Wednesday, January 28, 2009

In the Middle of...being optimistic

Optimismop⋅ti⋅mism  [op-tuh-miz-uhm] –noun
1.a disposition or tendency to look on the more favorable side of events or conditions and to expect the most favorable outcome.
2.the belief that good ultimately predominates over evil in the world.

I admit it, I'm optimistic. What's more I like the feeling that comes with optimism, you know, the anticipation of waiting for something good to come your way.

Furthermore I believe that when you focus on the positive you are more aware and open to the good that is going on around you. No, I'm not quite a believer in The Secret, I don't think that just wishing makes it so; but the choice to acknowledge the positive is certainly within reach.

I believe that goodwill is infectious, but so is negativity, and my attitude affects those that I interact with.

Thanks to my daughter Kristen I had the priveledge of attending the inauguration of our 44th President on January 20th. The feeling of optimism was rampant in the city. But, as Kristen intuitively pointed out, this was primarily a self-selected crowd of Obama supporters so the level of good cheer was to be expected. I drove out of the city and back to New Jersey with a renewed sense of pride in my country, the democratic process, my fellow Americans and in the future of our nation. (The uncharacteristically traffic free drive helped!)

This leaves me wondering however; what are the nay-sayers getting out of their attitude? What is the harm in hoping?

Our country took a huge step in the right direction with this election and I for one choose to hope that we will continue to make improvements. If you feel otherwise, please, keep it to yourself and remember;
“Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending.”
Maria Robinson

Saturday, January 24, 2009

In the Middle of...Phrases out of context

Well the "Pack" reunited for a girl's dinner out, (minus our friend Cockapoo; but that's a story for another day!) and it goes without saying that we had a great time. Good food, good friends, a few cocktails and a lot of laughs.
Since grades are due this weekend and I need to devote a significant amount of time to that process, I am just going to give you a few tid-bits from the night and let you construct your own adventure! So here goes:
"I can't ride like this, my knees are up to my chin!"
"There has to be a way to make it work."
"I'll be crushed!"
"Uh-Oh there's a cop, we better move."
"Let's text Clara"
"13 pounds"
"Bucket list"
"Runway Show"
"Lunch in the city"
"I only had it once, after drinking in the afternoon"
"Only at night for me"
"Maybe once or twice but I'm not even sure"
"Randi needs a new cell phone"
"I never get texts"
"Oh My God! I do?"
"March 14th, Maria's in charge"

Friday, January 16, 2009

In the Middle of...refeathering my (almost) empty nest

Did you know that some birds use feathers, little pieces of themselves, to build warm, comfortable, protective nests for their offspring?

It occurs to me that this is very similar to many women I know.

We enter into our marriages as well-rounded, multi-faceted individuals. Many of us have careers, hobbies, talents, interests, passions that fill up the hours of our days. We spend the evenings of our early married lives in lively discussions of world events, personal philosophies and idealistic goals with our spouses and a like-minded circle of friends.

Then we have children, and we begin to feather our nests with little pieces of ourselves.

We do this joyously, to create the perfect nests to nurture our growing families. Our passions evolve to support this new role. We give up our careers so we can stay home to nurse our infants. We miss an art class to attend our 1st grader's school play, quit the book club that meets at our 3rd grader's bedtime, never take the 3 credits needed to finish our Master's Degree. We nurture. Our circle of friends now revolves around the children's playmates, we develop strong bonds with women who are at the same stage of nestbuilding as ourselves.

As our little chicks spread their wings, our friendships may dissolve, no longer bound by school volunteering, car pooling, sidelines cheering. We chauffer, make hair and doctor appointments, pass on the "girl's weekend" because it is the same weekend as our 8th grader's junior high dance. Friendships require time, patience and committment and ours are directed towards our fledglings and their nest. If we are very lucky we hang on to 1 or 2 very dear friends.

We may return to work, we make acquaintances. But those deep satisfying friendships are harder to find.

And then we find that our brood no longer needs the nest! They're off, and we are so proud of the nest we created that allowed them to fly. But now what? What do we do with ourselves now that we no longer need to give up all those little pieces of ourselves? What do we do with all those extra feathers?

Some of us, and I admit this is my greatest fear, have given up so much of ourselves that we depend on our husbands to define us. It seems as if there is so little left that we have to work together as 1 person, 1 personality. Some of us may actually begin dressing like our "other half"!

Others of us turn inward, turning the talents we developed while raising children into hobbies. Knitting, cooking, cleaning. Well, how much cooking can you do for 2? And, what will you do with all those scarves? What of the recipients of your products, how long are they obligated to wear and/or display your handiwork? Not wanting to saddle my children and friends with doilies or decorative dish towel angels, this option will not work for me either.

