving her up for adoption, the way I cried, but which only lasted until I realized I was free of baby-care activities for the next nine hours), I have not mourned a milestone.  My friends have reported all kinds of trauma about their babies growing up, but I celebrate every moment of independence.  Not to say I don't have my nostalgic moments where I realize another level of maturity is underway...and I'm sure I will feel it deeply when my company is rejected and kisses goodnight are no longer required - don't even get me started on how grateful I am that my almost-9 year old still lets me hold her hand... but, just today, the little one was missing a game for her DS and without even asking me, or hollering about how it it was lost, she stopped to think, and went to fetch it from her jacket pocket.  Awesome!

Some people I know dread the days of the empty nest - not knowing how their life will go on without the kids around every day, or what will frame their days without the kids' schedules to accommodate.  I know it will come with a certain amount of sadness, but I have no doubt I'll feel much the same as I did last year when I put both kids on the school bus for the first time - "have fun!  be good!  see you soon! love you!" and then walked home with a little skip in my step.

The River: Writing Challenge Day 13

I am not going to "should" on myself today.  I had a long week and cleared some stressful events off my calendar at work.  I am going to read and do whatever else I want to do instead of manufacturing a "to do" list of crap that should get done.  All else can wait for another day.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Crushes - Volume 2

I started this little saga a few weeks ago here.  One of my lifelong friends commented that I'd need a separate volume for all my sports crushes...I had to think about that for a minute.  Of course I remember my well known crush on Joe Senser of the Minnesota Vikings, and then there was Michael Jordan (more overall awe than crush), but I'm a bit stuck after that...

And the honest truth is that I don't want to write the next section of this tale down - it's one thing to talk about crushes, but when they turn in to something more obessive and then to something real, it is dicier to talk about it.  But away we go anyway... 

The very next guy in the story arrived in my life on my first day at college as a freshman.  I met him on Day 1 of freshman orientation and that was it for me.  My blinders went on to all others, and to my immature mind this was The Guy.  I don't think the word "stalker" had been coined yet back in the early 1980s but I was a stalker.  I knew his routine and his habits, and I followed him or arranged to cross paths with him all the time.  Worse yet, we were friends and in many of the same classes (don't think I didn't arrange that though), and so it was a bit of a Jekyll and Hyde thing for me.  The particular docudrama in my head, starring this young man, was powerful and all consuming.  And it lasted, unbroken, for two solid years - and then after I transferred colleges, it remained in my head for years.  Perhaps a little more off and on when I wasn't there in person, but it was persistent.  For years. 

At my new college, time was running short.  I was 19 and hadn't yet had a boyfriend.  Considering my entire goal in college (I see it clearly now in retrospect but would have denied it vehemently then) was to find a husband (that MRS Degree, you know), I was feeling the pressure to move beyond crushes and have a real living and breathing guy.  A month before my 20th birthday, I threw out a net so wide, flirted with every boy I came across, that I was bound to snag someone.  And I did.  I can only shake my head now thinking about it.  Technically, I then had a boyfriend, let's call him Joe, by my birthday.  Thankfully he went home every weekend so I only had to deal with him 4 days a week...since I didn't really like him, this helped immensely.  I dumped Joe after a month or two.  I really wasn't that interested in him as a person, just as a person to fill this empty role in my life.  He was moving quickly toward "serious" - we'd had a conversation where I had been just sure he was going to say he loved me (what??) and I ran quickly the other way.  Made him cry, right on the sidewalk on campus, when I told him I didn't want to date him anymore.  But at least I'd put my toe in the water!

Toward the end of my junior year of college, I met this really weird guy who was our dorm neighbor.  He was super smart (on a full academic scholarship) and funny, but he was skipping all his classes and drinking a lot and not at all concerned about it.  We hung around quite often with Smith and his roommates that spring.  That summer I think I even wrote Smith a letter.  In the fall, he came back to school, tan, buff and intent on remedying his wrongs from the previous year (like all the F's and incompletes).  He was an engineering major.  We were dating by Halloween.  I don't even know how to describe the relationship.  Some of it was nice and positive and normal.  Some of it was really good for me - he is probably the first person who pushed me to decide my own opinions on things instead of just parrotting what I'd been brought up to believe, which certainly raised some never before experienced rifts with my relationship with my parents.  Some of it was not so good - but most of that took a few years to fully develop.  We dated a year, were engaged for a year, married, and then divorced three years later.  So a five year relationship all together.  With the wisdom of years, I can probably see clearly what I only realized as a hint at the time, but we really should have broken up in 1988, instead of getting married...

