Growing Up, and Letting Go.

Thought I would post these today, with permission of course.  Time slips away and these moments are gone before you realize it.  Thank You Baby Girl – for allowing me to save them and share them. You’re beautiful!  May 3, 2014

Stream of Consciousness and Relationships

Greetings All!  I have been away for awhile here, attending to things at Hacienda Del Chaos. (aka My Life) July was insanely busy with amazing social events, including but not limited to 2 weddings and a family reunion. Then I also managed to get sick; which as my British friends might say, took the starch right out of my knickers.  The amount of tired I have been is unmeasurable.  We also have several extended family members who are quite ill at the moment.  Last summer was much worse in terms of stress and  family illness  – but I could certainly do with  less of that this year – and all the years to come. Sadly, I am also sure that will not prove to be the case…..

I have been too busy or worn out to feed my muse lately and she has begun screaming at me so I think it past time to unlock her from the padded cell again,  😉  I do feel better – connected and grounded somehow, when I write or work on my photography.  So this  post is going to be about whatever pops into my head – just so I can get back into the swing of things.    The girls have been busy this summer spending less time at home and giving us a dress rehearsal for the empty nest looming on the horizon.  Not sure I’m liking this, but it definitely serves as a prod for me to develop and nurture my hobbies and interests. Hello!  I will need something to do when they move, right?   I may be entering some photography contests or local exhibitions during fair season this fall – not sure yet.

Back side of the Sunset August 2013

Back side of the Sunset August 2013

So what keeps us going when life gets so busy?  I find myself more and more just moving through my daily routine without much active thought. My goal is getting through the day so I can collapse on my couch or in my bed at the end of it – thankful to have a place to lay my head down.  If I have to guess in a word, I would say the answer is “Relationships”  That connection to others.  And relationships are hard work.  Like gardening, we need to water and feed – develop, maintain, and enhance. Sometimes, we also weed and prune; reassess , re-categorize, or just move on.

Most always, the process of staying connected takes relatively little time –  a shout out text or email; a quick note or phone call;  a sit down dinner, a sofa or pillow conversation is  generally all that’s needed to maintain the status quo.  ‘Whats up with you? Hows it going?’ and then listening. Generally, the person on the receiving end of your communique will be delighted that you thought of them and glad to hear from you. I do try to stay connected to my friends and family regularly.  Most often, this involves a phone call, but texts and emails  work as well.  My immediate family ( The Viking and The Girls – we are all pretty good with the communication dept for the most part) So what happens when things break?  When you send those texts/emails and make phone calls/leave voicemails and hear nothing back for weeks at at time (if ever)? This is especially hurtful if you value that relationship considerably.  Or, you drift so far away from someone you don’t know how to  reconnect – or even if you should?

Let me tell you a true story.  I had a dear friend at one point a few years ago.  A long time friend.  The type of friend you speak with every morning before work, and generally chatted with several other times during the week as well. The kind of friend you were matron of honour for at her wedding. Whose daughter is your goddaughter and who was flower girl at your own wedding. We had our arguments, but patched things up fairly quickly all in all.  Her dad got sick with that long slow journey into darkness (the dreaded A- word) and she moved in with him to take care of him. I had issues with my family, including the death of my father in 2007 as well. She and her husband came to the wake.  Our daily conversations became weekly, then sporadic, then practically non-existent.  I’d periodically think  “I really have to call her and catch up”, but something always came up that needed my attention immediately, and by the time I thought about it again it was well past an acceptable time to pick up the phone. At the time, mornings with a high schooler and a middle schooler were (and probably still are) not conducive to telephone conversations  – so our former pattern was not an option.   Then, I ran into her daughter and granddaughter at the Christmas Tree Lighting at the Town Square a few years back. I asked her how her mom was, and how her grandfather was doing.  She looked at me funny, and then told me Pop had died the previous year.  I was dumbfounded. No one had told me, and I don’t get the paper or read obituaries online.  Of course, karma being what she is , I turn around after mumbling some very embarrassed and extremely belated condolences, and my friend was standing right behind me…. I offered my condolences again, saying I’d no idea he’d passed away. They were accepted quite frostily – and that, as they say,  was that. Can’t say I blame her on that one.  I run into her daughter occasionally and we chat.  I do miss my friend, but I have absolutely no idea how to fix this one – or at this point if it is beyond a fix and I should just continue moving on….  The whole situation saddens me immensely.

