Friday, May 31, 2013

Pampering...

Well good morning Friday, you sure have been an elusive seductress this week!  It was wonderful to wake up to the sounds of the birds chirping and realize that you had finally decided to show up.  This has been a long short week. The kind that makes Saturday looming on the horizon look so promising, does it hold the treasures of sleep, relaxation, and rest?  Or will it be another rush, rush kind of day? Oh I think I am trying to get ahead of myself....

Isn't this just too adorable for words?

I had a wonderful evening last night, I got to spend almost 3 hours with my girls being pampered, we all went to see Pen, she is probably my most favorite beautician ever!  She takes her time, isn't rushed and is so friendly.  I know it will be a few hours when I go to Pen's, but I also know I will feel wonderful when I leave.  My hair will look beautiful, in that way that you personally can not duplicate and love because it's so perfect.

It's a relaxed kind of space where she offers up ice water and coffee while you sit and laugh together.  She was the first one to talk me out of cutting off my long and unruly hair a few years back after my rebellion of not cutting it for almost 2 years. When I decided to finally dye it again, after way, way too many years she helped me pick a color that was closest to my natural one (conferring with hubby because he had to like it too).  I have more gray than brown now, but it is still transitioning, I'm okay with premature gray hair, but not such a fan of the middle stage - ewwww....

During all of these years she has smiled, laughed, remembered all our conversations, shared happy times and sad times.  Both her's and mine.  Once the discussion led to hubby and I discovering Pad Thai and how much we loved it, about a week later I got a call asking me to come by the shop at ten when she got in, that wonderful little woman made us Pad Thai for lunch.  She is from Thailand and if she weren't a beautician she would be a cook.  Those are her passions! She has offered to teach me to cook it, but I would need a gas stove and I think buying a new stove just to make a dish might be a bit crazier than even I am.

Somewhere in the past couple of years she started doing my girls hair too.  She lets my little grand daughter make her own decisions about her hair, even giving her the orange highlights she desperately wanted (with mom's permission of course). She does not talk down to my little one, she treats her like a mini-adult with respect and compassion.  She understands my daughters inability to sit still for long and gives her ample breaks to wander around while she is in the process of getting her hair done.

She is talking about closing her little shop, the cost to keep it open is too much.  Our city doesn't seem to be very conducive to small businesses, so many come and go.  I am sure that it isn't just our city, there are so many locally that seem to have revolving signs on the door.  Most of the time they are up for lease, vacant and lonely.  It's a sad commentary.

I don't like the big box stores, they are all about the numbers, how fast and how many can I get through the door.  They have time limits.  I know this, because I met Pen at one of those places just before she opened her own shop.  I was still in that rebellious phase, but needed split ends trimmed off, I was looking rather frightening and a ponytail holder was my best friend.  As luck would have it, I drew her.  We chatted while she cheerfully trimmed my hair, she mentioned that she was opening her own salon, and where it would be located.  I had a very hard time understanding her, her accent was thick and she was talking softly.  About six months later, driving down the road by my house I saw the sign.  She is within walking distance of my house and I have never gone anywhere else.

Pen dreams of going home to Thailand, for me that will be a very sad day, although she has told me I can come and visit.  I can handle her closing her shop, she has told hubby and I that she will still do my hair in her basement shop that she is creating. And that after doing hair we will gather together for Pad Thai.  Pen and I have had amazing conversations, I have learned all about Thailand, that she is Budda and what that means, she has taken the time to help me learn so much about her beliefs, culture and home. 

I love the bond that her and I have. I love that when hubby calls, she absolutely adores him and wants me to clone him, to get an appointment she will stay open super late (just for us) to take me and my girls.  Because she knows what kind of crazy schedule I have.  Or when my sister came home and wanted her hair done by my beautician before heading home, because she does such a great job, that she was willing to change her schedule to make it happen.

That is what is lacking in those big box stores, you simply have no control.  Sally might do a great job and Susan not, and who knows who you get the third time.  They don't know things like the way your cowlick likes to lay or the color of dye you use. It is just a revolving door.

I think that is what is missing across the board in our hurry, hurry, I need more American society.  That precious bond between people, that connection. Me and my girls need our Pen!  I appreciate her so much, and I know that they do too!


Thursday, May 30, 2013

Overworkers Anonymous?

mmmmmm.... coffeeeeee.... Yep that is the voice in my brain today!  I am ready for the weekend, ready to relax and unwind. I woke up remembering that it is only Thursday. Thursday is so far from Friday when you are just exhausted!  Long, short weeks are brutal! Am I the only person that feels like a holiday is rewarded with a busier four days? 
I wish I could say it was work that was keeping me running in circles... sadly, it's not.  My fur boys and my men keep wanting to eat (what in the world is up with that?), the laundry needs attention and the garden is still not all the way planted.  I have to admit that in this world of mine right now, I am an equal opportunity slacker! There is an equal balance of things not getting done!

I am anxious to start the weekend this week.  I think I am just tired of always being behind.  I am already creating my to do list.  I want to finish getting my garden in, it looks so sad as we are moving into June.  I still have three beds that haven't been cared for at all! The three that are planted are doing quite nice and soon we will have radishes, carrots, lettuces, beets and swiss chard... the other three are growing an odd assortment of weeds!


There are more storms brewing, that is what the radio said as it jarred me out of sleep.  We sure have had a good amount of rain this year. I for one am grateful! Last year was so dry, what difference does it make if I have lots of time to plant a garden if it's so dry that it struggles to survive? We aren't flooding, just soggy.  Unless we have severe storms this weekend, I am planning to finish those beds that need love and get things moving! Then hope that Mother Nature didn't decide we needed a years worth of rain in April and May.

I also have quite a few chores around the house that need attention.  Funny how when the professional life gets a bit nutty the personal one starts to slide, and the first thing to go is the chores! I will freely admit that being a creative person, when I find a spare minute or two I am usually creating something... Not cleaning... but still geez... It's crazy how fast it all catches up with me! Let's hope I can focus enough to put off some of that creativity to get some work done first.

All this stuff is gathering in my brain... it's all looking for a weekend to happen, although, I did notice when I woke up this morning the sun was breaking through.... maybe it is looking for a morning to happen? I need an intervention I do believe! 

