Thursday, June 30, 2011

2011 - The Half Way Mark

At the beginning of the year, I resolved to do the following:

1) Drink more water.

2) Write more.

3) Keep your feet on the ground.

4) Love the people who love you and love them well.

5) Focus on what you have instead of what you don't. 

We're 6 months in, and it's time to take stock once again.  I'm going to go through the list and assign each item a letter grade.

1) B -- I started out strong on this one, but have fallen off.  Too much soda. Too much Red Bull.  Too much lemonade. (We won't mention the tequila.) Time to get back on the H2O kick.

2) A -- A solid "A" on this one.  I've written far more this year.  And shared quite a bit more of my inner goof than I probably should.  But I can live with that. I'm pleased with the direction(s) it's taken me.

3) A- -- I think, for the most part, I'm managing this. Aside from the whole splitting-the-chin-open incident.  Apparently, where I fall down (pun intended) is in keeping the rest of me off it.  Working on that.

4) A -- I'm sure there are times when I get so wrapped up in my worries I forget to let the people who matter most know how very much I love them, but I think -- I hope -- these have been few and far between. 

5) C- -- My greatest struggle.  It isn't for lack of trying.  It just seems I'm not negotiating the learning curve very well.  If I can bring this one up to a "B" by year's end, I'll consider the year a success.

Still, as always, a work in progress. A big thank you and much love to all those who are keeping me company on this trek. 

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Father's Day

Earlier today, a friend suggested I be sure to let my Dad know how much of an influence he's had on me. My immediate reaction was one of, "Well, duh!" But then I realized this is not something I do nearly often enough.  My Dad's not the sort of guy who's particularly comfortable with the expression of emotions -- especially not the mushy sort.  I, in turn, have gotten in the habit of not expressing them to him.  And it's kind of a shame.  Because my Dad truly is one of the best men I know. 

He didn't necessarily have what I'd refer to as an easy childhood, (though if I were to bring that up to him, he'd likely dismiss it.) Still, he did well in school, and followed up college with law school. This, in turn, was followed by a two year stint in the Army.  If memory serves correctly, he graduated from law school, married my Mom, and headed off to basic training, all within a two week period in July of 1956. He has steadfastly supported my Mom and our family ever since. 

The memories I have of my Dad from my childhood are of a man who made up silly rhymes and songs and sang them to me. Who made a point to lift me up off my feet whenever we stepped over a curb. Who happily put my stuffed skunk ("Skunkie" -- go figure) on the steering wheel of his car and let him "drive".  Who took me with him to put up campaign signs for various political candidates, and instilled in me early on a keen interest in all things political.

Later, as I became a snotty teenager, our relationship became a bit strained. I know I was no peach to live with, and Dad, I think, always felt at a bit of a loss as to how to interact with me once I was no longer a little girl who giggled at his silliness. Still, he endured my adolescence without throttling me, and even had me come work for him in his law office the summer I was 15.  (All my friends were already 16 and gainfully employed.)  You might think that stint is what inspired my later decision to become a lawyer myself, but mostly, I answered the phones and read romance novels that summer, so I can't rightly say that it was.

There's no denying, however, that his career choice influenced my own. I don't know that I consciously thought of it that way when I chose to follow in his footsteps.  But I do know that within me has always been the desire to make him proud.  I know that I am certainly proud of him. He's worked hard all his life. He's been a good husband to my Mom. He's been a die hard Tiger fan and alum. He's always been active in politics and, though our philosophies no longer align, I greatly respect his dedication to his beliefs.  He's not only attended the same church for almost 50 years, he's given countless hours of his time to it, serving in multiple capacities.  He's turning 78 in a month and still goes out for a 3 mile jog (or, as he calls it, "chog") on a regular basis.

One thing that's meant so much to me over the years is how very many times when I've encountered someone who knows my Dad, the first thing they've said is, "He is the nicest man."  It's true. My Dad is nice.  He is kind.  He is a gentle man and a gentleman. And though he may not verbalize it well or often, I have no doubt that he loves me.  He has always been there for me, whether it was helping me find a job, or picking up my daughter on short notice, or helping me wrestle a lawnmower.  I'm sure that there are times he doesn't quite know what to make of me, but he never wavers in his support of me.  And I am so very lucky to have him as a father. 

