Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Making sure that life doesn't run you over...

Life happens, and it happens fast. If you aren't prepared for what's ahead, it will surely run you over.

I'm feeling a little broadsided at the moment, unable to get my bearings because the days are flying by in hyperspeed. Instead of facing the day armed with my best intentions, I'm scraping through, and making it...but not getting nearly the enjoyment or satisfaction that I would have if I'd been paying attention.

That reminds me of a friend that divorced some time ago. Always a bit of an optimist, she still found something to laugh about when her husband of many years abruptly left her.

"If I'd known that was going to be the last time that I'd have sex," she remembered, "I would have paid more attention!"

Ah, the life lessons there.

I don't want the days to scream by. I want to savor them, live the moments that are so important. This lifetime is so short, and the time that we have with our children is so much shorter. I have seen two children grow up before I was ready, and now I see Todd doing the same. He is so tall lately, and so intelligent, and it seems like only yesterday, he was so tiny that we were scared to touch him.

From a logistical standpoint, I need to get ahead of the ball. I need to be proactive instead of reactive, prepared for the day ahead. I need to get to bed earlier, having clothes and necessaries for the day to follow laid out and ready to roll. I need to rise early and get things organized so that I can get to work without rushing.

I need to be organized at work, so that I can participate in all that the job has to offer. I can help others to achieve their potential. I can take on additional projects.

I need to have my housework and familial duties organized so that I'm doing them before they are due, before clothes overrun the hamper and begin to attack, before the dust on the furniture grows thicker than the dog hair on the floor.

I need to be more prayerful, more focused as I face my days. When I am centered in this respect, the rest seems to fall into place. So quickly we forget, however, and so quickly we rush to take care of things ourselves.

I need to have time to be creative. I need to scrapbook, write, and allow myself to ponder. I need time for the Spirit to tell me the things that I need to know to truly enjoy my life.

I have a good life. I have a good family, beautiful children, and a good husband. I love my job and all of it's challenges and craziness. I feel, for the first time in a very long time, that I deserve all that I have.

That's why I'm writing tonight. To remind myself that despite the minor setbacks, the frustrations that I face, it's all worth it. I am handling it all with relative ease, and even see that I can reap even more benefits if I just get a little more centered.

I cherish this quiet time after everyone is in bed. It's the only part of the day that is not hurried or stressed, time just for me. And while some could argue that I should be in bed, or finishing the kitchen, or paying bills...I disagree. I think the best use of this time is to collect my thoughts and prepare my heart and soul to tackle another day. To conquer my fears. To remember that I am a Child of God that can accomplish anything with His help. That He loves me and that what I am doing is enough.

Creating a road map, if you will, that allows me to chart my path for the greatest success. The shortcuts, the areas to avoid because they will slow me down, the routes with the most liklihood of accidents. Like Mapquest for life. It helps me to see the oncoming traffic, and not be the "deer in the headlights".

Or roadkill.

Ya gotta love not being roadkill!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Lessons in the everyday

Every writer has their “thing”…a certain style that they use repeatedly throughout their works. I’ve struggled with this, because I’d love to be truly in the minds of my characters like Stephen King, or perceptive like Jodi Picoult. I’ve come to realize that my particular style is more suited to the mundane. I’ll never be a bestselling author, having my writings read by millions. I’ve also realized that sometimes, a large audience does not necessarily mean success, and we can accomplish great things in small ways.

My writings are almost always about the lessons in the everyday. I am always looking for ways to explain life lessons by using everyday objects or situations that will be easy for my audience to understand. In doing so, I hope that they will gain an appreciation for the more difficult topics, and come to understand these, as well.

For instance, I explain the stock market using a can of tuna as a visual. If you buy a can of tuna for $1, and then there is a huge tuna shortage and it’s in high demand, selling for $5 a can, have you gained anything really? No, because you have not sold your can of tuna. If you find someone to sell it to for $5, then you gain $4. If the price of tuna drops significantly for some odd reason, have you lost money? Not unless you actually sell your can of tuna. You get the idea.

I walk the dog early in the morning, which is getting darker and darker every day. I am always on the lookout during these walkabouts for a photo opportunity in the neighborhood. I am always watching for that one shot that will be different and exciting. It fascinates me how light is such a part of everything that we do and see, and how it falls is particularly interesting.

I’ve noticed, for instance, that our driveway is flat and boring in the daylight. It is paved, with about six feet of gravel between the paving and the actual road. It looks like rocks. But in the darkness, with only house lights to shine on it, you begin to see striations.

This morning, it was also flooded with rainwater, filling the gaps with water that reflected the light. I saw for the first time that there are actually horizontal grooves in the rocks. I stood and pondered it for a few minutes, wondering what would have caused such wear on the rocks. We drive in vertically, of course, tires rolling forward in a straight path – nothing that would cause these long crosswise troughs. The driveway was not smoothed by the graders, which may have left these grooves. I’m really not sure how it has happened.

Of course, I saw life lessons here.

First, I marveled at how we can see something that is so common as to escape our interest, suddenly turned into a topic of great wondering. Simply by the light that is shed upon it. It is like this with any great truth. We see it a hundred times, never noticing the detail. And then one day, it is illuminated from another angle, and there it is. It is suddenly very clear to you, even though when you look back a few minutes later, it might not be so. You have to capture that picture, commit it to memory.

It also made me think of politics, and how differently we can see things, one from another. Something that is so inherently RIGHT to us may seem darn near evil to someone else, depending on how they are looking at it. I have this wonderful, beautiful, sensitive cousin that stands on the “other side” of the political fence from me. I love to talk with her, because she always sheds new perspective on any issue. It’s not that I’m right and she’s wrong – or even the other way around. It’s merely a matter of seeing things from a different point of view. Like the driveway, an issue that has always been a smooth, easy path may suddenly appear to have missing pieces, or deep grooves that need to be explained.

Because I have lived with a depressed mind for all of my life, I also had to smile at how it mimics our lives. Day to day, we don’t see the things that make up the big picture. We see the individual rocks, layers of tiny pebbles piled upon one another. Worn smooth by time, friction, and laid low by the slow, steady crushing afforded by the wheels of the cars that travel along our path. Then, one day, we look behind us and see that the path is not as smooth and uneventful as we imagine. There are patterns of behavior that emerge over time, leaving indelible designs on our lives.

I know that I have quirks and personality traits that have been hewn by the stressors that I have been dealt. Some of these are merely a mention in the story of my life, as they do not affect my eternal salvation one way or another. Some, however, can cause ruts that trip me up from time to time. Overcoming these unnatural grooves is the key to a fulfilling life, despite the ravages of this earthly life.

That is where the rainwater comes in, filling in the channels. Smoothing out the rough edges. I have to guess that this is what the Atonement is all about. It’s up to us to identify our flaws and seek to make them as smooth as possible. Christ will then flood us with His love to fill in the gaps.

It’s a lovely thought, considering my disdain for water. But that’s a story for another time.

What lessons have you learned in your everyday today?

Sunday, September 27, 2009

I can say "Balls to the Wall" if I want to!

Really. And I’m not even being crass! It’s not what you think.

In my old job, we had days that were considered ‘balls to the wall’. (For the benefit of my more delicate readers, I’m going to refer to it in the future as BttW!) If you are unfamiliar with the term, it refers to a pace that is full speed ahead; no holding back. And as I said, I had days that would fit that description. Other days were less urgent, and many others were busy, but not so intense.

My new job, on the other hand, is absolutely BttW every single day. From the moment that I set foot in the office until I leave for the day…which is often later than I had planned…it is crazy- nuts, beyond busy. There are deadlines and demands and disasters. No matter what your list looks like for the day, it always turns in to a marathon.

I arrive around 9AM, and the first time that I get to catch a breath is about 11. Before I know it, it is 1:00 or 2:00, and I need to take a moment to eat. It seems that I’m barely back from lunch and it’s the end of the day. There is not a moment of quiet.

I absolutely LOVE it.

It is exciting work, and I really feel like I’m accomplishing something. We interact with nearly every other department in the company, and have a pivotal role in most projects. It’s a lot of stress, but if you don’t mind that part, the payoff is incredible.

