Monday, July 26, 2010

Summer Dichotomy

Life Balance: a feat we try to achieve while searching to be the best that we can we, while simultaneously raising our children to do the same. This is the equilibrium in our inner life force whereby our heartbeat matches the divine force that exists all around us. When this life balance peaks, our sense of peace, joy, love and wisdom act as one with our very soul.

summer di·chot·o·my

1. Division between parental unit and offspring in the months of June, July & August in the USA.

2. Division into mutually exclusive, polar opposites or contradictory family units revolving around separate versions of reality involving issues regarding laundry, cooking, edible food groups, friends, hours of sleep, hygiene, cleanliness, treating parents like mobile ATM"s and the definitions of need vs. want in the non-school mandated time schedules

3. The fine line between calm friend-based parenting and outright dictatorship, reciting penal codes and the definition of the right side of the law in the months proceeding last report card and the annual anticipation of a child living at home for life because they cannot function in "real" society, i.e. hold a job, manage money or live a healthy life.

Ahh, summer time. Hot breezes are blowing, beautiful colors are blooming & time seems never ending-- never ending bickering over who ate all the ice cream, what chore which child was oblivious to carrying out this week and whose turn it is to walk the dog. Tempers flare each morning (the parents), swearing is abundant (the kids) and the house is waist deep in unwashed laundry, food crusted frying pans, wet towels & dirty socks while empty pop cans, tiny juice box straws, Popsicle sticks & freezi-pop wrappers line the backsides of couches, beds and closets.

And it doesn't matter what you do. Get up early, and pick up the mess before work. Leave notes with carefully devised chore lists for them to do while you work. Stay up late with them and get everyone to pick up the clutter together. It just grows. And it ferments. And impregnates itself and doubles overnight. My Mom always had the perfect house, and God help us if we left a wet suit on the carpet in our bedrooms, she would hunt us down to pick it up before we even did it. She was that good.

I can't seem to get that tight a grip. I just try to stop the hemorrhaging of excess to keep some semblance of order. Empty the garbage, change the bag. Load the dishwasher. Throw the towels in the laundry. Run upstairs, get the laundry on the floor up there, run downstairs, stoop down, pick up the lone wash cloth in the middle of the upstairs hall. Smile happily that all looks good, come home at night, put on hip boots, rewind, repeat, do over. Especially the darn wash cloth in the upstairs hall. Pick it up again.

Laundry can reach comical proportions with us, it can be 15 loads deep and funny to even try to dress, find the socks, the underwear, harvest a clean towel or wash cloth. More than once one boy was running through the house screaming at the other to stop wearing his underwear. Too funny. And look, there's no wash cloths again. Do more laundry, repeat, do over. Pick up, there's the loan wash clothes again.

I couldn't figure out the wash cloths, its not like the kids are picking up the laundry off the floor of the upstairs bath & dropping them on their way downstairs to the laundry room; why are they up on the floor all the time? And then Colleen stopped; we're chatting while my hubby changes her oil.In her car (get your mind out of the gutter). And she stop mid-sentence, and talks in her voice reserved for very small children, "Now Molly where are you going with that wash clothe?" And there's the dog, creeping up the stairs real slow like she does when she's stolen chicken wings out of the garbage & doesn't want us to see she's eating out of Molly's take out AGAIN.

She's been eating the darn wash clothes, picking them up and carrying them upstairs. Wow, maybe I can train her to pick up the rest of the stuff. You tube here we come. I can make my millions, and hire a darn maid to get through these summers. But you know what? When they're all gone in a few years, I am sure I will miss the mess.

Well, maybe not.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Chautauqua Inspiration

Life Balance: a feat we try to achieve while searching to be the best that we can we, while simultaneously raising our children to do the same. This is the equilibrium in our inner life force whereby our heartbeat matches the divine force that exists all around us. When this life balance peaks, our sense of peace, joy, love and wisdom act as one with our very soul.

Chautauqua: a meeting, usually held in the summer outdoors or under a temporary tent, providing public lectures combined with entertainment such as concerts and plays.

Margaret and I hopped in the car for a lovely road-trip to Chautauqua Institution last Sunday. I often struggle to take day trips for myself, feeling selfish to not want to go wander through a car show and swap meets. Its okay to make your own way and have your own time, and maybe even necessary for self preservation, but as woman, we seldom allow this. I ponder this fact--men having no issue doing sports or guy stuff on a weekend while woman attack to do lists-- as we get off the thruway and head for the back roads. We meandered slowly up Route 20, rolling through small towns and villages at a leisurely pace. For a Mom who lives at warp speed whenever she is in the car, driving constantly at a frantic pace to pack in yet one more stop before we are done for the day, this was not easy. It took some time to wind down & enjoy the pretty drive at 35 mph, me watching the scenery with classical music on the radio & Margaret reading a book with her Ipod drumming in her head.

