Thursday, February 27, 2014

Life exists in the Chaos

Many moons ago, in a previous life that allowed me to use my big girl words and required a daily shower, I was a Critical Care Nurse.  I worked in a 24 bed ICU with the best co-workers possible.  At a mere 23 years old, I was thrust into an environment that forced me to face mortality whether I wanted to or not.  It was a process that wasn't even on the radar of most people I knew who were my age.  We were still at the age of invincibility, teetering on the cusp of  "life" finally beginning after so many years of schooling and preparing.  We could almost taste "life" as it was finally going to happen.

Probably around a year into my circadian rhythm destroying career, I sat on my close friend's deck people watching the patrons of the nearby Dairy Queen on a beautiful summer evening.  As we sipped our micro-brews, because we were now employed career women who could afford better than Keystone or Grainbelt, I said "So this is it, huh?" She asked "Is what it?" I replied, "This is life? This is what we couldn't wait to get through high school, and then college, and then to be employed with a real job for?  Wow. This. Sucks."  We laughed and for me, it is one of those epiphanic moments that changed me.  All I had experienced in that past year had culminated in that moment.  Life wasn't just around the corner, waiting until your check list is completed. Life is everywhere, all around you at every moment.

The Critical Care Unit was not an emotionally easy place to work. There were many days I went home and cried. Cried because life did not seem fair, cried out of frustration, cried because human nature had disappointed me, cried because I was disappointed in myself.  However, those 24 beds and the patients that occupied them gave me gifts that I will never be able to repay.  As much as I would have liked to have avoided the questions that arose from their stories, their persistance in my head was unrelenting. "What if you were gone tomorrow?" "What would you do differently if you found out you had a brain tumor?"  "Do those you love, know you love them?"  The questions go on and on. generated from so many different stories. A dad who went to work like normal, who would never go home due to a freak accident.  A teenager, just being a teen: gone.  An elderly man whose family just couldn't cope with making health care decisions, and so we watched his soul go, months before his body did.  A young woman, a careless car accident, and the only thing that made sense would be others getting life from her organs.  A young man who defied all the rules, who was by all practical purposes was supposed to die, and we watched him walk out of the unit. He got a second chance.

Really the stories go on and on, each one leaving a little brush stroke on my life.  I went into this job thinking I knew where my life would take me and how I would live it.  After my years in the unit, I came out knowing nothing is certain, except change.  Every day is honestly a gift, regardless of how cold it is, and life does not wait "out there" for us.  I learned to love without abandon.

I'm human and therefore get caught up in the chaos of life, worrying about things that really don't matter. Things that are trivial, like the constant pile of Legos on my table and the train tracks built in the center of my kitchen floor. I worry in my current job, where my employers don't require daily showers, but do require a lot of snacks, that my house is in a constant state of disarray and my car is becoming a rolling dumpster.  But every once in a while, life will force be back on my heels and remind me of what is important. Have I loved enough, and do those I love know it? Have I forgiven? Have I stopped, stood still and just inhaled the chaos? Have I looked, really looked beyond the mess and seen the little hands that built the Legos or train tracks or drew the million pictures that in bubble letters say: "Mom I Love You"?  Have I thanked my better half for, in my darkest times, still making me laugh?  I truly hope I have.


Friday, February 21, 2014

HGTV: The pretty little liar

We have been in our house a little over four years. Up until recently, I would say it has been our house, but not really our home.  For the better part of the past years it has been in an almost constant state of, should I call it, "progress."  Most of it was just needed. She is a little over 40 years old, and as I'm aware, there reaches a time in a girl's life where she starts thinking of getting "some work done."  Well, our house has had a lot of "work." 
On the upside, we don't need to buy toothpicks now

I have always loved HGTV, especially any of their shows having to do with remodeling. Maybe growing up the daughter of a Master Brick Mason, who knew how to fix anything, (like the timely addition of the second bathroom after all 5 kids moved out) or just the yielding to my creative side that is always looking at ways of reinventing stuff is the cause of my to gravitation towards projects. Who knows, but I'm always a sucker to see what they have to show on HGTV.  But slowly I have come to realize, like a scorned lover connecting the dots of subtle indiscretion, HGTV lies.  They make me love them, with their quick, hiccup-free flips and remodels, but oh they lie...

