Saturday, March 30, 2013

College Campus Visits & Looking Towards the Future

My son and I traveled to a few different colleges this past week.  I don't know what it is about this that makes it more fun than sitting on a beach in Florida over spring break.  I really love it.  I traveled with my daughters to various schools and the same feeling was there.  It's all about looking towards the future. 

My son's a sophomore, and he'd love to play baseball in school.  Most folks look for the science building, or campus cafeteria first.  I head out to the baseball field before checking in on the campus.  It turns out he actually did visit Florida Gulf Coast last year while playing in a Florida tournament. "There were palm trees behind the baseball field, mom."  That's nice.

The students on campus are wonderful.  I love being around them.  They're always looking forward to the future and they don't have to be in the, "real world," for a while.  Maybe that's why they're always smiling and looking pretty happy.  You see that same look on the prospective students.  Optimism.  Sad to know that rejection letters wait in the background.  Enjoy it while I can.

I can't put any value on sharing this time of optimism with my son.  I don't care how many schools and baseball fields I visit.  I'm just grateful that I can be there with him on this journey.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Spring Is In The Air

I was out this afternoon and there it was, that something in the air that tells you spring is here.   I'm looking forward to getting something new done around the house.  What if this is the year that I plant flowers that turn out like the ones on the covers of the garden magazines?  It's possible.

My family is planted in front of the television set watching the NCAA Tournament.  Will this be the year my son chooses the winner?  It's possible.  Did you know there's a school called, Florida Gulf Coast? 

My daughter left for a fun trip to New York and Florida.  I'll be checking out colleges with my son.  We're not traveling far, but it's fine.  Besides, it won't be long before he leaves for the dreaded college spring break trip.  I'll enjoy my time with him.

I love this time of the year.  I wonder what spring smells like for Blago?  The possibilities for me are endless. 

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Marathon Television Is Too Much Fun

Everyone I know talks about their addiction to the PBS series, "Downton Abbey."  The story covers the family and servants who live in a castle in England during WWI.  I'm too busy watching shows like, "My Strange Addiction." 

Today I started a project at home, and turned on the Downton series.  LOVE my ComCast.  I started with the first season, and by the end of the night, I was on season 2.  No commercials and I didn't have to wait until next week to find out what happens.

No excuses.  There was no one to tell me I had to turn off the T.V.  I do this every once in a while.  I wish I could do it more often.  So grateful that I can do it at all.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Extraordinary Moments Count

Yesterday was a wonderful day.  It was filled with extraordinary moments.  Blago's wife said he has missed those ordinary moments with his family, and those are the times in my own life that I've recognized in this journal. 

However, when the extraordinary moments come along, you have to rejoice and hug them, and be grateful you're there to enjoy.

I spent the afternoon at an intimate bridal shower celebrating with extended family.  Great lunch at the restaurant that serves the best dessert.  Children who were babies yesterday, showed up as beautiful and smart 6 and 7 year olds.  So nice to catch up.

Last night was my cousin's wedding.  He was one of my dad's favorite nephews.  I gave him a hug and told him how proud my dad would have been of him.  He was 7 years old when my dad passed away.  He now owns one of Chicago's favorite restaurants...literally named, "Chicago's Favorite Pizza & Italian Restaurant," by WGN-TV.  I haven't seen my cousins in a long time.  It was a fun night. 

My daughter brought a young man she's been dating.  It was the first time we met.  So nice to see her happy.  I'd be crushed if I only knew him through photos.  I gave him a hug.  That what you do when extraordinary moments happen.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

How Time Really Does Fly By

The bigger lesson for me as I noted all the joys I found in my life this past year while being free to enjoy and appreciate them, is that time really goes by so incredibly fast.  Yesterday, I sat down to ask myself what I learned by giving gratitude for a year.  In the back of my mind, I thought of how fast the year went.

Ironically, this morning I read that Patti Blagojevich, the gov's wife, felt the same way.  She said the year has, "has flown by so quickly."  Lucky for them. 
She also said that her husband missed the big things, like their daughter passing her driving test.  But he also missed the smaller things, like breakfast with the kids before they leave for school.  Ordinary moments. 

Ordinary moments are what I've discovered in this exercise in gratitude. You can't pinpoint them until you actually look for them.  You don't realize how wonderful the breeze feels against your face while you're sleeping until you make a genuine effort to appreciate it...the ordinary moments.  There's an atitude adjustment that starts to take place. I don't drive past mansions along the lake and envy those families any longer. I'm grateful to have a comfy house of my own with a working shower!  I buy fresh flowers to place in the house as a peace offering.  Thank you for being my shelter.  I know it's corny.

When I look for and give gratitude for those ordinary moments, it eases the pain when crap hits the fan.

Patti said the gov. is learning to play the guitar.  That's nice.  I should bring out the music books and practice the piano.  However, I was disgusted by his free time.  Why are we, as taxpayers, paying for someone to learn to play the guitar and teach history lessons to prisoners, and keep up with his jogging?  Workers are needed everywhere to teach history to less fortunate children, to clean bathrooms, to work in soup kitchens, to clean highways. What happened to chain gangs?

You've taken everything from this man.  His family, his license to practice law, his humilty.  Why sit in prison?  Let him go home and WORK for the state of Illinois.  For FREE. 

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Living Life Like I Just Got Out of Prison...One Year Later

It's been one year since I watched Blago walk through those prison doors.  Doors open, he steps inside, and my head spins.  The reporter declares that former Governor Blagojevich is going to be an old man when he gets out in 14 years.  An old man.  How can that be?  He's MY age. 

