Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Short and Sweet

So I just reread my last entry, my but I was chatty that night.

An update for those interested - Dan went to court on Thursday for the hearing on our tow. The first ironic task at hand was to find a legal parking spot on the street because there wasn't any at the courthouse.

So he asks the female police officers hanging out on the street if he'll get towed if he parks his car there and they say no, but it might get stolen. Seriously.

He went in a half hour early. There were three cases in front of him - two poor guys who couldn't speak English found themselves out of luck pretty quickly. The other guy thought pictures printed off of Google Maps would suffice to prove his lack of signage claim. The veteran Chicago prosecutor wasn't inclined to agree with him. Especially after she saw Dan took the time to take and print real photos of the street we were parked on from all angles.

After producing all the documentation she requested and a lot of "Yes Maam", "No Maam" and "Thank You Maam" I think she was sufficiently convinced Dan jumped through all the hoops and was respectful enough to go easy on because before he knew it he was filling out a form to get reimbursed for the tow. When he suggested he might be pushing it and began to explain how there were also two taxi fees, etc. etc. It was confirmed he was pushing it and he was dismissed. Ah well, we recovered the tow money and his car wasn't stolen in the meantime!

Today the kids had a half day at school. When I was waking Maggie up a little after 7:00 am I said "C'mon Magz, it's time to get up for school, but it's only a half day today so you can eat lunch at home." She says half-asleep, "Mommy, if it's a half day of school, why don't we just go for the second half?" And lays her sweet little head back on the pillow.

The kids slays me.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Stand Up Comedy

If I were to describe the details of the past 4-5 days it wouldn't sound much different than a person doing improv at the local comedy club. It has felt a lot like "walking down the road like loose electricity," a borrowed phrase from the lyric master Bono who was definitely on his game Saturday night when U2 kicked off their North American Tour at Chicago's Soldier Field. We were there, but first there was Sportapalooza.

No there are no typos there and no it was not a music event. It was the brainchild of my boss, an overactive sports fiend and former athlete (he would contest the former) determined to get men into church to see it can be fun, competitive and still honor God. He insists you keep score. And he's the Executive Pastor.

Well he and a buddy pulled off the first annual Team Competition Event for men (oh believe me ladies, he received plenty of emails asking when its our turn) and about 20 teams of four showed up at 7:30 am to compete in five different events; football toss, slapshot (hockey), closest to the pin (golf, not bowling :-), baggo, and 3 point shooting (hoops). There was a fairly complicated scoring system that rewarded both individuals and their teams and some majorly cool prizes for the winners.

Dan and Ryan attended this event which Ryan said - and I quote -"That was the best day of my life, Mom. I don't care if Dad goes or not next year, I'm in." Ryan came the third closest to the pin and was competing against mostly adults. We've found what he lacks in humility he makes up for in celebrating his victories. Dan - who was accused of not being atheletic by said boss - won the football toss and the best prizes of the day (in my opinion) - two autographed footballs from the Bears - Brian Urlacher (let's backtrack about 48 hours and pretend he's not out for the season) and Alex Brown. Oh yeah.

They finished around 2:00 pm. Dan came home, showered, changed and got in the car with me to drive to Soldier Field for the long awaited U2 concert. I will not include the full concert review here, that will have to be another post. We got down there around 4:30, parked about a mile away from the stadium, checked everywhere for "permit parking only" signs and congratulated ourselves for saving the $40 parking fee (always jacked up $15-20 for special events nights, clever Mayor Daley).

We found a Jimmy Johns, got some subs freaky fast and made our way over the bridge to find a spot on the field with our general admission tickets. I knew I wouldn't be in the "inner circle." Bear with me here non-U2 fans, those of you who haven't heard about or seen "the claw" (or for that matter the stage for the last four concerts) will have no idea what I'm talking about. U2 like to have their fans close by and so they almost always have a catwalk that brings them out into the audience and surrounds the people closest to the stage. I'm usually a few feet deep on the other side of the catwalk. I won't elaborate on the usually for now, but you probably get the idea.