There are moments, to be sure. More than once, I’ve asked myself if this is really what I want to do. But a few minutes later, the issue has resolved itself and I am back to thinking, “Wow. This is COOL!” It’s a great feeling. Although the days are long, I love what I am doing, who I am working with, and the feeling of satisfaction that I get when we have completed a difficult task.

There is no other way to describe it than 24/7, all day, every day, BttW.

My first week there was amazingly crazy, as one of the key players in our office was off on surgical leave. It was a very busy time for the department, and my boss had just finished a monumental project for the company that had taken him away from his usual duties. On top of all of that, they had remodeled the office to accommodate the addition of my desk, and a work space for outside sales reps. Everyone had changed areas, and everything was in disarray.

Other employees would ask me how I was doing, and if I liked it. I would always respond, “This week is nuts, but I think that once it calms down…” at which point, said employee would burst into laughter.

Six weeks in, I can tell you why. It never – NEVER – calms down. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I’m reluctant to say that, however, as it sounds so…icky! I’ve always thought that it was a rather nasty way to say it. I would tell only my dearest friends that it was (in whispers) “BttW!”

I’ve known the term for years, but never quite understood how it had originated. I couldn’t imagine any situation in which balls would be against the wall and it would make sense, much less indicate a stressful, full-on press.

Thank heavens for the internet. I decided to look it up, just for my own curiosity. There are actually a couple of explanations as to where it came from…and I am pleased to announce that NEITHER of them have anything to do with testicles! (You thought that, too, didn’t you???!)

Urban Dictionary offers two explanations, in varying degrees of detail. The first is that it is a term used by fighter pilots, whose controls are topped by a ball. When they are going full-throttle, the balls are all of the way up against the front wall of the airplane, hence the term “balls to the wall”. The second is from the days of steam engines. Just as the fighter jets, their instruments contained balls, which, when the engine was going full throttle, were pushed up against the wall.

I can’t say if either or both of them are true, but I was quite relieved to find out that a) it made sense, and b) it didn’t refer to private bodily part. I was so thrilled, in fact, that I shared my newfound knowledge with my entire office and my family. When I mentioned that I intended to write about it here, my mother nearly died. She was mortified to think that I would say it on my blog! Even after I explained it’s origins, there was a furrow in her brow. I don’t think that she found it very ladylike to share such a term.

Old habits die hard. I’ll probably still whisper it when I tell the story, but at least now I know!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

I get a lot done because I'm lazy!

SH. It’s a secret. Sometimes not so well kept, but a secret nonetheless.

I come from a family that is industrious and overachieving. If you are not carrying your own weight and half of everyone else’s…you’re lazy. It’s not something that is valued in that side of the family.

We’re nice enough about it. We don’t point fingers or anything. We don’t have a list of lazy offenders. It’s just …I don’t know…KNOWN.

My grandpa paid me the greatest compliment when I was about 20. I was worried that I would raise lazy kids, which seemed to be the norm at the time.

“Don’t worry,” he said. “If your kids are half as ambitious as you are, they’ll be just fine.” Coming from him, that was the best thing that he could have ever said to me. I relive that moment often, when I am feeling like I haven’t done anything of note lately.

I hope that he never finds out my secret. That deep down inside, I’m lazy. I’d rather take the short cut and leave things half done. There’s this dark side of me that considers it every time I am working on a task. That ugly little voice that tries to tell me that no one will know, that I can leave it undone – or half done – and it will be all right.

“No, it won’t!” argues that saner side of me. “YOU will know! You will know that you were LAZY!”

It’s a chance that I’m usually not willing to take. I buck up and do it the way that I should. So that I can live with myself, knowing that I didn’t take the easy way out.

There are days that I wish that I could just lay around and do nothing. (although, when I was on bed rest for days and couldn’t do anything, I hated it. I guess that we are never happy!) Nearly every day, I think about doing nothing…or as little as I can…but I can’t do it. I just can’t accept that lazy side of me, and so I keep running.

I try to do as much as I can in every day. It’s not always work; I also try to fit in some leisure activities. Everything, however, is written on that mental list, so that I can check it off. Instead of counting sheep at night, I can count the tasks that I have accomplished and I sleep like a baby. It makes me feel good to know that if my Grandpa were here, he would be happy with what I had done that day.

My grandparents were busy, busy people. Even at 80 years old, my grandpa ran all day long. He was involved in everything. If anyone needed anything, he was there to help them. He had a better social life than I did, in my 20’s! He left some mighty big shoes to fill…shoes that my father put on with ease. Shoes that I need to fit into.

So don’t tell anyone, but I’m lazy at heart. The great thing is that because of this inner lazy child, I am able to talk myself into accomplishing more in a day than I think is possible. Just by doing it a little bit better than I want to, a little bit more efficiently. That laziness keeps me from being mediocre in my attempts to better myself. It keeps me running faster, to avoid that natural tendency.

I am pleased with the things that I get done. My boss is thrilled with the things that I get done. And it’s all becoming second nature to strive so hard. I hardly hear that little voice anymore. I think that my Grandpa would be proud, too!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Diamonds in the Dark

“You know, Rob Thomas has either suffered from depression, or knows someone who has,” Hubby mused.

“hmmm” I agree, loading the dishwasher.

I think of the song “Unwell”, that I can identify with, but that makes me laugh. That song bothers Hubby and makes him feel down. I’ve listened to the voices that it talks about, and I’ve wondered a thousand times if I’ve lost my mind. In the wee hours of the morning, I’ve even typed it in at Am I crazy? The answer was not definitive.

“3 AM” is another one that I cling to, knowing what it feels like to only sleep when it’s raining. I’ve screamed, and my voice is strained. I can’t help but be scared of it all sometimes.

“Have you heard that new Rob Thomas?” He asks another day. “Her Diamonds?”

“Only on the radio…” I answered.

“Oh. It’s a good song.” He leaves it at that.

And on yet another day, “I put the new Rob Thomas on your hard drive.”

I was looking forward to listening to it, but being back at work full time has taken a lot of my time and most of my energy. At night, I try to spend as much time with Todd as I can, and then do my fair share of housework. I’m not really doing a very good job at that; I feel like Hubby is doing most of it right now.

“Here.” He puts his new MP3 player in my hands and stuffs the earphones in my ears. “It’s got great sound for a little tiny thing.” He starts Rob Thomas playing and wanders off to take the dog outside.

I’m unloading the dryer and I catch a bit of the lyrics, understanding what Hubby meant about Rob’s familiarity with depression.

“And I don't know what I'm supposed to do
But if she feels bad then I do, too
So I let her be”

He passes by the doorway. “Hey,” I yell after him. “I see what you mean.”

He nods.

The song is nearing the end, and I am just getting the feel for it. I start it over again and sit down to really listen:

Oh what the hell she said
I just can't win for losing
And she lays back down
Man there's so many times
I don't know what I'm doing
Like I don't know now

By the light of the moon
She rubs her eyes
Says it's funny how the night
Can make you blind
I can just imagine
And I don't know what I'm supposed to do
But if she feels bad then i do too
So I let her be

And she says oh
I can't take no more
Her tears like diamonds on the floor
And her diamonds bring me down
Cause I can't help her now
She's down in it
She tried her best but now she can't win it
Hard to see them on the ground
Her diamonds falling down

She sits down and stares into the distance
And it takes all night
And i know i could break her concentration
But it don't feel right

By the light of the moon
She rubs her eyes
Sits down on the bed and starts to cry
And there's something less about her
And I don't know what I'm supposed to do
So I sit down and I cry too
And don't let her see

And she says oh
I can't take no more
Her tears like diamonds on the floor
And her diamonds bring me down
Cause I can't help her now
She's down in it
She tried her best but now she can't win it
Hard to see them on the ground
Her diamonds falling down

She shuts out the night
Tries to close her eyes
If she can find daylight
She'll be alright
She'll be alright
Just not tonight

And she says oh
I can't take no more
Her tears like diamonds on the floor
And her diamonds bring me down
Cause I can't help her now
She's down in it
She tried her best but now she can't win it
Hard to see them on the ground
Her diamonds falling down

I start to cry. I remember what it’s like to be in that dark place. You have no idea how dark and lonely it is, if you have never been there yourself. You forget, even if you have been there. You tell yourself that it wasn’t as bad as you remember. You convince yourself that it can’t possibly be that dark, that deep, that terrifying.

