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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Getting Back in Touch and All Caught Up

When I was pregnant with my third child, I had a friend who was also pregnant with her third child. She was an RN and had recently moved away and we weren't able to see each other as often as we would have liked. A few weeks before my due date, we planned a shopping trip with another friend who had just had her baby. I had an ultrasound during my pregnancy but being a modest one he refused pose for the camera in a way that would reveal his gender. When I told my friend that we still didn't know what we were having, she got excited and said she had just finished ultrasound training at the clinic where she worked. We made a detour from the shopping, for a quick hands on practice of her newest skill. We went into an exam room and she grabbed the ultrasound machine and rolled it over to the table. She plopped down on the table, exposed her bulging belly, squirted the ice-cold gel on her and began to roll the wand thingie (my term not hers) on her belly. The familiar black and gray collage appeared on-screen looking like an abstract painting. Finally she found what she was looking for and pointed to the screen and said.... "See that little hump there that looks kind of like a turtle with his head barely sticking out?" I nodded and she exclaimed... "I'm having a boy!" Well, that was just so cool. So she cleaned the gel off her belly and instructed me to lie down on the table. She repeated the process with me. My heart was at a stand still because for 8 months I just believed I was having a girl. Her name was Chloe' Victoria and I had been busy sewing pink blankets and decorating the nursery in peach and aqua. The same abstract colors appeared on-screen. After a little searching she pointed to the screen and said... "See that? You have a turtle too." I was having a boy! That experience was such a sweet memory. How many people get to have a dual ultrasound with a great friend? Probably not many. Our boys were born shortly after and we kept in touch for several years until life does what it does best; it took us in separate directions and tied us up. Before we knew it years had passed and we had lost touch. That was 9 years ago. Every now and then I would have a dream about her. Every time I dreamed of her I woke with a heavy sadness and several times I attempted to locate her, just to make sure she was okay. Several weeks ago it happened again. I didn't have her address and a phone number I wasn't sure was current, but I thought I would send a text and see if I got a reply. It was late at night and I had already taken my sleep medications and well.... Let's just say I don't always remember what happens after I take my sleep medicine. But to my surprise, the text went through and she responded. Gosh it was so good to hear from her. The next day we texted some more, caught up a little on the basics and promised to get together soon. The second night of the play I was in, she showed up. It was like being reunited with my long-lost sister. My daughter and I stood outside the country club with her long after everyone else had left. It finally became obvious that with 9 years of catching up to do we needed to move the conversation some place more comfortable, so we went to a restaurant that stayed open late on the weekends. My daughter sat there listening to our stories, laughing at our description of the ups and downs of life, and even tolerated our mid-life advice until 2 in the morning. We parted ways with a promise to stay in touch. All I can say is.... I have missed her so much. It was such a joy get all caught up and back in touch. I am going to make it a priority to keep it that way. Tonya, please know how very much I have missed you and that I love you with all my heart.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Permission to be Less than Perfect

It's Holiday time; twinkly lights (not on my tree), packages, ribbons and bows. Christmas music fills the air and the wonder of Christmas is all around... Or is it?  Keeping the wonder of Christmas alive in a world of materialism is a difficult task. I love the movie Miracle on 34th Street, especially the remake. I love the way they fuzzed the characters and gave the new movie a timeless quality. The little girl who played Susan (Mara Wilson), truly captured the wonderment of Christmas though a child's eyes. Sadly, society has turned Christmas into something that is almost unrecognizable. Increasingly, I see more panic than wonder in the eyes of others and after discussing the holidays with friends, I'm not the only one disillusioned by the illusion of the secular Christmas. I was talking with a good friend last week who was having difficulties processing the holidays and beating herself up because she wasn't doing a better job of everything that comes with "The Holidays". I know I am the cause for most of my holiday stress. I have an idyllic view of the Christmas I want to produce for my family; but unfortunately instead of the warm fuzzy feeling of Miracle on 34th Street, it more closely resembles National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (at least in my mind). I am great at handing out advice (imagine that). So I sent my friend a card, wrote my words of ubber wisdom that said....

