Sunday, May 22, 2016

Run, Rabbit, Run

This was one of those days - you know the type: where you run endless errands and scurry here and there and manage to wear yourself out in the process. I was tempted earlier to post this as my Facebook status: "Starbucks to Church to Home to Menards to Starbucks (again) to Target to Home to Riley's friend's house to the Mall to Party City to Walgreens to Menards (again) to Home to Party City (again) to Kohl's to Schnucks to KFC to Home (and waiting to see if I need to pick Riley up from the movie/mall)." Because, yes, that's been my day.  And I could express it like that, as though I were thoroughly exasperated and wiped out. But, thing is, I'm not. 

During one of my stints at home, I had the luxury of relaxing with David in the hammock for a few minutes - and it was lovely.  I could have stayed awhile longer, except for the fact that the lawn service, in tending to the lawn next door, managed to scare up a baby bunny who took flight from the mower's maw only to catch the interest of Pringle.  Yes, Pringle, the almost-10-year-old Golden Retriever who wouldn't hurt a fly, who makes only a passing effort at "chasing" squirrels when they wander into our yard, who can't even be bothered to play fetch - THAT Pringle suddenly took off after the aforementioned bunny like a bat out of hell.  

Before I knew what was happening, he was in the neighbors' yard (Hey, thanks, neighbors, for leaving your gate open!) and not only cornering, but CAPTURING baby bunny. I jumped up as soon as I realized he was in the other yard and that he meant business - ran pell mell straight at him yelling, "Pringle! No! Pringle! NO!" I managed to intercept him as he returned to our yard - I think to show me his prize.  I grabbed him by the collar and yelled, "Drop!" And he did - bless his heart - he did exactly what a retriever is supposed to do. Then I dragged him inside (he wasn't particularly pleased by that - he wanted to play with his new toy.) I returned to check on the status of the bunny, hoping that maybe - just maybe - he was just scared/in shock.  Sadly, Little Bunny Foofoo's pupils were fixed and dilated.  There was a puncture wound on his chest - so either that, or the fright of it all, was just too much.  I picked him up gently (in gloved hands) and deposited him in the yard waste bin. Hopefully he's found his way to Bunny Heaven and is hopping around in clover with all the other little bunnies now. 

I couldn't be mad at Pringle. He was just doing what dogs do - well, what most dogs do.  I had to hand it to him - he impressed me.  I do believe that's his first ever capture/kill.  Didn't know the old feller had it in him.  Not only that, but he got me running at a full out sprint across the yard in my efforts to play Bunny Savior.  Which felt kind of good, I have to admit, even in its futility.  It reminded me that I really do need to get back to running.

Which brings me back to the first paragraph - different kind of running.  The kind which can be the wrong kind of running if your focus is in the wrong place.  It reminded me of my second official blog post:  How Pooh Are You?  wherein I was reminded that running around like Rabbit, being "extremely busy and very important" isn't who or how I want to be.  I don't think I realized it at the time, but trying to get back to a more Pooh-like place, was just another way of searching for peace.  

Interestingly, that was one of the primary themes at church today.  The pastor walked us through the parable of the alabaster jar. I won't go through the whole message - it had several different facets (and is worth the watch if anyone cares to view it when they post the podcast link tomorrow.)  But at the end of it, Jesus says to the woman, "Your faith has saved you; go in peace."  And I was reminded of the peace that walking with Him brings. 

So, that sort of stayed with me today, despite all my running.  It reminded me, instead of being harried and hassled, to be grateful for the fact that I had a beautiful day like today - I awoke to the birds chirping, I enjoyed a nice church service with David, I enjoyed time with both him and Riley, I checked a few things off my "To Do" list, and now, I'm free to sit on the patio, peck away at the keyboard and write this all out, while enjoying the new mason jar/fire fly garden lights we installed this weekend, and listening to the tree frogs chirp their evening song.  It's been a blessed day. 

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Overcoming My Underachievement

I used to make regular "Diary of a Slacker" entries as I chronicled my reluctant attempts at becoming a committed runner/half-marathoner/tri-athlete.  Mostly, it was an excuse to indulge my urge to blog while (in theory) humorously poking fun of myself. But it acknowledged some less-than-endearing traits I've recognized in myself: sloth and procrastination.  Sadly, those are my defaults.  Yes - actually getting out there and training and competing was arguably me overcoming those traits, but they're still my defaults -- and I do see them as flaws I'd do well to cure.  