This song captures it perfectly. He KNOWS. He cannot possibly write this without having experienced it in some way. Depression is not something that you can describe from the outside.

You stare…you concentrate on staying alive, because it feels like any minute you could shatter. It’s all you can do to just keep breathing, knowing that it might just be easier to succumb to the darkness.

Somewhere, you understand that it can’t be easy for those who love you. You know that you need to pretend, if only for their sake. You just don’t have enough energy to do that, and feeling bad that you are ignoring their needs only pulls you farther into the pain.

By now, I’m sobbing. I’m feeling such grief for the me that lived there. I’m grateful to be in the sunshine again. (at least for now? You always wonder if the darkness will return) I’m feeling vulnerable, as if Rob has been watching. This song could be me.

Hubby walks by again.

“How many times did you listen to it before you didn’t cry?” I ask. I’m still wiping big crocodile tears from my eyes.

“Told you.” He seems relieved. “Now you know what it was like to be me.”

And the song could be Hubby. He tried, he really tried to reach me. I’m just not sure that it’s possible to reach that far. All he could do was watch and hope. My parents, too, stood by and tried to help. I am blessed with a good support system, and yet…the depression was so much stronger.

I notice that the song is not dark, though. It’s upbeat and catchy, which is why I never really paid much attention to the lyrics on the radio. It’s hopeful in a strange sort of way.

And then I cry because the song talks about her tears being diamonds. Diamonds! Beautiful, sparkling diamonds. Not ugly. Not the way that I see them.

Is it possible to love someone when they are depressed? It’s not easy to live with them, to be sure. It’s not easy to watch. It’s not pretty, and yet, Rob said it. Diamonds.

I remember a picture that I took the same morning that I took the dandelion photo for Wish, Wonder, Believe. There was something about the dew on the grass that fascinated me. The light sparkling through this field of droplets…tiny little diamonds surrounding a fallen leaf. A dead leaf.

Could it be that through it all, I could be loved? That I could not only be forgiven for not being perfect, but that someone could see beauty there?

That would have been impossible to believe, back then. There was little to support the theory. Losing my job was nothing compared to learning that the friends that I had cherished had turned their backs on me when I needed them the most. They knew that I was suffering beyond anything that I had ever suffered before…and they purposely stayed away. I could only believe that what I was was so ugly that it was beyond making an effort.

I know better now. They have their flaws, and I have mine. I can almost feel pity for them, listening to this song. My tears are diamonds, and they have lost a friendship that was true and honest, simply because they couldn’t ride out the bumps in the road. They abandoned me, leaving me to believe that I wasn’t worth the time. They didn’t love me enough to see the diamonds.

Hubby takes the MP3 player back. “I knew that you hadn’t really listened to it,” he says. “Because you hadn’t said anything.”

I dry my eyes one last time and remind myself that not all Hubbies would cry with their wives. Not every family hangs in there while you find the daylight. And neither do friends. But some do, and those of you who have been beside me throughout this and previous depressive episodes, I will cherish always. I know that the love that I feel for you is returned.

If you know someone who is depressed, don’t give up on them. They can’t find their way sometimes, but they need you. They need to know that someone will be there when they do step into the sunlight. They need to know that they are worth loving, worth saving.

If you are the one that is depressed, take heart. You aren’t as lost as you think you are. Someone has been there before, along that sinister path, and lived to tell the tale. You will, too. Then turn back and see what you can do to lead others out of the gloom.

Thanks, Rob.

And more than that, thanks, Hubby! You did know what to do after all.

Hear "Her Diamonds" and view the video!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Where were YOU?

Every generation has one – a day in history that was so powerful that they remember exactly where they were and what they were doing when the news broke…whether it be good news or bad, it makes such an indelible impression that the question “Where were YOU?” can bring up vivid memories and incite the same emotions that surfaced at that moment.

For my generation, it was September 11. You don’t even have to say the year, because for us, it was a before and after situation. Before September 11, and after September 11. It was a division of time between the world in which you felt safe and secure, and one in which you knew that evil had a face…and that face may be as benign as the nice young man next door.

I was driving to a job site, leaving behind my two boys until it was time for school. My favorite morning radio show was somber as I tuned in, and Jackie was saying, “A second plane has hit the World Trade Centers.” To say the very least, I was confused. A SECOND plane? I spent the rest of the ten minute drive listening intently to find out why in the world a plane had hit the WTC, much less TWO planes. It must be a mistake!?

I came inside the building and asked if anyone knew what was going on. Not having television at the site, they were as much in the dark as I was. They were hanging on the words of customers that were coming in, giving bits and pieces of the story. We scrounged up a radio and picked up the only station that it would find in our remote area. We would relay the information to other employees in the building.

The world seemed surreal. There was only interest at this time, as it was so completely out of left field that I don’t think that we truly believed it. And then a third plane hit the Pentagon.

My brother being in the Air Force was suddenly my only concern. We had no idea at that time if there were more planes poised to take out American buildings. We had no idea how long it would last, who was attacking us, or how to defend ourselves. I envisioned planes being scrambled and into the air to combat the phantom enemy, of months of war. I needed to speak to him before it became difficult to do so.

I got the answering machine. I left a strange, rambling message that ended in tears. At his end, they didn’t even know that there was a problem. CJ had been watching cartoons, and kids’ channels were the only ones that hadn’t broken in with live coverage. He got out of the shower and heard my message, calling out to Sis…”Turn on the TV! There’s something going on!”

I was talking to him when the first tower crumbled. He was incoherent as he told me that the tower had fallen. Incredulous, I simply could not wrap my mind around it. “How man floors fell?” I asked.

“All of them!” he replied. “All of them. The whole top of the building is gone!” I simply could not believe it.

When it was time to get the boys up for school, I hurried home and turned on the television. This was the first that I had seen of the damage. I arrived just in time to watch the second tower collapse in on itself. I remember thinking that it had to have been a planned job. I could not even imagine that the building could come down. Surely, it had to have been wired to explode.

I dropped off the kids in a trance, not wanting to leave them there…but wanting things to be as normal as possible. Until we knew more, it seemed the wisest thing to keep them in the dark somewhat.

The day became a blur from that point, with snatches of news coming in. I was doing the books, and could barely concentrate. A task that should have taken two hours took me the entire day…and I spent the next week correcting mistakes that I had made.

Addy came out of the school that afternoon proudly carrying a grasshopper impaled on a stick.

Impaled. I freaked.

“Do you have any idea what you have done?!? You have TORTURED and MURDERED that grasshopper!” I was barely contained and probably being looked at sideways by the other parents. I was crying and made him take it back out to the playground and find a nice burial place for it. He returned with tears in his eyes, as he had seen the blood when he took the grasshopper off of the stick. I’ve always taught the boys that killing something for the sake of killing it was wrong, regardless of whether it was a bug or a bird or a person. I think that lesson really hit home that day.

It was that day that tore our world apart, and it’s never been the same since. It will never be the same. It simply can’t, now that we know.

You know how things are supposed to work. We watch movies that chronicle doomsday in any number of ways. I could never have imagined THIS. To think that the President was aboard Air Force One for safety, flying about the country so as to remain a moving target. The Vice President was in a bunker. And I know that they felt isolated and wanted to be where they could be the most help, not hiding away.

As with any disaster, I was glued to the television. What impressed me most was that Rudy Guiliani was on television all day…into the night, as I stayed up until the wee hours…and then when I arose with the sun, he was still on television. To have taken his responsibilities that seriously, to have been available around the clock, showed what a caring and dedicated man he is.

In the days that followed, I was proud of the response of the American people. On September 12, we were ONE. We cared, we reached out to one another. We stood proud and strong and tall. In spite of it all, the thing that I took from that day was the sense of pride in our country.

I felt such overwhelming gratitude to be where I was. I had recently returned from a business trip that took me across the country. Planes that fateful day were set down wherever they were when the FAA decided to shut down the skies. Travelers were left stranded in airports that they had not even intended to go to. That could have been me, left in Cincinnati or Detroit or Hoboken, without hope of reaching my family.

I was touched by the heroism that coursed through the veins of nearly every American. Those who sacrificed to be at Ground Zero helping in any way that they could. Those who gave their lives in doing so. Those who brought down a plane in a field instead of allowing it to be used as a weapon of war.

