Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Twas the Week After Christmas & Mom was Snug as Rug With a Mug

Life Balance: a feat we try to achieve while searching to be the best that we can be, while simultaneously raising our children to do the same. This is the equilibrium in our inner life force whereby our heartbeat matches the divine force that exists all around us. When this life balance peaks, our sense of peace, joy, love and wisdom act as one with our very soul.

"The Human race has one really effective weapon, and that is laughter."--Mark Twain

I braved an old frontier this past Sunday, hopping in Vicky to head to the Galleria to return gifts on the day after Christmas. What in the world was I thinking? I once again do more thing for my teens than I would ever do for myself. I hate returning things, I never return my own stuff, only stuff for my family. I would rather let stuff take up residence on my dresser for 3 months, then spend 6 years in my closet until I can no longer shut the doors, and finally move it to more comfortable lodging in the attic. I like to think these former gifts as my retirement plan, you know the one, where you slowly sell all you own on Ebay to pay for your Depends and Metamucil and canned dog food you buy at CeilingMart, where you work as a greeter, handing out smiley faces as you lean on your walker.

Actually, it wasn't too bad, I breezed through 5 stores, one after another and didn't get one hassle from any of the future leaders of our country wearing the lip ring, eyebrow ring, belly ring, liver clip or kidney barrettes that are popular ways for our youth to spend their college loans. The crowds were a bit maddening, as you noticed the Mom's with the bags and lists herding their families through each store, looking hassled and tired while the kids were shopping, shopping, shopping with their Christmas plunder. And nary a Dad was in site. I imagine they were home sleeping off the
family induced method of dealing with each other, a.k.a., holiday carb coma that. Seriously, our Moms didn't teach us to bake 140 dozen cookies, melt everything under the Sun with cheese on it, encase all kinds of meat in pastry and make dips with more fat than most third world countries see in a year, no, the real reason we do all this madness is to get some peace the week after the holiday.

My favorite Christmas movie is White Christmas with Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye. Most people say its the romance of the movie and Bing's singing that sucks them in every year, but not me. No, I actually live for the most honest line in a movie I can remember. Bing Crosby ask Danny Kaye why he should go on date, why bother meeting, a woman when he's clearly too busy to bother with one? And Danny tells him, I want you to get married, and have 9 kids, and if you spend just 5 minutes a day with each kid, and that will give me 45 minutes a day to go get a massage or something. I love it, just love it.

That's really why we do all this stuff, starting months before to put on a pageant last 15 minutes. We are all in it to get 45 minutes to ourselves and go get a massage or something. The kids are snug with Uggs and Xbox COD in their beds, the spouses are passed out from carb induced comas and we get to sit down and go ahhhh, the best AH of the year, even beating out Meg Ryan's Ah in "When Harry Met Sally." We did it. We say, we came, we conquered.

AHHHHHH. No matter your beliefs or your holidays, its time to sit back and say it with me, "AHHHHHHH". Amen. May God Bless you with the joy you gave your family this week all year long.

Friday, November 12, 2010

One Woman's Mission to Have Peace with Teenagers

Life Balance: a feat we try to achieve while searching to be the best that we can be, while simultaneously raising our children to do the same. This is the equilibrium in our inner life force whereby our heartbeat matches the divine force that exists all around us. When this life balance peaks, our sense of peace, joy, love and wisdom act as one with our very soul.

The jihad rages on at our house, with no one listening, no one laughing and supposedly, everyone else gets what they want but "XXXX". Fill in the names here for your home, "She always, he always, you always, yada, yada, lots of whining here, but never me." Territories gets staked, angry words get hurled and the daily hiding of remotes & Xbox controllers become the secret battle of the front lines as the war escalates. Life sure was simpler when I could just have them go outside and play in those orange and yellow cars or ride the Big Wheel.