In HGTVland, the contractor says, "I can have a major kitchen overhaul and bathroom redo done in 4 weeks," and it is done. In my life, week one is delayed by the Polar Vortex or the Flood of the millennium, or impassible bridges or any other weather condition that Mother Nature decides to send in her emotionally unstable condition she is currently sustaining. Weeks three and four wait on the 2nd or 3rd delivery of still the same wrong vanity from an unnamed big box store, and any remaining days are put on hold while you quarantine the house due to a lice infestation, influenza or stomach bug outbreak that has me infusing Lysol into the Scentsy pot.

In HGTVland, the obviously talented, and even more obviously childless decorator, decks out the fabulous family room in white linen couches, glass tabletops with glass bowls holding stylish glass orbs, oversized vases with perfectly placed sticks, shelving units with ceramic birds, abstract glass fixtures, antique porcelain vases and bookcases holding limited edition Hemingway novels and a Bible blessed by the Pope.  It is shiny and pretty and gorgeous.  In my life, I can guarantee that there is a 102% chance my three year old would use a white linen couch as a napkin after polishing off a Kit Kat.  The glass tabletop would succumb to a zealous game of Wii tennis.  The perfectly placed sticks would become pool cues or bats to the glass orbs, and all "pretties," as we call them in our house would end up in a dusty stack upon the highest shelf.  The remaining shelves being converted to Hot Wheels garages, Barbie bedrooms or plane hangers.

I don't blame HGTV. After all, you can only know, what you know.  And what I know is that I can not be the only mother that sometimes wishes her entire house was made of PVC so that about every 3 months I could just fire up a pressure washer and hose 'er down.  I know that all homes with small children only really need two shelves, one at about 5 feet, and the other 5.5 feet.  All important and destructible things will end up on these shelves, and will stay there for about 6 months to 9 years.  The kitchen table need to be as large as possible given the size of the room, because every night its contents will be shoved to one end, thus the larger the table, the larger the actual available dining space.  I know three kids do not need three bedrooms, because one will be an obsessive clean freak, not wanting to muss up her bed with the triviality of sleep, one doesn't like to be alone, and one wants to be a "big kid."  I know now one of those bedrooms could have been a mom-cave.  I know that so many people on HGTV need ginormous homes for "entertaining."  First off, hello, that is why we had kids! Kids = entertainment, for free. Second, those who come to my house for food and drink and "entertaining" love me enough to step over the Thomas Trains, push the cat off their lap, thank the dog for the shoe she has been carrying just for them, since their arrival, and could really care less what wood my cabinets were made from.

But now after four years, the house we bought is almost our home.  It’s our first owned home.  It is not a home that would ever make HGTV, there are far too many crumbs and animal hairs for that.

 It is a home that is constantly in motion, except for late at night when it is quiet but for the click of the cat's nails against the kitchen floor and the loud tick of the kitchen clock.  It is a home filled with many things, most of them having a story that does not start out as "I got it at Target."  And I hope a home, like a few known sacred to me, that people feel like they can walk in and grab a blanket, push aside a gold fish cracker, and curl up in the corner of the couch as they watch the flames lap against the glass in the fireplace.  And I'll join them, just after I find the remote on top of the refrigerator.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Happy Mac and Cheese Day

Ahhh.... Valentines Day. The day of love. The day of endless Facebook posts of flower bouquets and chocolates.  The day we we celebrate the love we share.  A single person may have different view on this day, but I will let them share that with snarky e-cards. That viewpoint is not mine to share.

I'll be honest, after 15 years with the same man, I don't get too anticipatory about Valentines Day.  This isn't a slam, or saying that he is poor at gift giving, or anything of that nature. It is more a growth in my view of our relationship that doesn't come down to the test that Valentines Day can become.

In our day and age, a lot of what we know and learn about relationships comes from what we see.  And I'm not talking about from our parents.  Lets face it, most of us learned a LOT of things from TV and movies, and from Glamour and Cosmopolitan.  We had Sex and the City, Friends, When Harry Met Sally as our relationship guides.  We see tiny problems wrapped up and fixed in 30 minutes, longer and bigger problems may take 90, and a "R" rating.  The issues work out, the relationships  succeed and fail in a perfected cadence that falls in line with the next episode or scene.  The men are who we feel really exist, the women who we want to be.  Sadly, I think we forget it is all scripted. It is planned out and well written. Written as we would have our "best life" scenarios exist.  But life is the farthest thing from scripted.  It's a crap-shoot.

