Monday, December 19, 2011

I'm almost afraid to say it aloud, but – I'm finished with my Christmas shopping! This is almost unprecedented. I am one of those people who is usually still picking things up on Christmas Eve. To have all my gifts bought by December 19th – and most of them wrapped – is a shock.

To be fair, we are buying for fewer people than a few years ago. Our goddaughter grew up. Sam is beyond the age where we buy a bunch of teacher gifts. We have cut back on the wretched excess that used to characterize my exchanges with my mom and sister. Etc.

But still, this amazes me. And mildly disorients me.

We haven't sent Christmas cards since 2004, I think, and we decided to send them again this year. But then we found that we cannot locate an old address list to start with, and without that starting point the task looms too large. So we may send just a few to out-of-town people whose addresses we can easily find, and leave it at that.

Similarly, I considered stepping up to more holiday baking, since my mom and sister have become too infirm to do the amount they used to do. But the more I thought about it, the more I was convinced I would mainly only make the four residents of my house a little fatter than we already are. Oh, certainly, we would give some away. But I found it hard to believe we wouldn't eat the lion's share of them. And that just seemed like a bad idea. So I will stay with the very limited baking I have done the past few years, and I think we are all better off.

We have choir rehearsals the next two nights, then one night off before the holidays are here. And I already know what I'm wearing to the Christmas Eve Masses – yet another stressor removed. Bob and I are leading the music at the 6:30 overflow Mass in the parish hall, and then the choir does a 30-minute prelude and sings at 10:00 Mass. Christmas Day we will spend with my mom and sister, then we get a week of playtime.  I really want the season to be a time of rest and joy for all of us, not another excuse to stress out and overdo. 

Finally, we go to Bob's hometown to finish up with his family's Christmas get-together, which falls on New Year's Eve this year.  Bob's is a classic big, rollicking family, and I always LOVE Christmas with the Beasleys. It is the perfect way to end the season. We had hoped Warren could come with us for the Beasley Christmas and meet the extended family, but he was fortunate enough to get Christmas off instead.  I'm disappointed that he won't be with us, but I think some quality holiday time with his family is probably the best thing for him and thus, I'm happy even in my disappointment.

So that's what the holidays look like for us. They seem less stressful than I remember, but I suspect it's because my perspective is different than when I was younger. I am so grateful for the wonderful life we live and for the dear people who share it with me. I know that's what matters, and since I am blessed with that life and those people 365 days a year, Christmas is just icing on the cake.

Here's wishing you and yours a beautiful, blessed Christmas that features just the amount of hubub you enjoy!

Saturday, December 03, 2011

I was surprised to see that it was two weeks since I last posted. Since then we have been through Thanksgiving and definitely turned the corner into the Christmas season. I can't believe how quickly the days pass! I'm not complaining, really, because I love having a full and busy life. I just marvel at how fast it moves!! The coming weeks – and even months – show no sign of slowing down. We have so many exciting things to look forward to.

The job alluded to in my last blog post did not, in fact, pan out for Warren, but last night he got the good news that he has been hired as a clerk at the nearby UDF. (For non-local readers that stands for United Dairy Farmers and is a combination gas station/convenience store/ice cream parlor.) This job has two big advantages, we believe. One, it does not involve cooking or kitchen work; and two, it is a comfortably short walk from our house, so it does not involve coordinating the entire family's schedule just to get him there and back each day. Please join me in praying that it turns out to be a job that will work out for him for a nice long time. I feel strongly that he really needs to experience the stability of staying in the same job for a year or more, and begin to layer additional new experiences, like college classes, on top of that base. My belief that Warren will go on to build a successful, productive, satisfying life has not wavered, nor has my commitment to help him realize the many wonderful positive character traits I see inherent in him. But the five months he has lived here have involved a lot of false starts and struggles and “two-steps-forward, one-step-back,” and for his sake I ache to see him experience a period of unambiguous forward progress.

Sam, having completed his Eagle project and submitted all his college applications, is in a bit of a lull these days. He has nothing but school work to focus on, which is sometimes a bit of a hazard for him. But so far he seems to be keeping his grades where they need to be. I anticipate that after the first of the year he will have some acceptances, and will then have to focus on choosing which college will be The One. I keep reminding him that while money isn't the only factor, it is a factor in that decision process. And mostly, I keep praying ardently that God will give us clear guidance on which is the right choice. I don't so much care which school he chooses, just that we have a strong, clear sense of which one is right - preferably, that he, Bob and I all get that same sense about the same school.

Today we started doing some Christmas decorating. It will probably be another week before we are done, but it is nice to have some lights up and a few things to make us feel like the holidays are upon us. I have done some Christmas shopping – which is pretty early for me – and I have scheduled a vacation day for this Tuesday to try to knock out as much of it as I can while the stores are not jam-packed with people. Then we have some Christmas parties to attend, two Masses to sing at on Christmas Eve, and celebrations with both the Emerson and Beasley families to look forward to. The Christmas season usually moves even faster than the rest of the year, and I hope to do everything in my power to savor it as it glides by.

