Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Too busy to breathe

Life just keeps going at an incredible pace. The year is nearly over and I can't believe it. We've been back in TN for almost a year. So much has happened, so much is going on.

My baby continues to try her wings and is learning new things. Now she is actually showering and shampooing that long, curly hair, all by herself. I thought that day would never come but here it is. Every time she steps from the shower a little emotion tugs at my heart - another step into her ever growing independence. She is a beautiful girl, is getting tall and her sense of humor continues to thrill me. She can take it and she can certainly dish it out as well.

She's halfway through second grade. I watched her at her Christmas play and party. She amazes me. Her ability to learn and retain new things. Her knowledge. Yes, this is a night of thinking about Leah and how amazed and proud I am of her. We are close and I love the relationship we continue to develop everyday.

I talk about the changes in Leah and I have changed just as much. Not in physical growth but in my personal life skills. I feel hopeful again, my dreams are back, my goals have resurfaced. A little different than they were before but more concrete. Before I kind of had a vague idea that I wanted something different, something more. Now I know what that is and I'm making a game plan to achieve what I want. I've been doing research, learning new skills, talking to people who have done what I want to do. Positive steps forward. I've never been this organized before or as goal oriented. Good things. I'm sure I'll elaborate more but tonight I just needed to set down somewhere concrete that things are happening. A far cry from last year at this time. I'm happy and content and it feels so wonderful to be able to say that and mean it!

I close with this prayer from Juliana of Norwich, a 14th century mystic:

All shall
be well,
and all shall
be well,
and all manner
of thing
shall be well.

dame julian of norwich - 14th century - mystic

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Expections . . .

I have heard throughout my life the phrase, "Expect the unexpected." This last month has been a test of living that out. I don't do well with chaos - I never have and I never will. This last month has been a test of living that out as well. My beautiful, smart, and confident daughter started second grade and has done a three sixty. She comes home tired, grumpy, anxious, and distracted. Her self esteem has bottomed out and she feels like she is a "bad" student. Her normal cheerful, happy-go-lucky ways have been replaced with edginess and bouts of tears. Second grade. I had heard it was a hard year but I never expected this. I'm attempting to stay in close contact with her teacher so between the two of us we can figure out what is really going on and what we can do to help her. I miss her. I want my daughter back. But I try very hard not to let her know that. I don't want to make matters worse for her.

I have a new position at work and now have essentially three bosses. The two new ones are wonderful and we work well together. My original one? Well, he is having a hard time with the adjustment of having to "share" me. He has consistently bitten my head off at least weekly in the last month. Not about my work performance but by his feeling that I'm not protecting him from the rest of the staff. He has the image of being very scattered and now he is holding me accountable for that image and I am supposed to somehow change how he is perceived by everyone else. I am to be the "buffer" between him and the congregation and the rest of the staff. He even said I was to view myself as his personal Joan of Arc. May I see a copy of my job description please?? I don't recall that being part of it. Last week he literally got in my face and accused me of "throwing him under the bus" in front of a couple who were there to meet with him and he kept them waiting for twenty minutes. Expect the unexpected.

Last Thursday I started to not feel well. My symptoms were weird. I went in to the office late, thinking that if I allowed myself some time to rest, I'd feel better. Friday I didn't even make it in to the office I felt so bad. Saturday I could hardly get out of bed due to very stiff and sore joints. To just open and close my hands was extremely painful as was walking. By Sunday I was experiencing irregular heart beats. That always helps the fear level go several octaves higher for me. Sunday afternoon Leah looks at me and starts asking, "Mommy, if you die, the way I get to Miss Kathy's is I go out the apartment door, turn left, follow the street until the end of the fence and then what?? I'm not sure I'll know what to do if you die." My God, I never thought about those things when I was seven. Yet, I didn't lose my father suddenly at the age of four. I reassured her that I was almost certain I wasn't going to die anytime soon, but I won't tell her that I definitely won't because she specifically asked Ray if he was going to die soon the day he did die. He told her he wasn't going to die for a long time and she kissed him goodnight like always and he died twenty minutes later. Leah and I both learned at that moment that you never know for certain. Yet I don't want her to worry. But I do. Worry, that is. I feel such a responsibility to that little girl. I'm constantly asking God to please let me live long enough to see her grown and on her own. She doesn't deserve to lose both parents during her childhood.

