Thursday, November 19, 2015

Bon Courage

Last Saturday I attended a memorial service for the spouse of a retired colleague of Mark's.  They were favorites of ours and at every social event within the department and med center we would sit with them.  They were both avid cyclists as well as avid believers in doing their part in the name of social justice - touring the world by bike or working for Habitat for Humanity.

Caroline came home from a meeting on the East Coast this summer where she got to bike for days - the last 200 hundred miles by herself.  Upon her return she went to the doctor for stomach pain and was diagnosed with an aggressive cancer.  Mark first heard via email and then she began a Caring Bridge page that she updated occasionally.  There weren't very many entries of hers before her husband took over and three months later she died.

We live on a corner house that is the route for many biking groups in town and they would often ride past our house. If we were out in the yard they would stop and talk before making their way home. This sudden illness of Caroline's and seemingly quick death left us stunned.  It is hard to imagine any healthier, more vibrant people than the two of them.

Mark had an all-day conference that day and couldn't attend the service.  I had to work as well but negotiated my hours so I could come in a little later.  I sat with another faculty spouse in that packed church and wondered if Caroline had any idea how many people she touched.  I wondered if any of us know that when we go about our life.

Like everything these days, even my attempt at paying my respects was half-ass.  I couldn't stay until the end as I was already an hour late to being an hour late to work.  I couldn't talk to George, couldn't meet the grown kids I'd heard them talk about for more than twenty years, couldn't meet the sister from Indiana or the middle-school geography teachers that Caroline worked with for decades.  Before this final send-off for Caroline I had to get up and leave.

As soon as I walked out of the church I started crying.  For Caroline, for George, for their kids, for work commitments that were getting in the way of something more important.

For Paris.

I drove to work, clocked in, and waited on customers in my standard funeral dress - quite overdressed for the rest of my day.  Melancholy seemed to seep out of me even though the store was so packed I barely had a minute to think about anything but the next person in line.

One after another I wrote up tickets and sent people on their way with ornaments and garland and reindeer pillows and candles that smell like Christmas.  As I was writing up a ticket for one woman she asked me if I was okay.

"Yes, I'm fine.  Just a little overwhelmed at the moment."

"I can see why.  It's so busy here today but I do hope you've checked on your suppliers to see if they are okay."

"Our suppliers?"

"Yes, your suppliers in France.  Has somebody checked on them to make sure they're okay after last night?"

"I don't know.  I think so," I said - not having the heart to say that the store she was in with the very French name on the outside gets nearly everything from China.

"It's so terrible, isn't it?  I can't imagine....," she said and my eyes welled up with tears for a place that is an unchecked dream on my bucket list.

I wrapped her ornaments and handed her bag to her.

She patted my hand.

"We'll be okay," she whispered and that was the first thing I believed all day.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

The Seeds of Gratitude

I started two blog posts and ended up deleting them.  They both had something in common.

They sucked.

One of them was done and after lots of editing I still didn't know what the point was that I was trying to make except that Christie Brinkley only looks good at sixty because she's had *work* done. And besides being bitchy it was uninteresting.

So this post is going to be shortish and newsy.

*I finally landed a job.  Thank you Universe.  That last interview was the one that finally clicked and I will be working with college students and finances for their organizations.  It was the third time I tried to get a job in this school and I think I landed in a good department.  The interview wasn't easy but I had the overwhelming feeling throughout it that they were pulling for me which I took as a sign that it was the right place for me.

*But I already had a job.  I started working in a home decor store in September that I have shopped at for years.  It is all kinds of inspiring and a fantastic creative outlet for me as they let me do a lot of display work.  Each job knows about the other and they have both been accommodating.  However, from now until the end of the year I will be working six days a week.  Not sure how that's going to look as I'm just now in week one but I've managed to make the bed before I go and dinner when I've gotten home.  That. Will. Not. Last.

*I will be a producer for the Listen To Your Mother show in Kansas City in 2016.  LTYM is so near and dear to my heart that when the opportunity came up I thought about it for all of five minutes and said "yes".  It is such a leap from my comfort zone that thinking about it for any length of time gives me the vapors.  The chance to be the sherpa for the stories of mothers/mothering/motherhood for others, though, was too good of an opportunity to pass up and so I'll carry a paper bag with me to breathe into and bring this to fruition with my partner.

*My blog reached 100,000 hits.  This took nearly five years which was not in the original plan.  By now I should have been a household name in blogland but instead I am more like the little engine that could. What was the purpose and always in the plan was to become a better writer and I can look back at those early postings and see how far I've come.  For awhile there were soaring numbers on the weekends and I was elated. That only lasted until I realized that all those hits came from Russia, so without the attempted hackers I'm probably more at 85K.

*A couple of months ago Maggie and Nate came over with some seed packets that they picked up at a nursery. How nice, I thought and wondered where I would put them until the spring when they could be planted.  "Look them over," she said while Nate decided to record us and it was all so odd. "Really look at them," she said and God help Mark and I we can be so clueless.  We are going to be grandparents this spring.  I started crying when we finally figured it out.  Mark sat in the dining room chair with the biggest smile on his face and tears in his eyes.  A few weeks ago I went with Mags to look at maternity clothes and we wandered over to the baby section.  I think my life and hers in me flashed by in a second when I held up the teeniest little onesie.

I cannot promise this little blog will get much of my attention in the next few weeks (Mark and I were in bed at 9:15 on Saturday night) but good stories have a way of finding an outlet.  I hope to never be too busy to recognize one when it shows up.

Thank you for reading A Speckled Trout.  My cup runneth over.