Make no mistake, this was an act of war. I think that this has been forgotten in the rhetoric of politics. This was an attack on our own soil. The enemy may not wear the uniform of any formal army, but it was an army nonetheless. To expect them to pay the price for this attack is reasonable, even if it means hunting them to the ends of the earth, across borders. I do not delight in war, nor do I condone violence in any situation. But you cannot stand by and watch as evil triumphs. You have to draw the line when it comes to what will be tolerated, and what will not. I think that in many ways, it is our “as long as it doesn’t affect me” attitude is what made us most vulnerable to this attack. We have to say NO once in awhile.

To protect our homes, our families, and our liberty.

The Book of Mormon is very clear on the acceptable reasons for war. It is not entered into lightly, and it is not to gain power or possession. It is allowable and acceptable when it is necessary to protect our homes, our families, and our liberty, that we might continue to worship God.

Regardless of what side of the aisle you fall on, I think that President Bush was a remarkable man in the days following this horrific event. He brought the nation together in an unprecedented way, declaring war on the powers that support acts of terrorism. He said NO. He praised those characteristics and behaviors that we look to in our heroes. He recognized those that were contributing to the healing process.

More importantly, he brought the nation to it’s feet…and encouraged us to our knees. Never before had we needed the guidance and comfort of our Maker as we did at that time. He openly and freely invited worship and prayer. He didn’t tell us how, or whom to pray to. He simply asked that we do it.

The images that will stay with me forever…of course, the firemen raising the American Flag…President Bush on Air Force One, talking on the phone as he gazed into the clouds…John McCain pausing on the steps to pray with the American people…a young couple stranded in an airport, holding their infant close to them as they awaited word on when they might return home…astronauts watching the World Trade Center burn from space…planes lined up at the airport…candlelight vigils.

I woke this morning and turned on the television to share in the remembrances of this day, only to find that the day was all but forgotten. A mention here, a comment there. No one was wearing their red, white, and blue. No one even seemed to notice that this was the day that ripped our lives into BEFORE and AFTER.

A mere eight years after the event, we have politicized, polarized, and then obliterated the heaven that came out of that day. I am saddened that we have so easily set aside our anger towards the terrorists, and turned it on one another. Our country could not be more divided today…when it was but a few short years ago that we couldn’t have been more united.

How did we get to here?

I wore my red, white and blue today. I put on my flag pin and I remembered the day even if no one else cared. I said a prayer for the brave souls that CONTINUE to protect us even though there are so many who criticize them for doing so. I remembered those that we lost that day…in body, or in spirit. The lives that were lost, and the lives that were damaged beyond repair.

My favorite radio morning show was on again, and just as they did 8 years ago, they covered September 11 with the personal, heartfelt style that I have come to know and love. They may be raucous and crazy on any other day, but they helped me to cope with all that we were forced to endure at that time, and today, they honored that memory. Way to go, Kiss FM! It’s good to know that at least one media outlet has set aside their politics for this day.

There’s still tomorrow. Let’s celebrate September 12 as we did eight years ago. Let’s band together as Americans, young and old, republican and democrat, rich and poor. Let’s champion the indomitable spirit of the scrappy American. Let’s just say no to the evil that surrounds us. Let’s love one another the way that we did AFTER. Let’s try to go back to a time when it wasn’t about the individual, but rather about the collective.

Back to the way that it should be. Come on. I dare ya!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

When words are not enough....

There’s a hurt from which I’m not sure that you can recover…I think that it cuts so deep that you will always feel the pain. It might be dull, it might be manageable, but it is always always there. Like the spot on my stomach that is tender to the touch, even 16 years after giving birth to Addy the Musician. I asked my doctor why it hurt so much, and he figures that there are stitches there from where he sewed the fat pad back in place. (the fact that I had a fat pad is almost as disturbing to me as the knowledge that he had it essentially off and then sewed it back on!) To this day, I can tell you where that spot is, because if I touch it just right, the scar is still there.

Of course, I’m talking about losing a child.

I cannot imagine losing a child and getting out of bed the next morning. A friend once pointed out that I would get out of bed because I still have other children, but I disagree. I would want to bring them all into my bed with me and protect them from the world.

I even dread my children leaving home. I know that it must happen, and that I cannot stop the hands of time. I just hope that when that day comes, I will be strong enough to survive. I love having my children in our home, and I think that I would love to have them and their families in a great big compound so that we can be together always.

This deep and abiding love was born the moment that I learned that Tux was going to be coming to our family. I was about 6 weeks along, and not yet feeling any morning sickness or discomfort. I began to feel some discomfort, and freaked out . I cried, I prayed, and I hoped. My doctor told me that it was merely my uterus growing rapidly that caused the discomfort, but I still worried.

I was anxious throughout my entire pregnancy with Addy. I don’t know why, but I had the idea that I was not going to get to keep this baby, and so I was worried to get too attached. Even driving to the hospital, I felt concern that I would not be bringing him home.

My worst fears came true when I found out that I was pregnant with Todd. I began to spot, then bleed, and then outright hemorrhage. I was on bedrest for two weeks as we waited to see if I would miscarry. It turned out that I had placenta previa, and it was the placenta attaching near my cervix that was causing the bleeding, but it was a nerve wracking two weeks.

I would sob every time I saw the bleeding that meant that I might be losing my baby. I begged my Heavenly Father to let me keep him. I had a priesthood blessing that said that this ‘surprise would bring great joy to my family.’ It didn’t promise a baby, but it was encouraging.

Hubby would tell me that it was okay, that I was probably worried about nothing. Well meaning people would tell me that it would be okay. But NO, it would not be okay. It would never be okay if I lost my baby. I talked with a cousin that had endured early pregnancy bleeding, and she, too, felt that no amount of encouragement could lift her spirits. Nothing that anyone said could take away the fear and pain.

This pregnancy was difficult all of the way through. I was on restrictions for most of the pregnancy, on bedrest at the end. Todd was ultimately premature. The fear never ended.

I have someone that I love very much who is struggling with this fear right now. I know that fear, I know that ache. I know that nothing that I can say will make it better, and that is heartbreaking. There is nothing to say, nothing to offer, other than the support that someone who has been through this can offer.

What I do know is that my children were my children from the moment that I learned that they existed. I don’t care how many cells they were, or how perfectly or rudimentally formed they were at the time. I got to see Todd in an ultrasound when he still had an egg sac, and he was still my baby. I could see his tiny heart beat, and he was a person to me. I would have grieved their loss the same whether I was barely pregnant or had raised them. The hurt would be the same.

Another cousin recently lost a baby at 19 weeks gestation. The hospital that she gave birth at was incredibly loving and allowed the parents time with their baby, giving him little clothing and blankets and letting them say goodbye. What compassion they showed to a family that had lost a member, when often, it is considered merely a miscarriage, and not a lost life.

For this reason, I could never choose to terminate a pregnancy for any reason. Nor could I participate in IVF, where multiple eggs are fertilized and frozen. I would have to carry each of them, like Octomom, or allow them to be adopted. I could not destroy even that early stage of life.

When I was carrying the older boys, I wondered when their little spirits entered their body. Tux was insanely active in utero. He bounced off of the walls the entire time. We fought over my ribs, he teased. He rarely slept or rested.

This is exactly Tux’s personality, even now.

Along came Addy, who was more laid back. Once a day, he would slowly roll over in my stomach, barely making a ripple. No fights over vital organs and who should or should not be stepping on them. No stretches that made me want to gasp as my bones were pushed apart with great force. And true to this, Addy is my more laid back child. He sleeps more, is less wild and active, and generally acts exactly as he did before his birth.

Todd is much like Tux, wild and crazy and active. Both in, and out. You cannot convince me that their spirits are not with them right from the beginning.

To anyone who has ever lost a child, whether that child was full grown, or barely bigger than a dot, my heart goes out to you. To even breathe after such a loss is commendable. I wish that there were something that I could say to make the hurt go away, to ease it even slightly. All I can offer is my love and support, and that is not enough, I know.

We always wonder where the lesson is in each life trial. For some, we may never know. We just have to have faith and continue to trust in our Heavenly Father. He will keep us and comfort us, and use each experience for our own good. We can’t let it shake our faith or keep us from loving again.

To my sweet loved one that is suffering, I wish that I could take some of the burden. My arms are around you always. I wish that I had more to offer.