So really, I'm just full of anticipation: of sharing in Warren's new job experiences, of sharing a wonderful Christmas season with loved ones, of seeing where Sam ends up choosing to go to school, and of the many unforeseeable changes, challenges and thrills that make our life so much fun. Never a dull moment!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Here I am at the beginning of a very unusual weekend. There just seems to be a convergence of unusual activities hitting. Let's see....

  • Last night one of Bob's brothers arrived to spend the weekend because this happens to be the weekend of the OSU game he drew in the lottery.

  • Today, everyone in my office had to pack up everything as they are reconfiguring the cubes this weekend. So I went in to work, struggled through working for a few hours while mayhem reigned around me, then packed my stuff and was home before 1:00. Working online since then.

  • At 5:00 this evening, Warren has what sounds like the final interview for a new job – already through one interview and a general comprehension test, so we're pretty sure tonight generates the actual job offer. (Fingers crossed!)

  • Since Dale is in town, we will be going to Otey's in Hilliard tonight for dinner because that's where Bob's local brother, Paul is playing and singing. As so often happens with this kind of situation, Paul plays somewhere almost every Friday night and therefore, Bob and I hardly ever see him play. Apparently it is true that familiarity breeds – well, if not contempt, certainly taking-for-granted. So it's cool that we are actually going to see him this week.

  • Tomorrow, I am singing in a wedding. Of someone I don't know. But I'm excited, because I'll be singing in a choir brought together for this one event. We meet tomorrow morning for our one and only rehearsal, then reconvene at 5:30 for the actual wedding. Which is actually my idea of a really fun recreational activity. (Yes, I guess I'm some sort of choir geek.)

  • Bob is working at a tailgate party at the OSU game as part of the St. Joan of Arc Men's Club. (This is a MAJOR fundraiser for them.) Which means he leaves early in the morning and will be gone until bedtime.

  • Dale spends tomorrow with old college friends enjoying the game and whatever they cook up for the rest of the day.

  • Sam cantors at 5:00 Mass. OK, this one is not unusual, but I include it because it is part of the general over-scheduled-ness of the weekend.

  • Then on Sunday, we get the real convergence of schedules. Bob and I are supposed to be singing in choir at 10:45 Mass, and then we have to be at our Boy Scout troop's Webelo's Open House from 1:00 to 5:00. (I actually speak at it, so I really, really have to be there.) This makes us unavailable for chauffeur service. Dale flies out about 1:30, so he has to be at the airport by about 12:30. Warren has a doctor's appointment at noon. So unbeknownst to Sam, I think he gets to experience the joy of being the driver on duty for both the doctor trip and the airport run. (Tee-hee. Some sort of karma at work there, I think.)

  • I'm pretty sure that after 5:00 on Sunday, we're all just going to collapse.

But of course, we only get to collapse for a few hours. Then it's Thanksgiving week. Yee-haw! But I don't have the energy to think about that now.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

I am just exhausted, and though I did several chores and stayed pretty busy today, I don't think that is the reason.  I believe the cause of my fatigue is the bizarre experience that started our day. It left me emotionally drained.

We have a long-time friend who has brain cancer and is, shall we say, in the final countdown.  So this morning when Bob arrived at church to cantor 9:00 Mass, he was told that John had passed away last night.  He called me, and I posted a little memorial on Facebook.  Then I went to join Bob at 10:45 Mass, where the choir was to sing.  John was a choir member, so the choir was all grieving, and prayed for John's soul at the end of our rehearsal.  Then we went into the sanctuary and started the Mass.  Just as it started, one of the ushers in the back started making huge arm signals not unlike air traffic control bringing in a 747, and in walks the grieving widow -- followed by the deceased! 

What eventually came to light was that the parish had received a voice mail message that someone else named John, with a surname one letter different from John's, had died.  Since the church was well aware of John's fragile state, they heard John's name, and thus the misunderstanding began.  So it was all an understandable series of events, and no one really did anything stupid or malicious.  But wow!  We came home from Mass feeling like we had been through the ringer.  First there was the very genuine grief, tempered with just a hint of relief that his suffering was at an end.  Then the shock of seeing him, followed by anger that someone could make such a dreadful mistake, and finally the gradually dawning realization that it was just an unfortunate but blameless mistake.  And now that I've recovered from all that, I realize that my dread of the day when I really get that news has increased. Now I sort of know how much it will hurt!

Monday, October 31, 2011

I can hardly believe we are at the end of October already.  Where has the time gone?  And now, as the calendar turns to November, we can count on time moving at a dead run from here to the first of the new year.

Every part of my life feels like it is just vibrating with change.  Sam is in his senior year, desperately finishing up the paperwork to earn his Eagle Scout rank and filling out college applications, all while trying to keep his grades up enough to have some hope of scholarships.  It's a lot to juggle, but I feel he is doing a better job at it than ever before. He turns 18 at the end of the week and I can hardly fathom that my baby will be, in the eyes of society, an adult.  And frankly, in many ways he is beginning to think like one!

