Seeking Serenity

I recently wrote about trying to get things done rather than worrying about them in Time to Stop Worrying and Start Doing. That is easier said than done, and more than once I’ve caught myself saying the serenity prayer. It is attributed to theologian Reinhold Niebuhr in several forms, but this is the most common form:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.

My biggest worry over the last 8 months has been identity theft. It started out with a handful of debit card transactions on my husband’s debit card. They took place in the city where he works, which is across the country from where we live. I happened to be in Germany on business and knew my husband was at home with the kids, so I called the bank and reported the fraud. Later, my husband was issued a new debit card, and as soon as he activated it, someone withdrew money and we once again canceled his card.

A few months went by and then we got a notice in the mail about my husband selling some company stock…stock we were holding onto to pay our son’s tuition. In looking into his retirement and investment accounts, we discovered that someone had taken a loan against his 401(k) as well as cashing in the stock. The investment company opened an investigation, but they have never reimbursed my husband’s accounts.

Then, when we thought we’d dealt with it all, the two credit cards we use on a regular basis were both hacked as well. At this point, we got our home owners insurance renewal in the mail and I saw that we had identity theft coverage. What a relief. I called and filed a claim and they sent me a bunch of forms to fill out and referred us to a third-party consultant to help us through the process.

The first thing they recommended was filing a police report because they would give us 90 days of credit protection without it and seven years with it. Not long after, I went to the police station to file the report. My case was so complex that the officer on duty asked me to put together a summary and make copies of all the supporting documents.

Within a few days I’d put together the requested information, but by then it dawned on me that my husband was really the one who needed to file the report, or at least we should do it together. That was about the time that my husband got very ill while traveling on business. Between that and several crises at work, he was traveling almost non-stop for the next month. The identity theft consultant had to close our account, but assured me they’d open it as soon as I sent them the signed affidavit.

Last night, we finally made it to the police station to make the report. Thanks to my detailed preparations, it took us under 10 minutes to file the report. This has been a worry bead…or more like a worry boulder, keeping me down and stressing me out for over a month. I kept trying to tell myself that this was a situation where I only had limited control and therefore I should be trying to have the serenity to accept it…but frankly that didn’t help as having partial control meant I really needed to keep it at the top of my mind until I could take a concrete step forward. The serenity prayer has a hole in it, apparently. The full text of Niebuhr’s prayer is:

God, give me grace to accept with serenity

the things that cannot be changed,

Courage to change the things

which should be changed,

and the Wisdom to distinguish

the one from the other.

Living one day at a time,

Enjoying one moment at a time,

Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace,

Taking, as Jesus did,

This sinful world as it is,

Not as I would have it,

Trusting that You will make all things right,

If I surrender to Your will,

So that I may be reasonably happy in this life,

And supremely happy with You forever in the next.

Amen.

 

Find the Joy in the Journey, and strive to put your life in perspective so that you can enjoy the serenity that you deserve!

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Time To Stop Worrying And Start Doing

I’ve had a lot of troublesome problems come up since the beginning of the year and somehow, though I worried about them, I did little to fix them. They seemed so overwhelming, so unfair, and sometimes I tried to fix them and got frustrated with my lack of progress…and so they stayed and they grew. Like little grains of sand in an oyster, the beads grew like pearls as I isolated myself from them as much as possible. But the more you try not to worry about something, to push it to the back of your mind, the more stress it creates.

This past week, as I wrote about how hard it is for me to concentrate when my traveling spouse can’t make it home, I vowed to change how I deal with problems, so this week I am taking on my worry beads one-by-one.

I started with the little ones, the ones that were still in the “important” stage and not the “urgent” stage. I learned this important distinction long ago when I got my first, and long forgotten, Franklin Planner. It meshed well with what I was learning from reading Stephen Covey’s books…so no wonder they eventually joined forces. The important things should be worked on first…and if you follow that rule, you should not end up with urgent items.

