Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Black and Gold Christmas

What is it they say?  If life hands you lemons, make lemonade?  Well, in Pittsburgh my guess is that the saying goes more like this:  if Mother Nature denies you a white Christmas, have a Black and Gold one instead.  But, I don't think they've had to say it all that often before this year.  It's as though we brought some of Texas with us and spoiled this winter wonderland.

Greg, who has to pay close attention to the weather since he drives out in it every night, reported the other day that Pittsburgh was headed for an all-time low in snowfall for December, with that total being essentially none.  There have been a few days when snow danced around the air like little white fairies, teasing the locals, and once or twice an actual dusting of white remained on the ground for a few hours, but in terms of measurable snow:  nada.  Part of me is okay with it.  I've worried about Greg driving on winding, narrow streets covered in black ice hidden under a blanket of snow for months now, and I have to confess it was challenging enough sitting on cold, hard plastic at the last two Steeler games I went to despite three layers of clothing and some natural insulation in the posterior region without adding moisture to the mix.  But, let's face it, if there is no snow, then there are no scenes like this one:

Varykino, the Gromeko's dacah from David Lean's Dr. Zhivago
Of course, with no snow there are no scenes like this one either:

Blizzard in Boston in 2005
Life is full of trade-offs.  Do you want to shovel your car out from under a mountain of snow in sub-zero temperatures every so often to be able to stand outside in the morning after a night of fresh snowfall and feel the crisp air on your face and see the blinking of thousands of tiny diamonds hidden in a blanket of white under the winter sun?  And, truth be told, twenty-six degrees in snow feels a lot warmer than twenty-six degrees without snow.  There is just something almost insulating about the snow.  Twenty-six without it is just gray and depressing.  Bottom line:  snow is both wonderful and terrible.  A lot like life itself.  I was hoping to embrace its wonder on my first Christmas here.  Alas, it was not meant to be.

However, if the weather was a little Texas-like, that was about all that was.  Whatever our absence meant for the family left behind, it also meant a major change for us, no matter how much of the old trappings I had placed around the house or how many customs I tried to replicate.  And that seemed evident at first.  We - maybe just me - seemed a little lost as to how to begin without the familiar structure and pattern that had long been established in Greg's family - whether at his boyhood home or once things shifted to our house.  There was an order that was followed, a menu that was presented year after year, and always an incident or two of family dysfunction - someone was horribly late, or having a meltdown, or simply sick- that threatened that order, as though it were as much a part of the tradition as anything.  But, for us, this quiet little family of three plus a mini-zoo, the slate was completely clean now:  we could do anything and on any pace.  We had no one else to answer to but ourselves.

Sometimes it's hard to know how to begin the story when confronted with a blank page.  And whatever awkwardness was caused by being characters in this unwritten story, it was - and likely always will be - complicated by the individual not with us as much as anything.  Greg in particular wears his grief like a heavy cloak, and it can feel uncomfortable and almost disrespectful to experience any happiness in the face of it.  Whether this will always be the case or not, who can say, but it is a larger elephant in a smaller room when it is just the three of us; that seemed evident early on in the day.  Everything seemed in doubt at first.  Do I serve breakfast first or let Marissa open her stocking first?  Do we do that in the living room and then move into the sun room where I had set the tree?  Do I clear the dining room table, which seems to be the natural collector for all manner of this and that, and set up the china, or do we just grab plates from the cabinet and balance them on our knees around the tree?  And where do we all sit in the crowded little sun room anyway?  How is Greg, tired from a night of work, going to handle all of this?  Sounds silly, but it's all the things you just naturally do in a family with strong traditions - you don't think about it really.   Now it's completely up to you to begin anew, and that can be a little daunting.  What you do when writing is just set the pen to the paper and begin.  Write anything.  You can change it later, but just get started.   Because once you do the words will tend to come, eventually flowing and forming into a story.  And so it was with us.  A little trial and error to be sure that will be refined with the next year's event, but once we just got moving, psychics took over and we remained in motion.  Presents were unwrapped, cider was consumed (by me), pictures were taken, the mess was made and then cleaned up, and we retired to the basement to watch Star Wars on Blu-Ray, not worried any longer by the lack of snow because we were transported to a galaxy far, far away.

