Sunday, December 20, 2009

Childlike Joy

I spent the last week being "dance mom extraordinaire" as my daughter's dance studio had their annual Christmas program.

I have complained about all the stress and work that goes into it from the Mom perspective in the past, and while I've made a conscious effort not to do so over the past year, I'm sure I will do it again. Yet even with the hassles of dealing with extended family coming and being present, I am finding that that matters less and less and the complaints are less frequent.

Why? Because for my child dance is just pure joy. She loves it. She always has. I remember taking her to her first dance class... she literally pushed me away, said, "Bye, Mom!" and ran in ready to go, just full of excitement and hardly able to contain herself.

Prior to that class, as well as since, her way of being in the world is to watch and take things in - to really get a feel for what is happening before joining in. Even as young as fifteen months this tendency was evident. The first time I took her to the beach she wouldn't put her feet on the sand. I tried setting her down and her feet raised up like a marionette. We did this a few times and it was amusing - lower her down and her feet came up. With a little bit of difficulty not to mention frustration, since I really wanted to enjoy the beach myself, I somehow managed to spread a beach towel on the white sand and she and I sat down together. How long we sat there, I do not know. I reached out and started playing with the sand while she looked around at her sister and her dad heading to the water. I'm sure I talked about what was around her, but knew not to push her. If we sat there for awhile that was ok.

After awhile, she stood up on the beach towel, then sat back down in my lap. She stood up again, took a tentative step on the sand, then sat back down next to me, placing her hand on my leg. A few minutes later, she did it again.

Finally, she stood up, took a step out on the sand and then took off towards the water. I remember her loving it, but she had to have time to process all that was around her before she could be comfortable participating.

Dance is truly the only thing in her life that I can say she has approached without hesitation.

Yes, watching her dance is something that brings out in me not just a sense of pride, but a sense of joy. Joy just emanates from her little body and one just can't help but watch her. I don't think I say that as her mom, although that role may color my view of her. All the hassle around the week is irrelevant, because her joy just fills the room. Nothing else matters.

Indeed, nothing else matters.

Monday, December 14, 2009

How I Love His Voice...

But really? Rob Thomas? What is up with these songs you are singing these days?

One of my problems with music is that I get caught up in the details. It's not just a beat - it's the words, the arrangement, the tempo, etc. If a song has sad lyrics, then the song should feel sad. Happy - it should be upbeat. Ironic has a place, I do realize, but I don't think the issue here is irony.

The two most recent songs I've heard of his on the radio - Her Diamonds and Someday - while I enjoy listening to his voice, both irritate me when I really stop to analyze them.

Her Diamonds was written about his wife and an autoimmune disease she has. Love the lyrics. Love the tune. Just don't love them together. It's just too happy. "Oh what the hell she says I just can't win for losing" - that is not an upbeat thought.

And Someday - love the way this sounds, but really listening to the lyrics. "Maybe someday we'll live our life out loud." Why wait for someday? Why not do it now?

And while I've been there - the lyrics sound like someone depressed - what's up with the catchy tune?

Clearly, these thoughts are not that of the mainstream. The songs are popular - I hear them all the time. Yet these are thoughts I had during lunch today and Someday was playing in the background.

Thoughts I had when I should have been grading. Like now. Grades are due in 39 hours.

Friday, December 11, 2009

The Most Wonderful Time

One of the girls and my favorite things to do is listen to "Wait, Wait... Don't Tell Me!" on NPR, usually by listening to the podcast, because the 11-12 hour on Saturday morning is usually filled with something else. DD1 literally cheers every morning that Carl Kasell, the scorekeeper for "Wait Wait," comes on to do the news - she is a HUGE fan of his. Earlier this year I found out that they would be recording one of the broadcasts in Atlanta, and I managed to get tickets for the three of us to go as our family Christmas present.

So Thursday, I got the girls out of school early, and we headed to Atlanta - first to meet my brother and his new girlfriend [we approve!] for dinner, and then to the show. And the show did not disappoint.

Towards the end of the show, the host, Peter Sagal, made a comment that they were staying at the hotel across the street. The girls and I looked at each other. WE were staying at the hotel across the street, too!

The excitement just bubbled from there. We checked in, scoped out the place - the girls were excited, because I spent a little more than I normally would since it's Christmas (my goal was to find a place with an indoor pool) - they thought the room and the hotel was just incredible (side note - it wasn't THAT incredible, but in their eyes, it was). After about an hour, though, I managed to convince them to go to bed.

This morning the girls didn't want to get up, but I figured... free hot breakfast.. if the "Wait, Wait" crew is really staying here, we might see some of them at breakfast.... "come on girls, let's get going!"

So we did.

DD2 had to go back to the room for her coat. DD1 and I were in line for omelettes, and a bearded gentleman comes to the line as well. He looked familiar, and then he spoke - yep, it was Charlie Pierce from "Wait, Wait." I said something to DD2 about it when she got back, and she said, "I talked to him by the elevator!"

That confirmed it. They were at.. our... hotel!

We ate breakfast, and I recognized the show's producers sitting near us, too. DD2 decided to go up to the room - she was bored, but DD1 and I stuck it out, scoping out the place for other "Wait Wait" celebrities.

A little later I see an older gentleman coming down the elevator. It looked like Carl Kasell. Wait.. Wait.... It IS Carl Kasell!!

Oh, this is too good! He gets his breakfast, and DD1 and I decide - do we say something?

Finally - we just did. We went up to him, and told him we were big fans, and would be missing him when he retires later this month. I shook his hand. DD1 stood there smiling and just shell shocked! But oh, soooo excited!

We went to the room, told DD2, and then we looked out our door so she could see him. She wanted to go meet him, too, but I said, "No, that's rude - we've already been rude enough," but we did decide we would complete our celebrity stalking by taking a picture of him from our hotel room door:


The girls then went swimming, and by the time we came out, there were no signs of any NPR celebrities.

We spent the rest of the afternoon doing a little shopping, having lunch at my parents' house, and then venturing back home so DD1 could go caroling this evening.

On the way home, DD1 and I started talking - somehow we got on the subject of the divorce, and she made the comment that I'm happier now, and that we do more fun things than we we used to do. Probably true.

But what I got out of that conversation is that - for right now, at least - we are on the same wavelength. She likes to go shopping with me, she likes spending time with me, and more than that - she wants me to "get" her. And while I really did enjoy going to see "Wait, Wait" - watching her face, and seeing her genuine excitement to see Carl Kasell both last night and this morning - wow. It was just awesome.

That was the best part of this Christmas present for me.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

I'd Like One Demigod, Please

Since I have so much to grade, the logical thing to do this week is to read some books I've been wanting to read, right?

So it would seem. Since Sunday, I've read books 3, 4, and 5 in the Percy Jackson & The Olympians series by Rick Riordan. These books are phenomenal, and per my usual, when a book [or in this case, books] is really good, I get sucked in and cannot stop reading it.

I started reading the series at DD1's request at dinner a few months ago. We finished book 2 at dinner on Sunday night. DD2's face during the last 2 pages of the book was one that I shall not forget for a long time. She had that look of, "I KNOW WHAT'S GOING TO HAPPEN!!" and she was sooooo excited. I think that is a true testament to the power of these books.

I now know more about Greek mythology than I ever did before, and mainly because the stories were present day and just so well written. Throw in a handful of modern day demigods, and they start on quests just like the heroes of old where they deal with many of the same problems [monsters, labyrinth, going to the underworld...] but in a setting that is familiar to us - the United States.

I could not put the books down. Every "spare" moment I've had since Sunday night I've been reading. Such satisfaction when the series ended, too.

Grading... tomorrow... gotta happen, though.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Giving Thanks

A painting by Jane Evershed - I have this hanging in my kitchen
"The Founder's Footsteps"


When I started this blog this summer, it truly was because I was grading and needed a diversion for a little bit. I also knew that I wanted to blog with my students this semester, so I told myself that my taking the time to create a blog was actually "research" into how blogs worked... yeah, right. That thought was just some excuse not to be grading, and I know it.

