Sunday, July 24, 2011

A Week Full of The Happy

Well. The days fly by at the New Job, and things seem to be coming together for the next school year. I had some wonderful connections throughout the week, which is always a great thing.

One day's mail contained three chatty letters from former students, and a postcard from Young Son (who just finished another long-distance bike ride) that said, "Mom, I love you more than my bike." High praise indeed.

And speaking of Young Son, who is enamored of all things 1970s, he is now living in a co-op in a funky downtown Austin neighborhood. I can't fault the "House Rules": no alcohol and no serving meat. He is a semi-vegetarian who eats healthy most all the time. Apparently there is something about not being able to have something that makes you want it even more. When I went on a tour of his home last week, he told me he missed meat sometimes and kept a bag of beef jerky in his room. Meat as contraband. (Have a mentioned a time or twenty that Austin's quasi-motto is "Keep Austin Weird"? And maybe meatless.)

Young Son and I went out to eat with one of his friends from childhood. Tyler lost his mom to cancer just weeks from the time we lost D. You know how most of us talk about writing books about our experiences? Well, Tyler's book was published this spring. It chronicles his journey in the loss of his mother, but the perspective of God that he gained. You can order it here on Amazon as a paperback or a Kindle download.

I got to have lunch with my mentor in education. She was my sixth grade teacher in elementary school, and made me want to pursue a classroom of my own. She went from being Mrs. W to Dr. W with a PhD in Educational Administration. She has been a principal of another local private school for 30 years. I met with her to ask a lot of Big Questions. Her answers were concentrated with the wisdom of many years, and we had an amazing exchange of ideas. She wants me to call her by her first name now. Somehow, the adults of our childhood don't transition easily to being peers. I'm practicing her name in front of the mirror in anticipation of our next meeting with (many) more Big Questions on my part, I'm sure.

Today, I drove to one of my favorite little "antiquing" towns, to find my favorite store locked up tight. Guess I should have paid more attention to Sunday's store hours. No connection made here today!
But the best connection of all? I happened to have Facebook on for a few minutes early Saturday morning and a message popped up. A precious friend from college was in town with her family for a wedding: could I go to lunch with them. COULD I? What a joy to have friends from "back when". It seems as though not a day has passed since those late night marathon talks on the third floor of our dorm. She and her husband have a lot to show for those years since graduation; three beautiful and charming daughters among them. What a wonderful ending to a great week.

It takes a long time to grow an old friend. And surely there is no better investment in our lives.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Not Talking to Strangers

For the past two years, well meaning friends have told me that I should consider online dating sites. In the beginning, my reaction was red hot rage. After about a year it cooled to an icy silence. Recently, I've been able to nod politely with a tight smile on my face (all the while thinking to myself, "There. Is. No. Way.") Depending upon who you believe, 1 out of 5 (20%) to 1 out of 3 (33%) of relationships are now made online. I know people that have met and happily married people they met online, but I, personally, still cannot even imagine considering the idea. Anyway...

The other night I was watching a movie on Lifetime. My sister has spoiled that channel forever for me by revealing its secret. (Spoiler Alert.) If someone with greasy hair and/or missing teeth utters the words, "I am not/ain't ever going to let you go", it is not going to end well for someone. At one of its breaks, there was a commercial for a free trial RIGHT NOW! on a Christian dating website.

(Adult Children o' mine: stop reading right now.)

I typed in the website while continuing to watch a Lifetime Channel movie spun out of control by the stalker of the week. I just kept wondering how safe meeting strangers online could really be. The first picture that came up on the site was of a man who lived about two hours from my town. He had a made-up screen name, but his profile picture showed a hat that advertised a nationwide financial consulting business. I googled his hometown and the business and EUREKA! There was his real name, picture, and business address. I then googled his real name and city and his address showed up with a GoogleEarth picture of his home. I am absolutely sure he thought he was completely anonymous. (And if something happens to him and I am considered a "person of interest" in the crime because of my search, I need you all to vouch for me that I am relatively harmless and not even all that internet savvy.) That little story is about as terrifying as a Lifetime dating-gone-wrong movie. I would not even consider working with one of those websites if I even considered dating again.