This week still has two more days, and they are going to be busy ones... I have quite a few tasks that are waiting for my attention today and tomorrow.  A few meetings and plans to make.  Things are always different there, I think that is one of the reasons that I love my job, it's never the same, it always different...

So much stuff rattling around demanding attention... but it's morning, and my coffee is steaming!  Today it is calming me, drawing me into focus... yesterday was a tough day, I had two staff out sick, and my schedule was already packed when I had to do their jobs.  I am waiting with apprehension to see what today brings.  I will do a better job of managing the chaos today, I have to...

Coffee anyone?

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Cherry on Top!

Or at least a cup cake! Last night was wonderful!!  I don't know who was more excited... I am thinking it was me!  It is so hard to believe how fast seven weeks simply flew by.  My quilting class finished up last night, we celebrated, stayed a bit late and I gave each of them a "cupcake".  I had so much fun with them.  It's a class I will miss!

Only a bit though, a couple have signed up again, we will start our next journey together soon. I just need to take a few minutes to celebrate them now!  Hubby started on his second quilt, I am going to make time this weekend to help him put the first one on the quilt frame.  I am so proud of him, he did such a great job.

Hubby and his quilt
The memory quilt made for a hubby gone to soon, is so beautiful.  The love shows through.  Particularly in the tiny stitches of the perfect hearts.  The colors blend well.  I am sure when she is done it will keep her cozy for so many nights.  It made me smile that she used the pockets of his shirts in the patches.  Such a nice place to stash the remote or reading glasses.  She quilted the grid by machine, she is doing each heart by hand.  I cannot wait to see it finished.  I am hoping that she will bring it back when she is done so we can all admire it!
Working on mitering the corners

Wrapped in Love

S's travel quilt turned out so amazing!  She really did a great job at tackling it all.  Her rows are straight, she chose a difficult sash solution without even realizing it and flew right through it! She's chosen to hand quilt it, I cannot wait to see her finished quilt, she is wonderful with the tiny stitches.  Even if she doesn't believe it. It looks so perfect, her skill and desire to make each stitch just so... oh it is going to be so wonderful when she puts the final stitches in.  I was so excited that she has chosen to stay with our group and start her next project.
Tiny stars stitched with care

Travel and Memories

V's pair of memory quilts are slowly coming along. They look great!  One top is completed.  It was a huge decision to tackle something so big for a first project, it was brave!  She had friends helping her each step of the way. We all stayed late last night to help encourage her to finish, to celebrate with her.  As I was helping her on the floor pinning the last rows together, I wondered if she would come back to finish both of them.  I was so excited when she came in today and told me she would be joining us next session to get them finished.  I love that she is dedicated enough to finish, even if she isn't so sure she will ever sew again.

Almost there!

Decades of Family love
Several couldn't make it to all the classes to finish, I hope they will come back so we can see our journey through to the end. They didn't get a chance to finish.  I hope they will, I hope they will finish them either on their own or as part of our group.  That is sheer selfishness on my part.  I have grown very fond of my little group, I want the time to continue, I feel a bond has grown around the quilting machines, just like the old days.  I think I told you a long time ago that quilting wasn't simply about creating something from scraps, it's about growing a group of friends, the bond that starts from nothing, the bits and pieces being sewn together bit by bit.
The final night!
I loved every minute of it, I hope it continues to grow!

And finally my nephew's quilt side A

and side B


Monday, May 27, 2013

aaannnnnddddd... Breathe!

Stop and smell the roses....
Shortly before eleven this morning the crazy chaos of May came to an abrupt end. The last car door shut, the silence rapidly enveloped my daughter's house.  And it all just stopped.  Graduations finished, travels and long weeks over, parties and holidays done.

Hubby and Son start watching a movie, grand baby turns on cartoons, I get a glass of water and curl up with grand baby while visiting with daughter who is back to painting.  The stillness invites the slow down. The quiet activities with no where to go nothing to do, lead to a special peace and calm.

I am tired.  It was wonderful to participate in all these things, it was great to see family. Remarkable to celebrate the accomplishments of so many young people in our family. And through it all ... I am simply tired! My legs are sore, my brain is numb, my exhaustion is complete.  This is the furthest I have pushed myself in a very, very long time. I feel it in every fiber of my being.

By three this afternoon, we've dropped off  a grand son.  Hubby, son and I are home.  In the disaster that is my kitchen, left over from weeks of rushing in and out, I slowly, leisurely start making our dinner.  Tidying a bit here and there as I go.  I am taking my time.  I can feel the stress seeping out of my pores.  I can feel the joy of preparing a meal for loved ones without a pressing need to hurry. 

I take my time.  I am text messaging my daughter, sharing little snippets of life.  We are watching the storm approaching wondering which of us will get hit first.  She is 40 minutes west of me, it's gonna be her first now, maybe... we wait to see... Hubby is down in his man cave I can hear him laughing as he watches old Carol Burnett Bloopers thanks to the wonder of the internet.  Son is in his room, chatting with friends around the world, enjoying his time regrouping.

I like the peace of today, it seemed so rushed, high pressure, upsetting this morning.  Rushing to be sure everyone had their needs met.  I wanted to cry, I felt like I was in a pressure cooker. I might be the oldest, I rarely try to be the one in charge.  In a family of strong women, it is not worth the price.  I was feeling the pressure of that today. 

As the thunderstorms rolled in, all of it washed away.  I stopped, I took a deep breath, I simply decided to be done.  I let each clap of thunder, each bolt of lightning work it's magic.  Like a deep muscle massage pushing and prodding at all of the spots that need release.  As the winds gathered, whistling and bending trees I could feel the month slipping into memories...

Made the time to watch a movie from 1946 with hubby, I was shocked that it lasted three hours, but it was a good story and held my attention. 

It feels like I have been holding my breath for a month... today I simply get to breathe!

Sunday, May 26, 2013

I cried...

Beauty is found when you look! My Rhodies...
Yesterday, I cried.  It takes a lot for me to cry.  Either you have to make me very angry or very hurt.  Those are really the only two ways (this of course is barring death and even that falls into the hurt category).  But yesterday was a perfect storm.  I was angry and hurt.  I wanted to scream and yell at the world, but in particular the one that caused the pain.

