Friday, December 30, 2011

2011 - Reflections

I need to preface this with an important acknowledgment: Happiness -- and unhappiness -- are relative terms.  For all the bumps and bruises I've encountered along the way this year, none of them even come close to what several friends and dear ones have endured.

That said, 2011 kind of stunk.  Well no, not kind of.  It full-on stunk.  Which, I have to admit, is a bit disappointing, because 2010 was no cakewalk, as last year's end-of-the-year post 2010 - In the Rear View Mirror reveals. 

So, though I only semi-seriously predicted late last December that 2020 was really going to be my year, I did secretly hope that 2011 would, at minimum, be an improvement.  Here, some "highlights" to consider:

First, though technically part of 2010, New Year's Eve included a tornado -- though thankfully the damage was minimal.  Kleenex - Tornado Proof!

Next, there was the roll-over car accident on 1/11/11 -- again, thankfully, the damage was minimal -- to Riley and me, anyway.  The Highlander might beg to differ.  Over Easy

Early March brought another mishap -- this one included a late night (and rather costly) trip to the ER.  Chin Up

Then there were my various misadventures in home ownership: Busting Out Channel Locks at 10 PM and They Shoot Lawnmowers Don't They?  I haven't yet blogged about my Water Heater Woes, but suffice it to say three repair visits, two repairs, one flooded family room and one burnt wrist later, I still don't have a properly functioning water heater. 

This summer and fall brought a good deal of sadness, as several friends lost loved ones.  Tears of October  More recently, I was heartbroken as two families I know/know of, and for whom I'd been steadfastly praying, lost their infant daughters within days of each other.  Perspective

There is more...a lot more.  But it needn't be further detailed.  I think it's safe to say 2011 has had more than its share of bleh.  So, what does one do with that?  Well, unfortunately, my first instinct is typically to whine about it and wallow in it.  And, oh, have I done that.  I have once again become one with Eeyore.  And, frankly, I'm flat out sick of myself.  

So.  Enough.  It ends here.  As has become my (highly non-original) blogging tradition, it is time to become resolute.  Beginning with a revisit/review of 2011's resolutions: 

1)  Drink more water.  Year End Grade: B+.  Though I didn't do this as consistently as I should, I most certainly increased my water intake. (And, by default, decreased my other not-so-good beverage intake.  Well, maybe a little, anyway.) 

2)  Write more.  Year End Grade: A-.  I definitely did this.  Though I can't lay claim to consistent quality, I definitely upped my quantity.  

3)  Keep your feet on the ground. Year End Grade: C+.  I do okay with this for awhile. And then they get swept out from under me again.  And back on my ass I land.  I tried to enlist the Honey Badger's help with this, but he just don't care.

4)  Love the people who love you and love them well. Year End Grade: B.  I'd have given myself an A- at least if not for the last month or two.  In my Poor Me self-absorption, I have fallen down on the job. Terribly.  

5)  Focus on what you have instead of what you don't. Year End Grade: D. Yeah.  There's no way to sugar coat it.  I make a pretense of it.  I talk a good game.  But when push comes to shove, far too often I end up ruminating on all the things I don't have instead of truly being grateful for the many blessings in my life.  

And that's the thing...there are so many of those. Largely, they come in human form.  My angel of a daughter. My family. My amazing friends -- both old and new. But there are also my four-legged furballs (two of whom are sleeping soundly on either side of me at the moment).  There's my cozy little ragged, run-down house.  And my job -- I'm so very grateful to be gainfully employed.  

The truth of the matter is, for all the times I stub my toe on my Murphy's Law life, it really is a wonderful one... "You see George, you've really had a wonderful life. Don't you see what a mistake it would be to just throw it away?"  (Sorry - it's my favorite movie for a reason.)  Well, of course it would be, and I'd never just throw it away, or wish I'd never been born.  (Okay, there are a couple Mulligans I'd so very much love to take.  But unless and until I find a Flux Capacitor in my stocking, that won't be happening.)  