I’ve always believed in the power of words, but at this time, they seem all but powerless.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Back to munching on elephants

With my return to the work force, there have been some changes in our household. I can’t stay up all night, playing on the computer, because I can’t sleep in the next day. I can’t put things off like I did when I was home all of the time, because tomorrow might be even more stressed. I can’t do all of the housework anymore, because I just don’t have the time.

Funny thing is, I still get a lot done. Even though I am working 40+ hours a week, and then some. (My day job is 40+, and I still have a couple of clients that I’m working for on freelance projects) Even though I have to commute.

Now that’s funny. Because I have worked from home for so long even before I was unemployed, I got used to a short commute. Across the house, to be exact! I didn’t even have to get dressed or brush my teeth, just roll out of bed and down the hall to the office. Now, I have to drive some 12-15 minutes to work, across our small town. There’s even traffic – although nothing like a big city. Here, it counts as traffic if you cannot go at exactly the moment that you want to, or if you have to wait for another car to pass before you pull out. And we’ve had road construction, as our four way stop is soon to become a free for all. (DOT calls it a roundabout, but I disagree) It’s been arduous travelling so far! I’ve found that I have to keep myself amused on the drive. Good music, talk radio, saying my morning prayers, or talking on the phone. (always hands free, of course! Since I don’t have Bluetooth, I put my phone on speaker phone and tuck it into my seatbelt. A white trash hands free, if you will, but it works!)

So anyway. Back to the original point, which is this: we will never have time to accomplish all that we want to, but we have to do the best that we can. How, you ask? When there not enough minutes in the day? No great blocks of time to do anything but try to keep your head above water? Well, how do you eat an elephant?

One bite at a time.

I’ve always lived by this adage, as I have never had time to do everything that I want to. Except for my one period of unemployment, I’ve always worked full time, gone to school full time, or BOTH. Except for my period of unemployment, I’ve always had to budget my time. Except for my period of unemployment, I’ve never had a clean refrigerator all at one time.

I may notice that a shelf is gucky. It would be easy to say that I didn’t have time to clean the refrigerator and just let it get so gross that I finally have to clean it. Being slightly OCD, however, that won’t work. So instead, I settle for taking out the worst shelf and cleaning it up. I may or may not have time to do more, but at least that shelf is clean. The next day or so, I try to hit another shelf. Usually, the one that I cleaned first is getting dirty by the time I get to the last, but at least it never gets overwhelming.

It’s amazing what you can do in five minutes! Time yourself the next time you do a task, and I think that you will be surprised at how little time you actually spend doing it. We all tend to waste a lot of time ‘gearing up’ and whining to ourselves that we have to do it, and the task itself is not so daunting.

The other thing that changes is that I become much more schedule driven. Sheets are changed on Saturdays. A load of laundry is done every morning. I can’t just wing it, because things will get lost in the shuffle.

And it is imperative that I am ahead of the ball. Clothes have to be laid out before the week begins. We need a calendar to keep track of everyone’s commitments. Dinners are planned and posted, so that I can piggy back cooking, make sure that things are out of the freezer, and still have reasonable meals and not just canned chili every night. (apparently, that’s my go-to dinner, the one that I make when I have nothing planned or laid out) Planning ahead means that when the inevitable surprise comes up, I’m still organized enough to get by.

It also means that some things have to be pared out of the schedule. I had to put my Farm Town in hibernation, for instance. Not that I didn’t have time (I had it laid out so that my crops matured at different times!), but because my family kept giving me a bad time about being on the computer harvesting. (odd, since they are usually behind a computer themselves!) I avoid Facebook, which can waste HOURS of time. I can’t blog as often as I’d like to.

It doesn’t mean that things like scrapbooking, blogging, family history, or other good activities have to be shelved. It just means that I have less time to do them, and I have to be efficient. I have to use every minute for some good use, so that I don’t waste the time that I have.

Things change, situations necessitate adjustments. I just keep nibbling at that elephant, and one day..he’ll be gone. I’m sure that by then, they’ll be another elephant to tackle, but no worries. It gives me more to blog about!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

I haven't given up on blogging...

I miss writing so frequently, but due to an overwhelming amount of success in my life professionally, I am not able to sit down every night and ruminate! I've always said, be careful what you wish for...but rest assured that I have a gazillion things left to say, and will find the time soon to share it all with you!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Just a thought about tweeting...

So, ya'll know that I don't tweet...this post will probably be the closest thing to it, since I've had a LOOOOOOOONNNG day today and I'm too pooped to write! But I'm always thinking about tweeting, because I can't, I guess.

Anyway, I see others' tweets, and I think that they are fascinating. So if I really enjoy a tweet and want to share it with others, and I copy it...does it become a "twote"?? (get it? Like quote, only from a tweet...I guess it's not as funny in print as it was in my head.)

THIS is why I stick to full essays.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Come what may and LOVE it.

In October of 2008, I heard a talk at the General Conference for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints that made me laugh and touched my soul at the same time. At the time, we had no idea that it would be the last Conference address given by Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin. He was a frail old man, hardly even able to speak, and he gave his talk from a sitting position. His body was frail, but his words were powerful.

His theme was “Come what may, and love it”. The concept is easy enough to understand…when life hands us lemons, we must make lemonade. We must learn to love the things that are thrown at us, and not let adversity destroy us. It’s an excellent talk, and one that I recommend that everyone read, regardless of your faith or denomination.

At the time, it was easy to see the message implied. I had recently been unemployed, and life was looking pretty bleak. We had lost half of our income, my self-esteem, and many of my friends in the process. I understood and tried to apply his advice, I really did. That path was longer and more winding than I had hoped, but I finally got to the point where I loved the situation that I was in.

Now we are on the other side. But you know what? His advice still applies! He said come what may…and that means in adversity, but also in our successes. Change in our lives is inevitable, and even if it is a good change, it’s a change that causes stress for us.

I have been so busy lately that I can hardly keep up. I have two clients that I work with that are requiring a great deal of time right now. They were freelance projects that I was working on during the time that I was looking for work, and for businesses and business owners that I respect very much.

I also had the chance to take engagement pictures for a friend’s son. Not only was it something that I wanted to do for my friend, but it was a fantastic opportunity to build my photography portfolio and I couldn’t pass it up. They were both photogenic and easy to work with, and I had a great time getting to know them. This meant an hour or so taking the pictures, and then a few hours editing and perfecting the photos. I suppose if I were a better photographer, I could have sped that process up, but I wanted them to be nice and so I spent a bit of time on them.

As all of these incredible opportunities presented themselves just as I received a job offer. Again, it was something that I just couldn’t pass up, a job that I had been waiting for. I started last Thursday, and hit the ground running. I am working 40+ hours a week and running all of those. It requires a bit of brain power, as well as some physical running (it’s a large office), both of which I’ve not had to do for months. I have worked from home for years, and was always able to adjust my schedule to fit my life. Not so with this new job, which requires regular office hours onsite. That’s not a bad thing at all, merely a big change for me.

And I still have the side jobs that need my attention and deserve it. I will not let them down just because ‘something better came along.’

Crazy times.

I’m also feeling sad that I am leaving Todd. We have been together now for over three years. He’s been my buddy, my sidekick, my every minute. He is my last child, and we have had an amazing three years together as homebodies. It would be easy to be bummed over the whole thing.

I’m not bummed. I am grateful for these blessings, even if the Lord has chosen to pour them all upon me at once. He waited until I had healed, until I was ready to handle the stress. I thank Him for that great mercy.

I will follow Elder Wirthlin’s advice. When I am stressed and have no time to myself for a few weeks, I’ll be glad that I have good work and an income to help my family. When I am away from my children and missing them, I will make the most of my time away. I won’t bemoan our separation; I will rejoice in the adult time that it gives me, and the self-esteem that it is restoring. I will learn everything that I can, I will accomplish all that I can, I will make my employer as successful as I can.

At the end of the day, I will go home and love my babies.

We don’t know what the next day might bring. It may bring unemployment again…with the economy as it is, there are no guarantees. Now I know that is not the worst thing that can happen, though, and I know that I can not only survive, I can THRIVE.

In my current work state, I am busy and sometimes need five minutes just to do what I want to do. (Which is usually working my farm in Farm Town) But I can not only survive this wild time, I can THRIVE.

