so much to say!

Ok, in no particular order:

1.  I am running again.  Well, jogging.  Very, very, very slowly.  At this point, it’s as much for my physical health as it is for my emotional health.  I find that when I run, I am able to process things better and have more energy.  So I am committed to running/jogging/moving my booty every other day.

2.  For anyone wondering about my sugarless lifestyle, yes, we are still sugarless in the K House.  I have to say, there have been quite a few moments of weakness, but we are proud that we haven’t caved.  The only sweets we had were for FK’s 30th birthday.  Hey, that’s a pretty special occasion, right?  So we busted out some cinnamon bread pudding and homemade whipped cream.  Soooo good.  I was worried that it would become some kind of gateway drug – you know, leading to other sugary delights – but we stayed the course and did not venture any further into Candyland.

3. There have been lots of different themes floating around in my life.  I want to write extensively on every single theme, but right now is not the time.  Here are some highlights:

a. Definitions.  I’ve been wondering a lot about how to take control about how I’m defined, both by others and more importantly by myself.  This concern is on a personal and professional level.  Personally, I’m not afraid of being defined as someone who has had a very difficult time having children, but I AM afraid of being defined as ONLY that.  And maybe “afraid” is the wrong word.  I think if people only saw me for this trial, that would be a very limited way of looking at me and that I, and others, would miss out on the bigger picture of what God is doing in my life.  I also think about this a lot professionally, too – the woman who did my job previously really only focused on one particular area, whereas I’ve branched out and brought an entirely different skill set to the game.  I’m concerned that my success is being defined only based on area, without taking into consideration all of the other things I’m bringing to the table.  I have ideas on how to resolve my professional dilemma, but it’s a little bit more difficult to resolve the personal side of things.

b. Attitude. I’ve been battling attitude a lot lately.  For a great many reasons, it’s been particularly difficult for me to keep my attitude in check.  The running is helping with cleaning out any emotional overload, allowing me to refocus my energies when I feel myself slipping into a swirling vortex of sadness.  I think it’s a difficult one to balance, though, because I do believe that I need to be where I am, and not rush through it.  Said another way, I’ve spent a lot of my life checking things off of lists.  I like to do that.  But living a life of checking things off of lists sometimes means that I rush through things to just to get through the list.  A conversation I had tonight reminded me that life is really a series of processes and experiences, not a neat and tidy notebook of lists with check marks next to each item. Discontentment is being in one place, but believing that I should be somewhere else.  I kind of wonder if I would be more content if I just said, “Ok, this is where I am today, and that is ok” – with an understanding that I would not be in this same emotional place forever.  What does it look like to live a more contented life?  Hm.

c. Fluidity. In 2004/2005, I was working a lot of hours.  A lot of hours.  Even when I was not at work, I was mentally at work.  My brain was constantly thinking about things going on at the office; looking for solutions to problems I was having.  It doesn’t help that I worked in advertising and our world is inundated with ad messages.  Even if I didn’t want to take work home with me, it was everywhere.  But when I look back at that time and remember trips we took or things we did, I don’t remember the pervasiveness of work.  I just remember the fun things.  It’s amazing how my brain can edit out work and make my memories into a nice, clean 30 minute montage.  So why do I bring that up and what does it have to do with being more fluid?  Well, I realize that I have a selective way of remembering things.  I remember the joys of the simplicity of life being young when I feel overwhelmed.  But when I really remember what it was like to be me in second grade, I also have to remember that I was totally overwhelmed by simple things then (which were not so simple to me at the time).  I remember lying in bed one night, tossing and turning because I forgot to bring a worksheet home from school.  I knew I would get a “zero” for the assignment.  I finally went into my parents room really late at night (probably 10 p.m.) and told my mom what I was thinking about.  She laughed and told me about times when she felt the same way. The adrenaline from worrying about that worksheet left a bitter, metallic taste in my mouth.  The same taste I get even now when I realize I forgot something or am on a tight deadline.  We edit our memories.  Things do seem better in the past and more hopeful in the future.  Life is constant change.  People are born, people die, people move away, people move in… The sooner that I am comfortable with the idea that nothing is permanent in this life, the easier it is to roll with the punches.  I was not born as a person who is comfortable with being fluid, but over time I’ve come to be better with it.  I think being married to a pilot has expedited my personal growth in this area.  Let’s not go crazy though – I have hardly mastered being fluid and I still love a good check list, but in the realm of things I cannot control, learning to be fluid has been an excessively helpful trait.

So yeah.  Just a few thoughts.  No particular order.  More on some of them later.  Or maybe not.  Well, you can be 100% assured that I will likely talk about running and sugar again.  I’m predictable like that.

discipline

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.

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.

the one where i use an aviation metaphor

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?

spidey sense

Well, the spider dreams are back again.