All in all, if you try not to focus on the acting, Episode I is not all that bad - certainly worth the viewing for the pod race and the duel at the end with Darth Maul if nothing else.  And so it was with us.  Not a perfect day.  There may never be a perfect holiday again - there will always be that void.  Always.  But, a day in which the balance of this little band of travelers were together as a family.  That was worth the price of admission.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Steel Gray

The sky is a steel gray, a fitting cover for the city nicknamed the Steel City I guess, but it is the harbinger of more rain, not snow.  It's not the kind of sky that gives you snow.  It's just the kind of sky that presses in on you, oppressive and dark.  For those locals I follow in social media, either on Twitter or Facebook, the atmosphere seems to be getting to them, the stress of the holidays made worse by a midday sky that casts long shadows in homes and offices.  Of course, most of these individuals are people I have connected with as fellow Steeler fans, so we're all licking our wounds from a horrendous walloping on Monday night and they would be surly in any weather.  We all hope the team rebounds on Christmas Eve Day or else it will likely not be a Merry Christmas in the 'Burgh.  For all the times I've tried to tell myself to gain some perspective and accept that it's just a game, I can now rest assured that I am far from alone in taking this sport way too seriously.  As a matter of fact, I'm on the sane side of the fence compared to some of the Steeler Nation.  It's one of the many things I've learned in my time here.  But, I digress, because the Steelers, while always on my mind, are not what are weighing me down this day.

This will be the third holiday without Kelsey.  We have others who aren't with us:  Greg's father, whose birthday was on Christmas Eve, and both my parents.  But, let's just face the truth of it, there is a cycle of life that one accepts, perhaps with sadness, but with a stalwart determination to continue on in the face of losing a parent because that's what they want and would expect of us.  I expected my children to survive me and maybe spare a thought about me on the anniversary of my birth and on the big holidays maybe.  I hoped that they would carry on my memory by baking pumpkin cookies at Thanksgiving and spritz cookies at Christmas and teaching their kids how to do it, telling them stories about baking in the little narrow kitchen back on Applewood Drive in Austin when they were little.  I envisioned that my two daughters would get together around one of their kitchen tables, drinking strong coffee, maybe something stronger altogether, and tell stories about me.  Some I know would be critical ("Remember how loud she snored!?"), some hopefully endearing ("I remember the first time she took me to see Star Wars..."), some a mixture of both.  I hoped that they would be able, with a little distance, to see some of my failures as a parent not for lack of love or intent on my part, but just as a result of my being all-too-human.  Like my parents, like Greg's dad, and like most of us, I would hope that they would see me for a flawed, but well-intentioned individual and remember me fondly to their children.  That is how we all live on, through our progeny - taking little pieces of the traditions we have taught them and having them in turn teach their children.  Are they sad that we are no longer with them?  Yes, but we hope that they mix that with the gladness in their hearts for what we gave them, and we trust that they are able to carry on.  And, so, with my parents, that is the case.  On Sunday, I will take out Mother's china and finest tableware, I will set them on linens Greg's mom has given us, and I will prepare food that mixes a little of what both Greg and I grew up with.  Mother will be on my mind, as will Dad - he was such a child around Christmas, this serious veteran of two wars reduced to such innocent wonder - but, all would be well and natural except...

And of course, that's a big exception.  How does one carry on, even after time has passed, when the natural order of the world has been so egregiously torn asunder?  Here we are, in this new city, trying to establish new traditions, and we circle back to the same old place, which is there is a member of our family that should be here and is not.  One would think it gets easier over time, and undoubtedly it will. But now is not that time.  As I baked dozens of cookies over the last few weeks, trying to build up a stockpile for Greg to take to his co-workers, I was struck by the thought that Kelsey would have been the age I was when I had her and realizing my loss includes not only my daughter but any grandchildren who I might have had at my side, being able to teach them to bake, having them wait to be able to lick the beaters, like I had done, like my kids had done.  I would never have those kids to introduce Star Wars or Willow to.  I will never read Kelsey's children The Hobbit.  I will never have the chance to sit around a table with my daughter and tell stories about Mom or Christmases at the Veldman house as her children listen and learn about their heritage.

