Just As Things Started To Fall Into Place…I Got A Brush Stuck In My Hair

I’ve struggled with motivation (lack of) and procrastination (lots of) lately. Maybe it’s the harsh winter with short days and excessively cold temperatures. Maybe it’s that I just have way more on my plate than I can handle. Regardless, I’ve managed to power through some things while putting other things off…I think there are a finite number of really big things I can deal with and, whether or not I consciously prioritize, my brain does it’s own prioritization and decides for me.

Now that my house loan is squared, which has been a hugely stressful issue for me, I’ve been able to make another big decision. Just in the deciding, I feel relief. So, today I was energized. I had two bookends to my day, with studying to fill the middle…no more procrastinating!

My younger daughter and I headed off to get her learner’s driving permit this morning. We didn’t rush to get out early, instead we took it easy. There is only one place on a Saturday to go, and when we arrived, there were hundreds of people in line! Two hours later, we walked out with our task accomplished. Next we stopped at Target to get some things for a care package for her sister who is spending a semester abroad. Back home, I ate my lunch, then launched into my homework.

I was in a zone…my phone, and all of its distractions were temporarily forgotten. Three hours later, I’d redone an assignment that I knew I’d not done correctly. My professor never collected it, but I knew I needed to figure it out. Then I went over another assignment that my professor had returned to me…I had the wrong answer. After going over it a number of times, I finally found my errors and corrected them. I e-mailed it to my professor and looked at the time. I just had time for a shower before I was taking my daughter and her friends to a high school musical.

I’d bought a new hair styling product at Target that promised to give me some volume to my non-voluminous hair. I carefully followed the instructions which included spraying my hair, rolling it in a round brush, and drying it with a blow dryer…Less than a minute later, I had a ceramic brush glued to my hair. After many failed attempts to remove the brush, including jumping back in the shower and trying to use shampoo to dissolve the spray, and soaking conditioner through it to try to loosen the grip of the brush, I ran out of time.

I ended up driving the kids to the play, half an hour away, and even stopping for gas on my way home. I’m sure that the traveling and fussing with the brush, which was kind of obstructing my view, only made my hair tangle-up all the more. Back home, I texted my son to find out when he got out of work. I ended up picking him up then having him drop me home and go back for the teens. Then he and his sister went on a mission to find me some detangling spray. By the time they got home, it was almost midnight.

In the end, there was no saving my hair and my daughter cut it off of the brush. So, now I have a big chunk of hair missing right in front. I won’t lie and say I didn’t cry. It took me over two years to grow out my bangs and in one fell swoop I’d destroyed it.  Fortunately, the old “comb over” is working to cover up my embarrassing mistake.

Tomorrow is another day, and a chance to try to get that motivation back…

Find the Joy in the Journey…the road may be crooked, but as long as you know where you are going, you will get there eventually.

Teaching My Son To Cook

I probably waited way too long to teach my son to cook. My daughters just seem to have picked up the basics without formal instruction. My son, well, he figured out how to make a few things, mainly college-subsistence meals like Ramen Noodles and boxed Mac & Cheese. He even branched out to rice and beans, but I don’t know if that was so much a recipe as just figuring out how to make rice and dumping a can of beans in for good measure…by which I mean protein.

Now he’s boomeranged back home and I find the need, if not the time, to bring him up to speed on some basics so that he can be a contributing member of the household, beyond the occasional chauffeuring stints. He does do his own laundry…but he cycles through his entire wardrobe first. This sometimes results in weather-inappropriate clothing, but I leave that to him.

I decided to focus on two family recipes. The first was lasagna. Now, a noodle in this dish is also called a lasagna, but multiple noodles are lasagne…so, a language lesson in a cooking lesson! It comes from my grandmother who was not known for her cooking prowess…she got the recipe off of the box of lasagne. Regardless, it has become a family legend and one of my best dishes. I wanted to share this “crowd pleaser” with my son.

