Catching up

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So…how do you catch up on a year’s worth of life?

Maybe you don’t. But since jumping back into the old blog last night, I’ve been contemplating the question. Final decision: Just do it. (Thank you to whatever advertising genius came up with that line.)

And maybe I’ll just do a little catching up with each post. First detail: I’ve changed jobs/careers, and am now working at a place where I’m forced (really, that’s not too strong a word for it) to take an hour for lunch every day. Since it takes me about 15 minutes to eat, guess what I now have time to do between noon and one?

So, for friends who remember me, let’s pretend we’re sitting down over a cup of coffee and get started gabbing. Here’s the scoop: After working for 13 years for a large, affluent, white church in the suburbs, last August I took a job with a church-affiliated social service agency in the urban core of Kansas City. Not only had I had it up to HERE (picture the height of last year’s solar eclipse) with serving the white and privileged, but the leadership in our congregation had gotten so god-awful I simply couldn’t take it any more. My self-confidence had been so shattered by having every my idea shot down by the “man in charge” that I was almost surprised when the new place snapped me up within a week of my sending my resume.

And now, here I am downtown every day, Volunteer Coordinator for an organization that serves marginalized populations. Most of my work is a step removed from the actual service, but I contribute heavily to keeping the machine working. And just often enough I do get to personally serve the folks we exist here to serve. I’m learning new skills, too – have been trying my hand at grant writing, and have brought in over $50,000 to the organization in the 5 1/2 months I’ve been here.

It’s not perfect. I knew going into this new job that it was a risk. Lower pay, long commute, tons of weekend overtime, no flex time, and a new “man in charge” who’s just as bad at leadership as the old one. I’d worked with the organization enough in my old position that I knew what I was walking into. But there are many, many pluses. More about that down the line.

There. Post written, and fifteen minutes left of enforced lunch time – enough time to read a few friends’ writings.

It’s good to be back.

Creating order out of chaos.

I’ve always jeered at blog posts that begin “Sorry I haven’t posted for so long…”  Unless you’re a celebrity blogger, I can’t imagine that anybody really cares that much.

And yet I feel compelled to explain the reasons why I’m just coming off the longest blog hiatus I’ve had in my four years on WordPress. It has a lot to do with this:

It all began with the devastation and, quite honestly, depression I’ve been working through in the aftermath of November 8. In my mind, it’s not a matter of histrionics to call that humanitarian disaster by its date, just as we do September 11.  So much has been written about this travesty I won’t go into it again (just now) but suffice it to say I feel sharply the fact that we are now living in a very different and very ugly world. I will admit, though, that since that infamous day my house has been remarkably clean and tidy – it’s the one place I have control over, and I’ve been compulsive about keeping it nice. Order out of chaos.

Then came an insanely hectic schedule. For this introvert, the string of major events I attended and participated in, in a very short span of a week, did me in for a long time.

A Friday night benefit choir performance at the world-renowned Kaufman center.

The next night, at “Marriage of Figaro,” Middle’s birthday present, also at the Kaufman Center. Which came after a three-hour rehearsal that morning for the next concert, taking place the following day…

An All-Saints Day performance of Faure’s Requiem

And four days later, a six-hour round trip to adore The Boy in his senior recital.

And then there was a noisy and raucous, but very happy Thanksgiving weekend.

Only two of these people were not staying in our tiny home for the long weekend.

Lots of fun and many memories created.

But hovering in the background of all the above was the most stressful period of time I’ve ever experienced in 12 years at my current workplace. And that’s saying a lot, considering that seven years ago a cow0rker I’d despised since day one was finally fired for refusal to do any work at all and, several months later, was charged (and eventually sent to jail) with taking sexual liberties with a minor.

Turns out that extreme building renovation in the workplace can bring out either the best or the worst of people. And it turns out that when it’s bringing out the worst, it’s a RIGHT PAIN IN THE ARSE to get your boss to follow through on his word, communicate with you, or support you and your co-worker in a time of transition to a promotion and a new job share.

So, yeah. Stress.

And now, here it is Christmas. It says a lot about my current state that the season that gives most people over-the-top stress feels anticlimactic for me this year.

It’s nice to be back on WordPress and reading the thoughts of people I care about all over the world.

Thanks for still being there.

How you know when a virus has turned you into a social pariah. 


