Sunday, March 29, 2009

Stepping Stones

The block of granite which was an obstacle in the pathway of the weak, became a stepping-stone in the pathway of the strong.

Thomas Carlyle

Friday, I sat in my car eating my lunch. A thundering rainstorm had moistened the few grass areas at my work an hour earlier and after being shut up in a windowless room for the past four hours, I needed some air. I also needed to be alone. Even though this job has me in a room with one hundred others, the work is solitary except for my computer screen. No conversation - quiet ensues. If one minute past our breaks or lunchtime conversation fills the room, there is a reminder from the supervisor at the back of the room that it is now reading time. (Sort of like when you told your children it was "Quiet Time " -- and meant it.) In my own space, my car, I find forty-five minutes of sanity release. I write in my journal as I eat my peanut butter sandwich. Looking back at Friday's entry, it wasn't too pretty.

The "F" word dominated the short entry. Along with the word "miserable." But after I used my pen to put down those feelings, I hung my head out the open car window to gather some sunshine on my face. For now the sun had come out, erasing the dark clouds and rain I could only imagine as I heard the thunder and the pounding of much needed rain on the roof of the building.

I recall my words from when I began this journey, that it is a rediscovery of my talents, abilities, and whatever else I said. Three weeks into this job, I have to say progress has arrived. I now know I can get a job, that the one I have is not the one I want, and I do have something other than freelancer to put on my resume. I've learned that at 52 years of age, it is not easy to go out into this work world, but that I haven't been twiddling my thumbs nor sitting on my ass all these years. I have something to offer. Moreover, I need to honor this committment that I made to sign on for this temporary gig, make sure my eyesight survives, and try to put a smile on my face for my family's sake. Also, to utilize the time to make them understand all that is involved in creating, maintaining, and sustaining a household and family. And that means more than keeping the kitchen clean.

Saturday morning, after dropping my youngest son out in the middle of nowhere to join my husband on a campout, I escaped to the lake. Had intended to invite a few friends to come with me, but I never seemed to make those calls. I've had most of Saturday and this Sunday morning to myself. I like being by myself and I have utilized the time well in regard to getting rugs washed, floor cleaned, some writing and reading done. But more important, I had time for reflection. I'm determined to use this current job venture for what it is, a stepping stone to what comes next. Not sure how close the next step is or if it is even within easy reach. But if I slip, getting wet never killed anybody. Or so I hope.

My duck friends are sqwauking out on the dock. They know I'm here and are looking for dog food nuggets. Guess I'll go feed them.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Hail, Hail --- to MICHIGAN STATE

Odd post. Big hail storm in Austin, Texas today. I've never seen hail like this. BTW, sometimes not going to the YMCA is a good thing. Just plain tired after work today. Decided to go straight home even though I had all my stuff in the car. Good thing I only made quick stop before landing on the couch. Stopped by Walgreens to buy ear plugs. The lady sitting behind me at work? Clueless. Has no idea she chaws her gum. I have no idea how to broach that subject with her as I'm sure she is not aware and I don't want to hurt her feelings, but in the silent atmosphere of high school essay scoring, this chomper radiates her skills throughout the room. (Please excuse the run-on sentence, but I've been reading 11th grade essays for almost three weeks now and I have no writing skills left. Pamela, please tell me I will survive this.)

Anyway, noticed the sky was rather dark as I approached home. Storm came. Gathered in the garage with my oldest and youngest son to collect the specimens of hail as they grew larger. Quite impressive. (Also, now have no memory as to what comprises a sentence.)

As to the Michigan State portion of this piece - well, you Michigan Wolverines know how your school song has the ending, Hail, Hail to Michigan, the losers of the West? Well, hmmm, I'm thinking it's Michigan State that is still in the NCAA tournament. March Madness. Go Green! Spartans Rock!

Hail, hail to Michigan ... State

Enjoy the pictures.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Eyes Glued Shut

Bite off more than you can chew, then chew it.
Ella Williams

I've never been a napper. If I try, I toss and turn for two hours, sleep for 15 minutes, then spend the next two hours waking up. Who has that time to waste? I have a life. But this working a 40-hour week outside the home has changed that pattern. Not exactly what I thought might happen, but then again, whoever said life goes the way we think.

