Back on track

Almost!

I felt like I was in a slow burn last week. The previous weekend was overflowing with activity. It started with playing photographer for my best friend’s wedding vow renewal ceremony. After the ceremony, there was the reception/going away party during which I had a way lotta fun! At least that was what I thought on Saturday night. By Sunday, it felt more like I had had too much fun. Translation: Headache!

On Sunday, I slept half the day away and then spent the rest of the day visiting moms (for Mothers’ Day) and my best friend (to share the hundreds of pictures I had taken the previous day). Needless to say, nothing was accomplished as far as domestic duties. The weekly cleaning didn’t get done, no laundry, grocery shopping… nada. Monday and the work week arrived. Outside of work, there were obligations to be met every evening. My day off was spent running from one appointment to the next and running necessary errands. I felt like I was falling hopelessly behind, and if you know me, that feeling is not good for my overall well-being.

The sun hadn’t shone in four damn days. It rained nearly every day and it was cold! I felt more mentally and physically overwhelmed with each passing day.  I couldn’t find time to squeeze one more thought into my brain, much less think about making space for my typical stress relievers of choice…a run or some writing.

The family flitted in and out of the house all week-long. We were all on clashing schedules and seemed to simply pass one another on the way in or out the door. Mark was busy spending every minute of free time working on tiling the back splash in the new kitchen, which is still not quite complete. It seems like I am continuously tripping over trim work and crown molding that has yet to be installed. There was tile dust from all the cutting and tools on every inch of available counter space. You know when you just want to scream in frustration but you know you can’t because the thing that’s frustrating you most will eventually lead to something that makes your life easier? Yeah, that was me last week.

I woke up almost every morning last week with a less-than enthusiastic attitude, to put it mildly.

When I wrote my Friday “Life is Good” post, which I typically do on Thursday night and schedule for the next day, I felt like I was trying to talk myself into believing that life was, in fact, good. Most of the time, it works and writing about the good things in life really does fuel a positive spirit. Sometimes, I feel like a big, fat phony. Last week was one of those times.

Friday came and the sun returned, but a couple of things happened at work that had me wound up tight as a drum. I was exhausted by the time 5:00 arrived; really and truly exhausted, but I couldn’t go home and kick back because I had a wedding reception to attend. The reception was for the daughter of a coworker of Mark’s. It was a nice reception and I tried to enjoy it, but I just felt ready to snap. The bride stood up at one point to make a speech about how happy she was and how grateful she felt for the presence of all of the friends and family there.  She tearfully spoke of her love of life and her new husband expressed her understandably celebratory mood. At that moment, ironically, as she invited all of the guests to join her in embracing the joy of life, I sat there fighting back tears and trying not to show it. We left not long after dinner and dessert and by the time we got home, I was completely and totally wiped out. Mark asked if I was okay. I gave my typical response to such a question, “Yeah”, and I went to bed at 9:30.

And I slept. I slept solidly and soundly and it was exactly what I needed. I needed to revive myself. I woke up fairly early on Saturday… before 7:00… and I began to address all of those things hanging over my head that I had allowed to drag me down over the past week. I cleaned and I tackled mountains of laundry. I organized and restored order to the house and in the process, began to restore some order to my chaotic state of mind. As much as I often proclaim to despise the constant need for cleaning, organizing and all those other domestic duties, the process is often cathartic for me. With each task I checked off my list (and mind you, I accomplished this stuff while helping Kacey get ready for her prom last night, which, if you weren’t aware, for girls, is an all day affair) I felt my spirits lifting.

Later in the day, Kacey’s boyfriend arrived to take her to the prom. I took bunches of pictures at home, then met them at a friend’s house to take pictures of them with their group of friends. Oh my god, they looked stunning. When they were finally off to the prom, I came home to finally, finally sit down, relax, edit and play with all the prom pictures and catch up (almost) on all my blog reading.

I woke up this morning feeling lighter than I have in a week. I got my butt to the gym and spent some time on the much-missed treadmill. I slowed down to a walk a few times, but always returned to my running pace and finished strong. It felt wonderful! When I left the gym, I walked out into the sunshine and warmth of a beautiful day. I had to stand outside of my car for just a few moments, close my eyes and lift my face to the sun. I needed to stop for a few seconds, take a deep breath and embrace the moment. For as much as I hate weeks like the one I just had, I know I haven’t seen the last of them. I just need to remember not to let them beat me.