When we hit Rte 394 in Westfield, I always marvel at the statue of Grace Bedell & Abraham Lincoln thinking, "if she hadn't suggested that Honest Abe grow a beard to help win the presidency, would he have won? Where would our country be today if he wasn't there to see us through the Civil War & the end of slavery?" The statue reminds me that everyone has a voice that can change the world if we just let it be heard. Even great presidents should listen to the common man--do they today? Already as I drive, my brain is drifting away from the everyday and onto the complex universe we live in and the choices we make.

I am excited to visit Chautauqua and its verdant landscaping. The Victorian homes are beautiful in and of themselves but the gardens are second to none. Acres and acres of beautiful flowers, bushes and century old trees make this a treasure chest for the eyes. Porches and really open air living rooms complete with tables, wicker love-seats, rugs, floral arrangement and at least one had a fireplace built into the home! Generations of well-to do families own homes in Chautauqua but many house rentals, hotel and apartment opportunities exist.

Chautauqua is free to the public on Sundays and parking is included if you get there before 1pm, a value that would normally cost you $22. Don't be put off by the large lot spanning thousands of cars, there are many trams that scour the parking lot and take you up to the main gate. Once there, we got in line to get our tour tickets for the afternoon, a huge value for $4. The one hour ride in an air conditioned mini bus is well worth the cost. If you prefer totally free, then hop on the trams that go north & south all over Chautauqua for a spectacular view. Walk the cozy streets, enjoy the 5000 + plus pipes of the Massey organ in the outdoor amphitheatre and lunch at the 1881 Athenaeum Hotel or picnic on 1 of the 4 cozy beaches while listening to the bells in the Miller Bell Tower.

What is Chautauqua? Quite simply a place for self-improvement and renewal. Founded in 1874 by Rev. John Vincent and businessman Lewis Miller, Chautauqua today to offer lectures, discussions, forums & concerts during its 9 weeks season. It has its own orchestra, theatre, concert halls, & ballet troop and even offers Operas in English. Students of all ages can take classes or attend performances. Places of worship and art studios join lectures in government and morality. Thomas Edison, Eleanor Roosevelt, Ulysses S. Grant, George Gershwin, and William Jennings Bryant are among the many visitors. Teddy Roosevelt celebrated his presidential inauguration here while Bill Clinton practiced for his presidential debates in the off season.

I view Chautauqua as a return to a simpler time, when picnics on Sundays and chatting on porches with your neighbors was the norm. I marvel at lush vibrant, bug free atmosphere and feel inspiration in the air as I walk the grounds of some of the most brilliant minds of our time. While this was a beautiful summer treat, I anticipate a glorious view of the trees in their October splendor. Slowing down for the day and feeling grounded in history restored my balance. Try it for yourself.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Woman Who Do Too Much

Life Balance: a feat we try to achieve while searching to be the best that we can we, while simultaneously raising our children to do the same. This is the equilibrium in our inner life force whereby our heartbeat matches the divine force that exists all around us. When this life balance peaks, our sense of peace, joy, love and wisdom act as one with our very soul.

"After all, it is those who have a deep and real inner life who are best able to deal with the irritating details of outer life."--Evelyn Underhill

Welcome. I haven't blogged in over a year and what a year it was. I had started a new job at that time and was 6 months into a large project of flipping into a new website for a company with 14 car lines and 80,000 products. In May 2009, when I last wrote a blog, I assumed I was 4-5 months away from the flip and would be too busy for a couple of months to blog. I thought it was a minor delay, maybe miss it for a few weeks. And I was already sick at that time, with female issues that gave me larges cysts and a non-stop cycle for 13 months. I ended up having a hysterectomy and going on my second stint of disability in my first year at my new job. Who does that? Somehow, I lived through the project and flipped the website 14 months later.

During that time, my boys each grew several inches, my daughter didn't and my husband was laid off and 6 months later, went back to work at company we thought he was through with 2 years before. We faced another downsizing as our income was 30% less and yet we had the same bills and the same kids growing and needing things. Somehow, we will find even more strength as this recession continues and expands, encompassing new avenues & areas everyday. Prices go up, taxes get larger belies that need constant feeding and all we can do is keep reassessing what we spend money on now and what we will spend money on in future. Welcome to the 21st century.

