Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Seize the Day

It's New Year's Eve, the day when people tend to pause and reflect on the outgoing year. Both television and newspapers are filled with the events of the year--headlines made, people who have died, tragedies, failures and successes.  That's what we do when something comes to an end, it seems, reflect.  What made history this year?  What did we accomplish? Where did we fail.  We pause, and then we pack the year up and move on--new year, new goals...hoping that somehow our lives will get better.

In years past I have done the "resolutions" thing, only to discover that an idea is doomed to failure once it receives this label.  If I really want to do something it will get done, with or without my resolving to do it.  The need to promise only indicates to me that it is not something I really want to do, or maybe I want to do it but am not yet ready to commit to the process of accomplishing it.  Yes, for me, resolutions are things that I feel I should be doing--not things that I want to do.  Good, old fashioned guilt--that's from where these vows arise.

So, I'm not making any resolutions this year.  True, I have goals, hopes, dreams.  I'd like to return to playing my guitar and piano on a regular basis.  I hope to get back to painting and I'd like to check out photography as an art form. And of course, I desire to keep writing.  Maybe this year is the one in which I'll write my novel.  I don't want to disappoint Frank, after all.  But, that being said, I realize how my novel writing may come from someone else's expectations and hopes...perhaps not yet my own. Still, writing a novel is something I will keep on my bucket list.  

Bucket list!  That reminds me...I'll go back to my list this year and see what things can be accomplished.  Maybe, with the new year, my list will be revised.  I'm getting older, after all, and the last few days I have been feeling it.  My joints are stiff; my bones rattle and crack.The aches and pains that come with cold, damp winter days remind me of my own mortality.   

If I were to make a resolution it would be to do the things I long to do, the things that are life-giving and joy producing.  Joy is contagious, so why not treat the world to this gift?  I will choose to live my life more authentically, creating an inner joy that I hope will spread.   If not now, when?   "Carpe diem!"

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Fancy is as Fancy Does

If you have a young girl in your life, you may be familiar with the "Fancy Nancy" books. Like anything marketed to young children, a whole line of spin off products are now available, including a Fancy Nancy doll, dress up clothes, stickers and colorforms (remember those?) Kathryn, my oldest granddaugther at 4 and a half (you know they're growing up when they start counting in halves) is a huge fan of Fancy Nancy. In fact, she takes pride in being a fancy person herself.

Kathryn is a very outgoing and talkative child. One can barely get a word in when spending time with her. She is confident and take-charge. For a long while now, she has been picking out what she will wear each day. It's always a dress or skirt and she comes up with the craziest combinations: vertical striped blue and green skirt with horizontal striped pink tights topped off with a sparkly pink shirt and red cardigan. You get the picture! But on her, somehow, it works. Perhaps because it reflects her unique and rather complex (for a 4 1/2 year old) personality.

Today we are going to visit her. Now when I go there, I have been given strict order from Kathryn--I must be fancy too. So I took a shower, slathered myself with scented lotion and put on my makeup. True, I am still wearing jeans, albeit with my fanciest thermal top--all flowery and feminine. I may wear nice shoes instead of my usual hiking boots.

I have to go now. I still have my nails to paint and my hair to do. But if I don't get around to it, that's okay. Kathryn will be happy to do it for me once I arrive. Purple and green nails--nothing says "Kathryn" like those!

Keeping up with Kathryn by being fancy isn't easy. But it is fun! It's an easy way of making her happy and it's nice having something in common. Oh, to be 4 and 1/2 again!

Monday, December 29, 2008

Looking Forward to a New Year!

I have changed the title of my blog from "Soulsearcher's Stories" to "Calliope."  I just wanted something a little bit more imaginative. Sure, it's only one word, and yes, its a musical instrument, but what the heck?  If Lin can have "Duck and Wheel with String" I figured I could go musical.  I sometimes think I'm more musical than literary anyway.  Or at least AS musical as literary.

This weekend I bought two CDs--those ones they feature at the kiosks in target where you press the picture and hear a sample of the music.  I bought one featuring Mozart compositions played on violins; the other is a piano version of Beethoven.  I find classical music to be very relaxing.  I draw a bubble bath, light a scented candle or some incense and turn on classical music.  It's my personal, affordable spa experience.

One of my hopes for the New Year (I refuse to use the term "resolution") is to blog more often and to be more creative in my writing.  Maybe relaxation is a way to tap my right brained-ness.  I don't know if it helps, but it can't hurt.  

I do know that I am ready to pack up 2008 and put it to rest.  It's been a hell of a year--too much in the way of turmoil.  Another hope is that 2009 will be a better year, even in spite of Amy going to Iraq.  

I read a small article this morning about a new year's celebration or ritual (?) in which you can shred something you want to forget about 2008.  The article listed some samples of the choices people were making. Some were shredding  bank statements; one person was shredding a lone sock that he found in his dryer.  As for me, I think I might shred the following:  pictures of my daughter's former fiance, a Christmas card that I received complaining about our family dynamics, the many unkind and small minded articles that appear all too often.  In fact, I might decide to shred my entire calendar.  There were some good things about the year, but those are already imprinted on my heart. The rest of the year can be put to rest.  It's time to move forward.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008


Today is one of my favorite days of the year--December 23rd. With it comes all of the anticipation of the holidays without any expenditure of the excitement.  It is the same reason that Friday is my favorite day of the week--I'm all about the anticipation, I guess.

Yesterday when I left work I reported that if the predicted snow came I might not come in this morning.  And yet, here I am. The roads weren't that bad.  True, I worry mightily about being rear-ended by some nut in a hurry to get somewhere.  Especially since I did get hit from behind one clear and sunny afternoon while just sitting at a red light, minding my own business.  For some reason I just wanted to come in today.  Hardly anyone is here, and I like that.  It's quiet and there is a total lack of stress.  I can write on my blog, in between answering the few calls that come in and scheduling post-holiday appointments.  Yeah, it's dark, quiet, lonely even and I love it. It's the anonymous hermit in me coming out again.

On the way home I'll stop at the grocery story for a few last minute items: milk, something to bring to the in-law's tomorrow, maybe a snack or two for Christmas.   I really enjoy these pre-holiday days, the ones where everything I'm going to buy in the way of gifts is wrapped and under the tree, the cookies are already eaten and the egg nog is almost gone.  Now I can sit and listen to Christmas music or watch another holiday movie without guilt.  Of course, there are always things to do--the empty boxes from decorations still need to be put away.  Another bottle of wine needs to be picked up for dinner.  Those things will always be there.  Nothing is ever 100% after all.

Still, Christmas magic is in the air.  We'll spend it with two of our three kids this year.  Amy will be celebrating with Johnny in Japan and I'll shoot her an email or a facebook message.  She'll be okay for Christmas.  We had our celebration with her last week.

At midnight mass, I'll say prayers for family, for safe travel, for peace.  And I'll express gratitude for all that I have, even now, in spite of the poor economy.  I'm more than content, I'm joyful.  Joy is better than happiness, which can be fleeting and dependent on circumstance.

So for any readers out there, whatever you may be celebrating, whatever plans you may have, I wish you joy!  Joyeau Noell!  Feliz Navidad!  Happy Hannukah!  Peaceful Kwanza!  Happy Holidays!

Monday, December 22, 2008

No More Ordinary

It was a good day for a family dinner. All three of our adult children were in town.  It's been a long time since that has happened and it was wonderful. The weather was unseasonably warm for December and our granddaughters, Kathryn and Lea, played outside with the bubble makers that Amy brought them from Japan.  Millions of bubbles, or so it seemed, floated all around the house.  It was a beautiful sight, the bubbles catching at just the right angle, creating a prism effect. "Magical," I thought.

More beautiful than the bubbles was seeing my children together after so many months apart. Adults now, they were close growing up and they are always able to pick up right where they left off. They played with the bubbles, delighting in the fantasy world they created, as much as the little children did.  Laughter floated through the air as well, tinkling upward melodically to reach me at my vantage point, standing by the large kitchen window and holding my grandson.

The smells of the dinner added to it all--roast beef, ham and freshly baked rolls created a symphony of aromas.  The wine was poured, the dishes placed upon the table.  We all sat down for a family feast--a celebration of the goodness of just plain being together.

It ended all too soon.  The predicted ice-storm cut the day short, ending early in the evening.  Erin and James longed to get on the road early.  Before their departure, we took family pictures--all of us together--as well as individual shots; our recorded history, this is what we looked like at this time in this place.

It will be many months before we can all be together again.  Jeff headed back for Washington, DC the next morning.  Amy has since returned to Japan.  Like many families these days, ours is scattered far and wide.  We don't have many days that we can all be together, just the occasional opportunity like this one day a week ago.  There is no ordinary any more, only special events, one at a time.  One day--one dinner, marking a special occasion, an event in the lives of us all.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Shopped 'Til We Dropped!

It was our first of several visits to the mall.  Amy and I had left in a hurry and not taken time to eat anything. As soon as we arrived, we realized that we were famished.

"Are you hungry?" she asked.

"Yes, are you?"

"Yeah.  Should we get something now?"

"Well, it's still a little early.  Let's shop for awhile first.  It's not that crowded so we should be okay."

We wandered through the mall, looking for something to jump out at us.  It's hell not knowing what to buy for presents.  We looked and looked, but nothing really caught our eye or our interest.

We sauntered into the Gap, not really expecting much, but ending up with two sweaters.  American Eagle, PacSun, Eddie Bauer--nothing!  Amy had few ideas of what to buy and I had fewer.

"Let's just eat now,"  we agreed.

The food court seemed just as uninspiring as the rest of the mall.  Taco Bell?  No way.  Never.  Great Steak?  Hmmm....not today.  Frulatti?  Too cold for a cold drink and sandwich.  