Busier than a one-legged man in a butt kicking contest

I feel so overwhelmed. I’m falling behind on everything!

Work is chaos, though that’s not really a complaint. I’ve been begging for this for the past two painfully slow years and I finally got my wish. But I hate when I make minor mistakes because I’ve got too many irons in the fire and I don’t know how to say no or ask for help.

The kitchen is still in chaos. But it’s coming together, slowly but surely.

Kacey is on spring break this week and filling up every spare moment with activity. Last night she hung out with a friend, first at the mall, then back home to play Wii and watch a movie. Tonight she’s going bowling with a bunch of kids. Tomorrow there’s a bonfire party at a friend’s house. I took Friday off, thinking I might spend some time with her. At the rate things are going, that probably won’t happen. That’s okay. Maybe I’ll be able to put my kitchen back in order.

I have to make some sort of Bingo card for fun night with my women’s bowling league. Only instead of BINGO, it will be called BOWLO. Get it? BOWLO? Heh. I know. Lame.

My parents come home from Arizona tomorrow. Jake turns 19 on Friday, and I’m pretty sure there’s a major holiday happening this weekend for which I’m supposed to cook the main dish for the family brunch.

Just a few things happening here…

Welcome Challenges

I really don’t want to make a habit of rambling on about my job, but that is everything I have going on right now. I am so very busy and I’m tempted to say it’s an almost stressful kind of busy, but it’s been so long since I’ve been challenged that I can’t help but feel happy about it! Instead of watching the clock and counting the minutes until quitting time (like I’ve done for almost two years), I find myself wondering where the time goes. My email inbox is out of control and I’m setting electronic alerts to remind myself to follow-up on tasks that carry through to the next day and beyond. (I can always tell when I’m really stressed because I develop canker sores in my mouth. I’ve got a whopper right now. I know. That’s a pretty picture, isn’t it?)

Coworkers often stop by my desk to ask me how to do something or to get my opinion on something they are working on. I think I am sought out in situations like this because my first reaction is always that if I’ve been asked for help with a problem, then I need to solve the problem for that person. That approach is only delaying me from completing my own work and it’s not helping anyone else learn how to find the information they need to solve their own problems. I really need to work on suggesting where to look for procedures and guidance rather than just handing over the answer.

The website project is moving along nicely. My co-lead and I are learning to communicate with one another. He is a young, enthusiastic, highly intelligent developer who, if you ask me, speaks a foreign language. I’m sure, from his perspective, that he feels the same way about me (the foreign language part, not the young or highly intelligent part). But we’re getting there and I am learning so much! Thankfully, he is a very patient person and is giving me all the space I need to catch on to the communication process which is apparently second nature to web developers, but like I said, foreign to most everyone else. He asked me yesterday what I envisioned for each of our roles. I told him that I felt it was my job to conceive the perfect website that has all of the capabilities I can imagine based on my knowledge of our customers’ needs. The sky’s the limit! His job is to tell me which expectations aren’t realistic, which ones are and how we will make those reality. My confidence multiplied when he completely agreed with me.

Leaving work today with a couple of coworkers, a half hour late, I stopped to finish a conversation about some of the hurdles we’ve been experiencing with our new venture. One of the girls’ parting words were, “There don’t seem to be enough hours in the day lately.” I had to agree, but as I turned to head toward my car, I added, “But we have jobs!

I have a job, and one that I love. There is no doubt in my mind as to how very fortunate that makes me.

Overslept!

So, as I began to gain consciousness this morning, all snuggled under my warm comfy blankets and comforter, I was thinking how well-rested I felt. But I was cozy and in no hurry to exit the bed just yet. I resisted opening my eyes and thought to myself, “I hope it’s not 4:30 yet.”