Blago spoke the night before he left for prison on how grateful he was for everything.  I promised myself right there that I would be grateful that I wasn't Blago.  I wanted to remind myself that being free was something I couldn't take for granted.

Most people had the same reaction when I mentioned this blog.  "That's really a stupid idea."  I know.  It's not like I ever liked the guy, or gave him a second thought.  I could never pronounce the name, so I called him, "Gov. blowfish." I threw a kitchen towel at the radio when I heard he was elected
governor.  "Can't anyone see he's an idiot?"

So now I have to step back and ask myself what this past year has been like for me.  Has this exercise in gratitude been a stupid idea after all?  Ironically, yesterday put it all into perspective.

I woke up late, since I didn't have to work.  The sun was shining through the curtains, and the birds were singing.  My window was open and a cool breeze was coming through.    Stop and think about this. 

a.  I woke up late.  You don't get to wake up late in prison...with 4 pillows!

b.  The sun was shining through curtains.  No windows in prison cells.

c.  My window was open, so I could hear the birds.  In prison, there's an alarm or bells to wake you.

d.  I woke to a cool breeze.  Seriously.  That won't happen in a prison cell.

I had a great cup of coffee and fresh blackberries with my oatmeal.  Later, I took the dog for walk, but since it was so beautiful out, I walked over to the woods for a change of scenery. 

a.  Who has fresh blackberries in prison?   (I spotted them in the grocery store and asked myself that same question, and that's why they were in the fridge.)

b.  I was free to change my usual walk with the dog.  I took a different route.  New scenery.  When you exercise in prison, it's the same view day after day after day.

I swear this is the truth.  The mailman dropped off my new CD from Amazon.  My son was shocked that I still order these instead of downloading.  Anyway, "Stevie Ray Vaughan's Greatest Hits, " came in the mail.  I took it to the bathroom, turned on the hot shower, and Stevie rocked the house.  I even touched up the grey in my hair. 

a.  A long, hot shower is the one luxury I no longer take for granted.
b.  To play my favorite music as loud as I want is pure joy.
c.  I can wash that grey right out of my hair!  (Sorry, Blago.)

I was home when my son came in from school.  He was eating a snack, while  we caught up on things, and I drove him to his tutor. 

a.  I will always be grateful for this simple joy.  Imagine being unable to see my children.   Imagine not being there in person to have a heart to heart talk. (I believe this former governor is a stronger man than I've given him credit for being.)

After dropping off my son, I drove to the grocery store.  Aisle after aisle of choices.  I ended the night at a department store, picking out a new pair of shoes.

You get it, I know.  But it's reminding yourself that gets tricky.  When I was at the grocery store, it wasn't a chore anymore.  I was genuinely grateful for all the choices I had.  I didn't even care that I couldn't afford the expensive shoes.  I was just happy to treat myself to something new for spring.  You don't do that if you're Blago.  You don't do anything I did in ONE day when you're not free.

I promised myself that I wasn't going to be watching Blagojevich leave prison on television 14 years later, and wondering what I had done with my own life.  I've completed the first course towards a degree in a specialized field that I work in.  Not so sure I would have been motivated to do this before.  I also paid off credit cards.  The very last thing I wanted to know is that Blago had saved more money cleaning toilets than I had saved. 

I also forced myself to go out and do things because I was free to.  My husband and I went out on New Year's Eve this year instead of watching the ball drop on TV.  We had a blast.  Going out to lunch has become my new obsession.  I love to linger.  Love to try new restaurants. Because I can. 

Was it watching a man my age, a man with an almost identical background as mine, walk into prison for 14 years, or was it the idea that in 14 years I would be an old lady that caused me to freeze?  Both.  I just don't want to plod along and not be grateful for my freedom.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Being A Parent Is Like Riding A Bull

This past week was incredibly tough for my family.  There were times when being behind bars, away from it all, sounded really good.  An act of horseplay, ended up with a young man needing 2 staples on his head.  My son wasn't the kid with the injury.  One of the last calls you ever want, is the call from Dean of Students.  "Your son is in my office."  Oye.  Run. 

The night before, I went in to say goodnight to my son, and found him feeling sad about something.  "My girlfriend and I are...taking a break from each other. "  Oh, sweetheart.  Your first break up.  I was the person whom he confided in.  He trusted me.  I was able to touch him.  Hold his face.  Rest my head on his chest.  Talking to him over the phone from an isolated cell would have crushed me. 

The call from the Dean's office came the next morning.  Though not intending to injure the other boy....with a highlighter.... it happened.  Everyone agreed.  Not acceptable behavior.  One week suspension.  One week.  No school.  No friends.  No baseball.  I drove my son home.  I looked at him sitting there in the backseat.  Being a parent is like riding a bull.  My only goal is to hold on.  I'm not letting him throw me off.  Where's my strength? 

Home schooling is a great tool.  Try it.  Teaching him world history and discussing the industrial revolution was more fun for me than him.  Keeping up with math and chemistry meant was a different story, but a tutor helped.  I cheated.  The point is, I wasn't thrown off. 

The rest is up to my son.  He has to face his coach, the team, the students.  Rumor has it that some boys on the baseball team are trying to set him up so he can face another suspension.  That gives THEM more playing time.  Welcome to the real world, my friend.  My son is playing with kids who put the "I" in team. 

I have to get back to my routine, work, groceries, flat tire.  My son is back to his routine.  We're together.