We settled upon the Japanese place, I forget the name of it.  Because she lives in Japan, Amy eats with chopsticks; they don't offer forks or spoons at their restaurants.  As for me, well, I have never been able to master the art of the chopstick, but I was willing to give it another try.  Of course, I picked up a fork as well for my backup plan.

Sure, our Japanese fare was Americanized, with soft drinks instead of tea and loose white rice instead of the usual sticky rice that the Japanese serve.  Nevertheless, we enjoyed it.  Amy was amused by my efforts to use their traditional utensils.  To our surprise, I mastered it pretty well by the end of the meal, using the fork only for my last few bites of rice.

The sustenance provided the energy needed for a couple more hours of shopping.  More successful now, we both lugged shopping bags of goods of to our car.

Reaching the exit, the door opened for us as we were greeted by the cheeriest of bell-ringing volunteers. 

"I have no cash," I sadly reported.  Yes, I was actually disappointed that I could not donate.  "Wait!"  I remembered the change in the bottom of my purse.  Digging around, I counted out about a dollar's worth of it.

"Sorry, I only have change"

"No problem!  Any little bit helps!  Merry Christmas!"

Amy and I walked to the car arm in arm, talking and laughing. 

"It is a merry Christmas," I thought to myself.  

We turned on the station with continuous Christmas carols and began our drive.  We would have to return to the mall another day, but this was a good one, happy and satisfying. We were exhausted, in a good way and looked forward to the warmth and comfort of home.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Return Trips

Well, Amy left today.  I brought her to O'Hare at about 8:50 for her 10:45 AM flight.  Just as I expected, her time with us went all too quickly and we were unable to do all of the things and see all of the people that she would like to have seen.  We tried, really we did, but ten days doesn't really amount to much.

I was supposed to work yesterday because we had a staff meeting scheduled, always a priority event for us here.  Nevertheless, I took another vacation day at the last minute. It was Amy's last day in the states, and we decided to drive down to see Erin, James and the kids in Mahomet, just west of Champaign.  I let Amy sleep in for awhile and then off we went--our last adventure together for a long time.

Amy has a couple of Marine friends who live along I-57 in the small towns scattered along our route.  One friend, I think his name is Matt, lives in Manteno, just north of Kankakee.  She brought her camera along to take pictures of the road signs along the way so that she should show them to her friend in Okinawa. 

"Yes, we drove right past your home town!" I imagined her saying.  "See, here's the sign for Manteno, here's another one for Kankakee..." and so on.  Amy has a very sociable demeanor and bubbly, enthusiastic personality, enabling her to make even a rather mundane road sign into something of grand significance.  

The only problem was that she was also working on her laptop while I drove and she missed all of the signs on the way there.  The sun was shining and the pictures would probably have turned out very well.  Now, we had to initiate plan B--that I would be taking the pictures while we drove by on the way home--in the dead of night, windows down, cold wind blowing.  Sigh! yes, that's the way things happen for us.

After a nice visit, I was happy to oblige.  Truth be told, I was happy just to let her do the driving.  I-57 is long, winding and dark during the night time hours, wreaking havoc on these tired and worn eyes.  Taking pictures sounded like a reasonable alternative.

I was actually able to capture most of her requests with more than adequate success.  My best shot was the one of the Manteno sign--clear as a bell and centered perfectly, it was! I burst with pride in my accomplishment, especially since this is the sign she most wanted to record.  It wasn't easy, we had to decrease our speed considerably will pulling onto the shoulder, not quite stopped and parked but very nearly so.  

"Great shot!" I bragged.  "Okay, that's the last of them."  I rolled up my window for the last time and relaxed into the warmth of my surroundings.

Arriving home later than we'd planned, we began the process of packing up whatever clothes and belongings Amy decided would make the return trip.  Folding, sorting, and refolding, all the while people called or stopped by for that one last hug or one  more "fare-thee-well."  Amy took several more pictures--our two dogs, my husband and I, the dogs and both of us.  We passed the camera around to each other so that everyone could get a picture with her.  Every passing minute of this final day became digitally recorded.

The washing machine continued to churn while Amy critiqued her photos.  "Delete, save, save, delete..." the litany continued for each and every shot.

"Ughh!  Oh no!"  was her dire warning cry.

"What?" I cried, panicking.  Had she lost her wallet with her military ID and debit card? Perhaps her orders had been misplaced.  

"She left something in Mahomet, I just know it" I thought.  "What?!" I demanded to know.  Immediately!

"I accidentally deleted the picture of the Manteno sign," she wailed.  "I meant to delete the picture of your coat, the one you took when you were holding the camera backwards..."  

"Is this a criticism of my photographic ability?" I wondered.  "Hmm... well, if so, it's justified."  I just don't have it when it comes to cameras.  Especially anything other than a point and shoot.

"Well, we'll get in the car and drive out and take another one."

"Really?  Can we really do that?"

"Sure," I replied.  "After all, we have to wait for the laundry to be finish up anyway.  And you can always sleep on the plane.  It is a fourteen hour flight.  Plenty of time to sleep."

We put on our coats and jumped back in the car, warming it up for a few minutes before we drove off to Manteno yet again.   What better final adventure or memory for her last day at home?  There was nothing more important that needed to be done at 1:00 AM this dark Thursday morning.  And never will there be anything more important to me than her happiness.  It was such a small thing to do for her, compared to all the big things that she continually does for all of us.

"And now because we can get off and turn around, we can take some pictures in the town, too.  That way you'll have more to show than just the road sign."

"Great idea!"  she smiled.

Before her return trip to Okinawa, we had our own return trip.  Moments and memories like these make her departure a little bit more bearable.  They create the images that I will savor in the coming months.  There were many moments like this in the past few days.  Stay tuned and I will be happy to share more of them with you.  It is my way of reliving our time  together and a way of remembering Amy.  Return trips...a way of revisiting our lives and love...together.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

No Deal

Yesterday I went to work late. I wanted to let Amy sleep as late as she wanted; she is still on Japan time, after all. Add to that the jet lag from 14 hours plus of flying, and you can imagine how completely exhausted she was.

Before she awoke, I had thought maybe we could spend some time together--do breakfast or something like that. But, by the time she got up, I had already eaten and so instead we went to the DMV to replace her lost driver's license. She had tried to replace it while in Japan, but all the Illinois DMV would do was to send her a 30 day permit. With the mail delivery being the way it is, by the time it reached her in Japan, it had already expired.

Isn't it funny (weird or ironic--not "ha-ha" funny) that the Illinois Secretary of State will do little to assist a Marine half a world away, but that so many of our governors are corrupt--either serving time or being arrested for deal-brokering? What a strange place, this state called Illinois. Well, maybe not the place itself, but the people who run it. No influence, no cash--no deal!

That was it--going to the DMV was sum and substance of our adventure for the day. I dropped Amy off at her old high school, to visit her dad and the other teachers and then off to work I went. Yes, Tuesday is the day I always need to show up. But I'm on vacation now--taking my remaining few days of time off to spend with her.

Perhaps today we'll go to the mall. We have a way of making it fun, laughing at the silly things we see and do together. We're looking forward to a Fruilatti and maybe going to Panera for lunch, if not today then some day soon. It's all up to her. When I don't see my kids for long periods of time I tend to spoil them. We'll go to their favorite restaurants and I'll buy them things they don't really need, fun things they wouldn't buy themselves. I already have a few things in mind.

Still, this is Amy's leave time--her last few days of complete freedom. She has no schedule now, but can just sleep in. She doesn't have to report, can wear what she wants and can just be herself--literally and figuratively letting her hair down. And so I'll let Amy make the decisions about who we see, where we go and what we do. It's all about her for the next few days. I'm just happy to have her home again.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Celebrating Amy

Last night a friend of mine unexpectedly dropped by the house. When I answered the door, she was there with her daughter.

"I needed to drop something off," she said. "I don't know if we were still meeting tonight and I wanted to be sure you had this."

At that point, out jumped my daughter, Amy, from behind the bushes. Yes, Amy, my marine daughter is home for a ten-day visit. Sure, it's not the 30 days we hoped for, but it's better than nothing--much, much better. It's been a long seven months since we've seen her.

She looks great, tan, fit, healthy and, most importantly, happy. She seems to be doing well and she seems glad to be home.

Needless to say, I am putting my entire life on hold. I won't be writing much unless she is out visiting or sleeping, like she is now. I will only be going to work for the inevitable and necessary meetings and events. I am even giving up my tickets to "Dirty Dancing" and my trip to Navy Pier. If it can't include all three of us, Amy, my husband and I, it is off the table.

Sorry Frank, but my novel will have to wait. To be honest, it isn't that good anyway. But when I get back to it, I may have more twists and turns from this very unexpected and happy surprise.
Thanks for your understanding and patience--this is top priority right now and the time will go by so very quickly.

In the meantime, please check the blog now and again. I may be posting some of our activities for all to share.

Off the radar for now--see you all soon!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Off to Work--TGIF!!

I am going to be heading off to work shortly. First, I need to look at the bills to see what's due, maybe write a couple of checks and get them in the mail. Then, off to work I go! At least it's Friday, and it may be a shorter day for me to boot!

I have to admit that I'm looking forward to the weekend. I'll take time to consider options, but there aren't many these days due to this bad economy. At least the weekend offers some respite, a chance to just be myself, without pretense, without worrying about the constant criticism that comes during the work day.

Maybe we'll go see a movie tonight...what's playing? I wonder. I'll take a look later today, hoping to find something that takes me completely away, the same way that a Calgon bath might...remember those old commercials? "Let Calgon take you away." Ah, that sounds so good right now.

But for now, it's off to work. Just wanted to write some musings as I may not have a chance later today (see previous posting.)