Sure, these battles only last minutes a day now and for the most part life is joyous and fun, but its the lingering effects General Mom worries about. I picked up an old classic at the library book sale a few weeks ago, "How to Win Friends & Influence People" by Dale Carnegie, with the intent to get some fresh approaches for an ongoing turf battle at work that I desired to have come to an end. I believe I read this an part of a UB PR class decades ago, but apparently only retained a smidgen of it. Written in the 1930s (yes, during the depression), Dale harnessed some important principles and noted wonderful lessons learned by some of our countries great leaders; Ben Franklin, Theodore Roosevelt and even Abraham Lincoln. As I read I was astonished to think these great leaders at one point wrestled with some of the same issues I have in life for listening and communicating, in that, I had a strong overwhelming desire to take charge, assert my opinion and tell people when they are wrong, especially when they are, and no one wants to listen. Frankly, it never helps matters to tell someone they are wrong. It just makes them dig in harder and not give up their position and then they hate, or at the very least, stomp up to their room.

What, no mudslinging? No name calling? Where's great magic technique I was looking for here? What do you mean Abraham Lincoln had to learn this?

Principle 4: Be a good listener. Encourage others to talk about themselves.

Principle 5: Talk in Terms of the other person interests.

Principle 6: Make the other person feel important and do it sincerely. (We all go through life wanting to feel important, to know what we do matters, that our viewpoint is validated, that our daily lives are appreciated).

Principle 9: Be sympathetic with other persons ideas and desires.

Dale Carnegie talked about never telling the other people they are wrong, even if they are. People need to feel important and will always deny they are wrong and then nothing will be gained. Lincoln, Franklin and Roosevelt all actually had to be taught these lessons and changed their lives when they did so. They needed to be educated. If it can work for them, maybe I can use this at home and at work.

I started with the basics: Become genuinely interested in the other people and smile, use their name, inquire about their families and their day. Say hi Jack, hi Bob and take a minute to inquire about their health, their day, their family, their favorite teams. Begin with the basic human connection. I like starting the day at home sharing coffee with the twins and at night asking for a story about everyone's day. Smiling and saying names matters. Don't sweat the small stuff. I began to find my days got easier and smoother.

In the middle of reading this book, I had to stop and go back to a wonderful book a friend gave me to read, "Three Cups of Tea; One Man's Mission to Promote Peace...One School at a Time" by Greg Mortenson ( Lynne invited me to hear him speak this past week at UB as part of their lecturer series. I confess I am still slowly absorbing the book and the ideas of one man deciding to build schools for girls in Afghanistan and Pakistan through the Central Asia Institute ( Education in the key as I always tell my kids. Learn your whole life, it's important and it never ends. And I give them the example of my learning about computers coming 10 years after I left college and then running a website becoming my main job 30 years later, all skills I learned one stop at a time. Ask questions, inquire, be shown, take those training sessions even when its not part of your job, be aware, grow. It never ends.

Greg Mortenson talks about sharing 3 Cups of Tea in his mission to get permission and support for his ideas to build schools for girls. First cup of tea, you are strangers, Second Cup of tea, you are a friend, Third Cup of tea you are family and they will lay down their life to protect you and help you. The third cup can take years and its a matter of respect and acceptance of you, but also they know you respect them. So to get education to be approved for girls by the building of schools, Greg had to begin by respecting and listening to other cultures, not go in shoving down the American ideas that everyone is entitled to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. See, educating girls changes and at the same time respects the Muslim culture because woman are the key in their culture. Boys who are educated leave their villages and do not share their knowledge, woman who are educated share and educate their communities. Woman who can read have better hygiene, which saves millions of lives from disease; have less children; which reduces the world-wide population explosion and woman who are educated will change the world by rising against senseless death and destruction and educating their communities to do the same.

Did you know that in Muslin countries before men go on a jihad, they must get the permission of their mothers? Yes, their mothers. Just think how few might get approved if the woman really understood the choices available instead when they are educated.