In other relationships, for example – the actions of my toxic monster in law; and the sister in law I’ve never met in the 29 years I’ve been with my husband; have made the choice to stay away from them  super easy- breezy.  I guess there’s always at least a few in every family. And conversely – in every family I’m sure there are members we would love to stay in closer touch with – but for whatever reason(s) we are not.   I would be interested to see how you all address these issues, particularly with a view to reestablishing and reaffirming broken connections with valued others. So please feel free to comment, and take my poll!

After the Storm Comes the Sunshine - and the Rainbows

After the Storm Comes the Sunshine – and the Rainbows

Is it Just Me, or What? Community, Neighborhoods and Crime…

I’m not feeling safe. There seems to be a spike in violent crime in my city and more importantly my neighborhood lately. A home invasion less than 3 blocks from my house,  a domestic/drug related shooting literally behind the parking lot of my youngest’s elementary school less than a mile from the house (and a neighborhood wide lock down complete with staties and K-9 patrols while the suspect was at large) And just last night an 18 yr old drug dealer stabbed a 30 yr old downtown – also less than a mile from the house.  The Viking was walking the dogs in that area literally minutes before the incident.  I think he dodged a proverbial bullet. Having the dogs with him probably provided him with a measure of safety – or at least distance.  See below for links to the related articles.

Last summer the Viking was awoken to the sound of Sophie and her “Big Girl”,  “I Mean Business” bark.  He checked around and didn’t find anything or anyone. But the next morning he noticed the living room window screen had been completely slit through at the bottom.  Good Girl Soph!  Two summers ago we had a rash of break ins in the neighborhood where women’s pocketbooks left in their kitchens were rifled through and money/credit cards stolen.  Please note: this is a very blue collar neighborhood and section of town.  We aren’t well off by any means and we ALL work very hard for what we do have. Not sure why these neighborhoods are being targeted – other than propinquity.  And if that’s the case then the offenders have obviously never listened to the old adage about not pooping where you dine.   Our dogs provide at the very least a good alarm system but frankly I do worry about my Mom and Stepdad down the street, and others in the area who either can’t afford an alarm system or don’t have a dog.

For years now, I’ve kind of scoffed at my mother for locking her doors during daylight hours when she is home – but I am now seeing the great sense in this. Most of my life I’ve been relatively fearless after taking reasonable precautions.   These days, I’m feeling much more insecure.  Is it aging?  I’m certainly not 25 – but I am in much better health than I was at 40 – so maybe?  Or maybe not. These are our streets, and I would like to be able to sit on my front stoop and watch the world go by – without thinking that every person walking by my house might be casing the joint.  Not that I have anything in here valuable enough to steal – but still…. its mine.

Is this type of crime an unintended consequence of the current generation’s sense of “self entitlement” ? In other words, “I want it, don’t care if its not mine, I’m taking it….” Are we not teaching our children proper boundaries?  Does it harken back to valuing things that are worked for; not handed out?  I’m taking an educated guess here, but I’d say yes to all of the above.  And these days  I often think we are more focused on blaming circumstances /bad parenting etc than on holding offenders accountable for their actions.  If you break the law, there are consequences, period.  That’s the way it should be anyway.  Too often theres too many excuses and not enough restitution or justice.

Which brings me to another point: If greater pride was taken by the neighborhood community perhaps the crime rate would decrease.  So:   How do we instill a sense of pride in our neighborhoods when we barely speak to our neighbors? The Northeast has a pretty frigid reputation when it comes to being neighborly. The lack of fluency in English makes it difficult to communicate well with the increasing number of immigrants in the area. They are often not willing to embrace “American” culture, either. They certainly do not trust the police.   Hardly anyone on my street allows trick or treaters at Halloween anymore – the kids have to go outside the neighborhood.  Another good example is our neighbors across the street hanging their laundry – including unmentionables on the shrubbery in front of their houseQuite the eyeful as I sat here on my front porch, I must say. Repeated requests from all the neighbors went unheeded (a communication issue perhaps), but finally our community police officer had to tell  them in no uncertain terms to hang their laundry in their backyard…. But anyway – we are isolated in our home bubbles.  Going to work each day, coming home, doing our yard work and chores etc and focusing internally.  I  have never ever been to a block party or community party in my neighborhood, and I only know my neighbors a few houses up or down the street on either side.  Which is kind of sad, and admittedly at least partially my fault.