So, as a way to help ease my own fears, I'm going to get checked out. Even though I am 98% sure I had a virus and my irregular heart beats are brought on by stress (I've had them before and that was the cause) I want to make sure. I want to be proactive. If I have a problem, fix it. Taking care of myself has always been a struggle for me. I'll take care of everyone else but not myself. It's hard to unlearn that but I'm trying. I just can't live the next 15 years of my life in fear of dying before she is grown. I've got to come to terms with what I can control and what I can't control. This is an area that truly tests my faith. Just when you think you have it all figured out, all tied up in a neat little box, expect the unexpected.

I'll admit, I've shed a lot of tears in this last month and have felt so alone that I've felt like I was either going to die or go crazy. Neither one is an option. Two weeks ago I was praying about this on my way to work. I was missing Ray so much. I needed him to help me sort out the problems Leah is having and my boss problems. I told God that I had never felt so alone and that I needed him to help me with that - to give me something tangible. No sooner had I uttered those words when I looked in my rear view mirror and saw six UPS trucks behind me. Three directly behind me in my lane and three in the right hand lane. I literally did a double take. UPS trucks always make me think of Ray as he worked for them for over 21 years. All I could think was that I was almost surrounded by UPS trucks. I came up to the light and stopped and when I looked to my left, there were two more UPS trucks in the turn lane, waiting to turn. I looked to my right and there was one more UPS truck in that lane, waiting to turn. I literally was surrounded by UPS trucks - nine of them! The only place I have ever seen 9 UPS trucks at one time has been at one of their hubs. God could not have used anything more symbolic or more tangible to remind me that I am definitely not alone. I have shared this story with many and everyone is totally blown away like I was. What a gift that was for me. Expect the unexpected.

I'm usually filled with faith, optimism, and courage but lately that has been hard for me to come by. I know to keep riding the wave, to continue to hold on. Life can turn on a dime - I know that all too well.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

It's all good

It has been a good day. I've been surrounded by good friends, good co-workers, nice people, an adorable daughter and two cute puppies. I've had stimulating work to do that kept me busy and made me feel productive and like I was contributing something good to others. I had good lunch company and great conversation. I came home tonight and was lucky enough to converse with some wonderful neighbors and then I spent a half an hour talking to a close friend on the telephone. I even got flowers at work today - how cool is that?? Leah and I curled up together and talked about her day and her fears about starting second grade. Having that time with her is worth everything to me. Having a close relationship with her is something that I cherish. I'm grateful for where I am right now. I'm in a good place all the way around; emotionally, spiritually, mentally and physically.

I've learned a valuable lesson this week. One that, for some reason, I have to relearn from time to time. Ray always told me that I had amazing instincts and that he would trust my gut feelings any day over anything else. I've had a "gut" feeling about someone in my life for awhile now but started to second guess myself this week. I've always believed that to truly know someone you should watch what they do and not necessarily listen to what they say. So, this week I sat back and just observed how this person acted. In no way did it match up to what he said. I really wanted to believe what he said because it was what I wanted but after observing his actions (or lack of them) I realized that my instincts were true. I realized that if this person really loved me as he has said that he does, his actions would be way different. I'm glad I've finally realized the truth (by his actions, not his words) because now I am able to move on. It has been very liberating for me. I now know that this person is not the right one for me (I've known it in my head for awhile, it has just taken my heart some time to catch up) and I look forward to meeting the one who is right for me. It scares me to think that I was so close to settling for someone who would bring me down instead of bringing out the best in me. Someone who wanted to change me to be what he wanted and not accept who I am. I almost compromised my faith for this person. I'm so glad that I didn't.

