Thursday, May 31, 2007

I guess Googling "high school commencement speeches" right before bedtime wasn't such a great idea.

Growing up I was sure that I was adopted. I didn’t feel that I resembled anyone in my family nor was my personality similar. As I entered my thirties, and large amounts of fat left my face, more and more people commented that I looked just like my father. Confirmation, finally.

Over the years, I have come to realize that I have a few other things in common with my dad. Our sense of humor is similar (we both have a quick, dry wit), we both tell elaborate stories, full of minutia and detail, that usually last longer than the listener prefers, and we both enjoy flirting. My parents were a part of a dinner club that met monthly rotating locations among the members. My brother and I would be “sent” to our rooms when it was my parents turn to host, but I would sneak out occasionally to watch. I have vivid memories of my dad laughing, sipping a cocktail and holding a cigarette. He rarely smoked, nor smiled, so these were easy things to remember. Surrounding him were women who seemed very engaged by his storytelling. If family friends came over, my dad would often be chatting with the woman rather than the man. He’s really not a guy’s guy, so this never shocked my mother or me. Even though my parent’s marriage was less than perfect, my father never strayed. I have no doubt it ever even crossed his mind. He was content to take in the occasional adulation and then move on with his very orderly and comfortable routine of a life.

When visiting my father in Florida a few months ago, he started telling me about recurring dreams that he has. The dreams are very similar but fortunately pretty rare. They are unsettling enough, however, to cause him to remember them the next day. Each dream has the same theme. He is in a situation that he can’t get out of. There is a lot of stress with no reconciliation or positive ending. He usually just awakes in the morning upset and tired. Last night I had one of those dreams.

Next week I am giving a high school commencement speech. The seniors, from the high school I worked at through last October, have asked me to speak. I accepted this honor gleefully about six weeks ago, but have now sunk into a cavernous pit of fear, apprehension, panic and downright terror. I haven’t been discussing these emotions, and actually didn’t even realize that I had them this strongly, until this morning.

My dream was pretty predictable. On the day of commencement, I am in a strange setting with lots of people that I do not know. I have procrastinated to the point of no return and do not have a prepared speech. I begin asking aforementioned “people” for commencement speech ideas. The most common response I receive is “Just wing it!” I quickly realize that I am not dressed properly. This is when the deck of cards really begins to crumble. I do not know where the commencement is being held. Is it at the same location as last year, which in my dream I think has awful parking, or is it at the high school, with good parking? However, the parking doesn’t matter because I can’t find my car. The strange setting I’m in, with all the people, has millions of cars parked in the street. My car, I believe, is blocks away. I try to call my former co-worker so that he can tell me which location to go to, but he won’t answer his phone because the ceremony has already started. OF COURSE I’M LATE – THIS IS AN AWFUL, AWFUL DREAM. Somehow I beam myself to the graduation and am only a half hour late. I traipse up to the podium, in my unsightly outfit, and proceed to “wing it.” In my dream I went through about 15 different things that I might be able to discuss. The stress was so real that I can still feel now. I start to ramble and manage to get a few laughs (see above: “dry sense of humor”, ability to tell “elaborate stories, full of minutia and details“), but quickly realize that I don’t know where the hell any of it is going, nor what my time limit is. At that point, THANKFULLY, I woke up.

I have about four and a half days to write a speech. I have a couple ideas for a theme, but I can’t seem to get anything down on paper. I think the thing I’m most worried about is that I won’t make an impact. That my words will sound just like anyone else’s that will not know them the way that I do. I am so honored that they had to opportunity to ask two faculty members to speak at their graduation, and they picked me as one of the two. Me – the one who left them mid-year. Me – the one who they don’t see daily. Me – the one who often wondered if anything I was saying or doing was getting through to them.

Working in education can be so grueling and thankless. There are few concrete rewards to keep a person going. Especially, as a counselor, I rarely get to see the end results of any of my work. It’s less tangible than teaching kids to read, for example. I don’t know if my “inspirational” lectures are going in one ear and out the other, or if they are settling into their hearts to be pulled out later when they need them.