Onward and upward--trying to stay positive and hopeful!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Down, but Not Out (Yet)

Today is a hard day.  Everyone at work has been called on the carpet--not doing enough, not quick enough, totally incompetent.  These are the words being bantered about by the boss.  Hardly uplifting, I'd say.

Some days it's hard to stay positive.  Does he really believe that we come in here only to do a "bad" job?  I don't know but it feels that way.

So I don't feel I can write much today--even while on my break.  Big brother is watching, it seems, assuming the worst in all of us.  (sigh!)  See you all later...

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Back to the Blog

Okay, so I haven't written, but I have to say that's because I have been busy, very busy--busier than usual.  I had a house full of out-of-town guests over the weekend and every minute was consumed by either eating, visiting or Christmas shopping.  Our computer is in my son's old room and since he was camped out there I was unable to spend any significant amounts of time on the blog.  So, nothing has been posted, but that doesn't mean I haven't been writing or that I don't continue with my novel.   Oh, yes, I have ideas--some of them good, others not so much, but I will continue on, working hard to complete this challenge.

I'm not sure if I am ready to post my novel in it's entirety.  I want to be able to print it out and bind it together for those who have requested a copy.  These will probably be the only ones in print...will that make them a collector's item?  Could be!

In the meantime, I will continue to post more often.  Probably everyone has given up on even checking my blog by this time.  But in a surprise moment, my son confessed to me that he has been following it regularly.   I felt excited when I heard that.  He hasn't commented yet, but its good to know that my adult children are interested in what I have to say.  It's been a long time coming.  I guess I'm not so "square" after all...

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


When times are hard comfort can found by focusing on that for which one is grateful.  Since tomorrow is Thanksgiving, I'll save my novel posting for later.  Instead, these are things for which I am grateful:

Family:  Even my immediate family is scattered far and wide.  Jeff is in DC, Amy in Okinawa and Erin and her family are in Mahomet, just west of Champaign, Illinois.  It's funny that we used to think of Champaign as being so far away!  My husband and I raised three wonderful kids, all adults now, off and doing their own thing.  Jeff and Erin will be here this weekend; Amy will be in Okinawa for a few more weeks. But I am grateful that they are healthy and doing well.  We support one another through thick and thin--that IS family.

Friends:  I have wonderful friends!  We don't see each other as often as we used to, but when we do we pick up right where we left off!  Friends, like family, are always there for you when you really need them.

Writing group:  I really enjoy my new friends in the writing group.  They are positive, supportive influences that keep me thinking and writing.  It's always great to get together with them to compare stories and give and receive support.

Work:  While I don't often like or appreciate my job, it helps to keep the wolf from the door.  So I am grateful that I am still employed and hope it lasts for awhile longer.

Home:  Home is where I can really let my hair down and be myself.  Sure, my 140+ year old house always needs work, but that's okay.   We do what we can when we can.  We have a roof and heat, what more could one ask for?

Food:  I really appreciate food of all kinds!  Thankfully, we have a fairly well-stocked pantry, which we will share with family this weekend.  

Pets:  Our two dogs, while often a pain in the neck, provide unconditional love and comfort. I'm grateful to receive that from them.  They're always happy to see me.

Faith:  My faith keeps me going when times are rough. We have a strong faith community that supports one another and provides a feeling of belonging.

Country:  I am grateful to live in a country that values freedom and democracy.  And, I'm thankful that Obama was elected.  I truly believe he will be transformational and continue to offer hope during difficult times ahead.

Health:  I've had serious health issues in the past but right now things seem to be going okay. It's true that without your health you have nothing. I'm glad to be here for another thanksgiving and vow to do all that I can to keep myself fit and strong.

These are my top ten--not necessarily in any particular order.  True, I copied the idea from Lin, but what better way to celebrate Thanksgiving than to focus on all that you have.  Life may sometimes be hard, but it is still good.  Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Start

Sheila awoke with a start.  "It must be windy tonight," she thought.  The windows in the old house were rattling and Sheila felt the draft hitting the back of her neck.  Snuggling into the comforter, she tried to warm up, hoping to go back to sleep quickly.  Once awakened, it was hard for her to return to a state of deep sleep.  Often she would lie awake, thinking about all the things that she needed to get done.

"The taomaster," she thought now, sighing heavily.  He was the one pushing her, causing her no insignificant amount of worry and stress.  Once that thought sprung up, it was hard to relax again. Sheila tossed and turned, still hoping that the warmth would take over and she might drift back into her dreamless sleep.  

Glancing at the clock yet again, Sheila realized that it was hopeless.  "I might as well get up and be productive," she thought.  It was "being productive" that was the cause of her angst.  She liked to blame the taomaster, but in reality Sheila was the cause of her pressure.  She had accepted the challenge, and now she felt a sense of honor was on the line. Yes, she would have to produce; her self-esteem relied upon that decision.  Too often she had wavered and not finished her chosen project.  Somehow, this felt like a turning point.  Understanding that did not ease the pressure.

"If only I had a good idea," Sheila thought to herself, knowing that it wasn't really about ideas.  Rather, it was about action.  Taking action: not always a strong suit for her.  

The truth was that Sheila saw herself as an idea person, one to come up with the right ideas to get a project off the ground.  Once begun, Sheila would often opt out--moving on to the next thing that caught her interest.  As a result, she never felt the satisfaction that comes with the completion of a project. Looking back, her entire life seemed as if it were unfinished--a tangled bundle of loose ends just hanging there, going nowhere.

"Jack of all trades, master of none," Sheila thought, pulling herself out of bed.

She wandered into the kitchen, opening the refrigerator just out of habit.  She wasn't really hungry, just procrastinating.  "Anything to avoid writing," she sighed again.  Putting the tea kettle on, she booted up the computer, waiting for the blank page to once again stare her in the face.  

"Okay, Sheila.  You can do this--just start!"  She stared back at the screen, waiting for inspiration to take over.  The teakettle whistled, and she began to steep the tea.  The effects of the hot tea, along with the drone of the computer and the sheer whiteness of the page, began to calm her.  She found herself relaxing, dozing even.  Before she knew it, Sheila had fallen fast asleep.  It was then that the dream, the story, began to take shape.

Who's to say that one person's dreams are more real or more important than another's?

to be continued...

Writing My Novel

Last night a couple of us met with Frank and Bev to discuss our writing.  Frank has been working on his novel and about a week or so ago I accepted the challenge to finish a novel by Christmas.  What was I thinking?

During the course of the conversation last night, I realized that Christmas is exactly one month from today.  If I want to complete a 50,000 word novel by Christmas, that means that I have to write 1,666.66 words per day.  And that includes writing on Christmas Eve, which I know that I absolutely will not do.  So now I am down to 29 days which brings my daily count to 1,724.14 .  Hmm...maybe a novella is in order?  (This was Patti's suggestion. Thanks, Patti!)  We'll have to see what I come up with.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Sold Out

"We have to leave early so that we can get good seats," I told my husband.  Usually when we go to a movie we walk in about 5 or 10 minutes late, searching for seats with just enough light from the screen's Coming Attractions.  I wasn't having any of that this time.  Last summer, we arrived in time do see Dark Knight, but were relegated to the very first row.  Not this time!

"It's going to be sold out," I reminded him.  "So we need to be there about 20 minutes before the start or we'll never find seats together."

Much to my relief, we left at the agreed upon time.  On the way, my husband, Terry, told me that the kids in school, i.e., the girls in school, were all talking about the movie.

"You're going to see it!  Cool!  Do you already have your tickets?" they squealed.  They seemed excited by the prospect of this teacher venturing into their territory.  And, to my amazement, none of them, or so he said, seemed to think of it as maybe a little bit weird.

When we arrived, sure enough!  Sold out shows included both the 7:15 and 10:15 showings, despite it being shown on multiple screens.

Was it the sea of tweens or that they were almost all girls that gave my husband pause?  

"Am I going to enjoy this movie?" he asked.

"Probably not," I answered truthfully.  But I had no regrets; I was certain that I would enjoy it.

The noisy crowd reminded me of my days of matinees at the old Lyric theater on Western Avenue in Blue Island.  For 25 cents, we could catch a double feature with a cartoon thrown in to boot.  Kids would fill the theater then:  Elvis movies were all the rage and we caught every one of them.  It was heaven, albeit a noisy one.  Unsupervised kids would take over for the afternoon, talking and making several trips back and forth for concessions.  What could be greater for a 10 year old kid?  Nothing!  It was the social event of the week.

Fast forward to last Friday evening. While generally supervised, the preteens were noisily chatting, eating, and chatting some more.  The looks on parents' faces indicated that they were merely the designated drivers for this event.  Good natured, they accompanied their kids and groups of friends, gathering both their popcorn and their wits about them.  Comfort food, that popcorn was!  A reward for their service.

And yet, while perhaps the oldest, we weren't the only unaccompanied adults.  A group of 40-something women lined the row just ahead of us.  They shouted back and forth to a teen that they knew.  They were there to see Edward as much as anyone.  While geared towards teens, it is a "chick-flick" nevertheless, and we were all there for the same reason. The men were likely just along for the rid: the drivers, the company or the escort to the car on the way out.

The movie was campy but interesting in its own way.  I've seen better, but I've also seen worse--way worse.  The actors were beautiful, the story engaging. All in all, I'm glad I went.  I feel only mildly guilty for deceiving my husband this way.  My sin is one of omission--I didn't lie, I just wasn't forthcoming.  And it was his idea after all.

Always a good sport, Terry  made the best of it.  He didn't fall asleep for even a minute. The bonus was that he got an idea for his biology class.  Beginning mitosis next week, he will award a golden onion to the winner of the lab contest--proving that you can learn something new, not only every day but from every situation, if you really want to.