I tell my kids repeatedly, the world is ever changing and you must change with it, but in some respects, it remains the same. The basic tenets of family and community reign supreme and to solve many world problems you must start there, you must understand them and be educated by them. During the UB lecture, Greg Mortenson talked about his book becoming mandatory reading in the US military and many great universities of this land, all starting with General Petraeus, Commander of US forces in Afghanistan.
And who who educated the General on this great book? His wife, Holly.

Mortenson shared these principles that General Petraeus pulled from the book:

Build Relationships
Listen More(especially from the other person's point of view)
Respect & humility (their communities and families)

Wow, the same issues that Ben Franklin talked about 200 years ago, that Dale Carnegie wrote about in his book, the same things Greg took as the key to get permission to change the world by educating the children in a different way, are the same things our great commanders like General Petraeus, are instructing their troops on today.

I was awed when I noted this in the presentation. Greg also told an interesting story about meeting the Taliban, the same big bad Taliban that is out to kill Americans and who regularly took all their bombs to blow-up the schools where the tiny little girls go to schools, as if they were afraid of them. These same Taliban were open to discussing maybe allowing a school to be built and Greg took them for a tour of another school and the playground. What happened? The Taliban dropped their guns, and ran to play on the slides & swings. They stayed their for 90 minutes and then said he could build a school as long as it had a playground.

Greg showed respect and listened and the Taliban said yes. He didn't condemn them or their culture, or tell them they were wrong; he listened. Maybe it IS just the simple things of caring and giving people the basics of humanity, to listen and show respect.
Maybe all we need to do in Afghanistan is build playgrounds so everyone can have fun instead of war.

Any maybe all I need to do is find a big wheel that fits a 6 footer.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Hair Gone Wild

Life Balance: a feat we try to achieve while searching to be the best that we can we, while simultaneously raising our children to do the same. This is the equilibrium in our inner life force whereby our heartbeat matches the divine force that exists all around us. When this life balance peaks, our sense of peace, joy, love and wisdom act as one with our very soul.

"But we kick 'em to the curb unless they look like Mick Jagger."
-- Kesha in Tik Tok

"Mom, who's Mick Jagger?"

Vicky was loaded to the gills, packed with enough provisions and bedding to see us on a stagecoach trip out west for 2 weeks; I'm sure we wouldn't need much more than a fill-up in the 12 hour drive to Richmond. Coffee was in the thermos for Mom's 4 AM transfusion, suitcases & coolers were loaded in a trunk larger enough to hold a Pinto, but somehow barely fit when we added in Patricia's 3 suitcases (3? Who are you, Paris Hilton?) & cookies for the road-trip set on the front seat under Carmen, the Garmin. At 14 the twins have taken to naming everything we owned and the GPS was no exception.

And so the road-trip to Dinwiddie began. I awoke at 4 AM, brushed my teeth, woke the twins & my extra road-trip daughter, Patricia, kissed the dog, petted the husband & got in the car. Map? Check. Charlene's directions? Check. IPODs? Check. Okay, let's give Carmen Sheila's address. Carmen? Carmen? She's gone. Stolen out of the car. Oh well, here we go old school down to Virginia. Drive, drive, drive, miss a turn while I yawn outside Salamanca and reroute myself on the 219 down through PA. The IPOD gave out but Patricia's text date to Chad continued for 12 long hours, a few phone calls & numerous hangups. We switched to local radio during the construction season in PA and belted out "Satisfaction, I Can't Get No..." "Who's this Mom?" The Rolling Stones, you know, Mick Jagger? Really, turn it up. We belted the oldies from the 60's and 70's for the next hour, with Mom educating them on the groups. Next came technopop and then 80s revival with Mom telling them how she used to dance to MJ when he was just Michael Jackson. You? No, really I did. I had a life before you. And I had the hair to match, long permed, teased big hair you lose a toddler in.