When Frank and I lived in Naperville, we lived in a … well… affordable two bedroom, 1 bathroom apartment with washer/dryer in unit.  It was small, but it was our first home together.  We loved it.  Even to this day, the sound of vertical blinds rustling in the wind reminds me of falling asleep in our Naperville apartment.

This was, of course, before I discovered the gap between the screen and the frame of the window that was allowing countless insects into our humble abode.  After I discovered that, the window stayed firmly shut.

We also became big believers in RAID. Take that tiny bugs!

But our efforts were in vain.  Despite closing up the windows and fighting the good fight with the RAID, it was not enough to ward off the earwig infestation of 2004.  As many have heard me say, that was the year that Frank killed 19 earwigs in our bedroom in one evening.  I dreaded picking up laundry from the floor as bugs would regularly fall out of the legs of our jeans and pockets of shirts.

During this time, it’s not surprising that I dreamt an AWFUL lot about bugs.  I dreamt regularly that there were spiders in my bed.  I would wake up in the middle of the night, throw the covers off of the bed and turn on the lights.  But I was always too late – the bugs had disappeared into their sneaky hiding places before I could find them and slay them.

Frank did not believe me that there were spiders in our bed.  But I know better.

See, once we moved to our 9th floor apartment in Milwaukee, I didn’t dream about bugs for quite some time.

When lived in our house in Oak Creek, I dreamt about a bug only one time.  And I believe there was a bug involved, if I am not mistaken.

Last year I was watching TV on my laptop and I saw something scurrying across my stomach.  Panicked, I turned on the light next to my bed and sure enough – there was a spider!  Needless to say, I killed him and turned the room upside down trying to find his possy.

I think I dreamt once about spiders last year.  I think the swift demise of their spider-friend was a warning shot.

This all brings me to last night.  Last night I had a very vivid dream about a spider being on my arm.  I was trying to get it off, but it walked around my arm and stopped below my wrist.  In my dream, I was panicked – the spider was brown and furry and burrowed into my skin.  In my dream, I was frantically trying to find someone to cut out the spider from my arm.  When they did, it was just an empty pocket of skin.

All of this to say, I think that we have a spider problem again.  Anyone know of any good exterminators in the Chicagoland area?

Thank you.

a tale of two brownies

Two fudgey, chocolaty, delicious looking brownies are sitting all sultry-like in my refrigerator.  Untouched, unsniffed and uneaten.

Saddest thing you’ve ever seen. Truly.

But, this has been an exercise in resolve.  Determination. Perseverence. Discipline.

“Emmmmmily… oh, Emmmmmmmiiiiiilllyyyyy!”

Can you hear them too?  It’s the brownies! They are calling for me.

I. Must. Stay. Strong.

Ok, all kidding aside.  It has been rough giving up my refined sugar habit.  And I say habit because that is exactly what it became over the years.  If I couldn’t think of something, I’d just go get a “hit” of sugar.  If I finished lunch, but wanted to make the lunch hour more satisfying – Sugar!

Without it, I realize that I am somehow LESS anxious.  Less concerned about what I’m going to eat.  I know that if I eat a satisfying meal, I don’t have to stress because of all of the extra dessert calories.  I know that sounds strange, but I think that I would go into a nice meal that included dessert knowing that I was going to feel bad afterwards – knowing that I would regret it.  But now, I feel like I can eat a meal and be satisfied and not upset – does that make sense?

I wish I could tell you that I’ve lost a lot of weight doing this.  I’m down a total of 4 lbs.  It’s not great.  It’s the same 4 lbs that I feel like I am constantly losing and gaining and losing.  But at least I’m down and not up, right?

And really, it’s not the brownies that concern me right now anyway.  It’s the compromising situation that I found Ed in when I got home tonight.  It’s everything you’d expect to find on Entertainment Tonight: Scandalous. Scintillating. Skanky.

… more on that after the commercial break!

group work

In college, as a marketing major, I was exposed to endless amounts of group work.  Nearly every class syllabus had some sort of monster “group” project included in it.

And here is the thing that I’ve learned about “group” work: it’s never really an effort of the whole, it is an effort of the determined.

The best group work assignment I ever had gave everyone in the group a $100 in fake money at the end to distribute as a bonus to their fellow group members.  Students were urged to distribute the money based on how much each person contributed to the group.  I remember feeling a great sense of satisfaction when I could reward my fellow teammates who pulled their weight, while acknowledging that we had some dead weight in the effort.  Yes, the group may have earned an”A” for the project, but truthfully, it was because of the work of a determined few.

And what I’ve found in life, at various jobs I’ve had, is that group work in college was probably the single best preparation for life that I had in college.  Yeah, the statistics and algebra helped.  Yes, it is helpful that I can create a flow chart and write a presentation.  All good skills.  But survival of the fittest is really based on how well you manage in group work.