As for me, this was pure entertainment.  A teen-aged vampire and star crossed love.  Edward and Bella.  It was a happy ending--this time.  But more problems lie just on the horizon.  I can't wait to see what happens next.  But I may have to call up a girlfriend.

Friday, November 21, 2008

A Novel Idea

I'm still thinking about my novel, but if I don't start writing soon, I will never have it done by Christmas.  I mean, look at my thesis project that never got written.  Good example of what procrastination does to a person.  Waiting for the perfect idea gets you nowhere.  I really think that the  secret to writing is not a secret at all.  Like the Nike slogan from a few years back (are they still using it??), "Just do it," I would rephrase those words and say "Just write!"-- about anything and everything.  It's good practice.

Since I have not one idea of my own, maybe I will go with Frank's:  My Tuesday with Barack, which I think Frank facetiously suggested as a knock off to Tuesdays with Morrie.  Maybe I'll have to come up with a new title, but, ironically enough, Tuesdays the days that I volunteered at the headquarters for a year and a half.  So while the title may change, the Tuesdays will not.  Tuesdays, the days of so many stressful primary battles and a day of excitement on November 4th.

Since every volunteer was required to sign a non-disclosure agreement,  I will have to fictionalize my account of those days.  It will be up to the reader to sort fact from fiction, I suppose.  There will be definite clues as to what's real and what's not.  Should I offer a prize to the first person who successfully sorts truth from fiction?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Do Not Disturb

I am meditating in order to clear my mind so that I can begin my novel.  More later... ommmm...

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Date with a Teen-aged Vampire!

It may sound a tad unusual, but my husband and I are going to see the movie Twilight this Friday.  Yes, he knows a little bit about the series from catching pieces of my conversation with my oldest daughter, Erin.  She and I have had many a Harry Potter-esque adventure together, driving to Border's to wait in line to pick up the latest copy at the stroke of midnight, reading our respective books side-by-side while on the beach, dressing up like characters from the story in order to attend yet another Potter party.  Yes, she is my avid reader accomplice.  We make recommendations to each other and lend out our copies, if we are willing to share for even a couple of days or weeks.  If not, we'll purchase a copy and send it off.  We're the kind of fans that authors and book stores alike dream about.  

We both got hooked on the Twilight series and now, when we get together, we gush like teenagers as we speak about Edward.  Edward and Bella--adolescent culture's latest dream couple.  So what if Edward is a vampire?--he's perfect in so many other ways! And Jacob, what will become of him? We wonder...until, sorrowfully but with some satisfaction, we finish the fourth and final book.

 Skillfully written, the books are very engaging.  The characters come to life, jumping off the page and into the minds and hearts of the reader.  No longer characters in the story, they have become our friends.  We take sides; we cheer them on, encouraging their hopefulness, celebrating their victories and mourning their losses.  Oh that I could write so well!  

Erin and I find ourselves completely hooked!  Our fanaticism is completely and thoroughly transparent, much to our husbands' chagrin. Both men roll their eyes and shake their heads, convinced that we've gone off the deep end, talking so much about our latest obsession.  Still they humor us; it is a harmless obsession, after all.  We remain adamantly loyal.  Who says that a series can only be appreciated by a particular audience?  Through it, we revisit our own adolescence, remembering first love and all its possibilities.

And so, in his endearing attempt to keep me happy,  my husband suggested that we go to see the movie this Friday, the very first day of its release!   Seeing the trailer on TV, he had a brainstorm.  "Twilight!" he said.  "Let's go." I seize upon the invitation at once, realizing that he has no clue.  A high school teacher, I have no idea how many of his students we might run into.  I'm sure they'll be very surprised to see him there!  I almost feel sorry for him, but not enough to cancel our date.  He offered; I accepted.

My tickets are in hand, ordered at Fandango in the event our show sells out.  I don't want to be disappointed, after all. Yes, we have a date on Friday night--a date with a teen aged vampire.  I can't wait to hear what my husband has to say about that. Shh!  Don't tell him.  I want him to be surprised...

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

So Much To Do...So Little Time!

I woke up in the middle of the night thinking about all the things I have to do today. Tuesday is my late day at work. I start, and end, late. But I have tons of things to do at home before I can even get ready to leave, arriving there at about noon.

I hate those nights where the weight of the world seems to be borne on my shoulders. The light of day usually brings a sense of relief; not so this day. I feel an overwhelming sense of doom, as if there will never be a time when I feel caught up with my long list of chores. Not to mention my bucket list. I don't think I've been able to cross one thing off my list since I made it several weeks ago.

So this post will be short, I'm afraid. Sigh! I have to get up and moving, doing my housekeeping chores now so that I will be ontime for work later. Tonight will be late, as will Thursday, at least for this week. But next week, Thanksgiving week!, brings a small break with no late nights--at work, that is. But I'm sure I will be up baking pies and planning for the visit of 2 of our kids, one bright spot in a gloomy period of responsibilities trumping life.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Stay tuned

To all my blogger friends:

Sorry that I haven't written. I have been working overtime and even weekends at work. It's a busy time of year.  On top of that, we've been having problems with our internet service, so I am behind on my writing.  I am considering Frank's challenge of writing a novel by Christmas.  Watch this site for my decision and other brief essays that may appear.  Happy Writing to each of you!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Brushes with Celebrity

In the course of my lifetime I have had several brushes with celebrity.  I am not one to go ga-ga over this, but on the other hand it's kind of fun to think about.  Celebrities are people who sometimes have a hard time walking down the street. They tend to be rushed by admirers looking for a photo or an autograph. And yet, each encounter that I had was just in the context of daily life--people doing their shopping, traveling and even going into the restroom.  Yes, celebrities are people, too!  Here are my stories.

Keith Magnuson:  late Blackhawks hockey player.
I was 17 and waiting on tables in a small, family style restaurant in Tinley Park.  While working the day shift one hot summer afternoon, the 7-Up delivery truck arrived.  In walked the truckers, carting several cases of 7-Up products on their dollies.  "That's Keith Magnuson," my boss told me.  Not being an avid hockey fan, I hadn't recognized him.  But when I asked for an autograph, he was gracious enough to give me one.  I lost that autograph a long time ago, but I will always remember the regular, friendly guy who delivered 7-Up.

Barabara Eden:  the genie in "I Dream of Jeannie"
I was shopping, well, mostly window shopping, at Water Tower Place one Saturday afternoon.  My son and I had gone downtown to visit the large Sport Mart down there.  He was looking for something in particular--I don't remember what exactly.  Since we were already downtown, we stopped in to Water Tower Place.  There on the escalator, right behind me, was Barbara Eden, riding up just like the rest of us.  I smiled and said "hello" and she returned the greeting. That was it--no big hullabaloo or anything.  Just a brief, pleasant encounter.

Evander Holyfield:  boxing champion
I was traveling to Dallas with a friend.  We were both Mary Kay Cosmetic beauty consultants on our way to the national convention.  Far from being a frequent flyer, I was having the usual difficulty navigating my way through O'Hare airport.  There were several lines, some with signs.  Seeing a sign that said something like "Premier Members," I showed the man standing close by my ticket, asking him if that's where I belonged.  The sign itself should have been a hint that I was in the wrong spot.  He kindly pointed my friend and I in the right direction.  "Do you know who that was?" asked my friend, awestruck.  "That was Evander Holyfield!"  "Oh, really?" I replied.  "How about that!?"  He probably thought I was an idiot, but he was nice enough not to show it.

Matthew Broderick and Sarah Jessica Parker:  actors
It was my 50th birthday.  My husband had gotten tickets for the family and a friend of ours to see "The Producers" starring Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick.  We arrived downtown early and stopped to have something to eat and drink.  The inevitable need to use the bathroom followed, but where could we go?  We stopped in the Allerton Hotel, close to the theater.  While walking down the hallway, Matthew Broderick and Sarah Jessica Parker passed us by, going the other direction.  My husband made the mistake of mentioning this to me.  Immediately, I headed the other way, trying to follow them to whatever destination they happened upon.  There they were!  In the hotel gift shop.  I walked up to Matthew Broderick, introduced myself and told him that I would be attending the performance.  He said that he hoped I would enjoy it.  This was my most fan-like encounter---and Sarah Jessica Parker got a big kick out of it.  Yes, this time I did go ga-ga, but I'm not ashamed.  You don't turn 50 every day, and I felt like a young kid again.

Dick Durbin:  Senior senator from Illinois
My son did an internship with Durbin a few summers ago.  While  I did not have a chance to meet the senator during that time, once my son started working in DC for Senator Obama we attended a constituent breakfast where both Illinois Senators were present.  We talked to Durbin and Obama for a few minutes, and had our picture taken with them.  We were just another couple of constituents, but he made us feel welcome.

Barack Obama:  President Elect of the United States
As I mentioned above, we met Barack Obama at a constituent breakfast.  Since my son had just begun working for him (after doing an internship with him the year prior,) we were able to talk with him privately for a few minutes.  We explained that Jeff had just relocated to Washington, DC and we were in town, helping him to get settled in to his apartment.  "Take good care of him, please?" I asked the Senator.  In his usual way, he hesitated momentarily, thinking of a good reply.  "Well, it looks like he's already taking pretty good care of himself," Barack replied, doing his best to comfort this anxious mother while still maintaining my son's dignity.  Yes,  because of this empathy, I refer to him as Barack because he seems like a comfortable family friend.  For some reason, I don't think he'd mind.

Newt Gingrich:  politician, former Speaker of the House
While vacationing in Washington, DC, we went to the National Shrine for mass one Sunday.  Again, the need to use the restroom was the cause for this brief encounter.  It was really an encounter between my husband, Terry, and Gingrich, but I am including it here because it is interesting, and because I was, after all, in close proximity.  Gingrich had enterred the men's room and my son pointed out to Terry who he was.  Terry followed him into the room and stood next to him at the urinal.  They didn't speak to each other but Terry took note of one thing:  he did not take time to wash his hands before exiting. Eww!  Perhaps this is too personal, but nevertheless it's true, so I'm posting it here.  What are the chances that Gingrich will read it anyway??