No, life, even at its thorniest, is a gift.  And I realize it is incumbent upon me to make the best of it.  So, in 2012, I resolve to keep the five resolutions listed above, and improve upon them in the following ways:

  • Drinking more water goes hand-in-hand with healthier habits.  Yeah, I'd like to lose 5-7 pounds, yada, yada.  But I've found that what really keeps me on the right path is having a goal that requires me to remain dedicated to training.  I will be running the Go! St. Louis! Half Marathon in April, and the Rock 'n Roll Half Marathon in October.  I will also compete in at least two sprint triathlons this year.
  • Writing more for the sheer enjoyment (and catharsis) of writing is all well and good -- and to that end, I'm going to reinstitute my smile series.  Not necessarily daily.  But a minimum of three per week. More importantly, I aim to take my political blogging more seriously.  It's an election year, after all.  Minimum of one substantive, political blog per week.  
  • Keeping my feet on the ground is obviously a challenge for me.  I will therefore be implementing a 30 Day/Dragon Slayer Rule.  That will make practically no sense to anyone, save one or two of my closest friends.  That's okay.
  • Loving the people who love me and loving them well -- I'm far better at this when I'm not awash in self-pity, which I will combat by...
  • Focusing on what I have instead of what I don't.  Since this is the concept with which I struggle the most, I think it's probably time to call in the Big Gun.  What I see when I reflect on the above is a flagging spirit.  And though I don't believe the answer to that lies in church alone, I know that when I was regularly attending, I was on steadier ground, spiritually speaking.  Though God and I have heart-to-hearts on a quite regular basis, I find that attending church helps nourish my spirit in a way that our little chats don't quite accomplish. So, church.  At least twice a month.  Shoot - they have five different services.  I think I can squeeze one into my schedule.  And the podcasts for my long runs.  
Aside from the above, a couple odds and ends I'd like to incorporate into my "Being a Better Susie" program:  Decluttering my life.  (Which is to say, primarily, my house.)  Starting my work day out at 8:00 a.m. And starting a new hobby/passion, which I've already decided will probably be: photography...

Sunday, December 18, 2011


Frequently, I remark that I am having a Monday. Murphy's Law, while ever-present in my life, is most readily apparent on Mondays.  I don't believe I am alone in this. I think many of us find our reluctance to transition from weekend into work week manifested in minor mishaps and annoyances.  Of course, they don't always confine themselves to Monday, as this past Friday can attest: 

The day got off to a rocky start with me not leaving enough time for me or Riley to get ready in stress-free fashion.  I realized only a few minutes before it was time to wake her, that she'd left out candy for Clyde (our Elf on the Shelf), and he'd need to retrieve it and relocate.  As I tiptoed into her room to pluck the M&M's out of Clyde's "bed", I was certain I heard her stirring and that the jig was up. I threw caution to the wind, snatched them up and bolted out of her room, stubbing my toe on the way past her bed, but managing to hold the yelp of pain inside.  

I stashed the candy and hopped quickly into the shower, only to discover that the replacement of the gas control valve by Water Heater Repairman apparently did nothing to improve my hot water supply.  Ah well, didn't have time for more than a five minute shower anyway.  Once out, I got Riley up and moving, albeit slowly.  So slowly that it became painfully apparent she wouldn't have time to change her earrings to the red and green posts she'd selected to wear with her Christmas dress to the holiday show at school.  We were nearing Full Meltdown Mode with that, so I grabbed them and hustled her out the door, all the while calmly assuring her we'd get them swapped out in the car.  This, we managed, but not without much sighing, whining and the threat of tears (on her part, not mine).  

Upon our arrival at school, it was clear that even now, four months into the school year, parents dropping their wee ones off in the Carpool Lane still haven't quite figured out that, no, it is not appropriate to park adjacent to the yellow curb, as that then blocks all cars behind you and prevents the rest of us from dropping our wee ones off in timely fashion.  As I ushered Riley out of the car with about 45 seconds to spare before the bell rang, it occurred to me that I would likely not have enough time back at home to finish getting ready and accomplish the things I needed to accomplish before turning around and heading back to school to watch the holiday show.  

Sure enough, I didn't.  So I resolved to go to the show, then circle back again and finish up at the house before heading to the office. While I made it in time for the show, parking was scarce, as it always is for big events like this. I snagged a spot on a side street, noting as I hurried in that there was a Manchester cop placing parking tickets on cars parked on the main street.  Hmm.....this didn't look good. But I didn't have time to worry about it.  Once in the gym, I crammed myself into a seat between all the other parents and family members and did my best to enjoy the show. In truth, it was a cute show, and while the white gloves Riley's class wore to highlight their song did not, in fact, glow in the dark as intended, they still sounded good. My video of the performance is pure audio, but that's okay. 