It isn't the first time, it won't be the last.  Some people simply move through life with blinders on.  They can only see what's in it for them.  And it's damn the torpedo's full speed ahead.  That was yesterday.  The younger me used to get pretty uptight and would have really done something stupid in response.  Like, well respond.  I didn't.  I have changed a lot as I've grown older and I have reached the point where I realize there is a lot of value in just closing the door and walking away from it.

It took me a lot of hours and some wise counsel from Hubby and Daughter to help me see the whole picture.  To focus on what was truly the source of the anger and pain and to step back and redirect.  At first  it was like buckshot.  I wanted to hit as much as I could and injure all parties that I perceived had injured me.  Then as I became calmer and focused, I realized it was the same dynamic that always causes the hurt and pain.  I slowly started to see it all for what it really was.

And I was calm.  Instead of spending a day in hurt and anger, I spent the day with people that I love and can count on. I am so thankful for their peace and strength.

Sometimes it is very difficult to be the stronger person.  Sometimes you want to lash out and hurt the person that has injured you.  Sometimes you have an overwhelming need to "even the score".  The peace you find is when you don't.  I could have done that yesterday.  Ten years ago... I would have.  Ten years ago, I did.  It didn't bring me peace, it didn't bring me calm, it didn't bring me a sense of evening anything.

Last night as I put my head down on my pillow, I felt I had a good day.  I had time with three of our kids, my grand daughter, grand son, and niece.  A wonderful lunch with hubby and got a few things done in my yard.  Had the opportunity to have a long conversation with my girl, and further see her new nest taking shape. No I didn't get to see my sister's face when she opened the quilt that I made for her son, but I heard the smile and tears in her voice on the phone when she called me on our way home late yesterday after we simply couldn't wait any longer. I would have liked to have seen my folks, but I will get to at least spend a bit of time with them today.

I had made a different decision about today.  One made in hurt and anger.  My daughter and my son both helped me realize it was a bad one.  So today, I will smile, enjoy the sunshine and laughter with my kids.  I will consider the source and move on.

Hubby is under the weather, so he will be spared having to make those kinds of decisions.  Maybe God knows better than us, I hate that hubby is sick, but I also know my knight is shining armor is ready and able to do battle for my heart.  He doesn't like it when I am sad, he really doesn't like it when I cry. And he will even the score no matter what the cost.  I don't want him to do that. I want him to have the peace of walking away.

Ultimately, I will move on.  I can forgive and I can forget, but I am notorious for walking away.  I will simply walk away from the source of pain.  It isn't worth it to me to stay near. Inside I felt that final brick move into place yesterday.  I felt the pop.  I am sad that it's there, but I also realize that I need it there. I don't like to be hurt, and I really don't like to be hurt repeatedly.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Be Still...

My roses that I planted 10 years ago when I moved here
Shhhh... it's calm and quiet.  For the first time in longer than I can remember I slept until after 8:00 am.  I guess that isn't much of a feat when you consider that I didn't go to bed until after midnight.  But for me, it is amazing.  I guess the exhaustion of the month caught up with me. 

I can't believe I have been so bad about writing this week.  I just ran out of energy and time.  I couldn't keep my eyes open or my brain focused a minute longer. Today's to do list is so long and demanding, my need for calm is stronger. 

I have three days to tackle the crazy, to clean, to garden, to quilt, to visit with family and to complete what I need to do.  For this minute and time, I need to be still.  I need to absorb the quiet, sip my coffee, and just reflect.

Do you ever have those days?  Those moments at the end of a long stretch of busy and crazy when you just want to catch your breath?  I am in need of that.  In the past three weeks, this is my first fairly non-committed day.  In two weeks it is my first non-work day.  During this time I have been struggling to keep up with my house, my family and my life.  I have squeezed in so much in the non-work time, that I am just plain worn out. 

I know that I struggle with balance.  This month has had so many ups and downs, so many strong emotions, so much that is conflicting and powerful.  The struggle between the professional and personal me has been at times exhausting. 

I have felt like the professional side of me has more or less won the battle.  I have struggled with feeling like a negligent mom, wife and sister.  I have been reminded more than once that I am human, and I cannot do all the things that need to be done and when those unfinished things start falling around me like ashes... I feel like a failure. My family is so important to me.  My family is the focus of who I am.  While I enjoy my career, nothing is as important as my family.

Last night, Hubby and I were able to help our girl with a bunch of small things that needed done around her house.  Those little things... hanging stereo's, hanging planters, sealing leaks in duct work, picking out a few final bits for the house, moving it in and tidying the remains of it all.  She has company this weekend, she needed a bit of help. We needed the pleasure of being parents.  The two needs definitely work well together.

Hubby and daughter came up with an amazing plan for her family room.  I am excited to see how it turns out!  When it is all said and done, I will let you guys in on the plan.  They are clever little stinkers!

I need to spend these three days regrouping.  I am going to help hubby get his quilt on the long arm.  I am going to focus on the final graduation activities and family.  I get to give my sister the quilt I made for her son's graduation (and I will finally post finished pictures here). This weekend I get to be me.  I am looking forward to it.

What are you doing this weekend? At some point today hubby, son and I will head back to daughters house. We will spend time with my mom, dad, sister (s) and at least one niece.  And of course my sweet granddaughter.  Yep...  it has all the makings of a great day!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Yesitis....

The sunshine of my week, showing me her creation!
I have been so crazy busy lately that I am not sure if I am coming, going, or somewhere in the middle.  I often burn my candle at both ends... right now, it kind of feels like I might have lighted a few parts in the middle.  I am fairly certain that this week has been non-stop full moon.  Or I am trapped in a bad remake of ground hog day.

It isn't that I haven't wanted to talk to you all, it's that I have simply not stopped moving until I have fallen asleep. Crazy busy... I want to say it is simply the month.  I am dreadfully afraid it is that old illness I thought I had over come, that one where your brain is screaming "NO!!!!!!!!" and some how magically your lips are moving of their own accord "YES!!!!!"  Yesitis... yep that is what it's called.

A long time ago, I had a complete inability to simply say no.  I spent a lot of time angry at myself, doing things I really didn't want to do, simply because I didn't have the emotional ability to say no. And once I say yes, even if I am hating myself, and the person I couldn't say no to, I finish what I said I would do.  That is just how I am.  I even earned a Presidential Award as one of President Bush's Thousand Points of Light Volunteers because of that silly disease.  I didn't set out to win an award or even to be recognized, I do not like to be the center of attention and I don't do things for recognition.  I simply do what needs to be done when I know it won't get done otherwise.

