Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Memories

All my life I've been known for my poor memory. I can remember the really important stuff, like dog breeds, programming code, character actors' names. But when it comes to the trivia of life - your birthday, the vice president or the current month, I'm hopeless.

My cousin and I used to joke that if I had a good memory I could take over the world. This was usually after my bragging about something I had done well. I have often wished for a better memory and, all kidding aside, wondered what I could have accomplished if I could retain information better.

Lately I've come to realize that a bad memory can be as much a blessing as a curse. I may forget what year I went to Cancun, but I also forget most of the year I had cancer. I can't remember the name of a single teacher I had in elementary school, but I also can't remember the faces and names of the children who bullied me during those same years. I have trouble remembering the joy of getting my first puppy... no, actually that is one thing I will never forget.

I read a book about memory one time where the author proposed that the memories you choose to retain are the ones that form your world view and shape your life. We all have billions of moments to pick and choose from. The ones you remember say more about you than you realize. I usually try to remember the best times and forget the worst. It doesn't work, but it's what makes life bearable.

I still wish I could remember the plot of the book I just read or the name of the person I just met. I wish I could remember more time with friends and family. But I can't regret forgetting so many of the failures, the hard times, the disappointments that I've experienced. The ones I can't forget, I will just have to learn from.

That's the challenge, isn't it? Making your memories meaningful, and maybe, just maybe, choosing the memories that shape us into stronger, happier, better people.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

New Doctor

After seven years of trying to like the doctors at Johns Hopkins, I gave up and went looking for one that would actually listen to me. I was spoiled in Vegas because Dr. Cruz took all the time I needed to go over my health issues. I don't have anything seriously wrong with me, I just have a lot of little things and I hate to make an appointment for each one separately. I would much rather go in and talk about everything at once.

The last straw for me with Johns Hopkins was when the latest doctor there spent 10-15 minutes telling me I was crazy to have a Blackberry instead of an iPhone and less than 5 minutes discussing my health.

I probably would have given up on doctors for now, but I my CPAP is slowly dying and I have to have a new sleep study so I can replace it.

With no choice, then, I went looking for a new doctor. I wish I could say that I asked for referrals and checked credentials, but I didn't. Instead I picked my new doctor for two reason... 1) his office is less than 2 miles from my home and 2) his name is Doctor McCoy! If you don't get why that is cool, you are not a geek, my friend.

DR  MCCOY
I was hoping for some high-tech gadgets, given the name, but I found instead a pleasant front office staff, a friendly nurse and a kind and attentive doctor. He spent over an hour with me while his waiting room filled up and never made me feel like I was taking too long.

Now that I have a new doctor, I hope to get rid of my constant headaches and get a few other things dealt with. Maybe I'll get more energy and start working out, lose a lot of weight, find the perfect guy and ride off into the sunset on his palomino horse. (Because what perfect guy doesn't have a horse??)

A girl can dream, right? Especially if I can finally get a good night's sleep.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Harley Tales

I've mentioned before that Harley is a genius, haven't I? Let me tell you three new stories to illustrate.

Sunday I was sorting and filing huge piles of old papers. I sat on the couch with a folding table set up in front of me and rat terriers piled up beside me. On my right, Harley and Scooter intertwined, as they often are, and Pixie stretched out on my left. I tossed one letter onto a pile on the far side of the table, but it kept going, landing on the floor. I was surrounded by piles of papers and other junk and couldn't get up to get the letter, but I didn't want to lose track of it.

I woke Harley up and asked him to get the paper. He jumped down immediately and trotted over to the piece I indicated, bypassing all of the torn bits and pieces of envelopes and trash in his way. He never hesitated, but got the right piece on the first try.

He wasn't happy when his pay (a bit of food) wasn't forthcoming, so he brought me another piece or two before giving up and going back to sleep. Remember, he was sound asleep when this paper hit the floor, but he went directly to the right paper with no hesitation.

***

Later on Sunday I was making dinner and a fork fell on the floor. Harley offered to pick it up, but he didn't like the feel of it. I waited while he pushed and pulled it all over the kitchen, until finally giving up, looking up at me as if to say, "It's too hard, Mom!"

I said, "Bring me the fork and I'll get you some ice cream."

He bent his head, picked up the fork without delay and brought it to me as if he had never had any problem.

He got his ice cream.

***

Harley loves the laser pointer and will do anything to get a chance to chase it around the room, or even up and down the hillside in my parents' yard. Because of his passion for it, you can't say laser around him. You can't spell it around him, either. Even a single L gets his ears and tail up. By the time you get to A, he's quivering and ready to go.