Well, that's about it.  I did not include other close encounters--like being feet away from the stage where Obama claimed victory after the election. The first family and the Biden family were all there.  A few feet to my left stood Rev. Jesse Jackson and Oprah Winfrey.  I heard that Brad Pitt was there, but I did not see him.  There was no celebrity being touted at this event; we were all equal, just American folks here to celebrate our new President.

Celebrities are just people after all.  In most cases, I didn't recognize these people when I came across them. They were in the process of going about their daily lives like everyone else.  They were friendly, courteous, and maybe even appreciative that I didn't recognize them, treating them like everyone else.  That's who they are after all--the everyone else's of the world.  We are all in this together, all citizens of the world just trying to do our best.  I wonder who I'll run into today?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Veteran's Day Musing

Although the election is over, and I said good-bye to everyone last week, I received an email asking me to come in and volunteer this morning. The headquarters was going to remain open until at least November 14th, and volunteers were needed to come and help answer phones. Of course, I agreed to do this for one more day, changing my plans a bit to make it work.

But then they closed the office (in fact the entire building) because it is Veteran's Day. So here I am, spending unexpected free time checking email and posting something on the blog. I won't have to take time out from my busy day at work; instead, I can just get this done right here, right now.

Veteran's Day is hard for me because I don't know how to celebrate it. I understand that honoring our Vets is important, but because Amy is in the military, I'm not sure how to do it best. In the past I would focus on remembering the soldiers who lost their lives in the line of duty. I don't want to think about that today. It's all too close to home now and I don't like to read, watch, or even think about, the wars that are going on.

Yesterday I printed out some pictures of Amy that were posted by a friend on her facebook account. I was gratified to see that she looks healthy and happy. Her bright and beautiful smile lights up the pages that I flip through on the screen. I print them out, in full color, on my boss' printer since his has the best quality, making several copies for other family members. He is out of town now, but I don't think he'd really mind anyway. The boss is good about family relationships and situations and he's probably want to see the pictures himself.

Showing them to co-workers, they all oohed and ahhed at her beauty. Yes, she really does look good. And so, today at least, I can worry a little bit less. Her pictures are proof; she really exists and she really is okay. In spite of being so dis-engaged with us. I sigh.

And so, Veterans does a mother of a Marine celebrate? I suppose I'll just do a few chores around the house and then make my way to work. Although I work in a school, this is not a holiday for us. And it is my late day at that. I'll think of Amy periodically throughout, along with my secretarys' son and others who put themselves in harm's way, all on our behalf. I will remember, but I cannot afford to dwell upon the losses. Seeing my daughter's happiness, I hope to hold on to some of my own. It promises to be a good day.

Monday, November 10, 2008

"Here's to Those..!"

Well, I wasn't able to live up the challenge that Lin threw down.  The entire weekend passed by without one word being posted.  The pressure is off now, anyway.  There is nothing more to prove.  I'll write when and if I can, mostly on weekdays when I can take my break at work and put a few words down.

Last week was a busy one, with the election, the rally and the resulting lack of sleep.  It took me until Friday to feel a little bit rested and then it was up and out again--traveling on Friday, two parties on Saturday--one in Champaign, the other in Bolingbrook--opposite ends of my little world.  Early rising comes with the territory when one is spending the night with grandchildren. Sleeping is seen as time wasted when Lincoln logs, blocks and coloring books are calling out for companionship.  So the late night of shopping and decorated melded into an early morning wake-up call.  There's no time like 6:50 AM to begin the celebration.  We worked, played and laughed.  A good time!

Leaving Champaign about 4:30 PM, we headed immediately to Bolingbrook, stopping only for a bottle of wine along the way.  I found myself nodding off during the ride; I don't know how my husband kept his eyes open, especially as he listened to Garrison Keillor telling his stories. While I find him mildly interesting, Keillor's voice inevitably lulls me to sleep.  This time was no exception.  It is good that my husband enjoys driving and I enjoy being the passenger.  A little nap always does me good.

The Bolingbrook party was a gathering of faculty members from the school in which my husband teaches.  All of my children attended that high school, so we are not only a faculty couple but a parenting couple--a double whammy in a close-knit school culture.  Not ones to make a grand entrance, it could not be avoided this time.  We were swarmed the minute we walked in the door.

Inquiries and comments about Jeff, who works for Barack Obama, abounded. We rode the coattails of his mini-celebrity as questions were asked and congratulations handed out. This topic exhausted, the questioning turned to the others.  My daughter, Amy, extroverted by nature and so known by all, becomes every teacher's child as they ask about her upcoming deployment.  The room grew quiet.

From congratulations to sympathy, the emotions of the evening swung from one extreme to the other.  In either case, it is clear.  We, as parents, bask in the reflected glory of our children.

Eventually, my eldest daughter, Erin, married and with three children, became the centrist topic.  How's her family?  How are the kids? Safe topics for discussion, no political incorrectness here. People exhibit both interest and empathy. It is clear, my kids are well respected by this group. 

Conversation moves on to other topics.  Food is served; drinks are poured.  We watch the younger children running through the house.  While we weren't looking, my husband and I have become the seniors in this group.  It is good to be a of part it; this generation helps to keep us young and reminds us of our own children, scattered far and wide.  We have so little, and yet so much, in common, a strange symbiosis that precludes division.

I am struck by the connectedness of people these days.  I saw it during the election season and more clearly at the rally on election night, when stranger danced with stranger, but it goes beyond that.  I believe that people are searching for meaning in these troubled times. Building relationships helps with this.  Connections are made and relationships formed not just out of self-interest, but from the broader perspective of "being in this together."  Comfort and hope form a partnership, sustaining each member when times are down.  And when times are good, we can take the opportunity to celebrate, together, each individual and collective victory.  It is right that competition and differences get set aside.  Instead, we lean on and learn from each other.  In a spirit of comaraderie, we raise our glasses and toast:  Here's to those who wish us well!

Friday, November 7, 2008

We Celebrate!

This afternoon we will be traveling downstate to visit my daughter, Erin, and her family.  My second granddaughter, Lea, will be celebrating her third birthday tomorrow and my daughter is hosting a family party.  

Three-year-olds are wonderful--old enough to be engaged in conversation or activity, but not too old to exhibit "attitude."  Unconditional love gets exuberantly exhibited through outward signs of affection. No self-consciousness here!  They say what they mean and mean what they say.

I'm looking forward to the trip.  I don't get to see any of my adult children very often and it's always special now when I do.  Maybe that's the gift that comes with long-distance relationships. Time and distance do not allow for "taking for granted."  Each moment seems blessed and far too brief.

This past weekend my son, Jeff, was in town to work the election.  Because he lives in Washington, DC, we only see him 3 or maybe 4 times during the year.  We vacationed in DC during the summer and got to see more of him--having dinner together most nights when he got off work.  Times like that are always bonus times, now.  It is always difficult to say good-bye after these visits because they are so few and far between.

Family events, like the birthday this weekend, bring on a sense of melancholy.  While I enjoy them, I long for the days when the kids all lived close by.  I think of Amy, so far away from us all in Okinawa.  I know she will feel sad to miss this family celebration.  It's been 6 months already since she's seen any of us.  She's never met her nephew, born in July, and her nieces miss her terribly.  We all do.

And yet, life goes on.  We make our plans, we celebrate, we continue to move forward.  Life brings change, both expected and not, and one learns to go with the flow, to bend so that one does not break.  

Tomorrow will be a fun day, for Lea and for all of us.  We will remember that Amy and Jeff are not there, but we still celebrate. I'm sure that they, too, will be celebrating in their own ways. Lea is turning three, an event worthy of celebration.  Happy birthday, Lea.  I hope you have a wonderful year!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Bring an Umbrella

The sun is shining this morning, just as it's been the last few days.  Leaving the house, I threw on my fleece jacket and headed out the door.  True, the heater was turned on low, just right for taking the mild chill out of the air.  

"Another glorious, Indian summer day!"  I smiled to myself.

Listening to the news while driving to work, I heard the weather forecast.  "Rain this afternoon, with the possibilities of thunderstorms.  Be sure to bring an umbrella."  Disappointment washed over me, not about the rain per se, but the inevitable change of seasons.

Fall is my favorite time of year:  the color, the cool crisp air, the rare scent of burning leaves, scofflaws claiming this tradition as their own.  But now, with the arrival of this storm, cold air is on the way, bringing the hint of an impending, and inevitable, winter.

Perhaps it's due, after all.  With the election season over, the change of season, too, seems right, as if everything is in some mystical alignment.  Time marches on; nothing lasts forever.  We make our plans for the upcoming holidays and we make our plans for the future.  Life goes on regardless of the surrounding circumstances.  With that reminder, I believe that all is as it should be.  I find myself content, today, in spite of the storms on the horizon.  I shall bring my umbrella with me and prepare to weather the coming storm, one of many challenges with which I am faced.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

A New Day

Today is a new day.  A new, hopeful spirit wafts in the air.  Last night my family and I, along with over 100,000 of our new best friends, attended the rally at Grant Park.  "President-elect Barack Obama."  It has a nice ring to it.

It was a beautiful day in Chicago.  Sunny and warm, it was perfect for getting out the over 80% voter turnout.  No excuses here--the weather was great--and with a favorite son on the ballot to boot!  Yes, turnout was heavy and the people spoke; Obama has a mandate with 349 electoral votes.