Next Tuesday, as I stand properly attired with a written speech in front of me in the correct room at the correct time, I know I will feel incredibly satisfied with the profession I have chosen.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Wine, anyone?

The finishers have been working on the large front porch slab for over two hours. The kids have made their mark. The furniture is disassembled, and laying all over my dining room, waiting for the slab to dry.

By Thursday I should be fully enjoying it.
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Monday, May 28, 2007

War torn neighborhood of Baghdad?

No, it's just out backyard.
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Friday, May 25, 2007

Because my middle name is Martha

I decided to craft a cake in the likeness of a Van Gogh painting...from Starburst, Gummi Bears and Nilla Wafers.
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Thursday, May 24, 2007

I still don't have a job for the fall, but at least the hole is gone in my backyard and my porch is coming along.

Dressed in a summer blazer, crisp dress shirt and appropriate skirt, I entered the conference room where the interview was to be conducted. I graciously smiled and greeted five adults with handshakes – only one gave me a half-assed shake. I hate those – the grasp with just the fingers – instead of a whole-hearted, palm-to-palm, strong handshake. Most were dressed extremely casually. Although I must give him credit, the superintendent had on a button-down shirt.

The questions were standard and benign. I was able to handle them fairly easily. What surprised me, however, was the laughter. They found my responses hilarious. At first there were giggles or twitters, but then the laughing began. After about twenty minutes, it started to upset my rhythm. I know I can be funny, but I usually don’t get laughs talking about college letters of recommendation.

I think this is when I began to lose control. I knew for sure when I the principal interrupted me, “Does this work for you at the elementary level? The way you talk?”


“You mean my sarcasm?”


“Well…” and this is where the stammering began. It felt like it lasted for hours, but I think it only went for about a minute. I blathered on about how I was “pretty good” with elementary kids and that I must be okay – I had two interviews to get my current position, including teaching a “sample” lesson in front of real second graders after all. It was pretty ugly. The principal just stared at me. The rest of them stopped laughing.

I pulled myself together and everything went on fairly well until I made a statement about counselors standing around drinking coffee. It’s not worth explaining, but let’s just say there was a lot of laughter, blushing (me) and tons of embarrassment (also me). Jokes about coffee usually don’t sit well in a professional interview that could be potentially full of Mormons. I vaguely remember dropping my head at one point, and then slowly raising it in the direction of a soothing voice. One of the interviewers was very motherly and politely re-directed me back to what I was originally saying as I was answering the last question they asked.

I left feeling a mixture of emotions, but mainly feeling that I had blown it. As I buckled up to leave, I noticed a voicemail message on my phone. Thinking it was my husband calling to see how the interview went, I quickly listened to it. Unfortunately, it was the principal from my son’s school. Of course she had bad news. The drive to his school seemed to take forever. I was literally shaking the whole way.

I laid awake, most of that night, recalling in minute detail the events of the day. I questioned everything in my life that I could. And then I questioned some more.

The next morning, as I spoke with the principal I interviewed with, she went to great length to tell me how wonderful I was, BUT that she couldn’t offer me the job. Another counselor at her school, with different duties, had interviewed for the position and they needed to let her have the job. HOWEVER, would I be interested in her position? My emotions were now out of the pit of my stomach, but like a roller coaster, things can change quickly.

“Ok then, Carol, just apply for the now-open position and we’ll get you scheduled for another interview when the job announcement closes in two weeks.”

So, here I sit. The job closes tomorrow. I’m feeling pretty confident about the next interview. They seem to like me – religious slip-ups and all. The reason the principal asked about my use of sarcasm was not to be critical. She just felt I would do better with high schoolers and was surprised I was surviving in an elementary setting.