At the time, I did not imagine how I would come to use the blog. Yes, I frequently post when I should be grading [like now], but more often than not, I use the blog as a way for me to process how I'm viewing the world these days.

I say, "these days" because there genuinely is a difference in how I view the world now versus just a few years ago. There really is an "old Lee" and a "new Lee."

I had a chat with a sorority sister this evening, and she made this comment to me:
You've gone from being a victim to a survivor, even in your own head.
Wow. That really sums it up.

I've alluded to this idea in some other blog posts, but this conversation really caused me to do even further analysis. You see, the "old Lee" really was a victim. As a teenager, I experienced an incident of sexual abuse. In college, I was date raped. I do believe that the first event is a contributing factor to the second, as my self-esteem tanked and I lost my ability to discern how I should be treated by others. My response to both was to hide - to change my major and consequently my career to one with very few men and to marry the first man who made me feel safe - a relationship that stemmed from a clear power differential between the two of us. In the process of hiding, I went numb. I went through the motions of what I was "supposed" to do, and somewhere along the way I lost my identity. I allowed my husband to call most of the shots, and I developed a learned helplessness that wasn't pretty.

Sixteen years after I was raped, I was in the middle of my doctoral program (which brought me back to life in so many ways) when the realization that the rape had impacted my life in ways I had not paid attention to hit me. This realization led to therapy, as well as the dissolution of my marriage. I wrote here about it, and it's worth a read, although when I wrote this piece I still had not done some major healing work, because I had allowed the rape to be my focus in the healing, when truthfully I needed to go back even further than that.

My marriage fell apart when I started the healing process, and I eventually moved into another relationship that helped me heal on some levels but still had a power differential. That relationship ended because I fell for a man who came back into my life about whom I always wondered, "what if?" Unfortunately, timing stunk, and neither of us were really ready for each other; he literally left me with this nugget: "Lee, you have to be happy with yourself. You can't depend on anyone else for that happiness."

That one comment rang truer than it ever had for me, and I began a period of soul-searching as well as recognizing that I still had a lot of healing to do. I started the process of healing from the abuse, and the depression that ensued was the perfect storm of love lost (x2) as well as the self-induced pain of healing. I also could not eat, which was very frustrating. As my therapist told me, women who are going through such levels of healing are doing so much mental, spiritual, and emotional work that mastication is more than they can do. Sleep was very fleeting, and I spent many a night crying out to God and sobbing hysterically. I truly believe I literally experienced hell on earth.

It was during this time that I started exercising as a way to deal with stress. The first time I went to the gym to exercise was pitiful. It was all I could do to get on the elliptical and have it work at its very lowest setting for 15 minutes without turning off. My heart rate was through the roof, but I persisted and gradually worked up to longer, more intense cardio. A few months into exercising, the good folks at the gym recommended that I try the BodyFlow class - a combination of yoga, tai chi, and pilates - as it would help me relax. I remember laying on the floor during the meditation portion of one of the classes and the instructor saying, "Go to your happy place." I lay there stumped. Happy? Where was I happy?

This question plagued me for weeks. I finally found the answer, though. At sorority convention that summer, a speaker had the following up on one of her slides:
Be open to the unexpected.
Be present.

Be generous.

Be your word.
Be who you are
and accept others for who they are.
Be where you are
and accept what you have.
Be the change you want to see in the world.
As I sat there listening to her, I thought to myself, "That's happiness. That's what I want."

My happy place is when I feel like I'm making a difference. It's why I enjoy my children, students, and sorority work. It's not a physical location but a result that comes from BEING. It's the recognition that each moment is an opportunity and a gift.

And so, the "new Lee" was born. I started savoring the little things, accepting people for who they are and where they are. The exercise produced another change in that I started feeling healthy and good about myself. My wardrobe began to change, too, and the clothes that I started wearing looked younger and more vibrant than before. In a nutshell, I quit hiding and I started living.

On this day of Thanksgiving, I recognize that in many ways this blog not only provides me a diversion from grading, it also allows me to give thanks and celebrate the beauty that is inherent in the process of living. I often feel like I'm writing with a perspective that is somewhat naive or narcissistic, but I think that feeling only comes from the fact that this feeling of living is still so new to me. There are some days I literally can't believe how blessed I am to be living the life I have and experiencing the things I do, and all I want to do is share that feeling of incredulity. And there are days where I am feeling anger and frustration, and I just need to get it out. The key word in many of these sentences is feeling. I FEEL!

And that is the difference between being a victim and a survivor. Today, I give thanks that I am a survivor, and that with each passing day I grow more into the woman I always should have been.

The poem that goes with the painting:

The Founder's Footsteps...

No one was watching
When you first tied fast
The tight rope of your own making,
Then summoned the strength to walk it.

Now the Universe smiles upon you
With all the women you have transitioned with,
Away from pain and bondage
Toward the seductive drumbeats
Of conscious evolution
And self empowerment.


Monday, November 23, 2009

Passive Aggressive Behavior

Just had an interchange with someone that was so clearly passive aggressive that I am seething.

I know passive aggressive well. I've had good (or is that bad?) models with passive aggressive behavior in my lifetime... and I work very, very hard NOT to be passive aggressive. But when it comes my way, it is hard not to retaliate.

Meanwhile, I just found a website devoted to passive aggressive notes. Who knew? Ironically, it made me feel a little bit better. That's probably passive aggressive in and of itself.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

40

One of my friends posted this on my facebook wall on my birthday:

Doesn't it somehow feel like revenge to look so good at 40? Happy Birthday!

It does. Oh yes, it does.

Friday - my actual birthday - brought a pedicure, dinner for 15 at one of my favorite restaurants, and a night spent in Buckhead. Saturday found me shopping and having lunch with two of my friends who drove from Savannah just for the party, and today I got to see New Moon with DD1 and some of my cohort students. Through all of this, I even managed to block out the ridiculous amount of grading I need to be doing, too.

I could not have asked for a better birthday weekend. So far, I'm liking 40. Liking 40 a lot.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

One More Day


One more day of my 30s. I find this fact to be absolutely amazing. How'd I get here? And how is this possible?

I handled turning 30 by being pregnant. I am handling turning 40 by running a half marathon. At this point in my life, that is definitely the better choice.

A quick recap of the last 10 years, since I'm feeling somewhat nostalgic:
  • Age 30:
    • Career shift to Gifted Education instead of self-contained elementary.
    • The birth of my beautiful daughter, DD2.
    • An incredible 13 months of nursing her and learning how to be a mom to two children 2.5 years apart.
  • Age 31:
    • A fabulous 10th anniversary cruise with my [now ex-]husband.
    • Completely engrossed with toddlerhood and pre-school.
  • Age 32:
    • Beginning of my doctoral program. I started to come alive again in an academic environment
    • Learning how to balance... mom, working full time, graduate student, wife.
  • Age 34:
    • Therapy, thanks to my doctoral program :)
    • Purchasing my first car on my own
  • Age 35:
    • Completion of Doctorate
    • Career change to higher education
    • Moving out "on my own" with my kids
    • Adjusting to life as a single mom - both kids now in school
  • Age 36:
    • Getting divorced
    • Buying my own house
    • Learning how to handle the house and yard without "help" [the trick is to pay others to do it - who knew?]
  • Age 37:
    • Discovering the joys of being a "mentor leader"
    • Vacationing with my kids and friends in the Grand Canyon
    • 20th high school reunion
  • Age 38:
    • Celebrating my birthday by taking kids on a cruise
    • Love and loss
    • Depression
    • Discovering the benefits of exercise
    • Building and re-building friendships
  • Age 39:
    • Running! and Races! Culminated by a half marathon!
    • Reconnecting with old friends
    • Savoring time spent with my children
    • Taking risks and making new friends, some thanks to my random facebook adventures
    • Dating again - yeah, that's a trip!
My 30s looked nothing like what I could have imagined 10 years ago. And while there have been highs and lows, I've learned that I am strong, capable, and worthy of life's blessings over the past 10 years. Which leads us to 40, and the inevitable wondering of what lies ahead when one hits a milestone. I googled "turning 40" earlier, and I found this - it's attributed to Oprah Winfrey:
At 40, something magical happens to you--something liberating and rejuvenating and exhilarating. You acquire a healthy disregard for what other people think. You gain the confidence to define yourself boldly and on your own terms. You don't accept anyone else's judgments but your own. In short, you stop living your life for other people and start living it for yourself. The force is with you because, at long last, it is in you.
So, one more day. I'm feeling pretty darn good about what lies ahead.