Grief is a selfish emotion, I guess.  And it's a lonely one.  For Kelsey's relationship with each of us was unique, so the loss of her means something different to each of us.   Therefore, speaking strictly for myself, what I struggle to work through on this particular holiday is how to step across that big void and reach out for what I have remaining, which is quite a lot.  I'm guessing the parents who lose a child and are "successful" at piecing their lives back together do so by focusing on that, not getting lost in the vortex that is our grief.  I think it takes a little practice and a lot of patience.  So, while I had hoped, in the grand scheme of things, to put together a post around this time on tips to help parents cope with grief and loss at the holidays based on personal experience, I realized that I'm not there yet.  Unfortunately I feel as gray as the sky.  The best I can do is to tell you this:  hug your family tight, do not take them for granted.  Remember the holidays is not about getting Star Wars on Blu-Ray (although that would be nice...), try and celebrate what you have, even as you grieve over what you do not.  Every year I want to tip that scale a bit.  That's my personal goal.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Musings on the Importance of Family

So, my hopes and plans to go to Pirates Fest dashed by my husband's exhaustion, I find myself with a rare quiet moment.  Marissa downstairs asleep, Greg upstairs asleep, I sat down in the sun room to watch the last of the snow dance around the air as the sun chased the last flakes away and began working on dispelling those bold enough to try and stick around.  Finally, albeit very briefly, I can look outside my window and see wintry white in the trees and on the rooftops.  I better enjoy it while I can, as the temperatures climb back to balmy mid-40's with a chance of rain, and it seriously looks like my hopes for my first white Christmas since I was in my teens may be fading.  Of course, on the other hand, it is a lot easier to drive around when it is like this than when the roads and bridges are covered in snow and ice, so I won't whine too badly.  On the other, other hand, I don't drive around too much as it is, which is why I was looking forward to going to a mid-winter event about a summer sport put on by a team who hasn't had a winning season in two decades (I mean, why else would I?!).  It was somewhere that was not here.  I may love my little cottage, but the walls can tend to close in on you when you spend as much time inside of them as I do.

However, as far as that goes, I've actually had a fairly adventurous weekend.  Greg and I went down to Washington, PA. on Friday to my cousin's Christmas party.  It was a lovely time.  I like her home no matter the season, but it was resplendent in its holiday attire, and she had a full dinner - which I didn't expect - that was beyond excellent.  But, more than that, the party was populated by good people.  A mixture of relatives, some friends of hers dating all the way back to her school days, neighbors, ladies from her book club and co-workers.  Some I knew, some I didn't, but it was a mellow, easy time and conversation ran freely.  But, what you notice in the threads of the conversation, as I have observed in the past, is the sharing of memories and experiences.  There are always funny stories to tell because, let's just face it, in a family with such strong personalities, those personalities will generate some tales.  Gradually I thread together pieces of my mother's life that I never knew - some because she didn't want me to (and I realize more and more how editorialized what she did share actually was), and some because she just never thought to share it - she wouldn't have seen the humor in it that the rest of us do.   And that makes me so sad that I could not get her back here to share her last days with this family around her.   These are good people and they all love one another.  They loved her.  And I didn't really appreciate the full extent of those statements until I moved here and began to see them more.

I don't feel guilty about the choices I made at the end for Mom.  It's not the same thing as being sad about it.  There really was no realistic choice to bring her home to end her days.  Even if her doctors in Texas would have released her, no one here would have taken her.  She was too sick, too demented and too fragile to be moved.   No, I may not have been an ideal daughter at the end, sick with grief and short with patience, but I sleep easy at night knowing I managed her care like I had to.  But, I know now why she wanted so badly to be back among these good people.

It makes you wonder why she ever moved to Texas in the first place, and I have my suspicions about that.  She fell back in the mid-nineties and broke an ankle.  I couldn't take off work to come back east - I had just taken a week off to see her right before it happened and there was no allowance in our little company for emergency leave.  But it made me realize that she was becoming more fragile and the distance between was us was becoming more problematic, so we offered to move.  She refused to accept it.  She told me there were no jobs here.  I told her all we needed were two:  surely we could find something.  But, in the end, Greg was committed to Austin and didn't really want to move, the kids were little and had their friends there, Mother didn't want me to come, and I didn't push it.  And she did okay for a few years, with some help and support from the family here.  But things began to erode.  She was less steady on her feet, she wasn't able to care for the condo on her own, and my Aunt Ginny was no spring chicken herself and less able to watch over Mom.  So when Mom announced her decision to move close to me, I thought it was a concession to her physical condition.  And, to a certain extent it was, but she remained fiercely independent once she got here, refusing help and wanting her own space and friends.  I have wondered more than once, but really wonder it more and more, if she was just that adamant that I not be too exposed to the family lest the secret of my adoption leak out.  She seemed completely committed to me going to my grave being none the wiser.   There are a hundred questions I would like to ask her about all of that, but instead, she was able to go to her grave never knowing that this closely held secret had ever been leaked, and as a result of her own hoarding tendencies to boot. (Makes one wonder who exactly my birth parents were and if I should Google serial killers named's probably about time I find out, but more on that later.)