Lazily, I rolled over, and peeked at the clock. There was a fleeting, but pleasant moment when it registered in my mind that it was  not 4:30 and then it only took a split second for me to realize it was after 4:30. It was, in fact,  actually 6:10, which is just about the time I normally hit the road. In my car. Fully showered and dressed with make-up applied and my tote bag all packed with the necessities of my day. It was time for me to leave for work and here I was in my pajamas with bed-head and yesterday’s mascara which I was too lazy to take off before I went to bed last night. Apparently I was also too lazy to turn the alarm clock ON!

Panic ensued, starting when I bolted straight upright in bed and gasped loud enough to awaken Mark who took one look at the clock and commented, “I think you’re gonna be late today.”

Brilliant observation, honey. Thanks for that.

I forgave him for his sarcasm because that Ipod Touch he gave me for Valentine’s Day is going to go a long way in garnering forgiveness for his transgressions. (Don’t get TOO comfy, dear. You have until about April before I’m going to start holding grudges again. Okay, maybe May. But that’s it. Enjoy it while you can.)

Mark fell back to sleep within approximately three seconds and I scrambled out of bed. The good thing is, I realized just how quickly I can get myself ready and out the door when all I am doing is showering and taking care of myself. I ended up only being a half hour late to work when all was said and done. (And yes, that half hour came right out of my PTO balance. Not my favorite use of precious vacation time!)

It would seem that when the morning routine includes doing some laundry, ironing clothing, unloading the dishwasher, showing some love to the cats, doing some crunches, tidying up the kitchen, writing a check for Kacey’s lunch account, and making a breakfast and lunch to bring to work, it all takes up valuable stretches of time that might otherwise be better spent sleeping! (No, I don’t do all of these things every day, but some combination of several of them.)

I couldn’t shake that panicked feeling until I was sitting at my desk at work. You can bet I won’t be forgetting the alarm clock again any time soon!

Never enough hours

There was a discussion taking place on the morning radio show that I listen to while I drive in to work. Quite frequently, one of the DJs will read a news story designed to cause a stir. This morning’s story was about a couple of “experts” who claim that stay-at-home parents enjoy thirty to forty hours of free time every week while their spouses slave away at work to bring home the bacon.

The story brought on the desired debate. Pit the working parents against the stay-at-home parents! Let’s see if we can get a ruckus going! A stay-at-home dad called in, supporting the experts’ findings. He said staying home with the kids was the easiest job he has ever had. (He also added that in spite of staying home with his kids, he puts them in daycare twice a week so he can get things done.) Right on his heels came a couple of moms calling in, adamantly disputing his claims that being a stay-at-home parent was easy. The last woman to call in stated it well. Staying at home isn’t easy, especially if you’re working to maintain a household while at the same time, entertaining and educating the kids while simultaneously broadening their horizons. In the interest of fairness, she also supported the argument that working full time outside the home isn’t any easier. We are all busy, whether we have children or not and whether we work full time outside the home or not.  In closing, she mused about all the past years of her life, saying that even in her young adult years, it seemed as if she was always busy doing something and at no point did she feel like she had all the time in the world to do anything she liked.

And that is the sentiment that struck me. I thought about the many days I’ve arrived at work in the morning and joked to someone, “Doesn’t it feel like we just left this place?” I love my job, but it often feels as if I spend the majority of my waking hours there. Actually, it doesn’t just feel that way. It is that way. From the time I leave the house until the time I get back home, I’ve been away over eleven hours. My evenings seem to pass so quickly and I often lack the energy to do anything really productive. I try to spend some time reading blogs or a book, maybe writing a little something, and before I know it, it’s time for bed. The day has ended and there’s a list a mile long of things that didn’t get done. And I usually feel guilty about any one of the many chores that might have been tackled, but weren’t. I am very grateful for my job, but the fact doesn’t escape me that like  most of you, I have had to make choices that are in the best interest of my family, but those choices often come at a price. Something has to be sacrificed because no one can do it all.