I remembered and paid the first installment of my property taxes hours before the deadline (oops, almost slipped into urgent!). I signed my younger daughter up for basketball well before the deadline (I learned from previous experience that they really stick to the deadline). I wrote a recommendation for a colleague on LinkedIn at her request. I did some other, seemingly small things, but some required me to set aside a portion of my time and/or do some preparation work which needed my undivided attention.

I felt a sense of accomplishment with each checkmark I made on my task list and finally felt ready to attack an urgent issue. The simplest one was dealing with the IRS. While I was on vacation in July, they sent me a notice saying I’d made a mathematical or transcriptional error on my 2011 return and that I owed a sizeable sum of money. I knew that I likely made a mistake, but not in the amount of money I owed, so I let it slip to the bottom of my list. Then I got a form from them to fill out to go on a payment plan. Interest was also starting to pile up. Still, I did nothing.

So, newly energized with my recent successes and my determination to change my behavior, I Finally picked up the papers they had sent and I checked over my tax return and found my error. The notice declared that if I didn’t respond by a date, over a month in the past, with a payment, I was admitting they were correct and I’d be accruing additional penalties and interest. I dug my head out of the sand, picked up the phone and dialed the IRS. After listening through multiple levels of the phone tree and being on hold for quite a while, I got a live agent on the phone.

She was pleasant. She listened to me. She believed me. She stayed on the line while I pulled up the form I’d filled out wrong and filled it out correctly. She stayed on the line while I printed it out and faxed it to her. Then, I stayed on the line while she updated the system and declared my problem gone, vanished, resolved. An enormous weight seemed to lift off of my shoulders and energy to fix my other worry beads surged through me. This was the easy one and was the most recent…so I know I need to plow ahead on the difficult ones.

As for the beads, the little pearls made by the oyster when a problem drops in his shell…better for him to push it right out than build a pearl around it. Afterall, the oyster gets no benefit from the pearl and loses his life for someone else to profit from it. Not a good model!

Find the Joy in the Journey…and don’t put off those important tasks lest they turn into monsters!

The Times They Are A-Changin’

Summer has gone by so fast, and fall is just around the corner. It seems that it is already here, with the kids back to school. I always loved the fall when I was growing up. It was a time to buy new school clothes, plan out my schedule and activities, and dream of my future. After so many years of school, extending with graduate studies into my 30’s, I am programmed to think of fall as the beginning of the new year, or at least as a time of beginnings. I used to look forward to changing times, but lately they’ve overwhelmed me. It’s like that Bob Dylan song, The Times They Are A-Changin’

“Come gather ’round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You’ll be drenched to the bone
If your time to you
Is worth savin’
Then you better start swimmin’
Or you’ll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin’.”

This new school year has thrown me off balance. I’ve been running in the mornings and suddenly I have to get up an hour earlier so that I can also get my daughter to school on time. It’s too dark to run so early, so now I’m running on my treadmill instead. I really don’t enjoy that as much as being outside…well, not that I really enjoy it, but it’s much more tolerable. I find myself to be more tired…all that getting up earlier, but not getting to bed earlier. I need to make adjustments.

My 50 by 50 was supposed to help me reach next fall with many accomplishments and bright plans for the subsequent five years of my life. It’s starting to shape up, but some of my plans are changing and unfolding differently than I thought. With the running, I got going last fall, and then stopped after Thanksgiving. I’ve started again, and made adjustments so that I’m progressing slower than hoped, but getting further along than I really believed I could.

I look back on what I wrote about last summer and I was so productive! I don’t know where that energy came from, nor where it went. I seem to be busier than ever. In part, it is due to my husband being gone more this year than the last few years, and often having to change his schedule which has resulted in him missing weekends home. When that happens, my world seems to tilt out of order and my productivity, at least at home, plummets. It’s not that I have more to do when he’s gone; I’ve adjusted to handling most of what needs to be done at home over the last few years. No, it’s more that I become a bit at a loss, with no motivation to tackle the 1001 things on my to-do list.