I have agreed to take on multiple responsibilities at work that are new to me, and that if I were honest I really didn't have time for.  So now, each day ends up being longer and longer and frankly it is burning me out this stretch!  I was looking forward to Friday - a day off!  Instead, I will be going to a meeting for three hours.  I wish I could have stood my ground, I am tired.  But being me... that didn't happen!

I have dealt with some people that truly are special this week.  And no I do not mean that in a good way.  I am so tired of crazy this week.  I am not someone that likes to deal with stress and this week has found a way to be loaded with it... hmmm... maybe I should have read my horoscope?

Many of the things that are taking my time are things I love and want in my world, they are the things that strongly belong there!  A few hours with my Grand baby for her play, a chance to go to my daughters for her Pampered Chef party, time chatting with my son, a walk with sweet hubby for a coffee break in the middle of the day, mowing my grass and tending my garden.  Making schnitzel for my son and of course us.  Finding a bit of time to visit with my baby sister and trim her hair as she gets ready for her daughters graduation, in the midst of saying good bye to her Gramma-in-law who went home after 100 years.  Supporting her while she is helping her family heal. Those are the things that make life worth the breath.

Hubby is starting work on quilt #2, will quilt #1 this weekend
Sandy is prepping to hand quilt her treasure!
I did have the fun of helping my quilting class, only one more week, I am sad.  But a new class will start the following week! It isn't full yet, but I am hopeful.  We will have a party and I am making each a special gift.  Pictures will be taken and hopefully more friendships will be formed. It's been a good respite from crazy!

Brenda is checking out her machine quilting, so wonderful!
Sandy giving Viola tips!
Anyone else living a too fast life?  Has crazy over taken you? Time to regroup and look for the positive!  Time for sleep....





Monday, May 20, 2013

Ambiguous....

 That describes my feelings over the past few days.  It was Annie Malone weekend in St. Louis, for 125 years they have been celebrating a woman and her friends that did so much for their community and it continues to impact lives to this day.

The Annie Malone Home and foundation has been taking care of the families and children of The Ville for a long time and in this century has moved it's signature parade to Downtown St. Louis.  I have never attended.  For several reasons.  First and foremost I do not like large gatherings of people.  And this one is the largest held in St. Louis.  Only the Mardi Gras parade might have more folks attend, or maybe it feels that way as it is held in the Soulard neighborhood with narrow streets and closer buildings.  Second, I don't tend to come to Downtown on the weekends, that is my time to decompress. If I am in the area on Annie Malone May Day Parade weekend, I am there because I am working.  And finally, I am not always impressed with how people behave and it irritates me.

Last week someone made the comment to me that St. Louis is a polarized city.  They are right.  It was abundantly clear on Annie Malone weekend.  Yesterday I was so happy to see all the excited children and their parents.  I was speaking to a man that was parking on my lot, and he was sharing with me how much this weekend meant to his community and to him personally.  It seems that almost everyone has a connection to The Ville and the work that has been done with so much pride and care for it's residents. 


As the parade started just blocks from us, I could hear the bands warming up and ultimately playing.  Those are some incredibly talented young people, and it was a sheer joy to listen to.  It was a beautiful day, the rain that was promised waited until today to happen.  So the laughter, joy and celebration was unburdened by Mother Nature.  Even she knew the importance of this weekend. 

Against the backdrop of sunshine, great music, amazing drum lines, laughter and celebration was an undertone that made me sad.  Several of the younger generation, I call them the "me" generation, were unbelievably rude and self-centered.  Their crass behavior and comments made it uncomfortable to be around.  They were loud, profane, and if you had the misfortune of being any color other than their own they were ugly.  Ugly in their speech and actions. 

I don't understand this.  I wasn't raised in this area, maybe there are things in the past that I fail to understand clearly because I didn't experience them.  I don't know. 

I do know what it's like to always be the new person. To always be the one on the outside of a group looking in. Longing to be accepted and having to decide how I was going to either adjust myself or work to be accepted by the groups already established.  It isn't about the color of my skin, but about me as a person.

I don't understand how the color of your skin is more important than the content of your character, as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr so eloquently stated.  The last thing I look at is your skin color.  The very first is the kind of person you are.  When you smile, does it reach your eyes?  When you speak to me, is there a genuine caring and kind demeanor?  When I see you with children and animals are you gentle, compassionate and nurturing? 

I don't really know how I feel about segregation, integration and the rest of the stuff that has been forced on communities by governments.  I have never dealt with it, and I know it does not rise in me the passions it rises in others.  I wonder where we would be as a nation and especially as a Metro area if our governments would keep their noses out! 

The same person that told me we are polarized, also told me I could not understand the feeling of being the only black person to walk into a room of white people.  Seriously? Can that person truly believe that they are the only one to feel that kind of intimidation?  It doesn't matter the color of your skin, it doesn't matter your nationality, gender... none of it.  The same could be said about being the only white person in a room of black people, the only woman in a crowd of men, the only man in a crowd of women, the only English speaking person in a country you are in.  It is intimidating to cross the boundaries in any situation.  The fact that we are still using that as a reason to keep walls up 150 years after one of the greatest flaws in our early nation was corrected makes me ill.

A wonderful woman works for me, she is so much like me I giggle sometimes, and pray that I become more like her as I get older.  One my greatest joys in the world is when her son comes in and gives his other mama a hug!  Sometimes he calls me mama number two or his white mama, neither of those are meant as a demeaning phrase, but as a definition.  He is a good man, a hard worker that takes care of his mama.  I am so proud that he feels that way about me.  Proud to add him to my list of "children" and there have been many over my life.

I would have loved to have seen those children playing their instruments and marching to celebrate such a wonderful, long lasting cause.  I am proud to know I live in an area, that long before the government stuck their noses into the mix found a way to meet a serious need in the community and 125 years later it is still going strong and doing so much for all in their community.   I am sad that to be able to rejoice in this region you must be willing to be defined. 