That would have been the end of that, until I was on Facebook yesterday. Have you noticed the advertisements placed on the right hand side of your FB page? They are selected because of your age. Suffice it to say, the ads I am shown do not show flavored lip gloss or Justin Bieber (and what is with his hair, anyway?) That day, my "age-appropriate" links were to (you guessed it): an online dating website. Except it was called Senior People Meet. First off, let me assure you I am almost two decades from retirement. I am NOT a "senior". Next, the picture that was posted was someone I recognized (slightly) from high school. He had used his unusual last name as part of his username. I am sure he did not give permission to have it posted all over the country, but when you sign up for those sites they kind of own your image. (And an observation about that image: Being a football star in high school does not guarantee you will have hair at middle age. Be nice to everyone when you are younger, because it really will be your personality that will carry you along later in life.) I digress.

Let these be lessons to us all: Online information is rarely anonymous. Be nice to everyone you meet, because you are probably going to meet them again. And beware of Lifetime movies late at night.

You are welcome.

Carry on.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Goodness and Mercy Following Me

So, The Anniversary passed on Wednesday and I am entering my third year of navigating a New Normal.

I have to pause here in amazement and gratefulness for the wonderful friends who helped me mark that date. Cards were waiting for me at work. Flowers were delivered from friends from out of state. An old picture of D with our family arrived in the mail. (It was from our newlywed days; not the seven-year-marathon-of-cancer-and-loss days. The look in his eyes in that photo reminded me of those earlier, happier days that I have sometimes forgotten.) Calls, cards and texts from people who cared enough to mark July 13 on their calendar and reach out with love. Thank you, little village o' mine.

And last night? Another mark in the sand. Do you watch "Friday Night Lights" on television? It was D's and my favorite Friday night pass time. It was filmed in our area, and we had a few seven-degrees-of-separation with some of the local actors on the show. (And? Hello: it is about Texas football.)The actors, scripts, characters and filming were among the best on TV. (So, you know, let's just cancel it to make more room for bad reality shows, right?)

Anyway, last night was the series finale. 90 minutes of perfection that tied up five years worth of storylines. I laughed, I cried and I counted this among my favorite single episodes on television ever. When it was over, I posted my status on Facebook as "Goodbye, Dillion. You will be missed. Texas forever." I immediately could tell by the comments who followed the show ("I know. So sad!" and "All five seasons will rerun on ESPN Classics soon!") and who did not ("Who is Dillion? Where did he go? Is this like 'Where's Waldo'?"). I realized I have learned to bid good-bye with a smile on my face and a happy heart. That, my friends, is progress.

More progress? My limping along Grass Recovery Program in the month of 100+ degree days has produced growth that required the first need for a mower this summer. Except I no longer have a mower. I called my former grass company, from back in the salad days when the lawn actually needed to be cut every other week. The quote was staggering. Listen, if you took all the green spots and put them together, it would be a space the size of your living room. The rest of the lawn is held together by parched ground. There is no discount for amount of grass: it is figured strictly on size of lot. Drat.

I talked to a co-worker and she knew of some high school boys who could come right over. They arrived in the hottest part of the day and proceeded to mow, weed eat and blow my lawn into an orderly fashion that made it look hopeful for future growth. At the end, I asked for their price. It was a low ball figure. I paid them what the grass company had asked, because these fine young men were so worth it with their excellence. Hooray for parents who have raised their sons with such a great work ethic, and for teen aged boys who are willing to give up a Friday night to help out a stranger with their best efforts.

And now, a long, lazy weekend lies ahead of me. The possibilities are endless.

And the promises of God? They are "yes" and "amen."

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Things I Have Learned on a Path Called "Alone"

I had high hopes of an upbeat post complete with pictures today. Seems I've exceeded my blog's limit of free photographs. I do not have the emotional energy to add more photo storage because of a migraine. Which I can trace to a stiff neck and shoulders. Brought on by the dread of tomorrow's calendar page: July 13. Two years since I lost D. I can tell myself that I am fine, fine, everything is just fine. But the heart and tensed body beg to differ. So, we will default to semi-upbeat without pictures.

