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Archive for May, 2010

I’m not a very disciplined person in a lot of respects.  I try very hard, but because it is not ingrained in my character, I often FORGET to be disciplined.

And last week was a week of discipline.

Something I’ve had drilled into me in my professional life is to nip things in the bud.  The minute something goes down a wrong path, and before it becomes a habit, you have to nip it in the bud.  Because I don’t like conflict, this was a hard one for me to learn both as a manager and as coworker.  But I have found that people respect you more for speaking up early rather than letting something carry on.  Not saying anything is often viewed as permission-granting.

I’m not perfect at this skill, but I work on it.  And because it runs counter to how I would prefer to live, it takes a certain amount of emotional energy.

The other thing I’ve had to get better at is disciplining my thoughts.  This has been on-going since I was little.  When I first started working on this, I was struggling with anxiety in school.  I would get the syllabus on the first day of school, and see that on the last day of the class there would be a… gasp… FINAL EXAM and I would start wondering how I was going to pass that test.  Seriously?  I hadn’t even been through the course yet.

As I’ve gotten older, and hormones have gotten crazier, I’ve had to work on disciplining where I let my thoughts go.  For example, my dear husband has a horrid schedule for the next 3 weeks.  I’m not going to get into the details for safety issues, but it is TERRIBLE.  Plus, he is supposed to get awarded a base closer to home, but the guy who posts the final awards WENT HOME EARLY on Friday, even though the company stated that it would post the results on Friday at 4 p.m. CST.

My natural bent is to go down the, “We will never have another holiday together.  We will never have another lazy Saturday together.  We will never …” And I definitely start down that road, but then I make myself remember that in a few years I will have mostly forgotten this time that we are going through and that it WILL get better.  Sometimes it takes a huge amount of emotional effort to turn this attitude around.

But it is always worth the effort.

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time with my brother

So, my brother Andy and I often explore some of the finer points of life when we spend time together.

Tonight, we discussed the virtues of colon cleanses.  And we wondered if that would give us the appropriate “reset” on our digestive lives.

We also discussed the disaster that is Jamba Juice.  Seriously?  Is there a Jamba Juice that is efficiently run?  I can be the only person there and I could still be in line behind 3 people.  How can that be?

I wonder if Jamba Juice has ever thought about doing a colon cleanse boost in their drinks.

Just a thought.

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So I took a little drive up to the great state of Wisconsin, much like many Illinoisans do periodically.  We like to travel up there to make sure that they aren’t up to any funny business – like organizing an army to invade Illinois.

There’s a love-hate relationship between Wisconsin and Illinois.  For anyone not from the Midwest, it probably seems like two hungry super models calling each other fat.  The folks that live on either coast of the USA have no idea what business goes down in the Midwest, and it’s better that way.  The subtleties of Midwestern culture are for a more refined palate.

So, like I was saying, there is a love-hate relationship between Wisconsin and Illinois.  Illinoisans will concede that Wisconsin has a far superior landscape throughout much of the state.  While both states are flat when compared to, say, Colorado, Illinois is far flatter and a lot less pretty to look at.  Wisconsin has lakes and rivers and hills, making it an idyllic situation for weekend get-aways and crazy Uncle Oscars who just want to live alone in the woods gosh-durn-it! As a matter of fact, many Illinoisans have set up a secondary residence in Wisconsin in order to enjoy a more rugged and earthy life experience.  You know, the kind that involves personal watercraft and snowmobiles.

Anywho, Wisconsinites love Illinois for the shopping that can be done at our malls and on Michigan Avenue, and for the money that Illinoisans spend in Wisconsin (both on consumable goods and speeding tickets).   Which brings me to my first thing about Wisconsin.

thing 1: speeding tickets

To all of the Illinois drivers heading north: You know and I know that there is a really good chance that if you have an Illinois plate, you will get pulled over.

However, I want to be clear about why Illinois drivers get tickets.

See, in Wisconsin, the drivers drive exactly the speed limit. The only time they don’t drive the speed limit is when they are driving a combine, in which case they drive considerably slower than the speed limit.

In Illinois, the speed limit is a suggestion for how fast you can go on the shoulder while passing slower moving traffic.  By no means should you ever go anything less than 10 mph over the speed limit in Illinois or someone will shoot you with the gun they use for hunting cats up in Wisconsin.  (OK, no, they do not hunt cats in Wisconsin, but they did try to pass a law to make cat hunting legal.  It failed, narrowly.  ‘Nough said.)

It is the Wisconsinite penchant for driving the speed limit that makes all of the Illinois drivers hurrying off to their cabins for a little rest and relaxation such easy targets: Illinois drivers are going at least 20 miles per hour faster than their Wisconsin cousins.  The police don’t have time to figure out who is from Wisconsin and Illinois when your car is breaking the sound barrier on Interstate 94.

thing 2: abandoned cars

Driving through Wisconsin today, I saw no fewer than 5 abandoned cars on the side of the road in 40 minutes.  I’ve seen two abandoned cars in the past 6 months in Illinois.  What happens to cars in Wisconsin that they are just left on the side of the road??

thing 3: left hand turns

I hate left hand turns. I avoid them at all costs.  I will go around the block in order to avoid a left hand turn.