Bring it, 40!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Lenses

not me, or anyone else I know - I just like this picture

I have been absolutely marveling at the fall colors as I'm driving (and driving, and driving, and driving) my kids around, since one of my many hats is that of taxi driver. I've thought to myself a number of times that the colors are just absolutely astounding this year.

One morning that we were running late I didn't have my regular sunglasses in the car, but did have the sunglasses I use when I am running. All that day I wasn't as astounded by the colors as I have been previously.

Turns out that the reason the colors have been so incredible for me this fall is that my regular sunglasses have a filter that has really brought out the fall colors. I can't decide if I'm disappointed to learn this or not. It has caused a somewhat amusing thing, though, as I will frequently lift my sunglasses while driving to look at the trees, then put them back, lift them again, and then put them back. With some trees, the sunglasses just truly enhance what I see. With others, they are just stunning whether or not the glasses are there.

I let DD1 wear them this morning as I took her to an outdoor workday at her school. She didn't want to give them back.

I'm sure there is some great piece of wisdom buried in this anecdote. Something about how lenses that we apply can enhance our understanding of the world, or can cause us to not see things that are literally right in front of our face... Or something about looking at the world through rose colored glasses... Or maybe a Plato and the cave analogy...

Eh, that's too much thinking for a Saturday morning. I'm off to enjoy the day and the beautiful colors, thanks to my sunglasses.

Friday, November 13, 2009

They're Gr-r-reat!!


Last week, I asked my youngest what she wanted from the grocery store, she thought for a moment and said, "Frosted Flakes."

Ok, not hard to remember. I like Frosted Flakes, too.

When I got home from the grocery store, what had I bought?

Frosted Mini-Wheats. The other frosted cereal that I like.

This week when I mentioned I was going to the grocery store, my youngest said, "Don't forget the Frosted Flakes, Mom."

I replied, "Hey, at least I got the frosted part right."

Her response? "Yeah, but I wanted Frosted Flakes. Just remember it has a tiger on the front and the box is blue."

I laughed, because I wasn't expecting that from her, and proceeded to do my best Tony the Tiger imitation. The response was a simple, "Mooomm," uttered in the "there's no way I can be related to this person" tone. Had I been able to look at her, I'm sure there would have been the rolling of the eyes, too.

I got it right this time. But only because I remembered the tiger.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

And Let the Celebration Begin...


I did it! I ran the half marathon this morning and it was one of the most holistic experiences I can recall - and by holistic, I mean that it impacted me mentally, physically, spiritually, and emotionally. I don't know of many experiences that can have that effect - certainly not in 2:42:36.

I drove through Atlanta yesterday, and while I wasn't where the race was, I was near it, and I remember thinking, "Geez, these places that I know are on the course are far apart." I started experiencing doubt and fear, and really questioned what I was thinking doing a half marathon.
Prior to this race, I don't remember ever having doubt or fear. I think it comes from the fact that I typically run 5Ks or 10Ks. 3.1 or 6.2 miles just aren't the same as 13.1 miles.

I stayed with some good friends last night, and it wasn't until about 8:30PM that I finally committed to doing the race, even though I had packed my bag and left home much earlier in the day. My knee wasn't bothering me all that much, and I figured, what the heck. So this morning the alarm goes off at 5:20, and while I was "awake," I remember thinking that I was also nutty for getting up so early to go run. I left their house a little after 6, and was at Atlantic Station by 6:40.

My running partner bailed on me earlier in the week, so I was at this event by myself. There are good and bad points to that - good that I am willing to do these things on my own; bad in that I'd really like someone to do these things with, and a sense that I'm not all alone in the process. Running the races around where I live there are usually a few people I know to talk to before and after the race - with this one, not so much. I did take a group's picture, and they returned the favor with me, as you can see above. I'll make the comment that it is 6:50 or so in the morning in 45 degree weather.

The race started promptly at 7:30, and here are the folks moving to the start. This race was a combination 5K and Half Marathon, so we're all starting together here:

Between miles 2 and 3, the 5K folks got to turn around and go back to the start/finish line, and the rest of us kept going straight. For a split second it was tempting to turn and go with them, but I kept going ahead, and headed over the 17th street bridge towards Spring Street:



The view from the bridge

I have to say that this is the point that I started really enjoying myself, which makes sense. It usually kicks in somewhere around mile 3, as I find the first 3 miles to be rather hard. It is also at this point that I begin to think, "I can do this."

Here are a few more pictures from the race:

Just past mile 4 - The Varsity

Somewhere close to mile 5 - The World of Coke at our entrance to Centennial Olympic Park

Centennial Olympic Park and the CNN Center - between miles 5 and 6

The Georgia Dome


Headed toward the Olympic Rings - the one stretch of the race where runners going both directions are together. I'm somewhere between miles 6 and 7; the runners coming toward me are between miles 8 and 9.

The turn towards Turner Field

After going around Turner Field - just past mile 8 and about to go under the Olympic Rings

The Georgia Capitol Building - Near Mile 9. Last of the pictures, because I was at a point where I needed to keep putting one foot in front of the other.

I maintained right at a 12 minute mile through mile 8. Seriously - I would hit the mile marker and look at my watch and it was dead on the 12 minute mark several times. I slowed down to a 13 minute mile between miles 8 and 9 partly because they gave us energy chews and I didn't feel right eating and running. I managed another 12 minute mile between 9 and 10, but then things slowed a little after that. The hill that was in the middle of miles 10 and 11 was brutal, and with my tired legs I didn't dare run it. After that, I just focused on running 2 minutes and walking 1, and didn't worry about the pace. I knew I'd finish under 2:45, and if I couldn't get 2:36, that was still pretty darn good for my first half marathon.

Physically, I was very close to ready for this race. I missed out on a few weeks of training due to plantar fasciitis, and I do think that impacted me. I was worried about my knee, and it really didn't start bothering me until about mile 9.

Spiritually, just being out on the streets of Atlanta with my music going - I just smiled. My running playlist hit just right today. The Prayer of St. Francis - with "Make me an Instrument of Peace..."; Natalie Merchant's Wonder - "I must be one of the wonders - God's own creation... Fate smiled and Destiny laughed as she came to my cradle - know this child will be able; laughed as my body she lifted - know this child will be gifted;" Sugarland's Settlin' - "I ain't settlin' - for anything less than everything;" REM's It's the End of the World As We Know It - "and I feel fine;" Melissa Etheridge's I Run For Life; Indigo Girls' Prince of Darkness - "My place is of the sun... and I will not be a pawn for the Prince of Darkness any longer"... Today is Sunday after all, and I had my own little church service going on as I ran that fed me.

While a lot of choosing to run long distances is a mental thing, the songs playing fed into the cognitive piece of the run. Also, my thoughts centered frequently on how much had changed for me in my life that led to this run. At times, I compared it to my doctoral process - which is also a marathon in many ways - you can't skip any part of the process - you just have to keep going one step at a time.