Warren lost a week of his life to oral surgery and is still not feeling normal yet.  But once he recovers, he will continue to be in constant change.  He is just at a point in his life where there sort of is no status quo.  He is in a part-time job with no future; he will either move to a better job, or start school, or both, but there's no possibility that he will ride on as things are for very long.

Bob has applied for a new job in his same company.  I can't tell yet how big a probability there is that he will actually make a change -- but it feels like it's been a while since he even went so far as to post for another job, so it feels significant to me.  Whether it is this opportunity or another, I feel there is change in his future.

And today at my day job, my "new" boss (of five month's tenure) announced that she is leaving.  So we are back in a state of uncertainty.  And they are about to reconfigure the entire work space, squeezing in something like 6 more work stations in the existing space and moving everyone around.  So there will be a certain level of discomfort for everyone.

In my volunteer life, too, there is change.  With Sam wrapping up his Boy Scout career I have announced that I will serve out this year as Troop Committee Chair then I plan to step down. And at church, things have felt unsettled ever since Father Larussa joined us in the summer of 2009. We are on our second choir director since he started (though it feels like Matthew will be with us for a while) and most of our old traditions and comfort zones have been swept away.  It isn't so bad, really, but it has certainly taken away any illusion that church is a place you go for the comfort of the familiar.

I had an interesting talk with my 87-year-old mother on Sunday.  She told me not to apologize for being busy, even when it makes me miss calling her occasionally, because being busy is a good thing.  "And as you get older," she cautioned, "Make sure you stay busy! That is one of the most important things you can do for yourself."

So that's my insight for the week: busy-ness can be a good thing.  And when it isn't, it's probably because of the choices I have made about which things to be busy with.

Saturday, October 08, 2011

Read a really good column in the Wall Street Journal by Peggy Noonan this morning. In it,she cites research that polled women in Orlando and Des Moines who were selected on the basis of “having shopped at Wal-Mart at least once in the past month.” She said one group was in their 30's and 40's, the other in their 40's and 50's. They were strikingly consistent in their opinions. Things they agreed upon included:
  • Unemployment is definitely worse than the official government numbers make it sound.
  • The recession doesn't feel like it's getting any better.
  • They all resent the bank bailouts when they feel the banks were huge contributors to the problem.
  • Obama hasn't done a good job, but they get angrier when they talk about Congress.
  • Both parties are equally responsible.
  • They feel their elected leaders have no sense of how they live, and don't care.
I would qualify for one of those groups, and I'm surprised to find how mainstream I must be. I can pretty much agree with those points. I came from a working class family, got an education, rose pretty high in my career and then slowed down off the fast track, but remained in a professional position. So I have experienced some times in my life when money flowed pretty freely, and some where money was tighter. But today feels different.

This feels like the first time in my life that everyone I know is affected by the adverse economy, and no one has any sense of when there might be an end in sight. I actually think that my son's standard of living will be affected forever by the tough economic times in which he came of age. We have saved some for college, but are counting on some financial aid, too. Money would always have been a factor in the final choice of school, but it will be a bigger factor than I would have imagined. And he's one of the lucky ones.

Our other pseudo-son, Warren, who is not typical in many ways, is perhaps more typical in this way. As a young man with only a high school diploma, his opportunities to build a life for himself are far more restricted than they would have been just five years ago. Like many kids in his situation he doesn't mean to be without an education forever, and has a general plan of working, taking classes at Columbus State Community College, and eventually attaining a degree. But unlike a few years ago, even entry level jobs are scarce, sources of public aid are tighter, and he will have to work harder and do without more to attain those goals. I believe a kid like him faces greater challenges today than ever. And living at home is almost the only way they can make it. Left to fully support oneself on minimum wage in today's economy is beyond difficult -- it is virtually impossible. 

Among our friends, it almost feels like everyone has dropped one socioeconomic level. Those who I always considered affluent now live more like upper middle class. Upper middle class has tightened its belt to the standards of lower middle class. Lower middle class is slipping into the paycheck-to-paycheck patterns that characterized the working class, and working class families struggle to stay employed at all and out of poverty. No one I know buys cars as frequently or travels as often as they used to. For a lot of us, eating out has slipped from a routine item to a luxury. Children who went off to college and maybe even have that first post-college job are still living at home because it's too risky to try to get out on their own.  Grown offspring with children and sometimes spouses are moving back in because it is the only way they can provide a decent life experience for the kids.

So we plug away, seeking silver linings where we can. I know that my values have changed for the better through this. I appreciate what I have more and judge others' choices less. I am learning greater patience and flexibility. I have really internalized the reality that people matter, things don't. These are all good things. But the future still looks really scary, and I would be delighted to take these good lessons and apply them in a somewhat less stressful future. I'm just sayin', in case anyone out there in the universe is listening.......

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

I have been trying to post for days, but Blogger and my browser seem to be having a disagreement. If you can see this post, it means that I found a workaround that allowed me to post.