So, I guess I will just have to adjust again. I need to get better at adjusting because it seems that nothing will stay particularly stable going forward. I’ve had one child leave for college and one who will be off in less than a year. I’ve adjusted from having three young children to having three teens, and now I need to prepare for having three adult children.

“Come mothers and fathers
Throughout the land
And don’t criticize
What you can’t understand
Your sons and your daughters
Are beyond your command
Your old road is
Rapidly agin’
Please get out of the new one
If you can’t lend your hand
For the times they are a-changin’.”

Even my boss came to me the other day and told me he was afraid I was going to quit. I told him that I was in no way equipped to handle starting over at a new company after 23 years…everything else in my life is in flux and my job is the one steady thing! Granted, things at work change at a rapid pace, but I guess I got used to that long ago…now I just need to translate that emotional flexibility to my personal life.

Find the Joy in the Journey, and learn to embrace change because you can’t stop it from coming!

Life Derailed Temporarily

I’ve not done much to learn a language since I started this 50-by-50…partly because I can’t decide between Spanish (my head says yes) and French (my heart says yes), so I decided to pick an interesting word that seems to relate to my life these days and I came up with dérailleur. Americans have converted this word into two different spellings with a related meaning. If you drop the accent mark and spell it derailleur, you are talking about a gear-changing part on a bicycle. If you then Anglicize it further, you get derailer. Both are pronounced the same, so no real nod to the French origins of the word.

A derailer allows the railroad to de-rail a runaway train. A derailleur was named after the train derailer, because it reminds us of a train de-railing when the bicycle chain jumps from one set of gears to another. In both of these situations, de-railing is a controlled or at least intended event. When we talk about our lives derailing or going off the rails, however, we are talking about unexpected and unwanted events.

My life was derailed over the last two weeks by a health/travel crisis of my husband’s. We are not the best couple for dealing with the other falling apart. Sometimes we are great, stepping into the void if the other is incapacitated by circumstances, but this time, I faltered. I didn’t do anything wrong in the context of the crisis, but I became catatonic about anything not core to my life…I cared for my kids and my job and I did my best to keep up with my husband’s crisis.

But mostly, I obsessed about my husband’s health. I worried about his ability to get home and where he was and how he felt every moment of every day. When he called that he was up and would call again after accomplishing some small task, but then didn’t call for hours, I was beside myself with worry. It happened over and over. He had been feeling ill since the start of the business trip and through two days of meetings, but then he was supposed to come home. Instead he ended up at an urgent care center.

Each day for five days he tried to get to the airport and fly home. Each day he ended up at the clinic. Finally, they got him hydrated enough and treated his fever well enough that he felt he could manage. The next day he asked for a late check-out at the hotel and had a flight an hour and a half after that. Just enough time to catch the flight but not so much that he’d give up due to his overwhelming fatigue. Then someone breached security at the airport before he got through and he ended up missing the flight. Thankfully, he managed to hang on and take a later flight, but he only managed the first of two flights.

Another day of worry, but finally, almost 7 days later than planned, he made it home. I started to breathe a little easier. I looked around at my little train wreck and realized that just maybe I’d used the derailer correctly. I’d managed to derail the cars that could be spared…the laundry car piled up with the rest of the housework. My writing car was idled. The cars with all my messy, worry-bead issues were off-track, but at least the crash hadn’t caused them to split open and let the lions and tigers and other angry animals escape.

One by one, I’m dragging the cars back to the tracks and hooking them back onto my life. The engine and the caboose are still functioning; they just need to be charged up and soon we’ll be on our way, a little behind schedule, but intact.

Find the Joy in the Journey…even when sometimes you have a runaway train car that needs to be derailed for a while until you can get it back on track.

The Spiders Have Abandoned My Dreams And Entered My Real Life

We’re on spider number three…I am hoping there are no more, but I think that is wishful thinking. I once wrote about how spiders are my own, personal radar to notify myself that I am under an overwhelming amount of stress. You’d think that would be obvious, but like the frog put in a cold pot and heated slowly, I don’t realize the danger until it is too late…the spiders are my only clue.