But emotionally - I wasn't expecting all that went into the experience. I expected to feel a sense of pride, and I expected to be tired, and I expected to feel that same sense of joy and communion that I wrote about here, but I didn't expect to begin to feel tears well at mile 12. I remember thinking, "what? you're kidding me. No, don't start crying." I kept it in until I crossed the finish line, at which point I burst into tears.

The tears came from deep within. I wept with joy, exhaustion, exhilaration, pride. Not only had I conquered my own doubt and fear, I had conquered 13.1 miles, which prior to this year, was not even in the realm of possibility for me. As I was running, I had a number of moments where I basked in the fact that I was doing something I never would have dreamed of doing prior to this year. Never. I didn't believe that I could do anything like this before. Not at 20. Not at 35. No - this was not even on my radar. And the fact that I was doing it for the first time - at nearly 40 years old - is empowering. Not that 40 is old, but that I could feel so young and capable when previously I felt and looked so much older, and that for all practical purposes I have re-envisioned my life - that's worth crying about. It's worth celebrating.

I will turn 40 in 12 days. When I set the goal of a half marathon for myself, I knew I wanted to run it in November because of my birthday, but the thought was nothing more than "How cool would it be to say that the month I turned 40 I ran a half marathon?" While running today, one of my most recurring thoughts wasn't "how cool it would be" but instead had to do with the fact that this run marks the beginning of that celebration.

The finisher's necklace... Zooma Atlanta 13.1 - 11/8/09

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Decisions, Decisions

Tomorrow is the half marathon. I've been training, and for the most part I'm ready.... Except my knee hurts, and my feet are still showing signs of plantar fasciitis. I had a kink in my right calf muscle earlier in the week which I've managed to work out, thanks to a massage roller. I did an 11 mile run 2 weeks ago, have kept up the cardio since, and did a 4 mile run on Thursday to see how I'm feeling.

Clearly, I'm feeling mixed.

I really want to do this, but I'm not sure it would be the best decision in the world. And I told myself I'd make the call today about whether or not I would.

Dadgum it.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Halloween Crisis

things obviously turned out ok...

In addition to the crazy grading I've been doing, Mom time has been filled with Halloween preparation. I spread the wealth, or tried to, and somehow managed to have the girls' Dad purchase one of the costumes while I did the other. DD1 poured over catalogs for a month and finally settled on a pirate costume two weeks ago, just before they went to their Dad's for fall break.

On Sunday at the end of their fall break I met them at Party City (over an hour away from our house), and they had already made the purchase. DD1 was sooooooooooooooo excited on the way home, and raced in the house to try it on for me. Within minutes, she came bursting out of her room sobbing and hyperventilating - the costume was too small, the straps had already broken, and the leggings were missing. I asked if she had tried it on at the store, and she said yes, she had, over her pants.

I was the picture of calm. Inside I was just shaking my head and irritated beyond belief - not at DD1, but at her Dad. How was it possible that this could be that messed up? She, however, didn't need to know this, so I kept it together and told her we would take care of it. She starts crying even more, as there is no Party City near us, and she just couldn't figure out how we were going to solve this problem. I looked online - we could order it, but it would be Friday before it arrives, and she needed it by Thursday.

I finally convince her that all will be fine, that we have time to go to our next nearest shopping opportunity which is..... 45 miles away - on Monday.

So we went. Along with just about every other person in the mid-state area. I've never, ever seen a Party City so crowded. We tried on and bought the costume.... again. I had no receipt, plus it was missing pieces and broken, so I just bought it.

Since we were going all that way we made a shopping expedition out of it, and five hours later returned home considerably more broke than when we left, but she also had jewelry to wear with the costume and beyond, a new jacket for DD2's cat costume that could be worn inside out because it was "furry" as well as on cool days, and a new trench coat and some cold weather running gear for me. All was right with the world, though, and both girls were pleased with their Halloween costumes.

Halloween day DD1 and I bonded as we painted our fingernails black. I'm still sporting mine. My students today said I looked trendy. I think they are just brown-nosing.

Finally!

The worst of the grading is behind me! I've been somewhat quiet here because of it. While I haven't graded "solid" for the past 2ish weeks, I've graded a lot. I still have a little more to do tomorrow, but then I will get a slight reprieve.

This last bit of grading has been interesting - even though it was painful to do. The first bit showed me that while my students "know" what to do, they didn't know how to "do" it. This revelation prompted a "Come to Jesus" discussion with them that was probably at the right time. The next set of papers - this time, the actual lesson plans that they will be implementing - that came right on the heels of the first set was overall much better. I only had a few who had to redo.

Which leads to the crux of the grading dilemma.... There is a school of thought that says, "If they don't get it right, then they fail." And then there's the school of thought that says, "If they don't get it right, remediate and let them try again." I tend to fall into the second school of thought - not always, but certainly in this case. Because with this case, if they don't get it right, then they can't teach. I'm not going to let my students flounder with poorly developed lessons, because if they fail, so do the children they are teaching.

Every one of them is going out there with "good" lesson plans - and by good, I don't mean perfect, but certainly doable. Some are more doable than others, but I think all of them will teach them something about the planning process when it comes to teaching. One can't factor in the student variable... one can't figure out what students will "get" and what they "don't get." Just as I did not imagine that I would still be grading lesson plans the night before they are due to be implemented... but I did. With experience, they will have a better chance of knowing what will work and what won't, but it isn't an exact science.

These women genuinely want to do well, and I know that I'm sending them out there with enough feedback to be successful. I hope that for the most part they nail it. I also hope that on some levels they don't, because sometimes the greatest teacher is failure. Either way, they will emerge stronger, more competent teachers.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

I Need To Be...

  • Cleaning
  • Doing Laundry
  • In Bed
  • Sleeping
  • Reading
  • Doing Something Else

But clearly, I'm not. Girls are gone for the week, and I am in avoidance mode. Grading is not on the list only because I'm caught up with the regular job, although perpetually behind with the consulting job. I will be a grading fiend the next few days with projects due in both of the classes I teach. I will want to get things graded fast, as I'm planning on going to see my Grandmother on Thursday for a few days.

Meanwhile, I sit with my cat next to me and I've been watching The Office on Netflix. Yes, very productive.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Trading Places

I took DD2 to the doctor today, and I knew it would be a frustrating visit. I don't know what's wrong with her - I only know that she is frequently too tired to go to school, her head hurts, her stomach hurts, she's nauseous, pale, running a low grade fever, etc... but that it's usually not bad enough to warrant a doctor's visit. Still, it has become way too chronic to ignore, as I have been called to pick her up at least four times this year, and it isn't even winter yet. So, I basically took her because it is just time to know something. The doctor seemed to agree.

Possibilities at the moment include sinusitis, migraine [I thought of this later - her symptoms match mine from when I was younger, if I really think about it], allergies, depression, anxiety... nothing that will be easy to really pinpoint.

Two moments from the visit, though, stand out for me. The first, when the doctor was trying to determine stress/anxiety concerns, and asked DD2 if she had anyone that she talked to about things. DD2 said without hesitation, "my mom." We talked more about this portion of the discussion at bedtime, and she told me how she tells me everything that she is thinking about and needs to talk about. I hope and pray that DD2 always feels she can talk to me, and knows that no matter what I will love her. I know I lost that feeling with my own mom at a very young age.

The second, was before and during drawing blood for testing. She was so scared, crying, and while I sat there comforting her, eventually helping her to calm down and to realize that blood work is actually a normal procedure that I've had done a lot... oh, how I wished I could trade places with her. The desire to do anything to keep my daughter from experiencing pain of any kind was stronger than I can ever recall.

And I think that is the chief frustration/lesson of being a parent. You want to protect your children, and keep them from pain of any kind. Doing so, though, takes away the opportunity to learn, grow, and experience all that life has to offer - both the pain and the joy.

I hope we figure out what is going on with her sooner rather than later.