My life has been almost frenetic lately. I think this was the pace at which my life moved routinely some years ago, but at some point it slowed down and I got used to that more leisurely pace. But lately, with two teenagers in the house, two significant volunteer commitments, a full time job plus freelance work, and Bob busy with multiple volunteer commitments and work travel, the tempo of my life has accelerated. So far, it hasn't been unpleasant. I seem to remember reaching a point of burn-out, where I didn't want to do all that anymore. But so far, this time around, it has felt OK. If anything, it has felt energizing.

I am so enjoying having these two teenagers in my life. Sam is working on his Eagle project, trying to keep his grades up, applying to colleges. That all sounds so mainstream, so straight arrow. But anyone who has known us all over the years knows that Sam is anything but mainstream. I count it a huge success that he is on the path he is on. And while there is some stress to it, he seems to be handling it well. He isn't having much of a social life, but I don't think it is significant -- I just think he's spread too thin to add that right now. In fact, since I drafted this the first time he has made noises about asking a girl out -- after his Eagle project is done.

Warren struggled mightily to find a new job, and has now landed one at Otani Sushi Bar & Japanese Restaurant. But I still feel like he is struggling with believing that things will work out -- his self-confidence is shaken, and he's having a hard time seeing his way from today to tomorrow. On the other hand, I remain extremely positive about his future.  He is a hard worker and a survivor.  We just need to keep his spirits up, so he doesn't lose faith in himself. Warren also has a social life -- possibly too much so. It seems that girls go for him in a big way, often to his detriment. I hope that while I am in a position of influence in his life, I can help him learn better coping mechanisms for girls, and to set his sites higher than he has in the past.

I know that next year, when Sam heads off to college, our life will become quite different. I can't predict at this point whether Warren will still be here with us then or not (though I hope so). But whatever the configuration of our life then, I know it will be something new, totally unexperienced. And it might be just as wonderful. But for today, I am savoring the life we are living. Oh, it has its stresses and bumps in the road, but then, it wouldn't be life otherwise, would it?  And it is, indeed, a wonderful life.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

It’s been an interesting week or so for me.  In addition to the ongoing fun/drama/challenges/rewards of living with two late teen-age young men, there’s been the following:
·       My dear hubby was away from Thursday morning until Sunday night near bedtime. He re-packed, slept, and left again early Monday morning to return late this Thursday night.  We believe this makes our longest period apart in the entire 26 years we have known each other!
·       One of my co-workers absolutely cannot get along with our new boss, and the situation is near the breaking point.  It has been a simmering drama since June, and it is pretty much boiling over now.  There will certainly be resolution of some kind soon, but for now every day is filled with the conflict. I can’t even find words to describe how much I prefer my work environment to be drama-free.
·       In my role as Committee Chair of my son’s Boy Scout troop, there’s been a big issue involving a set of angry parents that has dragged on for the past two weeks.  It finally reached its denouement last night, with a formal meeting with them.  There will still be some additional chapters before the story completely wraps up, but I think we are on the downhill side now. It’s one of those situations where mistakes were made by many parties, and I have been in the position of trying to apologize for my part and mediate among the others.  That is to say, pretty much in a no-win position.
Then of course there is the drama surrounding the young guys. Not to put too fine a point on it, out of respect for their privacy, but their lives are, shall we say, never boring.  They are on somewhat different paths at this point, but both struggle on a daily basis with making peace with where they are today, finding their right path to the future, and just figuring out how to be their best selves and function in the world.  Oh, and girls.  The perpetual struggle of girls.  I never cease to be amazed at the power of girls, as evidence by the havoc they can wreak on my young guys. 
When I was younger, the point of telling all this would have been a complaint.  Today, I have come to realize that this litany of dramas and struggles is the stuff of life.  If I get hit by a Mack truck one day, people will care that I loved my husband deeply, tried to mediate conflicts, and was there for Sam and Warren.  They probably won’t care so much about my professional resume, my never-quite-clean-enough house, my depleted savings account, or my unfulfilled ambitions.  That doesn’t stop me from obsessing over any of those things occasionally.  But I realize that it is the people in my life, and how I relate to them, that make life worth living. And a sweet life it is!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Bob and I celebrated our 24th wedding anniversary yesterday and today. (Yesterday was the actual date, but our life was so hectic with mundane routines that we waited and went out to dinner tonight.) I usually write about both the boys and my work more than I do about Bob, but this seems like the moment to change that. As I said on my Facebook post yesterday, every good thing in my life is either directly because of Bob, or is better because it is shared with him.  He is the source of most of the joy and laughter in my life, and keeps me in the headspace that makes me laugh rather than cry in the vicissitudes and quirks of daily life.  I have always described Bob as a funny combination of class clown and Eagle Scout -- he's an irreverent cutup, but when the chips are down, he's the one people call.  He is smart, funny, affectionate, stable, generous, other words, he rocks my world!

Those who have been reading me for a while may notice that I spent a little time cleaning up the appearance of my blog.  I had been using an out-of-date template, and everything just looked a little off.  I think I have fixed that, as well as making it easy to like my blog on Facebook if one is so motivated.  I have been putting out some feelers for new freelance writing (could use both the income and the challenge!) and it seemed like a good idea to make my blog look like I know what I'm doing.  Next, I need to put some attention into my website. I figure it's like the old story of the shoemaker's children always needing shoes. 