After Smith and I were divorced, I headed out for Seattle...that story goes on here ..as for the ongoing saga of crushes, To Be Continued...

Catch up

Besides the Small Stones writing challenge, I realize I haven't written a post in several days.  I've been pondering various things this week, and now The Big Ugly Thing at work is over so perhaps I can settle my mind long enough to share something. 

Winter has finally arrived in the upper Midwest.  It is cold cold cold.  With temps 20-40 degrees above normal until the second week of January, my bio-rhythms are all messed up.  Iti s not unusual for me to have trouble keeping track of what day of the week it is, and early in any given month, I may have trouble keeping track of what month it is, but I'm usually pretty clear on my seasons...but this is a freak year.

Stay tuned.  I think there is some good story telling a-brewing over the next couple days!

The River: Writing Challenge Day 12

Sad Christmas tree.  Neglected in season this year and now past its prime.  It cries out to be taken down, out of its misery, and free from the cat's attempts to climb it, where it can hope for a better experience next year.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The River: Writing Challenge Day 11

As much as I hate campaign season and politics in general, like many (most?) things I have to remember that this is a by product of something very positive - in this case, the fabulous gift of freedom.  To have a say in the leadership of my school, township, city, county, state and/or country is freedom.  To have an opinion and freely speak it, about the choices, the system, or the opinions of anyone else, is freedom.  My voice can be as loud as I want it to be, or silent, and that is also freedom.  As angry as it all makes me at times, and as sad and despondent, I am grateful for that freedom.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The River: Writing Challenge Day 10

I have photos of my kids on my bulletin board.  Photographs that capture them at a moment in time over the course of the last five years.  There are the school photos with hair combed and faces clean, with the pretty but fake smiles.  But the best ones are the snapshots taken in a quick moment with little regard to pose or whether there was evidence of a recent chocolate chip cookie - but where the smiles radiate from the whole face.  Much of the joy in life doesn't come from the planned and orchestrated moments, does it?  But in moments where it lights us up from the inside and we forget to care about the chocolate on our face.

Mama Kat's Weekly Writing Challenge

When I first started this blog (a whopping five weeks ago), I found several blogs that provide writing prompts, and I totally thought I'd be using those prompts for posts all.the.time.  Boy was I wrong.  I've looked at many, tried a few, but never finished a post (well, except for the Small Stones and, ten days in, that is HARD)...well, here we go with the first, from Mama Kat 

Many of us like to poke fun at some of the things that drive us crazy as parents…let’s flip the script, what are 10 things you love about motherhood?

In no particular order:
1.  I love hearing "mama" from my girls, and to a lesser extent "mom" or "mommy", knowing that it means only me.
2.  I love looking at my girls and knowing as sure as I know anything in the world that I had a major role in creating them (by which I also acknowledge how they are also creating themselves every minute of every day).
3.  I love kissing them goodnight, even when I think I might have to resort to duct tape and zip ties to keep them in bed (kidding!)
4.  I love those moments, either later at night or early in the morning, when I am up drinking my coffee and the rest of the house is still asleep, knowing the best things in my life are safe and warm in their beds.
5.  I love that my eyes now have the power to find anything that is lost, my hands have the power to bring calm to panicked children, and my kiss has the power to heal just about anything - who knew I was a superhero?
6.  I love that I have (so far) raised my girls to believe they can do anything in their lives and that what they do or become does not have to be the same as anyone else's.
7.  I love having a hand to hold, no matter where I am.
8.  I love watching my children participate in whatever activities they take part in.
9.  I love sharing my love of reading with my children.
10.  I love the perspective and lessons that come with motherhood - knowing that nothing else is as important as my family, and that nothing is more important to being a parent than being there for my children.

Monday, January 9, 2012

The River: Writing Challenge Day 9

There is a gorgeous moon outside tonight.  I had the joy of seeing it set this morning - huge and orange on one side of my range of vision, while the sun was rising on the other.  And the added joy of watching it rise tonight.  I refuse to put window coverings on our bedroom, because I love nothing more than to wake in the night and find myself in the glow of a full moon.  Sleeping in a moonbeam is magical. 

"How Old Would You Be..."