I've got work to do so I'll sign off for now.

Friday, August 1, 2008

More Life Lessons

OK, I am learning so much about myself. This week I learned:

I should never have possession of the remote control after midnight when my credit cards are close by. Yes, I bought a hair straightener for Leah that was over $100. After some sleep and buyers remorse my only thoughts are it better do the job they promised it would. It does have a 30 day guarantee . . .

I am like my father in the sense that if a little is good a lot is better. I over did it with the exercising and could barely get out of bed this morning. I have to remind myself that Rome wasn't built in a day nor will I get buff in a day (or in this lifetime for that matter!)

I'm still good at hopscotch. My daughter challenged me to a game earlier this week and we both were amazed that I was actually able to hop and bend over at relatively the same time!

I have definitely become more mechanically inclined. I not only fixed a laptop that belonged to my boss (oh yeah, I earned some brownie points!) and I put together a pre-fab bookcase. That may not sound like a lot to you, but for me it is definitely big steps in the right direction!

All joking aside, it has been a busy week. I started my new position today in Connectional Ministries and I can tell that I'm going to like it. I also scheduled my final national exam for the last web design class. I scored a 100% on all of my exams and my final, so I feel confident that I'll do well on the national exam. After that, I'm not sure where I'll go class wise. It is going to be harder now that I'm working full time but I still have flexibility that will allow me to continue. I just don't know what direction I want to go in. I probably need to talk to my instructor.

I'm feeling more settled here. I love my job, I love my apartment, I love Leah's school and I'm making new friends. I'm so glad I decided to move back. Florida just wasn't the place for me. Leah seems happy too. I'm lucky that she is still young enough that as long as she is with me, she'll be happy.

It's late, I'm tired and tomorrow is going to be another busy day. We plan on hitting the farmer's market early and the apartment really needs a good cleaning not to mention the mounds of dirty clothes that need to be laundered. Add to that studying and the work that I brought home to do and I'll definitely be busy.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Just Checking In . . .

I can't sleep so thought I'd catch up on my blog a little bit. It has been a very hectic couple of weeks. This past weekend Leah and I went to Beersheba Springs, to the United Methodist Assembly for the TN Conference Family Retreat. We had a great time and it proved to be very relaxing. It felt wonderful to get away from the normal grind. Leah loved it because she made new friends and had a level of freedom there that she can't have at home. There, we are up in the mountains and are surrounded by families so the kids are able to run free and play on the playground, in the game room, go sit together in the dining hall for meals, etc... It was wonderful to have our meals cooked for us. I enjoyed the evening vespers at the outdoor worship area. The view from the overlook to the valley below is absolutely breathtaking. I rode with my friend Kathy and that made it even better as we had a chance to talk.

Today has been bittersweet. Our senior minister died early this morning. I didn't know him very well as I've only been working at the church for three months, but he was well loved by his congregation. At 9:30 this morning the staff all gathered in the small chapel and sang a few hymns and prayed together. We were encouraged to share stories about him and there were some funny stories shared. The feeling was grief at his passing but celebration that he is finally free of pain. On the upside, I was offered more responsibility with a significant pay raise. Can you say excited???!!!??? I'm thrilled. I love working at this church. The flexibility they offer me is so vital since I'm an only parent. They are understanding about the times I need to flex my schedule to be with Leah. That means a lot right now. I'll do my web design on the side, building up my experience and portfolio.

I can't believe that Leah starts back to school in just three short weeks. This summer has flown by! I think overall it has been a good one for her. She has certainly done a lot of different things, taken a lot of field trips and made new friends.