Saturday, September 03, 2011

One of the more surprising effects of living with an almost 18-year-old and an almost 19-year-old in the house is that it makes me think about Big Topics that I used to think about a lot, but put on a shelf somewhere along the way. I remember being their age and a little older and having long, meaningful discussions about philosophy and theology and politics. I remember the intellectual thrill of exploring all those various ideas and constructs, about sorting through them for myself and debating them with other intelligent, articulate thinkers who were exploring them for the first time, too. Over time, though, I kind of settled into what I chose to believe in those arenas, and got caught up in the business – and busyness – of daily life.

So now I find myself sitting across from either one of them and they launch into their opinions on one of these Big Topics, and I feel at such a disadvantage! They are both very deep thinkers and very articulate, so both are apt to launch into one of these discussions.  One day this week Sam expounded on capitalism vs. socialism vs. communism vs. fascism; with Warren it was recently existentialism and nihilism. Either one is likely to launch into comparative religions at any time. I really, really enjoy talking with them and hearing their views, but I haven't read the supporting literature in 30 years and in many cases, have only a vague, partial recall of the definitions of all the terms. So I have this sense that I am not really holding up my end of the discussion!

These discussions are also a wonderful counterpoint to the lunacy that also accompanies having two teenagers in the house. Both are so very smart and in many ways, responsible. They are gaining mastery of the big things. But the little things in life can still totally mess them up. Like keeping track of a cell phone. Or a credit card. Or getting themselves to where they are supposed to be on time, with everything they need, without parental assistance. Somehow, I think this crazy dichotomy – Big Ideas one moment, lost shoes the next – is what is unique and wonderful about this age. They are both socially conscious and totally self-absorbed; generous and selfish; hopeful and cynical; up and down, fast and slow, wise and stupid..... They are a crazy mix of the child they were and the man they will be.

And so the fun continues. This weekend has been a very full one. It has included calling hours at a funeral home, a problem with Sam's Eagle project, a financial setback for Bob and me, a flare-up of the drama between Warren and his parents...There have definitely been some not so good moments, and yet I stand by my recent statement that my life is so sweet I am awed by it. I come home every day to one wonderful mature man who loves me and fills my life with joy, and two young men finding their way to fulfilling their potential for wonderful. Life is not only never boring, it is inspiring and challenging and downright fun!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

As my Facebook friends are already aware, there's been a change in my personal life recently.  My son's good friend Warren graduated from high school this spring and by last week found himself homeless, with only a bad part-time job.  So we invited him to live with us for a while, and now there are four at the dinner table in the evening instead of three.

Warren has led a very difficult life, abused by his birth parents and then knocking around the foster system, including a couple stays in orphanages.  Out of respect for his privacy I won't go into any more detail.  But I will say this: with all he has been through, it would be understandable if he were bitter, rebellious, angry -- but he isn't any of those things.  He has an indomitable spirit, a great sense of humor and a strong, healthy sense of self.  He is sage beyond his years and willing to work hard.  Sure, he's also a little scarred around the edges, but less so than I would expect.  I admire the kid, and I anticipate that eventually, he will build a happy, fulfilling life.  He and Sam were talking yesterday about how to respond to certain aggravations and Warren said, "I figure being really happy is the sweetest revenge..."

I was surprised by the reaction on Facebook when I posted that he had come to live with us. It was very positive -- too positive, almost.  If I thought people were going to react that strongly, I probably wouldn't have posted it.  I felt like someone was about to put me up for canonization.  My perspective when Bob and I made the call was simply this:  I had to either take him in, or stop saying I believe the things I've always said I believe.  It was just that clear cut.

My perspective now is, it might just end up that in the long run, I get more from this act than I give.  Oh, I realize he's been here less than a week, so we're still in the honeymoon period. Maybe it will all blow up in our faces at some  point.  But I don't think so. 

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Rainy days and Mondays always get me down..... Not completely true, but such a compelling lyric from my youth that I couldn't stop myself from using it. 

It is pouring rain, and I am a little bit down.  Not full bore, hide the sleeping pills down, but a little contemplative.  I find myself ruminating on things gained and lost over the course of my life, on people with whom I regret having lost touch,  with the fascinating/painful/beneficial/confusing process of aging.

I've become quite the Facebook junkie over the past few years, and recently I indulged in spending an evening going through the screen after screen of possible friends it suggested.  I identified quite a few names that I hadn't spoken with since high school, and sent friend requests to many of them.  That probably added to my general disquiet.  I think about all that has happened to me since high school, what a different person I am today than I was then, and I wonder about the lives of those other people I've just invited to be my "friend."  It's weird to think that soon many of them might be seeing my random posts on Facebook, drawing their own conclusions about the me I have become.  There have been a few high school friends or acquaintances who have become really good Facebook friends, and in many cases they are not people I was really close to in the day.  So it is always a question mark to me as to how these things will play out.