Vacation isn't just for relaxing anymore. It's for connecting and lectures with Dr. Mom. Dear Hubby had to work so its just me, the twins & Patricia, cruising down the highway. The car symposiums on boys, romance, money, education and jobs. Choices, its all about choices made in a split second sometimes, but you make your head up long before if you're smart. Be smart. Focus, have a plan. Get your hair on straight. And so it goes on the last trip before high school.

Last night we got the hair cuts for high school, arguing all the way about length, color, high lights and style. Always style. Which one for Maggie, lack of it for Luke, which color of the week for Patricia, who is riding along with us just for the heck of it. The thing is, you'll start the high school with one style denoting who you are, but its all the choices you make in those 4 years that dictate the style you have when you leave; scholar, athlete, inventor, famous author or teen Mom, future cancer victim, future alcoholic, druggie or loser. It's all about those choices, some of which are made slowly, like choosing not to do homework daily, or some made in a split second when you choose to have sex without protection or hang out with new friends who get high everyday, even though you don't want to do that. Now. Make those choices now. Believe what we say about what they mean because we have already chosen that hairstyle before.

I think about that hair as I sit waiting to pay for the cuts. I think about the styles I have worn and will wear in the future as I someday become mother-in-law, grandma, great aunt, retired neighbor and maybe widow. I have friends already wearing the hairstyle of widow and widower in their 40s and 50s. I still have both my parents and get to be the kid sometimes, so its hard to contemplate that kind of hairstyle change, but it happens. But being ready to wear that hairstyle comes from all the other choices you made along the way.

Sometimes you choose to think of the style of your dreams and sometimes the style finds you from what you chose not to think about. Figure out which it will be.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Presque Isle Peace

Life Balance: a feat we try to achieve while searching to be the best that we can we, while simultaneously raising our children to do the same. This is the equilibrium in our inner life force whereby our heartbeat matches the divine force that exists all around us. When this life balance peaks, our sense of peace, joy, love and wisdom act as one with our very soul.

Peace is not something you wish for, It's something you make, Something you do, Something you are, And something you give away.

-Robert Fulghum

The air is not the only thing heating up in the summer, its also the hormones, the emotions & the attitudes. While the school new year may only be weeks away, in the minutes and hours of each weekend, it often feels like decades. Getting the heck of dodge can help, but many of the area pursuits get boring for teenagers and frankly, very expensive. So we hopped in the Pirate and hiked it to Erie, Pennsylvania to Presque State Park. (

We packed a picnic, made a pit-stop for ice, a drive-by at Timmy Ho's for Ice Caps and coasted a mere 2 hours; and Carmen the Garmin had us in the right place.

Presque Isle is a natural national landmark that sits on Lake Erie and consists of a 3200 acre sandy peninsula, with 11 beaches, numerous bike trails, fishing ponds, bird sanctuaries and hiking areas. They even give you maps for the best scuba diving if you are so inclined. The swimming areas and beaches were the finest I have experienced anywhere, with fine white beaches and silky smooth shore bottoms that were a pleasure to walk on. The roadway around the park is 13 miles long, perfect for a slow cruise, a long bike ride or a brisk jog.

We started our journey by stopping at the Tom Ridge Environmental Center at the beginning of of the park. We picked up our free park maps and received a tip to sign-up for a free, first-come-first-served hour long pontoon boat ride. We hopped back in the truck and started our journey in the park. Coming from the Land-of-the-hungry-tax-monsters-called-New-York, we fully expected a gate and an entrance fee, but there was none. It's free. Yes, you heard me right, its free and amazing. Go figure, there are states that can have recreation for their citizens and not charge them to breathe the air while they do it.

As we drove through the park, looking for the pontoon boat launch, we were amazed at the number of people walking, jogging, bike riding and swimming. We keep seeing these funny yellow scurries that families were biking in. Eventually we found the pontoon boat ride at the boat rental area. We managed to find an open spot for all of us on the 2 p.m. ride so we signed up. We debated renting our own canoe, kayak or paddle boat in addition, but decided to check out one of the beaches until it was time for our cruise.