We got a great spot and got to chat with great people, including some from Green Bay! On Bears turf! Gasp! U2 fans unite across all differences. Tattoo riddled 20 somethings and middle aged suburban mothers all speaking the same language for a night.

The opening band was Snow Patrol which was the best kind of icing on the cake. I love that band and they were clearly elated to be playing to this city at this venue, opening for U2 on a perfect late summer evening. The lead singer did not stop smiling (and quite often laughed his way through songs). He was giddy happy and it spread. It didn't hurt that he's Irish too.

U2's show was amazing. They played so many of the songs I wanted to hear, except for one, which I knew from reading all the spoiler reports they wouldn't sing. It's from the new album and it's called Stand Up Comedy and for some reason I'm the only fan who loves it. I mean I love it. Best song on the album in my mind, and best potential to rock live. But no critics, fans or managers seem to agree with me so alas it was missing from the set list.

It was not the best U2 show I've ever seen and by now you may have guessed I've seen a few, but it was extraordinary (as Bono likes to say) nonetheless. So much so, that it didn't really bother me that it took us 45 minutes to walk from one end of Soldier Field to the other because they only had one 12 foot gate for 70,000 people to pass through. I didn't mind when they refused to let us use the indoor plumbing and had no handwashing stations by the port-o-potties and I didn't mind when people stepped on my flip-flops repeatedly while we exited the premises in true cattle prod fashion. I was okay with the police refusing to let us walk on the opposite side of the street and force all of us onto one sidewalk to make our way back across Michigan Avenue. I had just seen U2 perform live. The night was glorious.

Until we got to the street where we left our car, which...wasn't there. We called the police immediately and two nice cops on bikes rode up and asked how they could help. We told them our car had been stolen and they laughed and said "No, your car wasn't stolen, it was towed." We protested, surely they were mistaken, there were no signs posted at all anywhere on the block that said permit parking only and they nodded and said "Welcome to Chicago." They proceeded to claim that is wasn't "them" as in the police, it was a private towing company and we'd need to go to the central pound to retrieve our car. I asked if we could walk there ignoring the look on my husband's face who had been on his feet for literally 17 hours with the exception of the drive down. They laughed again, "Oh no, it's on lower Wacker, the other side of the district, you'll never find it, but every cab in the city knows where it is." Chicago's finest - very polite, even apologetic, but done with us now.

We walked a little over a mile (I'd never seen the Art Institute with no one standing in front of it before) hoping to grab one of the few cabbies not already flagged down by the 70,000 other U2 fans and finally found one with the only driver in the city who didn't know where the pound was. We found it eventually and probably only got charged one or two extra bucks in the process. We were let off in front of a dirty trailer which took off half the nail of my big toe when I opened the door to it.

We were second in line at 1:00 am as a nice couple who drove in from Indiana for the concert were ahead of us. They didn't know their license plate number, the car was brand new. One of the guys (both of whom looked to be well past retirement age) was kind enough to get me the first aid kit out of his car so I could stop bleeding on his carpet. I prayed and we stayed remarkably calm when they told us our cars weren't there after all. They were at the 6th district pound on Sacramento. About 10 miles west of here. Funny.

So we try to make the best of it, be encouraging to the other couple - hey at least our cars weren't stolen and we can share this cab fare (which was almost $30 when all was said and done). Another dirty trailer in a gang ridden neighborhood this time and a 45 minute check out process and we were set to get our car back. The Streets of Sanitation guys blamed the towing company, the towing company blamed the cops and the guy who finally handed us our receipt as the car pulled up said, "It's Daley, man. Anything for money."

We offered to help the Indiana couple get back to the expressway but they were having none of it, nothing was going to salvage the experience for them. We asked for a copy of the towing order because Dan is going to go to a court hearing to protest it since it was a perfectly legal place to park and the cops even admitted as much. Not to mention that the towing fee alone cost more than the U2 tickets. They aren't allowed to give copies. No they can't be mailed. Nope no faxing. They just smiled when we suggested email. They can be picked up three days later downtown at a separate facility. Nope not the same facility as the hearing. And we better have pictures of the street proving there were no signs posted if we want to be taken seriously. The lastest hearing time was 3:30 pm on a weekday - so take off work and come back into the city. We asked if many people contested and they said hardly any. Shocking.