The morals of the story. Don’t assume. Life happens. You never are in control.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

My oldest is seven

The last seven years have definitely been the most difficult, yet fulfilling of my life. Harry, as I have often written about, is a challenging child to parent. He has pushed my patience to levels I never knew I could attain. His needs have been so constant and demanding, at times, that my marriage has been strained to its limits. His behaviors have produced feelings in me that I had never experienced before knowing him. Positive and negative.

Harrison is smart. Really smart. He is also funny, creative, artistic, focused, and shy. His shyness can overwhelm him at times, but when he’s relaxed and comfortable he’ll talk and talk.

Harry keeps his feelings close to his vest. I feel privileged each and every time I get a true glimpse into his heart. Many times, I have to determine his emotions through his nonverbal expressions. His smile, of course, is my favorite expression. When he smiles it covers his entire face!

This past month has brought extraordinary challenges to my life as Harry’s mom, but as I sit and reflect on the positive things that he has given to me, I am reminded of how much it is an honor to parent him.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

I appear to be having such a great time at my soccer game, but....

you should HEAR my excuses for getting out of this game! Two used yesterday..."I poked myself in the eye and I can't run." "I know I refuse to wear my shin guards, but I just got kicked and it really hurt!"

I'm not sure soccer is my game.
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Tuesday, May 15, 2007

That's my boy

Harrison has been behaving unusually poor at school. His main offense – not listening. We talk often about better behavior, but he truly can’t seem to control himself.

A few days ago, as I was tucking him in, I asked him a desperate question. Nothing in this question came from my years of education and experience working with children.
I asked him from the depths of my frustrated soul: “Harry, you’ve had a rough three days…can you please change your attitude?” To this, he simply answered, “Yes I can.”

Great. That will really help.

Monday, May 14, 2007

It doesn't get much better than this.

I am so excited. Not because it was my birthday Saturday and Heather hosted a fantastic fajita feast for me and friends. Not because a great friend flew in all the way from Michigan to help me celebrate for the weekend. Not because I received four homemade cards for Mother's Day and my birthday this weekend from my children. Not because I ate german chocolate cake for the first time in over two years. Not because our family has yet another new boy in the family.'s because a cement truck arrived FINALLY and I now have poured footings in my front and back yards.
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Sunday, May 13, 2007

I'm an aunt!

This beautiful little boy was born yesterday - on my birthday! I feel like we'll always have this great, extra little connection.

Welcome to the family, C.J.!
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Friday, May 11, 2007

Photo Friday

Theme: Amber

These flowering trees were all over the place when I was down visiting my dad in Florida a few weeks ago.

(Okay - the flowers are more yellow, than amber, but this is the closest picture I could find to fit the theme.)
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Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Mayble I'll have less time to fret if I get a full time job

I think I have regressed. The closer I get to age 43 – the more like a young, college girl I feel.

I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up. I sit and wait for an interview for a position as a full time counselor, but deep down I’d rather write for an interior design blog, sell houses or take pictures professionally. As much as I know intellectually that these other careers are possible, I know that staying home for the summer is the best option for my kids. Oh, and having a secure salary is good, too. I dream of starting over with a world of possibility and opportunity at my fingertips, but shrivel up from the insecurity that is wrapped up in all of these other options. I can remember when I left college with dreams of a career in advertising. The nervousness I’d feel during interviews due to my lack of experience was immense. It swelled over me almost to the point that my body wouldn’t function properly. I think that’s what keeps me from starting a new career again. Interviews are a walk in the park for me now. In the last 15 years, there really hasn’t been any situation or task out there, in school counseling, that I haven’t tackled. I may not be satisfied with my work, but I do know how to work with kids and families.