It is really a simple recipe, but it is a bit time consuming. The first time around, I procured all of the necessary ingredients. I enlisted my son in making the sauce…the heart of the dish. It is redolent of Italian sausage, garlic, tomatoes, and basil. Meanwhile I cooked the noodles and prepared the ricotta/romano/egg/parsley layer. Together we assembled the layers, noodle/ricotta/mozzarella/meatsauce then a repeat of the above. Into the oven to bake.

imageThis time around, I had already purchased all of the ingredients and challenged him to find them prior to the start of cooking. I’d say he scored a “C” in this exercise. Nevertheless, he took the lead on the sauce and did manage some measuring and stirring on the other parts of the recipe. I would say that our first time, he did 30% of the work and 10% of the thinking. This time, he did more of both. I do believe that if he took the recipe to the grocery, he could manage the list. I also believe that he could subsequently make the dish all on his own…he might panic a bit, but I have confidence that he could master it.

For our second dish, we made something that my family calls, “Mexican Rice and Bean Soup”. I have no idea where this recipe came from, but I suspect it came out of a magazine in the 1950’s given it’s inappropriate claim to being “Mexican”. It is a comfort-food recipe which is a bit of cutting of onion and pepper, and browning of breakfast sausage links, and a lot of dump-and-stir to finish it off. It is lovely with some corn bread. We went the Jiffy route on that, although I have my own homemade recipes that are even better.

Life lessons are priceless…

Find the Joy in the Journey…especially when you pass along lessons that come back to bless everyone involved!

 

 

 

Knowing When to “Say When” and When to Say “Hell Yes!”

I felt an odd mixture of adrenaline and regret as I walked through the Health Expo to get my race shirt. Passport in hand, I stepped up to get my bib, one that I wasn’t planning to use, so that at least I could get my shirt. I’d paid $75 for the privilege. It’s a lovely, silver shirt…one of my “colors”. Now I don’t know if I should wear it or if that would be dishonest.

When I signed up, in a moment of exuberance along with two colleagues, I was in the midst of training for a different half-marathon, my fourth and one that I actually ran. Since then, I have had a series of set-backs, minor ones, but enough to cause me to break training.  I made the tough call between running untrained and gutting it out just to say I did it, or knowing when I am not prepared and humbly admitting it.

I’ve only been a runner for two and a half years. I’ve gone from huffing and puffing for 90 seconds at a time when I started Couch to 5k back in June of 2012, to running four half-marathons. I need to find the happy medium, which I think is running about 3 times a week for three to six miles at a time. Maybe when that is my normal, training for another half-marathon will come more easily and not be a huge commitment and change in my life. Or maybe, I’ll have more time in my life later and will want to dedicate some of that to training. Meanwhile, I want to run because I enjoy it and it makes me feel healthy.

I never really did 50 things by the time I turned 50, but I sure did a lot more than I would have otherwise. I didn’t even envision running a 10k, much less five 10k’s and four half-marathons. I’ve read more, listened to more music, de-cluttered a lot (but never enough), gotten my affairs in order, and much more, all while working full time and raising my family.

Now it’s time take a step back and take a long view of the rest of my life. I see a new path in front of me. Running will be a part of it, and so will my family, and all the rest…but I am coming to a point where I can see passion and fun intersecting with meaning and purpose.image

So, here’s to the next chapters in my life! When I was at the Expo, I saw a Superwoman skirt. I didn’t see the point in the skirt without some sort of matching top, so instead I got a shiny, orange, ruffled skirt to wear in the Halloween 10k I signed-up for to keep me in a good running frame-of-mind and to assuage my guilt at skipping the half.

I’ve come to learn that “balance” is not really possible if you want to experience as much of life as possible, so here’s for trying new things, finding passion and fun, meaning and purpose.

Find the Joy in the Journey…even if part of that is running in an orange, sequined skirt every once in a while!

 

Exhaustion–Labor Pains, Jet Lag…and Carpool?

Anytime that I have to make a big adjustment in my schedule, I end up exhausted during the change. This applies to starting a new school year, starting a new position at work, and other such big adjustments. This time, however, the change is due to my younger daughter starting high school. All of a sudden, my schedule is shifted. I need to get up an hour early so that I can take my daughter to school. Actually, if I consistently got up an hour earlier, I’d probably be ok by now, but instead, I joined a carpool. Carpool is a lifesaver…well, at least it is a job-saver. From a sleep perspective, I’m all over the map.