Up until now, the spiders have appeared in my dreams to give me the clue; although, as a child and teen, they were in my night terrors and in adulthood in my nightmares. I wrote about this back in October in Spiders–From Arachnophobia to Warning System. This week, however, the spiders have entered my waking life…they are not in my dreams, they are right there in real life (thankfully outside of my house!). I wanted to get a photo of one, but so far I’ve not managed to catch one on “film”. (Update…found one, but didn’t realize I was shooting it from underneath until I took a close look at the photo.)

It all started on Sunday when, to my dismay, my husband told me he would likely have to leave in the next few hours for a business meeting at his company’s headquarters far away. He was hoarse, could barely talk, and I started to be concerned about his health. I had recently returned from a business trip myself and was cleaning up the house. I was doing laundry and taking out our trash and recycling. When I got to our city-provided trash and recycling trolleys, I found spider #1. It was clinging to the side of the recycling trolley and I was not going to go anywhere near it…so, of course, I went back inside and found my husband. Now, my husband may actually be as uncomfortable around spiders as I am, but he’s always chivalrous and kills my spiders for me.

Why did I not know that this was a terrible harbinger?

So, my husband flew away on Sunday and early Monday morning he was chugging Dayquil (his “panacea”) and going through his normal Monday morning conference calls. Then he and his bosses did their dry-run for the big meeting the next day with a big customer. My husband was sweating through a fever the whole time. Monday night I saw the second spider. This one was exactly like the first, so much so that I wondered if my husband had really killed it, but he insisted that he had. It had built a large, gossamer web between the trash and recycling bins and anchored it to the house. It was so delicate that I could only see it on edge, with the sun just so. The spider sat fat and smug in the middle and I worried about the next evening when I’d have to roll the bins to the curb.

Tuesday was the big meeting, and my husband managed to get through it. By then he was still sick and worried about getting home. Meanwhile, with a big broom in hand, I approached my trash and recycling bins. At some time during the last day and a half, either a bird or a bat had swooped in and eaten the spider and cleared most of its web. Maybe this was a good sign?

Wednesday, exhausted from getting little sleep and still feverish, my husband was supposed to fly home.  With nothing but Dayquil and Gatorade in his stomach, he approached the airport only to get sick to his stomach. So, instead of flying home, he went to a medical clinic and told them to “patch him up” so he could get home. He went back to the hotel and took the medicine they gave him. In the morning, still exhausted, he called and mentioned he planned to take a cab to the airport…even though he was staying at the airport hotel. As he stood waiting for the cab, he thought he was going to die, so he went back to the clinic instead.

This time, they took a lot of vials of blood and determined that he had a virus, but it would take an outside lab to figure out exactly what he had. They gave him stronger medicine for his fever and sent him on his way. This time, at least, with the fever knocked back, he slept for 10 hours before he was once again tossing and turning. By now it was Friday and he once again went back to the clinic to hear about his blood tests. Meanwhile, I came home from work and saw my older daughter and a friend on the porch. The friend had a broom and my daughter was hiding a huge dowel behind her back. Yes, they had found a third spider and, armed with big-scary sticks for the big-scary spider, they had destroyed it.

Back at the lab, the blood tests were in and had ruled out some things, but were inconclusive. Because he had a very bad headache, they decided to test him for meningitis saying it was the only life-threatening thing he might have and they’d better rule it out. Getting a huge needle stuck in his lumbar was not what he had in mind, but he was too sick to protest.

He managed to find a flight for Saturday morning, and even get to the airport on time. Unfortunately, they hadn’t been able to get him a seat assignment in advance and he ended up not getting on the flight. He was able to get on a flight 5 hours later…As he struggled for those many hours, he wasn’t doing well at all. He made it up to boarding, where he had secured a first class upgrade on both legs of his trip…but, my doctor-phobic husband opted to abandon his flights for another trip to the urgent-care facility and then I didn’t hear from him for 2 and a half hours.