Just about everyone in my nuclear and extended family has been suffering from THE COLD. Known for excessive sneezing that causes achy ribs and for symptoms that last at least two weeks, this year’s version of THE COLD is greatly to be feared. 

Here’s a checklist of symptoms that will tell you if THE COLD has turned you into some sort of strange, fearsome creature never to be seen in public:

  • You’ve only been awake for an hour and already your inside sleeve of your hoodie is wet from sneezing into it. 
  • Two soup bowl-sized cups of coffee only get you through the first item on your task list for the day.
  • You find yourself playing “beat the nose drip,” a game in which you hurry to get the clean dishes put away before you’re forced to wash your hands again to avoid contamination. 
  • People who insist on talking to you about their own problems cause you to die inside. What the hell is wrong with the rest of the world that they think you care about their issues when you can’t go five seconds without coughing up a lung?
  • Your rescue inhaler, which your doctor specifically told you to use every four hours while you’re sick, visibly shrinks in horror when you reach for it. Slacker. (NOTE: It’s possible this is a figment of my fevered imagination.)
  • Your nose is shredded from constant blowing and your hands are shredded from constant washing, causing you to look like some kind of nightmarish zombie/mummy hybrid. 

A score of three out of the six symptoms should be a warning to hide until you’re fit for human contact. 

Good luck. 

Therapeutic haikus

Summer’s going great,,

then a bomb gets dropped in it.

Feels like it’s over.

***

Two nice, chilly days.

Broke out a hoodie last night. 

Maybe it’s a sign?

***

Looking for some smiles,

but not sure I can find them.

Deep and heavy sigh.

***

Kids and work need me

and I keep slogging through life.

But really, I’m numb.

***

A cool, early walk – 

is peaceful and good for me. 

Trying to “hang on.”

“It’s all about me.”

In my experience, very few people say this phrase out loud: “It’s all about me.” But in reality, I think that’s what many people believe, whether they realize it or not.

In the realm of every day life, these actions say “It’s all about me.”

  • Jumping in front of an older citizen, to get through the checkout line more quickly.
  • Racing to turn left even though the light is way past yellow – never mind the danger to other drivers.
  • Voting against paying taxes to support schools – “I don’t have any kids in public school, so it’s not my responsibility.”
  • Taking the disabled parking space without the possession of a disabled parking permit “because I’m only running in for one quick item.”

This morning I was confronted with another “it’s all about me” via our church’s Facebook page. Somehow, and I don’t even know how this works, we have an open invitation on that page for people to offer reviews of the church. Here’s the review that was posted yesterday:

“Very welcoming, open, and friendly congregation. Great worship experience. But for communion I was served a home-made piece of tortilla and watered-down wine. Not good. I’m very particular about my communion.”

In other words, “IT’S ALL ABOUT ME.”

The fact that it was a welcoming and friendly experience was less important to this guy than the fact that he didn’t get what he wanted to put into his mouth when it came time to share the bread and body. IT’S NOT PRESCHOOL SNACK TIME, FOR PETE’S SAKE!

il_fullxfull.252262749One: The wine is not watered down, I promise you. I’ve witnessed the altar preparation process.

Two: It was VERY clearly stated during the service that the bread was made by our first communion students and their confirmation student helpers – as an act of service and love toward their community.

Don’t you think that act of service and love trumps somebody’s “particularity” about “his” communion? (Obvious note here: the phrase “my communion” is pretty telling.) To be honest, sir, I don’t care whether this bread satisfied your discriminating tastes.

In closing, my word to the world for today:

“It is not all about you. It has never been all about you. It never will be all about you. Look outside yourself, and the world will be a better place.”

Blog guilt.

I have to admit to occasionally checking my WordPress stats. Not that they’e terribly interesting, but occasionally I discover that someone from a fascinating and exotic, far-off land has checked in with Mom Goes On. Or I find that for some reason a few people have looked at posts I wrote some time ago. It’s mildly entertaining.

blog1But something that was added to the “new and improved” ( I have my doubts about that) stats page recently just smacked me across the face with guilt. It’s that thing just under the bar graph, which says how many posts you’ve published on that day. Pressure! Just now when I looked it said, “No posts published.”

Okay, okay, I get the message. Here’s your freaking post, Mr. Bossy Pants Stats Page.

Sheesh.

Fabulous Fall Friday

Yes, I’m still rushing the season, but it’s pretty hard not to at this point. I mean, we’re only a week away from autumn, and it’s so chilly here I snuggled under my comforter AND a quilt last night. Heaven!