Equally disturbing was how few college friends I found.  I married my college sweetheart and divorced him six years later, which tended to have the effect of my losing track of most of my college friends.  I was saddened that I couldn't find the same kind of wealth of lost friends from that era that I did from my high school years.  There were definitely friends from that time that I would love to catch up with.

I will be getting a new boss this Wednesday, and perhaps that is disquieting, too.  Those who know me will recall that I was unemployed, with little temporary blips, for two years, and am now in a job that pays substantially less and is much lower on the org chart than I those I had in the years before. I was very grateful to get this job, and have been treated extremely well.  In spite of the negatives I just mentioned, I actually love the organization, love my coworkers, love the actual tasks that fill my day, and love the feeling that my work is appreciated and makes a difference.  Though money is a perpetual problem, in every other way I am probably happier in this job than I had been in my work life in years.  So at some level I guess I fear the unknown with a new boss.  Will she continue to treat me with the respect and freedom my former boss did?  Will she appreciate my work? Will she acknowledge the lifetime of experience I bring to bear? Will my work life continue to feel so positive? 

I remember reading when I was younger that middle-aged and older women complained that they become invisible.  Younger people, even professionals like doctors and dentists and the like, tend to not really notice you in the room, not give you the same eye contact and attention that you used to get. Now at 52, I will attest that it is somewhat true.  In fact I have told friends that sometimes, I find it is an advantage.  If I have a morning where I can't get my hair to lay right or I'm not thrilled with how I look, I sometimes remind myself that really, nobody is looking anyway.  It's OK -- there's no pressure.  And often, I find that strangely comforting.  But at other times, I understand the complaint.  I have always had strong opinions and the ability to articulate them well, and I still do.  As such, when I feel overlooked I can usually make myself known.  But it is easy for me to see that for those who are not as bold by nature, it could be really difficult.

Another aspect of aging that I find a mixed blessing is the whole "perspective" thing.  On the one hand, it is definitely a blessing that every little thing doesn't set me off like it did when I was young.  Many little indignities or disappointments come up and I find I can shrug them off:  "Really?" I ask myself, "Is this really worth getting all worked up about?"  On the other hand, I sometimes miss the passion.  It seems that along with letting go of the little things that annoy me, I have also lost some of the ability to get really, really jazzed about new interests.  It's almost like I'm on too high a dose of antidepressants -- except I'm not on any meds at all!  But I feel the way friends have described when they have been.  I enjoy some things, but I don't feel the same burning passion about external subjects that I once did. And sometimes  I really miss it.  I hold onto the hope that I am just in a transitional stage right now, and someday soon I will find some new outside interests that fire a passion. 

But my rainy day has stopped raining, and I think it is time to move on.  This is probably as much navel gazing as I or my readers can take for one sitting!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

I'm not sure if this entry will make any sense to my readers who are not in the Columbus area.  But perhaps it will, because even though I use specific names of neighborhoods and surrounding towns, the concepts are general. And I think the post is more about the concepts than the specifics.

Today I attended a training session in downtown Columbus and as I was walking back to the correct entry to the Statehouse garage, I looked around and had this huge flashback.  When I was in high school and college, my vision of success was to work in a tall office building in the downtown of a big city -- preferably Chicago-type big, but Columbus wasn't ruled out.  I worked some temp jobs downtown while in college and grad school, and  I can remember being so enchanted by the cosmopolitan flavor of it all.  I have a vivid recollection of this vision I used to have of myself coming out of a skycraper in a suit, carrying a briefcase, and getting into a convertible sports car and driving out of the city for the weekend, home to a place on the outskirts where I envisioned life sort of like the Connecticut homes some New Yorkers keep. I never lived that situation in real life, but it had seemed so real in my dreams that standing downtown like that, I could still recall it as if I had actually lived it.

Then I got my car and drove out of the garage and up High Street past the Short North before cutting over to pick up the freeway.  As I drove through the Short North, I flashed back to some really good times Bob and I have had there, of dinners and drinks in trendy restaurants, gallery hops, and soaking up the overall aura of coolness.  There was a time in my life, around the 1990's, when I thought living in an urban chic neighborhood like that would be so much fun.  Life never presented a good opportunity to make that one come true, either, and I have since grown to the opinion that it is a neighborhood I'd rather visit than live in.  But I still enjoy it immensely for visits!

That made me reflect on what other living situations I had wanted over the years, how my tastes had changed or stayed the same.  When I wanted to do the whole skyscraper/country home thing, I lived first in Bexley and then in Newark.  I never had a huge desire to live in Newark, though I had good times there.  Then my job took us to Mansfield and while we had very good times there, many sweet memories, I would have to say that Bob and I never really liked living in Mansfield.  Once Sam was born, we proactively decided that we wanted to raise him in a bigger, more diverse city, and came back to Columbus. 

When we moved back, we chose the Worthington area.  Over the years I might have liked to have been just one price-point higher in suburbia, but overall, this house we bought in 1995 has worked out well for us.  I am sort of locked into the idea that a suburb is the right place ot raise kids, so we chose this one and life has been good.  Somewhere along the way I came to the conclusion that we really have too much house, but that is a better problem to have than the opposite.  It just takes a lot of work to maintain.