As we drove home from the party, I thought about all of that and how I wished I could have assured her that it didn't matter.  Whatever it is she didn't want me to know would not change how I felt about her, and she should have been allowed to stay here among her family where she belonged.  Then I realize that the man in driver's seat next to me is clear across the country from his.  And I've been thinking about that since.

But for now I'm off to troll the Internet for nefarious McGuigans.

Mother and all her siblings

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Bi-football Couple

Courtesy of
Oh.  My.  God.  I have been listening to fall out from Thursday night's Steeler game for days now.  I am so sick of hearing about it, both from inside my own house and from the media and various fan bases, that I cannot even begin to tell you.  The outside chatter is whether James Harrison deserved that suspension for a hit on Colt McCoy (pretend you hear angels singing at the mention of his name).  Not surprisingly, most Ohio residents are calling for his head and think he got off easy, most of us east of the border are incensed that he even got flagged for the play.  The rest of the country is sort of split depending upon how badly the individual hates or loves the Steelers.  The inside-the-four-walls chatter is about that plus just in general what thugs we members of the Steeler Nation are.

Here's what happened:  Greg went to his first - and likely last - Steeler game in Heinz Field Thursday night.  I had gotten him tickets for his birthday so he could see his boy Colt McCoy (again, queue the angels singing) play.  I stretched the plastic on the credit card until it screamed and got us great seats!  I was a little worried about the weather - a December night game - but it turned out to be cold, but not too cold.  Crisp and clear.  We rode a ferry across from our parking space downtown ($6.00 baby - try getting parking in Dallas for a game for just $6.00!) and joined a happy throng of people milling around in that oblivious pre-game glow where everybody is happy because nobody has lost yet, and for a while everything looked like it was primed for a great night.  I had cautioned Greg that wearing Browns gear was not advisable, and he's not a Browns fan anyway, he's just all about Colt (angels on high...), so he settled for a Longhorn jersey and some people actually flashed him a Hook-'Em sign on the way to the stadium.  Others joked good-naturedly with him, but it was all fairly innocent and friendly.  So far, so good.

Well, then the game started.  And, if you'll pardon the pun, it turned out to be a dog fight (if you have to ask why that's a pun, you're not really into AFC North football, so don't worry about it and just skip to the end).  Suddenly that euphoria of everyone walking in thinking the home team was going to steam roll over the lowly Browns gave way to grave concern on behalf of the home crowd and gave rise to some actual tense hope by the few thousand Browns fans brave enough to show themselves (the woman sitting next to Greg actually was one, but she was incognito).  Now add to that the fact that the season ticket holders for the seats in our section had long ago looked at this game and said, "Oh, hell no, I'm not going to the Browns game in December on a work night," and the results were that we were not surrounded by the cream of Pittsburgh society.  Those enviable seats were occupied generally by a group of young, rowdy, mostly very drunk people who had shelled out way more than they could comfortably afford to see the Steelers and, by God, had paid to be there and would act like they damned well please, too young and drunk to know better.  Most of them had probably started drinking as soon as it hit 5:00 and were hammered well before kick off.  Those who weren't soon found themselves caught up in the mob mentality as tensions rose.  Now add to that our Pro Bowl center and Pro Bowl quarterback getting injured and things began to really turn.  You could feel it like an electric current, and Greg caught some of it himself.  What he will leave out in his version of the story was that at one point he was vehemently yelling at the Steelers.  Now mind you, I've heard the Steeler Nation say some insulting and often ignorant things about and to their own players, but it's all keeping it in the family, so the mentality seems to be that it's allowed.  Let someone else try it, one point, I turned to Greg, a bit panicked, and said, "Shut up!  Remember where you are!"  I was pretty sure if he'd kept going at that clip, we were not going to make it out of there without police protection.  To my great relief, he did shut up, but he was sullen about it.  Then, of course, came the hit heard round the world:  that high hit James Harrison put on Colt McCoy that lead to the suspension.  James touched the precious Colt (queue angels), so Greg has been all over that hit all week.  He did have the good graces to let up yesterday when the one game suspension came down.  Already devastated by the bad news about Sidney Crosby being back out indefinitely and heading into what turned out to be super bad workday, I wasn't in the mood, and I'll give him credit for realizing that and letting whatever he wanted to say drop.