 "In your world, everyone else is allowed to go about their happy little way without a care in the world, while you worry and fret over the details of every birthday, holiday and anything in between. As if that isn’t challenge enough, you then berate yourself for days or weeks afterward for not doing a better job, or for not doing it all with a stress free smile and a happy-go-lucky attitude. I’m not sure what memo you got that said Super Woman was a real life hero, but I am happy to announce and debunk the theory that as women we have to be able to do it all, have it all, arrange it all, cook it all, clean it all, and magically make everyone else around us, enjoy it all with a smile plastered on our wary faces, every hair perfectly in place and nails brightly done."

In short I was giving her permission to be less than perfect. In all honesty, I wasn't just talking to her, I was talking to myself. I have got to lighten up and let my little tics quit stressing me out. I know in my heart of hearts that the kids do not care if the presents under the tree are color coordinated and decorated with handmade bows and artfully arranged like Martha Stewart's house. I know in my heart that they do not count the number of gifts each person receives to make sure each one got the same number of gifts, or that they mentally keep a running tally of how much each gift cost and the sum of each person's gift. I know that they are too old to really believe in Santa Clause and wouldn't care if there were no unwrapped "Santa" gifts laid out with each child's stocking on Christmas morning. I am the one making myself miserable by standards I can't possibly obtain in the way I imagine. So why do I stress about it? In part, I believe I still see the kids as three little faces excited about Christmas morning, instead of adults with adult stresses like jobs, bills and other adult worries. Instead of the pitter patter of little feet running down the stairs on Christmas morning (which was ALWAYS my favorite part), there is just the sound of large feet lumbering down the stairs with "I wanna sleep till noon" enthusiasm.  I'm a mom, with adult children who is trying to create the magic of Christmas that only a small child can bring. Am I hinting for grand babies? No, I certainly am not. I'm simply trying to wrap my mind around the new normal at our house on Christmas morning or whenever we can get everyone in the same place at the same time to have Christmas at all. It's all part of the mid-life crisis crap (can I say that on a blog without being judged?), and probably just another thing I should silently endure like every other woman who is at the same point in her life journey. But no, if I think it, feel it, or do it, I'm going to blog it because maybe, just maybe I'm not alone in my hysterical delusions of grandeur. During our conversation the other day, my friend said "This makes me a horrible person." I scoffed and assured her it certainly did not; it made her normal, and those too proud to admit their struggles were the weird ones, or giving them the benefit of doubt maybe they just don't have a blog from which they can share the craziness of a woman's mind.


Friday, November 16, 2012

Opening Night Wrap Around

Opening day of the dinner theater I once again I found myself on the precipice of one of my cockamamie ideas thinking what the heck I was doing?!The closer it got to the end of the work day, the closer I got to losing my lunch. Just like on the edge of the cable walk, I was thinking what a terrible idea this had been, and why couldn't I just muddle through my mid-life quietly like everyone else! But, I know deep inside, I can't do that because although I'm many things, just like everyone else I'm not! While waiting for curtain call I noticed I felt
unusually close to these people who waited with me. Just a few short weeks ago, I didn't know any of them and even though we didn't really seem to interact much during practice, a bond had slowly formed that now knitted us together in a very unique way.
My mid-life crisis isn't just about my kids being gone, It's  about looking around and seeing how narrow my circle of influence has become. I've surrounded myself with the relationships that I'm most comfy-cozy in and neglected (even refused) to develop any new relationships. I wrap
my close-knit friends around me like a child does a favorite blanket; they make me feel safe, secure and loved. I haven't been interested in knitting new edges to that well-worn blanket because of the time, energy, and the risk of rejection that is ever present. So When I walked into the
audition, I walked in for the purpose of not only expanding myself, but also of knitting some
new scratchy, not so comfy edges to my well-worn blanket. When we walked onto the stage last night, I was pretty proud. Not of myself, but of the newest yarn that had been added to the edges of my blanket. It was definitely different in color and texture as the existing blanket, but the contrast adds an interesting dimension to what has been such a predictable life.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Soft- Spoken