I have a to-do list a mile long today, but nothing horribly painful – if you don’t count paying our monthly installments of Middle Sister’s post-gall bladder surgery medical bills. And so I’m able to enjoy all kind of interesting things happening around here:

•The Husband will be home for a few days sometime in the next week. After seven weeks away, this is cause for celebration. And how lovely that absence really does make the heart grow fonder.
•A new Sprouts food store has opened near us. Too far for our weekly shopping, but close enough to be a nice change of pace every now and then. So I’m going there today. Anything that makes the weekly food shopping less of a killer chore is welcome.
•Also this week: Our IKEA opened!!! It’s just a five minute drive from our house!!! Sadly, I probably won’t be able to go for a few weeks – IKEA is, after all, a full-day experience, if done correctly.
•I’m off to visit Oldest in less than a week. We’re planning for one day in a beachside town, but the rest of the time will be just gloriously hanging out together. Couldn’t as for anything better.
•Another trip to our nearby dinner theater is coming up on Saturday. At the suggestion of an old friend, I invited a new friend – should be both interesting and fun.

In reality, our leaves around here are still stubbornly green. But the weather FEELS like fall.

In reality, our leaves around here are still stubbornly green. But the weather FEELS like fall.

•My mom is coming for an overnight visit sometime over the weekend. Strangely, after we talked about what would be the best time, she chose what will be the worst time…a phone conversation is necessary today.
•My sister is apparently moving her family to Kazakhstan. That sounds like some kind of weird joke, but it actually seems to be true. She has hated living in Texas so much that Kazakhstan will probably be a huge relief. And she does have a degree in Slavic languages…
•Plans are moving along slowly for the Little Free Library. I have a friend on board to build the stand, and there the project will probably remain until I return from my visit to Oldest.
•The Boy announced via text early Tuesday morning that he’s the new president of his university climbing club. The only surprise there is that the university has a climbing club. The kid has a natural tendency to move himself up higher than anything else around him at any given time. He can leap into trees and onto roofs with a single bound. Just hoping he’ll stay clear of cell towers in the line of duty.

So – now it’s down to the kitchen to enjoy this autumn’s first round of overnight oatmeal, to light various fall-scented candles, and to tackle that to-do list. Can’t wait to see what mowing while wearing a hoodie feels like.

Love bittersweet chocolate. Not so sure about bittersweet vacations.

Our time at the cabin this week was, by turns, both an excellent getaway and a cause for anxiety.

Cabin background: The state of Kansas has a bunch of reservoirs built by the Corps of Engineers. Several of them are easy driving distance from home, and those “lakes” are where we’ve camped since the kids were in grade school. We LOVED our tent camping…but found that every time we went we managed to pick the one weekend of the summer when it stormed like crazy. Guess what? Rain and tent camping don’t mix. More often than not we had to bug out early when we saw lightning on the horizon. Luckily, about the time Oldest went off to college, someone in Kansas had a brainwave: convicts were enlisted to build cabins at all the state reservoirs. With a sad, backward glance we said goodbye to our beloved tents in favor of cabin trips.

One of my favorite things about cabin trips: moving in and stocking the kitchen

One of my favorite things about cabin trips: moving in and stocking the kitchen

The switch turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to our camping experience. Never again was a vacation cut short due to rain – we were snug and happy inside our little homes away from home (or sitting on the covered porches, watching the rain fall). Not to mention that the cabins have electricity and air conditioning, bathrooms, kitchens stocked with equipment and dishes, and BEDS. Pretty much perfect. So our cabin days are filled with games, cooking, music, movies, laughter, fishing, swimming, and memory-making. No wifi. Not even data service on our phones, so certain member(s) of our family can’t goof off online at will. This year the mood for the family was just a little different:

•Oldest is only with us for this week, rather than the six weeks or more she used to have at home in the summer when she was in undergrad, so the time with her was more precious.

•Middle is seriously struggling with her G.I. problems, and was in the midst of recovering from a med that turned out to give her serious stomach pains, so there was great concern about her at all times.

•The Husband kept having to run to the nearest “town” AKA “wide spot in the road with a convenience store and gas station” to check his phone in case of news about recent job interviews. One such run gave us news we’re not entirely sure we’re excited about: He was offered a solid, good-paying job…which will require him to leave soon for six weeks of training, followed by over-the-road work that will have him home only one day each week. Relief mixed with concern.