That’s what Elder Wirthlin was referring to. Not just “endure to the end”, which is good advice…but come what may and LOVE it. Embrace it. Don’t just survive. And never, ever wish away the time that is now.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

My Sister's Keeper Review

I’ve been meaning to write about this book since the moment that I saw the movie trailer…but I’m glad that I didn’t . After seeing the movie, I am filled with thoughts and emotions that I didn’t have with the book, or were renewed. It was a very well done movie and although it deviates from the book in one key point, I felt that point was actually an improvement on the story. I’ll discuss that at the end so that you can avoid it if you haven’t seen the movie or read the book!

The book, by Jodi Picoult, is what I consider her second best work, Nineteen Minutes being the absolute most amazing thing that she has ever written. My mother urged me to read Nineteen Minutes so that she could talk about it, and I was a Jodi Picoult fan from the very start. She is an intelligent, intuitive, and well educated woman, and this shows in her books. They are insightful and always based on a storyline that makes you question your beliefs and values.

My Sister’s Keeper is centered on an 11 year old girl that has been a virtual spare parts replacement for her sister, who suffers from a rare form of Leukemia. She was genetically engineered to be the perfect match for Kate, and conceived solely to save her. Despite their best efforts, the cord blood is not enough to spare Kate, and so, a lifetime of donations begins. Blood, bone marrow, and finally, they are asking for a kidney. At this point, Anna seeks medical emancipation from her parents, suing for the right to determine what will be done to her own body.

Although they were unable to fully represent all of the complexities offered in the book, the movie did a good job of showing the strain that this places on the entire family. Kate has suffered the agony and indignity of cancer, but the rest of the family has suffered equally as much.

Anna, of course, has been the child who was born to save her sister, something that is proving to be more difficult than they originally thought. She is never asked if she would like to do this, and in fact, they hold her down when she is a small child. Does she have the right to decide for herself whether or not she will help her sister? Is she beholden to do so? Or are her parents in a position to decide this?

Sara, the mother, has devoted her entire life to keeping Kate alive at any cost. Any. I guess that you can see what I think of her.

Brian, the father, has tried to keep his family on an even keel all of these years, watching Sara fight the dragons that beset their daughter. It is intimated that he has lost his ‘first love’, as the marriage is strained. Understandably so.

There is an older brother, also. He is troubled and rebellious, testing the limits at all times. Jesse has always been the sibling that couldn’t help his sister. He gets lost in the shuffle, and even when he is ‘bad’, he is ignored. Deep down, he’s a good kid, though, and loves his family.

I think that the only thing that this family has going for it is love, which is almost unbelieveable in the circumstances presented. It speaks to the deep relationships that they must have had before the chaos began.

The things that I questioned as I read the book and watched the movie were what I would do in this situation. God forbid I ever have to find out! No one should have to see their child struggle as Kate does. I would like to think, however, that I would have asked Anna for her help, and that I would not have forgotten my son.

When I was on bedrest three hours from home when Todd was born, that was the most difficult part. I had two other children who needed me, who needed attention. I was stuck in a hospital bed, so far away, and seldom got to see them. I tried to keep in contact via phone and IM, and stayed interested and involved in what they were doing. It became more difficult after Todd’s birth and subsequent NICU stay, as I spent 12 hours a day at the hospital with him. I reminded myself that it was only for a short time. But I still made time for the other boys, or at least I tried. It may have been short bursts of time, such as when we went to dinner when they were visiting, but I tried to make it focused attention. It’s not easy, I can assure you. But I’d like to believe that I would be able to do this even with the long term illness of a child.

The second question that I had to ask myself is how far I would go to save a child. Again, my children are everything to me, and I feel that I would move heaven and earth to do so. But could I sacrifice one for the other? Could I expect one to give up their own life to potentially save the life of another…when that is not even guaranteed? What is the big picture?

The character that I felt the most sorrow for was Jesse. Although Anna endured medical procedures and physical pain to help her sister, she received attention because she was the one who could help Kate. (not a good reason to be valued, but at least she was valued) Jesse had nothing. He could not do a thing to help Kate. He was simply forgotten.

I was impressed with the actors. Cameron Diaz as Sarah was a stretch in my mind, prior to seeing the movie. She carried it off well, however, and I finally felt like I could take her seriously as an actress. (personal political statements aside) The same could be said of Joan Cusack, who was beautiful as the judge who hears the case. It was the first time that I’d seen her in any serious and substantial role, and she was fantastic. It was hard to see both of these women, who are approximately my age, in roles as mothers and middle aged women. (when did that sneak up on me??) The final blow as Jason Patric (of the sexy vampire movie of the 80’s, The Lost Boys) as Brian. He was very good, and we are old. Let’s just face it.

Abigail Breslin was fine as Anna, although the movie did not showcase her. Jesse was played by Evan Ellingson, a new face to me. He did a good job of showing the love that he had the for the family, as well as his troubled thought process.

The real star of the show was unequivocably Sofia Vassilieva as Kate. She was appropriately in pain, in anguish, and yet hopeful all at once. She shaved her head for the role, and was seen looking devastatingly unpretty. (kudos to the makeup folks, as well, who transformed her into a pathetic, scarred creature!) At an age when beauty is tantamount to personal image, she allowed herself to be seen in the most hideous of circumstances. I cannot say enough about her performance! She was brilliant, and reminded me much of Molly RIngwald. I’d have thought her to be a relative, as she had facial expressions and mannerisms that reinforced the physical similarities.

My vote is for Sofia to win something major for her role. Anybody listening??

Now I’m going to mention the plot point that changed from written word to screen. So if you do not want to know…stop reading now!


The ending of the book gave Anna her emancipation, placing her medical decisions in the hands of her attorney. Traveling home after the trial, they are in a car accident that kills Anna. The attorney then donates her kidney to Kate, who is miraculously healed by this kidney.

I hated this ending for many reasons. First of all, it was unexpected and I was devastated. Secondly, it seemed unbelieveable that after all that had been done to save Kate…and the knowledge that she was both too weak for the kidney surgery and not likely to be healed by it, anyway…that she is saved by this donation. I was upset that after all that she had done to save her sister, all that she had gone through to give her sister what she wanted…Anna still sacrificed everything.

Mostly, though, I was angry because in the end, Sarah got what she wanted. Kate lived, and Anna was merely spare parts. I felt that Sarah had never truly connected with Anna, and that if she had to choose one child to live over another, it was a done deal.

The movie ends differently, but no less sadly. In the movie, Kate is allowed to express her desire to be DONE, and then she dies peacefully. Anna is granted emancipation…not that it matters now, anyway…but it has accomplished what Kate had asked for. Life goes on. They are sad. They miss Kate. They look for answers, and there aren’t any.

It was REAL. (Sorry, Jodi)

Tears flowed freely throughout the movie, which had an excellent score. I left feeling sorrowful, and yet, uplifted. Odd. Definitely a ‘thinker’ movie…the best kind.

Well, what would YOU do?

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Slipping Away

My grandmother is not the woman that she used to be. In fact, it could be said that she is someone entirely new and different. The new grandma is but a wisp of the old; for the old one has been slipping away from us, one memory at a time. At first, she was just forgetful. Then she was confused. We’ve moved beyond that to {most of the time} almost blank.

I think that she has bamboozled us for years. I think that this has been going on, and she has just been playing along, pretending to remember things. I can see it in the way that she says, ‘Oh, that’s right. I had forgotten.” When you remind her of things. Little things, like how many children she has.

She seems to think that losing one’s memory is akin to losing one’s mind…and therefore, the result of some character flaw or cardinal sin. She adamantly defends herself, trying to prove that she is still of very sound mind.

She has always cooked on a gas stove, as long as I can remember. She used to feed us well…three square meals and then some. She was a good cook. Now, she can’t remember how to turn on the stove…and more importantly, she has forgotten that she has to turn it OFF. She was bemoaning the fact that she had been banned from using the stove, insisting that she could handle it.

“If they would just teach me how to use it,” She told me vehemently, “Then I would be fine.”

“You would forget how to use it and then you might put yourself in danger.” I pointed out.

“Pish posh! I am perfectly capable of using the stove!”

I winked at her and asked, “Gram, what’s MY name?”

She was perplexed. She thought really hard, her little brows knit in thought. Then she guessed, “Jack.”