So here’s what I AM going to do.  Continue being nice, first.  It costs nothing to smile after all.  Increase my vigilance and awareness of whats going on in the neighborhood. Including getting out for walks with the Viking and the puppies more often.  The more familiar I am with things, the more likely I am to spot something out of whack. I’ll be checking on our elderly neighbors.  And lastly – we’ll be making sure the canine alarm system stays healthy, and will definitely be locking our doors even when we are home during the day. Any other suggestions or comments would be  most appreciated. Thanks all!

The Head Table

Head Table Place Settings

Head Table Place Settings (Photo credit: VancityAllie)

Remember when you were a kid, and you couldn’t wait to sit at the grown up table on holidays?  No more mismatched chairs, paper plates and plastic cups at the rickety old card table. No sirree bub – you got the formal dining room and the good china at the adults table.  You were where it was happening. Definitely a mini rite-of-passage, at least for this chick.  As the oldest child and oldest grandchild I got to go first. Woo Hoo! Welcome to the Party, Pal!

But I want to talk about a different table.  The Head Table.  I don’t mean where Bride and Groom sit during their reception, or where the Silver and Gold Anniversary Couples get to sit. Those are cool places to be.   The happy place – center of attention and hub of the party wheel.  I want to talk about the table you get move up to – and sit at – when your parents pass away.  Its not an actual table, but its a real thing nonetheless.  And its emotional, and scary.  If all goes as hoped, you’re bound for the cemetery next. Not that anyone hopes to die, but if The Fates are kind, they take you before your children.

When you step up to take your seat at the table (if those Fates have once again smiled upon you) you’re usually middle aged – and usually with children and grandchildren by that point.  Sitting down, you get to take stock of your life to date.  You evaluate your goals, reevaluate them and maybe even change career direction. Or divorce. Or remarry. Have a full blown nuclear mid life crisis. Make a menopausally fueled Hit List. Or none of those things. But –  underlying whatever is going on is the stark reality that there’s no human buffer zone between you and the Great Beyond anymore. No safety net below you as you stand on the platform at the ceiling of the Center Ring.  Tag. You’re it.

I was chatting with my Aunt Jean the other day.  She lives near Chicago, but we try to connect with one another as much as possible. She was 17 when I was born, and she’s my Godmother.  We were discussing careers and work. She mentioned that at my age- I’m at the apex career wise.  If I’ve reached for the brass ring already – great. If not, I’d better do it soon. She didn’t say so, but I thought –  I’m approaching the Head Table, dammit.   I haven’t sat down yet because my Mom is still with us; but  I’m halfway up there as of 2007 when my Dad left us terribly, suddenly. Two of my best friends in the world – Cheryl and Martha – have a seat saved for me. Cheryl’s been sitting up there since 1999.  Martha, since last year.

I’ll be in great company, but I’m really not ready to move up to the Head Table yet. Those Fates though, they don’t deign to ask whether or not you’re ready to sit up there. And if I had to guess, I would say that NO ONE is ever ready for a seat at this particular table.  The view is probably lovely up there – friends, family etc. The love, palpable. But it seems a lonely place, regardless of the company you’re in. And, taking your seat up there acknowledges that you are, in point of fact, now an orphan.

So, as I meander towards my new assigned seating (which I FERVENTLY hope I will not have to sit in for a few years yet) I find myself asking the questions:  Am I happy? What makes me happy? Do I matter? Selfish questions, but at my age I’ve paid enough dues in life to ask such selfish questions. I also ask unselfish ones:  Have I made a difference to someone, helped someone, been a good parent?  (Don’t ask my girls that until I’ve had a chance to bribe them) Hahaha! ;). And finally: What do I want to do with the next 30+ years of my life?  I’ve certainly discovered a passion for writing and photography in the last year or so. I would like to build on that if I can.

What questions will you be asking yourself as you approach The Head Table? Or, what are you thinking about as you sit there?  Inquiring Minds…. etc.

Living the Dream

I was raised to believe in the American Dream and the intrinsic value of hard work as a means to success. The current envisioning of the American Dream is, that by participating in society and the economy, everyone has the opportunity to get a good education and a good job and can become successful.  “.. a dream of social order in which each man and each woman shall be able to attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable, and be recognized by others for what they are, regardless of the fortuitous circumstances of birth or position”.  James Truslow Adams   These days –  financial success depends more on what you do for a living, than how hard you work/how devoted you are at or to your job. How successful you are in terms of economic status is not just determined by your hard work in your chosen profession – its actually determined more by the profession you choose and the salary and benefits attached to them.  Of course, if you are a screw up then you’ll lose your job anyway – but reasonable competence in the corporate world guarantees you a fairly high standard of living with few – if any,  economic worries.   Certainly you can still be successful in terms of job satisfaction/personal happiness no matter what your career. But I am also equally certain that the janitor cleaning those corporate offices after business hours has substantially greater economic worries than the executive whose office he’s cleaning. And that doesn’t necessarily indicate that janitor is living beyond his means.