We had tickets for Sunday night's show as well and had talked about selling them because it's time to be responsible in our economy and really try to obey the first commandment as mature Christians (not Dan's problem). Again, folks, think uberfan. This pretty much clinched the sell decision.

By now the encore of Moment of Surrender had well left my head and we drove home in dense fog to relieve my poor parents of their baby-sitting duties at 3:00 am.

When we got home our oldest daughter Caitlin was awake hacking and coughing and I immediately decided not to go to church even though it was kick-off weekend for all fall ministry and I was a main player in one of them.

We put the tickets up for sale on Craig's List around 1:00 pm (mind you this is the day of the concert and they were floor) and Dan's phone started lighting up like Bono's jacket during Ultraviolet rays. We were grateful to sell them so quickly.

We watched the Bears game that night, thought about the guy from Green Bay from the concert who happened to be a reporter in Green Bay and was covering the game and didn't think about the concert we were missing. Our new QB Cutler threw four interceptions and Brian Urlacher went out after the first half with a season ending injury - separated wrist. I kid you not.

Monday I was off, and Caitlin felt well enough to go back to school so I washed all the sheets to try to eliminate the germs and left around lunchtime to pick Ryan up for his oral surgery appointment. He had two more teeth pulled. We arranged for him to get Nitrous gas this time because he gets super anxious about this kind of stuff. No not like everyone else. Super. Anxious. Turns out he still had to get the novacaine shots on top of the nitrous which wasn't having much effect on him even though the doctor gave him twice the normal dosage.

It went by pretty quickly and he finished like a champ though there were tears and beating of fists during those last two shots.

Got home to an answering machine message that a good friend of ours was in the hospital for tests because he was having symptoms resembling a heart attack. He's in his 40's and in almost perfect physical shape. He's okay, but we didn't know that until a couple of hours ago. Thank God.

Today I encouraged Ryan to go to school because I knew work would be busy and that if I let him stay home he would just play Wii all day. He assured me he would read his Bible as well. I told him if he really wasn't up to going it was fine he could stay home. Then he decided to go. A half hour after I got to work the nurse called for me to pick him up. We had a great day playing board games and I finally cleaned the kitchen table. Work will be interesting tomorrow.

Yep. My life is a little like Stand Up Comedy.

But not nearly as clever as the lyrics to the song.

I got to stand up and take a step
You and I have been asleep for hours
I got to stand up the wire is stretched
In between our two towers
Stand up in this dizzy world
Where a lovesick eye can steal the view
I'm gonna fall down, if I can't stand up
For Your love

Stand up
This is comedy
The DNA lotto may have left you smart
But can you stand up to beauty
Dictator of the heart
I can stand up for hope, faith, love
But while I'm getting over certainty
Stop helping God across the road like a little old lady.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Week in Review

What a difference a week makes.

Since I wrote in detail of my stress induced meltdown I thought it fitting to give a progress report.

I have stepped down from a committee whose mission I fully support.

I have delayed the start up of an on-going group meeting that I enjoy participating in.

I have resisted the temptation to offer to help those who have needs for assistance outside of my normal and on-going commitments.

I've been on two dates with my husband in one day.

I've been able to do my job effectively and cheerfully.

I've received an embarrassing amount of encouraging notes, emails and phone calls from several people who have literally showered me with care.

I've cried less out of overwhelming emotion and more out of overwhelming gratitude.

I've looked closer at my own behavior, relationships and priorities and considered how they align with God's Word, will and wisdom.

I've appreciated my family (bot immediate and extended) more and spent more time with immediate and less time with extended.

I've slept better.

I've laughed more.

I've breathed easier.

I've decided to sell my U2 tickets to the second show and (gasp!) only go to one this tour.