•The Boy was a joy from beginning to end, especially when I compare him to his pre-college summer. In hindsight I see that last summer our son was anticipating the move from home – and both itching to be gone AND nervous about leaving. His attitude a year ago was often negative and unhelpful. He holed himself up in his bunk to tinker with his brand-new Mac book. This year? He jumped in to assist with any task that needed doing and joyfully joined in with family games. Such a change.

•And me? I experienced relaxation and rejuvenation, mixed thoroughly with intense concern about Middle Sister’s health and nerves about The Husband’s job offer. On the whole the R&R was winning…until I made the mistake of checking my work email on a trip into “town.” What possessed me to do it I do not know, but it was a mistake. In the space of thirty seconds I saw two emails from my direct supervisor asking me to take on two very large projects that – at least at first glance – hold absolutely no interest for me at all. More on that some other time. But YUCK. Full-blown anxiety kicked in immediately. Lesson learned, though. I’ve refused to open my work email since that day this week.

But I’m choosing to focus on the laughter, the peace, the happy times. Here’s a photo précis of the good times. First, shenanigans involving the interesting gaps between walls and ceilings, found througout the cabin: image

A cryptic warning for the opposing side in a battle that involved tossing projectiles through that gap.

A cryptic warning for the opposing side in a battle that involved tossing projectiles through the bedroom gap.

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And other miscellaneous hijinks:

The Vera Bradley section of the cabin

The Vera Bradley section of the cabin

image image image   Next time: Some of the great camping meals we enjoyed this week.

How old am I?

I hate it when people ask me how old I am. Not because I’m concerned about aging (much) or because I’m embarrassed to admit my age. Actually, it’s because I don’t really know.

I truly can never remember how old I am. This odd phenomenon is partly a function of my aversion to numbers. Numbers are generally meaningless to me. I can’t remember them. I get them wrong. Any kind of spreadsheet might as well be in a different language, for all the sense they make to me. When extra people are joining us for dinner I have no clue how many places to set without sitting down and having a serious think. I swear I got all A’s in my math classes (well, except for Trigonometry my senior year when I got a “B” but I swear that was because I missed two weeks of school due to a horrid bout of bronchitis). But bottom line, numbers are my nemesis.

Because I can never remember how old I am, I have to do the math any time I’m required to give my age. Almost always it’s a subtraction problem that makes me hit a brick wall. But this morning it occurred to me that it is now 2014. Because I was born in 1964, this is a relatively easy one to figure out…except for the fact that my birthday is at the end of the year, so I have to remember to take one year away until December. Oh, and also there’s the fact that in my freaky little mind we turned some kind of corner at the year 2000, so there’s no linear time line for me to access in my brain. I can’t picture it comfortably, so it’s very tricky.

Here’s what would be easier: I would just like to reference my age relative to events. I was born the year after Kennedy was assassinated; four years before Sesame Street first aired (seriously, I find that an important time marker!). I was 21 when I got married; 25 when our oldest was born; 29 when we had our youngest. Those numbers make sense to me.

Really, nothing else counts.  Especially me.

Ups and Downs

I guess we should expect it at this time of year, but the temperature in my part of the world is going down rapidly today. When I went out to get the newspaper at 6:45 it was so warm I left the front door open. By the time I start cooking supper tonight the temperature will have dropped to 42, with a low in the 20’s overnight.

There was a serious “down” in the kitchen once I got into the house with the newspaper. When I opened the water well of my coffee maker, there was a SPIDER lying in wait for me. I mean, the bloody cheek! Thankfully The Husband was right next to me, so all I had to do was stumble away, moaning, and shout, “Fix it!!!!” I disappeared for a few seconds, and he bravely de-spidered the coffee maker for me. He even managed to convince me that it was not necessary to disinfect the machine before starting my coffee. How germy could a spider be, really?

Perfect for our infants and toddlers - dear illustrations and few words.

Perfect for our infants and toddlers – dear illustrations and few words.

I got to have a lovely “up” once I got to work. I take turns with another gal in our community leading a story time for moms and little ones. Today was my turn, and we read a book with adorable pumpkins, mice, and autumn leaves. Then we played with tubs full of beans. What could be more fun than reading a story and playing with babies and toddlers all morning?

There’s nothing on the schedule this evening besides “Antiques Road Show” on PBS, a blanket, a cup of tea, and knitting.

Things are looking up.