Mind Games

It’s funny how the mind plays tricks on us, isn’t it? For example, yesterday, I was thinking about Thanksgiving when I was a kid. Most years, it was Mom, Dad, my sister, my maternal grandmother (who lived with us most of my life), and me. Some years, assorted friends, boyfriends, husbands, and/or acquaintances would join us at the table to give thanks, but most years, it was just the five of us. And given how dysfunctional our family was, there’s not really much to be nostalgic about… except there is.

I fondly remember the warmth the house took on both from the food cooking in the kitchen to the better moods my family would don for the day. I remember setting the table (my favorite chore) – picking out just the right table cloth, napkins, china, and silver – and then folding the napkins into some sort of fantastic concoction that everyone would ooh and ahh over. I would even go so far as to make fancy place cards some years. But mostly, I remember feeling happy and satisfied around the table in a way I rarely felt in that house.

Dinner at the Bain house was normally a time for fighting and rushing; it’s no wonder I have food issues today. But Thanksgiving was different, for the most part. We were relaxed and I don’t remember any fights (though maybe there were a few over the years). And after the remains of the turkey and stuffing had been put away in the refrigerator to be brought out later for sandwiches, we almost always played games – Careers, Trivial Pursuit, Monopoly, Yahtzee, Life, Boggle, Balderdash, Outburst, and my sister’s personal favorite, Pit. My family was at their best when they were playing games. We teased each other and bonded. We laughed and enjoyed each other, and everyone forgot about their own personal angers and resentments and issues, if only for a couple of hours.

Since I’ve been divorced from Thing 2, I’ve been adrift from traditions of any sort. Each year, the holidays have been something different – sometimes spent with friends, sometimes spent with family, sometimes spent alone. Now that both of my parents are gone, my family consists of my sister, my brother-in-law, and me, and since we live 1,500 miles apart, it’s still an adrift situation, but it feels even more so since my mother died 9 months ago, which is kind of odd, since we really haven’t had that constant family thread since my father died in 2002. But now that there are no parents, it seems more pronounced.

The past few years, I’ve spent Thanksgiving with my good friends, Juanita and Erich, along with their family and friends and they have truly welcomed me in as family, too. This year, I was invited to both J&E’s and to the home of some new friends, who happened to ask me first. Being at Brian and Deborah’s with their teenage daughters and a friend, was a close approximation to being part of a family – eating together, laughing, teasing each other, hearing each other’s stories… and playing board games. It made me a bit nostalgic.

Last night, as we played Cranium, Pictionary, and Rumikub, I couldn’t help but think of my parents and how much fun they would have been having, had they been there. My mother, especially, could be so silly and funny when she wasn’t caught up in her own anger and drama – I like to think I was seeing more of her true and better self when she was at play.

Maybe that’s what I seek each Thanksgiving and Christmas – that sense of play in each of us. Maybe being playful does release our true and best selves, the person we first were when we were children, before we learned to be cynical or jaded or too serious. There are mind games we play with each other and there are mind games we play only with ourselves. And then there are games, the good kind… the ones that make us laugh, and tease, and clap, and hoot, and high five each other… played with a board, or cards, or dice, or molding clay, or spinners, or little ships with posts sticking out of the bottom of them.

I vote for more of those kinds of games and less of the mind games!

Advertisements

Inspiration

It’s amazing how quickly inspiration dries up when you’re working full-time and return to that day in, day out routine of getting up early, driving to work, working, driving home, making dinner, trying to fit in some hobbies… it leaves little time to think, contemplate, plan, or write. I’m going to have to carve out some time and stick to it in order to continue to blog and also find some time to just “be.” To just sit and think about everything and nothing.

Granny Squares

When I was 6 or 7 years old (or maybe even younger), my mother and grandmother taught me to crochet. My Girl Scouts Brownie troop was making granny squares to be joined into one big afghan that we would give to an elderly person in the community, as I recall. Both Mom and Grandma had bags and bags of leftover yarn from other, prior projects. They were both talented craftswomen – both sewed, knit, and crocheted lovely clothes for my and my sister’s Barbie dolls, some of which I still have. In addition, they learned to quilt, do crewel embroidery, needlepoint, ceramics, candlewick embroidery, you name it.

My father and grandfather were no slouches, either. They had their own crafts and hobbies: woodworking, leather tooling, painting, playing the organ, accordion, trumpet, flugle horn, trombone, and banjo… being creative was just part of being in our family.

Today, I decided to tackle my extraordinarily disorganized home office. I keep the rest of my house very neat and tidy, but for the past couple of years, my home office has been the dumping ground for paperwork to be filed, crafts both new and half done, and just the general detritus of life. Because I’m starting a new job in two weeks, I decided it was time to get down to business and clean out, organize, etc.