The beaches were amazing. So many to choose from, many with concession stands in addition to bathrooms. A swim while it was a torrid 95 degrees felt wonderful and very peaceful. Out in the water were dozens of beautiful sailboats moving gracefully in the wind. Even Luke went in the water, despite a teenage sulk that he didn't want to right now. The lull of the water pulled him in and we enjoyed playing in the water and having races. Underwater handstands never seem to get old and sand in the toes feels like a gentle massage.

After our swim, we took the slow pontoon cruise through the backwaters. Our guide pointed out unique plants, birds and turtles basking in the sun. Even Margaret enjoyed it despite a general fear of all things seaworthy. Once we left the boat, we went on a mission to find the bike rental shop and rent one of the 4 person surreys. The twins took turns driving, dear hubby took turns acting as surrey commander & overexcited Dad, and I belted out a rendition of "Surrey with the fringe on top" from Oklahoma & was quickly told to not give up my day job. I guess I'll leave the singing to my talented niece.

We ended the day by grilling our Sahlems hot dogs and Wegmans yummy chicken Italian sausage on one of the many park grilles. Picnic tables are abundant throughout the park and shade or sun are really your only tough decisions. We watched a family volleyball game and chilled out while the charcoal heated. The twins read books and wound down, cooled off from the gentle breeze and occasional sprinkles. We packed up and headed back to Buffalo, with DH driving and the twins and I dozing contentedly.

The park is open year round and would be great for fall picnics and winter cross country skiing. There are many hotels nearby and even one of the countries oldest amusement parks, Waldameer. ( This was a great day trip, but it also reminded me that it wouldn't be a bad weekend trip when we need to get away. All in all, it was a nice Sunday family day in peace. It was a keeper, a break from the turmoils of teenage-hood. Too bad we can't just box it up and bring it out when the twins are going at it like they are auditioning for Wrestlemania.

But I can always sing "Surrey with the Fringe On Top" to get them to stop killing each other--they team up so they can find a pillow to throw at me instead.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Summer Dichotomy

Life Balance: a feat we try to achieve while searching to be the best that we can we, while simultaneously raising our children to do the same. This is the equilibrium in our inner life force whereby our heartbeat matches the divine force that exists all around us. When this life balance peaks, our sense of peace, joy, love and wisdom act as one with our very soul.

summer di·chot·o·my

1. Division between parental unit and offspring in the months of June, July & August in the USA.

2. Division into mutually exclusive, polar opposites or contradictory family units revolving around separate versions of reality involving issues regarding laundry, cooking, edible food groups, friends, hours of sleep, hygiene, cleanliness, treating parents like mobile ATM"s and the definitions of need vs. want in the non-school mandated time schedules

3. The fine line between calm friend-based parenting and outright dictatorship, reciting penal codes and the definition of the right side of the law in the months proceeding last report card and the annual anticipation of a child living at home for life because they cannot function in "real" society, i.e. hold a job, manage money or live a healthy life.

Ahh, summer time. Hot breezes are blowing, beautiful colors are blooming & time seems never ending-- never ending bickering over who ate all the ice cream, what chore which child was oblivious to carrying out this week and whose turn it is to walk the dog. Tempers flare each morning (the parents), swearing is abundant (the kids) and the house is waist deep in unwashed laundry, food crusted frying pans, wet towels & dirty socks while empty pop cans, tiny juice box straws, Popsicle sticks & freezi-pop wrappers line the backsides of couches, beds and closets.

And it doesn't matter what you do. Get up early, and pick up the mess before work. Leave notes with carefully devised chore lists for them to do while you work. Stay up late with them and get everyone to pick up the clutter together. It just grows. And it ferments. And impregnates itself and doubles overnight. My Mom always had the perfect house, and God help us if we left a wet suit on the carpet in our bedrooms, she would hunt us down to pick it up before we even did it. She was that good.