I have to admit, though, nothing will make you feel quite so slothful and slackerish as hearing that one of your classmates is on the short list of potential Supreme Court nominees.  (Yes, it's a list of 11 possibilities which even the not-yet-official-nominee-and-certainly-not-yet-next-President-Heaven-help-us-all acknowledges is not set in stone, but STILL!)  Particularly when it comes several months after the news that another classmate has contributed $100 million dollars to your alma mater.  In fairness, said classmate had a healthy running start on his fortune, but he's obviously done quite well for himself since!  

I. Am. Not. Worthy.  That's where my mind immediately went.  (Hey - I'm human.)  It also prompted me to once again reassess several of my life choices and contemplate what I'd do differently if I had it all to do again, particularly as it relates to my education/career choices:  I'd have taken advantage of the awesome J-School at MIZZOU and double-majored in Journalism and Political Science in order to better blend (and ideally feed) my dual passions of writing and politics.  For law school, as much as I loved my experience at Northwestern, and as great an opportunity as it was (obviously - see above paragraphs), I think I'd have taken advantage of the generous scholarship package I was offered to remain at MIZZOU for law school, rather than weighing myself down with student debt for which, in some respects, I'm still paying. And lastly, I'd have made a point to "apply" myself a bit more diligently.  Not that I did poorly academically - but I didn't really distinguish myself, and I certainly didn't make a conscious effort to focus and soak up the education I was being afforded, as opposed to simply phoning it in.  There are many chapters in my life that, when I look back, I realize I didn't fully appreciate at the time.  I don't just mean simple gratitude, but also conscious, deliberate, stop-and-smell-the-roses-and-soak-it-all-in-and-inform-your-choices-accordingly appreciation.

Of course, the fact that I didn't always see the wisdom in doing so in my younger days in no way prevents me from doing so going forward -- I'm 47, not 97.  So, bearing that in mind, I'll take a moment now to express my gratitude:  For an amazing, funny, smart, loving, kind daughter who is herself entering a new chapter of life, as she completes her last day of  middle school - I am so very lucky to be her Mom, and, as much as I focus on trying to parent her and help her grow into a strong, independent, capable young woman, realize more and more how much she's teaching me in the process.  For a wonderful, thoughtful, clever, handsome, witty, generous boyfriend/life-partner who gives me reason to smile and makes my heart go pitter-patter every day - I am so fortunate to have a best friend and companion who "gets" me and loves me and holds my hand so well.  For my beloved family - my Mom and Dad, and siblings and in-laws, and extended family, one and all - I've been blessed to be surrounded and bolstered by their love and support my entire life.  For my dear friends - the many kind hearts who make a point to let me know that I am loved and valued by choice.  For my network of friends/friendly acquaintances I've met compliments of the conservative movement and social media, and the writing and broadcasting opportunities that has consequently afforded me.  For my church and the journey of reconnecting with my faith it has helped me to make.  For my job and my co-workers - no, I don't hold a lofty title or make prestigious short lists, nor do I make a gabillion dollars, but I manage to support myself and my kiddo and occasionally generate work/results of which I'm proud and still live a life with plenty of fun and neat opportunities.  

I'm not going to lie - I'm still prone to sloth. I'm still a horrible procrastinator.  But my life?  You know - it isn't so bad at all.  Yes, I am grateful.  Now, I just need to focus a bit more on living it accordingly. 

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Cinco de Mayo

I don't recall hearing about "Cinco de Mayo" as I was growing up,  It wasn't until I was an adult and viewed it as an excuse to have a margarita or two that it took on any significance for me.  And even then, it was sort of just another day to meet up with friends and enjoy Mexican food and drink (in honor of the Mexican victory at the Battle of Puebla - which Mexico doesn't even really celebrate, though I'm sure they appreciate us doing so for them?!)  I have a handful of fun, silly Cinco memories which needn't be repeated. I have a fond memory of Riley's first Cinco - itty-bitty, not yet two months old, bundled in her pumpkin seat, hanging outside at Vista Grande with her Dad and me and a dear group of friends we don't get to see so much anymore.  

Cinco de Mayo took on a different meaning for me 10 years ago: It was the day my Grandmother went to be with God. Which somehow seemed appropriate, as she loved her trips to Mexico AND loved a reason to celebrate.  I believe she was ready to go.  We'd celebrated her 100th birthday two months earlier. She'd lived a long, full life, and I believe she was at peace. But in a lot of ways, I'm still not ready for her to go. Or I wish she could come back and visit every once in awhile.  I've written previously about questions I'd ask her if she did: 

From 2011 - Questions I'd Ask My Grandmother

Tomorrow would have been my Grandmother’s 105th birthday.  I know we were so lucky to have her through her 100th – I got to grow up, go to school, get my college and law degrees, get married, have a child, all with her in my life.  Best of all, Riley got to spend time with her Great Grandma and get to know her before she left us.  And I think – no, I know – she was ready to go when she did.  So, it’s selfish of me to think like this, I suppose.  But, so often these days, I’m struck with the realization that I need her now more than ever.  