As I was going through a pile of craft supplies, I came across something that tore at me in an unexpected way: my mother’s crochet hook case. A simple, beige canvas pouch with a zipper across the top that held all of her crochet hooks and row markers. Some of them, especially the aluminum hooks, are at least 50 years old and show some wear, and the minute I unzipped that case and reached in to pull out a hook, I was overcome with a swell of emotion and sadness because Mom isn’t here anymore.

My mother died this year, in February, and though I miss her, it’s not normally an ache inside me. These crochet hooks produced an ache in me that continues as I write this. I remember her hands. I remember her repeatedly showing me how to hold the yarn and the hook and how to create the various stitches. I remember the first granny square I made, full of vibrant colors.

Crafting was a love my mother and I shared, even after I moved 1,500 miles away. I would send her patterns for scarves or afghans I thought she might like, and she would do the same. The last couple of years, when she was more infirm, she wasn’t as devoted to her crafts, too caught up in the day-to-day ministrations of taking her pills, and trying to keep the pain away… and medicating herself with alcohol.

But the December before last, after my sister and brother-in-law moved in with her and began taking really good care of her, Mom started to rebound a little. She was more lucid and happier than she had been for some time. So much so that a couple of months before she died, she joined a prayer shawl ministry her former church sponsored.

After Mom died, my sister sent me most of Mom’s crafting stuff, including some of her yarn stash, some crewel embroidery kits, an unfinished prayer shawl, and those wonderful crochet hooks.

After I complete the craft project I’m currently working on (a counted cross-stitch of pink and purple anemones), I plan on finishing that prayer shawl and sending it to the ministry in memory of my mother. And I’ll definitely be using her crochet hook size J to do the job.

I think Mom would approve.

Squirrels and Interviews (a/k/a Be Careful What You Wish For)

No, not squirrel interviews! That would just be weird. Besides, what would they talk about? Nuts?

However, watching the squirrels who cavort outside my window reminds me of how lucky I am to be unemployed right now. I know, that sounds crazy, right? Most of the time, I walk around wondering “when am I going to get a job, when am I going to get a job?” But on days like this, when the weather has turned cooler (71 is cool in SE Texas!), and the squirrels are playing and burying their nuts, and I’m working on my laptop, looking out the window at the beautiful oak trees in my yard, I wonder “how long can I stay unemployed, how long can I stay unemployed?”

All of this oak tree/squirrel nirvana may be coming to a close for me, though. Maybe. Remember, I’m cautiously optimistic, right? Tomorrow, I have interviews from 2:00-5:00 PM for a job as a Sr. Training Specialist in an academic setting, and it’s a position in which I am very interested. I’m excited, but I’m trying to temper that excitement somewhat. It’s also the first real lead I’ve had in the three months I’ve been unemployed. I’ve had phone interviews, and even a few in-person interviews, but nothing has panned out. Friends tell me that’s because those weren’t the jobs for me, but it did have me down.

A couple of weeks ago, though, something in me changed, and I started to feel lighter and more hopeful – just a little – and maybe that little bit of optimism has had an effect on things. It seems far fetched because all I did was submit my resume online like I normally do, but in the last few days, I seem to have more real, tangible leads. Not only did I get a phone interview for the job I just mentioned, but last night I received two emails for two other jobs, and they want to set up phone interviews, too! And one of those jobs is one I could potentially be excited about (after I hear more from the hiring manager).

I’ve counseled friends about the power of positive thinking, but I don’t think I’ve really been believing in it myself lately. And I haven’t been believing in myself lately, either. A few weeks ago, I told my friend Jonathon that I felt like I had lost my mojo and he told me I hadn’t lost it, I had just temporarily misplaced it. And I think he’s right; I had misplaced it for a while. I felt so confident in myself and my abilities at Jones Day… I knew what I was doing (most of the time) and I was really good at my job. When I lost that, I lost a little piece of myself, I think, or at least misplaced it. (We won’t even go into tying up too much of our identities with our jobs right now.)

So, of course, now that things are starting to percolate and it looks like I might be closer to finding a new job, I’m a little anxious. What if they don’t like me? What if they do like me? What if I get the job and I hate it? What if I like it? Who will eat lunch with me? Will the work I do there be as good as it was at Jones Day? What if I fail? What if I succeed?

What if I’m great?

Puppies!

Who doesn’t love a basket full of puppies? Two days ago, Scarlott, a Great Dane in the Service Dog Project out of Ipswich, MA, gave birth to eleven (11!) live puppies, and one who was stillborn. Scarlott’s puppies will eventually be placed with people who have Multiple Sclerosis, individuals with Friedreich’s ataxia, and veterans with disabilities. Each dog receives extensive training for balance, and once a dog is paired with an applicant, the dog is uniquely trained to suit the recipient’s needs. I am completely hooked on watching the litters grow up and have tuned into the Service Dog Project (and other dog breeding programs like it) for more than two or three years via their live webcam feed on http://www.explore.org.

