Thursday, September 15, 2011

Would You Slay a Dragon?

So there's this phenomenon my single lady friends and I have been noticing with increasing frequency of late.  And I'm trying to figure it out.  Girl meets boy and they hit it off.  Not just in the "This is pleasant" sense.  But in the, "Wow!" sense. There's a connection -- a spark.  Something that, at a minimum, warrants a second encounter.  Her number is requested and entered into his handy smartphone.  She might even get a text or two.  And then...nothing. 

No follow-through.  No nothing.  And she thinks to herself, "Was it something I said? Something I did? Did I have spinach in my teeth? Am I too fat? Too old? Too...."  Oh, she also wonders what might be wrong with him -- maybe he has a girlfriend, or he lost his phone, or he was abducted by aliens....  But mostly, she questions how she managed to read the signs all wrong. 

She knows about "The Rules."  She's seen "He's Just Not That into You."  She gets the way it works.  She knows not to give chase -- to let him be the pursuer.  And pursue he did.  Momentarily.  He told her how amazing she looked.  Maybe took her for a spin on the dance floor.  Talked of what a great time they'd have when they next went out.  Made sure to get her number.  And vanished into thin air.

As a friend and I discussed this phenomenon the other day, we speculated as to the root cause -- surely it can't just be a game.  Maybe it's romantic ADD?  An inability to stay focused.  Maybe it's just ambivalence.  Maybe it's fear of taking a chance. 

Whatever it is, my friend has resolved not to dole out her digits again without first extracting a promise that he be willing to text her a brief explanation if he opts not to follow through.  You may think that somewhat extreme.  I think it holds some merit. 

In fact, I've decided to up the ante if I'm ever again faced with the proposition:  Good Sir, you may not have my number unless you're willing to slay a dragon for me.  For if you are not, then why even bother? Don't prolong the charade. Don't clutter up your address book with me.  Just tip your hat and bid me farewell. :)

Thursday, September 8, 2011

One Sunny Day in September

With the ten year anniversary of 9/11 looming, I'd originally planned simply to re-post this entry from last year (which was, itself, a re-post of something I wrote on the seven year anniversary): 

I remember so much about that day:
I was getting ready for work and had the radio on, a little before 8:00 a.m., CST. The DJ's mentioned something about a plane hitting the World Trade Tower and they were watching it on the Today Show. So I turned on the TV, and was watching the video of the first tower. And as I watched, live, I saw the second plane come in, low and slow, and thought, "Oh my God!" And it hit. And I dropped the brush out of my hand and fell on my knees with my mouth open. After about a minute of just staring at the TV with my hand over my mouth, I got up and went to the phone to call my then-husband. He was out of town for work, in Dallas, working at the airport there. He was still asleep, and I woke him up and told him to turn the TV on. Then realized -- his brother was a pilot for AA, and started getting really worried. He didn't think his brother was flying that day, but I told him I'd try to get ahold of him to be sure. I finished getting ready and left the house, got in the car and turned the radio on. I called my then-BIL and was able to get ahold of him. He was home, safe. So that was a relief. On the radio, they were saying that all flights were being grounded, and one or two were unaccounted for. My route took me past the STL airport, and as I drove east toward and past it, I could see the planes all lined up, heading west, coming in one right after the other. And all I could think was, "Get down, birds. Get down." I know that seems weird, but that was what was in my head.

I pulled into my parking garage around the time the Pentagon was hit. I got out of my car and walked toward my office, looking up at the bright blue September sky, which suddenly seemed empty. And, even though it was warm out, I got the chills. The TV was on in the office, of course. And we all just stood around it, watching. We'd try to go to our desks and do some work, but it was futile. My MIL called me in a panic, because she knew my office was located next to the Arch. I told her I was fine, but we'd gotten word they'd be shutting our building down, and we'd be heading back home. Watched in disbelief as the first tower came down. Then the second. Then left and started the drive back home, still in a state of shock.