As the weekends loom in sight each week, I usually face them with a strange mixture of anticipation and wariness. I look forward to having a day or two to wake up without an alarm clock. But as far as enjoying the days, I’m sad to say that I don’t always. Saturdays and Sundays often pass so quickly that I forget, or more accurately, don’t allow myself to find time to relax and unwind. There is cleaning and laundry to be done, errands to run, obligations to meet. Shannon often jokes with me at work because she knows I clean the house every weekend. She says she won’t let me come to her house because I’d be shocked at how untidy it might be. She thinks it is funny that I feel compelled to vacuum and dust and scrub every weekend. Maybe she’s right. Don’t get me wrong. My house is far from immaculate. I never even made it to the lower level last weekend. There was too much going on and Sunday came to an end before I could cross everything off the to-do list. But I do have the mindset that the house has to get cleaned top to bottom, once a week. The weekends are the only time I find enough energy and motivation to go after it all at once.  And if I don’t get it done, it nags at me in the back of my mind until it does get done. And really? Who cares? Why do I care so much? When I die, am I going to say, “Gosh. I wish I’d spent more time cleaning!” ?

I think many of us spend most of our lives with a “have to, have to, have to” mindset. I have to get this chore done. I have to get this errand run. I have to tackle this project that’s been awaiting my attention for months. I have to see people. Projects get prioritized. Things get moved to the back burner while others are taken care of. There’s always something more needing our attention. The list never ends. And when there’s a moment to spare, our minds are racing. What am I missing? What should I be doing? I shouldn’t be sitting idle.

Why not? Why shouldn’t we have some idle time? Why do we always feel we have to be productive? I can’t remember the last time I just sat and did nothing. I am always talking to someone, listening to someone else talk, reading, watching, listening to music. I can’t remember the last time I just sat and thought about nothing  in particular.   I don’t think society encourages us to relax, to just be, to just sit back and take a good look at the world. We rarely allow ourselves to be aware of anything but the next thing on the “have to” list. I think it makes it hard to soak it all in and truly appreciate life.

I wonder why I feel like I have to do it all or die trying.

Sometimes I wish they could just read my mind. But it's probably better that they can't.

Five-thirty, Tuesday evening. I’ve survived rush hour and pulled the car into the garage. Grabbing my tote bag and purse, I walk through the door into the house. I manage to kick one shoe off and my jacket has barely left one shoulder. The purse has yet to hit the floor.

“Hi Mommy! What’s for dinner? I’m starving!” The voice of my darling daughter asks me the last question I want to be asked after ten hours, sitting on my *ss at a desk.

A quick assessment of the home situation and it’s clear that both televisions are on. Two teenagers are lounging in the living room. One husband is lounging in the family room. And no preparations for dinner have begun.

(Okay, technically…. they were not just lounging. Well… they were lounging, but they were also folding laundry. In front of the televisions. You know how that goes. So, in all fairness, they weren’t just lounging. But I wasn’t feeling fair at the time.)

The “what’s for dinner” question rang in my ears. The little voice in my head was saying, “Are ya kiddin’ me? Three people at home and not a one of them could have at least gotten something started?”

The voice I allowed to leave my mouth said, “I guess we could have grilled ham and cheese sandwiches.” “Again.”

Spying the loaf of Texas Toast style bread on the counter, Kacey’s eyebrows shot up and she asked, “Can we have French Toast?”

“Sure. That sounds good,” I replied. “Why don’t you get the pan out, and the eggs and stuff, and a bowl to mix it in…”

“Orrrrr,” she teased, “YOU could get the stuff out because I’ve been working SO hard folding all those socks.”

“ORRRR,” I shot back, “YOU could do it because I’ve been at WORK for ten hours and just walked in the door and would like to take three seconds for a potty break.” “And everyone KNOWS how much I love coming home from work and heading straight to the kitchen to cook after a long day!”

“Okay, okay,” she laughed. I’ll get the stuff out.”

SO… I head for my bathroom… (Side note: I ALWAYS need a potty break when I come home from work. And everyone in my family is well aware of this fact.) So I head for my bathroom, and my darling husband decides to be cute and block my path, spreading his arms across the hallway so I can’t get through and insists on teasing. “Where ya headed? Did you have to use the bathroom?”

“YES,” I asserted, trying to worm my way around him and make it clear I was not going to play along today. He wasn’t getting it.

“WHY? Why are you in such a hurry? Is it because you won’t use the rest room at work?”