Maybe the spiders are all gone now, or maybe there is a huge nest of them somewhere. It’s strange that I am not dreaming of them and disconcerting that they are showing up in my real world…but it’s a nice change that others, whether my husband, a bird, or my child, are watching out for me. In my dreams I’m always facing them solo.

Find the Joy in the Journey and solace in your loved ones.

Spiders–From Arachnophobia to Warning System

I am afraid of spiders. I used to be afraid to even tell people of my phobia just in case, as in a good horror film, someone would use them to torture information out of me. (What information I have that anyone would torture me for, I have no idea…but phobias are not rational by nature!) I didn’t start out afraid of them, one of my earliest memories is of picking one up and offering it to my napping mother (why I never learned napping from her, I’ll never know, but she was smart to sneak in a nap when her babies were sleeping!). She didn’t even open her eyes, just opened her hand. I set the spider in her hand, a little gift from me; I’d found it all by myself! Her shriek may have been the little kernel of my future arachnophobia.

When I was 6, we moved into a house that had been owned by a school teacher. She had kept reams of paperwork in her house, untouched for years (maybe even decades) before she moved out. Spiders had found the paper-packed house appealing and when the papers were gone, they scrambled for new hiding places, but with fewer hiding places they were much more likely to be out in the open.

I very quickly became terrified of spiders. No wonder since I once awoke to a large specimen dangling about eight inches from my face. The move also meant I had to switch schools between Kindergarten and first grade. I was happy at my Kindergarten, but in my new school I was the latest victim of the class bully. All this stress caused me to develop night terrors. Night terrors are as similar to nightmares as being trapped in a burning building is to riding on a roller coaster. My terrors always involved spiders crawling all over me and into my mouth when I screamed.

Most children outgrow night terrors, but mine lasted into college (sorry roomie!), although they were far less common. Eventually they stopped, but a funny thing happened…I started having nightmares instead.  Oddly, nightmares don’t scare me…my brain seems to know they are just dreams and now they aren’t even nightmares, just dreams with spiders. But, in every case, the spider represents stress in my life. I’ve even had a spider dream and woke up thinking I shouldn’t have had it because I wasn’t under stress…only to really think about what was going on in my life and realize that YES, I was STRESSED!

So, the spiders in my dreams aren’t crawling on me and I’m typically not even afraid of them (in the dream). Oftentimes these dreams start out normally, then something (a mouse, or pet) will turn into a spider and then I’m chasing spiders all over the place for the rest of the dream trying to kill them. I wake up and sigh. I tell myself, ok, enough is enough, time to face-down a real-world fear and get my stress level back under control.

In my waking life, I am still afraid of spiders but I would say that I’m no longer phobic…they are scary critters and it is normal to be afraid of them! Once I didn’t have my parents to kill them, I had a boyfriend-now-husband to kill them…but inevitably there were times when he wasn’t around and I had to either kill or be killed (at least that was my fear!). My children, unfortunately (perhaps due to my own hysteria) are afraid of spiders (even the really big kid!), so I’m left to do the dirty deed.

I also have spider-radar. I may have picked this up from my cats when I had them…but even without the dead-giveaway cat-stare, I always spot the spider in the room if it is visible. I almost wish I didn’t…because once spotted a killing is required! This picture is not of a spider. This critter was in my sink, but it didn’t scare me because I knew instantly that it wasn’t a spider. It grossed me out, though, so I squished it…the only acceptable fate for a bug inside my house.  Photo in front of me, I searched around and discovered that it is a masked hunter nymph…it’s sticky and picks up dust as camouflage.  The second picture, however, is of a spider that I found in my house. It’s dead too, but I got way more heeby-jeeby’s killing it than the nymph. Go figure.

So, in a paradoxical twist of fate, the thing I most fear is also my mind’s reminder system to get my life under control.

Find the Joy in the Journey and face your fears until they can no longer scare you.

Stressed But Not Panicked–Redux

A month ago I wrote about being stressed about an upcoming trip. I ended by saying

I’ll just have to manage the stress the best I can with careful planning and hard work.”