In Wisconsin, there is something really messed up about turning left.  First of all, the way the medians are set up for left hand turns in Wisconsin has always thrown me.  The medians are set up so that cars making left turns are off-set just enough so that neither car can see any oncoming traffic. After sitting through the light cycle three or four times, I find that I just hit the gas and pray when making a left in Wisconsin. This actually brought me closer to God.

Plus, the U-Turn reigns supreme in Wisconsin.  Instead of turning directly left into a shopping center, they would much prefer that you drive past your destination, do a U-Turn and make a right-hand turn into the parking lot.

Ah, I miss Wisconsin!

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weather

It’s raining and overcast and cool here in Chicagoland today.  It’s about 50 degrees, which is below average for this time of year, although, that is to be expected since we hit 80 last week, well above the average.

Isn’t that what an average is?  Some days are higher, some days are lower… but it all averages out.

Brilliant.

So what does the Chicagoland weather have to do with anything?

“The Weather as a Terrorist”

If you listen to any meteorologist or Chicago native discuss the weather, you’d think that the weather was a terrorist organization.  In the winter we have vicious cold snaps and brutal winter storms.  Truth be told, the winter of 2010 was pretty mild, but you wouldn’t know that listening to the news promos and conversation around the water cooler.  I’ve totally fallen prey to the “Weather as a Terrorist” mentality, often heaving reluctant sighs as I bundled up to go out into the cold.  And in the summer, we have blistering heat and suffocating humidity.  In the spring and fall, we have floods of epic proportions and hail the size of off-road dump trucks.  But an even worse offense than “violent” weather patterns is when the weather is just about 5-10 degrees too cool or too warm.  Oh, the hand wringing and sobbing that happens on the radio and in offices around the city – how could the weather be so cruel as to be BELOW average!

I actually had a conversation with an older woman that helped put me in a more accurate perspective.  I was lamenting about how rainy it has been and she said, “Well, we need it!” And then I remembered that the weather was not just about me and my immediate comfort, but about a whole world that needs seasons, rain, snow storms, and heat.  There are sweet little daisies that are ecstatic to get watered and happy little ducks paddling in the full ponds.

I look at God like the weather sometimes.  In the winter, I forget about the lovely warm sunny summer days and I wonder, angrily gripping my steering wheel, if it will EVER get warm again.  I think that’s how I sometimes go through the trials of this life: wondering if things will EVER get better.

And I can’t help but wonder at myself. Life is full of seasons and cycles and weather.  Sometimes I get into a particularly bad pattern of weather (like now), but unless I lived in Antarctica (and I clearly do not), it’s bound to hit 70 again in the next 365 days.  It is this attitude that I have (and many others have) that explains why God gave us the desire to write down stories.  And not just Pollyanna/sunshine stories, but the stories about times where life SUCKED.  Nearly every single life situation, featuring both suffering and joy, is documented in the Bible.  And guess what?  Sometimes the forecast calls for more “suckage” before it gets better.

The Small Rudder on the Big Ship

So even if you probably wouldn’t have thought much about the weather (unless it was particularly good or particularly bad), we TALK about the weather so much, it’s unavoidable.  “Crappy day outside, hey?” “Yah, bummer, hey?” “Yah.” (I miss Wisconsin!)

What I say about the weather impacts how I feel about the weather, in the same way that what I say about my situation often impacts how I feel about it.  I know, for those of you who THINK before you SPEAK, this probably doesn’t apply to you.  Since I often think out loud, this is totally appropriate.   Just a simple change of my attitude, changes my perspective.

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Physically, mentally and emotionally, it’s been rough.  It hasn’t been a crisis of faith, per se, but rather a crisis of HOW to have faith.

I believe in God, check.

I believe that His son Jesus is my Savior, check.

I have found, though, that I sometimes have a hard time figuring out how to look at our recent heartbreak and ongoing struggles to become parents and understand how to deal with it as a Christian.

When I am worked up about everything, I find myself tossed about by these storms and unable to find my bearings.

Which brings me to my aviation metaphor.  Ahem.

As a pilot, Frank has trained extensively.  When he first trained, he learned how to fly visually.  Flying visually is exactly what it sounds like – he would fly only in conditions (clear days, generally) that allowed him to identify landmarks and (most importantly) airports by sight. Flying on clear days is lovely, especially in small planes.