Ducking under his arm, and slipping into my bathroom, I shot back, “Not if I can help it!” “The four o’clock pooper prevents me from using the ladies room in the later hours of the day.”

Five minutes later, feeling a bit relieved (ha-ha-ha) I head for the kitchen where it’s clear that Kacey has a full grasp of my not-so-playful mood. All of the necessary items have been arranged on the counter and stove for the French Toast preparations. I crack some eggs, and open a drawer to grab a fork with which to stir them up and find… NO forks. With a sigh, I slide over to the dishwasher, and pulling it open, find it bursting at the seams with clean dishes and silverware. Since none of us were around Monday evening, I knew this was the load of dishes that had been run Sunday night. This time, the sarcasm wasn’t contained to only the voice inside my head.

“Are ya kiddin’ me,” I asked of no one in particular? Jake had been home during the day on Monday. He worked Monday night but was home again all day Tuesday and I was exasperated. “Do you mean to tell me that in the past 48 hours, not a single person in this house could put the clean dishes away? Kacey, please unload the dishwasher for me.”

“Can I do half and Jake do the other half,” she asked?

“Fine. I don’t care. Just get it done.”

So Kacey unloaded the top rack, which was quite full of cups, glasses and bowls. The bottom rack only had a few very large bowls and a couple plates. The silverware basket was full.

“Jake,” she called over to him, “you get the rest.”

Coming over and spying all that clean silverware, he turned to Kacey and sneered, “YOU do the silverware. I’m not doing the bottom rack AND all that stuff!”

And then the bickering began… With all the resolve I could muster, I bit my tongue and tried to ignore them.

“I’m not doing it, YOU do it! There’s hardly anything on the bottom rack anyway!”

“YOU do it! I folded way more laundry than you!”

“JAY-AKE! Just do it!”

“NO! Do you know how often I unload the WHOLE dishwasher all by myself???”

The thread of patience I’d been hanging on to snapped.

“Jake! Just do it!”

“MOM,” he began to argue, “she hardly did anything!”

“For god’s sake,” I shot back. “Just go. I’ll do it myself. It’s not like I just walked in the door, or worked all day long or am trying to cook dinner or anything…”

In a huff, Jake sulked off to the family room. I finished unloading the dishwasher then returned to the stove to fry the french toast. Watching the first pieces sizzle in the pan, I crossed my arms over my chest. Lips pursed, I sat there stewing. I soon became aware of Mark cautiously approaching from behind.

“Why is Jake mad,” he asked?

I shrugged.

“Why are you pouting?”

“Oh, maybe because I’m trying to cook dinner and he can’t even unload HALF of the dishwasher. So I can cook dinner! When I just got home! And I have to cook dinner because no one else did!”

(Are you getting the idea I was a little unhappy about having to cook dinner? Especially when the kids have recently proven they are very capable?)

“You’re both being kind of petty, don’t you think,” he suggested?

“Yeah. That’s helpful.”

Oh good. At least the inside-my-head voice was back.

“I dunno,” I shrugged, pouting.

He knew better than to push. When I’m in the mood to pout, just ride it out. And let me just tell you, when I start pouting, look out! Let the martyrdom begin!

“Come and eat before this starts getting cold,” I told Mark.

“Hey, why don’t I finish cooking and you can sit down and eat,” he suggested.

“Nope,” I said. “Kacey, come and eat.”

“Want me to finish cooking so you can eat,” she asked?

“Nope.”

Oh, I was layin’ it on thick! Defeated, the two of them took their plates to the table.

“JAKE,” I yelled down the stairs.

“What,” he asked flatly?

“Are you eating or what?”

“Nope,” he replied in that same flat voice. (Like mother, like son.)

When I finally joined Mark and Kacey at the table, Mark tried again to smooth things over.

“What’s wrong?”

Without looking up, I mumbled, “Nothing.” (Stock pouty answer. Ain’t nothin’ or nobody getting through the wall of poutiness.)

“Are you really going to let this stupid little incident ruin your whole night?”

“Maybe.” “I dunno.”

“Can’t you let it go?”

“Sure thing, Dr. Phil.” “Yeah, I guess.”