"Little" Things

This lovely furlough day is not going as I thought, but what else is new. I knew it as soon as I woke up, particularly as DD2 seemed not to be feeling well. I made it to the gym and was almost halfway through what I planned to do there today when the phone rang for me to go pick her up at school. So, instead of my furlough plans, I'm taking care of "little" things at home, [namely, my daughter] which has included working with iTunes to get new music uploaded from CDs, make sure artwork is present for the album cover, as well as sync my phone and other iPods.... partly for her iPod, of course... ahem.

One of the things I've wanted to do for awhile, ever since a church that I went to a couple of years ago quit podcasting their sermons, is download sermons from this particular church to put on my iPhone. So, rather than just stand over the stove heating up tomato soup for DD2 [made with milk, of course, so it must be stirred], I listened to one of the sermons while stirring.

I love it when a sermon is exactly what I need to hear. Particularly when it matches things that I have been doing lately that I don't automatically recognize to be spiritual in nature.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Hellooooo Furlough!

Tomorrow is day one of 6 state mandated furlough days for all universities and colleges. I'm not allowed to work - seriously. No email, no reading, no grading. Yeah.

It amuses me - how does one furlough a college professor? Clearly, it's been done, but the whole thing just seems non-sensical. We have people practically knocking down our doors to get in - admission is up. Irrelevant, though.

Soooo... gym, reading, pedicure - all on my agenda for tomorrow while the girls are at school.

Feels reeeallly weird.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Holes

One of the things that has become painfully obvious to me is that I have a big portion of my life that feels like a hole. A hole in the fabric, a black hole, a missing piece. I'm bothered by it, certainly, but I don't see a way to change it.

I guess what is making me think about this hole is the company I keep. I have been having a ton of fun lately going out with or talking to various people, but invariably, these people represent distant past or the present. There is a whole segment of my life that is missing. That isn't all that is missing. I'm missing a whole segment of popular culture. Music, TV, books. No memory of any favorites that I can come up with during this time. A few movies come to mind, but not many.

I can attribute holes to a number of things. I have joked that I skipped my twenties, but truthfully I initially made choices that contributed to that. I got married right out of college, started working in my chosen field, did all that I was "supposed" to do, had two children, and became thoroughly engaged in their lives. My then husband and I had friends that we made, certainly, and I did things with a number of the women in my church. Yet while I know I made some initial choices that pointed my life in a certain direction, I remember that there came a time where I quit making many choices. More nights that not I would call my husband and ask him what he wanted for dinner. If my parents invited us for a meal, I would call him and say, "We've been invited to eat with my parents - do you want to go?" I don't remember choosing to watch things on TV - but the TV was always on. I didn't have much of a say in the finances, and I felt guilty for spending money. Music? I didn't buy any music - and we had the Columbia Record Deal going on for awhile, but the choices weren't mine.

I know along the way I felt an emptiness. The first time I felt that emptiness I got pregnant. For a short time afterwards I felt like things were exactly the way they should be. Then I felt empty again, so I got pregnant again. Same result - I can distinctly remember a time after the birth of DD2 that I felt that I was doing exactly what I was supposed to be doing. The third time that emptiness hit, though, I put myself through the longest birthing process yet - I got my doctorate. That third time really marks a turning point, because it is invariably denotes a shift in how I handled the feeling and is also what caused me to recognize that I somehow got lost in the process. I didn't have preferences, and I really didn't have an identity. I just knew that I wasn't happy - what I didn't realize is that events that had happened in my past had caused me to shut down with others, to remove myself from the equation so that I couldn't be hurt. Even my career choice as well as my religious beliefs had all resulted out of my desire to avoid being hurt. As this awareness came into my consciousness, I can remember teaching my adult Sunday School class and thinking what a sham I represented. I didn't connect with the people in the room, or the material. I taught and thought, "I'm not sure I believe what I'm teaching." Had it been a year prior, I wouldn't have even questioned it.

Ultimately, I decided to leave my marriage, for a multitude of reasons, but mainly to heal from past abuses. I wasn't given the space to do it within the confines of the marriage, so I had to remove the confines. While this action has saved me, it also caused me to lose a large number of friends that we had as a couple. I have never really understood the human need to "choose sides," particularly given there is no real way to understand exactly what is happening if one doesn't make an effort to do so. And while I'm not bitter, I do recognize their absence.

So I find myself with this hole in my fabric of friends. With only a couple of truly special exceptions, the people with whom I stay in contact and spend time with are those from my distant past or from my present. It is almost like someone has taken an eraser and wiped away people as well as things I should have experienced or remembered. The things that are constant are my kids and my job - those events are fairly clear in my memory. The rest? Gone.

It's eerie. And while I have few regrets, I don't ever intend to lose myself like that again. I do think the past few years have allowed me to heal and see myself as a whole person, and you know what? I like what I see and who I am. One of the things that I have been able to do and remain committed to is forging an identity that is not dependent on others, like my kids or any potential romantic partner. I have become someone who has preferences, wants and desires, and someone who won't settle for mediocre. It's why I run; why I travel; why I take the time for friends and for myself.

Still, I remain very aware that those holes exist for me. On good days I can embrace the emptiness and recognize that it was part of some vital learning process for me. Thankfully the good days outweigh the bad days.

It is, after all, not about contributing any more to those holes.... Embracing who I am, what I have, what I do, who I spend time with. Adding the w, and just being whole.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The Dinner Table

While I work very hard to not "be" my mother, there are some things she does that I admire and miss. My mother is very good about cooking most nights, and those meals are typically really incredible. She, of course, has to give color commentary about how things taste, usually saying something overly critical, when really she is just fishing for compliments. Mom is also really good about baking something once or twice a week. I remember most Saturday mornings I would wake up to this incredible aroma wafting through the house, and it was typically a cake, cookies, or a pie... and I wonder why I have a sweet tooth. I don't cook or bake like she does, although I'm capable of doing so, and every so often will manage something that is worthy of being in the same class as what Mom creates.

When I got married, I tried... I really did try to emulate my mother when it came to cooking and baking. The baking fell by the wayside pretty quickly because my now ex-husband really didn't eat much dessert [although he ALWAYS did when my mother offered it] and I ended up eating most of whatever I baked. And as far as cooking goes, I fell into a pattern of various things that I prepare, with few variations. I admit I'm still in that pattern, mainly because of my kids and them being somewhat picky when they were little, but I am trying to mix it up a little more often these days. Kind of hard, though, because I typically cook one or two nights a week, and the rest we either go out or find something. Such is the life of a single mom/kids' taxi driver. And I think I do pretty well, all things considered.

Tonight's dinner? Pancakes. Yes, I made them. Chocolate chip pancakes for DD1 and regular pancakes for DD2. Only thing missing was bacon.

Is this something my mother would have done? Probably not. I started making breakfast for dinner periodically when DD1 was in kindergarten because her teacher suggested that I mix up the routine every now and then because DD1 had a hard time when things didn't go according to routine.

But what I know she would not have done is read aloud to us at dinner. I know we had family conversations about goodness knows what, or perhaps the TV was turned on so we could watch Wheel of Fortune or some other inane show. I know when I was married the TV was on more often than it was not, as we had a TV in every single room of the house. I don't really remember any incredible dinner conversations, although I'm sure they happened on occasion. In what I know is a knee-jerk response to that environment, my house currently has one TV, and it is typically on only on the weekend.

I'm trying to remember when my mother quit reading aloud to me, and I think it was fairly early on. It may have been a combination of me learning how to read and reading at a much faster speed than my parents, or it may have been because my brothers were born and the focus shifted to them. I know that I took my turn reading aloud to the boys along the way, but I don't remember when that practice tapered off.