Love you, Dad.  Happy Father's Day.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Honey Badger Don't Care

Many of you netizens are likely familiar with the infamous Honey Badger and his non-caring ways.  For any who aren't, I give you this:  It's well worth the watch. (Warning: Snappy Language; Mellivorate Culinary Violence.)  This viral video spawned the catchphrase "Honey Badger don't care." It even has its own Twitter hashtag: #HBDC. But for all its twisted silliness, it occurred to me this morning, as I conversed with my good friend Di, that perhaps there is a lesson to be learned from Honey Badger.

I've been characterized, at times, as a "Type A," and at others as an "Alpha Female."  I don't always see myself that way, though I can understand why I may be perceived as such.  In part, it comes with the territory of being a litigator.  Passivity and meekness don't really go hand-in-hand with courtroom advocacy. You're regularly called upon to do battle, albeit with wit and words, rather than swords, but it does require a certain degree of aggressiveness.  Then, too, I was brought up believing that I was capable of doing almost anything I put my mind to -- that with enough hard work, focus, and perseverance, I could achieve most any goal.

And that's what most of us are taught from a young age: Choose a goal; formulate a plan for achieving it; put your nose to the grindstone and go after it. No, you won't always succeed, but that's certainly the best recipe for doing so.  This methodology applies to virtually every facet of our lives: education, career, finances, athletics, artistic expression.  Wherever your passions lay, this is how you pursue them. 

Except relationships. There's something unique about the human heart that causes it to defy logic and throw all the regular rules of "success" out the window.  Especially from the female perspective.  Regardless of "how far we've come," there's something inherent to the male-female dynamic that makes aggressive pursuit of one's "goal(s)" unseemly, to say the least.  Visions of Glenn Close and bunnies aboil on the stove leap to mind. 

This doesn't, of course, prevent girls and women from doing just that.  But I've yet to see positive results yielded from that approach -- for anyone I know.  Instead, we are taught, either overtly, or by experience, to passively sit and wait for Prince Charming to come along and sweep us off our feet.  That love will only happen when we aren't looking for it to.  That, while it may be a laudable goal, it is not something we work towards.  (Never mind the fact that once found, it often does require work to not be lost.) 

Anyone who knows me well at all, or who's read enough of my blogs, knows I'm a romantic at heart.  Though life's bumps and bruises have taught me that fairy tales are just that, I still find myself drawn to that ideal.  I am hardly alone in this, I realize.  But to be honest, for me, it's become a liability.  Rather than focusing on what I have (which is so very much) instead of what I don't, I keep stubbing my toe on the threshold between the two.  And that, in turn, has caused me to lose focus on the things in my life over which I can reasonably expect to exert some control.

I've been called stubborn at times, too.  This is not at all an unfair characterization.  And I'm learning that there lurks inside me a stubborn child who, much like the 16 year old me, demanding a later curfew for my 17th birthday or nothing at all, seems poutily determined not to focus on and enjoy all the blessings God has given me unless I can have my fairy tale, too.  Yeah.  That'll get me far.  No.  No, in fact, it won't.  It'll get me forever entrenched in underachievement and Poor Me-hood.  Not to mention put a strain on my relationship with God.  I'm pretty sure He has my number. 

So, what's a hopeless romantic to do if she wants to free herself of these silly self-imposed bonds?  She might do well to take a page out of Mr. Honey Badger's book.  Because, you know, Honey Badger don't care.  And that seems to work pretty well for him.  He's singular in his focus and successful in his pursuits.  You don't see him lazing around, daydreaming about his honey badgerette soul mate.  You don't see him moping, when he should be out snarfing down cobras. 

Now, don't you worry about yours truly turning into a jaded old badger.  There's still plenty in my life to care about, and I will do so happily. I just think it's well past time to set aside the things that distract and detract from my pursuit of goals that are not only worthwhile, but actually attainable through hard work and focus.  Thanks, Honey Badger.  Even if you don't care.  ;)

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Latest in Smiles

I keep telling myself I'm going to do this every day.  Or, at least, every other day. And then the days slip away, and the smiles go forgotten. are those I can recall from the past few days:
  • My exchange with Riley Friday night: Riley: For Halloween I want to be Hermione or Fr... Me: Frodo? Riley: No. That would be awkward.
  • Finding the perfect new bathroom set for Riley -- So long, little kid fishy motif. Hello, hummingbirds!
  • Trying to explain to her why her cousin was being a little grumpy the other day, and her response, "Hormones."
  • Helping my good friend Ned celebrate his 40th -- he truly reminds me of George Bailey -- and having far too much fun with the Cedarmill Crew.
  • Successfully completing Mission "Secretly Replace Mom & Dad's Prehistoric Computer with One that Actually Works" -- even if it may still take them some time to get used to it.
  • Making new WWF friends.
  • Hearing from the right people at the right time in the right way.
  • Knowing I am missed.
  • ATM jokes and the folks who put the "wit" in Twitter.