I've listened more carefully when my children have spoken.

I've made room for doing nothing. Literally. Nothing.

I've appreciated my husband's patience.

I've treasured my sister's counsel and my brother's concern and my other sister's company.

I've been to the park four times to watch how my kids interact with their friends and chat with neighbors about the new school year.

I've prayed a lot.

I've been to an art fair with my mom.

I've set limits.

I've kept the limits I set.

I've moved a little bit closer to what my boss calls the right trajectory.

I've felt less tired and more peaceful.

I've been blessed this week.

By many of you.

Thanks for reading and thanks for caring.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Stranger Than Fiction

I last wrote one week and two nights ago. It was the day before school started. We have a week on our belts now, we've been to both curriculum nights and met all the teachers (one for Maggie and Ryan and a whopping eight for Caitlin who began Jr. High). In the past week, we've established a routine and survived the transition and came out relatively unscathed. But last Wednesday - the second day of school was one horrendous day. And it took a week to recover enough to write about.

We woke up at 6:00 am, as we do just about every day now that Cait's bus comes at 7:00. I didn't sleep much - thoughts of projects due at work and paperwork due at school kept my brain buzzing all night in a semi-dream state. Whose idea was it to subject preteen kids beginning a new school where they move from class to class eight times while managing to stop at their lockers, lug all their supplies and maybe hit the bathroom in under three minutes to a 7:30 am school day start? The most impressionable kids, undergoing the most social, emotional and physical changes they will experience in their whole lives are not allowed to sleep much.

Since they provided lunch on the first day and everything went so smoothly, I'm not going to get too down on myself for forgetting to make her lunch on the second day of school. I realized it about 20 seconds after she boarded the bus. Without her bus pass. Which I swear was not included in all the materials I was given on School of Information Day. Cait says its because I didn't stop at the table clearly marked "bus passes." She's probably right. I called several times before school started and talked to overworked, underpaid, stressed out, uninformed employees who said someone else would call me back. They never did. I called the office where I got the fairly polite, but slightly exasperated lecture about needing to pay $2 for the lost pass. As if I ever had it in the first place. They let her on the bus, but not without a warning which to a 12 year old kid with Asperger's Syndrome on the first day of school is akin to a big scarlet letter on the chest. A couple days later, I found a real direct line to the Transporation Department and it was immediately sorted out.

I was already feeling stressed by 7:30 knowing I was going to be late for a meeting at work, realizing suddenly I had two fifth graders and a 7th grader, which did not seem right. Started thinking about Caitlin having trouble opening her locker the day before and glanced out the window while rinsing off breakfast dishes and noticed the pool in the backyard looked considerably lower. Turns out three days of non stop rain are enough to collapse a pool that holds 10,000 gallons of water with one inflatable ring. Ignored the woodchips that had floated from the swingset to the backfence in one long riverlike shape, went out to unplug the filter and walked away.

Pushed thoughts of visiting my uncle who was admitted to a nursing home ten blocks from my home a mere two days earlier with dementia out of my head since there would be no time between work, dinner and two concurrent meetings at church that evening to check on him even though my dad was out of town. Briefly logged onto my computer, don't quite remember why - checking the weather perhaps? and stumbled upon two emails, the first a confirmation from the Girl Scout Troop leader that we couldn't get our $130 refunded by not going on the Camp Retreat that coming up weekend and another between two people close to me having a lot of difficulty relating to each other and I began to feel like the pool collapsing.

Got Maggie and Ryan to the bus stop and began driving to work. Felt really emotional. Decided not to listen to music. Every lyric was taunting me.