I started reading aloud to my kids at the dinner table sometime after the three of us moved to our current town. One of my friends suggested it, and it has turned into a really amazing tradition that has enabled me to keep reading to my kids even after most would consider them "too big" for such. While we have typical dinner table discussion while I'm still eating, we typically move into reading together at the end of the meal. This practice has allowed us to experience some fabulous books. Some include Harry Potter, Matilda, Where the Red Fern Grows, Up a Road Slowly, Pollyanna, Anne of Green Gables, most of the Andrew Clements books, Ramona Quimby Age 8, A Wrinkle in Time, The BFG, and I know there have been more. We take turns picking the books, so this has allowed me to read things that I consider my favorites, as well as allowed the girls to pick their favorites, too.

Tonight I finished reading Percy Jackson - The Lightning Thief. DD1 chose it as our read aloud sometime last month, and I had my doubts about it but I quickly got hooked. It is a fabulous story that takes Greek mythology and brings it to a present day context. Percy Jackson is a young man who is always in trouble, has ADHD and dyslexia, but ends up realizing that his issues stem from being the son of a Greek god, and then the story takes off from there as he learns to cope and come into his own as a hero who bridges both worlds. My kids were able to learn about Medusa, Persephone, Athena, Zeus, Poseidon, Ares, Hermes, Hades, as well as a host of other mythological characters thanks to this first book. And I am just enthralled by the series - I will have to read all of the books regardless of whether or not they become read alouds for dinner.

Last night DD2 got a pillow and a blanket and curled up on the floor to listen. Tonight, they begged me to read another chapter, and then there was only one chapter left, so I decided to go ahead and finish it. All together I read for about 45 minutes.

The look on my youngest's face as the action got intense was just incredible. Total engagement and excitement about the book. She has already picked book 2 to be next.

I do love this tradition. I love sharing literature with the kids and being able to talk about what we read. But most of all, I love that they love books, and that they ask, "Mom, will you read to us tonight?"

Thursday, October 1, 2009

So far, so good

I am so pleased with the work my group is doing right now. What a great feeling to see that they are "getting it." As much as I hate grading, one of the best feelings about teaching is when I know that my students not only understand, but can synthesize and apply what they know.

And... at the moment, every single one of them "gets it." Yes!

So far, so good. I love it.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Old Friends

Keisha, Matt, Trish, Lee, Charlie, Mary, Kate, where Jill sat, Valerie

I feel blessed that there are some folks in this world who I will always treasure, and even more blessed that I have been able to reconnect with so many of them over the past few years [again... thanks to facebook].

Who'da thunk that I would regularly be seeing people I went to high school with twenty-two years later? Some I see every few months; others every few years. But I swear, every time I get together with any of these people, it is just plain good for the soul. Picking up where we left off. Laughing with each other, and just genuinely caring about each other and how we are doing.

Saturday night was no exception - we got together because my friend Matt was in town from Memphis. By the time the night was done, eleven of us had spent time together, and time passed so quickly. We started at 5, ended after 1. I could easily have stayed longer.

Good people. Good times. Good memories, both old and new.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Some Things I Don't Want To Forget

are some things that happened with my girls today:
  • Walking my youngest daughter into school because she was nervous about not having finished her homework. Seeing her calm down as she got things done, but also seeing the tears in her eyes as I left.
  • Watching DD1 work on a homework assignment at the computer. She only asked for my help with the word "diurnal," but she ended up looking it up online to verify that my educated guess was correct (it was). This year marks a turning point for her - organized, thinking about time management. I've been teaching her her whole life how to be responsible. I'm beginning to see that come to fruition.
  • DD2 showing me a dance she is making up.
  • Listening to both girls practice the piano.
  • DD2 asking to watch TV, to which I said no, since her sister was still doing homework. She pulled out Harry Potter book 5 and started reading it instead.
  • The girls asking me to read the next chapter in The Lightning Thief at dinner.
  • Both girls wanting to sit in my lap this evening after dinner. DD1 on my left leg, DD2 on my right. One of them asked me about loving them, and I said I've loved them since they were first formed. Somehow that morphed into talking about how we show love, and I said that when they were inside me I showed them I loved them by how I ate and took care of myself. DD1 said, "Mom, you still do that. How you eat affects how we eat, and when you take care of yourself you are also taking care of us." Wow. Mighty profound for a 12 year old.
  • Lying down with DD2 as we do just about every night as part of her bedtime routine. The stress from the previous evening of not being able to finish homework is gone, and we chat about everything and nothing. Tonight's topics included missing camp and her horse - Maverick, her shoe size, and comparing hand sizes.
  • The way DD2s hand looked next to mine, when they were palm to palm and fingers outstretched.
  • DD1 wanting to show me things from school as I tucked her in. She pulled out a number of assignments she has been working on, as well as her All-State audition piece. I commented to her about how organized her notebook is. She has a lot of pride in what she is doing, and in how responsible she is becoming.
It is so easy to let these little things go unnoticed and undocumented, but seems to me that these are the little things that put together make a life.

"Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it."

Monday, September 21, 2009

I Feel Like It's Rainin' All Over The World...

Last year the governor of this great state announced that the way to solve our drought problem was to pray for rain. Well, evidently the prayers were heard. Folks - you can stop praying for rain now.

I'm posting this picture from the AJC only because I am amazed by this weather. I have never seen anything like this in Atlanta, although Tropical Storm Alberto in 1994 was pretty close - at that point a Tropical Storm just hovered over the state of Georgia for about 10 days and caused "100 year floods," although those were predominantly south of the city. This time, it has just been a low pressure system that has sat here, and it has literally been raining every day for a week, and is expected to keep raining until the weekend. What is most noteworthy, though, is that over 13 inches of rain have fallen in a 36 hour period in the Atlanta area, and that is after it has been raining for a week. And while I'm not in the Atlanta area, the rain has been unbelievable. And clearly [well, not clearly - it's very, very cloudy out] - more is still to come. This rain has gotten obnoxious. Claustrophobic even.

I drove the stretch of interstate pictured above, though, when I was in Atlanta Saturday night. It was raining then, too, but I was gleefully sitting in the sogginess at the Indigo Girls concert. Oh, it was fabulous! I consider Indigo Girls concerts to be a religious experience. It was my 6th IG concert in 4 years, and the rain just so didn't matter to me. And while the crowd I went with wasn't the originally intended crowd, that just so didn't matter, either. I loved every minute of it.

During the concert I was able to find an old friend I haven't seen in probably 20 years and talk with her awhile. She is the sister of a guy I used to date, and for that matter, a guy I still consider a good friend. She texted him to get my number since she knew I'd be there [thanks to the magic of facebook], and then she sent me a text telling me where she was sitting. We talked some about him, mainly because I wanted to see if my read on how he is doing is accurate, but mostly we did a quick catching up. Still, sitting talking with her was like talking to someone I talk to all the time, and I guess that is partly because of facebook, too - we already had a baseline. I have to say, though, that it was neat to be with her for a few minutes because I could tell she loves the music as much as I do. We agreed to go to a concert together in the future, and I already know - that will be delightful.

ETA: I heard on the radio today that the rainfall total was actually 20 inches in a 36 hours period. MUCH worse than Alberto. The flooding has been unbelievable. 9/22/09

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Current Pet Peeve

My students have totally destroyed my ability to remember when to use there/their/they're, your/you're, it's/its, and no telling what else. I used to be such a grammar/spelling queen. When you see things wrong so many times, you eventually get to a point where you no longer know what is right and what is wrong.

Currently, I'm hearing/reading "anyways" a lot. Sigh. No, children. It is "anyway." If they mess this one up for me, too, I will have to get a new job.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

A Different Kind of Teaching

Today was interesting - different than what I've experienced lately at work. I "canceled" class this morning, but not really since I was in the office available for assistance, giving the students class time to work on a big project due next week. I had a steady stream of students from 8:15-10:00, which is our normal class time. I had a break when their next class started where I graded a few papers and also did some sorority work, and then the steady stream again from 12:00-3:00 when I left to get my kids from school.