Wednesday night, when Scarlott was in the throes of puppy birth, I (and 2,400 other people) was tuned in as puppy #8 was born, unmoving. One of the volunteers worked on that puppy for more than 30 minutes and was able to save its life, much to my relief. I was literally misty eyed and could barely remove my eyes from the screen! Then, to my dismay, puppy #10 was stillborn and despite the volunteers’ best attempts, the pup could not be saved.

Now, two nights on, Scarlott appears to be an able and loving mother to her eleven remaining pups. She is attentive, anxious, loving, nurturing, exhausted… all of the things you would expect a new mother to be.

Scarlott and Pups

I wonder if she might have any memory now or in the future of the puppy who didn’t make it. We don’t know that much about the cognitive function of dogs or what role memory plays for them. If the videos of dogs welcoming home their masters and mistresses from Iraq and Afghanistan is any indication, though, it is apparent that dogs do have memory – very acute memory indeed.

Zoey, my beloved Black Labrador Retriever, was one of seven puppies, and I got her when she was about 10 or 11 weeks old. I’ve often wondered if she remembers her mother or her brothers and sisters (or her father, who was named Rowdy Piper!). She certainly seems to miss me whether I’m gone for 30 minutes or a week… is that simply because I feed her and give her treats and toys? Or is there a deeper, abiding love there?

I don’t know about Zoey, but there certainly is for me. I have no greater pleasure than having her in my life.

Porn

Yeah, that got your attention, didn’t it?

This afternoon, I decided to treat myself to a manicure (CND shellac in “Red Baroness” if you must know) at my favorite salon, Radiance Nails. Apparently, they have added streaming Netflix to their television and one of the younger male nail technicians was browsing through the titles when he arrived at one he thought might be good. Five minutes later, we were all treated to full frontal nudity and moaning (to be fair, it was probably an R-rated movie), but still, it was pretty funny. All of the clients in the salon cracked up, as did the other nail techs, except for the manager, who immediately took ownership of the remote control and decided on “The First Wives Club” instead.  The poor kid – he was so embarrassed.

It does make you wonder what they do when clients aren’t in the salon, though, doesn’t it?

In other news, today is Google’s 15th birthday! If you go to their site today, you can hit the piñata and win candy by playing with their candy doodle! Sounds dirty, doesn’t it?

Celebrate Google's 15th Birthday!
Celebrate Google’s 15th Birthday!

Carrie Bradshaw

Being unemployed/underemployed has allowed me the time to catch up on reruns of “Sex and the City.” I never watched the show in its initial 6 season run, so it’s been fun to see what all the hype was about. Now that I’ve seen it, I’ve decided I’m definitely Carrie Bradshaw. Sadly, not in the lithe, slim, designer-dressed way she is, and I don’t live in NYC, but in ways emotional, I identify most with her character. At times, I’ve probably been a Samantha, or a Miranda, or even a Charlotte (though very little Charlotte!), but Carrie’s outlook on love and dating are probably most like my own, down to her over-thinking and analyzing her dating relationships… and sometimes not seeing the forest for the trees.

Take my most recent relationship, which, by the way, is much like Carrie’s relationship with Big. My boyfriend’s name was even John! John and I dated off and on for five years. He’s a partner in a law firm, very successful, divorced, two kids, kind, thoughtful, generous, lots of qualities that I want in a man. Unfortunately for me I discovered too late (or perhaps ignored too often) that he a) was emotionally unavailable, and b) leads a very compartmentalized life. He never wanted to introduce me to his friends, kids, or co-workers, although he had met mine; he didn’t want to take me to work functions, etc., etc., etc. For awhile, I was probably OK with that since I was healing from my divorce, but recently, it’s become more of a problem for me.

I’m 49. I’m only 10 months away from 50. I don’t want to grow old alone. And beyond that, I’d like companionship, intimacy, love, help, a confidante, etc. And John just isn’t willing to give that to me. He likes the generally superficial level at which our relationship exists. We talk about everything under the sun, but truly, I can’t say it’s a deep, abiding relationship. He can’t even tell me he loves me, for cryin’ out loud!

So, after much consideration, soul-searching, and crying, I finally broke it off. For good this time. It was really hard, but it had to be done if I’m going to love me and move forward with my life. And I love myself too much to settle for less than someone being open-hearted and emotionally available to me.

I hope John and I will always remain friends. We are now, and have been for five years, but now it will be without the sex. We’ll see how it goes.

For Want of a Trainer

My friend and former colleague, Rob G., shared this poem with me from Legal IT
Professionals columnist, Jeffrey Brandt.  It wonderfully “articulates the essence of legal IT
training” as Rob put it, and I agree:

For Want of a Trainer

For want of a trainer, the skill was lost.
For want of a skill, the application was lost.
For want of an application, the document was lost.
For want of a document, the matter was lost.
For want of a matter, the client was lost.
For want of a client, the law firm was lost.
And all for the want of a trainer.