Tonight I spelled out just the first three letters, but I buried them into conversation, not using any particular tone. As soon as he heard the first letter, he was alert, by A he was wagging his tail and as soon as he heard S he fixated on Mom since he knows she keeps a laser next to her chair. You just can't fool this dog. Unfortunately, he didn't get any laser time tonight.

Maybe he needs to get back to work and earn it. I'm sure he can find something on the floor that doesn't belong there. If not at my mom's place, certainly at mine. Get to work, Harley!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Mission Accomplished

It took longer than expected, but I managed to get all of my filing done. Everything is sorted and neatly labeled and organized (using methods that only make sense to me and meth-addicted leprechauns.)

This was the single chore left over from when I moved into the house two years ago, and it has been growing to terrifying proportions. I feel exhausted and triumphant and more than a little embarrassed that I let things go for so long.

Harley is thrilled to have it over and done with because he hated the sound of the stapler. I feel bad that the dogs didn't get to have any fun this weekend because I was gone for so long yesterday and the rest of the weekend I've been busy. They'll feel better tomorrow. Going to Grandmom's house always makes them happy, and not just because she gives them special treats. They really do love my parents.

Although I got the filing done and the bulk of the mess cleaned up, there are plenty of 15-minute tasks to keep me busy all week. I've been doing great with keeping my chain alive, but I was running out of cleaning tasks small enough to finish them in 15-minutes. Not any more!

Now, my filing is done, my bills are paid and the house looks reasonably clean. Nothing left to do but get to bed.... right after I play my Facebook games, of course.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Archaelogical Dig of Depression

As part of my "Don't Break the Chain" initiative, I decided to pull out boxes of old papers and finally get them organized. It's something I've been putting off for a very long time, and now I remember why.

The early stages weren't bad. Copies of recent utility bills, most of them paid, don't have a lot of sentiment attached. Same for the car insurance statements, miscellaneous bills, pay stubs and old check registers. Filing those is tedious, but hardly traumatizing.

Soon, however, I stripped away the layer of bookkeeping topsoil and started to uncover all too many failures and disappointments.

There were the emails from an old friend who is no longer a friend. I'm reminded of how much I loved his stories about the theater and his zany life as an actor. We parted company many years ago, and I am sad to be reminded of that loss.

I found stories I had written as part of a memoir class and writing group I once belonged to. Something went wrong and I no longer felt welcome. I miss the group and I miss the writing they inspired me to do.

Dry investment statements reminded me of when I had cash to invest and it made me regret giving up dabbling in stocks. I didn't make a fortune, but I did better than most, but somewhere along the way I lost faith in my ability to choose well and I quit. I sold most of my stocks to buy my house. It's a fair trade, but I miss playing the market.

The weight chart from Curves reminded me of when I had both the free time and the energy to work out faithfully once every day (sometimes 2 or more times a day). Now I have a membership in a gym I have not visited once since I joined over a month ago.

The stacks of documents from my lost court case and the files from my lost business cut deeply, but much less so than the reminders of family members with whom I have little or no contact.

Digging through the never-ending stacks of yellowing receipts, creased bills and bent photos, I am reminded of why I prefer to forget the past. Sometimes it's just too painful to face, and a heck of a lot of work besides.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Goodbyes

A valued coworker left for a new job today. We had a nice farewell lunch at a local Italian restaurant and I had fun ribbing him for the last two weeks about deserting us for a new job. He has been a good friend and will be missed.

It made me think about how often we have to say goodbye.

I grew up a military kid, moving every couple of years. I know a lot more than I want to about goodbyes. I don't like them much.

If it's just a quick "see ya" as I leave work for home, or an equally quick "bye" as I leave home for work, I assume I'll see that friend, coworker or loved one in a few hours, and usually I do. Still, if you love someone enough, some piece of you stays with them during the times you are parted and you never feel completely whole until you are reunited.

I know I felt that way when Harley was a puppy, and he's "just" a dog. I can easily imagine how hard it is for a mom, sending a child off to Kindergarten, or a newlywed going off to work for the first time after the honeymoon. (Well, maybe I have more trouble with that one, but I have a pretty good imagination, so let's go with it.)

Then there are the farewells like today, with someone leaving for a new job. Maybe it's a friend moving out of state, joining the military or going on a mission. You may or may not expect this kind of farewell to be permanent, but I always assume it's the last time I'll ever see someone. It was so often true when I was growing up that I just don't expect I'll ever see them again.

The worst farewells are the ones where you know you will never be reunited in this life. Usually it's death that separates you, and the finality of it is overwhelming and difficult and heart-wrenching and so sad as to defy description. There is nothing easy about death and I don't intend to downplay the tragedy of losing a loved one. The only loss that rivals it, for me at least, is the pain of having to say a final farewell to someone who still lives, but who will no longer be part of your life, whether by choice or not.