Arriving downtown at about 5:30, the winds of change were already blowing.  Crowds were gathering along Michigan Avenue.  Some had tickets; others seemed content to just be nearby.  We walked south, waiting for my son, his friend and my sister-in-law to meet up with us.  People were friendly and smiling.  The spirit was hopeful.  I sensed no animosity or pent up emotion that might spill over into chaos.  

We took our places in the venue.  There was one row of people in front of us.  The lined the fence that separated the stage from the people.  An empty space of about 5 feet created a mote in which the reporters had room to take their pictures. Beyond that space stood the stage.  The podium from which Obama would speak was dead center in front of me.  I could not believe how close we stood, with Oprah and Jesse Jackson both just a feet to our right.  Names and celebrity were not acknowledged--they were just familiar faces among the friendly crowd.

As the evening progressed and results trickled in, cameras continually snapped, the sounds of photographers both amateur and professional, and the flashes helped illuminate the scene.  Photographers took snapshots of people; the people took pictures of the photographers.  History needs to be recorded, after all.

Throughout the evening, cheers rang out with each projection that pushed Obama further ahead.  There were many votes to count, and it sometimes seemed a long night.  People grew tired of standing.  There was nowhere to move about freely, offering relief to stressed out knees and backs.  Still, the mood was hopeful and positive.  People just knew:  this was history, one of those unforgetable moments where each witness would remember where he or she was the moment the announcement was made.

Jubilant shouts rang out upon the announcement.  People literally jumped for joy--hugging and kissing and dancing.  Many tears were shed...Jesse Jackson had tears streaming down his cheeks.  The raw emotion was palpable.  And, as joyous as it was, a certain sense of solemnity also ran through the crowd.  A reverence for the significance of this moment in America's continuing story.  American flags, distributed the moment of the announcement, began waving proudly.  "USA!  USA!"

During the McCain concession speech, there was total silence.  Respect was given to the man and all he had done to serve the country.  There were no boos and hisses being voiced, but applause for his gracious comments and his attempt to rally all Americans around our nation's cause.

The invocation was prayed, allegiance pledged to the flag.  By the end of the national anthem, all voices joined in to express love of country in song.  And then, the moment.  "The next First Family of the United States." The Obama family walked on the stage, somewhat shyly, subdued perhaps by weariness and the recent death of their matriarch.  But smiling and hopeful nevertheless.  Waving to the crowd, they smiled at each one of us individually, or so it seemed.  Yes, this was our victory--we were all in this together.  "Yes, we did!" the crowd continued to chant.  

This truly was, and is, our time, our moment, our victory. Hope exists, not just for change, but for a better life for all Americans.  A better time for both our nation and our world.  May Americans unite with this new opportunity.   May what has divided us be left behind so that, together, we can make a difference.  If we believe, it can be done.  We have shown this.  May "yes we can" become "yes we will."   Then we will once more be able to say, "Yes, we did!"

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

History in the Making

Two years of hard work are culminating in a single day. The campaign headquarters was all abuzz this morning. Excitement, nervousness, anticipation, anxiety: we were feeling it all! Both CNN and MSNBC played continuously, showing long lines of people waiting for the opportunity to vote. By 7:00 Chicago time, voting irregularities were already being reported, a disheartening situation to be sure.

This is it! Wow! I can hardly believe it. I am home now, but later this afternoon my husband, sister-in-law and I will head back downtown for the rally--hoping to meet up with my son somewhere among the throngs of people. The weather is wonderful, sunny and unseasonably warm. A good omen? Who knows for sure...? Whatever the case, history will certainly be made today.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Almost Over

I can tell right now that I am going to be anxious all day.  Anxious about the election and getting out the voters.  Anxious about going to the rally.  Streets are going to be closed; hotels are booked.  Can we really rely on public transportation to get us home at that late hour?  And, exactly what late hour are we talking about here?  Initially it was projected for 1:00 AM but will that change if election results are too close to call?  

I can feel the tension in my body.  I'm stiff and achy and my blood pressure is probably going through the roof.  All these months of working, planning and praying.  Now it's down to one more day.  It's been a long journey and there were days it seemed that this election cycle will never end. But, of course, it will.  Tomorrow is the last day and whatever happens, history will be made.  

I feel privileged that I was able to play a small part in this history. And so, I will fight the crowds and the late hour and the transportation headaches to meet with fellow supporters.  No matter the outcome, we will support our candidate and show our appreciation for the courage it takes to put oneself out there.  Guts!  That's what it takes.  And now it's all winding down to the final hours.  It's almost over--all but the final voting.  May our citizens take the time to make their voices heard.  Yes, guts.  It isn't always perfect, but isn't it wonderful that we have a choice?  

Sunday, November 2, 2008

So Much Living to Do.

In reading Lin's blog I found out that it's National Blogger's month. Lin put forth the challenge--try to write every day. Well, it's November 2nd, so I'm already one day behind. While my postings may some days be short, I will try my best to write something each day.

It's sometimes difficult for me to find balance in my life. A balance between doing (being productive) and being (being reflective.) I swing like a pendulum from one extreme to the other. Some of this is by choice; some by circumstance. My job tends to have busy days followed by those that are not so busy. Seasons bring there own challenges: holidays requring shopping, vacations requiring planning and packing, and so forth.

These next couple of days I will be busy with both work and election events. Today, I may take time to drive to Indiana, knocking on a few doors in order to get out the vote. Tomorrow will be a busier than usual day at work because I am taking the day off on Tuesday to work the election. It will be an exhausing day, I'm sure. That evening I will go to Grant Park to attend the rally. It's sure to be a late night.

But in spite of the busy-ness, I feel compelled to take time to write. Writing helps to calm my frazzled nerves, giving me the time to relax at least for a few minutes and take time to put things in perspective.

I hope that I will take a few minutes to write each day. Most of it will probably remain completely unedited. Putting my thoughts and feelings into story form helps me to find meaning in both my experiences and emotions. There is so much living to do! But reflecting upon it makes it so much more meaningful. And it creates a record of sorts of all my memories.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

A Chance Encounter

The walk isn't particularly long, but on this day it seemed that way.  A cold wind blew in off the lake.  "This is more than a hint of winter to come," thought Dana.  "This is the real thing!" Small bits of ice pelleted against her face, causing Dana to draw her hood more closely around her. 

Usually she enjoyed walking through the city.  Her favorite route, along Michigan Avenue, allowed her to enjoy the sun's rays unimpeded by the shadows of the skyscrapers.  Millenium park offered a fine view of the flowers and fountains that were hallmarks of the city. 

"Soon the ice rink will be up and running," she thought to herself.  "And the Christmas lights will make the city seem even more festive."

 Dana really couldn't see the lake from this far west, but the wind and the lack of buildings made her aware of its presence.  She never tired of this route but looked forward to it each time she went to the office.  If only she had time to stop and enjoy the park, even for a few brief moments.

But, Dana's train arrived downtown with just enough time for her to make it to the office on time, checking in before she had to begin her day.  She walked briskly, still enjoying the view, not taking any time to dawdle, window-shop or daydream.  Some days she stayed down after work to just linger for awhile, opting for a later train for her return home.

Many mornings, but not always, she happened upon the young woman selling Streetwise, the publication that offered homeless and unemployed persons a way to earn at least a little bit of cash.  Usually Dana was put off by the vendors,at least those who got in her face or blocked her path, practically daring her to pass by without making a purchase.  Often she would cross the street to avoid those more aggressive sales tactics, not really out of a sense of intimidation, but more to avoid the annoyance of the situation.  At least that's what she told herself.

But the young woman who happened to take up "shop" on this particular corner was different.  She caught Dana's eye immediately.  It was true that Dana first noticed the wheelchair, but that wasn't all of it or even most of it.  It was her attitude more than anything.  The way she greeted each person who walked by with "good morning" or "have a nice day."  Her greetings were cheerful and friendly. She never once directly asked people to buy her paper, but just clasped them in her lap discreetly.  

Dana had passed her by several times, not buying, but returning her smile and greeting.  Most days she was posted there, on her regular corner.  Some days she was not.  On those days, Dana thought about her, wondering if everything was alright or if she was experiencing health problems.  Perhaps the weather kept her indoors or maybe she had somewhere else to be. Whatever the case, Dana often caught herself imagining what this person's life might be like.  How did she get downtown?  Did someone bring her?  Did she take the bus?  Thoughts and questions about the woman ran through Dana's mind.  

Whenever the saleswoman was stationed in the usual place, she was the same, always friendly, always smiling:  just waiting, hoping perhaps, that she might make sale or two,  but nevertheless, seeming to enjoy herself regardless of what happened.  Dana felt somehow drawn to her, not out of sympathy or pity, but as a friend.  She wanted to reach out to this young lady.

And so, Dana promised herself that she would patronize this salesperson whenever she had the opportunity. The first time she handed over the dollar, the woman was somewhat taken aback.  "You want a paper?" she asked.  

"Yes, please."  Dana smiled and took the paper from her outstretched hand.

"Thank you.  Enjoy the paper and have a good day," the woman smiled, more broadly now.

Each day on her walk to the office Dana pondered what her day might bring. Angry phone calls, taking complaints and solving problems for an ungrateful customer, bad news in the market, causing people to worry and get upset.  Working with the public always brought its challenges.  Many days, Dana longed to just stay in the park and sit, escaping from the unhappy prospect of answering phones all day.  But lately, she saw things differently.  She had a job that allowed her the pleasure of walking to work, enjoying the views of the city.  She was paid, if not well, at least enough to get by.  Compared to others, Dana led a charmed and sheltered life. That might change at any time, but for now, Dana was content, grateful even.  

She continued walking to work each day and as she approached the corner, she began to remember the woman, pulling a dollar of her purse and hoping.  

"We can all make a difference," Dana thought, "if not in big, important ways, then in small ways, one person at a time.  If a disabled, unemployed young woman could greet each day with a smile, well, then there really is hope after all."