But, by the end of the night we had been pelted by ice, the Browns had been pelted by our defense and their inability to catch passes, Greg was miserable and pissed, I had my feelings hurt because this was supposed to be such a grand birthday present and he so clearly hated it, our quarterback could barely walk, but we had a division win.  I'll take it.  I will grant you the Steeler Nation misbehaved that night.  I've spent the days since being reminded how much classier Packer fans are.  I have to acquiesce, they are.  But, neither the Cowboys nor the Steelers are a division opponent.  Who knows what happens when Minnesota comes to town.  I'm not proud of how the mob behaved, but I weigh it against what all my other experiences with native 'Burghers have been, and I recall how I had ice thrown on me in Irving when I was pregnant no less, so whatever.  Now we know first hand how intense the division rivalries are around here.  For Greg, he seems intent on using that night to pass damning judgment on all of us as a collective group, and I've pondered over the last several days what he's really working over in his head.  I worry that he's homesick, too deeply entrenched in the town he was born and raised in, and where his family and friends still are, to put down roots in such different soil.  I worry that he's realized that the depth of his sorrow and anger over losing Kelsey was in no way mitigated by picking it up and moving it 1,200 miles.  I worry that he'll use that crowd's bad behavior as an excuse to throw in the towel - again, if you'll pardon the pun - and go back.  And, of course, I worry that if he does, he'll find that he just picked up that anger and sorrow and moved it back across 1,200 miles.  So, ever since that fateful night, my mind has been troubled, and I'm not sure what to do to help either of us.  And, I'm struck yet again by how The Beast just can't seem to let go of us and let us have some peace.

Funny.  All I wanted to do was take my husband to a football game.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Cinema Takes a Holiday

HA! What shall we hang... the holly, or each other? 
-       Henry II, The Lion in Winter

So I'm sitting here staring at my bank balance, trying to figure out the vanishing act it seems to have taken, while trying to ignore the panic attack swirling around in my chest trying to break free because I am so far behind at work that I'm practically in the next county, while thinking that if I work all weekend I can maybe get a bit caught up, but how in the world will I be able to bake cookies for the neighbors and Greg's co-workers...when it hits me that I should just ignore it all and enforce some Christmas cheer on myself.  The only way I can think to do that is by putting myself outside my own head, and movies have always been my outlet for that, so I've been trotting out every seasonal movie I own trying to convince myself that the holidays do anything more than just plain suck.  I don't own an extensive collection of Christmas films, mind you.  If you think Christmas stinks, it naturally follows that you tend to think Christmas movies do as well.  Sticky sweet, happy family oriented crap geared to make a fast buck and be forgotten for the most part.  But, there are exceptions, and even an old Scrooge like me can fall in love with the spirit of the season through the mastery of film.  I thought I would share my favorites with you and ask you to tell me yours.  Maybe I'll find a new fave among any you share...maybe you will do the same.

6.  The Alien Anthology.  What's that you say?  Those aren't holiday movies?  They are to me, brother.  Blame Bravo or Spike or one of those networks for showing an Alien movie marathon two years running when I was up at 2:00 in the morning trying to wrap what seemed like a mountain of presents.  And, trust me, after four solid hours of sitting on the hard, cold floor wrapping gifts that people may or may not like, Aliens 3's primary dialogue - a highly liberal use the "f" bomb - seems just about perfect.  So, it became a Christmas tradition.  A little hot cider mixed in with a lot of Sigourney Weaver being a bad ass, and I'm good to go.  Favorite line:  "Get away from her, you bitch!"