I have been thinking of this often as I start this journey towards being a foster/adoptive parent. Many of the children in the system have had to let go of birth parents who were either unable or unwilling to parent them. How painful it must be to understand and accept that kind of loss. Then, to move from one foster home to another, making and losing connections to friends, neighbors and families.

I know how hard it was for me, and I had my family with me through all of the moves and upheavals that are part of a military life. I don't think I would have been strong enough to survive on my own.

It makes me worry that I will let these children down. I don't want to be yet another in a long string of farewells. I want to be the one home they can always return to and know I will be there.

You know, this parenting thing is pretty worrisome, and I don't even have any kids, yet. Yikes! I'm going to be a wreck, aren't I?

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Gratefuls

I recently finished This Time Together: Laughter and Reflection by Carol Burnett. It's a fabulous book, with charming and funny anecdotes about her life and career. I stayed up way too late a couple of nights in a row, wanting to read just one more story.

In one chapter she talks about staying cheerful during low times by listing "Gratefuls." I like that idea and thought I would list a few Gratefuls of my own.

I still have both of my parents and they are both active and healthy and live only 5 miles away so I get to see them almost every day. Grateful.

I have three wacky, smart and loving dogs, one of which is the smartest dog in the world. Grateful.

I have a stable job, doing something I enjoy, with people I admire. Grateful.

I am relatively healthy and have four working limbs and most of my mental faculties. Grateful!

My life is full of crafts and hobbies that make me happy and keep my creative juices flowing. Grateful.

I have a home that shelters me and provides space for most of my books and a yard with a swing and room for my dogs to play. Grateful.

I have friends and co-workers who listen to my long-winded stories and don't run and hide when they see me coming. Grateful.

I live in a time when I can share my Gratefuls with you, no matter how far away you are, and hopefully hear about your Gratefuls, too.

We are all so blessed, no matter what challenges we face. I am good at remembering that during the good times. I need to work harder to remember it during the hard times.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Don't break the chain

Have you heard of this productivity technique for setting and achieving goals? You can read about it here, but it is really simple.

You pick something you want to achieve and then you do a minimum amount towards that goal every day. To keep track of your efforts, you mark each day off on the calendar. The idea is that you don't ever want to "break the chain" by skipping even one day.

I decided to choose three areas in my life that need improvement. (I could have chosen dozens, but I don't have that kind of time.) I committed to spending fifteen minutes a day working on each goal. So, that's fifteen minutes of exercise, fifteen of cleaning and fifteen of writing.

It's much too early to tell you how this will work out for me, since I just started yesterday, but I'm hopeful. It's not a big time commitment, it lets me work on more than one area of my life at a time, and it chops big goals into tiny, bite-size pieces.

Last night I gathered up and took out the trash. (Of course, I had to bring it all back in this morning because I forgot what day it was. Maybe I should work on my memory, too.) Tonight I folded some laundry and put away some clutter.

For exercise, I spent 15+ minutes playing Wii Fit games yesterday and tonight I took the dogs on a 20-minute walk.

As for writing, well, here I am. It's not the next best novel, nor in any other way earth-shaking, but it's getting me back into the habit of writing. That can't be anything but good. At least for me, for you folks, it's probably pretty painful at times. Ah well, no pain no gain, and I always prefer that the pain belong to anyone but me.

I'll keep you informed, but so far so good.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

A mom?

I am going to be a mom. Not right away, because you know these things take time, but hopefully in the next year I will have at least one daughter. I'm hoping for two.

I don't have the words to describe how odd this feels. It's something I knew would happen one day, but it was always something I would get to someday, like balancing my checkbook or cleaning out the junk drawer.

I came close two years ago, but then I broke my leg and it made me question my ability to be a single parent. When it took me seven months to get out of the cast and over a year to get back to semi-normal, it just made me question myself even more. This last year was even worse, what with Mom having three joints replaced and work going crazy. I just wasn't sure that this was still something I wanted.

I have been thinking about it seriously for the last few months and yesterday I realized that not only did I desperately want to do this, but it was finally time.

In case it isn't clear, I'm going to be a foster parent with the intent to adopt, assuming the girls like me and I don't screw up this parenting thing too badly. I will be asking for a pair of sisters. I figure it's like Rat Terriers, you can't have just one. Back in the day, when I thought about having children, I always hoped for twins. This will be even better, because I won't have to change any diapers.

So, future daughters, let me warn you, I am a little crazy. I am way too attached to my dogs and books. And I do talk too much. I will probably embarrass the crap out of you and make you want to hide when I show up at school.

But I will be there. I will care about you. And I will do my best. I hope it's good enough.