I had high expectations for this weekend. Catch up time, I calculated in my journal. Do laundry. Reload the refrigerator and pantry shelves. Wash my floors and clean the rings off the toilets, the toothpaste splatters off the mirrors. Lift weights at the Y. Be happy and pleasant to my family members. You know, basic stuff.

Oh, yes, I was also going to completely catch up on everyone's blogs and write ahead on mine so I would have things to post throughout the week. Little did I know my body/mind would choose otherwise. I know those of you who work full-time jobs outside the home are thinking I'm a whiner and might even be chuckling to yourself saying OUTLOUD – serves the bitch right. But I’m honestly admitting, I'm whipped. Two weeks of full-time work outside the home and my ass is kicked.

I thought I was doing well -- Friday night did five loads of laundry while sipping on my glasses of wine. Saturday morning, I slept until 8:45, then washed rugs, washed floors, spent way too much money at the grocery store, and made it to the Y. Even cleaned the toilets. But sitting down was my downfall. I sat on my bed and picked up White Teeth, the next book on my reading shelf, and next thing I knew, awoke to the sunset. All I could remember from the past five hours was lying in my bed, aware of the world around me - the birds singing in the trees, my neighbor using his table saw to cut new ceiling slats, the members of my household milling in the room as they passed through. But I couldn't open my eyes to them. As weird dreams passed in and out while the world moved around me, my eyes refused to view them, as though they were glued shut, only unsticking at the end of the day to view the sun sinking into the horizon.

Early to bed on Saturday night in spite of the unexpected nap, I awoke Sunday morning at 8 with renewed enthusiasm to read, write, finish the needed tasks, and reintroduce myself to my baseball player son. (Not to mention, my husband.) I read the paper and sat outside for a few moments. Got cold so I returned to my bed for a few moments of warmth. Next thing I knew, it was 1:30 in the afternoon. More weird dreams.

I will get used to this new schedule. I have to believe I will. But right now, forgive the naivety of my exhaustion. I’m 52 years old and don't quite have the energy I had when I was younger. Or at least, that is how I'm justifying my negligence. Perhaps, I also need to forgive myself.

Please know how much I appreciate all your comments and your writings. I will catch up soon. I used to be so much fun. Tell me I will be fun again.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Running Interference

Insanity is often the logic of an accurate mind overtasked.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.

Between this new job, the YMCA, and high school baseball, my blog is going to hell. I so hope to catch up this weekend. With no desire to leave your visit here empty handed, here's a picture from a trip to Alaska last summer. It's a humpback whale waving hello. Oh, wait, that's me!

I get paid tomorrow. I plan to spend it on Sangria Margaritas at Jardin's.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Finding My Lane

English usage is sometimes more than mere taste, judgment and education -- sometimes it's sheer luck, like getting across the street.
E.B. White

You know how when you first get on the road with a long, long trip before you, and it takes a while to get comfortable in your seat? That time before you relax and find your line in the road as you’re trying to get out of the city? That’s where I am, although as of today, I’m on the outskirts of town, ready to roll.

The temporary job I have taken involves scoring high school assessment essays. Sort of a No Child Left Behind measure of student abilities. These essays, written by 11th grade students, require a passing mark to attain a diploma. An exit test, as it were. Top Secret stuff this is. I had to sign a Confidentiality Statement vowing not to discuss any of the essays I score. Considering the quality of work I’ve read thus far, forgetting them as fast as I can offers my only option for survival.

Last week, after being exposed to a variety of essays, I found myself appalled at the state of student writing. Took me two days before I decided my only chance for keeping the job was to turn off my brain. To close my editing mind and stop looking for strong verbs and good dialogue, not to mention complete sentences. I wrote on my rubric paper FORGET WHAT YOU KNOW - STAY IN THE BOX.

This paradigm seems to have helped. Friday they turned me loose to score away. Not sure if I’ve dumbed myself down or am better practiced at adapting to any situation after raising three boys. So far my only conversation with a supervisor came this morning when I was moved to another group. Apparently I scored high enough on the qualifying tests that I needed no further training. When we left today, my new supervisor said to others in my group “Did my messages help you see how to score that?” I looked around. We get messages? I didn’t get any.