After the show finished, I made my way to Riley's classroom to give her a hug and take a quick pic of her in her holiday finest.  Then back out to the car where I discovered that the cop had not confined himself to the main drag, but had, in fact, issued tickets to almost all of the cars parked on the street.  And these weren't just your run-of-the-mill tickets.  No, these were $35 tickets for  "parking within 15 feet of a mailbox."  Mind you, this is not a posted proscription, and if people were actually to abide by this rule in this neighborhood, there would be no street parking allowed (not even for special events at the school), as the yards are not terribly wide.  Fuming over that, I stopped to mention it to some other parents I knew and was reminded by the father that my left front tire was low.  So low that he recommended I not drive far on it.  

No problem.  Gas station right down the road.  Slight problem - the air hose requires $1 in quarters.  I had $.50 and no cash on me.  Back to the house I went to finish getting ready and gather up the items I needed with me, including $1 worth of quarters.  Back to the gas station to air up the tire.  Only something wasn't working right. I used up my $1 and it still hadn't inflated adequately.  While I'm no grease monkey, I assure you I've successfully aired a tire before.  But, I was willing to concede maybe I'd not done it properly, so perhaps another try was warranted.  I had gotten cash from the ATM by this point, so I dashed into the station and asked the clerk for change.  Back out to the air hose for another try -- no dice.  Something was clearly wrong with my tire.  And I had places to be.

Down the road I drove, to the nearest tire place.  I explained my dilemma and the fellow said they'd take a look and get me patched up.  It'd only be an hour.  I resisted the urge to let out a strangled scream and headed over to the lounge to take deep breaths.  An hour and fifteen minutes later, they had me repaired and I was on my way to the office, where I had a narrow window of time in which to finish up a pleading we needed to file that day.  I raced through it, realizing as I went that this was a bit more complicated than I had originally anticipated.  Thankfully, as I came perilously close to losing it, the partner with whom I was working on it agreed to take over and finish it up, while I completed the requisite Affidavits.  Which needed to be printed out on bond paper. On the printer which never correctly selects bond paper so needs to be tricked into doing so.  Which didn't work right the first time.  And then, when it finally did, I had difficulty tracking down the person I needed to have notarize it.  

I could go on...while there were definite bright spots to my Friday, and the days since, the deluge of mishaps and upsets (have I mentioned the mouse nest I found in my Christmas tree as I attempted to put it up?) have taken their toll, and left me feeling more than a little discouraged. 

But here's the thing...the bumps and bruises I've encountered in the past few days are nothing.  They will heal and they will pass and there will be cause to smile, maybe even before I expect it.  I say this with confidence because, even as I sit here, a little mopey and blue, I am all too well aware that there are people who would give anything to have a day like I just described, rather than be facing the types of days they are currently facing.   

I refer, in particular, to two families I know of whose infant daughters are currently fighting for their lives. Friends on Facebook or Twitter may have seen me mention Baby Ella and Baby Anna Joy.  Ella is a friend's 8 month old daughter.  She needs a heart transplant.  And she is having a tough time, fighting off infection and trying to stay healthy so that she's ready when a heart becomes available.  I know Ella is a fighter. I see it in her sweet little face every time I check my friend's Facebook page to see how she's doing.  But this is a difficult struggle. And I know, from reading the status updates, how hard this is on her Mama.  And, yet, I can't fathom it.

Nor can I fathom what Matt and Alissa Peppley are enduring as they watch their newborn daughter, Anna Joy, fight for her life.  I've been posting links to their blog, detailing Anna's story, and will include it here, as well:  Like Ella, Anna is a fighter.  And she's a miracle.  But she's also desperately in need of a miracle.  

I pray daily for them both, and my heart breaks for their parents and the thought of just how very hard it must be to see your little one, your beloved child, struggling so hard just to live.  I had the slightest -- thankfully, just the slightest -- hint of what that would be like when Riley was born. She was five-and-a-half weeks early, and though the doctors thought, at 5.2 lbs., she was big enough to be okay, she decided to be a little difficult and act like a true preemie, complete with jaundice and difficulty with feeding, and the need to be placed on a ventilator for awhile. Her first few weeks were spent hooked up to tubes and machines and monitors, and though I believed, most of the time, that she would eventually be okay, there were moments when I was filled with doubt and fear.  In particular, I recall a morning when the hospital called as I was getting ready to go in for my morning visit to let me know that her lung had collapsed and they thought they might need to transfer her to Children's Hospital.  I can't really put into words what that felt like.  It was a combination of terror and of certainty that I would give everything I had and all of me if it just meant that she would be okay. 