No, I honestly believe that the only way to build a truly strong, post-child nest, is to continue to reinforce it with pieces of yourself, your feathers. With both partners returning to share the bits and pieces of themselves that make them unique, the nest will be once again filled with lively conversation.

So I am looking outward and refeathering my nest through friends.

I am consciously seeking out, and spending time with, people that bring out the side of me that has been in hibernation for a long while. The just for the fun of it, because I want to side. The just because it's funny side. The let loose and let go side.

I recently organized a girls weekend composed of a group of women that make me laugh. We were 7 altogether. I collected them from distinct areas of my life, 2 of them through Steve's friends and business acquaintances. 1 of them through my work. 1 a long time friend from town. 2 had traveled with me and Steve, with their spouses, before. Although they all shared something in common, I worried that the distinct groups would remain fractioned over the course of the 4 days.

I was wrong. After a brief meeting in my driveway, and a few rather awkward quiet moments in the limo, we began to loosen up. Being the day after the election, the 1 "red" member of our group was told to "Shut the F*** up!" when she would not stop trying to convince us of the errors of our ways. It was done with a laugh and a smile, the ice was broken. Ironically when we got our 2 rental cars, one was red the other blue, Maria was only allowed to ride in the red car.

We got cryptic e-mails from our "boys" causing us to search out terms, that led us to "google" a phrase, that led us to a page, that made our mouths drop open in shock. We laughed 'til we cried as "Red" Maria acted out many of the poses on said page to give us a visual. Sometimes we just cried. We shared stories from the past that we are still hurting from. We shared recent hurts that remain to be dealt with. We shared lots of good food and drink. We exchanged birthdates and cell phone numbers. We taught each other how to add picture ID's to our phones and how to fold sheets into perfect little bundles. We styled hair and painted fingernails. It was summer camp for grown-ups!

I value my marriage and the relationship Steve and I have. I returned to it with stories to share, and some to keep private. We laughed. Our nest became stronger because I brought those bits of myself, my feathers, separate and distinct, home to share with him.

Honey, I smell another girl's weekend coming up, but don't worry, it's good for us!

But, beware girls or you might just end up (Gasp!) dressing like your friends!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

In the Middle of...Holding on and letting go

One cold, gray, Monday afternoon 27 years ago, I sat waiting.

Waiting for the last of the moms to pick up the last of their "babes" from my home day care. I didn't mind waiting for Susie, she was like family, we had become friends. Her mother and my grandmother had been friends, she was raised as a younger cousin to my mother and aunts. Susie's daughter Courtney was more like a member of our family than a job.

Susie fought to have Courtney, her husband was happy to be childless and thought it selfish of her to want a child. We often lingered over tea when she came to pick up her daughter and became sounding boards for each others marital complaints. She was forced to return to work when Courtney was 6 weeks old; her husband would not allow her the luxury of even 1 extra day. She was told, "If you insist on indulging your selfish desires, against my wishes, you'll have to figure out a way to carry your share of the expenses". She found a way. She left my house most mornings those first few weeks with tears in her eyes. She pumped milk with the dedication of a training marathon runner, so that she would not have to sacrifice her desire for Courtney to have breast milk. Although I would think how lucky I was to have found a way to be home with Kristen, and pay my fair share, we both felt our solutions imprisoned us somehow.

Eight months later, I am 3 days away from my due date, and waiting. Waiting for Susie to arrive for our now ritualistic cup of tea and daily "decompression". Waiting for baby #2 to make its way into the world. Watching Kristen and Courtney play, like siblings, on the living room floor. I am in full "beached whale" mode on the living room couch that my grandmother insists is "too low and too soft for any adult to get up off of, on their own, with any sense of modesty!"

Susie arrives and makes us tea, inquires worriedly about how I'm feeling. (I can't imagine how I must have looked). "Fine", I assure her, "a few little 'Braxton Hicks' contractions, but otherwise, fine." We chatted about her day before she left with a "See you tomorrow!" and her diaper bag full of, now emtied, breast milk bottles.

Ed, the father of my first 2 amazing children, and my future "ex", called to check in. He was in his 1st year of law school and had a class scheduled that evening. He was leaving his job at "Shoe-Town" and wondered if he should go to class or come home. His tone was clear, he wanted to attend class, but if necessary he would come home and care for 16-month-old Kristen, if I couldn't handle it. I was actually looking forward to some peace and quiet, time alone with Kristen then time to myself. "Nope, go on to class, call when you get there and check in on your break." It was the prehistoric, pre-cell-phone era.