5. The Bishop's Wife. Who wouldn't want to leave their stuffy husband for a suave angel who looks just like Cary Grant?  But, it's David Niven that makes that movie for me.  He does a great job of balancing what he believes is his duty and carrying himself the way he's supposed to with the inner unhappiness and loss of faith that torments him, sprinkled with a great deal of humor as the fall guy for a lot of the conflict that happens in the film.  Cary Grant just gets to float around and look wholesome and handsome, which he does very well, but it's by far the easier of the roles.  Favorite line:   "Nobody expects him be normal; he's a bishop. "

4.  The Lion in Winter.  Dysfunctional families take note:  this is the gold standard.  Everybody trying to out cross and double cross one another in a bid for power and land set against Henry II's Christmas court.  Never before or since have so many zingers been delivered in a two hour span.  Growing up, this was the perfect film as it bundled a lot of things I loved:  Katherine Hepburn, medieval history and clever film making.  Trying to pick just one line as a favorite took some time, but here goes: "I know. You know I know. I know you know I know. We know Henry knows, and Henry knows we know it.  We're a knowledgeable family. "

3.  The Thin Man.  Sure it's a Christmas movie.  It's set at Christmas.  Don't believe me?  Watch it and you'll see.  And you'll be entertained in the process.  What could possibly make Christmas better than a little murder mystery unraveled by Nick and Nora, aided by Scotch and Rye.  It holds a higher spot in other movie lists of mine, but for a holiday flick, it's still just dandy.  Favorite line (again, a hard one - lots of choices): "Waiter, will you serve the nuts? I mean, will you serve the guests the nuts?" 

2.  While You Were Sleeping.  I know, odd choice for someone like me.  Sentimental romantic comedy, no one drinks too much, tries to kill anyone else with a broadsword, or have things explode out of their stomach.  But the fact that none of those things happen, and I still ended up liking it is a testament to the power of the film and all the actors.  There's something about the easy chemistry everyone has with one another that just sucks you in.  If everyone were like those people, the world would be a better place.  Elsie: "I could never make a good pot roast."  Saul: "You need good beef. Argentina has great beef: beef, and Nazis. "

1.  And the winner is...A Christmas Story.  I saw this movie totally by accident the first time.  I was pregnant with Kelsey, it was on a Saturday afternoon.  Greg was out working, so I was alone.  Not sure why I even remember that.  I had been putting around our little rent house trying to do Christmas stuff and had worn myself out.  I was in that stage where I still felt the possibility that I would lose my lunch at any given moment, but the baby had started to grow, so I was also getting the sensation of having a bowling ball inside me along with whatever lunch I wasn't losing, so I had to take a break and sat down just as it was starting.  I had never heard of it, but it looked like it was set in the 40's - maybe there would be some war references in there, so I thought I would give it a try.  Oh my Lord.  For two hours I didn't think about alien bowling balls pressing on bladders or stomach acid churning like a geyser waiting to explode.  I laughed until I thought I would cry.  And I've laughed every time I've seen it since, which has been at least once a season without fail.  Just a little B movie no one had ever heard of when it first hit the theaters and look at it now - a cultural icon.  Funny how that happens sometimes.  But, can you ever look at Chinese duck the same?  Can you hear "You'll shoot your eye out!" in your sleep?  Do you dream of wearing a bunny suit on Halloween?  Yeah, we all do.  I can't even decide on a favorite line - there are just too many.  If you're reading this and have never seen it, fix that problem right away!  Life is too short not to know the beauty of electric sex gleaming from the window.

So, what are some of your favorites and why?

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Up in Flames

Courtesy of 123MyCodes
I fell asleep at my computer Thursday night.  I woke up to find that it had slid off my lap onto the couch next to me and the cat had crawled in to take its place (probably having helped its exit along).  Andy Reid was doing a post-game press conference after the Eagles' loss to the Seahawks.  He arguably had a worse day than I did, but he gets paid a lot more, so I reserved my pity, and watched him bleary-eyed for a minute, mustering enough comprehension to realize that this is what a broken man looks like.  Then I shut the computer down and flopped over sideways on the couch, unable to muster the will to climb the two sets of stairs to the bed.  My husband found me there when he got up to go to work and shoo'ed me upstairs.