I think we all need to put some glasses on that make all the people gray.  So that we as American's can finally define each other by content.  When we can finally stop hearing or reading a news article that starts with "a black ..." or "a white..." and not just "a child...", "a man...", "a woman...".  If it is truly relevant to the story add their origin or ethnicity later, and if it isn't... then leave it out.  It is a description just like tall, short, thin, fat.  It is not a definition of the soul.

As a melting pot, we all have different backgrounds, even our "native Americans" migrated from another area.  Maybe, just maybe, Dr. King was on to something.  I don't want to be judged by my skin, my nationality, my gender, my sexual preference, my hair color, my eye color, my speech, my clothing, my car... yes we can get just that wrapped up in things.  I want to be judged on the content of my character.  I want to celebrate each person in my circle of friends for the wonderful people that they are.

So I am ambiguous over this weekend.  I simply do not know how to feel about it.  I want to celebrate a great cause, a great accomplishment and a community that is strong, nurturing and loving.  I don't want to be told I don't belong or I don't know what it feels like to be an outsider - especially when the person saying it has just made me feel that way...

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Making living? Living a Life..

I wonder about the example I am setting for my kids.  I am glad to have a job, especially one that I enjoy most of the time.  After all these years, I am well aware that once every five to eight weeks I will be working a long week.  It does make you a bit tired and you aren't home much.  It was something we all voted on long ago, it beat the alternative of having several weekends a month when you could not make plans or do anything.

Hubby and I were very insistent with the boy.  Stay in school, focus on your grades, stay out of trouble and we would pay for the car and all monetary needs, while in high school and college.  We wanted his focus to stay on academics.  As a result he has never had to work a menial job.  His work career has all been in academia.  To say that provides a very tainted view of the work world might be an understatement. It also might explain why we have so many youth struggling to understand so much. 

I am torn, was I fair to him?  The other night when I got home at about 9:30 pm, he and I sat and talked for a few hours.  It was wonderful. Priceless.  When he was a little guy, he and I would talk for hours, about everything under the sun. So those snippets when we get to visit with each other and just talk make me so happy!

As we were talking he asked me a question.  My son is not a child, he's an adult in his early twenties.  Getting ready to start either a career path or another trip back into academia.  He has a lot of decisions to make and a course to chart.  He is good at planning out things, both of my kids are.  In the course of this conversation, he asked me if all jobs outside of college required you to work as much as I do.  I was shocked, perplexed and didn't really know how to answer for a minute or two.

I was a military spouse back before online college was available, I went to school forever, but was always having to start back at close to zero.  By the time I'd stopped chasing another person's dreams all over the world, I had managed to make myself sick and I was so tired.  I didn't have the energy or desire to start over again.  When I finally thought, hey I need to do this, I had a child ready to go and the expense was too much. 

I am not whining... personally, I am not sure that the "piece of paper" would mean I would work less hours, or make more money.  I work with a group of folks that are paying off college debt, that do not earn any more than I do and work just as many, if not more hours than I do.

The answer to my son ended up not being simple, but being honest. I choose to work for a non-profit.  I choose to work in a service industry.  Because I do, I accept that sometimes my days and weeks are long.  This week was long, full of some really long days. 

Some of those are by choice, some not.  I could decide not to teach my quilting class, but I do not want to, it brings me great joy and I am excited to do it.  I couldn't decide not to participate in the golf tournament, but it also brought me joy and satisfaction.  Some of the long hours are simply me, I do not like to do a job half way, I am dedicated because that is me.  He was the same when he worked in the lab at Loomis, he often put in long hours, he was on a mission to do something.

I think that I am being a good role model, I am teaching my children to do something they are passionate about and to do it well.  Does it mean that sometimes I am not home as much as I want or they want, of course it does.  Is that any different than a farmer plowing and planting for long days and nights trying to provide for his family?  Or a CEO off on trips trying to keep the business running? Of course not.  I hope the lesson they are learning is that the important thing is to provide for yourself and your family.  Not to expect a handout, that mentality doesn't do anything for anyone.

I hope they find something that fulfills them and makes it worth the effort while they get on about the business of living a life, I would say that most of the time... that is my life. Even when I would rather be home being a wife, mom, homemaker, gardener, quilter, knitter, cook... ah that list of dreams is endless.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Who Are You?

Each day I sit down and reflect on the odd things that go through my mind. And let me tell you I know they
are odd.  I am not a person that moves steadily through life, I have ups, downs, twists and turns.  I see things through different lenses all the time.  Some days I am upbeat and have those silly rose colored glasses on. Those times I am always seeing things perfectly pink and cheery.  Others I wake up on the wrong side of the bed and those glasses are dark and blurry.  Most days I am pretty even keel with a good out look on life.

Each day I sit here in my cozy overstuffed brown chair with a cup of coffee and a critter or two and I write about whatever happens to have my attention that day.  When my cousin read my first blog she asked me what the focus of my blog was going to be, was I going to teach something new?  Travel and send it out there, or was it going to be a more personal blog.  I didn't know.  I still don't.  Mostly, it is a personal blog, I guess.  Sometimes I am rambling around the country, some days I'm creating something that I want to share, some days I am searching to understand something and feel that talking it out here will help me put the pieces of the puzzle together. 

This is post 113, since this year began.  2013 is my year of stretching my boundaries, my blog is the accountability factor. It is serving as my compass. I am definitely a person that follows up when they commit to something.  So talking about my hopes, dreams and goals here makes me focus, makes me work to achieve them.

Each day as I write, I wonder about the people that are reading.  I know initially a few close friends and relatives were the only ones that stopped by.  And thanks to Blogger's tracking I know that there are new friends out there in many places where I have no family or friends that read or at least skim through each day... who are you?  As I am exploring who I am and what I want out of my life, the bumps and bruises and sky high moments each day, who am I talking to? 

Do you have the same kind of hopes and dreams that you are searching to find a path to achieve?  How are we the same?  How are we different?  (You know how I love those contrasts). Are you quilters, gardeners, mom's and dad's?  Grandparents, travelers, pet parents?  Do you knit, spin, struggle to balance your life? I am sure I have rambled about so much more in 113 different short stories... where do we connect?

Who am I?  That is what I am hoping to discover.  I know the roles I play in life, I know the things I love to do and conversely the things that I despise.  But somewhere in the midst of all the pieces of me that are scattered randomly, there is the person that I am at my core.  There are my dreams, my goals, my path in this world. That is what I try to define each day.