"How old would you be if you didn't how old you were?", Satchel Paige.

What an awesome thought for a Monday morning!  It is an excellent reminder to me that age is a number and that we cannot allow labels to define us.  I still feel vibrant and young, with some years of life lessons thrown in, but with the optimism and hope of so many things still ahead of me.  Satisfied with so much, settled in my life, and yet still moving forward. 

The River: Writing Challenge Day 8

I truly believe in the adage "better late than never".  Sure, there are deadlines, but all in all, life cannot be about deadlines.  The larger point is that you do it.  Regardless of the reason for missing the deadline, get it done and move on.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

The River: Writing Challenge Day 7

Dread.  It feels like a rotted hole in my gut, until the appointed time.  A twisted cousin to anticipation.  Wishing for precious time to pass, just to get it over with.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

My name

My earlier post on Equality sparked a comment from JT about surnames.  Which is an interesting story - at least to me. 

I got married the first time at age 23.  I desperately wanted the white picket fence and while my husband to be didn't express any opinion one way or the other about what I did with my surname, which was disappointing at the time, I opted to take his name.  I went from an unpronounceable/unspellable surname to Smith.  Talk about a mind-blower.  When we separated, 2.5 years later, the very first thing I wanted, above all else, was to have my own surname back.  Had to wait for the final divorce paperwork later that year, but I stopped using Smith immediately whenever I could.  I told my dad at one point that I'd never change it again - and he said something comforting like "don't worry, you may very well get married again", and he was a bit shocked when I told him it had nothing to do with getting married, I wasn't ever changing my name again.

Talk about a pain in the ass to change your name BACK.  It's all normal and sweet when you get married and change your name.  But no-one seems to get that you might ever change it back and you get lots of raised eyebrows and questions when you do.  It's a hassle and a pain.  Case in point, 8 years after I got divorced, I enrolled in law school at the same university where I worked while I was married.  I had already advised them in my paperwork that I had previously been registered with that university under a different name and now my name was legally changed, etc., and had been told this was a non-issue.  I showed up on day one of law school orientation and they handed me a student ID for Sarah Smith.  I rejected it and again explained the situation, and the lady said I should just take it and use it "for now".  I rejected it again - it isn't my name after all.  So there we stood, for probably 15 minutes, having this discussion about my past divorce etc., which I hadn't even thought about it years, surrounded by a pile of strangers with whom I would be spending most of my time in the next year...I was irritated beyond belief.  I got my correct ID the next day, by the way.

So fast forward 12 years, and I'm getting married for the second time.  Now perhaps if Sean had had what I consider a "cool" name (I've always been a sucker for those Mc- names), I might have had other thoughts, but I never even considered changing my name.  One day, must have been a month or so before the wedding, since we hadn't gotten our license yet, Sean made some comment along the lines of "just think, in a month you'll be Sarah _____" and without any thought at all, I shot back "no I won't, I'm not changing my name."  He sat back stunned, I realized perhaps that wasn't the best way to share that information for the first time, and we then had a nice talk about it.  He had those normal feelings about wanting us to share the same family name, so I invited him to change to my surname.  He sat back stunned again and said "but I LIKE my name" and I said "and so do I" with an additional explanation of the hassles of my changing my name yet again - particularly with a professional career - and it all worked out.  As it turned out, he didn't really care as long as I didn't expect to hang a hyphenated name on any kids we might have. 

I had law school friends who married after we finished school and were attorney-licensed, and it was a mixed bag of who changed their names and who hyphenated and who didn't change.  I have heard of marriages where both spouses changed their surnames to an entirely new surname.  Being eternally interested in people's stories, I am always curious about how folks come to the decision. 

I had lunch with a male lawyer friend before my wedding and the issue of surname came up.  He was incensed.  By that I mean that this normally quiet and calm man raised his voice at me, in Subway, about how I was required to change my name!  I was stunned (and amused actually).  His rationale was that if a woman accepts a diamond ring, she is also accepting the fact that she will be taking the man's name.  I think I responded with something like that if Sean felt that was the deal, I'd have skipped on the diamond.  Probably didn't help my friend calm himself down too much.  We remain friends, and I'd be curious to know, now 10 years later, if he still feels so strongly about it.