Media, in all forms, presents us many times with what I call, "Prime rib and Lobster" relationships.  The communication is aged to perfection, the foreplay is broiled Lobster tail perfect, and the sex is Dom Perignon mind blowing.  This, especially in our teens and 20's, is what we believe real relationships look and function like.  The reality is, ESPECIALLY after kids, the majority of your relationship is of the "Mac and Cheese" variety.  They are the weeks, maybe months, of creamy goodness punctuated occasionally with Prime Rib. This is not a complaint rather an observation.  Some days it may be generic Mac and Cheese, others the home made variety. There is nothing wrong with Mac and Cheese. It is fulfilling, comforting, and yummy.  The problems arise when you are continually coming to the table bringing your prime rib wishes to yet find another bowl of Mac and Cheese.  With the continual expectation of a Prime Rib and Lobster relationship, you miss the the miracle of how hard inedible pasta magically becomes a soft, comfort food when added to water.  You miss the mystery of how powdered cheese doesn't actually contain cheese.  You miss the rebellion of deciding to add 3 tablespoons of butter, and not two.  You miss the messiness of a boiling over pot, staining the burner pans that remain no matter how hard you scrub.  You miss the change in the wooden spoon, as its edges slowly soften from years of mixing noodles and ingredients.

Some of the greatest love stories I know of who make total box office bombs. A snooze to read, because they are love stories created out of years of Mac and Cheese days.  Comfort, security, and a choice to love, (even when you want to throw the pot at his head) are pretty boring if you were looking inward. They would make for horrible cinematic features.  We tend to thrive on the drama, miscommunication and misinterpret signal.  We want everything to get messed up so that it can work out, over prime rib and lobster.

After all, who ever heard of making up over Mac and Cheese?

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Newsflash: No one cares.

Sometimes I hear people state the reason they don't go to the gym or run or swim is they are worried what other people will think of them.  I've never understood this line of thinking. My inability to comprehend this thought process is probably because for the majority of my youth, I flitted around a frozen sheet of water wearing what equated to a leotard with a tiny skirt.  A skirt that according to my father was NEVER long enough.   Had he had his way, my skating skirts would have been the length of, oh, a poodle skirt.  But I practiced and performed in front of God and everyone wearing shiny, not flattering tights, and barely hiney-covering skirts.  I was also involved in a sport, like gymnastics, that was individual.  Some practices were me vs. that triple salchow, over and over and over, without any real consideration of what anyone else on the ice was doing.  
(In the end, the triple remained elusive.) 
So, I surmise this is where my ambivalence to anyone else exercising probably stems from.

Are you one of those people who want to "lose a few pounds before going to the gym?" Well, I have news for you. No one is thinking about you at the gym. Really. They aren't.  Do you remember 7th grade and were terrified what people would think of you and your lack of a Trapper Keeper?  

Then you grew up and realized no one was concerned about your lack of portable paper filing systems?
 Nothing is different at the gym.   If you could read thought bubbles at the gym, here is probably a rundown of what they are thinking:

"Is this mile done YET?"
"OOO! I love this song!"
"You go Grandpa! (or  Grandma!)" in reference to anyone of the Greatest Generation that I see there everyday.
"Why is Kelly Ripa's head bigger than her shoulders?"
"Oh! There's a muscle I didn't know I had."
"I need to remember to get milk."
"I wish I had gotten here first so I had control of the remote."
"Did I just sing that out loud?"

If someone is possibly processing a thought that is about you, it is most likely "Good for them!!"  At least this is what I think is happening at the gym.  I have the utmost respect and excitement for anyone who is out there, trying.  To anyone who made a point to put forth some physical exertion that day, I applaud you!!  I don't care if you are 20 or 80, perfectly toned or "working on it," you made an effort, and you should be proud.  
There are many different ways to rehydrate....
 No one is taking note of whether or not you "should be there."  There is no prerequisite to wanting to better yourself and your health.  There is no minimum age or weigh limit to gain entry.  Really the only thing that may get you some stink-eye looks is wearing street shoes in the gym.  That is a hard and fast rule. 

The reality is we live in a town with an honor system coffee bar.  We have that kind of community.  For the most part, people are good people, people want good for others. Why then wouldn't they celebrate your effort at the gym? This is what I believe, at least.  And if someone is thinking something snarky about my physical effort, well, I know that says nothing about me, and everything about them.