My words agreed with him. My body language did not. Defeated, he let it go and later, I went to the gym and took out my frustrations on the treadmill. (I forgot to warm up and cool down so my muscles could get a good stretch. Anyone wanna give me a calf massage?)

Early, early this morning, as I was putting on my face and hair for work today, (and feeling in a much more pleasant mood, I might add,) I heard the most pitiful howling coming from the living room. Clearly, my Holly-cat was experiencing some discomfort or frustration. Maybe her buddy, Tigger had neglected to replace the roll of toilet paper in the litter box? I don’t know. The howling continued and I was afraid she was going to wake the kids. I tiptoed into the living room and as soon as she heard me coming, the howling stopped. I knelt down beside her, asking, “Whatsa matter, baby? Does your tummy hurt?”

I reached out to pet her, but she shot me a glare and with a snippy little “Meowr!” she shot off to her hiding place behind the chair.

“Geeze,” I thought. “Someone is feeling a little surly today!”

She reminds me of someone… but I can’t quite put my finger on it.

p.s. Dinner was in the crock pot as of 6:00 a.m. this morning and I’ll be calling home later with any chores I want the kids to complete before I get home.

Dark

Maybe I’ve heard one too many stories lately. They’re in the news; stories of anger, hatred, bitterness and tragedy. I hear them from friends and coworkers.  I read about them through some of your words. They involve divorce, parenting struggles, abuse, loved ones in jail, illness and death. Often the words are masked with humor. Sometimes the words are raw. The underlying message is hurt and pain; the darker side of life.

I always say that I rarely dream while I’m sleeping. Lately I’ve been trying hard to hold on to the remnants of dreams before they dissolve from my memory. As it turns out, I do dream. Maybe there’s a reason I couldn’t – or didn’t want to remember my dreams. They can be very dark at times. Last night I dreamed that I was walking in the darkness with my children through an unfamiliar neighborhood. It was well into the night and tall trees lined the boulevard, illuminated only by a street light, casting shadows onto the lawns of large brick houses. There was a man with a gun roaming the neighborhood and I wanted to hide my kids and myself from him, but I couldn’t get my kids to grasp the magnitude of the situation. They are young adults now, and they thought I was overreacting. As soon as I would gather one or two of them near me, another would go off somewhere on their own. I was growing increasingly desperate to protect them and frustrated with my inability to get them to a safe place. That dream faded away without resolution, but another soon took its place. In this dream, I witnessed a car accident and ran to help the victims, a young mother and her toddler and baby. Someone, I’m not sure who, was ridiculing me for thinking I could help and asking me why I was bothering to try. That ridicule sunk straight through to the heart of me and I instantly stopped believing I could make a difference.

There is so much darkness and so much bitterness in life sometimes. There is so much that it seeps into my subconscious at night. I look at people and see not only their actions and reactions, but the forces behind them. I wonder how many people are who they are because they can’t let go of a past guilt or cling to the negative influences of their pasts; influences that are not their fault; influences that precede even their own births. Why do we allow the words and actions of others to dictate who we think we can or cannot be?

Most of the time I tend to focus on a very small part of the world that is familiar to me. That’s where my comfort zone lies, I guess. But once in a while I take off the blinders and see the bigger picture. I see a  world full of people struggling to find their way. Some of us struggle day after day, year after year, never quite “getting it.” We grow older, wiser in some ways, but always just missing the mark on what is truly important. Why is real and lasting happiness so hard to grasp? I’m always in awe of those who seem to have it figured out; the ones who seem to know a true inner peace in spite of all the barriers life tries to throw at them. Sometimes I feel like my grasp of it is just around the corner, and then life throws up another wall and instead of climbing it, I admit defeat. And when I look around me, I know that I’m one of many who gets stuck in this place. Maybe my mistake is thinking that inner peace makes one immune from hurt, anger and sadness.

I need to remember that happy wouldn’t feel so happy if there weren’t sadness to contrast it. We would never know what it felt like to burst with pride if we didn’t know failure. Love could never overwhelm us if we didn’t first know what it was like to be disregarded.

I’m going on a little vacation tomorrow. Maybe I need it more than I knew.