Wednesday, June 8, 2011


Remember when you were a kid and thought about what it meant to be a "grown up"?  It was one of those difficult concepts -- for me, anyway. I mean, I knew plenty of grown ups, but I never could quite wrap my brain around what it would be like to be one myself.  The closest I could get was this sort of abstract combination of my mother and myself.  Even then, I never gave much thought to what being a grown up actually meant, aside from being bigger and being old enough to drive and do other age-restricted things.

I'm not certain at what point one actually qualifies for "grown up" status.  If it's purely a chronological thing, then I would think by age 21. Certainly, for those who take the traditional collegiate path post-highschool, by the time one graduates and either moves on to graduate school or enters the full-time job market.  Psychologially, I suspect the answer is a bit murkier.  I have friends who had their own places and were largely self-sufficient by the time they were 22 or so.  I, on the other hand, was still a student, in large part dependent on my parents. 

And even though much of my law school years were spent essentially "on my own" in Chicago, I don't know that I can rightfully characterize that time as one of true independence.  After all, I still traveled "home" to my parents' on holidays and summer break and still was dependent upon them, to a minimal extent, financially.  Upon graduation, I moved back to St. Louis and continued living at home with them for two-and-a-half years.  Though chronologically of age, I remained the child in that relationship dynamic. 

Moving from their house into the one I shared with my now-ex failed to clearly define my grown upness. One would think that home ownership, marriage, and if nothing else, parenthood, might serve as bright line indicators.  But I don't know that I ever reached a point where I thought, "Okay...NOW I'm a grown up."  Hard to say if that's a reflection of immaturity, or simply a recognition that I still was not the singular captain of my ship. When you're in a partnership like that, you do have (and hopefully meet) certain responsibilities, but there is still a sense of dependence on the other person to help steer and chart your life's course.

Professionally, I've worked for/with the same people for 18 years now.  In particular, my mentor, Sam, has been much like a second father to me.  A "work father," if you will.  I have been and remain perhaps too dependent on him.

And it's occurred to me in recent months that I've never fully stepped up and taken ownership of my own life.  I've always looked to others to guide me and depended on them for their direction - professionally, familially and romantically.  The realization that I'm really no longer in a position to expect such guidance from anyone on any of those counts has been an unsettling one. In truth, it's left me feeling adrift. 

And it's forced me to re-evaluate what it truly means to be a "grown up", part of which, quite literally, is "own up."  Own up to your mistakes.  Own up to your faults.  Take ownership of your actions.  Take ownership of your outlook.  Take stock of where you are and where you want to be.  Take responsibility for all of it.  Quit looking to someone else (aside from God) to lead the way.

It surprises me, I think, to be the age I am and only now fully coming to these realizations.  I look around and see plenty of my contemporaries whom I consider "grown ups" -- whom I have considered grown up for quite some time.  In fact, I see plenty of my not-so-contemporaries who qualify, as well -- people who seem to have little difficulty acknowledging that they have dues to pay, responsibilities to meet, and don't seem particularly unsettled by this.  (They stand, of course, in stark contrast to those folks we all know -- the perpetual children who remain convinced that life is a playground and all responsibility and blame lies with others.)  I don't think I'd place myself in that latter category.  But I've this sense of having been in a state of suspended animation.  Perhaps, because of the various protectors I had in my life, insulating me from its harshest realities, I never really understood and accepted all of adulthood's implications. 

I'm starting to now.  Which isn't to lay claim to any true degree of maturity on my part. Maybe just to the realization that I am the captain of this ship. And whether it sinks or sails is pretty much up to me. No excuses.