For being a Leo, you would think I would be outgoing and searching the spotlight... I think I identify more with my Chinese sign, that of a wood snake... reserved and watching.  This blog... is a HUGE step into a pushing my boundaries outward.  I don't want to be a shining star, I don't want to be someone that is always "on", I like being quiet, private, discerning of who my friends are.  I like loving unreservedly because I have taken the time to chose who I love and why.  I will give my all once I let you in, I want to let you in. I want to get to know you...

What can we learn and explore together?  I really want to know... Who are you??

Thursday, May 16, 2013

This world is spinning faster...

SLOW DOWN!!  That is what I feel like screaming at the top of my lungs lately.  This crazy life of mine feels like it only has one speed fast.  Like the hurrier I go the further behind I get.  It isn't that the things I have been doing aren't important.  All of it feels critical right now, I think that is some of the chaos in my world.

This year there are a total of five graduations scheduled this month.  Last night was the third.  My grandson graduated from the eighth grade.  There are a lot of reasons that it was a last minute decision for me to attend, but I am glad that I did. For two hours I shut out the clambering in my brain, that non-stop to do list simply had to shut up. For two hours I snuggled my little grand daughter and watched everyone around me.

Normally that kind of chaos, noise and level of activity would have had me climbing out of my skin and stressed out.  I don't do well in those situations.  It's a special kind of nuts for me to do something like that.  Last night... it was okay.  My girl had gotten there early and had found great seats in the back of the auditorium.  Not the greatest for seeing the kids sitting there, but wonderful for watching them walk in and out and seeing the stage. Also great for keeping me and my little bit from feeling closed in, crowded and overwhelmed.

The graduate and my little bit go to a fairly small school, in an incredibly diverse neighborhood.  I am fairly sure the U.N. has nothing on that school.  And as a people watcher it was a serious smorgasbord of humanity.  It was interesting to see the differences.  To search the crowds for the similarities.

There were a few times that I wanted to shake those parents, tell them to stop trying to turn their children into miniature adults.  Remind them that it is okay to tell your child "no" occasionally.  Some of the outfits on those children that are under the age of 13 were shocking to say the least and would have made the ladies of the strip proud. This changing world needs to slow down, let kids be simply kids for a while longer. Instead I just watched.

There was a sense of pride that circled the room. Some of those children had groups of people there to support them that included every extended family member they have I am fairly sure.  Some of them had only one or two.

In an area that sadly has far too many kids decide to not finish school, I couldn't help but wonder if some of those young people were almost finished with their academic careers.   Were the cat calls, whistles and cheering that even had the Superintendent pausing the ceremony to say "really?" simply a family trying to encourage that young man to stay focused and stay the course? To chose to have a future? I wondered that a couple of times last night.

There was a young girl that clearly was differently-abled. She was precious waiting her turn to climb those stairs.  Her daddy made my eyes well up with tears.  She followed one of the children that had elicited cat calls and yelling from his family.  As they prepared to call her name, Dad handed his camera off to one of his other children sitting in the back row, and quietly walked to the front.  He gently and unobtrusively walked beside the stage reaching up on his tip toes to help her climb the stairs.  Stairs were very difficult for her, and yet, you didn't really notice dad, he didn't try to take away her shining moment. He was there, but he wasn't... The pride on her face, her smile could be seen all the way in the back row.  During her walk across stage dad had somehow, without being noticed appeared on the other side to help her down the stairs.  As soon as she was safely on the gym floor he moved just as quietly back to his seat.  What an amazing father, he was able to assist without dimming her light, he supported without overshadowing.

I couldn't help but wonder... which parent had made a larger impact on their child last night.  The screaming, hollering one or the quiet one.

Yesterday I had someone tell me that St. Louis is a polarized area. I don't disagree, there are many examples of it all around me.  Last night I observed many of those things first hand.  When you peeled away the layers and differences, what you uncovered are parents that simply love their children, are proud of their children and in their own way are celebrating that child and their place in this crazy world.

My grandson is quiet, he blended in with the crowd.  I know having my daughter there for him was important.  They share a special bond.  Me... I am not so sure about. I am glad I went, I was able to put my to do's aside for a bit, celebrate my grandson, observe the people around me and snuggle my little bit.  It was a great evening.  Today... I'm back to being busy... got a Golf Tournament to work, we are raising money for Summer Camp and the G.I.R.L.S program...

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Living in the contrasts

I love contrasts, I am not a shades of gray kind of person.  Bold stark contrasts make life richer and fuller to me.  When I was younger I was often accused of being a black and white person.  At the time, I was hurt and offended by the comment.  Further along in life I find that it wasn't so much of an insult as it was simply an observation.
 
Take hubby and I for example, we have a tremendous amount of things in common.  We like the same foods, we like the outdoors, we have so much in common that it might seem we are one and the same.  We are as different as night and day and I love it.  I am reserved, usually the quieter one in the group, I prefer to be unnoticed, I like being another face in the crowd.  I am a background kind of person.  Hubby is the life of the party, he stands out, loves to be recognized and celebrated, he is definitely the accent to the plain.  Because of this we compliment each other and fit perfectly.

My dogs are contrasts, although that was not intentional, I think even the universe understands my need for contrasts.  I simply like the texture that it gives life. My children are contrasts that go far deeper than the color of their hair and eyes.  As they have grown they basically swapped personalities, which amazes me more than a little.  My girl was the quiet and reserved one, my boy the center of his group of friends outgoing and bubbly. Somewhere around the time they each hit middle school a completely opposite person emerged.

My friends are a healthy mix of personalities, but mostly I gravitate towards friends that are warm, loving, giving people the ones that bring out the best of me just by being who they are.  The other thing that is very evident in the people I surround myself with is that they are like hubby, they are bold, outgoing, charismatic, and bubbly, all the things I am not.

Last night at quilting class I noticed all the contrasts in class, young and mature, their color choices, their styles.  We were missing a couple of folks so it was quieter and slower paced.  I had more time to observe the group and dynamics. The quilts are coming together so nice, some have moved on to quilting, some are still being pieced.  The colors reflecting their personalities and styles. I love all the variety.  We only have two more weeks in this session, I am not sure all of the quilts are going to be finished by then, but I hope they will. I think the reason I am drawn to quilts is the contrasts.  My favorite ones have stark contrasts, I am not the kind of person that is drawn to the muted watercolor quilts, where they all blend subtly together.  Although I do appreciate their beauty!