But as a committed pilot with aspirations to fly for airlines, Frank had to take his aviation training to the next level.  He had to learn to fly using only the instruments on the dashboard of the plane.  As part of his training, he actually wore a hood that didn’t allow him to see anything except the instruments in front of him.  He had to do this for two reasons: 1) because sometimes what you think you are seeing is not the whole picture and 2) because sometimes he has to fly in conditions where he won’t be able to visually see landmarks.

One night Frank took me flying.  It was a gorgeous night with a layer of low white clouds under a dome of shimmering stars.  Since there are controls on both sides of the plane, Frank let me take the “wheel” and instructed me to orient the plane so that it would be level with the horizon.  After a few minutes, Frank pointed at one of the instruments that showed how level the plane was relative to the earth.  Even though I thought I had the plane level with the horizon, I was very wrong.  The horizon I thought I was following was really a cloud, not the actual curve of the earth.

It is not enough, sometimes, to fly on sight alone.

Frank’s aviation training is a great metaphor for the grossly uncomfortable position that I am in right now.

Most of the time I can walk in my faith by “sight” alone; I either hear from God or I see landmarks from Him that point the way.  The answers are, for the most part, obvious.

Right now, though, we are stuck in the midst of storms and can’t see the ground or familiar landmarks.  Flying visually is not an option.  We have to rely on faith and the tools that God has given us.

I guess it’s a good idea to keep my seatbelt securely fastened, eh?

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mother’s day

Mother’s Day is coming up around the corner.  This is the second year that I alternately dread the day and love it.

I dread it because it so freshly reminds me of where we are at with our fertility situation.  It reminds me that for so many people, getting pregnant and having the baby is the easy part. It reminds me that our guest room is still just a guest room, not a home to a permanent resident.

I love Mother’s Day because I have a wonderful mom.  My mom is vivacious and bright and beautiful.  She is a fantastic cook, an enthusiastic story-teller and a one-woman party.  If you wonder where I get my “talk to anyone” attitude, it’s from my mom.  I remember being in Washington, DC, waiting to cross a street and Mom struck up a conversation with a complete stranger. Turns out Mom knew a guy who knew someone that this stranger knew.

No one is a stranger to my mom.

She is inclusive and fiercely loyal.  My friends love hanging out with my mom.  She remembers them, she remembers their stories and she always asks them questions about what is going on in their lives.

My husband loves my mom.  I suspect it is largely due to the fact that whenever Mom sees him, she is constantly trying to feed him (this is not something that happens for him in our house… woops!).  I think it’s good that he loves my mom because, as Mom would say, “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree!”

Speaking of that – my mom LOVES sayings.  She says things like:

“That’s why tigers eat their young!” (Do they?  Do they really?  I don’t think they do, but my mom has said that for SO long, I have started to question tigers…)  “There’s a lid for every pot” (not in our house – but I think she was referencing finding a mate, not actual cookware)  “No good deed goes unpunished” (Hm, sadly, I have found that to be true more often than I would like…) “Better to ask for forgiveness instead of permission” (Hmmmm…)

My mom, often in desperation, would tell us things that were not true that still mess with me to this day.  Like, for example, you HAVE to curl your hair to go to the city.  Or that the waiter was going to lock my brother up in the back room if he misbehaved (which explains why Andy would cry whenever he saw a waiter until he was about 18).  Babies crying in church were baby Jesus being born (this really messed me up because we had a giant crucifix at the front of our church + my dad read me time travel stories = I thought Jesus was a time traveling baby and I always wanted to tell warn him about the crucifixion “Don’t do it Jesus! They are going to crucify you!”).

Everything was fun and new and fresh with my mom.  Every day was a new adventure growing up.  My mom let us try a lot of things – this is how I knew I’d never be a horse jockey, a concert cellist, or a professional softball player.  It’s also how I knew what college I wanted to go to, what I wanted to major in and gave me a foundation of skills and knowledge to do all of those things.

When I was little, I loved driving places with my mom.  I remember listening to Elton John and Billy Joel on the radio, bopping along with her as we went to the grocery store or to visit Nani.

On one sunny afternoon, I remember my mom let me get Bubble Tape (6 feet of gum!), even though she hates gum (and bananas and raisins – also called the unholy trinity).  I remember holding the package in my hand, so happy to have this treat.  I looked at the packaging and I looked up at Mom and said, “Hey Mom, you know who makes this gum?” She replied, “No, who?” And I said, very seriously and proudly (I had just learned how to read) said, “Pat Pending!”

My mom laughed so hard that big tears were rolling down her cheeks.  She tried to explain to me what a patent was and what pending meant, but she could hardly get it out.

My mom loves to laugh.  She loves to delight in everyday kinds of things.

I love you Mom!  Happy Mother’s Day!

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propletené (Czech)

met elkaar verweven (Dutch)

fite fuaite ina chéile (Irish)

sammenvevd (Norwegian)

sammanflätad (Swedish)

intertwined

True love.

**Update**

Check out Ed in the background… ha!

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