As a woman of a certain age, I am caught in the drama more than some. Every decision feels like a Buffalo Bills Superbowl in the last quarter, with 2 minutes left and only time for one more hail Mary pass. Nothing seems to impact just me, but takes on the lives of everyone around me, from spouse to kids to parents to friendships. How much to rebuild savings & retirement? How to direct kids activities and choices so they will not only get into college but will succeed and like it? How to help aging parents and support friends with illnesses, disabilities and death of loved ones? How to succeed at work so I have stable income? How to learn things so I will keep working for many years to come, avoiding being pushed aside in my 50's and 60's? How to keep my body healthy and strong and teach my kids to do the same?

I used to think getting my kids to college, being there for my parents, and getting through today was all I needed to do, and the rest would take care of itself. All would happen in good time. Then friends started dying and time seemed to compress. Don't get me wrong, I've seen death before. I lost a close brother at 25. I watched my close high school friend bury her Mom at 20 and her Dad at 21. I've seen the stupid tragedies of drunken drivers and stupid accidents. It all seemed distant.

Until last week when suddenly lost a hairdresser of 20 years. Aurora had taken care of my husband's family for 35 years. I inherited her when I got married. She did all the kids first haircuts. Just before she died of cancer, she did my daughter's first highlights, the ones I swore I would make her wait until 16 for. I'm glad I gave in at 13 and that Aurora got to do them. I talked with Aurora about life like I seldom take the time to do with anyone else, since after all, Aurora had me for 2-3 hours at a shot 8 or 9 times a year. How often do we sit down with our spouses or friends and just talk for hours like that?

I kept thinking about Aurora in the week since her funeral. She just kept popping into my head as I ran through my life. In the last week, I had 5 baseball/softball games, twins birthdays and one birthday party. I had a broken car and a broken dryer and too much work with no time to do it. I ran from item to item. I just keep saying yes to everyone and doing more. Yes, I can live without a dryer for 6 weeks since its only me impacted and we have so many other things to take care. Sure, I handle my car breaking down. I'll get up at 5, drive my husband to work in his truck at 6 and drive everyone around at 5 after my 9 hour day. Sure, I can make it to Walmart at 10 PM for birthday presents. I can make it more games, get a dryer and now go get groceries at 5 pm on a Saturday.

There I am in Wegman's--after driving an hour to get tickets for a concert for my eldest and stopping at 2 stores to do so--getting groceries. My brain is on warp speed. I am thinking of my to-do list and lack of money this week due to a car repair, "Okay, get stuff here, then go to Aldi's, then cook dinner, then wash laundry, then go see a concert, then get up at 6 so I can get to the gym finally, go see my parents, drive to Chautauqua, and oh yes, get back to cook Sunday dinner and do more for the week". This is my weekend. I am at the checkout, admiring the blackberries in the cart in front of me, thinking, I wish I can gone at 8 AM to the farmer's market and got some stuff, I bet the blackberries would be cheap. I am thinking blackberries would be good with my strawberries, bananas and blueberries I picked up.And then I start to put stuff on the checkout belt, my chicken, beef, sausage, lunch meat, sweet potatoes, my leeks.

Leeks? I didn't get leeks.

There's onions too, and lettuce and asparagus. Crap, I picked up someone Else's cart. I have a whole cart of produce that is not mine and I never noticed. I walked the whole store and never looked down. I am sure I also missed the panicky person in produce who was trying to figure out where their cart went.

I joke with the cashier that I am done shopping for the day. He's clueless at 16 and unaware how bad I feel about the mistake but I am also upset about being on auto pilot. "So you just don't want this stuff?" Yes, I don't want it and someone else will. I feel so bad, but under it all, I am thinking, cut it out. Go home, you are so fried you are not even aware of your surroundings. What else are you missing? How did you let this happen?

I stopped turning on my creativity. I stopped drumming up my spirituality, I stopped going to church. I stopped talking to God. I stopped seeing my children and took them places instead. I stopped living for me and thought living for others was enough, was right, was what I what supposed to be doing.

It's not.

Sarah Ban Breathnach wrote some awesome books in the early 90's on Simple Abundance. I thought it was about downsizing when I saw it on New Year's day in a used bookstore. What's its really about is finding you and keeping you, the real you that God intended. Abundance is there for all of us, and its not in the running around to baseball games or Walmart at 10pm or in the 70 hour work week in your downsized Fortune 500 company. Its in the authentic us under all the jobs at work we didn't do or the laundry we never folded, its the one that's funny and creative and a joy to talk with. The one who loves to watch House reruns with her son and drink wine while admiring her friend Lynne's garden. The one who used to blog and doesn't take the time.

She's back and its about time.