There are still people at every job who have figured out ways to  contribute with the least amount of effort without getting fired.  Some of these people are so expert at it, they even manage to get raises and promotions out of it. These are the group coasters.  They just cruise along, disengaged and generally uninterested. And unfortunately, in every job, there are always the negative nellies.  These individuals want to direct the group without any responsibility of being a leader.  These are the folks at church or in circles of friends that are constantly giving feedback (generally negative) and never offering a solution (or at least a solution that includes something that they would do).

But the people I’ve grown to admire are of two groups: skilled followers and skilled leaders.

Skilled followers are abundantly more important than leaders.  Who cares where we’re being led if the group is comprised of negative nellies and group coasters?  It’s like getting in a car that is pointed in a direction, with zero fuel in the tank.  Frank and I have had to learn to be better followers in different volunteer situations.  I’m not even saying that we’re good at it yet, but it’s a skill we work on and we’ve made progress with.  We’ve learned that good followers bring problems and solutions.  They look at their leader and figure out when they need encouragement, when they need help organizing/distributing work and suggest helpful solutions.

Skilled leaders are important, too.  They cast a vision, they encourage the followers, they set goals and move towards them.  The put a lot on the line – time, effort and pride.

But what I’ve noticed for both skilled followers and skilled leaders is that the outcome is more important to both of those groups than their pride.  True group work is humbling for everyone because leaders often have to get into the trenches and followers often have to pick their battles.

Followers have to be able to determine what is a “strategic” difference versus a simple “style” difference – and if it is worth bringing up.

The best examples of strategic vs. style differences are often found in churches.  There are a lot of people who attend churches that love the mission, vision and direction of the church.  They love the teaching or the programs or the worship or the children’s ministry, but often they do not love ALL of the programs.  Or perhaps they don’t love the style of how something is done – perhaps they would prefer that more percussion would be used during worship or that the children’s ministry had more outdoor activities.  But at the end of the day, the church as a whole matches most of their important criteria.  They go to church, often staying silent on their style preferences because they want to build up the church, not tear it down.

Life is essentially all about group work.  Even if you think you’ve escaped group work, you probably haven’t if you are in any sort of long-term relationship or part of a family.  The question essentially boils down to what kind of group member do I want to be?

three things: what I love on TV

… which could also be titled “TV Confessions.”

I wonder if Jesus reads my blog?

Well, regardless, here we go (sorry Jesus!):

thing 1: Kendra

I’m not kidding.  I love this show.  I can’t believe that I am putting this in writing, but that show ALWAYS makes me laugh.  And I believe, perhaps naively, that Kendra and her husband, Hank, are going to make it work.  It just seems like he loves her too much for it not to work… well, ok, I really don’t know anything about them other than what they edit the show for… but whatever – I LOVE THE SHOW.  It’s my TV sugar: doesn’t give me much value, but fills up some time.

thing 2: sci-fi

I love, love, LOVE sci fi.  Not the channel, but pretty much every show with a sci fi theme.  Frank and I watch an embarrassingly  long list of shows together – I’ve actually been banned from introducing Frank to anything else at this point.  We watch Chuck, Fringe, Flash Foward, Lost, and V. And I definitely think I’m missing something here…

thing 3: Greek

I know.  A show about collegiate Greek life.  I watch it.  I love it.  I’ve watched every. single. episode.  And really, there’s nothing you can do to stop me – except maybe take the show off the air.  Please don’t take the show off of the air.  waaah!!!

I need to get a hobby…

one week down…

One week of no sugar.  Whoa.

And today was a test to beat all tests!  I went to my parents’ house for dinner and there were huge chocolate chip cookies, chocolate cake and carrot cake – all just laying there, smelling all sugary and delicious…  Heavens. to. Betsy!

I feel good about myself for staying in control of the no sugar business, even though I am dying for a hit… err… a cupcake.  I’ve been documenting what I’m eating again, another positive.  I stayed within my calories on a holiday usually reserved for lots of sweet, salty, delicious food.

My weight is about the same, no major changes.  I don’t expect to drop weight over night, but if I could lose a few pounds here and there, that would be some nice encouragement.  The three pounds I thought I lost earlier in the week came back.  Dirty pounds!

So, the name of the game is to keep trying and to start exercising more.  Only 51 more weeks to go!

meet ed

Ed is our stuffed dog that has sat on our bed every day since our first married Valentine’s day in February 2004.  Ed has traveled from Naperville to Milwaukee to Oak Creek to storage (woops, sorry Ed) to the suburbs of Chicago.

Ed enjoys his time on the bed, I think.  I mean, he’s never complained.

And he’s really the perfect dog.  He doesn’t bark, he doesn’t shed, he doesn’t pee on our carpet, chew our furniture, or pass gas .

He’s a simple dog, really.

Hi, I’m Ed. How YOU doin’?

I’d lick you if I had a tongue!


Ahhh!!  Bright lights!  It’s the paparazzi!

I didn’t ASK to be famous.  I mean, it just sort of happened.  I’m a good looking dog, what can I say – oh, hold on, it’s my agent… Yo, dollface, how YOU doin’?

Ah that Ed, he’s such a card.