I have so many topics I want to discuss, but I’m too tired. I’m making a list as I want to address this plight of the stay at home mom returning to work. And the middle—aged women now having to return to the economy after years of supporting their husband in their careers, or post divorce. The difficulties faced by the working woman--period, as well as my musings on all those alongside me in this temporary venture.

Meanwhile, I can tell you I have made it to the YMCA three nights out of five. Last week, 40 minutes on the elliptical aided in lowering my blood pressure while I pined over the state of the written word.

I’m beginning to think this job will be like driving across Nebraska on I-80—one long line where the road goes on forever and the exit ramp never comes.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Friday Night and the Lights Are Out!

Time is an illusion. Lunchtime doubly so.
Douglas Adams

We had a power failure during the night. Now that I have a monetary concern regarding my morning wakeup time, I find myself glancing at the clock several times during the night. Last night’s fourth or fifth foray into measured sleep failed to illuminate my bedside timepiece. Felt my way to the kitchen to claim my purse and the buried cell phone, after which I brailed my way through the house to discover where I may have left my reading glasses the night before. Upon discovery of reading glasses, the cell phone informed me I had one hour and six minutes more to sleep. I then sat in the dark, wasting precious pillow time, figuring out how to set the alarm on the phone.

I did arrive at work on time and after putting my lunch in the fridge, headed into the bathroom to see if the eyeliner and mascara I had applied by candlelight was anywhere near my eyes. (Thank you Daylight Savings Time.) Then checked to see if my socks matched. I have to tell you, with the possibilities of experiences I considered in this return to work gig, getting dressed in the dark was not on the list.

We have had rain in Texas this week, which is a welcome relief from the months of drought. But I believe moisture is not the reason for the power outage. Last week our neighborhood was littered with white trucks and hard-hatted men leaning on shovels as they replaced the ugly green power boxes with new ugly green power boxes. I’m thinking it's their fault.

Anyway, a more thorough report of my first week at work will come later. Right now, I’m headed to bed. Friday night, in bed by 10. Feels like I’m committing a sin crawling into bed this early, but I don’t care.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Committed - Swung the Bat

Be sincere; be brief; be seated.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt

Sincerity: Seven hours into my first day of work outside the home in 21 years, I wrote on the top of my rubric information sheet for scoring high school essays – Don’t be an Editor! Forget Everything You Know! Then I took a breath, and relaxed.

Brevity: No trouble getting up and out of the house. Even read the paper. Perhaps tomorrow my husband will remember I don’t talk to people first thing in the morning. Traffic not too bad. (Did you know NPR has a morning All Things Considered edition?) Who would have known?

Seating: I never thought about how often I go to the bathroom. Tomorrow, no coffee or water before noon. The training portion of this job does not allow for frequent visits to pee. Will move to the back of the room near the door as soon as I can.

Off to the baseball game.

P.S I don’t think anyone will notice if I wear sweat pants. I don't think anyone noticed me.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Batter Up!

Every orientation presupposes disorientation.
Hans Magnus Enzensberger

Tomorrow begins my slide into the forty-hour time clock. I practiced going to bed earlier – and getting up earlier. Thank you Daylight Savings Time for adding to that effort so nicely. Didn’t quite need losing an hour to get me started, but I’ve had tougher tasks to abide.

I have a feeling that tomorrow night, after I've become completely disoriented in the instructional sessions regarding high school test scoring, I'll go to my youngest son’s baseball game, then stop briefly by the Bunco Bitches Second Tuesday of the Month Shindig. If I'm still awake, I'll write a recap and let you know if I've survived the first day.

Should be most interesting to see how I fare. They already have their eye on me, you see. The day I went for my interview, I was led to a large room with instructions to complete all the things in the folder before me, then left alone. The computer in front of me wouldn't accept my name to log in and if I wanted to proceed, my choices were to sit and stare at the wall or seek out the lady running the show. I came out of the room and saw no one in the hallway so I walked back out the big, closed door I’d been led through, to her office. Before I could say a word she stood up from her desk with a look of horror on her face and in a distressed voice said "You're not allowed to walk around unescorted. It says so on your badge."