The Statue of Liberty front shot, on Liberty I...

The Statue of Liberty front shot, on Liberty Island. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Somewhere along the way we came to equate the American Dream solely with financial success –  ie  if we ain’t livin large, we ain’t livin the dream. I completely disagree with that mindset.  And I’ll tell you why.  In my opinion – every job is an important one. Every career path chosen not only validates our interests, but also identifies us to the world at large.  No job is too insignificant. Performing your work well should be the primary factor in satisfaction but I know that  many times it is not. (We don’t always get that “attaboy” or “attagirl’ from our supervisors. But we always hear about it when we screw up, right?) Anyway, I’m not sure what we can do to change the mindset.  But I can tell you that I am blue collar middle class.  I work hard,  and I feel good about what I accomplish – every day.

Perhaps it is a gratitude issue.  We Americans are a whiny self entitled bunch these days.  I have a nice house,  food in my fridge and freezer, most of my bills are paid or pending to be paid, I have shoes on my feet, a choice of weather appropriate clothing to wear each day, indoor plumbing, laundry facilities, health insurance, heat and electricity, and an automobile to get where I need to go, and at least a few dollars in change in my pocketbook.   If I had to guess – that makes me better off than probably 75% of the rest of the planet. Most people I know are at least as well off. Even most of the poorest of us are generally better off than most of the other people on the planet. We have access to housing, medical, food and clothing, transportation  – all the basics are met – or can be. And yet – complain complain complain.  Because we don’t have the 52 inch plasma TV, or the jet ski, or the Beemer.  From my perspective, why do we care?  Having a BMW doesn’t make me “better” than  anyone else (not that I actually have one) And if you are receiving assistance, why do you feel the need to have the large screen HD TV?  If you can’t afford to pay for it yourself, perhaps you might consider finding something that fits into your budget.  Are you meeting the needs of your family – 3 hots and a cot? Are you proactively planning for your children’s education or vocational needs? Planning for your retirement? Planning for your essential living expenses?  If you aren’t doing these things/cant afford to do them , there is no place for that HD TV in your home. The world will not come to an end if you can’t watch The Avengers in HD.  Get over it.

American Dream

American Dream (Photo credit: Robert Gourley)

More to the point, I strongly feel that the American Dream should be about what you can DO, not what you HAVE or can GET. The American Dream should be, was intended to be, about the pursuit of happiness. I can tell you happiness is not defined by what things you possess, but rather by interpersonal relationships and self esteem. We’ve lost sight of that, much to our detriment.  My ideas to increase our happiness quotient, and thereby put us on a path to achieving our dream:

  • Volunteer –  Helping others – without judgement –  and sharing our wealth/resources is one of the best ways I know to get people out of their boxes, develop a broader world view, and develop empathy.
  • Live within your means –  Understand that living is about relationships not about possessions. This is perhaps the biggest issue in terms of  achieving happiness.  We have to redefine it and tell ourselves it is perfectly OK not to “keep up” with our neighbors.
  • Learn and Practice proper Social Etiquette –  Learn how to behave towards others in such a way that they feel valued – no matter their economic status, they are a person with intrinsic value and deserving of respect. You WILL feel valued in return, trust me on that.  Because  “in the end, the love you take – is equal to the love you make.”

I don’t have any other ideas at the moment, but would love to hear your thoughts.  Feel free to comment.  Thanks.

What’s in a Name? And, A Drive By Vomit

I woke this morning to the sound of giggles and murmuring in my living room.  Mayhem (the youngest) has been sleeping on the couch because of a spider-fright in her room. Chaos (the oldest) had to get up early to register online for next semester’s college courses.  So of course Chaos had to make sure that Mayhem was awake – because in her world if she ain’t sleepin, ain’t nobody sleepin. They didn’t bother me (today 😉 ) and so I snuggled back into my cocoon of warmth for a few extra ZZZZ’s. When I finally emerged into the living room – Chaos was registering for her classes and Mayhem was doing her usual morning zombie shuffle. At some point, Chaos decided to help herself to some post-Easter Jelly Beans.