Funny thing about that -- not long ago, I was discussing some of these concepts with Riley. Instilling in her the importance of working hard and setting goals and going after what you want in life, instead of being passive and fearful or lazy about it all.  After about ten minutes of discussion, she looked over at me and said, "So, basically what you're saying is: 'Don't let your life pass you by waiting for it to happen.'"  Kind of scary to think my kid may understand what it means to be a grown up better than I do.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

A Weekend's Worth of Smiles

I had a good weekend. There are always ways we wish life could be different.  There are always "if only's" whispering in our ears.  But there are so many blessings and reasons to smile:

  • Watching Riley's softball team - every game they play, they just get better and better. It's so amazing to watch them execute.  Three double-plays this weekend, plus some amazing hits. And 2/3 wins. 
  • Enjoying the company of her dad and step-mom (or my "step-wife", as I prefer to call her). Divorce is never an ideal situation. But I do consider myself one of the luckiest divorced people on the planet. I am so very grateful that my daughter gets to have parents who are friends.
  • Getting to spend a day with my girls, enjoying good food and drink, and watching the Cards beat the Cubs.  Who cares if it was hotter than Hades? We still had a great time!
  • Having a best friend who lives so close to me.
  • Finding inspiration and churning out a blog without agonizing it.
  • Enjoying a nice dip in the pool to cool off, and the company of more good friends this evening.
  • Reading another friend's foray into the world of blogging - I love it when people find their voice!
  • Recognizing that everywhere I turn, I am blessed to have good people in my life.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Goodbye, Sweet Girl

Note: This was originally a note I posted on Facebook in November, 2009. I was reminded of it tonight, and decided it warranted a re-publish. I still miss my Abby.
She was the afterthought. When I went to the shelter to pick out “a” kitty as my birthday present from my then-boyfriend, the lady who ran the place raved on and on about “Little Mary Louise,” the mischievous little stinker who was the runt of her litter. I was sold. But not so fast – the shelters always encourage you to adopt two at a time – you know, so they aren’t “lonely.” “Mary Louise” had three brothers and a sister. The boys were all cute, but the sister was an almost-twin to “Mary Louise,” only slightly bigger, and with tabby-striped spots that were more black than brown. She seemed sweet, and they made a good matched set. So “Little Mary Louise” and her sister came home.

They needed better names, though. For some reason, the two of them brought to mind two little old spinster sisters – like the Baldwins on the Walton’s. Or maybe the two silly geese sisters in “The Aristocats.” I decided they needed little old lady names: Gertrude and Abigail it was.

Gertie and I developed an instant bond. She was the snuggler, who wanted to be held constantly. Abby was more elusive. There were times when she wanted – insisted on – your attention. But often, she was content to find a quiet corner in which to curl up. Gertie was also neurotic – she cried a lot, wanted to be right next to me, if not perched on top of me, and considered the usage of the litter box optional. She was my problem child. And so, though it was probably unfair, she got the bulk of my attention.

Abby? She was content to live mostly in the shadows. She did have her moments, though. Like the time she took off in the parking lot of an abandoned Shell station in BF Illinois while I was transporting them back to Chicago in the dead of winter. They’d both gotten violently ill (from the WRONG end) while in their carrier, and I’d had no choice but to stop and try to clean them and the carrier up. Once the door was open, little paws covered in you-don’t-want-to-know-what skittered about my car and then out into the parking lot, as I tried to clean up awful glop with those pathetic fake paper towel things they have next to gas pumps to wipe off your windows. The icy wind whipped through the lot as I alternately cried and retched. Gertie stayed near, but Abby decided to explore. I wasn’t entirely certain I’d ever catch her, but she eventually let me. Yowling, loudly, the whole time, I might add.

Then there was the time, the following summer, when I was studying for the Bar Exam, largely by leaving my various outlines strewn about my room, perhaps in the hope that some of the knowledge contained therein might magically leap off the pages and into my brain while I slept. I was annoyed by the sounds of Abby pouncing and shuffling through the papers in the middle of the night. It wasn’t until I got up the next morning that I discovered just exactly WHY she’d been making such a commotion – seems Ms. Abby had found herself a mouse. Whose entrails she’d lovingly plastered across several of my outlines. (My Mom was fortunate enough to find the remainder of the carcass in the family room.)

But for the most part, Abby was my low profile, low maintenance, easy-going cat. When Gertie ran away several years ago, Abby suddenly seemed to come into her own. She was more talkative, and more assertive in insisting that you pet. her. head. right. now. It was a bit like she’d stepped out of her sister’s shadow, which I found amusing, given that she’d always been the bigger of the two.