I looked at my badge and sure enough, I upside down read "Escort Only." Like I'd bothered to look at that. She marched me back to the dungeon and I tried to lighten it up a little bit. On an earlier form I’d been asked if I could follow directions whether I agreed with them or not. So I said, "Gee, I guess this is an example of the following directions thing." She was not amused.

I didn't smile smugly when it turned out they had misspelled my name in their computer entry.

I need to hit the grocery store today, as I have to pack my lunch. Only 45 minutes for lunch and no place close to the sweat shop to purchase anything. I grew to hate packing sack lunches for my kids—every day coming up with something interesting from a fridge that more often than not held slim pickins’ while awaiting payday. I remember an old Erma Bombeck column, how by the end of the week, her kids got two heels of bread with a pork chop bone in between. I hope I can do better than that.

I've included a picture of that youngest son of mine as this week, I’ll only see him in a uniform. Four games and I get to go to three.

Thank you to all my followers and all it has taken to get to this point. I appreciate you. Batter up!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Solitude Lost?

Loneliness is the poverty of self; solitude is the richness of self.
May Sarton

Sometimes I take a different route just to see where it leads. Sometimes I question my thinking when I make these decisions, because it might have been easier to look at a map. Or a guidebook. Sometimes those resources aren’t at my fingertips, or I have no patience to find them, and my curiosity gets the best of me. Besides, what's the worst that can happen? I’m growing more and more curious regarding this employment venture that begins next week. How will it change my life? What might I truly enjoy about it as well as what will I miss most about my old life?

There is some apprehension--that questioning. At times the old, familiar road overwhelms the possibility for the new. For I’m already thinking my solitude will suffer the most. I get along quite nicely with myself. And it took quite an evolution to get to that point.

Yesterday, I took myself out to breakfast at the Magnolia Café and ordered their most decadent omelet – The Magnolia: two eggs, black olives, avocado, and tomatoes with a lemon crème sauce. I sat in the booth and free wrote in my journal, remembering the days I brought my young sons to the restaurant. They filled up on pancakes or French toast and then we’d head out to find a new swimming hole or park or visit a museum or theater production.

With kids in the house, I forgot what solitude might entail. What it might be like to go to the bathroom alone, read a book in longer stints than three paragraphs, or write more than five words before someone or something needed my attention. The silence of the house overwhelmed me when my youngest child went off to school, but I’ve adapted quite well to being alone all day.

I don't notice the quiet.

My writing and editing, my reading, my denial of housework, and my puttering around at my own pace has offered an opportunity I rarely squander. I’m not sure how I’ll do being with people all day long, pursuing someone else's agenda.

A few months ago, I told my oldest son about a fun party invitation we had received, but that I didn’t want to attend.

“Why wouldn’t you want to go?” he asked.

“Well, you have to talk to people and have fun and stuff.”

He shook his head at me. “If it weren’t for Dad, you’d be a hermit.”

I had to think about that. Quite unlike the young woman who craved companionship and conversation in college. Or the woman who stood before a classroom or in a boardroom addressing business issues to a well-attended table. Or the new stay-at-home mom who stood in the driveway and asked every woman walking by with a stroller if she wanted to be her friend.

I sincerely appreciate my friends and sometimes have to remind myself not to take them for granted. To come out of hiding and BE a friend. I’m thankful for the friends who remind me to do that.

But I’m so good at listening for the door to close behind my family heading out to begin their days, and then taking a breath. For now I can attend to me before I take on anything else. Yes, it should be most interesting to discover what will happen when the door closes with me on the other side.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Remind Me What Friends Are For?

I've always said that in politics, your enemies can't hurt you, but your friends will kill you.
Ann Richards

Last night, two of my girlfriends and I walked to the corner Wag-A-Bag for a bottle of wine. That we were walking should not be an indication of our condition. At all. Anyway, while walking on the sidewalk in front of them, my friend JC said,

“I think your exercise is working, Julie. Your ass isn’t as big as it used to be.”

“Yeah,” KO said. “It’s not nearly as wide as it was in that picture when you mooned us at the beach.”

I gazed up into the street light above, trying to decide how to receive these, these comments. As I recalled, I wasn’t the only one catching a breeze that day at the beach. I distinctly remember a line of us, like four old broads testing the hypothesis that women over 50 are invisible. And I truly believe the camera that caught that flash of mid-life girlfriend's weekend-at-the-beach-tomfoolery had a faulty lens. No way was that my real rear end.