I won’t say I took my Grandmother for granted.  I can’t remember there ever being a time when I didn’t see her for the amazing, strong, beautiful spirit she was.  Grandma just had this…presence.  An almost regal bearing, though not a cold one.  But I do regret not taking the time to sit and really talk with her before she went -- not just about the little things, but the big things, too:  life, love, loss.

I didn’t realize I’d someday find myself on a path quite similar to hers.  I never really stopped and thought about how she came to travel that path herself.  What it meant to her.  What it might have cost her.  I never asked her either.  And I don’t even know if she’d have been able or willing to tell me.  But I sure do wish I would have.

It will, no doubt, seem strange to some that I’ve felt her, here with me, at times since she passed on.  Always, there is the idea of her.  But on a couple of occasions, I’ve actually felt her with me, even heard her voice and felt her hand on my shoulder.  Those weren’t scary moments, at all.  A little strange, but more comforting than anything else.  Sometimes, I wish she’d come back and sit with me for awhile.  And then, maybe, I could ask her:

Was it hard to be so strong?  Where did you look to for that strength? What sustained you?

Did you envision your life turning out the way it did?  What would you have done differently if you could?  How did you maintain your focus on what you had, instead of what you didn’t? 

When your heart was broken, what helped heal it?  When you wrote, what inspired you?  When you cried, what brought the laughter back? 

Was it scary, being a single mother?  Did you ever worry you were letting Mom down?  If you were failing her by not providing her with a traditional family?  

How did you manage to run a farm and a post office?  (I realize the town was small, and you had some help with the farm, but I can barely manage a tiny house and a decent-sized yard.)  How did you know what you needed to do?  Where did you find the time to do it all?

How did you learn to live alone without being lonely?  To be independent without becoming isolated? 

What would you tell me if you were here now?  What wisdom would you share with me to help me find my way?   

Most of all, do you have any idea how amazing you are?  What a blessing you’ve been in my life?  

I love you, Grandma.  

I'd have even more questions for her now - like what she thinks about craft beer; and this crazy election we're having. I'd love for her to meet David - I'm certain she'd be quite fond of him (and remark to me about what a handsome fellow he is.) I know she'd adore his Emma and Holly. And I'd love for her to see the smart, beautiful, thoughtful and brave young woman Riley is becoming.  I'd love to challenge her to another round of Canasta even though I know she'd win. Mostly, I'd love to sit outside in the evening with her and listen to the cicadas - or maybe the tree frogs if we were here instead of at her farm. 

I drove by it last week.  I had to be in St. Joseph for work, and planned on stopping off in Dearborn on my way back home since I'd be right there.  I wanted to drive out past her farm, and then back toward town; to stop off at the cemetery and place some flowers on her grave - I can't believe it's been 10 years since I was there. The timing worked out well - I finished my work in St. Joe at 2:30, and headed to a local florist. But then a weather alert popped up on my phone: "Tornado Watch: Buchanan County." The sky to the west of me had turned that ugly shade of cobalt blue muddled with swamp green. The radar app on my phone showed an angry red crescent of nastiness moving east-south-east toward me.  I hesitated, then nixed the florist and got right back on 29 headed south, trying to convince myself I still had time for a quick visit - maybe. But Mother Nature refused to slow her roll. As I drew close to the Dearborn exit, I knew - at best, I could hope to race by the cemetery and, if I was lucky, have just enough time to locate her grave and say a quick hello before the storm unleashed its fury. And that didn't seem like such a good idea. Especially since I wasn't sure where I could take shelter from there. So I kept going. I looked up at the Dearborn water tower as I passed, and whispered, "I'm sorry, Grandma," through tears, even though I'm quite certain my Grandmother would have chewed me a new one had I not done exactly that. It just - made me miss her so very much at that moment; made me sad.  

So, I called my Mom to let her know I wasn't going to be able to stop - and to assure her I was ahead of the storm, though the dang thing nipped at my heels most of the way back to Columbia. And I suggested perhaps she and I might plan a visit very soon.  She said she'd like that.  And so would I. Miss you, Grandma.