Right. So, here I am on the eve of my trip. Most things went pretty well. The work issues I was dealing with back then are resolved. There are new issues, to be sure, but they are more along the lines of typically stressful and not super stressful.

My passport came back and I was able to sign it and turn it right back around with the Brazil Visa application. Then it was a waiting game…the Brazilian embassy is not very quick…but it actually came back with a week to spare.

I rescheduled my son’s dentist appointment, although I hated doing it…that is always a 3 month slip which totally throws off the whole strategy of going twice a year. He’s freshly off at college and doesn’t have any way to get home on his own. I kept my daughter’s appointments and they’ll be going with a note…leave it or lump it, the dentist office will have to decide!

I’ve got all my kids started off to a good start at school, paperwork finished, supplies bought, new shoes to wear, and checks written. Despite the best laid plans, however, there’s always a glitch. Mine was that my childcare fell through about a week before my trip. My husband is on the first of two back-to-back trips this week, he’ll be home less than 24 hours this weekend, then off to a training program next week. I briefly thought about the girls handling things on their own, but that created more stress than finding help elsewhere.

The three close encounters I’ve had with nature this past month may have something to do with feeling stressed about leaving them on their own. First, the dog got in a fight with a raccoon. How would the kids handle that on their own? What if they got bitten and got rabies? Then there was my wasp sting…ok that was me, but what if it were one of the girls? What if they swelled up and needed to go to the ER? And then there was the bat…poor little guy, killed with a mighty and skilled swing of a tennis racquet by my husband. Another rabies risk! And what about the gas stove? Okay, I could go on and on about the dangers of leaving them on their own.  I’ve just let my first one fly from the nest…I’ll hang on to the girls pretty tightly for now!

I’m grateful for friends and family who are stepping in to stay with my girls. I want them to feel as comfortable as possible, so of course I made sure the spare rooms were made up with clean linens and everything is as pleasant as possible. I made sure that all the laundry is done and put away, and same with the dishes. My girls can cook, clean, do laundry and dishes, but reluctantly. Maybe they’ll step it up while I’m gone, but I thought I’d set everyone off on the right foot.

So, here I sit, on the eve of my trip writing about it instead of packing my suitcase! I’m still worried I’ll forget something, like paying the property taxes. They are due while I’m gone and I’ll have to have someone drop the payment in the box after the banks close on the 14th. What is with my crazy city making the taxes due the day before payday anyway? I don’t need that stress!

Once again, I’ll take a deep breath and BREATHE! Ahh. A friend from work just got back from Brazil and texted me, “you’ll have so much fun!” Ok, I can deal with that! Sure, I’ll land and head straight to work and subsequent days will start at 6:30 a.m., but I’ll still get a little time for sightseeing and I’m really looking forward to finally meeting my South American colleagues. And meanwhile, I have the help of loved ones to keep things safe at home.

Find the Joy in the Journey and don’t shun the hard work it takes to get there!

Related Post:

Stressed But Not Panicked

Raccoons In The Attic

The other day, my kids let our dog, Asta, out one last time before going to bed. Next thing I knew the dog was barking furiously, the kids were yelling, and my help was solicited at a yell. I ran into the yard barefoot and back behind the garage with two kids in my wake, but it was pitch black out and I could see nothing. I ran around the garage while my older daughter ran for a flashlight. I shone the light over the fence only to find a raccoon playing possum and the dog in a tizzy of barking, the other kids trying to pull her away. Somehow, with the scene illuminated, my commands to the dog were better received and the kids were able to pull the dog away and out of sight of the raccoon. The raccoon, then got up very slowly and crawled over to a tree and started climbing.