One dollar! A small price to pay for a warm and friendly encounter.  It didn't cost  much, but whenever Dana saw the paper lady,  it set her mood for the entire day.  These chance encounters, with their brief exchange, made all the difference.  Attitude is everything. She resolved herself to a better outlook  and a more positive way of life.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Coffee klatch

"I'll put on the coffee," Penny said the minute Denise walked through the door.  Penny was known for her hospitality, always offering coffee or perhaps a glass of wine, depending on the time of day, of course.

"Great!  I can't believe how cold it got in just one night!" Denise exclaimed, grateful to be coming into Penny's warm, comfortable home and equally grateful for a cup of the hot, strong, black coffee that Penny offered.  

"Thanks!  Oh, that's good."  Denise took a sip of the coffee.

"Here's some of Del's potato chip cookies,"  Penny offered.

"Thanks, but I think I'll pass.  I've been putting on some weight lately and I need to start cutting back again.  So, how've you been?  I can't believe it's been so long since we've gotten together."

"Yeah, I know," Penny replied.  "Ever since we all started working full time..." her voice drifted off.  

It was true.  Once stay-at-home moms who got together regularly, Penny, Denise and the rest of their group didn't see each other much any more.  Everyone had gone back to working full time in order to pay for college or to just keep up with the bills.  And now that their nests were either empty or nearly so, a certain loneliness and longing had crept into their lives.

"I miss the old days," Denise lamented. "We didn't know how good we had it.  Those were the days!  We struggled, but it seemed that we were happier then.  We were free to do what we wanted to do, even if we couldn't afford to do much."  Denise laughed.

Penny chucked too.  "Remember when we saved all those candy wrappers to get into the Sox games for free?  We spent all that money on candy, but we got in the game!"

"Yeah, and froze our butts off in the nosebleed section!  It was fun though, wasn't it?  We had some great times back then.  Remember camping at Potato Creek and how Dennis and Jerry got into a fight about the bikes?  I really thought they were going to duke it out!"

"They had their moments," Penny recalled.  "But through thick and thin they remained best friends.  Just like Emily and Becky."  It was true.  The sons and daughters of Penny and Denise remained close, even though they'd married and moved to differing states.  

"Where does the time go?  And how is it that we don't realize what we have until it's gone?  Well, I guess it's not really gone, but it's not the same.  We hardly see each other any more--just weddings and funerals it seems like.  It was strange that we all met down in Champaign for Kenny's wedding.  A reunion two hours away when we all live in the same town.  Seems like we've kind of gone our separate ways..."

"Well, it doesn't have to be that way.  We still have good times when we get together.  We just need to make the time," Penny said as she refreshed their coffee.

"Time..."  Denise sighed.  "Time...," she repeated, growing increasingly nostalgic.

The friends continued to reminisce while sipping their coffee.  Glancing out the window, they noticed that snow had begun to fall.  Another winter, another page turned on the calendar. Very soon, it would be another year.  The weather outside was cold, but inside things were as they should be. The warmth of their friendship overtook them. Like their children, they were in it through thick and thin.  Times may change, but the friendship remained.  Penny and Denise seemed always able to just pick things up  where they left off the last time. And so they did again.  Another day, another year, another pot of coffee.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Waging Peace

"If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other."
 -  Mother Theresa

I spoke with a man the other day who told me that he is a one issue voter.  The issue?  The war in Iraq.  He explained to me that he believes winning the war is critical in raising the morale of our military.  

"The loss of the war in Vietnam and the poor results of the situation in Somalia, have taken it's toll on our morale," he claimed.  "It is critical that we win this war now, for the sake of our troops and to raise America's standing in the world."   He was a very nice man and I enjoyed our conversation,  warm in spite of our disagreement about this issue.

As a mother of a Marine daughter I see things differently.  As she trains to be deployed to Iraq, I can't help but hope that the tides will turn before she needs to leave.  While I care about her morale to the extent that she does her job well and keeps up her guard, I nevertheless want this occupation to come to a close.  Her safety is of prime concern to me.  I am her mother; she is my child.

My secretary also has a Marine son.  He will be going off to Afghanistan in January, an even more dangerous situation.  He has already been to Iraq, witnessing the death of several close comrades.  Now, he is being re-deployed as all the troops are these days.  Over and over again, these young men and women go off to face the danger--putting their lives on the line in the process.

As our children prepare to deploy, my secretary and I are witness not only to their training but to the paperwork that must be completed before they go.  Life insurance policies are double checked, making sure that beneficiaries are valid and in place.  Emergency contact numbers are checked and rechecked in case news needs to be reported.  Power of attorney is arranged to act on our children's behalf regarding their bank accounts and  any personal effects that may need to be returned home. Nothing becomes more unsettling than getting these affairs in order.  All i's need to be dotted and all t's crossed long before that dreaded date of deployment is reached. Yes, we parents dread that date, but our Marines' resolve is strong.  This is their duty.  They take it seriously; they are committed, strong, well-trained.  Parents are more ambivalent.  It is difficult to put our feelings, our experience of all of this, into mere words.  There really are no words, after all.

As a parent, I am both proud and worried.  While my daughter signed on for this, I did not.  Putting on a brave face,  I do my best to support her, but I don't think war, particularly this war, is the answer.  I can't see how we can be better off by losing so many of our fine sons and daughters.  And I don't want her to be one of the casualties, so anonymous in the non-reporting of them in the evening news.  We hear much more about sports and celebrities than we do of these brave young men and women.  Why is that?  I can't remember the last time I heard a news report regarding the war.  

I have no doubt that our troops are heroes.  Would that they were treated with more reverence. Perhaps just that one step would help improve morale.  I know they have a job to do and they do it willingly.  But as for me, I pray, not just for her safety but for the safety of all.  They are all my children, in a way.  The brotherhood of the service, the brotherhood of mankind.   May we begin to see things differently and begin to wage peace instead of war.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Looking for the Good

People aren't perfect.  Of that much we can be certain.  Try as they will, it is impossible, in this life anyway, to obtain the pinnacle of perfection.  And, how does one even define perfection?  Is there a single, overarching definition that works for everyone?  Or, is perfection relative, a subjective judgment by either the person himself or an outside observer?  Who makes that decision, that judgment?

Both my career and my volunteer work involve working with the public.  That makes things very complicated. Each individual person has his or her own opinions on  what is important and how things should be done.  In the end, someone needs to decide, making the choices about policies, in order to move things forward.  In my job, that person is me.   As administrator of the program, I make the final call.  The buck stops on my desk.

In order to make well-informed decisions, I make the effort to consult with my co-workers as well as my constituency, the families enrolled in my program. It becomes difficult to sort through the various expectations, hopes, visions, and, yes, opinions, of those with whom I consult.  Usually a wide range of thought exists on any particular idea or project.  Bringing people to consensus, rallying people in support of the decision, becomes difficult.   In any given situation, about half of the people are truly happy with the decision being made.

Sometimes this situation tests both my resolve and my satisfaction of a job well done.  I might second guess the decision, not because it was made in error, but because of pressure from the dissenting faction.  There are times when their point is well taken.  But, due to circumstances, the best decision may not be the most popular.  It is during those times that I might be more apt to be close minded, perhaps even tending toward anger or judgment of those around me.  But, when I take the time to listen, and look for the good in each person I meet, I can more confidently move in the right direction.

People aren't perfect, but they are very good.  We are all just trying our best, working toward the perfection that is impossible to reach.  Looking for the good in others makes it easier for all of us.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Diversity is a Strength

As some of you know, I volunteer for one of the presidential campaigns.  Each Tuesday morning I go to the headquarters and I answer phones, taking calls from people all over the country who may be looking for information or who want to leave a comment or suggestion.  It has been my pleasure to speak with some very wonderful, caring people over the course of this long campaign season.  Other people have not been so wonderful.  In their anger and fear, they lash out at me--"killing the messenger" so to speak.  I do my best to keep my composure and be helpful as I listen to their rant or attempt to get a word in, hoping to answer their initial question.  I sometimes get demeaned or cursed at and that is where I draw the line.  At that point I  bring the conversation to a close, always thanking the person for taking the time to call.

The overwhelming impression that I get from all of this is that many people are angry, worried and/or scared.  Of what, I can't rightfully say.   But of something--some nebulous and unspoken force that lurks in the dark, waiting to jump out and attack.  It saddens me that people feel like this and yet I understand it to a degree.  The world is different now. There are several real problems that need to be addressed.   It's a global economy that drives the market, but still the United States that sets the tone and our economy is floundering.  Dangerous countries condemn us in our democracy.  Wars are waged throughout the world, in which two of them our troops are directly involved.  Global warming and climate change bring their own very real challenges as does the energy crisis. Add to this the constancy of the 24 hour news cycle and I can understand that people may feel overwhelmed.  The media is always looking for a story, the more sensational the better, it seems. Yes, there are some real threats.  But, pundits and commentators play up our fears and prejudices, not to our advantage, in ways that were impossible just several years ago.  While I understand the reasons for them, I don't feel that fear and anger are helpful in facing these challenges.  In truth, the world has always been a dangerous place for some. 

I think my overwhelming sentiment is a feeling of sadness regarding all of this.  I'm sad that people are so unhappy and insecure--that they have such a lack of trust in people who they believe are different from them.  I'm saddened by the angry outbursts directed at me, a stranger just volunteering some of her time.  I don't understand why we can't disagree without being disagreeable and attempt to work toward solutions without being divisive.  To me, America's strength lies in her diversity--diversity of population and diversity of ideas.  It takes all of us to make democracy work, but I don't see how this can be accomplished if our intention is to always be on the offensive.  Stirring up hate isn't productive.  In my opinion, this works directly against the American spirit that has always put us on top.   