As a single, working mom, it’s probably insanity to send my youngest to a school thirty minutes away from home (and job…which is by home). Thing is, I can’t limit her options to something narrower than what I offered her older siblings. I just refuse. I know my circumstances are different, but that’s just who I am. It may take more sacrifice, but, hey, I’m her mom. When her sister went the same high school, I got lucky and found an upper-class woman to drive her to school the first two years. I didn’t have to do a carpool.

So, I’m supposed to be in the middle of my half-marathon training so that I can survive the Detroit International Free Press Half-Marathon in October…ok, I’ve done four other halfs in the last year, but seriously? I trained hard for the first and then ran two more while still at my “peak”…then my work buddies paid my registration for a Spring half to keep me motivated…that required training from scratch…as does this next race. Sigh.

So here I am. I’m dealing with some un-named (sorry!) stressors that should be over within a month and I’m starting this new, carpooling schedule. It’s all relative, it’s all soon to be over, adjusted-for, managed. But in the meanwhile, I…am…so…tired! Running is at the bottom of my list…writing has fallen even more by the wayside. I am distraught at falling behind in so many areas of my life. But, in the meantime, my main focus is getting my youngest to school as she starts high school.

There are other consequences to sending her to a school so far away…her friends are scattered across southest Michigan…and…she…can’t…drive. Sigh. She and a couple of friends want to cheer on a boy they know at his first soccer game…a worknight. His school is even farther away than hers. She wants me to drop everything to get her there. I am looking ahead and cannot see spending all of my evenings getting my child to social events beyond even her own school events.

So, my girl and I have many things to navigate. Partnering with other parents is my new mantra.  I currently have a boomarang child at home…so he is being called in to provide transportation too. I’ll manage. I must.

Find the Joy in the Journey…and don’t be afraid to ask for help!

Overcoming the Odds…Loving Life!

So, I haven’t written much lately, even though my mind is as active as ever with blog ideas. I struggle to decipher what has changed in my life…I am under a lot of stress, the kind that isn’t easily dispersed or even explained. But then I look back to a year ago and, well, I had similar things going on in my life. A year ago, I was lamenting that my hair had been falling out, my nails thinning, my eyelashes non-existent…all signs of stress. Today, my hair is luminous, my nails strong as, well, nails! My eyelashes are back in full-force. So, despite suffering the same or worse stress today than a year ago, my body is telling me that things are going to be ok. So, why am I seemingly unable to manage my life as well as I did when I was under the kind of stress that caused my body to rebel?

A year ago I was publishing my blog every other day. I was heavy into the Hal Higdon Half-Marathon training. I was doing my thing, reading, writing, and running. I was on top of my children’s lives, sending my middle child off to her first year of college, letting go of my oldest to try a year of independence with no guarantees, and supporting my youngest in exploring her world before she started high school.

Looking back, I don’t know how I did it. I don’t know how to “do it” now…But I know that I want to. I want to engage with people who are important to me in my current life and to re-connect with those I’ve lost touch with. I’m willing to reach out with no guarantee of return…to put myself out there. I want to re-connect with lost opportunities. Sometimes I look back, and Facebook is a prime conduit, to people I didn’t know well back in the day. It may seem counter-intuitive, but I shared so many things with the people I grew up with. To me it is not important whether or not we were friends or enemies or just indifferent to one another. What matters now is that we went through the same experiences together.

If you were in my Kindergarten class and remember passing the jar of whole milk around the circle for a half hour until we learned, by experience, that we had made butter. If you were in my first grade class and watched our teacher open an egg every week to share the wonders of chicken growth (now I wonder at the barbarism, but I sure learned a lot). If you were in my fourth grade class where I took home the baby gerbils from the class gerbil couple only to have my cat eat them. If you were in my sixth grade class where I learned absolutely nothing and got straight A’s the quarter I spent at home being ill and then pretending to be ill beyond all reason.

If you were my classmate back then, then maybe you know more about me than I recognize in myself. Maybe I observed some things about you that you lost track of. I don’t know All I know is that I lived a life. I lived it with you. We fought, dirty and fair. We lived, despite our differences. We loved and lost. We did it apart, but together. Like family, you were there…for me or against. Does it matter anymore? Together we have a shared history and today I honor that.