I patted her hand. “No, Gram, and that is why you cannot use the stove.”

The decision was agonizingly made to put her in an assisted living facility where she would be looked after and less prone to dangers of any kind. She didn’t like the idea, but agreed so that her eldest daughter could be free to go on a mission for our church with her husband.

I think that she thought that it would be a very short term solution. She kept telling folks that she had another home, and that she was going back there soon. She didn’t see any reason to remain in this apartment when she had a perfectly good home somewhere else.

She’s funny, because she kept trying to convince us that someone needed to move in with her and take care of her. We actually had tried that, as my cousin and his wife had lived with her briefly last summer. It was very difficult for them, as she wanted them to be there…but not be in her way. To live there, but not disrupt her house or move in their own things. Moving in with someone else was not an option, either, because she didn’t want to leave her home. (but it was okay for someone else to give up their home and live but not live with her)

The facility that she is in is BEAUTIFUL. It’s a southern inspired brand new building that has the most amazing program. They have activities every day, from piano players to book readings, walks, scenic drives, trips to Wal-Mart to church services and an onsite hairdresser. The food is good, the d├ęcor is gorgeous, and they have the kindest staff. It makes me feel so much better to know that she is being well taken care of, and that she is not alone all of the time.

Just after she moved in, I asked her if she had met anyone yet.

“Oh, sure…I’ve met lots of people,” she said absently. “But they are all OLD.”

I hate to break it to ya, Gram…but so are you! She thinks that it’s terrible that they sit around and sleep all day. But if you ask what she does…she gets up to eat, then takes a nap. Eats lunch, then takes a nap. Let’s face it…that’s what happens when our bodies are winding down!

I’ve tried to explain to her that this is the time for her to relax, to enjoy herself, and to endure the indignity of old age. We all have to do it; it’s a fact of life. You can choose to do it gracefully, or you can go down kicking and screaming…but either way…you are going to get old.

I also wanted her to understand that everyone experiences a loss of some of their physical attributes during their later years. Some folks can’t walk, others lose the ability to talk, see, or hear. Still others suffer from a debilitating loss of memory. It’s all physical, it’s all related to our mortal bodies, and is not a failure of our spirit. It’s not a sin to forget because your brain is no longer at it’s prime.

She continues to kick and scream.

We have found it to be humorous. What other choice do you have? She’s funny, if you try not to get too worked up about what she says or does. She insisted that no one was coming to visit her, so my aunt started a calendar on which you wrote your name on the day that you had visited. Then Gram scoffed at it and said, “You are just writing their names down to make me think that they have been here!”

Then she started to complain that her husband hadn’t come to visit her. “I just can’t understand it,” she said. “I would think that he would come up here to see me! Why hasn’t he come?”

My aunt handled it with sarcasm and wit. “Because he’s DEAD?” She offered.

Gram was indignant. “Well, why didn’t anyone tell me???”

You have to laugh. Otherwise, you would be heartbroken.

I have to say, I kinda like this new Grandma. She doesn’t remember much, so she can’t berate you for not having called or visited…she doesn’t really know who you are, so she doesn’t lecture you on your past sins…and you can tell her the same story over and over again and each time, she is amused. That is, when she can hear it. Her hearing is not so good either.

I used to call Gram whenever I was homesick for the family homestead, but I’ve not called very often lately. She can’t hear me very well, she certainly doesn’t understand anything that I am talking about, and I’m not ever sure if she even knows who I am. (We’ve established that she can’t remember my name!) Instead, I try to send her things regularly…pictures, short letters, that sort of thing. Just enough so that she knows that I am thinking of her always, but not so much that it overwhelms her to look at them or read them.

She keeps telling me that she is not long for this world, and I know that she wants to believe that. She misses my Grandpa and wants to follow him into the next world, where her mind and body will be whole again. While I don’t wish that for the rest of us, I hope for her sake that it is so. She seems so miserable in her current state, and maybe she’ll be happy in the next.

I can’t wait for the day that we can sit down and tell the stories of the days when Grandma’s mind was not so good, and laugh at the funny things that she has said and done. When she can join us at the table and know who we are, the history that we share with her. When she can appreciate the fact that we still love her even though she is not our grandmother, at least not the way that we have come to know her. I hope that she can enjoy the stories with us, and not be embarrassed that she forgot her children’s names, and thought that she had somehow missed the death of her husband.

The latest story about Gram is that she had complained that ‘they’ had moved a man into her apartment. Come to find out, she was going to the elevator and standing for a few moments…forgetting that she had not gotten on the elevator, much less went upstairs on it…and headed down the hall to her room. Which, of course, was one floor above her, and NOT her apartment. The man was indignant that she just barged in to his room. A few days later, they said, he did the same thing, this time, barging into her room.

They make a good pair! Maybe we’ll just mingle their stuff together, and no matter what floor they are on…they’ll be home. Sounds like a good plan to me!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The only way that I'll ever have a green thumb...

I’ve developed a love of the land. Planting a seed, and watching it grow and produce fruit. I look forward to walking my farm, finding the crops that are ready to harvest. Tending to the flourishing plants so that they will be the most productive. By the sweat of my brow…tilling the earth with my bare hands. Okay, not my bare hands…but my mouse hand, anyway!

I’ve discovered Farm Town on Facebook. You know, it’s one of those silly little apps that you can send gifts to your friends? I kept getting gifts from folks, and I was just ignoring them. I’d had a Lil Green Patch, which was supposed to save the rainforests (although for the life of me, I have no idea how playing a game on FB was going to save the world). I never did get the hang of it. It irritated me because the plants were willy nilly in my Lil Green Patch. I spent an hour reorganizing them one day…only to log on and find out that it didn’t save correctly. I abandoned my Patch. So apparently, Global Warming is all my fault.

So one night at Bro’s, I was up late unable to sleep. I’d turned off my computer, but his was still on, so I jumped on and started surfing aimlessly. I checked my email. I looked at I took a peek to see what was on sale at I moseyed over to Facebook, but no one was up and posting. I decided to see what this Farm Town thing was all about.

That was my first mistake. I was given a block of land with six plots of tilled earth, and soon, I was growing potatoes. They know how to hook me! Potatoes are my favorite! I plowed some more land, won some coins in the Farm Town daily lottery, and planted some more.

I think that I planned to abandon it after that, but the next morning, I looked at my crops. I won some more coins, and planted some grape seeds. They would mature in only 4 hours, and I could see the fruits of my labors!

They didn’t tell me that the darn grapes would rot on the vine if I didn’t get back to them! When I logged on that evening, my grapes had gone to waste. It says that, in bold letters. Gone to waste. I was so frustrated! I had wasted all of that plowing and planting and the coinage to accomplish that. I vowed to never let that happen again. That’s when I knew that I’d made the fatal mistake.

Since then, I have become very methodical in my planting, and I make sure that I will be available when my crops mature, so that I can get them in before they go to waste. I make sure that I harvest them in a timely manner and then get those fields plowed and replanted.

By the time I had left Bro’s house, I was getting pretty good at Farm Town. The girls would sit by me and help me decide what crops to plant, estimate when they would be ready to harvest, and organize my growing orchard. All of the gifts that had been sent by other Farm Town friends were piling up, and I had to move them into the application.

At first, I planted them in a row along the edges of my farm. When it began to bug me that they were haphazard, I found that you could move them. Woohoo! I lined them up nicely. The next day, I rearranged them, to make them prettier and easier to see. Then it bothered me that they were all mixed up. I put Plum Trees in a row, Orange Trees in another. Still later, I had to organize them by maturity, so that they were easier to harvest. That was an undertaking, I tell you! You had to examine each tree, note it’s maturity percentage, then line them up from least to most mature. Now, all of the trees that need to be harvested at the same time are grouped together. It’s very cool.

Then there is the issue of the animals. I’d received them as gifts, but couldn’t figure out how to contain them. Turns out, you have to BUY fences! Well, I didn’t have the capital to increase my crop production and buy fences, too, so for a long time, my animals ran amok on my farm. It wasn’t until my farm was well established that I felt that I could afford fences, and at first, only a small pen for all of them. Poor things stood side by side, cows, pigs, chickens, and horses alike. Crammed into a tiny pen.