In spite of some tense, unsettling moments, I feel honored and privileged to talk to so many people across our great country.  It is wonderful when people take time to be engaged in the electoral process--true democracy at work.  People genuinely care about our future and that, I believe, bodes very well for our nation.  People will always disagree, but when we do, let us do it without being disagreeable.  History has shown that in working together we can find solutions to the problems that face us, no matter how difficult.  If we take the time to look for similarities rather than differences, we may find that people are not really that different after all.  We share many of the same dreams, values and hopes.  Let us take time to play on our strengths rather than our weaknesses.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Surprise Visit

The call came unexpectedly.  I was in the midst of reading Twilight when the phone rang.  My eldest daughter, the other Harry Potter fan in the family, had recommended it to me as a pretty good young adult novel.  And it is!  I was enjoying it when my reverie was interrupted by the demanding ring of the phone.  What an annoyance!  But, in checking the caller I.D. I decided to answer it because it was my son,  Jeff, calling.

Jeff had traveled to Portland, Oregon this weekend to attend the wedding of a friend from college.  While traveling, he sometimes he calls to chat, killing time while waiting in the gate to board a flight.  I suspected that this was the case, and I was happy to hear from him and  to help relieve his boredom for at least a few minutes.

There was something in his tone that told me this was not that kind of call.  He had something more on his mind.  Turns out, he was supposed to fly home the next morning, but changed his flight so that he didn't have to find a hotel room and he could be back in time for work on Monday.  As a result of the change, he had a two hour lay over, in Chicago!  Yes!  We could go to the airport to see him.

He wanted to do dinner, but all of the restaurants (with the exception of a couple of carry out vendors) at O'Hare are inside the security check stations.  Well, since my husband and I weren't flying, that wouldn't work.  You have to have boarding passes (which we didn't) or be escorting little kids (which we weren't) or be a military family (which we are but that didn't apply here since Jeff isn't the Marine) to get past the security forces guarding entry to the gates.  What to do?  Maybe we wouldn't be able to eat dinner together after all, but we could still meet up with him and visit for awhile.

I went online to see if there were any options that might be open to us.  There are restaurants outside security in Terminal 5, which is the international terminal located in a separate building.  That wouldn't work; we only had 2 hours and that included Jeff going back through security again.  

I found a phone number that I thought might be helpful, but I kept getting connected to 311, the City of Chicago's help line.  They didn't know what I was talking about.  Investigating further, I found another number listed for "guest advocacy" or some such title.  Aha!  They were able to tell me that we could go to the O'Hare Hilton and there was a restaurant there.  Good!  I called Jeff back and we set our plans:  meet him at baggage claim, head to the hotel, eat and then back to the airport.

It took awhile for us to find our way to the Hilton. The signs aren't much help with this, we found.  But once we got there, we were able to enjoy a good, if expensive, meal.  We talked about all kinds of things, checking up on the details of our daily lives.  Jeff is doing well.  He seems happy, fulfilled.

One hour. It was all we had. One hour to connect, eat and see for ourselves that Jeff was healthy and happy.  It wasn't much.  But when you see your child only a few times each year, it was something wonderful. One hour of joy and pleasure.  An unexpected bonus in an otherwise routine Sunday afternoon.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Dreaming and Hoping

Today I am filled with hope!  It is a beautiful, cool Friday morning.  Yes, it's expected to rain later in the day, but even that doesn't dampen my spirits (pun intended.)  Today things just seem right.  Perhaps it was the Tarot reading by Frank last night that brightens my mood.  Things are looking up!  Success is in the cards, literally and figuratively.

When I feel  down, I need to remind myself that everything passes in due time.  There is no situation or mood that is permanent.  Nothing lasts forever.  Thoughts like these become mantras of hope as I dream of better times to come.  And this seems like one of those better times, in spite of the economy and the stack of bills awaiting my attention and eventual payment.  And in spite of being separated by time and space from my family.  And in spite of still being stuck--same job, same place, same problems.  But wait!  The sun will still rise another day!  There is hope!

I look forward to new possibilities, dreams with the potential of being realized.  An exciting challenge always fires me up and gets me moving!  I'm at my best when starting new projects and initiatives--planning and plotting in order to get them up and running.  Once a project is begun, I lenjoy letting other people take over.  By then, I've lost some interest in the whole thing.

 Maybe I should have become an inventor!  Then, in creating something new, I could move on to the next idea, bringing it into fruition. A never ending process of creativity!  There are many careers, I think, that work like this:  scientist, adventurer, even archeologist!  Or what about artist, composer, or writer?  It's true--these jobs are "discovery" personified!  Keep moving forward!  What a way to live!

And then I think, "Maybe that's what we are all called to do?"  To keep moving forward, being fresh and creative where ever we find ourselves.  "Bloom where you are planted."  Something to think about.  It does offer the promise of new possibilities--dreams that bring hope, maybe even happiness.   I suppose I can continue on, as long as there is the promise of another day.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

I Owe, I Owe...!

"Normal is getting dressed in clothes that you buy for work and driving through traffic in a car that you are still paying for--in order to get the job you need to pay for the clothes and the car, and the house you leave vacant all day so you can afford to live in it." - Ellen Goodman

The above quote today reminds me of that old parody of the Seven Dwarfs song--"I owe, I owe, so off to work I go!"  To tell the truth, that could be my theme song. Yes, I admit it. I don't work for altruistic reasons like "making a difference"  or "changing the world." My altruistic tendencies are better served in my volunteerism.  No, I work for strictly practical reasons--to help pay the bills!  I'm not a romantic when it comes to my career. If I were debt-free (dream on!) I would gladly and happily retire in order to pursue the activities that I find life-giving and meaningful.

Don't get me wrong. My career has its rewarding and heart-warming moments.  Considering that I work for a non-profit organization, my salary isn't terrible, just lower-end middle class.  If I had to make it on my own it might be difficult, but as a second-income it's not bad.  I began working to help save for college and in that regard it worked:  my eldest two children have their education paid for in full.  They have no enormous student loans hanging over their heads and for that, I'm grateful.  I'm glad that I have been able to contribute to both their education and their freedom from educational debt.

But now, well, tuitions have been paid and my work seems less rewarding. Now it's just to pay bills, many of them for things that I don't need and no longer seem to want.  My desire becomes to simplify my life--not to collect more things but to give some away, to de-clutter both my inner and outer worlds of unnecessary "junk."  Perhaps I will just open the door to people looking for bargains, allowing them to make me an offer on whatever they see!  Not only would this relieve me of the chore of packing things up and throwing things away, but I might make a buck or two to boot!

And yet, as nice as it would be to retire, to simplify, to begin enjoying all that life has to offer in the way of opportunity and freedom, I can't think of a single way that this might help to pay the bills.  In the last couple of years, we have taken on new debt in order to make needed improvements on our old house.  The lenders expect these loans to be paid, in spite of the failing economy and the high cost of living.

And so it's off to work each day for an indefinite number of years.  My challenge has become to find new causes that can benefit from the spoils of my salary.   I contribute to my favorite charities and to my choice of presidential candidates.  I raised my church offering to help cover their ministies and outreach programs.  I help to pay for my granddaughter's preschool tuition.  I can send the occasional care package to Amy in Japan and sometimes help Jeff with his travel expenses.  

And so it seems that my earlier comment is not completely true:  I do work for altruistic reasons, at least in part.  I need a sense of purpose for what I do--good reasons beyond "making money" in order to pay my creditors.  I long to contribute to the causes and purposes of real people who are trying to make their own difference in this world.  In small ways, I  help support others who may be struggling, often though no fault of their own.   

And so, the clothes and the car are purchased so that I can go to work--looking professional all the way.  And I leave the dogs in an empty, but updated, house that needs to be paid for.  My guitar needs dusting, my piano tuning and my laundry and dishes pile up.  I'll get to them eventually.  While this doesn't feel like "real" life,  it is what I am required to do right now.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Missing the Marathon.

This past Sunday was the Chicago Marathon. For the last couple of years my son, Jeff, has been in town to run the race.  This year, other travel plans have taken the priority and he was unable to make the trip into town.  I missed seeing him and I missed getting up at the crack of dawn to drive downtown and see the race.
The drive into the city is a relatively easy one on Sunday mornings.  There is no real rush hour on that morning--the day when many people are still sleeping in, perhaps recovering from Saturday's activities.  Seeing the sun just beginning to rise over the lake is inspirational  Its rays slowly wash over the skyscrapers, giving one the feeling that the city itself is awakening to the start of a new day.  

The downtown area is fairly deserted, but less so than it would be if there were no race to run.  It isn't until reaching State Street that the population increases as spectators begin to mill around, staking their claim to the best vantage points for seeing the runners rush past.  The atmosphere sparkles with excitement; spectators are an important piece in the puzzle as they applaud, cheer and encourage the runners. Some have horns or bells; others bring drums, signs and flags.  Colors, sights and sounds combine to create a festive atmosphere. It truly is exciting to be a part of it all!

And so I missed it--the early morning sleepiness of the city, the excitement and anticipation that define the event, even the hustle and bustle of working my way through the crowds gathered at the finish line.  Yes, I would go again to mill among these strangers who truly feel like friends that I have not yet met.  Something like a marathon creates that feeling, the sense of comraderie caused by people coming together for a common cause.

I briefly considered going down for the race this year in spite of the fact that Jeff wasn't running, but I decided against it.  As much as I may have enjoyed it, his participation is what made this event my own as I watched for him in the group.  It wouldn't be the same without that--the chance to look for that one special runner and experience the thrill of spotting him amongst the other runners.  As much as I missed being there, my attendance would have felt empty somehow, a shallow reminder of past years.  Missing the race is one thing, but I didn't need to be reminded that I missed seeing Jeff most of all.