My older daughter gave Asta a bath, washing mostly raccoon blood out of her fur. She did have what looked like scratches on her chest and a few small nicks, newly hairless. By morning, she looked fine and wasn’t bleeding anywhere, so the disaster was officially over. This episode reminded me of our last raccoon encounters, not long before we moved out of our house before the renovations.  Back then I wrote:

Stress comes in many forms, but for us one of the creepiest was the scratching in the ceiling over our bed. True, we had a lot of plaster and lath between us and whatever it was, but it sounded awfully persistent! We’d be sound asleep when the scritching and scratching would wake me up.  I’d lie there trying to fall back asleep and ignore the sounds and what they implied. Stressed as I already was, losing sleep and worrying over animals in the attic was just too much. The next day I went up into the attic in the light of day and took a look. I found lots of things chewed up with what looked like very sharp, pointy teeth…and I found some droppings that looked like they belonged to a cat. With this information, I did what I always do. I went to work and started telling my co-workers about it. Sure enough, faster and more accurately than a Google search, I learned that I had a raccoon in my attic and that the animal shelter would help me get rid of it. 

I found the shelter, a cramped building across from the city dump and landlocked by the river and the railroad tracks. I signed out a trap and got a lecture on humane trapping (don’t trap on Friday through Sunday because an animal control officer won’t be available for pick-up).  Tuna was my bait of choice, and within days I’d bagged my raccoon. The trap was a wire contraption about two feet long and a foot square. The slim metal handle was in the center, with a small piece of sheetmetal under it to protect you from the animal. He wasn’t too big, and he didn’t move from his huddled position at the end of the cage. I picked up the cage and it dipped almost vertical due to his weight. Down the steep attic stairs I went, carefully holding the cage as far from my body as possible. Through the upstairs, down the stairs to the first floor, I took him out to the porch and called animal control. Like magic, my raccoon was gone by the time I got home from work.  

Until he was back. Off to the shelter I went again. I asked “exactly where do you let the animals go?” (ok, I was secretly hoping they euthanized them…) “Oh, we have a nice grassy spot by the river behind our building!” I was told. Gee, I grumbled, “he must’ve just walked back up the river to my house…apparently it’s his new home.”  I changed my mind, however, when I saw him…he was much bigger and he was grey…like an old grandpa raccoon. This time, I carried the cage down in my left hand, I’d strained my right shoulder the last time.  

A week went by and scritch, scratch, I awoke to yet another raccoon in the attic. When I finally caught him, I asked my husband to fetch him down to the porch since both of my shoulders were now strained. At first I didn’t know where my husband had gone…but eventually he ascended the stairs in steel-toed boots, long pants, a leather coat, a hat, and with a two-by-four in his hand! Down he came with an even bigger raccoon this time…and this one was brown, with darker brown stripes and a dark brown mask.  

We caught our final raccoon not long after. Again I asked my husband to go get him from the attic. He came down without the cage, saying that the raccoon was too vicious. After he left, I went up myself to get him down, but he truly was vicious. He was a scrawny grey and black fellow and he stuck his hands out of the cage…he had long scrawny fingers with evil-looking black claws. So, this time I called and waited until the animal control officer arrived. Thank goodness! It turned out that the door to the cage wasn’t properly latched…I could just imagine the horror of getting him down out of the attic only to have him escape into my house! Down on the porch, the officer tried to nab the raccoon with an animal catching tool comprised of a pipe with a rope loop. He’d snag the raccoon with the loop, then yank the rope tight.  It took him several tries, as the raccoon was adept at evading and escaping the loop. Finally he pulled him out of the cage-trap and tried to cram him into another cage. That raccoon would splay it’s limbs (those not trapped in the loop) and fight like mad to keep from being caged. By the end, the officer was cramming him in with such force, I almost felt sorry for the critter. I told the officer I was afraid he’d come back, and the officer assured me that “this one” would not be a problem any longer…so much for the grassy spot down by the river.

Later, our contractor took down a tree that was in the way of our kitchen addition and lo and behold, the raccoon portal into our house was revealed! An enormous hole created by a sagging eave…somehow all those unrelated raccoons had been finding their way in. A new roof permanently fixed that problem, and I really don’t think this week’s raccoon will come anywhere near our back yard ever again!

Sometimes the joy I find in the journey is the relief that a stressful situation is handled…or as my kids might say, Harry Potter style, mischief managed!

