Beautiful November

I took this picture today while leaving the office in downtown St. Paul. This is a man hanging Christmas lights – in short sleeves! It’s November 10th! November! And this is Minnesota! We are not used to warm weather this time of year.

I am not complaining. Besides, the weather can turn on a dime around here. The forecast for Friday includes the possibility of snow. It’s been in the sixties all week and it’s going to get cold enough to snow by the end of the week. We’ll all complain  if it actually does snow. That’s what we do here in Minnesota. We alternately complain about the cold winters and pride ourselves on our ability to function in spite of them.

Anyway, Christmas lights are prettier in the snow.

Ashamed

So I’m suddenly feeling a little ashamed. I’ve been acting like a spoiled brat.

I don’t think it’s any secret that I am reluctant to face change, especially where my children are concerned. I look to the next few years when they will be leaving the nest with a mixture of fear and sadness for years that have passed too quickly. So it’s probably no surprise that over the past few days, since I learned that Brad won’t be coming home for Christmas, I’ve been wallowing in a vat of self-pity.  I’d convinced myself that my 21 year-old son not coming home for the year’s biggest holiday, in combination with my husband’s having to work a 12-hour shift on said holiday was justification for an extended pity-party. And believe me, I was partying.

I hadn’t actually heard from Brad that he wasn’t planning to be home for Christmas. It was Mark who had informed me of this plan after he had talked with Brad’s girlfriend, Heather. A part of me was holding out hope that once I talked to Brad, he would inform me that it was all a big misunderstanding. So while driving to bowling last night, I dialed up Brad. (Kids, do as I say. Not as I do. You should not drive and dial a cell phone at the same time. Thank you.) So Brad answered and I tried to be very casual about my call, asking him when he’d be home for Thanksgiving and then also very casually asking, “And you’re spending all of Christmas with Heather’s family?”

He very nonchalantly told me that was correct. (He clearly had no idea he was breaking my heart and that my heart has no sense of fairness or logic. Heather spent all of Christmas last year with us. It’s her family’s turn. But my heart doesn’t grasp that concept.) I gave none of this away as I said, “But you’ll be coming back for New Year’s and spending a few days at home, right?”

“Well….,” came the reply.

“Well? Well??? What is with this well business?” I thought.

“That depends,” he continued. “I might have to get back to Fargo for work.”

Work.

Damn. I’d forgotten about his new job; the one I’d pushed him to get when he called home one too many times looking for money from us to fund a weekend hunting trip. We told him we were more than happy to pay for gas, groceries, rent and such. But with a third child heading toward college, if he wanted to hunt, he was going to have to pay the expenses himself. So he got a job.

Employers probably aren’t so willing to let their college student employees have a month off so they can go home to visit Mommy.

I didn’t let Brad know how devastated I was. He has no idea what a big deal this is to me, just as when I was nineteen years old, I had no idea how hard it must have been for my parents when I preferred to spend Christmas in Texas with a boyfriend than at home. (Although, on Christmas Eve that year, I realized just how much I’d really rather have been at home.)

I hung up the phone with renewed sadness, appeased only for a short while by a few hours of bowling with the girls and a couple of beers.

A busy morning at work today kept me from thinking about it too much and then a conversation with a couple of coworkers sparked my indignation all over again at the unfairness of it all. I’m not sure where the conversation began, but it spanned parenting, and holidays, tradition and family dysfunction. And it fanned the flames of my pity party. While other families will spend Christmas together, dysfunctional or not, I will be spending yet another holiday without a husband and now without my oldest son!

As the conversation continued, one coworker described some very difficult years in her family’s life. She talked about how they had to make the decision to walk away from a secure job and a comfortable home. This decision was a life saving measure for an alcoholic husband who saw himself turning back to the bottle due to the stress of his job. They ended up living in a low-income apartment for several years with two teenage kids. My coworker was pointing out the irony of the situation while at the same time, a realization seemed to come over her and she said, “…but you know, those were some of the best years of my life. I learned some hard lessons and times were tough, but those were good years.”

Suddenly, I was very, very ashamed. I have several former coworkers who were recently laid off. There are people all over the country who are unemployed or underemployed with no relief in sight. I’ll bet most of them would gladly work or see their spouse off to work for 12 hours on Christmas day rather than face another week without a paycheck.

There are men and women in the military who give up their Christmases for the sake of not only their immediate families but for the entire country.

There are those whose loved ones won’t be with them on Christmas this year or ever again. They won’t wake up the day after Christmas knowing that their sons or husbands or daughters or wives will come walking through the front door again soon.

What right do I have to feel so sorry for myself? What message am I sending to my other two children when I make it seem as if Christmas isn’t worth celebrating if I can’t have it my way? So Christmas won’t be the same this year. It’s going to be different. I’m just going to have to figure out how to make it a good kind of different. It’s taken me a few days, but I’m over it now. Because I really don’t have it so bad.

Moody Weekend

This was my “catch up on stuff” weekend and I went into it feeling motivated and with a sense of contentment. The stuff that needed catching up on was of the domestic chore type, so while I can’t say I find that kind of thing exciting, I do get a definite sense of gratification when the house and my life are restored to order.

I came home from work Friday evening, as I do most Fridays, feeling wiped out. But I had been feeling guilty for several days about the lack of anything decent to eat in our kitchen, so I hauled Mark with me to the grocery store. It felt good to be getting a jump-start on tackling the weekend chores.