Fortunately, she was.  And our worries were largely laid to rest after those first weeks.  Since then, she's been a healthy, happy, amazingly wonderful little girl, and I am regularly reminded of just how blessed I am to have her in my life.  She is a gift. She is precious, and never to be taken for granted.  

Just like life.  Even on those days where it seems that nothing is going right.  So, I write this to remind me, and maybe those who read it, of that very simple, but ever-so-important truth. Helps to keep things in perspective. 

Friday, December 2, 2011

Don't Stop Believin'

My daughter's at that age where she's caught between childhood and adolescence.  Every day, I see portents of the Tween and Teendom looming ahead.  And yet, there are still those sweet moments when she's just my little girl.  I wasn't certain what that meant this year in terms of Santa, especially since she remarked the other evening as we were watching "Elf" that she was going to save the cards from Santa and compare his handwriting this year to next.

So when she mentioned "Clyde," her "Elf on the Shelf" from last year - wondering if he'd make an appearance again this year, I was somewhat surprised, but happily so.  Evidently, she's game to play along for a little while longer.  As she patiently wrote out a note to him, which she then carefully placed in her little suitcase, converted into a "bed" for him, complete with blanket and Tootsie Roll treat, I racked my brain to remember where I'd hidden the darn thing.  When he didn't come Tuesday or Wednesday night, she again questioned whether I thought he'd return this year.  I pointed out that it wasn't even December yet, and she agreed, "Yeah - he doesn't usually show up until December." (Apparently, having put in one previous appearance established a pattern for him.)

Last night, of course, was December 1st, and my last night with her before she returned to her Dad's for a week.  So it was my only opportunity.  Having learned a hard Tooth Fairy lesson a couple years ago -- namely that my child, who normally sleeps like the dead, will nevertheless awake at the slightest movement I make into her room to play fairy/elf -- I decided to get a jump on things.  While she finished her homework in the family room, I, under the pretense of putting clothes away in her room, surreptitiously found the note and loosened the Tootsie Roll from its taped confinement, and uncapped the pen she'd left nearby for Clyde to check "yes" or "no" as to whether or not he was here.  (There is something so sweet about 9 year old logic.)  All this was done to increase the odds that I could make it in and out of her room quickly, without her awaking to catch me elving around.  

I weighed the merits of going in last night or this morning and decided that, since I usually have to forcibly pry her out of bed in the morning, that was the better option.  So, after I awoke and let the dog out early this a.m., I quietly approached her room and eased the door open.  Creeeeaakkkk.  Dang it!  Need to bust out the WD-40!  I held my breath, and heard no reaction from her.  I softly crept into her room, holding my breath, tip-toed over to the suitcase/bed and grabbed up the pen. I heard a soft shifting behind me and froze for a few seconds.  Nothing further. I leaned down to mark the check box "Yes," but realized I couldn't see jack squat in the dark.  So I guessed at its approximate location, tossed the pen down and then quickly snagged the Tootsie Roll and hurried out of the room, all the while praying I wouldn't hear the dreaded, "Mom?" before I could retrieve Clyde and find a good  perch for him.

Once back in my room, I stashed the Tootsie Roll in a drawer, grabbed Clyde and headed out to the family room.  The tree and other decorations aren't yet up, so I finally just placed him atop the birdhouse she made which sits on her craft table.  Then back to her room to wake her.  It did take several calls and nudges from me to rouse her, so I'm fairly certain she was oblivious to my earlier exploits.  I walked back out to the kitchen to fix her breakfast and then heard her exclaim, "Mom!  Clyde came - he's here!!"

Turning back and heading down the hallway, I played my best dumb: "Clyde? Who-what?!"  "Clyde - my elf! He's here!"  "Ohhhhh....." I said as though I were finally catching on. "Well...where is he?"  She looked around and spied him on his birdhouse.  "Oh yay! I'm glad he came back!" I said.  And meant it.