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.