Fifteen minutes later, Ed would have been about half-way to class, my mom (Verda) stopped in to check on me. My sister Leslie had spent the day with me since we had gone to the doctor's that morning, only to be sent home, false alarm. Leslie was about to leave when my "Braxton Hicks" began to evolve into full-blown contractions without allowing for much of a break between them. Suddenly my water broke. After timing 1 or 2 contractions mom suggested we leave for the hospital. "No, I'm sure we have time. Ed will call to check in soon then he can come back to take me so you can stay with Kristen." Seemed like a logical plan. It was 5:30.

5:45 Timing and intensity up, mom's anxiety up, time for waiting...gone. Ed called and was told to come home right away, mom pushed me toward her waiting Vega and the 2 minute trip to Fairfax Hospital.

6:00 Smiling nurse responds, "2 minutes apart? You've got plenty of time!" and proceeds to torture me with idiotic questions. I can not stay seated in the wheel chair. I want to rip her head off! Ed is not back yet.

6:30 Nonchalant orderly transfers me to a guerny, smiling nurse #2 says cheerily, "don't push."

Ed is not back yet, I want to rip all of their heads off.

6:45 Smiling nurse #2 checks my cervix, 9cm. "Would you like an epidural sweetie?" "What the F*** do you think!!" I thought, but instead said "YES!!!" "No time," she says to smiling nurse #3, "The baby's right here!" Smiling nurse #3 stops smiling, "Her doctor's not here yet." (We didn't have Doulas)

6:50 Smiling nurse #2, checks the baby's heartbeat, and stops smiling, shakes her head at no-longer-smiling nurse #3. "What the F***?" I think, but just start to cry. Ed is not back yet.

7:00 Smiling on-call doctor comes in, "Don't push", he says calmly, I need to perform an epesiotomy. Baby #2 says "What the F***", and does the episiotomy herself. The head is born. The smiling loud-speaker voice says cheerily, "Mr. Lejnieks is here, should I send him in?"

7:04 Danielle extracts the rest of herself from my body as Ed rushes in breathlessly.

7:30 Mother and daughter are resting comfortably in a recovery room, Ed is making the requisite phone calls in the father's lounge, it was the prehistoric, pre-birthing room era. Smiling recovery room nurse ushers in Grandma Jo (Verda) who laughs at the pink bundle in my arms, "What did they do, give you a doll to practice with?" And then, as the realization sets in that she almost had to deliver baby #2 in the front seat of her Vega, her face says, "What the F***!" but her faltering voice says, "Isn't she beautiful!" With that, in comes the rest of the cast of characters, "Regular" Grandma, Leslie and Katy (with Big Sis Kristen hidden beneath her coat). "What the F***!", shouts no-longer-smiling recovery room nurse, "Siblings aren't allowed in here!"It was the prehistoric pre-sibling-bonding era.

Danielle Lija Lenieks

January 11, 1982

6lbs. 10 ozs.

19 inches long

Thanks for letting me love you for 27 wonderful years!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

In the Middle of...Dinner with a side of wisdom

Sara, a very "wise", 18-year-old hostess in Myrtle Beach, SC was gracious enough to impart some very valuable knowledge on us recently. We did not ask for this wisdom, it was simply given. In the spirit of giving in its purest sense.

The fact of the matter is, she would not stop giving. We were gracious at first, smiling and nodding at her enthusiastic, and very immature, views on religion, parenting, college, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.... We tried to ignore her when she approached our table and interjected herself into our conversation for about the 17th time. But the need to give us her nuggets of insight was so powerful it was not to be denied. We left laughing about the learning that Sara still had to do; the experiences ahead that would most certainly reshape her nieve, unrealistic views; and the patients she would "heal" after earning the psychology degree she was seeking.

The fact is, I envied her the very innocence we mocked.

Yes, life has taught me many valuable lessons in my almost (gulp) 50 years. Most importantly, what I know to be true today is fluid, and will most certainly be altered by the lessons of tomorrow. Additionally, I may not like what the universe has to teach me and try to fight it. We humans do resist change, don't we? Recently my husband pointed out that I have developed a rather sarcastic way of responding that seems to be reserved expressly for him. After I told him that "maybe it is just your insecure way of interpreting me!" I began to think back on many of our recent conversations. Hmmm...could he have a valid point? No, that couldn't be it.

Well, lesson 1 of the New Year, I need to be more aware of the messages I am sending out. Both the spoken and the implied. Like it or not these messages may be influencing someone else's perception of me, themselves or the world.

Sounds surprisingly similar to what I try to teach my middle-schoolers!

See Sara, none of us has all the answers, but please, leave the philosophizing to us real grown-ups! Your untainted idealism just messes up all of our hard earned cynicism!