When we were first married, our church was updating their church directory and it was really problematic for them to caption our photo with two different surnames.  I think we may have ended up both with Sean's name because the poor secretary in charge said the computer system just wouldn't accept two surnames, and that was OK because at first I intended to use Sean's name at places where we were sort of known as a family (like church) but it just got too confusing.  When we moved five years ago, neither our new church nor anyplace else at all had an issue with it at all.  I only use my "real" name now - it's second nature for me to point out to the Y or school or daycare that I have a different name than the rest of my family.  No one cares.

I still am not sure if Sean's family has figured it out - or is willing to acknowledge it - now nine years later.  My immediate family, I think, gets it right. We don't get a lot of snail mail anymore but I do look at the birthday and Christmas card envelopes each year and see how they are addressed.  I don't really care if it's Mr & Mrs. Sean ______, or The __________ Family, but sometimes I get birthday cards addressed to Sarah ______ and that is a bit more eye rolling. 

Just to be clear, I take no position on anyone else's decision about changing their name.  It is a totally personal decision and I make no judgment.  Well, except when a kid is given a hyphenated surname, with two unpronounceable, unspellable surnames - I might make a little tiny judgment, in my head, about that. 


It's a recovery topic post.  There is much talk in Al Anon about how our attempts to control the alcoholic in our lives have made our lives unmanageable.  Many of the examples and discussions revolve around folks dealing with active alcoholism in their lives or homes, trying to cover for their loved one, pouring out booze, ranting at them to "just quit!" and all that.  I can sympathize with those stories, and the persons living those stories, but I can't empathize since that was not my experience.  So I always struggle with getting my head around the idea of where "control" fits for me.  I was completely naive and oblivious the first time my husband was circling the drain - his disclosure of addiction was a complete shock to me and off he went to treatment.  Then, a few years later, when he relapsed, I was deeply in denial.  I asked him a few times if he was using, he lied as addicts do, and I just closed my eyes to it all, until he (we) hit bottom last summer.  Denial yes, attempts to control my loved one?  Not really - certainly nothing like I've heard from others.

And then today, I got a "daily gift" email that I get from the treatment center:

A controller doesn't trust his/her ability to live through the pain and chaos of life. There is no life without pain just as there is no art without submitting to chaos.
--Rita Mae Brown
It is very hard for most of us to see how controlling we are. We may feel uptight or careful, but we haven't seen it as controlling ourselves or controlling how people respond to us.

Talk about an "aha!" moment.  "Controlling ourselves or controlling how people respond to us" -hello!  That is what I do.  Perhaps that is my relationship to "control" in the addiction and co-dependency cycle - I have unhealthily withheld myself from others, to control how those people respond to me.  That is certainly absolutely true in many facets of my life. 

Friday, January 6, 2012

The River: Writing Challenge Day 6

A book. A gateway into another world.  When I am consumed by a wonderful read, I am desperate to finish the "have to dos" of my life so I can get back to the pages.  I love the feel of the cover in my hands, turning the pages with the anticipation of what is coming next, and the dread I feel when the pages left to go become fewer than those I have read.  When I am consumed by a wonderful read, there are pictures rolling through my head of what I am reading, and I hear the words speak to me, drowning out the actual world around me.  Intoxicating.

The Husband

I have been in bed since 5p with a migraine.  I warned my husband of this from work this afternoon, since I've had a bad headache 8 out of the last 12 days, and I imagine he's pretty sick of it (as am I).  Now it is midnight and I got up, feeling a little better, to eat something and move around a little in hopes that the remaining hours of my night will allow me to "sleep it off".  And because I hadn't yet posted my writing challenge piece and it was driving me insane.  I am trying hard not to blog from work, since it invariably leads me to reading all kinds of other posts and non-work related things and I am trying hard in 2012 to be more focused on work, when I'm at work.  There were so many personal distractions in 2011 that I got into some bad habits.

Anyway, back to the topic of this post - my husband.  He is due some adulation.  Not only did he keep the kids entirely out of my hair tonight, he even stopped them from fighting while they played Wii together, and he rubbed my neck and shoulders and fetched me medication when I did venture downstairs for a little while.  And in my gratitude, I got to thinking about some other things that make him a wonderful husband for me (in no particular order of importance):

1.  He is great company to have along just about anywhere.  He can hang with me and my girlfriends, or me and my family, or even at class reunions, and have a fine time with us.  And he does so frequently, and without any complaint.  That is a rare trait.