While at the grocery store, Mark asked me if I had talked to our oldest son in the past few days. I told him I had not.  “Well then, you probably haven’t heard yet that he’s not going to be home for Christmas.”

This news hit me like a ton of bricks. Yes, I’ve always known there would come a time when our kids might have to make choices about where they’ll spend their time over the holidays. I guess I just didn’t expect that time to come so soon. Brad has been dating his girlfriend for just over two years now, and she spent Christmas with us last year. So I guess it’s only fair that her parents get a turn with the kids this year. I understand that, but it still doesn’t make it any easier. What makes it harder is that Mark will be working on Christmas this year. That happens and we’re sort of used to not having him around for major holidays or family events. The combination of knowing both he and Brad will be absent, and that I’ll get the “honor” of representing the family at the in-laws’ house on Christmas Day (a typically stressful event) was just really depressing.

I think Mark could see me sinking under the weight of this news and he tried to fix it by telling me that Brad and Heather would be coming to our house over New Year’s and spending several days here. But sometimes things like this take a hold of me, and I just need time to work through it. When I’m in one of these moods, I get very quiet. I can’t just turn my mood off, as much as I wish I could.

So I sort of ruined half of the weekend because Mark thought that I was taking out my sadness on him. And I wasn’t, though I was getting frustrated because he wasn’t catching on that I wasn’t mad at HIM, but at the situation. The fact that he wasn’t getting it just made me brood about it all the more.

We went bowling Saturday night and bowled badly. (I’m blaming my poor games on a sore back.) Bowling and socializing eased the tension and I felt the dark mood starting to lift.

I woke up this morning with a better mood, but with a nasty headache that was definitely coming from my neck and back. I pulled something last week while using an ab machine at the gym which requires twisting of the torso. I should have known better. I have a weak lower back. The pain has been hanging around since.

I was glad for the extra hour today, thanks to daylight savings time, because I could feel less guilty about hanging around in bed for a while longer this morning. When I finally got up, I popped some Tylenol and when that wasn’t working after a while, I added some Ibuprofen. A long hot shower helped and I got to work tackling the chores I so desperately meant to catch up on this weekend. It was a very productive day and it felt good to get the house back in shape. Later in the day, Kacey and I did some shopping and picked up, among other things, a new Vikings jersey for Jake. He was going to a buddy’s house to watch the football game and left the house wearing a Randy Moss jersey. When I asked if he was really going out in a Moss jersey, he told me it was the only Vikings shirt he had “and everyone wears a jersey during the Vikings games.” (His shirt was a leftover from years ago when Moss was with the Vikings the first time around.) Can’t have my kid running around sporting the number of a disrespectful, arrogant, and ungrateful player, so I splurged and got him a Harvin jersey to wear for the rest of the season.

Dinner was t-bone steaks on the grill with sauteed mushrooms, salad and home-grown squash. Thanks to the extra hour in the day, it was still early in the evening when we finished eating. I’d been hoping all day to go for a nice long walk outside to stretch out the muscles in my back, and that’s exactly what I did. It had been an unseasonably warm day (61 degrees) and it made for great walking weather. I took my iPod along and listened to an audio book that I purchased last week for the purpose of listening while I work out. (This is the first time I’ve tried an audio book and I like it!) It made the time go fast. I became absorbed in the book and the walk ended up being good for my back and for my mood.

So the weekend wasn’t quite what I’d planned, but it ended up working out alright after all.

They Really Don’t Allow that in the Office

I work in a cubicle farm. With a bunch of women. We talk to each other. A lot. We don’t bother to get up and go to one another’s desks most of the time. We just talk over the walls.  Our work stations are set up in quads, like this:

So, if this were actually my office, the blonde chick in the lower corner would be me. The bald bow-tie-wearing guy would be Shannon. The dark-haired neck-tie-wearing guy would be Kim. The guy in the upper corner would be Dianna. Dianna is quiet and doesn’t do much over-the-wall talking. And all of the girls are much better looking than they are represented here. But you get the idea.

Today, Shannon was trying to figure out an odd situation on one of our customer accounts. She apparently wanted me to come look at what she was looking at.

“Terri,” she said. “Can you come look at this?” There was a slight pause as I got up and began to make my way over to Shannon’s cube and she added, “I didn’t know people could do this!”

Before I could respond or even see what Shannon was looking at, Kim’s voice came from the other side of the quad. “Shannon, get off the porn websites, will ya?”

I love my coworkers.

Sky on Fire

I’m working 9 to 5 this week and I love it. I’m an early riser, so I still set the alarm for 4:30 and I get my butt to the gym by 5:00. I spend an hour there and then when I come home, I’ve got time for all the little things that tend to fall by the wayside when my workday starts at 7:00. This week, I’ve found time in the morning to do a load of laundry or unload the dishwasher, make the bed, make a lunch for work, eat breakfast and see my daughter before she goes to school. (I’ve discovered she eats things like wild rice soup for breakfast. Could be worse!)

Once I’m at work, the day goes fast.

I noticed today while driving in to work, that even though the temperatures are still warm-ish, the clouds in the sky are beginning to look wintry… a mixture of white and gray, clumpy and heavy. This morning the sky looked like it does when it holds a snow storm. And even though it was much too warm for snow today, those days aren’t far off now.

When I came home from work today, the afternoon sky was drastically different from the morning sky. This time the sky was on fire.