Wednesday, October 27, 2010

top ten realizations from NYC

  1. It doesn't matter what you wear as long as the majority of it is black.  And, it's nice to know that men still wear suits.
  2. Public transportation - and so much of it - totally rocks.  You do, however, still feel like a rat in a maze even with all the abundant signage.  
  3. There is a Dunkin' Donuts on every corner except any corner on my walk to Penn Station.  I've been told there's one right in the station but I have yet to find it (see reference to maze above).
  4. You do a lot of walking when using public transportation and that's good for my butt.
  5. Reverse commute, moving against the tide of traffic, on foot is not nearly as enjoyable as when you're driving a car.
  6. People honk their horns all the time, just because they can, and I love it.  It makes me feel like maybe I'm not so crazy even if I'm the only one doing it in suburbia CA.
  7. It can be warm while rainy (unlike in Northern California).
  8. Humidity makes for a bad hair day (see above).
  9. The economy seems to be doing fine, at least in Manhattan, as judged by the hour-long waits to get a table at a restaurant.
  10. It's hard to read a menu in said restaurants' dim lighting making me realize that I need to go to the eye doctor and get a new prescription.  I literally cannot read the menus.
*Photo from Flickr, under the Creative Commons license, by Joe Schlabotnik.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

It's the little things

So this past week was a challenging one.  Nothing major, but at the same time, all those little things piled right up to make it one heck of a week.

For starters, at the end of last weekend my dryer broke.  Um, let's see - a familiy with five people (four of whom are "adult" sized) makes for a considerable sum of laundry.  Truly inconvenient and such a drag.  I had no time to deal with it during the week (see paragraph below) so I headed into this weekend not knowing where I'd land.  The not knowing caused a certain amount of angst, but I'm happy to report that $180.00 later, the laundry is back in action.

It must have been appliance crap-out week because my rice cooker broke, too.  Maybe that doesn't seem to be altogether such a big deal, but one of my kids has to eat gluten free, which means rice is a staple.  And, with my schedule, who has time sit by and "watch" the rice cook?  Damn.

Then, work had it's own set of challenges.  There were some management changes recently which has resulted in quite an upset in my work life.  Add to that, one of my new team's first project reviews in front of executives and then the subsequent grueling planning sessions.  Top it off with the fact that my manager, who I love to pieces because she listens to me whine, is out on vacation.   Anxiety abounding, no clear direction and only further chaos in sight.  Change is challenging.

My pool game happens to be in a slump.  This translates into my night out with the girls for some fun, drinking and relaxation has turned into pure torment.  Failing to execute consistently, especially when the pressure is on does not make for a good time.

And, speaking of drinking, hubby and I decided to give up all alcohol for a month, until Thanksgiving.  It's not that alcohol is a problem, but it just seemed like it'd be good to take a conscious break prior to the holiday season hitting in full force.  So, my "one night out whether I need it or not" now consists of playing shitty pool and not even having a drink while at a bar.

I think I need to re-think things a bit.  Maybe my work-related trip to NYC this week sans hubby and children will help me center myself and come back a new and improved person.  Let's hope anyway.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Rain, Rain, Here To Stay

This week has ushered in the onset of rain. It's forecast for the entire weekend. And it'll last through til April or May, hopefully regularly because California always needs the rain. And, rain in the Bay Area usually translates to snow in the Sierras which makes for fine skiing, something I always look forward to.

But, with the onset of this rain, with the onset of Fall, also comes the onset of this melancholy feeling. I find it odd that I know Fall to be my favorite season, yet it brings on such sadness for me. The heater now turned on with the opportunity for fires in the fireplaces, the darkness late into the morning and quietly descending as I leave the office, the rain as it falls outside presenting the opportunity to both be productive or enticingly unproductive leaves me feeling discontent.

I welcome Fall. I dislike the endless, hot days of summer. However, as much as I know Fall to be my favorite season, my spirits start to sink. I become introverted and reflective. Just as the clouds come and blanket the sky, enveloping the landscape in gray, my mood often seems to follow suit. And it stays this way, getting darker and darker towards the holidays.