I just have to wonder about first impressions. A few weeks ago, being in full throttle mid-life crisis mode, I went to our local theater and auditioned for a play. Much like the mud running, it just sounded like a good way to distract myself from this awkward stage I've found myself in. Luckily for me, I was the only person to show up for auditions that night and was given a part in the upcoming dinner theater which begins this week. I tried taping myself saying my lines, but I couldn't stand the sound of my voice so  I lock myself in my room during lunch and after work, and say my lines out loud. Even with no one around, I still get embarrassed. This week we started rehearsals in the banquet room the play will be held at. The director keeps telling me I have to project my voice, he said.... and I quote.... "You are just so soft-spoken." Those were his EXACT words. The very first thought I was.... "What planet is he from?" The second thought I was.... "What planet is he from?" I mean really!? I have never (NEVER) had anyone describe me as "soft spoken" and I just knew he had misspoken, but he reiterated it several times, and it was just such a sweet thing to say, but something that I feel is terribly inaccurate. I was actually shocked speechless (I know, imagine right?) and honestly felt a little bad that he would feel silly once he gets to know me better. Until then though, I will unleash the drama beast inside of me and try to come at this acting thing with guns blazing. When all is said and done (very loudly), I'll tuck my soft-spoken self back into my shell and continue on my quiet way, because maybe I am... Maybe I am a little.... soft- spoken. 

Thursday, November 8, 2012

High Drama Slumber Party

Saturday night The Girlfriends got together for a Girlfriend sleepover. We were celebrating birthdays. We will use any excuse possible to escape into girl world and catch up with each other. We were lying around in our jammies, asking each one to answer thought-provoking questions like.... "Would you rather have a nose on your butt, or a butt for your face." (yes, adult women actually discuss this stuff), It was not one of our most spiritually inspiring get togethers; but rather a chance to relax and just be silly. It was around midnight, and we were all entranced in our deep theology, when someone tried to open the front door. The door knob rattled, we all glanced over to it and a distorted face appeared through the frosted window pane. That is the precise moment the screaming, jumping and yelling inside the house began, sending the dogs (part pit bull) to hide beneath the bed. Let's just say some people are more jumpy at unexpected midnight visitors than others. I ran to the window to see if I
could see anything, someone else ran to the kitchen and came out welding, not one, but two butcher knives (this may have been the scariest part). Trying to keep everyone calm, I rationalized that it was probably one of our guys, (or kids) trying to spook us. With her back against the wall, eyes wide with fear, hands grasping her face, Girlfriend, who remains nameless, swore it was no one any of us had ever seen before in our lives.... "He was really creepy looking." Now, Nameless and I were sitting on the same couch facing the door when this happened. I saw the same face she saw, and although I didn't recognize it, (because it was distorted by frosted glass), the only thing I could figure by what I had seen was that whoever was looking through the window was in bad need of a tan! The face wasn't just white, it was deathly white, as in we scared him worse than he scared us. That's the cool thing about life, two people can see the very same thing and each one come away with vastly different perspectives. We checked the locks, then I wanted to open the front door to see if I could see anything or anyone. After all, I had just come from the Ultimate Mud Warrior Race and was pretty cocky in the fact that I could kick some minor butt (the face looked kind of delicate through the window and I was pretty sure I could take him out). My knife welding friend had my back and was ready to go to battle, but the others refused to allow us to open the door as they called 911. Knife Girlfriend and I, perched ourselves on the back of the couch and peered through the picture window, waiting for the police, while the others discussed the possibilities of perverts, robbers and drunks, being responsible for the attempted break in (actually the only offense was door knob rattling). I hung over the back of the couch, muttering that it was a dang good thing the intruder gave up so quickly as it was taking the police a heck of a long time to arrive to the scene, when The Hostess with the Mostess, fessed up that it was a set up. I mean after all, what is a girl sleepover without a creep showing up at the front door at midnight with pantyhose over his face to provoke some high drama and lots of squeals? Great memory!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

The Precipice

"All the concepts about stepping out of your comfort zone mean nothing, until you DECIDE that your purpose, vision and goals are more important than your self-imposed limitations."      *Robert White*