Didja ever start eating something that you thought you knew what it was; but it turned out to be something different? Well…  (Gagging, goat-like noise) “Mom? Black jelly beans, what flavor are they?” Me:  “Liquorice.” Chaos: “What’s anise, then?”   Me: “It tastes like liquorice…. Its a plant.” She had been expecting grape flavor -mistaking black for purple in the dim light. Well, since things usually taste pretty crappy when you were expecting one taste and get another  – much merriment ensued when the word “anise” was phonetically compared to the word for the body orifice that produces said crap.  Which I was unaware of, quite apparently –  since I continued to blather on about the anise plant.  The girls were still chortling over “anus” and thought I was commenting about anuses….how you can boil and reduce them to make the liquorice flavor. Yes, I have lost my mind – but not quite on that grand a scale – yet….Mayhem  was holding her sides. To paraphrase JRR Tolkein: Its a dangerous business – getting out of bed in the morning.

Fast Forward to this afternoon:  The Tale of the Drive-by Puking.  To set the stage: the usual state of affairs is that Chaos brings Mayhem home after work, since the younger one is a member and the older one works there.  They arrived home at abut 6:20 pm today – par for the course.  Chaos had to relate what happened on the way home –  literally just up the street. They had turned down our street and were approaching the neighbor’s house.  Both girls noticed a girl sitting on the curb. The car in front of them slowed, stopped and picked the girl up.  Mayhem: “Whats going on?” Chaos: “Getting a ride, or getting kidnapped.”  Door of car opens, girl leans out – Kidnapping Escape Attempt? Nope.  She proceeds to hurl on the street.  The driver waves Chaos around and gives her a wide-eyed  “IDKWTF is going on” look as they pass the car.  Said car then proceeds to speed off down the street in some haste – leaving the lovely deposit behind…..

I am not surprised. In this town literally anything is possible.  But I think I have had enough strange hilarity for one day.

Emerging

Spring has been slow in arriving to New England this year. It’s been a long, cold,and damp March. But the last few days have given me hope. Bluebird Skies, Birdsong, Brisk Breezes. Yesterday I really felt like we were starting to emerge from winter. We opened the windows and let the fresh air blow through the house. Outside, I noted my day lilies are starting to peek up above ground; and the daffodils have started sending their shoots up for their April debut.

We opened up all the windows again this morning; and The Viking and I (who are child-free today) took our canine kids on a long walk. The wind was cold, but the sunshine felt so good on our faces. We walked on the dike along the Westfield River. There have been a lot of changes over the winter. Smaller islands, new channels. We saw Canadian geese and Mallard ducks on the water for the first time. The Viking informs me that a Bald Eagle has been spotted on the river recently – but we didn’t see it this time out. Liberty the Red-Tailed Hawk is still hanging around, but we didn’t see her either. I must remember to bring my DSLR camera on these meanderings!

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Sophie and Chewy had a marvelous time exploring along the walkway. Lots of new scents to investigate, and we noted glimpses of fresh green popping up here and there beneath the dry browns and beiges of the winter that doesn’t want to relinquish its grip on us entirely. In addition to the waterfowl, we also saw some cardinals, a few chickadees and a finch (I think it was a finch, anyway). Off in the distance we heard a woodpecker; who was busily looking for his lunch. We also saw quite a few robins. Does anyone remember that song “when the red red robin comes bob-bob-bobbin along”? I can’t get it out of my head now – hahaha!

Now I’m not a big fan of March. Its brown, dreary, drab, muddy, dirty and cold. But I do love seeing all that give way to the green and glorious spring. Especially after the beating we took from Old Man Winter this year. But we are slowly and surely emerging into the warmth of April. I could see it on the faces of the folks we passed on our travels today. Smiling, heads up, and facing into the wind (not hunkered down against it). The Viking didn’t even bring a coat – which he regretted before too long -this is New England after all… 😉

The sun seems to linger in the sky today. The neighborhood kids are out on their bikes. Their happy voices carry on the breeze thats vigorously moving my curtains. The mockingbird in the pine tree is chattering away and sounding like a cat at the moment. Two tired puppies are sprawled, snoring, at my feet. It feels good to emerge today. “Live, Love, Laugh, and Be Happy”. Time for a glass of wine.