This darkness surrounding me, enclosing me, leading up to the holidays is not uncommon. My logical mind knows it's true. I can tell you that I suspect I know why my mood darkens as do the days. When I was eleven, my grandfather passed away. It was right after the New Year and after he had just spent the holidays with us. I had a great relationship with him and his loss, my loss was the first significant one in my life. Then more recently, in 2002, I lost my mother on January 9th. To say that it was devastating is insufficient. The pain continues to be so great that I simply have willed myself to bury it deep. I am convinced that the hole will never go away and I fear revisiting the emotions which ripped me apart in the early days and months following her death.

What I know having experienced this regular down-turn of spirit at this time of year is that it will pass. Soon it will be ski season and the best time of the year for our family. The time we spend together skiing thoroughly bonds us for the remainder of the year when the disparate schedules of swim team, boy scouts, school sports and sleepovers seem to pull us apart. I've learned to appreciate the fires in the fireplace, the pretty leaves (yes, they even change colors in Northern California) and the comfort of rainy days knowing that it's okay to cuddle up on the couch and do nothing.

*Photo from Flickr, under the Creative Commons License, Red Sycamore by John-Morgan.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Toy Soldier

As I'm going through these days of parenting my first teen, I'm realizing that these days are just as hard as the sleep-deprived, newborn days, or the terrible-two's or the early days of elementary school with the "impulse control" problems, or the transition into middle school and the necessity of learning how to deal with six teachers and six different processes as opposed to the single teacher in elementary school.

Each phase has it's challenges, but these teen years, it's almost more difficult. And frustrating. Things at this point are out of my control, mostly. The foundation for "goodness" has been laid, or not. When your kid is towering a full nine inches above you, long gone are the days of picking up your kid to put him in timeout. The respect is there, or not.

I think I've done a good job - or at least as good as I can. I think I have good kids. Perfect, obviously not. But good enough. They know right from wrong. They know their manners, although regular use of said manners is sometimes forgotten. They've been taught some modicum of work ethic through chores and conversations with direct applications to my husband's and my jobs. They know that you have to do good job to get ahead. They know that there are performance reviews and "grading" even in the professional world and that (can) lead to raises and bonuses. These are real-world applications, not just theory, floating about to support these notions.

But it's still frustrating. There are times when they don't do what they're supposed to do. Times when they know they've made bad choices. And, as a parent, it amazes me that this parenting thing is not getting any easier. I know I've presented good, tangible lessons to help my kids be "good" humans, but they still have their moments. They fight and bicker. My husband says it's because they're boys, but I'm not convinced (having only one sister makes my sphere of personal experience lacking in this regard). The old adage "just when you figure it out, it changes" still applies.

And lately I keep returning to a lesson my father taught me. A lesson provided when I was a young adult, in the early days of my parenting. I'm not really sure it was a lesson, more than his observation to me about raising kids. He said raising kids is like managing a wind up toy soldier. You wind them up and set them down on a path. Every once in a while something will cross your toy soldier's path and cause it to stray. As the parent, your job is to tap that soldier back onto the right path. But you can only tap lightly. Tap too hard and the toy soldier will fall over. Ignore it and the toy soldier will continue down the wrong path.

I often come back to this lesson when I'm full of doubt about the "right" thing to do. My inclination is to rule with an iron fist, but that will only break a spirit and cause rebellion. But it is so hard to just tap lightly. It is so hard to admit that you actually have very little control at this point in their lives. But tap lightly I will. My job is not done yet.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Dear Dad - A New Note

Dear Dad,

We know I wrote before about our relationship and where we are with that. Well, I wanted to write this time to say thank you. Thank you for visiting. I know it wasn't a particularly happy trip. I know we weren't first on your agenda, but I appreciate the effort and time you spent nonetheless.

It was good to see you. I am glad I got to share my version of beef stroganoff with you.