Do you live your life in the richness of contrasts?  Or in the beautiful blending of the shades?  There isn't any right or wrong, it is simply a definition of who you are and we need all of these types to make the fabric of life.  The contrasts cannot exist without the blended shades. I am happy to personally be part of the blend, that is why I look for the contrasts to make my heart be more... how about you??





Tuesday, May 14, 2013

All are precious...

I keep thinking about the beautiful dog I saw lying dead in the brush along the highway driving home yesterday.  My heart broke, it was along a stretch of road that often has "discarded" pups roaming in packs.  It makes me angry.  That sweet pup is now playing along the Rainbow Bridge, its suffering is now over.  I am angry that people are heartless and uncaring.

A long time ago, in seventh grade, I first heard the comment that you can tell a lot about a person from the way they treat an animal.  At the time it was referring to a young man that I went to school with.  He was a loner, didn't have many friends and had a particularly gruesome habit of throwing cats he found up against the electric fence surrounding one of the compounds on base. His name was Tom, I can't remember his last name, but I can still remember his face.  I have often wondered what became of him, did he ever find love and compassion or did he truly grow up to be a horrible person.

I know there is a group that works hard to make sure those pups are fed, they are too wild at this point to rescue them. Although they keep trying, and sadly at least once a month I see another one...

I follow a wonderful rescue page Panda Paws Rescue, at first I could barely stand to read it, they deal with some of the most horrific cases of humans cruelty to animals.  Now I read and pray daily.  I wish there were more people like Amanda and her family.  I wish I had the ability to be like that.  I know that I don't.  My heart isn't strong enough.  My babies are rescues, I don't believe in buying a life.  I also don't believe in discarding a life either.
Neeko is always up for fun and games!
I don't understand the kind of person that considers a pet disposable.  I don't understand a mentality that says "throw them away" or "kill them, there are too many".  It makes me wonder if that old saying is true.  Can you tell a bully by the way they treat an animal?  Or have they simply not been taught compassion and respect? I hate the commercials on TV about animal abuse, I always say the only people that are affected by them are people that would never allow that to happen in the first place.

What kind of people can simply discard a pet to fend for itself?  What kind of people can be so uncaring and heartless?  And if they can treat the least able to defend themselves with such callousness, then how do they treat those that can defend themselves?  And how do they feel about themselves?  Are these people truly missing a piece of humanity?
 
My Snuggy bug Gator!
 Last night I snuggled my little pit mix rescue, they are the ones most likely to be throw away or killed. I snuggled that little lovey all night.  I couldn't save the sweet baby on the side of the road, but I could love my own.  I hope that by some chance when my little guy finally goes to the Rainbow Bridge himself (a long time from now), he will tell that little one, that not all humans are heartless and uncaring.


Monday, May 13, 2013

A change will do you good...

It was a wonderful four days away from my "normal" world, it was just as busy and crazy but in a completely different way.

When I arrived home last night, my world immediately fell back into it's "normal" routine. Sort of.


Three of my reasons to smile!

This morning, I am curled up in my big overstuffed chair, the sun is coming up behind me through my stained glass.  I have a big cup of "my" coffee and my laptop.  My boys are basking in the sun and I have already put more of the things away from my son's temporary move home. It's Monday and I get to slowly start my LONG week.

As I was pouring my coffee this morning, I realized that in a lot of ways my life has a routine to it.  It's a pleasant one, it flows and it meets my needs.  We will make some adjustments to our "normal", so that it fits the young man's world a bit better.  In the end it will simply be an enhanced version of what is normal for us.

Taking a break between pictures!

I picture an old time cog wheel or the internal workings of a clock, that is how life seems.  The day to day is routine and "normal" it defines us at a basic level.  At the same time, we sometimes need those breaks with "normal" to make "normal" better.

I had been feeling in a rut, I had no desire to fix the house, finish putting in the garden (although I am glad since it's been so cold), to tackle many things on my to do list.  I felt like I was on a hiatus from life, going through the motions, letting it carry me along and not making any effort to occasionally swim against the tide.

My son being home, no matter how long or short it will be, forces me to shake off those sluggy feelings and actually tackle things.  When your kids move out it is easy to simply exist, hubby and I didn't feel the need to do things we had been putting off.  Now I am motivated.  Several things left the house this morning, more will leave over the course of the week.  Closets will be cleaned and corners that were ignored will be dusted.
Two of my boys... big guy was in the middle of the bed

I am glad that he chose to come home, this will always be his home, while he sorts out the next steps in his life.

He is already motivating me to get back in the habit of being healthier. I don't agree with his "diet" and it won't work for hubby and I, but his drive to work out and eat better will be something hubby and I both will benefit from.  We have been lazy for almost a year, we need to get focused again.  It will help that my son is so focused!

The wheels are turning again, it feels like the cogs have been reinforced, the damaged ones repaired and that there is a season to move forward.  It feels like my purpose is renewed, like my goals are clearer to see.

How can I not want to make her smile?
Maybe it was the hours I spent walking around Chicago, simply absorbing the city, sights and sounds.  I didn't listen to music, had no television on, I simply soaked up the city.  Maybe it was the excitement of Graduation. Or the time with my kiddo's.  Maybe it was nothing so profound, it might just have been the simple time away from it all.  It might just have been the change in my routine has brought me back to solid focus on where I am going and what I want to do.

I don't know why I feel stronger and more refreshed.  I just know I do.  Well... time to put that focus and energy to good use... before I need a goat to trim the yard.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Graduation and Mother's Day Weekend... what a great combination!

This Momma is very proud of her kiddo's!
 

Yesterday my youngest graduated from University of Illinois Urbana/Champaign.  For four years we have been driving back and forth to support all of his efforts.  For four years he's been focused and driven.  For four years I worried that he wasn't making enough time for play, that he wasn't creating friendships that would last a lifetime, that he wasn't making time to laugh.

All my fears were put to rest yesterday.  He didn't want to participate in the ceremony, I didn't think it was important enough to push him to do so. Instead we spent the day going to his favorite spots, taking pictures and soaking up the memories of four years. Having Papa Del's Pizza and ordering Chinese take out from his favorite place.  Sitting on the floor of his first apartment laughing and enjoying dinner! Packing him up to move forward with life...