Things I have learned in the past two days/months/years:

  • While I do not normally deal with fear, a sound in the back of the house that sounded like a machete being sharpened did catch my complete and undivided attention late the other night. Two days of trying to track down its source led me to a junebug in a metal guestroom trashcan, desperately trying to beat out an exit. Relief can be expressed in laughter, and some bugs get a reprieve from the homeowner because of their spunky manner.

  • My new best friend is a lightweight leaf blower. It weighs only a few pounds, works on a rechargeable battery and does not require a 2 mile orange extension cord. It holds just enough charge to blow the driveway, sidewalks, decks and porches. Yard work just got a lot easier in this heat.

  • And speaking of heat: Just when you think it can't get any hotter, the car temperature shows 108 degrees. You can't see my pictorial evidence of that because of the before noted photo storage limit. People: the entire state of Texas has been declared a disaster area because of the drought. Yet, we still love this place. And look forward to cooler weather sometime around Thanksgiving. (Oh, that I was kidding about that.)

  • My crazy librarian friend, KG, brought me a care package for my new office. It included a journal with the title "Diary of a First Year Principal" (with the Wimpy Kid graphic altered to look like me), a glass jar full of premium chocolate to share with teachers, and a jar of peanut butter for the days I will miss lunch. (You can tell this woman has been in education for a looooong time.) One of the things I will miss the most about my former school will be Thursday afternoon library periods.

  • My quality friends, the W's, included me in their Saturday evening out. We had dinner at a gourmet grilled cheese sandwich restaurant, followed by dessert at a frozen yogurt restaurant that had Cake Batter flavored fat-free yogurt (accompanied by angels singing "Hallelujah"), and a showing of the musical "Hairspray" at a theater-in-the-round. A. Perfect. Evening.

  • A yard that has been neglected for two years cannot be fixed in a single weekend, or even a single summer. Some things, and not just yards, take longer to heal.

Two years. Quite a journey. No prayers pointed this way tomorrow will be wasted.

So, what are some Big Things I have learned?

Like Christopher Robin told Pooh, "Promise me you will remember you are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think."
And even more importantly:

Yet this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope:
because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail.
They are new every morning, great is Your faithfulness.
I say to myself, "The Lord is my portion, therefore I will wait for Him."
The Lord is good to those whose hope is in Him, to the one who seeks Him;
it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.
Lamentations 3:21-2

Monday, July 4, 2011

Connecting the Dots

I was out with friends last night, and they were asking how my New Job was going. I told them I am in one of those precious and rare times where I can see so many events of my life coming together and making perfect sense. Past jobs, relationships, experiences and training have all melded together to bring me to the wonderful place that I am in right now. I find myself humbled and blessed by this opportunity, and thankful that it has made sense of many of the last difficult years of my life. All things do work together for good.

My life is full of change, some very good change. My former 30 minute commute into town is now a 60 second trip. Seriously: I can leave at 8:00 am and arrive at work at 8:00 am. I have not filled up my car since my second grade class let out in May. My gas/toll bills just went down a few hundred dollars a month. Hallelujah!

I am suddenly full of energy to complete tasks I've been putting off. Grieving was a lot of work mentally, emotionally and physically, and I'm surprised at the concentration, endurance and attention to detail that has begun returning to me.

I also realize that the clearning of my mental fog has made me notice a few things for the first time in two years. Late the other night, I was sitting in the room formerly known as Married Daughter's bedroom, sorting through some boxes. I had a major aha! moment: I am alone in this house. May seem very obvious to you on the outside of the screen, but I felt very, very alone in my home for the first time. The protective numbing of reality has been lifted. It is time to adjust to (yet another) new normal. But one that is miles and miles down the read from where this journey began.

I end this post with a modern day parable:

There was a numb woman who let her yard go for two hot Texas summers, during the worst drought the state had seen in over a century. One day she woke up and realized her grass was yellow and was in need of intensive care. She began watering and raking and tending the yard. After a very short while, things began to look better and turn green as they responded to the attentive care. The woman was amazed at how quickly something that had been neglected for two years could spring into new, green life.

Connecting the dots, and the picture is emerging. Finally.