I'm glad you made the time to hang out with Mike and go to your first NFL game.

I'm glad I got to see Aunt Susie, although her health is disconcerting.

I'm glad that we shared a cocktail or two.

I'm glad that we chatted while we relaxed, listening to the kids bicker in the background. Your recollections of my sister and me from our youth doing the same. Your comments to mom about said bickering by my sister and me. Your recollections of yourself with your brother in your youth.

Time with all the siblings. Good photo ops, and I took them. We need to remember the family for it is painfully clear that memories are all we'll have.

Thanks Dad. I hope you come again. It was nice.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Dead Poets Remembrance Day

I heard on the news this morning that today is "dead poets day". This intrigued me. I never heard of this before, so I did what any curious person would do and looked it up on the internet. Sure enough, it's real. (A word of warning, if you click over, wear your shades - the site is rather bright.)  Part of this celebration includes traveling around to dead poets' grave sites and doing a poetry reading. I checked it out and none are very close to me, but I really wish I could participate.

To that end, I post two of my all-time favorite poems. If you happen to be in Bennington, Vermont, feel free to stop by Robert Frost's grave and read Nothing Gold Can Stay.

Nature's first green is gold, 
Her hardest hue to hold. 
Her early leaf's a flower; 
But only so an hour. 
Then leaf subsides to leaf. 
So Eden sank to grief, 
So dawn goes down to day. 
Nothing gold can stay. 

If you're close to Cambridge, Massachusetts, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow is buried there and you could recite The Children's Hour.
Between the dark and the daylight,
When the night is beginning to lower,
Comes a pause in the day's occupations,
That is known as the Children's Hour.

I hear in the chamber above me
The patter of little feet,
The sound of a door that is opened,
And voices soft and sweet.

From my study I see in the lamplight,
Descending the broad hall stair,
Grave Alice, and laughing Allegra,
And Edith with golden hair.

A whisper, and then a silence:
Yet I know by their merry eyes
They are plotting and planning together
To take me by surprise.

A sudden rush from the stairway,
A sudden raid from the hall!
By three doors left unguarded
They enter my castle wall!

They climb up into my turret
O'er the arms and back of my chair;
If I try to escape, they surround me;
They seem to be everywhere.

They almost devour me with kisses,
Their arms about me entwine,
Till I think of the Bishop of Bingen
In his Mouse-Tower on the Rhine!

Do you think, O blue-eyed banditti,
Because you have scaled the wall,
Such an old mustache as I am
Is not a match for you all!

I have you fast in my fortress,
And will not let you depart,
But put you down into the dungeon
In the round-tower of my heart.

And there will I keep you forever,
Yes, forever and a day,
Till the walls shall crumble to ruin,
And moulder in dust away!

I like poetry but only the simple kind.  I'm not a fan of any type of work that requires someone with a Ph.D. to explain what "it" means.  For me that kind of dissection interferes with the beauty of the piece.

Do you like poetry?    Do you like to dissect and analyze?

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Emotional Stability

Today is one of those days where I'm painfully aware that I lack emotional stability. Every little thing is too much, or not enough. I am hard on those around me, and hard on myself.

My demeanor rises and falls with my blood sugar and hormones, my lack of sleep or night of restfulness. And there are the intangibles. The inability to logically assess from where these emotional states come.

I am sure it's confusing for my family. The same behavior elicits quite different responses. One minute I'm espousing all my husband's endearing qualities and the next, a series of complaints. One minute I'm kind and gentle, the ideal parent. The next, I hear the sharp tone in my voice I so often remember from my mom in my youth.

It's the same at the office. One minute I am energized and challenged with the volume of work. And the next, simply feeling like I'm drowning, destined for failure.

Life requires so much energy. Maybe it is the plain fact of needing nourishment, or the curse of being a woman, or the lack of a good night's sleep that diminish my ability to maintain. But the logical part of my brain thinks those are just excuses. That somehow, I should rise above all that and be better.