But since these women and I have been friends for almost twenty years, and I know them well enough to know this was their way of giving me a compliment, I only nodded, and said a simple "Thank you."

Guess I really will have to keep going to the Y.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

No Parking

But I wouldn’t have fared any better at a secluded writer’s colony in the woods, because I was the ideal candidate for writer’s block. All the classic defects converged in me—inexperience, impatience, perfectionism, confusion, fear. Above all I suffered from a naïve view that writing should be easy. I thought that words were supposed to come unbidden.
From The Tender Bar – J.R. Moehringer

This is the fifth post I've started this afternoon. Trying to find a good topic, like writing about my list of things to accomplish before I start work next week or the fruit turning red on the potted tomato plant outside my window, is simply not working. Nor can I find all the lists of ideas for this column. Slips of paper scattered here and there, none in reach of where my rear end is parked at the moment.

I’m thinking this might be punishment for not having been to the YMCA yet today and it is now almost 4pm. If I am going to learn how to adjust my schedule and exercise later in the day, this might be the precise time to drag my butt over there. In fact, I can feel that butt getting wider the longer I sit in this chair.

Perhaps there was a reason for this parking spot, though. My middle son just called from college in Arizona and had I been out and about, would have missed it. (My boys normally don’t call unless something is awry. Probably stems from their younger, sibling fight days when I told them to only come get me if one of them was bleeding.) Hopefully I had a few words of comfort for this boy's worry about a test that had not gone well. Nice to know they know they can still call home.

Off to sweat…and ponder a more interesting post for another day, when the words do arrive unbidden.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Exercise is Absolutely an Ugly Word

When I feel like exercising, I just lie down until the feeling goes away.
Robert M. Hutchins

Long ago, way before the newspapers and magazines talked about it, I noticed Michelle Obama’s toned arms. I wondered. Was she one of those lucky people who had a body like that simply because some beefy god awarded it to her randomly? With no work required on her part?

Yesterday, the true answer arrived. I read she gets up at 5:30am to work out. Crap! What a message that sends. I don’t know about you, but exercise and I don’t click early in the morning. In fact, if I ever find myself getting out of bed early to go to the YMCA, someone please slap me. For it will mean I’m living someone else’s life or something too strange has altered my normal makeup. I can’t handle that much change.

I am so not a morning person. But I am an exercise person. My brain tells me that it is good for me, therefore, I do it. But I hail to the Flabby Arm Club.

I've tried to ditch that group, to no avail. Last December, a fellow member of the arm club and I marched from the bar to the Y and signed up for eight sessions with a personal trainer. I’ve dabbled in exercise through the years, even did the Danskin Triathlon in 1997 (where I finished the ½ mile swim in 19 minutes, thank you very much.) But, excuse me, where you actually have to exercise while someone stands beside you saying “Only eight more and 500 sets left” doesn’t compare with a Sangria Margarita at Jardine’s.

Needless to say, my midlife world has put some weight on me. Yet after three months and a dedicated effort at this exercise gig, I can honestly say that so far I’ve gained four pounds. Working for me, wouldn’t you say?

Two to three times a week I lift weights and two to three times weekly I either swim a mile, sprint on the elliptical machine, or aqua jog. A measurement a month ago said I had lost 4 ¾ inches.

Do I look any different? No.

Do my pants fit better? No.

Are my boobs smaller? Of course.

But I remained undeterred. Surely my heart must be healthier. And somewhere under these lumpy body parts, there must be some muscles. Right?


Which brings in an entirely different discussion. Starting next week I begin working 8-5. Getting my ass out of bed, dressed with hair combed and teeth brushed is going to be an exercise in itself. Tell me how I keep my dates at the Y? I’m thinking I need to drive there directly from work. But my life doesn’t always allow for nightly exercise. i.e. people to feed, baseball games to attend, other mom/wife/friend/life activities.

Anyone want to share their methods for work, toned arms and gut? Please, I already see that getting up at 5:30 is a good answer. Ain’t my thing. I’m still trying to figure out how to get to sleep before 2am so I can get out of the house by 7:15. All suggestions considered.


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