This is not the first time I've literally fallen asleep at my work.  But, this week is the first week I have looked out the second story window and tried to gauge whether or not flinging myself from it would put me out of my misery.  I've stomped around in a funk all week.  Ironic, if you consider I just had four days off, but those were whirlwind days where I was up early and to bed late, actually more physically active than usual.  So, I realize I came back to work on Monday more tired than I had left it the previous Friday, so - now four days behind to boot - everything just seems particularly aggravating.  I feel imprisoned by these four walls, I am royally peeved at the husband because he has been less than my definition of helpful, my definition of helpful has been altered to where no matter what he did he would not meet it, I've yelled at the dogs, glowered at the cats and just in general been a Royal Bitch.  But, it really wasn't until this morning that I realized:  I just have a bad case of burn out.  So, I took a step back to really consider why I feel the way I do.

This is a relatively new job, I tell myself - I have only been doing it since February - hardly within a normal burn out window, so buck it up and  quit being a baby.  Truthfully, it's not really the job.  Work is just the easy thing to blame.  In my particular case, this is the end of a very long, wild year.  There have been a lot of major changes, and whether good or bad, they have turned my world on end.  For someone like myself, who would practically go apocalyptic when I couldn't get the same parking space everyday, all of this upheaval has just taken its toll.  I'm tired at the moment.  Of everything.  At the same time I realize this, I feel guilty about it because I know I am just lucky to have a job, a roof over my head that is not in danger of foreclosure, food on the table and Blue Moon in the fridge for today's game.  I would imagine I am not alone on this see-saw.  But, in truth, it is just the pace of everything over the last few months that have worn me out.

So, I sit here sort of mentally ping-ponging between feeling sorry for myself and feeling guilty about feeling sorry for myself, and decided that about the only thing to do about it is come up with an agenda to deal with it.  I did a little research to start.  I'm a lazy researcher, but it is clearly not a situation unique to me because it took very little effort to find some online sites that were interesting: (but be careful of this one, it's so long it will burn you out just to read it, but it is interesting if you can make it through)

There were a lot of others.  What I noticed about all of them is that they all deal with work burnout.  Some mention caregiver burnout.  What if you just have Life Burnout?  What if the whirlwind has been blowing around you so hard for so long you're looking out windows for fall zones or making multiple trips to the state store for libations to artificially cope.  I took what I read and came up with this blueprint:

1) Take a bubble bath.  I love baths.  I never get to take them anymore because they are the ultimate time suck.  So, I have determined that once a week, I get a bath.  Probably on a weekend, but I have to allow myself that indulgence and consider that I am killing two birds with one bubbly stone:  relaxing and cleaning myself.  Whatever your version of Bubble Bath Therapy is, consider allowing yourself a little time at least once a week to indulge it.  Cheaper than a therapist...

2) "Retail therapy" is nice until the bills come in, and, trust me on this, more stuff does not equate to more happiness.  Paying off the credit cards, now that is another story.  So, pass on that pair of Bearpaw moccasins that look so comfy just because they are on sale and use that $39.99 toward your Visa bill.  If you do that every time some tempting offer hits your Inbox, over time it will add up.  No debt:  that has to be what real freedom feels like.  I don't know yet, but I'm working on it.  I'll get back to you on that.

3) Watch at least the third period of the hockey game without working through it, folding laundry, wrapping presents or addressing holiday cards (or fill in your favorite show here).  Television may be mindless, but sometimes that's okay.  I have fallen head over heels in love with Penguins hockey for a number of reasons that I'll detail some other time (crashing people into the boards on purpose at 40 miles an hour is definitely among them), but with an 82 game season it is incongruous with my work schedule.  So, I have it on almost like background noise, and I've missed some incredible hockey that has gone on right before my eyes as a result.   Just adds to the resentment.  So, I've determined to set the computer down for the third period (unless it's a blow out) of each game.  This is my version of just letting the mind rest for 20 minutes worth of game time.  Find out what your favorite off switch is and do the same.

4) Ask for help if you need it.  This is open ended - it can mean quite a lot of things.  For me, my martyr complex along with my spouse's limited scope of independent housekeeping skills without specific instruction have added up to a great deal of stress on my part.  He is willing to do just about anything I ask, but I have to ask.  He has specifically said on a number of occasions, "make me a list".  I have refused to do so, thinking to myself, "So, what are you - 12?  It should be obvious."  Well, I have finally reasoned that the problem is mine and by being so stubborn, the only loser is me.

5) Okay, maybe one trip to the state store so you have a nice glass of wine to have with that bubble bath.  But, moderation is the key here or else there becomes a whole other list of issues...