While a number came to talk to me about their work, it seemed today that more of the conversations ventured off into the personal realm, which I have to admit always amazes me when that happens. I don't know what it is about the cohort, but there is something about it that triggers growth in LOTS of areas, not just school. I heard today about family issues, boyfriends, worries, frustrations... a piece of me is conflicted about this, but also not. I love that these women trust me enough to share more about who they are and what is going on - I think it helps me be a better teacher/mentor for them. I do think it is important to build relationships with my students, and that means knowing more about who they are and what makes them tick. I left today with a sense that many got what they needed, based on the sheer number of sighs of relief I heard today, and I do hope that is the case. I don't really dispense advice, but I do share things that seem relevant if I feel it is appropriate. At the same time, I worry about the personal/professional line. How much do I really need to know? How much is too much to share with them? How much is too little?

Monday, September 14, 2009

Grrrrrrrading...

And so it begins...

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Run, Forrest, Run!

Yesterday morning I woke up early and was out the door by 7:20 for a long run. My intent was 9.5 miles, but after measuring the part of the distance I was unsure of this afternoon, I discovered that I misjudged the distance - for a change, it was more than I thought. I actually ran 10.3 miles.

I started running "in earnest" last February. I ran some a year ago, but just threw it into my cardio periodically to mix things up. What caused me to change from running periodically to running more regularly was a 5K in February of this year. While I can't say I really enjoy running in and of itself, and I'm not a super fast runner, I enjoyed the whole vibe from that race, and found that it gave me energy rather than depleting it. Since April I have done at least one race a month, starting with 5Ks, and moving to 10Ks the months of June, July, August, and September. Next month I plan to do a 5K and a 15K, and the month after that at least one half marathon. Maybe two. Depends on whether or not I decide to train for a marathon in February. I'm pretending that I am, but still giving myself an out.

So, while races are what motivate me, and I don't really enjoy running by myself each week, I have to say that yesterday morning's run was incredible. I did 2 minutes running/1 minute walking intervals for the entire time. It was cool outside, with a nice breeze, and I frequently found myself singing along to whatever was playing on the iPod. Somewhere between miles 5 and 8 I really became amazed with myself. Who is this person who purposefully chose to get up early on a Saturday morning to run? Me, the person who just 1.5 years ago didn't like to exercise, much less break a sweat. And who is this person who is being successful with each 2 minute interval, even if it is in the middle of a hill? Yep, it was me, again.

Thing is, I was enjoying myself! And it wasn't a race day! It was just me - seeing what I can do. Refusing limitations, whether they be real or imagined. I don't think I was experiencing a runner's high - perhaps it was... but what really struck me yesterday was even though I was able to focus on details, such as breathing, eliminating foot pronation, rhythm, posture, I was more interested in the process of the run than in putting the run behind me - something that seems to have emerged because I am running further than 5K. And while I paid attention to the details, I was also able to really sit with the thoughts that popped into my head and ruminate on them. It was almost like each step became an act of worship, as with each step I felt power and connected to a greater power. I felt pride and joy that seemed to emanate from within and surround me. Pride and joy that not only have I quit hiding in this world, I have quit letting others define me.

Why didn't I exercise when I was younger? Partly because my parents wanted me to [yet they didn't exercise, so I didn't really see what the big deal was]. And while I knew I should exercise, the rebellious little rascal in me figured I wasn't "fat," and who was society/doctors/etc. to dictate what I should or shouldn't do, anyway? I think it was also to allow me to hide in my body. I know now that I didn't feel good about myself, and a lot of choices I made in my 20s and early 30s were to allow me to hide. Life was nothing more than going through the motions. I also dressed and acted in such a manner that said, "don't look at me - I'm just part of the wallpaper." Even now, I have a few friends who I don't see all that often who make the comment that they can't imagine me exercising like I do, because they think of me in that "hiding" frame. But that goes back to the "who defines me" idea. I define me. I choose to exercise. I decide how I want to spend my time. And more and more it is in not listening to those who "can't imagine" but in being with those with whom I feel alive.

I find myself using the word savor a lot, but what I have found over the past year is that is exactly what I'm doing. I will frequently be doing something (in this case running), or watching something or others, and I realize that I am suddenly taking a moment to really absorb what is happening around me. Almost like taking a mental picture for myself - recognizing that these things are what I want to remember. More than that, though - recognizing that in these moments I am really living. I'm not just willing the days or the time away. I am actively experiencing my life and the people in it, and enjoying the moments for the richness that they hold. So different than how I was just five short years ago.

10 miles. Incredible. Everything about it is just plain incredible.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Picture Day

Oh yes, the glorious rite of passage that is school picture day was upon us today for DD2. She was so excited that she didn't have to wear her school uniform today for pictures [another rant I could have - I think the uniforms are silly and pointless], and planned out to the nth degree exactly how she wanted to look. Last night she asked to sleep in curlers. I said, "Um, no... but if you want me to roll your hair in the morning with hot rollers, I will." She liked that idea, and made me promise to wake her up early enough to make that happen.

So a whopping half hour earlier than I normally get up, I am plugging in the hot rollers that I used nearly every day circa 1985 - 1991, the curling iron, and the flat iron. I am truly trying to remember why I even still have hot rollers. Seriously - what would make me think those were good to keep?

DD2 comes into my bathroom dressed and ready for hair to be done at 6:30. She wants the front rolled in tight ringlets, and the rest just curled under. I think to myself, "God, this will be so tacky," but didn't discourage her. 10 minutes later, mission accomplished. She looks in the mirror and is clearly unhappy with the result. So then, I offered to braid her hair - 2 little braids on the side. "Yes, Mom, that would be great!" A few minutes later - she's still unhappy with the result. We tried something else with the braids. Nope. Nothing doing. She took out the braids, which were where the curls from the hot rollers used to be. All the curl is gone. She finally settles on me using the regular curling iron [which is what I would have suggested in the first place] on her hair, and then I sprayed it. She really hated that part.

By the time we left, the curls had fallen out somewhat, but she still looks cute. I pull into the car rider loop, she trots into school, and then I drop off DD1, make my way to work, only to have the phone ring within the first 10 minutes I'm in the office. My office phone never, ever rings. Low and behold, it's the school. My heart drops, and I'm worried that DD2 is suddenly sick. Why are they calling? Because they can't find her picture money. She can't have the pictures she wants without the picture money. Sigh.

I agreed to go back to the school and pay it again, but it would have to be after 11 when I was done teaching as my class was due to start in less than 15 minutes. I wrote myself a note to remember to do that, placed it on my chair so I would see it, and the phone rang yet again. Low and behold the money had been found. Where? Her bookbag.

I love picture day. And my 9 year old. But God help us if this is going to be repeated the next few years.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Bar Induced Philosophical Musings


Last night I did something I have never, ever done - went out to a bar by myself (although I was going to see a friend of mine perform) and I have to say the evening was immensely enjoyable. And I'm amused with him - there were several times he voiced a concern that I was not having a good time, when that couldn't have been farther from the truth. I imagine he had that concern because a) he was the only person I knew there, b) I nursed a glass of wine most of the evening and didn't drink that much, and c) I parked myself at a table on the side of the room and wasn't up dancing the first 2/3 of the evening.

I spent some time over the past few weeks asking folks if they would like to go with me. Timing of this event stunk - it is Labor Day weekend, and invariably, the people in my life who would be fun to hang with in this atmosphere all had plans. Sure, there are others I could have asked, but I really wanted to be with someone who would just enjoy being there and I didn't feel the need to entertain. When that didn't pan out, I admit to having thoughts of, "well, do I go?" Five plus years ago I would have decided not to, and then been upset later that I didn't. This go round I listened to myself - I really wanted to hear him play, so why would I NOT go. Turns out, I was with someone who just enjoyed being there - I was with me.