 He and I waited outside of physics hall for his friends, pictures were to happen with the whole group after the ceremony that my sweet boy decided to boycott.  I thought that I would be sad to not be there watching them recognize my wonderful son.  Instead, I completely enjoyed the one on one time with him.  I guess I get his not wanting to participate. I am not a fan of things like that myself.

After they all left the ceremony best stuff happened.  I loved watching my Cory and his friends interact.  I loved getting to meet Celia, the woman that guided him with his Senior Thesis, which won the best Senior Thesis Award.  How awesome is that? The words she said made my heart swell, it is an amazing feeling when you get to hear your own thoughts coming from an unrelated adult!
 


The guy I worried about, is not the guy I imagined him to be.  His friends are wonderful, watching them I realized that I was simply a photographer (not a very good one at that) snapping pictures of shared moments between people that had gone the extra mile together and were celebrating their successful journey.

Yesterday I found out that he has definitely grown up into a strong, intelligent, caring young man. With strong friendships that will help him through life.  He is ready for the next chapter and I want to be there to support his dreams and goals!


My girl was here too, she will graduate with her degree this coming week.  Like my boy she has opted out of the pomp and circumstance.  I am equally as proud of her, although she is not going to give me the option of taking a ton of goofy pictures in a gown too big wearing a goofy hat on her head.  She is too busy living her life to slow down for that. She was instrumental in his college journey and I am so thankful for the support she gave, I know he is too!


My Ava tried on her uncles hat, and smiled silly through it all... Someday I will get to take silly pictures of her to remind my heart of all her moments also.

Walking into the future!
I will watch them walk into the sunshine heading straight into a bold and bright future.  I am so very proud of those kids!  Correction I am so proud of those beautiful, bright, wonderful young adults that I have had the absolute pleasure of watching grow and reach for their dreams!

Kind of like my Mother did for me!  I hope that I have learned from her...

Saturday, May 11, 2013

It's been a Whirlwind!

Well I guess yesterday literally was!

I might understand that Windy City thing now..
I started walking at 8:45 a.m., I didn't stop at all until 12:30 p.m. and then only for thirty minutes.  I finally stopped walking/running at 1:55 p.m. At which time my legs were shaking and I was pretty sure that I was going to collapse.  I haven't walked that much since I was in Germany last year. 
Good Morning Chicago... time to move!

I felt guilty.  I was still having mixed feelings about Chicago when I wrote on Thursday and so many folks let me know I was missing the best parts of Chicago. I was feeling lousy about maybe harshly judging a city that evidently had far more to offer than I had discovered on Thursday that I set out to find out what I had missed.

I am now willing to say... Wow!  I might have been a bit premature in my assessment.  I ended up taking over 225 pictures and walked over 10 miles around downtown Chicago.  Mostly inside the Loop, but also including Millennium Park, the water front, Chicago Riverwalk, and a bit of Michigan Ave.  I saw the Future Maggie Daley Park (in fact it was the bane of my morning as all routes I was trying to walk were blocked by the construction, getting to the water front was very difficult).






Hmmm... not sure how to feel about this!

The Wrigley building, the Chicago Tribune, Sears Tower to name a few.  It was simply amazing to look at it all with the intent of discovering it's hidden secrets. 








I was grateful to have seen Millennium Park before all the school buses of kids arrived, it was peaceful and beautiful in the early mist of the day.  Quiet with just a few folks strolling, yep I finally found the people that were strolling, I was no longer the odd nut in Chicago.




It was a drizzly, windy cold day.  The mist and fog never went away, by the time we left that city there were still buildings that you could not see the top of.  Makes you wonder what they see out their windows on days like that.  How surreal it must be to look out of your office window and never see anything but a swirling mist.





At 12:30 I stopped walking and snapping pictures to have a chilly lunch outside with Jamie, she is such a sweetie and I miss her more than I realized.  She picked the perfect little spot for us to have lunch Hannah's Bretzels, ironically when I had walked past earlier in the day I had thought it sounded yummy and was wondering if it truly was as good as the ones back in Germany.  Without knowing that Jamie picked it as our meeting place.  How awesome is that? I knew Hubby would be in meetings until 3:00 p.m., and as it was only 1:00 p.m. I walked her back to work so we could visit just a bit longer.  Our stroll back took about twenty five minutes and as we were standing and visiting hubby called to let me know he was done. 

I quickly wrapped up and started hurrying back.  I was wearing his jacket after all, and even though he only had a city block to walk, it was 46 degrees and he was wearing short sleeve shirt.  I am not normally someone that walks fast, but I managed to join those Chicago speed walkers rushing through the streets of downtown.  Roughly a mile and a half in less than 15 minutes, Hubby was safely warm in the hotel lobby by the time I arrived.  And we were able to save the $22 per hour it would have cost us to park from 2 p.m. - 3 p.m., and that is a normal rate???  I dare anyone to scold me for the $1.50 for as long as they stay at my Y again!

As we were leaving Chicago, heading out looking at the ten mile traffic jam, I realized that while it is a beautiful city I am still not a city girl.  I enjoyed the city, the views, the unique things I saw. I don't do well with the crush of humanity.  I innately gravitated to the solitude of the lake front walk and the Riverwalk. I avoided Navy Pier, even though I could see it in the distance and it was only another mile walk.  I found myself at peace strolling along while the rush and hurry was above me.  I enjoyed watching and listening to the chaos of the area, but I enjoyed it from a distance.

Two and a half hours later we arrived in Urbana, UIUC is bustling this weekend.  The class of 2013 is graduating today and tomorrow!  My youngest will don his cap, gown, stole and cords, he will officially complete his four years of intense study at the University of Illinois Urbana/Champaign.  I am unbelievably proud of him!! Tons of  pictures will be taken even if it is supposed to be rainy and the Alma Mater didn't make it back in time.  We will enjoy the day with him, our oldest and our beautiful grand baby.

Today will be a day of closures. Last night we went to Papa Del's for pizza, he's been eating there since he was a freshman. We kept our grand baby last night so the kids could go and enjoy graduation parties with his friends.
 
Today... who knows where all we will go, but it promises to be busy and crazy too... first stop the ARC - need to pick up that cap and gown!