I can't seem to get that tight a grip. I just try to stop the hemorrhaging of excess to keep some semblance of order. Empty the garbage, change the bag. Load the dishwasher. Throw the towels in the laundry. Run upstairs, get the laundry on the floor up there, run downstairs, stoop down, pick up the lone wash cloth in the middle of the upstairs hall. Smile happily that all looks good, come home at night, put on hip boots, rewind, repeat, do over. Especially the darn wash cloth in the upstairs hall. Pick it up again.

Laundry can reach comical proportions with us, it can be 15 loads deep and funny to even try to dress, find the socks, the underwear, harvest a clean towel or wash cloth. More than once one boy was running through the house screaming at the other to stop wearing his underwear. Too funny. And look, there's no wash cloths again. Do more laundry, repeat, do over. Pick up, there's the loan wash clothes again.

I couldn't figure out the wash cloths, its not like the kids are picking up the laundry off the floor of the upstairs bath & dropping them on their way downstairs to the laundry room; why are they up on the floor all the time? And then Colleen stopped; we're chatting while my hubby changes her oil.In her car (get your mind out of the gutter). And she stop mid-sentence, and talks in her voice reserved for very small children, "Now Molly where are you going with that wash clothe?" And there's the dog, creeping up the stairs real slow like she does when she's stolen chicken wings out of the garbage & doesn't want us to see she's eating out of Molly's take out AGAIN.

She's been eating the darn wash clothes, picking them up and carrying them upstairs. Wow, maybe I can train her to pick up the rest of the stuff. You tube here we come. I can make my millions, and hire a darn maid to get through these summers. But you know what? When they're all gone in a few years, I am sure I will miss the mess.

Well, maybe not.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Chautauqua Inspiration

Life Balance: a feat we try to achieve while searching to be the best that we can we, while simultaneously raising our children to do the same. This is the equilibrium in our inner life force whereby our heartbeat matches the divine force that exists all around us. When this life balance peaks, our sense of peace, joy, love and wisdom act as one with our very soul.

Chautauqua: a meeting, usually held in the summer outdoors or under a temporary tent, providing public lectures combined with entertainment such as concerts and plays.

Margaret and I hopped in the car for a lovely road-trip to Chautauqua Institution last Sunday. I often struggle to take day trips for myself, feeling selfish to not want to go wander through a car show and swap meets. Its okay to make your own way and have your own time, and maybe even necessary for self preservation, but as woman, we seldom allow this. I ponder this fact--men having no issue doing sports or guy stuff on a weekend while woman attack to do lists-- as we get off the thruway and head for the back roads. We meandered slowly up Route 20, rolling through small towns and villages at a leisurely pace. For a Mom who lives at warp speed whenever she is in the car, driving constantly at a frantic pace to pack in yet one more stop before we are done for the day, this was not easy. It took some time to wind down & enjoy the pretty drive at 35 mph, me watching the scenery with classical music on the radio & Margaret reading a book with her Ipod drumming in her head.

When we hit Rte 394 in Westfield, I always marvel at the statue of Grace Bedell & Abraham Lincoln thinking, "if she hadn't suggested that Honest Abe grow a beard to help win the presidency, would he have won? Where would our country be today if he wasn't there to see us through the Civil War & the end of slavery?" The statue reminds me that everyone has a voice that can change the world if we just let it be heard. Even great presidents should listen to the common man--do they today? Already as I drive, my brain is drifting away from the everyday and onto the complex universe we live in and the choices we make.

I am excited to visit Chautauqua and its verdant landscaping. The Victorian homes are beautiful in and of themselves but the gardens are second to none. Acres and acres of beautiful flowers, bushes and century old trees make this a treasure chest for the eyes. Porches and really open air living rooms complete with tables, wicker love-seats, rugs, floral arrangement and at least one had a fireplace built into the home! Generations of well-to do families own homes in Chautauqua but many house rentals, hotel and apartment opportunities exist.