Find the Joy in the Journey…and the recognition of the value of friends, classmates…everyone who witnessed our growth.

The Great Flood

Under the best circumstances, I would have been home, high and dry, in no time at all. Instead, it took me over two hours. All day long, the local news app on my iPhone notified me of flood warnings. Everytime I looked outside, the sky was grey but there was no visible rain. Apparently it rained steadily all day long, just not big rain and big wind that would have made it obvious through the plate glass of my office building, just an unrelentingly soft, summer rain. I gave it not a second thought.

Close to the end of the day, a coworker commented that she’d learned her lesson the last time it had rained and she’d gotten stranded on the Southfield Freeway. The Southfield is an outdated freeway which runs below grade with service drives on either side at street level. Even a minor fender-bender creates terrible back-ups. I noted, perhaps a bit smugly, that I had multiple ways home without driving through low-lying areas, or getting onto the Southfield.

My older daughter (who has been rear-ended twice in the last few years) and I had an appointment with the chiropractor, so I texted my daughter to confirm. Turned out that she didn’t want to go. If she had, I’d have started off taking those side streets home to pick her up. Instead, I got on the Southfield…just for two exits to a main East/West road. I passed the first exit, the one I would take if I were driving home. Soon after, I saw the error of my ways. I sat on the highway for over an hour and a half. Somewhere along the way, I called my chiropractor and canceled my appointment.

At some point a police car cut down the shoulder ahead of all of us. Later, a few cars got on the shoulder and cut ahead. Twenty minutes later, a few cars came back on the shoulder, driving the wrong way back towards the on-ramp. A few more got on the shoulder going forward…later they all came back on the shoulder. I was baffled.

As time went on, more and more cars turned around and went back down the shoulder. Eventually I saw that this was directed by the police. This one policewoman came past several times, soaked to the skin. I did wonder why her car didn’t include a rain poncho for such emergencies, but apparently it didn’t and she was completely soaked. Later a man in a polo shirt with a flashlight started helping out. It turned out that he was also a police officer. They had to turn around three lanes of rush-hour traffic into one shoulder lane. I took this photo of the second police officer next to water gushing out of the freeway…apparently a water main break under the highway.image

So, finally released, I turned around and drove back up the shoulder the wrong way. When I got to the service drive, I did a u-turn and was on my way. I got home about 15 minutes later, passing very slowly through several areas of deep water over the road. In the meanwhile I’d called my older daughter and asked her to start dinner. It wasn’t until I arrived home that I learned that she’d gone out. She was at a friend’s house in a neighboring community. My city had dug up our roads several years ago and laid in new storm sewer lines…her friend’s city had not and the water rose over the curbs, across the lawns, and into the basements of the houses.

Eventually my daughter, who’d had the foresight to bring her Hunter boots, donned them and picked up her girlfriend on her back and waded through the flood to her friend’s van. They drove slowly through the flood to our house to spend the night.

It wasn’t until I was home that I learned of the magnitude of the flooding. This is the worst flooding in Detroit in recent history…there was a few hundredth of an inch more of rain in one day than in 1925, but the modern freeway system impedes the re-adsorption of the rain to a large enough extent to make this flooding far worse. I got a text from my boss that, just an hour after leaving the office, the first floor of our office flooded and I should work from home today. And so I did.

Find the Joy in the Journey…and the blessings of a great work-family that steps up to unusual challenges.

Chaos Reigns

I’ve missed writing my last three posts. I’ve not gotten a run in lately. I’ve been to the gym a couple of times, but haven’t been able to keep it up. My house is a mess. My mind is racing. What gives?

Sometimes, things just catch up with me. I’ve been dealing with some stressful situations, and I suppose that is what it all adds up to. I’ve also been busy trying to keep up with my daughter’s schedule. CYO softball is in full swing with two to three practices and two to four games a week and now practice has started for summer league. Even so, with all the progress I’ve been making recently, I’m sorely disappointed to be backtracking.