Thinking back, though, there were things that were distinctly Abby. Like the wide-set eyes that made her look either regal or supremely annoyed. The absolutely insane love she had for Lion’s Choice. And the spooky, yet ever-so-helpful barf alarm. (Abby was a frequent barfer. But as unpleasant as that was, she had this horrendous mmmrooooowwwrrrlllll sound she’d bust out about 30 seconds prior to hurling, thereby allowing me to sprint to her location, scoop her up, and ensure that she was on floor, not carpet, by the time she let loose. Several times, she was even thoughtful enough to aim INTO the litter box, and I praised her highly for her good manners when she did.)

Once we moved into this house, she soon discovered the delights of perching atop my kitchen cabinets, often staring down at us, like a vulture, biding its time. She LOVED kitty treats. And knew right where I kept them. So, no matter if I was reaching for a package of noodles, a certain spice, or some vitamins, she’d be right there reminding me loudly that she was entitled to a treat while I was in there. More recently, she’d taken to curling up on the back of the chair in the family room while I sat there in the evening, watching TV and/or typing away on the laptop. She’d rest a paw on my shoulder, her nose close to my ear. And every so often, I’d hear a half snore/purr escape from her.

She went downhill fast. I’ll never know for sure if her being trapped in the hall closet all day a week-and-a-half ago is what really set things in motion. Or if taking her to the vet that Saturday, when I first noticed she seemed wobbly, instead of waiting to see if she’d perk back up, would have made a difference. Maybe not. Maybe it really was just her time. I knew by last night we needed to call the vet today. And I had a feeling what the verdict would ultimately be.

So, last night, I scooped up her seemingly weightless little body and curled her up on the pillow next to me. Strange that she used to be my “big” cat, but now seemed so frail and tiny. Riley brought in a stuffed kitty (a Webkinz, also named “Abby,” and white, with black spots, just like the real one), and placed them on the pillow around her. And she stayed there, through the night. Quiet, other than a few uncomfortable stretches and shifts of position. I reached out a couple times and patted her little paw, and she kept it there, instead of pulling it away.

We took her late this afternoon. Riley knew what the outcome would likely be, but wanted to be there nonetheless. At first, it seemed like maybe there was some hope. The vet was going to run some tests and see. But when he came back, his face was grim. Her kidneys were pretty well shot. We’d have to opt for really aggressive treatments, and even then, there was no guarantee they’d do much for her. He left us to discuss it. Riley cried. We both did. But she’s the one who talked me through it – that she didn’t want to say goodbye, but Abby had lived a long life, and we didn’t want to have to try all sorts of pills or other treatments if it wasn’t likely to make her better; that we didn’t want her to suffer; that it was time to let her go. I know these were all things that I and others had discussed with her previously. But nothing will tug at your heart harder than watching a 7 year old try so very hard to be a grown up.

We stayed with her while they gave her the shot. Riley had brought the stuffed Abby along, and cuddled her up next to the real one. Riley kept rubbing her nose and looking into her eyes, while I scratched behind her ears. She went quickly and quietly, and we both cried, and kissed her and hugged her goodbye. She’ll be cremated, and we’ll find a pretty little box or container of some sort for her ashes. Riley wants to write her some notes and draw some pictures and put them in with her.

Abby was with me for a very long time -- really, through my entire adult life. From an apartment in Chicago, to my parents’ house, to St. Peters, back to my parents’ house, to an apartment in Chesterfield, to our house in Ballwin. Through all the ups and downs, twists and turns, my life has taken, she’s been there…quietly isn’t exactly the right word. Because she most certainly had a voice. But in such an understated fashion, that it was easy to take her companionship for granted. But for a kitty who really was quite small, and possessed of such a low profile, she’s certainly left a great void. 


Thursday, June 2, 2011

A Return to the Smiles

So, as I alluded in my previous entry, I've developed a split personality in order to satisfy my need to write of stuff both fluffy and non.  Now that I've gotten some non-fluff out of my system, it's only fitting that I churn out some more fluff. I haven't had any great lawnmower adventures of late, but I have, in fact, had some reasons to smile:

  • We finally got Riley's room painted and put back together, mostly
  • The pool is open and I am enjoying my summer
  • Softball season is in full swing, and the Diamonds are still awesome
  • I get to go to the Cubs/Cards game on Saturday
  • I just played a word I pulled out of thin air for 72 points earlier tonight
  • I took the high road and stayed true to myself
  • I'm blogging/writing again - and people are actually bothering to read
  • I have some amazingly wonderful old friends and some pretty cool new ones, too