I went through a phase where I used to say that as soon as Sam was off to college, I wanted to move into a condo and be done with yardwork and the other responsibilities of home owning.  But I've watched too many friends have mixed experiences with condos, so I've backed off of that theory.  And I used to think I might finally indulge my taste for urban living when we became empty nesters, but I've had another realization:  almost all our friends are in the suburbs, ranging from Hilliard and Dublin and Powell to Worthington and Lewis Center and Westerville. Most of our activities are centered around our church in Powell or Bob's Boy Scout commitments, in the Lewis Center area.  So really, it would be silly to move into the center of the city only to commute back out to the suburbs for our entire social life.  My new plan is to take our time but within a few years of Sam's departure for college, we will probably downsize to a smaller home in one of the more modest neighborhoods in the West Worthington or Powell area.  That way we can hire out the yardwork and other duties we don't want to do, have plenty of room for the two of us and Sam to visit, and be close to the people whose company we enjoy.

So there you have it, ruminations on one of the most fundamental life choices, where to live.  High powered urbanite and trendy urban chic dweller were dreams of my youth that never came to be and I've lost my taste for them.  Small town dweller was the card life dealt me and though we had a good run, it was never a comfortable fit.  Suburbanite still sounds shallow to me, and vaguely like something I should apologize for, and yet it seems to be where I found happiness.  I don't find my own life here shallow, nor those of my many friends.  Perhaps that's because we never did chase the building booms and live in whatever was "the" suburb of the era, or perhaps it's just because suburbs get an unfair rap.  But it is what it is, and I am who I am.  And who I am is someone who lives in a comfortable suburb and has a good life.  Funny how things work out, huh?

Monday, May 16, 2011


I have been keenly aware of a sense of gratitude lately. I don’t know where it’s coming from, exactly, but I experience it as a grace from God.

For example, yesterday at church when I went to communion, the person who gave me the cup was a friend, the husband of someone I sing in the choir with. He has battled lung cancer for several years now and honestly, there was a time when we never thought he’d be standing there, hale and healthy, in 2011. As he handed me the cup I just felt such a rush of gratitude that Geoff is still here to be a part of my life.

There was a day last week when I was feeling kind of out of sorts and grousing about how much I was having to run – activities every night but one, work all day, when does one catch a breath? Then I stopped and thought, “What am I saying? I was unemployed for two years, with w-a-a-y too much time sitting in this house. This busy-ness is all good!”

As the mother of an only child, I know I have a bit of a tendency to do the “helicopter mother” thing – I worry about his stuff way more than I should. I agonize over his successes and defeats, I fret about where he will go to college and how he will survive when he does. But lately I have had several occasions to just stop and appreciate that whatever peripheral things might concern me, at 17 ½ I can now see that he has turned out to be a young man of good character. I no longer have to worry about him making good decisions about the big things in life, because I can see that he is, essentially, a good person. WOW! Talk about your causes for gratitude!

So as I said, I don't really know what brought on this increased sense of gratitude, but I feel it is a great gift. Life experience suggests that in time, it will pass. I'll get distracted by other concerns and gratitude will fade to the background. But while it is here, for however long it lasts, I am going to enjoy it!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

I have generally stayed away from politics in my blogging. This is partly because politics in this country have become so very divisive --  we seem to have lost the ability to have friendly give and take.  I always thought of myself as a moderate, and increasingly I find myself largely alienated from both parties. 

But I have to say, I am horrified by what's going on in Ohio.  It's not only the actions that are being taken -- though they are pretty shocking -- it's the whole mindset behind them.  There seems to be this assumption that teachers and firefighters and cops and other public employees are greedy, overpaid people who are to blame for the financial woes of the state.  While I agree that there were excesses that needed to be corrected, I see them as a result of a collective bargaining process where apparently, the bargainers on the side of the state and other government bodies didn't do their job very well.  There were two sides to those negotiations, so how is it all the fault of one side?

Further, there is the assumption that those people are overcompensated.  Maybe a few civil servants are, I don't know.  But I think teachers and firefighters and cops are -- corny as it sounds -- heros. I'll grant you, not every public employee falls into that category, but those categories and probably others do.  I hear complaints that firefighters and cops get to retire too young, and it's bankrupting us.  OK, so we need to find a new way to finance it.  But seriously, do you want 60 year old firefighters answering the call when your house is on fire?  I don't think so.

In February, the Kasich administration passed a regulation prohibiting school districts from requiring that contractors pay the prevailing wage.  So moving forward, very few school building projects will go to union employers, as there is always a non-union shop that can bid a job lower using sub-standard labor, or standard labor so desperate they are willling to take any work at any price.  I figure it's the school buildings today, other state projects tomorrow.

Kasich has also told people that if their school district asks for an increase in local taxes to offset the loss of state funds, they should turn it down -- they aren't cutting anybody by more than 8% to 10%, and anybody ought to be able to trim 10% from their budget.  But there aren't very many discretionary expenditures in a school district budget, so about the only things they can do is pay teachers less, increase class sizes, and cut out the arts and elective classes. 