Got to the meeting late and tried to sneak in unnoticed in the back. When you are usually the loudest person in the room with the most animated face and taking notes in the first row you don't go unnoticed arriving late in the back. And if it looks like you're not smiling and you work with a bunch of pastors and people who assist pastors they notice. Right away. And touch your arm affectionately. And give you looks from across the room like "Is everything alright?" And you know you're going to cry. And you think - okay - no big deal. I'm having a bad day. These people will understand. I can pull myself together and get all the stuff that's overdue and urgently needing to be done today done. Really. I can. And then your boss who is leading the meeting says instead of giving staff updates today, he feels like there's so much going on in our lives both professionally and personally that we should just spend the morning praying. So we're going to break into groups and share our requests and pray for each other and the ministry. I'm now realizing I'm about to lose all control and as willing as I am to have these people pray for me and even see me cry, I won't be able to get the words out I am so overcome with emotion. So I try to leave discreetly (again impossible in a room full of pastors) and disappear so as not to monopolize the entire group I would have been assigned to - hoping to pray alone in a quiet room and collect myself enough to explain my hasty exit later.

Find a dark empty room in the basement and get on my knees praying while crying uncontrollably. Every time I think I'm going to be able to make my way to the bathroom and reapply makeup it starts up again. Scare the heck out of the poor maintenance guy who comes into the dark room to set up for an event later that day. Head over to the bathroom knowing the meeting is over by now and try again to calm down. Ten minutes later another employee comes in and more sobbing ensues. Make my way up to the office of the woman who directs all ministry for women who is also a friend and finally string together two to three sentences that sort of explain why I'm hysterical. Relax a bit while she prays for me and relax a bit more when she suggests I leave. Immediately. She'll even get my purse and usher me out the back door.

I take her up on it. I send emails to a few key people when I get home - nope, it doesn't look like any of that urgent stuff is getting done today....and then I turn the computer off, read my Bible for an hour and take a two hour nap.

When I woke up I felt better - decided not to attend either concurrent meeting at church and plugged on with my week.

Went on the Girl Scout Trip on Saturday even though Maggie was nervous, our schedule was crammed and I had to drive almost 2 hours to Oregon, IL before 10:00 am with Maggie half-asleep in the back seat. Realized God shows a lot of grace when things seem darkest. We had one of the best days of our lives horse back riding, hiking, eating meals someone else prepared, going on hay rides and best of all I got to confer with all the other moms who are equally stressed out - some for very similar reasons, some have whole new stories, but everyone listening compassionately, nodding, even laughing and encouraging each other, while Maggie played her heart out with girls who were happy there were no boys there to get in the way.

I'll maybe write about the two days I spent with my uncle on Sunday and Monday another day. I experienced first hand the opposite ends of the spectrum for someone suffering from dementia for the first time.

Monday afternoon I had another emotional breakdown.

If you've been in therapy for any length of time (and I was for three years) you can brush off one melt down fairly easily, but two in one week really makes you take a step back and reassess if there isn't something terribly wrong. And when you talk it out with a very patient husband and an equally concerned sister you begin to see why you're so stressed. Because if a friend was doing all the things you were doing you'd be telling her/him to stop everything before they killed themselves and figure out what the real priorities are and limit their time to them.

So it's one week into school and my kids are pretty well adjusted. They've adapted to some new expectations, met some new people, figured out how to navigate through hallways and parking lots, gotten their homework done before dinner and still had time to play with neighborhood friends.

I've stepped down from two major commitments, warned several family members not to expect much from me for awhile and gotten a great deal of support at work to cut back on my work load. I'm navigating some hallways too I suppose.

I thought about how much of this to put out there - some of you don't know me very well at all. Some of you don't think this personal stuff is anyone else's business and we don't need to be advertising our shortcomings. But I'm writing about it anyway. Because many people think that people like me always have it all together and truth is we don't. I'm writing about it because I have a prideful habit of always wanting to look good and I'm trying to care less how I look to anyone but God. I'm writing about it because maybe someone can relate and will feel better knowing they're not alone. And I'm writing about it because I love to write.

They say write what you know. I know this was one crazy week of ups and downs and occasional mass hysteria. I know my husband loves me 100 times more than he did when he married me. I know my family cares deeply for my well being even when I'm making them crazy. I know I have friends who will encourage me even if their circumstances are equally horrific. I know I am blessed to work with people who will stop everything and petition God on my behalf. I know Whom I have believed. And He is doing a work in me.