Stressed But Not Panicked

As I look ahead to some stressful situations, I have to remind myself that it could be a lot worse. At least these stresses are for positive things, not negative, and I can plan ahead for them. And hopefully, by developing some stress-reduction techniques like exercising and getter more sleep I’ll be better to handle whatever comes my way. But I’m going to look back for a few minutes on one of the more stressful times in my life and realize I’m way better off now…

It’s strange how you can hold it all together and keep on going, yet little things start to “happen” to you and control slips away little by little in other areas of your life. We were truly afraid to let anyone know where we were living after we moved out of the house. Our builder knew, because he rented the place to us, but we avoided even telling family members unless they were coming for a visit. We kept our newspaper subscription and our mail delivery at our house and picked them up daily. We had to put the electricity, gas, cable, and phone at the Dallas House in our name, but that was it; even those bills went to our house. We even kept our unlisted phone number and had it transferred back at the end.  

When we pulled out of our driveway with the final load of stuff, one of our more inquisitive neighbors ran out of her house to offer up her house as a place to stay for the next week as she was taking her family on vacation. I could not even process her offer. Why did she think we were only moving out for a week? I told her we had rented a house and when she asked where, I (compellingly honest, damn me) told her “down by the hospital”…a vague enough answer even if it were true. 

That night, we went to McDonald’s for dinner and I drove to the Dallas House from a different direction than I’d previously ever done and exited the highway and made a right-turn on red behind several others. I got pulled over with all the kids in the car. The officer had pulled over 6 others in a kind of sting. He apologized as he gave me the $90 ticket, saying the neighbors in the area had been complaining about the traffic. The last thing I needed was another bill, but I was afraid to make waves. I wondered if the police were in on the sabotage of our lives. I paid the bill in full and was thankful that I didn’t have to reveal my new address in the process. Going back to the intersection in the daytime, I saw that there was a no-right-on-red sign but it was pretty far back from the intersection, right after one exits from the highway. In other words, it was pretty easy to miss. Once you pull up to the light, the sign is behind you and there is no additional signage ahead of you. A trap; but not one designed specifically for us. When you are stressed and paranoid as we were…everything makes you question exactly who is looking over your shoulder. 

Then there was the dark winter morning a few days later when I backed into the neighbor’s car. To be kind to myself, there were several contributing factors. I had been driving an SUV with a back-up sensor, but had recently switched to a minivan without the sensor. Second, we’d just moved to Dallas, a very narrow street, from our generously wide Avenue. Third, the neighbor parked across from our driveway, something he’d never done before. But even so, I backed into his car. 

A week or two later, I found myself approaching the freeway with its service drives and odd on/off scheme. My mind completely blanked and I drove the wrong way through the turn-around lane. Thankfully it was very early in the morning and no one else was about. This really shook me up. I couldn’t believe I couldn’t navigate an intersection I’d driven through hundred’s of times before! At this point, I seriously considered whether I should be driving at all.

I did survive without any further traffic accidents or violations, but the stress was pretty unrelenting back then; I moved on to falling down stairs…pretty dangerous, but at least it didn’t involve 2 tons of metal and other people. So, as I work through a stressful situation at work, and find that I need to travel for a week and a half in September, I try to keep calm and put things in perspective. Even though my passport will expire soon; it is off for renewal and I don’t know if I can get it back in time to get a Visa, and my husband has about three trips of his own in that time frame, and all the kids have dentist appointments then (including my son who would have to be picked up from college and then returned over the weekend), and even though the crisis at work is high visibility and I’ll be off of work today. AND!

Breathe….just breathe. I know I can figure it all out. And less stressful good things are happening too…I got to visit with my sister last night while I crashed at her place, and I’m picking up my younger daughter from camp today and bringing her home. For a little while, my nest will be full before it starts the empty-nest process later this month. So, I have many things to be grateful for and I’ll just have to manage the stress the best I can with careful planning and hard work. Then, I will surely enjoy my business travel to a new country, even a new continent for me!

Find the Joy in the Journey!

Related Post:

Stressed But Not Panicked–Redux