The puppies are still getting into trouble on a daily basis. Last week our next door neighbors asked us to come over and visit for a bit as they were moving the next day back to New York. I usually put the dogs in their kennels when I leave the apartment but this time I didn't as I knew I wouldn't be gone for very long. When we walked back into the apartment Leah said, "oh no!" She bent down and handed me my Blackberry. I had left it on the table and the older dog can jump on the furniture and help himself to whatever is there. This is the second time they have gotten my phone and this time the teeth marks are everywhere. They even cracked the screen. The case was in shreds. As Leah handed it to me it rang - at least I knew it still worked - and it was Kathy, asking if I had just called her. I told her no and she said, "Yes you did, your number came up. All I could hear was movement and breathing and then a hang up." I couldn't help but laugh because obviously in their chewing frenzy, the dogs had hit the call button and she was the last person I had called so her number was up. She was afraid that I had gone into a diabetic coma or something and that Leah didn't know what to say so she hung up. We did have a good laugh when we realized it had been the dogs who called.

As I was packing to leave on the retreat Friday Oreo came out of the bedroom with my bottle of Tums in his mouth. When he saw me coming towards him he turned back around and ran under my bed. I pulled him out by his tail but he left the Tums under the bed. I didn't think I would ever reach them but I did. The lid was off and I couldn't tell if they had eaten any of them or not. I was so ticked that my first thought was that if they die, they die. Then I thought about Leah. I picked them both up and smelled their breath - no scent of Tums, just bad doggie breath.

Not being a morning person, mornings around here are not fun. As usual, this morning I was running late. I was attempting to slip on my shoes as I was running for the door, picking up my purse, keys and cell phone all at the same time. You can imagine my shock and disgust when I realized that Lilly, the four month old, had pooped in my shoe. Leah started to giggle until she looked at my face. Then she started in on her litany of "they're just puppies Mommy." They lived for another day, anyway.

So, that's been life around my crazy house. Each day holds it own surprises; some good and some, well, some I'd rather not experience i.e. dog poop. I need to try and get some sleep as that alarm sounds very early in the morning.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Blaa, Blaa, Blaa

My wonderful mood continues. Leah was sick all weekend. I knew she felt bad when Saturday after running two errands she said she just wanted to go home and put her pajamas back on. She did and so began the long weekend of staying in. I finally figured out that her allergies were acting up so I got her singular refilled and by yesterday evening she was up dancing and bouncing off the walls like normal. I hate it when she is sick. I felt terrible that I let her singular run out. I just hate for her to continue taking meds if she really doesn't need them. I could tell by the dramatic difference in her that she did need this.

My internet at home has been out all weekend. Comcast is having problems and I hope that they get it fixed soon. I didn't realize how accustomed I was to being on the internet all the time. So, I'm at Panera today, getting my fix; checking my emails, blogging, etc... To add to it, my Blackberry started acting up this morning after I took Leah to MAC. I couldn't retrieve my voice mail. I stopped by the store and they helped me get it all back on line. Just goes to confirm to me that when your attitude is crappy, things around you start breaking down in one way or another. It is at times like this that I'm glad my present job has flexibility. "Working at home" is totally acceptable and even expected at times. It has been ages since I've felt like this. I don't want to see anyone, I don't want to talk to anyone. My brother called twice this weekend - I ignored the calls. I don't want to talk. At least I've learned that these feelings don't last forever - they will probably pass in a few days. I need to find something to look forward to. My days have been work, school and home and I haven't done anything I really enjoy in a long time. At home it is constantly picking up after Leah and cleaning up after the puppies. At work it is constantly putting out fires. No wonder I'm tired. I feel like I can never get ahead. There is always laundry, dirty dishes, meals to worry about, dog poop somewhere that needs to be cleaned up. Have I whined enough yet???

Anyway, I now officially have a waiting list for designing websites. I can work on them all at the same time but I've had to be honest and tell the latest two who have asked that I have someone in front of them. And the wonderful thing? Two of the three are actual paying customers! I'm thrilled to be getting the experience and adding to my online portfolio. Changing careers is somewhat of a stressful thing but it will be so worth it once I find an actual paying job in my new field.