2.  He is always willing to go.  To the Zoo, to a movie, to a play, to Seattle - just about anywhere - and he is almost always calm about things and great company to travel with. Which is good for me, since I tend to get a little stressed with travel and I hate riding in the car.

3.  He tolerates my non-romantic self with great humor, even though he is much more of a romantic soul, and yet on those days when I just want to crawl in his lap, he tolerates that without question too. 

4.  He acquiesces to my "blink blink, can't you do it for me, honey?" requests, most of the time, knowing full well that I could handle it perfectly well on my own but just don't want to.

5.  He has my back and can always be counted on to agree with me (at least until I come to my senses) when I believe I've been wronged.  And he supports whatever I want to do.

6.  He is flexible and willing to listen to other ideas, and our team approach to parenting is first and foremost to maintain a united front.

7.  He lets me be me...I do not feel the need to censor myself around him ever.  God what a gift that is to give. 

8.  He has a good heart.  He is kind and forgiving. He has a sense of humor and irony.

This might be one of the first love letters I have ever written to Sean...surely the longest.  Awkward to write in a way but, again, probably things that have long been in my head and yet never said all in one piece.   And things that ought to be said, at least once in a while. 

Thursday, January 5, 2012

The River: Writing Challenge Day 5

The house is quiet.  Children asleep, tucked in with hugs and kisses.  The husband is asleep, keeping the bed warm for me.  The dog is stretched out on the chair he has claimed for another night.  Even Grandma Cat dares venture out of her hiding place.  I can take a deep breath and my mind is at peace.  All is right with the world for another day.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012


I grew up in the Title IX generation - schools had to offer all the same activities to girls as to boys.  I played sports and joined other extracurricular activities.  My mother was a housewife for most of my childhood, so I was modeled the traditional division of household duties at home, but this did not serve to make me think I should assume those roles - though it did ingrain in me how much I would like a housewife myself!  I truly never had any idea that there were perceived limits as to the roles of men and women.  It helps that I'm just shy of 6'0 - none of that patronizing "little lady" stuff was coming my way - and I am more than capable of expressing myself.  It never occurred to me that there were jobs I couldn't (or shouldn't) pursue or that I should play dumb or not express my opinions. By the time I got to law school, most law schools were graduating roughly 50% women.  From talking to my friends over the years, I realize that my life experience is very different than many women my age.

One experience gave me a view at what my friends talked of...my first husband and I went car shopping for a new car back in about 1989.  When the salesman came out, he focused himself completely on my husband; when we were in his office making an offer, he didn't even look at me  - which really infuriated me since I was the one with the job and the salary that would be paying for the car - and we made an obnoxiously lowball offer and then walked when he "went to talk to the manager". 

I am grateful to have been raised to believe I am equal to anyone.  I am even more grateful that I still believe it.

The River: Writing Challenge Day 4

Pain.  Throbbing hot behind my eye.  Vision is wobbly and red.  I can hear my blood pulsing.  No chance of taste - I'm nauseous as hell.  It forces out all other thoughts.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The River: Writing Challenge Day 3

Today I noticed schedules.  It was my first day back to work after 11 days off, and the kids' first day back to school.  We had lived for 11 days without an alarm clock or much of an agenda.  While the schedule this morning created a nice and tidy framework for us, the marching beat of the clock was unpleasant and pressing.  And today was a good day - no-one hollered or threw a temper tantrum about getting up or getting dressed, satisfactory breakfast options were available, and there was no homework or missing library books causing a desperate scramble - it was a pretty well-oiled machine this morning.  But even on the best of days, it felt like a very unnatural struggle.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Last day of vacation...

I have been off work now since December 23rd.  We didn't go on any big trip or do anything particularly noteworthy, and parenting 24/7 for 11 days in a row isn't any picnic...but I am not at all interested in going back to work.  Not. At. All.

As often happens, I find something to think about when I'm feeling like this...lately in the blog world, othertimes in my meditation readings, and sometimes it can even turn up in a TV show or a conversation in passing...today it was from Therese at The Unlost, who wrote here about saving yourself from "shoulditis".  It had a lot to do with how we find jobs and/or careers for ourselves and one line that stood out is this one: 

Most of us are either (a) Completely lost, confused, and directionless when it comes to what we want to do with our lives, (b) Stuck in a career path we don’t enjoy but feel powerless to leave, or (c) Both of the above.