Another area in my life that has made me feel “young” again is with my ability to be a friend. My happiness used to revolve around my social life. I was on the phone, or with other people, ALL the time. I never considered choosing to spend time by myself. If it happened, it was because other people were busy. As I progressed through life, men became my social life. I have had several long term relationships and soon learned that it was hard to keep strong female friendships when I kept moving away. After my divorce, I found a group of thirty-somethings at work. We did a lot together, but it was effortless. We had so much in common and our accessibility to each other was easy. Because we were all a bit older, the friendships were strong, but not nearly as intimate as when I was in college or high school. A few years in, I met Chris. Once again, I moved. Five hours away. I moved to a town that I didn’t like and it permeated through my being. Let’s just say that no one would label me as “perky” or “effervescent” during the Green Bay years. Throw in a colicky first baby, an old house in disrepair and a marriage that was given too many stressors in its infancy – and you have an unhappy person. Not exactly the type that attracted or fostered lasting friendships.

As I have adjusted to living in Salt Lake, the walls have slowly come down. I have become more open and willing to develop long lasting relationships. I quickly became friends with several of the neighborhood moms and thoroughly enjoyed my colleagues at work. Unfortunately – and I can’t decide when it began – I now feel like it’s a struggle again.

Maybe it’s because I work part time, that I have such a hard time talking to other moms about our respective children’s accomplishments, skills and/or activities. I quickly assess what they are doing and assume it’s better and more wonderful than anything I’m doing. Then I try to figure out how to duplicate what they are doing and realize that that would be dumb. Sometimes this process occurs quickly, most often it doesn’t.

I am also doing this “comparison” thing more and more with my athletic endeavors. I have trained for a marathon and a half marathon in my lifetime. I made huge strides, and kept a tremendous effort up, but ran neither event. I work out 4-5 days a week, but still don’t feel I’m doing enough. I can’t consider swimming laps at my club’s pool because “everyone” that does that is enrolled in the Master swimming program. And I don’t really want to do that. In my spinning class, I’ve been having a hard time keeping up lately. My heart rate will soar, and then during our “backing off” periods, it won’t come right back down. I’ll be in pain – true pain – and won’t allow myself to slow down because maybe the guy next to me will notice. It’s crazy, I know. I finally talked to one of the instructors (a competitive bike racer and triathlete) about my symptoms and she told me that I’m over training and I need to keep my heart rate lower for the next two weeks. So this morning, I rode the elliptical machine at a slower pace and actually wondered if the chick at the front desk was laughing under her breath at the old broad “trying” to work out. Writing it all down like this makes me see how crazy it is, but it’s my rational world at those moments!

This athletic stuff leads right into my age-old body image issues. However, lately they seem magnified. Because I’ve lost lots of weight in front of some of my neighbors and friends, I start to wonder what they must think of me now that I’ve gained it back.
Again – college crap. Only then it was all about the guys. Who will want to go out with me since I’m so fat? Now it’s – “Who will want to hang out with the chubby mom?” It’s not that I think of my weight as something that puts people off – it’s different here in the land of mountains, hiking and REI. It’s more about activity level. If I don’t look fit, then I must be a couch potato. That’s about as bad as it gets around here.

Most of these issues are repeats of things I’ve felt my whole life – only in a different form. The difference I’m feeling these days is that intellectually I know better. I know that a woman with a Masters degree, two beautiful children, and an accomplished career that revolves around helping people should be proud of these things. I am, but I don’t think about those things when I’m worrying about Harry. When I’m worrying that his misbehavior castes a negative light on my parenting skills. I’m not thinking about those things when the new shorts I’m wearing look hideous when I catch a glance of myself in the mirror at the store today. I’m not thinking of those things when I walk across the room at spinning class and wonder if people are looking at my large you-know-what in those stupid tight lycra bike shorts.

I just want to grow up. I want to have security. My mom used to harp on me about this stuff. She’d yell at me, “Just like yourself!” I think she was an amazing friend and parent to me, but in those moments I wouldn’t say she was at her best.
As I look at Ella, I daily worry that she will lose her self esteem some day. I desperately demand that she be assertive all the time. She doesn’t like to make her own decisions. I tell her she has to. When anyone comments on her beautiful eyes – I tell her how smart she is. I do not want her to be writing things like this four days before she turns 43.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Pants or Skirt?

I am supposed to have an interview this week. They have yet to call and schedule it. Do I dress up every day just in case?
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