To be honest, I’ve struggled with keeping up with my posting schedule for several weeks now. It makes me wonder how dedicated I am to this particular part of my life. When I try to find time to reflect on this, I fail. But, in just this small moment of reflection, I know that I do want to keep up with my every-other-day posting schedule and I still want to work on my novel…something I’ve not done recently.

I still want to keep up with my running and I’ve signed-up for a 5.25 mile, hilly race over Memorial Day Weekend and I’ve signed-up for the Detroit International Half-Marathon in October. In between, I need to do a lot. I need to lose weight. My experience is that I shave a minute off per mile for every ten pounds and I have some weight to spare. I also need to build muscles, because that is ultimately what will help me stay healthy into my later years.

So, I’ve done really well with my training plans so far. I find that I need, yes, really need, to have a plan in place to succeed. If I don’t have a plan in place, I do not do well. But, (oh, there’s always a but) I’ve been under a lot of pressure at work and I’ve been under a lot of stress at home. The missing element is my ability to bridge the gap when push comes to shove and my very core is being challenged.

I’ve just dedicated two days, with another to come, to the careers of almost 500 people at work. I take it very seriously. At the same time, I’ve neglected to look at my own career and give the necessary input to my own management that I’m asking of those in the non-management ranks. How can I have spent almost three years on this blog talking about myself without stepping back and thinking about how I want to proceed at work?

The short answer is that I purposely separated my personal self from my work self. Now I need to address my entire self. I will attempt this going forward.

Find the Joy in the Journey…

Integration Or Dis-integration—I’m A Work In Progress

I wrote on the eve of Lent about how I wanted to examine my life during Lent in My Lenten Path: To Examine My Life To Be A More Integrated Person. As Lent ended today at Noon, I lamented that I’d not succeeded. Oh, I did the usual Lenten things involving prayer, alms-giving, and service, but I didn’t get very far with the big task I set for myself.

So, maybe examining my entire life in six weeks is unrealistic. I’ve learned that breaking things down into smaller pieces helps me accomplish big things, just one step at a time. Looking back over the almost three years since I started this blog, I’ve certainly made some changes. I do a lot more reading, writing, and running than I did back then. Those are all healthy additions to my life and give me plenty of time for reflection.

Although adding running has been a net positive, the amount of time I’ve spent training has had an unbalancing effect on me recently. It left me with less time for other things and certainly ate into time where I could have been working on my proposed Lenten journey. Having finished the race for which I trained, I’m shifting directions to shorter runs and more weight training which is more time-efficient.

I also eliminated a major source of stress and anxiety from my life in the last year. As with any seismic shift, there are aftershocks. I am experiencing a few now, so the last six weeks didn’t go exactly as planned as far as finding peace and a quiet place inside myself to reflect and integrate. I got a bit dis-integrated in the process and the spiders crawled back into my dreams (see my post Spiders—From Arachnophobia To Warning System for an explanation).

The way forward is a bit clearer. Keep the good habits, work on eliminating the negative, do all things in moderation, and take things in manageable pieces. Find peace in the set-backs and take a deep breath and try something new. That helps me to focus on changing with grace, but still, what do I want to change? I still need to reflect on what I want to do with the rest of my life. With whom do I want to spend it and doing what?

This comes at a time when I am on the list for changing jobs at work and that makes all of this a bit more important to me. Will this be my last rotation before retirement, or just one of many more positions? Could it incorporate more reading and writing? More community activity? More coaching and mentoring? Could it lead to a fulfilling activity to pursue in retirement? So much to ponder…

As I continue to prepare for the rest of my life I find myself opening more doors of possibility and shutting a few doors behind me.

Find the Joy in the Journey…and recognize that everything that came before makes you what you are today.

Singing in The D–Not Quite My Second Singles Mixer

A friend recently approached me about my comfort level working with a matchmaker. Hmm…never thought about that. My friend claimed that her friend, the matchmaker, was a delightful woman who “knew everybody” in town. Well, I was a bit skeptical, but then she told me that her friend was holding her first-ever singles mixer. She asked me if I was interested in going. It was to be a singing event. I couldn’t quite fathom how singing in a group would lead to interesting conversations, but I said I was in. After all, I want to be open to new experiences.