I will be back to visit The Unlost for the ongoing discussion of this topic, but it got me thinking about where I fall in this spectrum when it comes to my job.  Would I like to do something else?  Well, sure, I think I would, but at the same time, I may just be thinking "greener pastures" because perhaps the problem is within me and not about my job at all. 

Here is what I know:
1.  I need to work outside the home.
2.  I need to interact with people at work.
3.  I need to be self-directed - not because I want to, but because I need to.
4.  I am good at my current job, but the inherent political frustrations that come with it, combined with the emotional subject matter, oftentimes suck the life right out of me.
5.  I need to have freedom to be myself at work - a buttoned down life is not for me.
6.  Lifetime movies really suck (some Christmas nonsense is on TV right now, sorry...)

My current job:
1.  Good people to work with, who also like and value me.
2.  Decent money
3.  I'm good at it
4.  Job security
5.  I get personal satisfaction from what I do, even in the midst of having the life sucked out of me.


The River: Writing Challenge Day 2

The crust of new snow, the bite of a north wind, the sky turning to a deep blue.  There is beauty to be seen, even as my feet slip on the ice and my eyes water from the cold.  And I am mindful of the gift of mind peaceful enough to simply notice the sensory experience.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

The River: Writing Challenge Day 1

I just saw a writing challenge for January 2012, called The River of Stones which you can read about here.  I'm totally trying it.

January 1, 2012:  My early morning walks with my dog often find me reflecting on this and that.  It has been a weird winter here - hardly any snow to speak of, and I have been waiting to see how our little rescue dog - Lucky the ADD terrier mix - likes snow.  He is not fond of baths or heavy rain.  This morning we walked on very slippery roads and he tore through the yards with their measly 2 inches of snow.  It is apparent that he loves it.  I wonder how he will like it when the drifts are higher than his head.  I suspect he will crash into them with reckless abandon.  It reminds me to enjoy the good in things and not be afraid to crash into things with reckless abandon, assuming I will find them enjoyable.

Do you dream?

I dream often and usually in vivid detail.  I can best describe it as dreaming as if I'm watching a movie - if I stop and talk about it, I can describe so much detail.  And frequently, if I wake up in the night, and go back to sleep and just continue the dream-story.  Unless it is a nightmare - I also have the ability, most of the time, to tell myself to shut it off and stop the nightmare, or I give myself some power in the dream to poof! the demons or monsters into harmless entities.  My husband never remembers his dreams.  He talks in his sleep, and even sings or cries or laughs, but even when I ask him immediately on waking what he was dreaming about, he has no idea.  Not even a feeling - like waking up scared or sad or whatever...

I have also dreamed the future.  Twice that I recall.  I was about 22 when I dreamed I was giving birth to my first child, a daughter.  I remember the naked, slimy little miracle being laid on my chest and naming her.  Any wonder that I insisted on that name when my first child, a daughter, was born some 15 years later?  In fact, I think I told my husband before we were even married that if we had a daughter, her name was non-negotiable.  I told him about the dream and that was the end of that decision making process. 

My husband may have been more open to the "I named my baby in a dream" story because I had another dream some months before that - I dreamed in March that he proposed to me, and I opened the ring box to see the perfect ring.  And it was style I had never seen before.  I remembered it in exact detail and even drew it out for my sister when I told her all about the dream.  I did not tell Sean at the time about my dream, even though we were talking already about getting married etc.  Sean and I did not ring-shop together even once.  We never discussed my taste in jewelry, except that perhaps I had mentioned I prefered white gold over yellow.  I knew in May that he had 'something' up his sleeve and one Friday afternoon I arrived at his house and he showed up with a dozen roses and a pretty little box.  He asked, I said 'yes', and I opened the box to find the ring was an almost exact match to the one in my dream!  He told me he'd been ring shopping a while, and was at the store that day - saw nothing and was about to leave when he spotting this ring in the back of the case and just KNEW it was the one.  Then I told him about my dream.  Pretty cool, huh?

I have also had dreams where my grandparents appeared after they passed away, and my beloved pets too.  Not often, and it is nothing more than a bittersweet presence. 

But most of the time, I dream in weird convoluted stories, populated by random people from my life - sometimes people from the distant past who show up out of the blue and make me wonder. And invariably one figure shows up from time to time and I wake up sad.  It happened again last night...and it got me thinking about dreams and where they come from.