Just so happens, I was 7 or 8 weeks pregnant at the time. Got home, and there was a message on the machine from my doctor's office, asking me to call them. I did, and they told me there was a problem with my hormone levels, and I was at risk for miscarrying, so I needed to go pick up a prescription. The realization that my husband was likely to be stuck in Dallas for an indefinite period at that point, and I was pretty much on my own, hit and made me feel very much alone. I got in the car and headed to the pharmacy, and remember thinking to myself how odd it was that it, and the grocery stores, and most businesses were still open and carrying on like it was a regular day. I know the people working there weren't FEELING that way -- it just struck me as odd that, even in the face of this evil, awful thing that was unfolding, we were still plodding ahead with our day. I picked up the prescription and read the warnings, which included all sorts of potential awful things that could happen to the baby, including some mutations. THAT freaked me out. So I called the doctor's office and they reassured me it was okay to take the medicine. So I did. And I sat down on the couch and watched the endless coverage, and wondered what kind of a world my child -- assuming he or she would be okay -- would be born into. And I cried.

I was thousands of miles away from the destruction of that day, but I -- just as everyone else -- was profoundly affected by it. And it's easy, almost 7 years later, to forget just how much, to forget all that was lost that day. We can quibble from now until the end of time over what actions since then were appropriate. And I'm sure we will. It is, perhaps, the largest political football of our lives. But we should never, ever, ever forget that day.

But as I walked to lunch today, and looked up at a bright blue September sky not unlike the one I searched for planes -- and later, for answers -- on that sunny day ten years ago, I realized that I have more to say about it than just what I remember.

The other day, Riley surprised me with the following exchange: "Five more days," she mused as we got into the car and headed to the pool. "Five more days 'til what?" I asked. "September 11th," came the reply. (Note: She was off by a day, but I can forgive her that -- my days and dates are all mixed up this week, too.) Surprised that she was bringing it up, I responded, "That's right. Can't believe it's been ten years." After a moment, she said, "I just missed it." I wasn't quite sure what to say to that. Finally, I said, "Well, yes -- you were just an itty-bitty baby in Mommy's belly at that point. know...I'm not so sure it's a bad thing to have missed, Baby. That was a very sad day for us all."

Later that evening, I was still reflecting on the conversation and turned on the Smithsonian's retrospective on 9/11. I thought maybe watching some of it with her might be a good way to help her understand a little better. It wasn't long, though, before the tears welled up in my eyes and spilled down my cheeks. I guess it isn't hard to understand why, but it did suprise me a little -- the power of those emotions as I started reliving them. Riley came over to me and hugged me and patted my back, and I decided to hit "Record" and save it for another time. I'm not sure she's ready for it. Or, really, I'm not sure I'm ready for her to be ready for it. I look into her pretty little eyes and like the fact that they don't look like she's seen too much of the world already.

It's made me reflect on my own perspective -- today versus ten years ago. Much has changed in my life since then and it's hard to say how much of a role the events of that day and its aftermath played in that. I know that it caused me to look at things quite differently -- philosophically, spiritually, politically. I'm glad for that in a lot of ways, sad for it in others.

There's a lot of focus on the remembrance this year -- as there should be. But, honestly, it's hard to look back. To see the photos and the video, hear the audio. To remember the terror and overwhelming sadness of that day. It cuts down deep in a way nothing else I've experienced has. Like a psychic wound. Not just for me, but, I suspect, for most who remember that day.  I think I'm glad that, for now, Riley doesn't really understand that -- and that a sunny day in September, to her, is just that.    

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Happy Place

I grew up relatively happy.  Though I encountered your typical emotional bumps and bruises in my childhood, I had a strong, stable support system in place and never doubted that I was loved.  Also, I was given a default setting of happy/content.  Not something I can even remotely claim credit for.  I just got dealt decent cards. 

It wasn't until relatively recently that I truly came to understand that -- what a blessing it's been, and the sad rarity of it.  It's only once you've encountered the complete opposite that you are fully able to see and appreciate the happy.  Since then, I find myself searching out that sense of happy in others.  When I see friends who have that glow about them, or read joyful posts on Twitter or Facebook, I can't help but smile back. It's a good thing when others are in their happy place. And I want to encourage it and share in it, rather than be envious of it.