My husband and I participated in The Ultimate Mud Warrior Race this weekend. Personally I choose to scratch the word Race out and replace it with Finish because for me that's what it's all about. You might say I'm trying to get over myself... literally. My greatest obstacle in life has been my limited belief in myself and the fear of everything outside my bubble world. As I've watched my kids set out on their life adventures, I've seen them accomplish things that would (and have) scared me stiff. I've come to realize that believing in yourself is the toughest challenge you can face. That being said, the day was slated to be a beautiful fall day and apparently Murphy didn't get the memo about my race entry, therefore he failed to show up. The morning was beautiful as planned, but a tad nippy at 9 a.m., but not the cold, drizzly 47 degrees as the run/race we did last
month. I had watched the construction of the course online and was excited about the level of obstacles and the intriguing route the race would take. Of course it wouldn't be a mud race without water (and lots of it), and mud there was. Part of the race included sand, which is exactly like swimming in glue when you are really tired. All obstacles had an alternate path if you didn't feel up to the challenge, but hey, that's what this is all about. Not far into the course we came to the under/over cable lake crossing. This challenge consisted of a 
lake bordered by cliffs. Cables ran from one side of the lake to the other, one cable to walk on, one cable to hold, and a very muddy cold lake lay way beneath the cables (did I mention cold). Racers stood in line to cross, but those who wanted to opt out could simply do 10 push-ups and take the alternate path. My husband suffered a bad shoulder injury a couple of years ago and opted out, I made the decision to   stay. I stood in line with the other racers for probably 40 minutes. That's a long time to stand in the shade (did I mention cold) and watch people creep their way across the cables, many falling to their wet reward below. I wouldn't say I was nervous, I would say I was pensive. 35 minutes into the wait, there were only 2 others 
in front of me. I looked out across the lake. On the other side was a clearing where the ones who had crossed, as well as many spectators stood watching the daring ones. Teammates stood shouting instructions to friends and everyone cheered for 
those who had fallen to the icy waters below.  Each racer had their own method to the madness of crossing. Some walked the cable like a tight rope,  some scooted sideways, all struggled. As each racer reached midpoint in the crossing,  the next racer stepped onto the cable and usually there was a racer just finishing. The first step wasn't too bad for the one entering, but this is where the one in the middle began to struggle for 
control. I watched those in the middle fight the line. The cable would begin to sway sending part of their body one way, part of their body the other way. the trick was to get your body back in line so you could continue to inch your way across.  I gritted my teeth as I watched the racers bobble and bop, swing and sway. I started to ask myself.... "Is this really worth it? In the great scheme of things, what does it matter if I do this or not? Just drop and give em 10 and go around and be done with it." Then I thought of all the times I didn't push myself to do the difficult. I thought about all of the risks my daughter has taken while in the Navy, and the things my son has face on his mission trips and in starting a business.  I knew this wasn't important to anyone, but me. This wasn't a challenge of fear, failure, or danger, it was a 
challenge of inner courage, and inner belief in myself. I needed to do this. I stepped out on the line and focused (and focus is a big deal for me) all of my energy on doing this. I had decided the side step slip/slide/scoot route would probably work best. Carefully I slide my leg and arm to the side, balanced, then brought the other side together. When the cable began to swing, I spread my legs out to maintain balance and then brought them back in when the line steadied. 3/4 way across, the cable began to jump and swing as the other racer stepped onto the line. I did not come this far to fail! I fought the line with everything I had. I tried trapping the line behind my 
shoulders and holding with my neck, which actually worked really well, until it didn't anymore. After what seemed like forever, something that happened at the beginning of the cable jerked the cable from under my feet and my hand could no longer hold on. I plummeted to the murky water beneath, and came up gasping for air. When I made it to shore, my husband's feet appeared, and he reached down to help me up. I was so dizzy from the swaying, I couldn't get my balance and it took a few seconds for me to be able to stand.  I was so disappointed and exhausted! It wouldn't have taken much to send me in tears. The woman who was on the cable at the same time (and who fell at the same time), apologized as she walked past, but I 
was too exhausted to respond. As my husband and I walked through the woods, I honestly doubted I could finish the race. I had used so much mental and physical energy on the cable, I wasn't sure I had anything left for the rest of the course. My husband walked with me and showered me with accolades.  When we came out of the woods, we faced a mountain, or actually mountains of sand. I still didn't know if I could finish, but I was willing to try. Little by little, obstacle by obstacle, I marched on and the haze of disappointment faded, the 
chill disappeared and the end was clearly in sight.  Crossing the finish line was made sweeter by the decision I made at the precipice of the lake.  Much like every other thing in life, most of the battle was in my mind. I may have fallen from the cable, but I didn't fall out of the race. More importantly, I conquered a hurdle of self-imposed limitations, stepped out of my comfort zone and lived to blog about it. That is a very big deal to me! Warrior on Mudders.