One day, I actually DID THE MATH, and found out which crops are the most lucrative. Really! You have to factor in the length of time that it takes to mature, cost of the seeds, and the cost of plowing the field. I found that of the crops that I could buy at the time, Rice, Corn, and Sunflowers would net the largest gain. I planted sunflowers like they were going out of style.

Soon, I had enough of a cushion to build real pens for my animals. I made one for the pigs, one for the cows, another for the sheep. I’m not sure about the programming, though, because one errant cow kept wandering out into the orchards. After returning him to his pen many times, he has finally stayed put. Then there was the sheep that kept wandering back to the cows. I think that the programmers are writing these things and laughing at us poor farmers, trying to contain our cyber livestock!

I’ve become enamored with the pigs, that sleep on command. You tell them to sleep and they suddenly go stiff, fall on their sides, then close their eyes and snooze sweetly. After a moment, they get up, seemingly refreshed. They are bright eyed and adorable! I have to play with my pigs a bit each day, making each one take a nap. Other than that, the animals serve no purpose in Farm Town. Very strange, indeed!

My farm is truly a visual interpretation of my personality. It is relatively no nonsense, maximized to increase it’s potential for success. I have planted on nearly every square inch, and I keep my fields growing at all times. I’ve purchased more land three times now, and I am finally letting myself buy some decorative items. No buildings yet – oh, no, that would be far to extravagant! But my animals are in pens, and I bought a nice bench to place in the flower garden so that I could enjoy it in the evenings. (As if! I mean, I send my little avatar there, but is she really enjoying it???)

I’ve decided that I will now start to build my home…a farm house, yard, etc. A modest one, so that I can keep producing at the rate that I’ve become accustomed to. You just can’t waste good farmland, you know.

This is supposed to be a social networking game, and so it is less expensive to hire someone to plow and harvest your crops than to do it yourself. It makes no sense, and I’ve become somewhat rebellious about it. I refuse to hire anyone. I don’t care if it costs more to plow and my crops are not as plentiful. It’s just wrong to hire someone to do something that you can do yourself.

I actually ran into someone when I was helping at their farm. You can go to friends’ farms and weed or water or rake and you get coins for doing so. One day, I saw my cousin planting seeds. His little avatar would move around and then little seeds would appear, it was fascinating to watch.

It disturbs me that little digital people come and stand in my fields. These are not my friends working , but it’s odd little avatars that just stand there and stare. I have no idea who they are, and they are just standing there. I feel like marching up to them and demanding to know how they got there, but then they might talk to me. I’m not here to socialize, folks, I have farm work to do!! One day, a cheeky gal stood right in the middle of a field that I was trying to harvest, plow, and plant, and it kept me from plowing that square. The gall!

I know, I have a problem. I need to lay off the farming. Hubby thinks that I’m obsessed, but we’re not really asking his opinion, are we? I figure that one day, my farm will be maximum size and I’ll run out of exciting things to do on it. Until then, keep the seeds coming!

So, check it out. See you in Farm Town! Just don’t stand in my fields. It’s rude and makes your avatar look like a ‘tard.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

I will remember you...

I was a huge Amy Grant fan for years. I guess I could say that I’m no longer a rabid fan, although I still appreciate her…I was judgemental about her divorce and remarriage, and I’ve not gotten past that. My bad, I know, and I need to do so. I don’t know what really happened and I have no right to pass judgement, anyway.

So when Hubby put on one of her albums the other day, I realized that it had been quite some time since I listened to her albums. One of my favorites was “Behind the Eyes”, which happened about the time of the divorce, but was timely in my life, as well. The first song that was played on our random-play was “I will be your friend.” It’s interesting how a song can take you back, make you think…it sent me down a path that relived old memories and reevaluated my standing in the world as I washed the dishes and cooked dinner.

Here are some of the lyrics:

When every moment gets too hard
End of the road can feel so far
No matter how much time were apart
I’m always near you

Ill be the shelter in your rain
Help you find your smile again
Ill make you laugh at a broken heart
Wherever you are

cause I’m never gonna walk away
If the wall comes down someday
All alone and you feel afraid
Be there when you call my name
You can always depend on me
I believe until forever ends
I will be your friend

So many people come and go
But nothing can change the you I know
You’ll never be just a face in the crowd
And time will show
Through the seasons and years
I will always hold you dear
Never you fear

It did remind me of friends that I have had…good friends that I thought would never, ever be less than my bestest buddies. That we would stand by one another through thick and thin, side by side.

Life isn’t really like that, you know.

It also made me think of a boyfriend that I had once, who was reluctant to tell me that he loved me. He would infer it, but avoided the words for quite some time. He came from a broken home, and didn’t want to say something that he couldn’t guarantee forever. I assured him that no one expected it to be forever, but you should share your feelings when they emerged.

That was many years ago, and there was a time that we ceased to love each other in that way. We both changed and grew apart. I’m very happily married to someone else, and yet, I don’t hold any grudges against the boy who loved me once. I do remember the time that we had together, and there are good things to take from it, even though we parted at some point.

I realized as I listened to the song that he was probably right. We can’t guarantee that we will love someone forever. (children and spouses excluded, whose love we work to keep alive every day) We meet friends, we learn from them and grow with them…and sometimes away from them. Situations change in our lives, and we may not have the time or the accessibility to them, we may not have the same things in common.

I have friends that I miss because they live too far away…ones that I would continue to seek out, ones that I admire greatly…but the proximity complicates things. Thank heaven for Facebook, email, and such that allow us to remain in contact, even if it is not as close as we would like. I hope that they know how much they continue to mean to me. I’ll have to be more dedicated to expressing that. Everyone needs to know when they are valued!

There are some that I was close to at one time, but circumstances have changed. In some cases, our parting was not pleasant, or we had issues that came between us. It comes back to that email that you have all read, I’m sure, about people coming into our lives for a reason, a season, or a lifetime. They were there for a season, and no longer serve a purpose in my life. That sounds somewhat callous, but the truth is that we don’t have time or energy for all of the people that we would like to include in our daily lives.

Even if I had the energy, there are some that I would have parted from anyway. I learn and refine myself every day, and I’ve found that there are some folks that simply are not headed the way that I am going. I don’t have the resources to maintain that kind of friendship when they cannot influence me for the betterment of myself and my family. They may be fine people, but travelling with them would mean deviating from where I want to be, and that is not productive for either one of us.

My therapist talked to me about this, as I was working through my issues with lost friends. She illustrated it by saying that perhaps you have room in your life for 10 friends…so when one or two move out of our lives, we can replace them with one or two more. Adding three more would be too much, and leave us less time for the things that we already have to accomplish. Not adding any new friends would leave a hole. It’s important to know what our “number” is, so that we can adjust our lives accordingly and include the RIGHT people in them.

A more appropriate song would be another Amy Grant, from the album “Heart in Motion”:

I will be walking one day
Down a street far away
And see a face in the crowd and smile
Knowing how you made me laugh
Hearing sweet echoes of you from the past
I will remember you.

Look in my eyes while you’re near
Tell me what’s happening here
See that I don’t want to say good-bye
Our love is frozen in time
Ill be your champion and you’ll be mine
I will remember
I will remember you.

Later on
When this fire is an ember
Later on
When the nights not so tender
Given time
Though its hard to remember darlin’
I will be holding
I’ll still be holding to you
I will remember you.

So many years come and gone
And yet the memory is strong
One word we never could learn
True love is frozen in time
Ill be your champion and you’ll be mine
I will remember you
So please remember
I will remember you
I will remember you
I will remember you
I will remember you

I have some great memories with many different friends that have come and go in my life. I remember the boy who once loved me, the friends who promised that they would be with me forever. Rather than mourning the loss of these relationships, I can choose to REMEMBER that good, and be happy that we once had something very special. I can stop trying to hold on to everything at once, and allow myself to savor the memories while embracing the current situation of my life.

I can realize that moving forward sometimes means leaving someone behind, and that is not necessarily a tragedy. I can remember. Some folks come for a reason, some come for a season, others will be there for a lifetime…or an eternity. But it’s all good.

I'd like to think that they will remember me, too. That I won't be tossed in the pile of discarded memories that get swept out with the trash. I can think of no greater compliment than to be remembered.

Even Amy. I may not be a rabid fan, but I still cherish her music and remember the comfort and joy that it has brought to me through the years. So, Amy, I will remember you, too!