Which ties into one of my resolutions for this year: Focus on what you have instead of what you don't.  I surely do struggle with that.  But when I'm successful, the rightness of it is undeniable.  I was reminded of this several weekends ago during a trip to Lake of the Ozarks with friends.  Chris and Cari long ago semi-adopted Riley and I, and were gracious enough to invite us down to the Lake with them.  I know it sounds strange, but I've actually never been to the Lake before.  Not for fun, anyway.  I did attend a conference there years ago, but I don't think that really counts, as the entire event occurred within the confines of Tan-Tar-A, and there was no actual lake involvement. 

It was a beautiful weekend -- rained a bit on Friday evening, but other than that, sunny and warm, rather than ungodly hot.  And the Lake was quite surprisingly uncrowded.  I'd heard horror stories of the main channel being virtually impassible for smaller craft at times.  We encountered none of that.

We stayed in Friday night -- between the rain and the fact that the boat's bilge pump had apparently been left on and had run down the battery, that seemed the best option.  So, pizza it was.  The kids played and had their fun, as did the grown ups.  Chris, Cari and I enjoyed an evening out on the deck, drinking beer, chatting away, admiring the almost full moon.

Chris eventually waved the white flag and left the chatting to Cari and I, though not without a later grumpy admonishment or two to pipe down.  ("Get off my lawn!")  We girls hit the wall simultaneously, long about 2:45 and finally turned in.

The next morning, Chris set off to get the boat up and running and the rest of us had breakfast at the condo, then headed up to the pool to pass the time.  Later in the afternoon, we set out on the boat and enjoyed a tour of the Lake.  'Twas a gorgeous afternoon!

The kids got out on the donuts and had fun being bounced and jostled around.  Anyone who knows Riley and what a cautious child she's always been will appreciate my delight at her willingness to get right out there and give it a go!

Later, she just kicked back and enjoyed livin' the glam life:

That evening, we had dinner at The Pit Stop.  The food was good, and the view amazing:

After a nice evening ride back to the condo, we settled in for the night.  Cari and I stayed up and watched one of my all-time favorite movies: "Overboard."  Fitting, given our location.  Such a silly little movie, but still so sweet! ("Katerina!" "Arturo!")

Sunday morning, we got up and out on the water early, so we could enjoy breakfast at Paradise. Riley resumed glamour-mode, and the girls made a friend:

After we stuffed ourselves on good breakfasty food, we set back out for some fun on the water.  Another round of tubing -- this time with the two-seater.  I was a little apprehensive, but did get out for a ride with Riley.  She was actually my shield there -- I've little doubt had she not been riding alongside me, Chris would have shown me no mercy.  As it was, we hit one mega bump at the end that I was sure had cracked a tooth! But it was fun -- in that crazy, oh-my-gosh-what-have-I-gotten-myself-into sort of way.

Later, we dropped anchor and did some intense relaxing on the various rafts and such, complete with floatie beer cooler.  The kids had fun jumping off the boat onto the tube and doing battle with the kamikaze horseflies, while the grown ups drifted lazily.  At one point, Cari spoke of being in her "happy place," and I thought, "Yep -- this is one of those."  Sun, water, family, friends, fun -- all the day-to-day stresses momentarily forgotten.  It just doesn't get any better than that.  Well, not much, anyway.

Once we'd roasted sufficiently, we headed back to the condo to freshen up for dinner.  On the way, Riley had her Titanic moment:

Then we were off to Back Water Jack's, where we met up with more friends.  And some colorful ducks:

The boat ride home was at sunset.  And I, ever the wannabe photog, did my best to capture it and do it some justice:

As I took those last shots, this thought ran through my fat and happy brain:

Appreciate the moments of bliss life affords you - they help restore your soul.

Indeed, they do.  And I have been very fortunate of late to find myself, with the love and companionship of my family and friends, so often in a happy place.  Thank you.