So the future I see is that the quality of our education goes down.  Currently, we measure right around the middle of the pack in things like percent of 8th graders taking algebra, percent of high school students scoring well on AP tests, scoring on standardized math tests, etc.  But if the norm becomes larger class sizes and fewer of the enhancements that make school bearable for kids, I predict that performance will fall. 

I also predict that over time, we will see a decrease in teacher quality.  When I was in college, lo those 30 years ago, teachers were not as well paid as most other professional positions.  So if a kid was an education major who really shone in their subject matter discipline, they were usually lured away with the promise of more money.  Over time, a lot of effort went into raising the pay and the standards to ensure that teaching was a respected profession that attracted the brightest and the best, and compensated accordingly.  If we do away with the schedules that guarantee experienced teachers get more money, worsen working conditions, and generally treat them like leeches draining American productivity, we will stop attracting top students, and the talent pool will drift down to the new, lower level of compensation and conditions.  Oh, there will always be some people who teach because they experience it as a calling, thank God.  And some who maybe go into it for wrong reasons or general mediocrity when they're young, and mature into good teachers along the way.  Some will still choose it even with its limitations because it offers summers home with their own kids.  But I don't think that will provide enough  high quality teachers. 

But that's not all.  Since public entities cannot require prevailing wage contracts, all public projects will get bid down to lower prices.  That will eventually bid down wages on non-public projects, which will lower the prevailing wage.  So all the citizens out there paying taxes to support the schools and other government entities will earn less, thus pay less taxes, so the fiscal crisis will just get worse. With less tax revenue, schools will have to cut further.  Education gets worse, and the cycle spirals downward.

And as I understand it, the rationale for all this is that it is supposed to make us more attractive to business.  But don't businesses want an educated work force?  Don't they want a good infrastructure (which we won't be able to afford as everyone's wages drop?)  Isn't it better for most businesses to be in a community with pretty low unemployment, so the public has more buying power? 

I just don't see how lowering the earning power of the citizenry, demonizing public servants, lowering the quality of public education, and eventually shrinking the tax base can be a good thing.  I look forward and I see an inevitable decline in the quality of life in Ohio. I hope like everything that I am wrong, that I'm overreacting and it really isn't as bad as it looks.  But I'm not optimistic.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

It's been a whole year since I posted here!  Wow!  But I did resume blogging through Lent at my Lenten Daily Meditations blog, and it felt good to be back at it.  So I have decided to try to revive this blog.

The problem I have always had, I realize, is that in spite of the title Candidly Susan,  I have found it difficult to be open and candid here.  It's because I have always shown a somewhat different side of myself to people in different parts of my life.  With a blog post, there's no telling which part of my life the reader might be from, so it's hard to know how to spin it.  But I'm 52 years old, for Pete's sake.  I think it's high time to re-integrate all the various parts of me, acknowledge that I am who I am, and live with a little more integrity.  You'd think by now I'd understand that I can't please all the people all the time, and give my friends and colleagues credit for being able to disagree with something I write and still like me.

The other issue with this blog was always that I have eclectic interests and I never wanted it to be just a political blog or just a mommy blog or just a book discussion blog or just any one topic.  I still feel that way, but I realize that having the whole world open as a source of topics can sometimes be less liberating than overwhelming.  In the past, I have too often defaulted to kind of using it as a public diary.  And really, my life isn't that interesting, that anyone else would want to read my diary.

So my new goal is to post two or three times a week, and to make those posts interesting as self-contained pieces.  Sometimes, I might brag about my kid or lament some home situation.  Others, I might comment on politics or culture or arts and entertainment.  No doubt I will sometimes discuss books and authors, a favorite subject of mine.  Religion is a big part of my life, so no doubt those topics will turn up, too.  But I will try to always make it more than just a diary --  an actual piece of thoughtful writing on the topic.

By the way, one of the things I have been doing in place of blogging for the past year has been becoming really active on Facebook.   I know different people have different feelings about social media, but I gotta tell you, my experiences with Facebook have been overwhelmingly positive.  In particular, I have enjoyed the ability it gives me to reconnect with people from various times in my life.  I have frequent exchanges with people from high school and from various employers and cities that were my home over the years, with whom I had lost touch.

An interesting insight that has been bubbling up for me is this:  when I was a child, my family was rather nomadic.  When I entered 9th grade, it was my 10th school.  I was a good student and always able to make friends, so I never thought it really hurt me any.  But the one legacy that peripatetic childhood did leave was that it was all too easy for me to move away from people I had loved and truly leave them behind.  Not having a rootedness in my childhood translated into not maintaining ties with people as I moved from one to another of the natural steps and moves of adulthood.  I think that's why I am finding it so rewarding to go back and renew some of those connections now, as an adult, on Facebook. 

So to anyone reading this, thank you for coming back.  I would really appreciate comments, if only because they let me know someone is reading.  Please keep checking back in.  I hope to provide something worth reading and selfishly, knowing you are coming back gives me a lot stronger motivation to write.