Chautauqua is free to the public on Sundays and parking is included if you get there before 1pm, a value that would normally cost you $22. Don't be put off by the large lot spanning thousands of cars, there are many trams that scour the parking lot and take you up to the main gate. Once there, we got in line to get our tour tickets for the afternoon, a huge value for $4. The one hour ride in an air conditioned mini bus is well worth the cost. If you prefer totally free, then hop on the trams that go north & south all over Chautauqua for a spectacular view. Walk the cozy streets, enjoy the 5000 + plus pipes of the Massey organ in the outdoor amphitheatre and lunch at the 1881 Athenaeum Hotel or picnic on 1 of the 4 cozy beaches while listening to the bells in the Miller Bell Tower.

What is Chautauqua? Quite simply a place for self-improvement and renewal. Founded in 1874 by Rev. John Vincent and businessman Lewis Miller, Chautauqua today to offer lectures, discussions, forums & concerts during its 9 weeks season. It has its own orchestra, theatre, concert halls, & ballet troop and even offers Operas in English. Students of all ages can take classes or attend performances. Places of worship and art studios join lectures in government and morality. Thomas Edison, Eleanor Roosevelt, Ulysses S. Grant, George Gershwin, and William Jennings Bryant are among the many visitors. Teddy Roosevelt celebrated his presidential inauguration here while Bill Clinton practiced for his presidential debates in the off season.

I view Chautauqua as a return to a simpler time, when picnics on Sundays and chatting on porches with your neighbors was the norm. I marvel at lush vibrant, bug free atmosphere and feel inspiration in the air as I walk the grounds of some of the most brilliant minds of our time. While this was a beautiful summer treat, I anticipate a glorious view of the trees in their October splendor. Slowing down for the day and feeling grounded in history restored my balance. Try it for yourself.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Woman Who Do Too Much

Life Balance: a feat we try to achieve while searching to be the best that we can we, while simultaneously raising our children to do the same. This is the equilibrium in our inner life force whereby our heartbeat matches the divine force that exists all around us. When this life balance peaks, our sense of peace, joy, love and wisdom act as one with our very soul.

"After all, it is those who have a deep and real inner life who are best able to deal with the irritating details of outer life."--Evelyn Underhill

Welcome. I haven't blogged in over a year and what a year it was. I had started a new job at that time and was 6 months into a large project of flipping into a new website for a company with 14 car lines and 80,000 products. In May 2009, when I last wrote a blog, I assumed I was 4-5 months away from the flip and would be too busy for a couple of months to blog. I thought it was a minor delay, maybe miss it for a few weeks. And I was already sick at that time, with female issues that gave me larges cysts and a non-stop cycle for 13 months. I ended up having a hysterectomy and going on my second stint of disability in my first year at my new job. Who does that? Somehow, I lived through the project and flipped the website 14 months later.

During that time, my boys each grew several inches, my daughter didn't and my husband was laid off and 6 months later, went back to work at company we thought he was through with 2 years before. We faced another downsizing as our income was 30% less and yet we had the same bills and the same kids growing and needing things. Somehow, we will find even more strength as this recession continues and expands, encompassing new avenues & areas everyday. Prices go up, taxes get larger belies that need constant feeding and all we can do is keep reassessing what we spend money on now and what we will spend money on in future. Welcome to the 21st century.

As a woman of a certain age, I am caught in the drama more than some. Every decision feels like a Buffalo Bills Superbowl in the last quarter, with 2 minutes left and only time for one more hail Mary pass. Nothing seems to impact just me, but takes on the lives of everyone around me, from spouse to kids to parents to friendships. How much to rebuild savings & retirement? How to direct kids activities and choices so they will not only get into college but will succeed and like it? How to help aging parents and support friends with illnesses, disabilities and death of loved ones? How to succeed at work so I have stable income? How to learn things so I will keep working for many years to come, avoiding being pushed aside in my 50's and 60's? How to keep my body healthy and strong and teach my kids to do the same?