I guess I need to go to the office for a few hours today. There are things there that need to be done. This is snappy pants signing off for now.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Three Steps Forward, Two Steps Back. . .

This has been a different sort of week. It has been busy, up and down emotionally, and exhausting. The past has been colliding with the present bringing with it comfort and longing. When I got out of the car this morning I was greeted with the sound of lawn mowers and that wonderful scent of freshly mowed grass.Immediately I was transported back to the little town in Kentucky we lived in when I was a teen. I normally move on with my day but since I didn't have anything to distract me I thought about childhood friends, things I used to do, the music that I listened to for hours on end. I thought about my parents . . . I find it hard to believe that dad died 18 years ago next month and that mom died over 7 years ago now. Most days that just feels like another lifetime to me.

Somehow I got an infected nail bed on my right middle finger, causing a lot of pain and finally made me go see my doctor. Medication was prescribed with the warning to watch it carefully because if the infection got to the bone they may have to remove my finger. As I lay in bed Wednesday night, unable to sleep because of the throbbing pain, I felt the loneliness of being on my own. I missed the way Ray always babied me whenever anything was wrong. I tried to think about what he would probably say and for the first time since his death, I couldn't remember the sound of his voice. That has haunted me for the rest of the week because I still can't remember. And I desperately want to remember. When I finally got to sleep it was a restless sleep. Around 4:00 a.m. I woke up with a start, feeling very funny. It took me a minute to realize that I was having an insulin reaction. As I walked to the kitchen on very unsteady legs and attempted to cut myself some cheese slices with shaking hands, again I felt the emptiness that his not being here has left with me. He always woke up before I did when I was having a low during the night and would wake me up. He'd fix whatever I needed and we would sit and talk while we waited to make sure that I had treated it sufficiently. My thoughts have traveled back to the early days of our marriage, how exciting it was and how broke we were. Then in later years dealing with the infertility and the disappointment that brought. Then the period of time when we decided to hell with it and we concentrated on building a life for the two of us and ourselves individually. We both went back to school and we did a lot of things that we had been putting off in the attempt to have a family. The phone call I got from him while he was in Nashville on yet another business trip, telling me that he was being transferred from New Orleans to Nashville - a transfer we had prayed for a long time to happen. The time just seemed to fly by. I've wondered all week about where did the years go? Now I'm on a different path - single, raising the daughter that we waited for so long. Some days I feel strong and thankful that we're doing so well. Other days it hits again like a ton of bricks that he is gone and he's not coming back. It's at those times that I find I have a hard time breathing. How can you miss someone so damn much and still keep going? This has been a lonely week. I have felt the loneliness acutely since Leah's birthday. So, this week I have tried to stay busy. I threw myself into work and got a lot of things done. I studied and took 3 unit exams today and made a 100% on all three of them. The usual is 1 unit exam per week. Now I'm studying for my final and then will sit for the vendor exam. This will complete my web design/development courses and certifications. I'm not sure what I'll take next. I can take as many classes as I can fit in during the next nine months.

This entire week I have felt the longing to connect with something from my past. Someone or something that would help me to remember who I am. Someone who cares how my day went. I never realized how great the need is to have someone who truly knows us and loves us - just as we are. I was very fortunate as Ray was one who did that very well. Perfect he wasn't - in fact he could drive me up the wall and did on many occasion - but he was there for me. I miss that. I miss him.

OK, it is obviously after midnight as I only bare my soul after that bewitching hour. Writing it out helps me to sort it out and deal with it. This blog is my therapy. Every time I write an entry like this one I'm saving myself $110 an hour. I know because I've knelt at the altar of psychotherapy. I don't regret it but I'm glad that writing it out is just as therapeutic for me.

I'm going to do something fun this weekend.