I think what I enjoyed most, other than the music, was the chance to just be in my own skin without worrying about anyone else. I didn't anticipate that feeling going in, but when it hit, that was really cool. Watching other people was a hoot, and I have to admit that there were moments that I wished I had gone to Bama watching this group, although when they started into "Rooooooolll Tide Roll" I countered with "Goooooooooooo DAWGS!!! Sic 'em!" - not too loud - just loud enough to amuse me. Hey, I was in enemy territory... I'm not stupid.

If the music had been bad, I wouldn't have been able to stay. Life is too short to have to listen to bad music, unless of course it is your child playing that bad music in a school band, and then you kind of have to. No, the music was damn incredible - and I'm not saying that because my friend was on stage. All three bands I heard were amazing to listen to. The first because they were just having a good time and you could tell. The second was just a magical combination of people and instruments. The last because not only were they having a good time, but they could rock. Music all three had in their set lists, even if I didn't know the songs, just resonated deep within. And while I didn't get up and dance during the first 2 sets, I connected with it and them. The last set there was no choice - I had to get up and dance. The chair was just too confining.

Watching my friend, though, was the most fun. He is super talented, and while he gave up the idea of making it big in music awhile back, I could just see how much he loves making music and how much he was enjoying himself. Watching how he interacted with the crowd and the band was downright entertaining. He told me it was the hat that caused it. I know better. The sly little smile he gave me when I was up and moving was amusing to me, too - a lot was communicated in that look. The whole evening just seemed to feed his soul.

When I was in the ladies room after the last set, a woman asked me, "Does tonight make you feel old or young?" I knew that her frame of reference was that these bands were a part of her college experience, and I did have the thought while watching the 2nd set in particular that it is clear we are all aging. My answer to her was, "I haven't decided," which was not entirely true. She said the second band made her feel old, but the last band made her feel young. Had I been in the mood to be philosophical with a complete stranger, my answer was really more of, "So, this is what I missed." I don't think I would have appreciated the evening in my 20s - I was too insecure and uncomfortable in bar/party situations. No, what I missed was having fun and not worrying about what other people thought. And finding that for myself at the age I am now is one of the most liberating things imaginable. My sitting back last night and watching was both a being blown away by that feeling and a savoring of sorts. Savoring the moment for a lot of different reasons.

So, to my friend, I'd like to say - I had a blast! You are incredible, and I am proud to be a groupie. Oh, and Roll Tide. As long as they aren't playing Georgia or Auburn.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Grandma


I remember sitting at the piano with my grandmother when I was a little girl. She would play and I would sing Jesus Loves Me, and one that I consider her favorite - Jesus Wants Me For A Sunbeam. I would bang on the piano, even at age 3 or 4, and she never stopped me.

Grandma taught me how to "really" play the piano when I was 6 years old. We started with Mary Had A Little Lamb, and she taught me how to play Heart and Soul, Chopsticks, and all the perennial things that seem to be what everyone knows how to do. She made sure I had a keyboard at home, even though it wasn't all that big. I started playing on a small electric air organ that was portable - it looked a lot like this organ, perhaps a little bigger:


Grandma found beginning music books for me, and even though I would only visit with her once a month or so, she would work with me, I would practice, and we would play together. My big Christmas present when I was 7 and in second grade was an upright piano. I officially started taking lessons in third grade, and I was so proud, because I got to skip several of the beginner books thanks to her. I've always been rather competitive, and the fact that I was ahead of a lot of my friends probably spurred me to keep playing.

As I grew older and better musically, we eventually started playing piano/organ duets, since she had an upright piano and an organ side by side in her house. I remember playing Deep Purple, Lara's Theme (from Doctor Zhivago), Amazing Grace, Our Love Affair, Sentimental Journey, You Made me Love You, Peg O'My Heart, and no telling what else. Grandma could play by ear and improvise, something I've never really been able to do well, other than to hammer out a melody. We would spend hours playing these duets, and I remember this incredible sense of pride and love that we both shared during those moments. My grandfather, when he was alive, would sneak in and listen at some point - frequently commenting, laughing and smiling. These were their songs. The love that you could feel in the room between them during those moments was something I will never forget.

Most of my memories of my Grandma involve music. She needed "noise" during the day - I remember being at their house and listening to Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra - a host of records in their large record player/stereo console. Papa was a sucker for the Time/Life collections, and every month a new collection of music would arrive, and they would get hours of play. Lawrence Welk, when he was on, was a given hour in front of the TV. When he came to Atlanta, we went. Thankfully, it wasn't my first concert, but it is certainly in the lower single digits.

Grandma and Papa had three residences, and there was at least one keyboard of some kind in each. We still have the house at the beach, and while there was a piano and an organ there for many years, only the piano remains, although it is badly out of tune and the keys are very sticky. I can remember Fourth of July celebrations where people would be in the house and coerce Grandma into playing. She never liked being the center of attention, but she loved having people sing the old songs. These concerts would go on for hours.

My grandmother is in the hospital with pneumonia in both lungs. She is 90 years old, and I am so lucky to have had her this long. Based on what my brother [the "real" doctor] told me, she should be fine this go round - this is a normal precaution based on her age. Since I've found out she's in the hospital, I've thought about her a lot. I asked if I needed to go, and I was told no.

Thinking about Grandma makes me realize just what an impact she has had on my life. She's the reason I sang Jesus Wants Me For a Sunbeam to my kids when they were little, and why I still sing a version of the song using my kids' names ("DD2 is my sunbeam, each and every day. I love DD2 at home, at school at play. My sunbeam, my sunbeam, DD2 is my sunbeam. My sunbeam, my sunbeam, I love DD2.") every night - DD2's request. DD1 on occasion will ask for it. My kids take piano lessons, and when we visit her, I always have them play. While I'm not as good as I used to be, if she asks me to play, I do.

She has had an incredibly hard life. She grew up during the Depression, got married at 16, had four daughters, the second of whom had a very high fever at age 2 or 3 which led to mental retardation (she currently lives in Florida as a ward of the state). Her youngest daughter, Shelley, was killed in a car accident the day before her 19th birthday. I am a lot like Shelley, both in demeanor and musical ability, and was not allowed to apply to Emory University, or to leave the house the day before my 19th birthday (Amazingly, I didn't balk on either one of those "requests" from my mother). Arthritis set in for Grandma at a fairly young age, and her beautiful hands that provided so much joy to others through music could no longer play like they used to. I wonder how much it hurt for her to have those concerts with me, and how she never said anything. She and my Grandfather celebrated 56 years together, before he died in 1992.

Most days I wear a diamond solitaire necklace around my neck. The diamond is from my Grandmother's engagement ring. She personally supervised its conversion to a necklace, and gave it to me when I graduated with my doctorate, 70 years after it was given to her.

Despite the hardships I know she has had, she is one of the most positive people I know. At age 90, she lives by herself, still drives (which I admit frightens me), plays bridge several times a week when she can, gets up every day and works the crossword puzzle, jumble, and the cryptoquote in the newspaper. She can barely walk, but she goes outside every morning with her walker and retrieves the newspaper from the yard. I know at this point in her life, she fakes it a lot. She really doesn't complain much, although I've seen her tear up several times because she just can't do what she used to, and she feels like a bother. Still, her spirit is just plain beautiful, and despite those hardships and the chronic pain I know she is in, I can think of no time when I have been with her that I haven't seen her smile or laugh (although in pictures that isn't as obvious - she hates having her picture taken).

I admire her for who she is, how she has handled adversity, and for being a gracious, amazing southern lady. She is one of the most incredible people I have ever come in contact with, and I'm sitting here trying to figure out when I can go see her, because - well, this hospitalization just highlights for me that she won't be here all that much longer.


December 2008 - Grandma's 90th birthday party
Lee, DD2, Grandma, DD1, my mom