I used to think getting my kids to college, being there for my parents, and getting through today was all I needed to do, and the rest would take care of itself. All would happen in good time. Then friends started dying and time seemed to compress. Don't get me wrong, I've seen death before. I lost a close brother at 25. I watched my close high school friend bury her Mom at 20 and her Dad at 21. I've seen the stupid tragedies of drunken drivers and stupid accidents. It all seemed distant.

Until last week when suddenly lost a hairdresser of 20 years. Aurora had taken care of my husband's family for 35 years. I inherited her when I got married. She did all the kids first haircuts. Just before she died of cancer, she did my daughter's first highlights, the ones I swore I would make her wait until 16 for. I'm glad I gave in at 13 and that Aurora got to do them. I talked with Aurora about life like I seldom take the time to do with anyone else, since after all, Aurora had me for 2-3 hours at a shot 8 or 9 times a year. How often do we sit down with our spouses or friends and just talk for hours like that?

I kept thinking about Aurora in the week since her funeral. She just kept popping into my head as I ran through my life. In the last week, I had 5 baseball/softball games, twins birthdays and one birthday party. I had a broken car and a broken dryer and too much work with no time to do it. I ran from item to item. I just keep saying yes to everyone and doing more. Yes, I can live without a dryer for 6 weeks since its only me impacted and we have so many other things to take care. Sure, I handle my car breaking down. I'll get up at 5, drive my husband to work in his truck at 6 and drive everyone around at 5 after my 9 hour day. Sure, I can make it to Walmart at 10 PM for birthday presents. I can make it more games, get a dryer and now go get groceries at 5 pm on a Saturday.

There I am in Wegman's--after driving an hour to get tickets for a concert for my eldest and stopping at 2 stores to do so--getting groceries. My brain is on warp speed. I am thinking of my to-do list and lack of money this week due to a car repair, "Okay, get stuff here, then go to Aldi's, then cook dinner, then wash laundry, then go see a concert, then get up at 6 so I can get to the gym finally, go see my parents, drive to Chautauqua, and oh yes, get back to cook Sunday dinner and do more for the week". This is my weekend. I am at the checkout, admiring the blackberries in the cart in front of me, thinking, I wish I can gone at 8 AM to the farmer's market and got some stuff, I bet the blackberries would be cheap. I am thinking blackberries would be good with my strawberries, bananas and blueberries I picked up.And then I start to put stuff on the checkout belt, my chicken, beef, sausage, lunch meat, sweet potatoes, my leeks.

Leeks? I didn't get leeks.

There's onions too, and lettuce and asparagus. Crap, I picked up someone Else's cart. I have a whole cart of produce that is not mine and I never noticed. I walked the whole store and never looked down. I am sure I also missed the panicky person in produce who was trying to figure out where their cart went.

I joke with the cashier that I am done shopping for the day. He's clueless at 16 and unaware how bad I feel about the mistake but I am also upset about being on auto pilot. "So you just don't want this stuff?" Yes, I don't want it and someone else will. I feel so bad, but under it all, I am thinking, cut it out. Go home, you are so fried you are not even aware of your surroundings. What else are you missing? How did you let this happen?

I stopped turning on my creativity. I stopped drumming up my spirituality, I stopped going to church. I stopped talking to God. I stopped seeing my children and took them places instead. I stopped living for me and thought living for others was enough, was right, was what I what supposed to be doing.

It's not.

Sarah Ban Breathnach wrote some awesome books in the early 90's on Simple Abundance. I thought it was about downsizing when I saw it on New Year's day in a used bookstore. What's its really about is finding you and keeping you, the real you that God intended. Abundance is there for all of us, and its not in the running around to baseball games or Walmart at 10pm or in the 70 hour work week in your downsized Fortune 500 company. Its in the authentic us under all the jobs at work we didn't do or the laundry we never folded, its the one that's funny and creative and a joy to talk with. The one who loves to watch House reruns with her son and drink wine while admiring her friend Lynne's garden. The one who used to blog and doesn't take the time.

She's back and its about time.