I recruited a friend to go with me and we drove into the city to Corktown to a dive bar with an open stage on a Wednesday night. We drove over the potholes in the parking lot and found a spot. Walking along the front of the building I found the door with the address of the bar, but it wasn’t otherwise marked. I pulled it open anyway and stepped in to be greeted by someone collecting $10 for the event and putting wristbands on wrists.

We wandered past the bar to the back room where we were greeted by the vibrant matchmaker who introduced herself and had us fill out name tags. We spent a moment talking about our mutual friend…each described the other as the most wonderful person…definitely an upper.

My girlfriend and I looked around and saw two open barstools by the stage. We put down our coats and I turned to one of the only men in the room and asked him if this were his first time coming. He explained that the matchmaker was his brother’s mother-in-law. I looked around and saw his (married) brother and two other men. Women streamed into the room…no more men arrived.

During the next hour and a half, we sang many motown songs with the help of a DJ. The man related to the matchmaker was clearly there under duress and one of the other single men slipped out early on, leaving only one man game enough to sing with a roomful of women, some of whom danced.

Near the end, my friend whispered that she’d buy me a glass of wine at our favorite wine bar on the way home if we left right after the last song. So it was that I smiled, charmingly, at the only man left standing as I exited stage left.

We enjoyed the evening, but as a singles mixer, it was a total fail. Just imagine…the people attracted to such an event are predominantly female…and to my observation, the average age was into the sixties. I was the youngest woman there by many years, although the lone male appeared to be in his early forties.

And so it was that I spent a pleasant evening with a very dear friend…and met no one at all. The next question is whether or not I will fill out the matchmaker’s questionaire and put myself in her hands for introductions. Why not?

Find the Joy in the Journey…and Journey with an open heart!

 

There’s No Going Back to Middle School—What a Relief!

I do have some happy memories of middle school, but it I don’t think of it as the best of my school years. For most of elementary school, I was bullied, so middle school was definitely better than that. High school was even better, with more freedom and more choices. I’m happy for my youngest to see how excited she is to go to high school in the fall. In the meantime, she claims to hate middle school.

Middle school can be very challenging for kids as they go through so many physical and emotional changes. My older children didn’t like middle school, and I think that is pretty common. My youngest, however, is extremely social and school is a major source of socializing for her. When I ask her, she says she loves being with her friends but she hates middle school.

Recently, I was contacted by one of her teachers to come in for a conference. It was more like an intervention. Apparently, my child didn’t do much of her work for the last several weeks. The consequences were laid out and they weren’t pretty. An action plan was needed. At first she clammed up. She claimed not to care about the consequences and offered up no solutions.

I watched and listened as her teachers patiently worked with her to get her to open up and participate in developing the plan. It was a Thursday, after school, and there was no school that Friday. She had three full days to get the work done and then we both had to return Monday morning to check in.

We arrived on time this morning and she went through the work she’d done. A plan was drawn up for the rest of the week which included check-ins on Tuesday and Wednesday as well. She’s missing what her school calls “immersion week”, which is full of exciting activities. This doesn’t seem to be of much consequence to her, and she clearly concentrates and gets more work done at home than at school. Although she’s getting her work done, I’m not sure the lesson of getting things done on time to begin with, is actually sinking in.

It looks like she will avoid the harsher consequences since she is catching up quickly. Otherwise, no end-of-the-year trip white-water rafting in West Virginia…or even more dire, repeating eighth grade! Frankly, I think that I am the one who is getting disciplined by the system. Instead of dropping her off at school, I have to go in with her and meet for an hour. I don’t mind the time spent, it is well worth it, but I do have a job and being late three days in a row does not help me to get my own work done.

So, although I don’t have to repeat middle school, I’ve spent more time there lately than I planned. I’ve enjoyed learning more about the way they structure their lessons and how the lessons build and coordinate between subjects. If I had to repeat middle school, I would choose to go to my daughter’s school. I think it is a wonderful place to be. We have had very opposite experiences. For me, middle school was socially awkward and intellectually bereft. For her, the socializing is everything and the work is, well, work.

Find the Joy in the Journey…work hard and have fun!