Write On Wednesday: Nervous Wreck

When I can’t sleep, I worry.  About work done and undone,  roads not taken, futures unknown.  When I can’t sleep, thoughts churn in my mind, roiling and boiling in my brain until I jump out of bed, a complete nervous wreck.

Thankfully, sleep doesn’t elude me that often anymore. I fall asleep fairly easily, and mostly sleep through the night unless a hot flash or lonely puppy disturbs me.   But the past two nights, troubled by respiratory congestion and fever, I’ve been thrashing around amongst the covers, unable to rest in body or spirit.

Nervousness runs in our family, I’m told.  My mother has memories of her grandfather suddenly rising from the table in the midst of Sunday dinner and bolting out the door, probably driven away from his meal by the cacophony of seven adult children, their spouses, and innumerable amounts of grandchildren.  “He was an awfully nervous man,” she says, and remembers him pacing outside the house, up and down the dirt road running along beside it.

That urge to bolt comes naturally then, the one I feel when all the worries and anxieties overwhelm me, when I have to sit on my hands to keep from throwing wide the door and running for dear life.  Whenever I see movies of a runaway horse, I know exactly the feeling – that wild-eyed look which comes with the desperate need to escape.

There’s usually no escaping real life, no matter how nervous one gets.   So I  get in my car if the weather is fine and roll down all the windows, drive as fast as I (safely) can, until the rushing wind sweeps the anxiety out of my mind.  On cold and dreary days, I might put on music (Jason Robert Brown, Bon Jovi) and turn it up loud, close my eyes and spin in crazy circles around the room. 

These are only diversions, they solve nothing, yet somehow they soothe a troubled soul and put the wrecked endings of my nerves back together.

How about you?  What makes you nervous?  How do you handle those time when you feel a nervous wreck?

for Write On Wednesday

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Home Alone

I had an unexpected day at home, brought to me by a wretched infection that invaded my upper respiratory system late Sunday night.  Thankfully, this unwelcome guest waited until all our other company had left, and the flurry of activity was over.  Then, it moved right in and set up shop in my throat and nasal passages. 

But enough of those gory details. Because of this nasty bug, I got to stay home from work today, too miserable to even worry about all the tasks that I’d left undone at the end of my rather unproductive day yesterday.  I spent the morning curled up in a chair with hot drinks, a heating pad, and a book.  By afternoon, I was feeling a little better -well enough at any rate to notice that I was home all alone.

That’s right – no husband (at a seminar), no dogs (at Grandma’s) – just me, in my house, like it used to be oh so long ago.

Wow, was that wonderful. 

So I got up, gingerly so as not to set my poor stuffed up head spinning too badly, and walked from room to room.  It was so quiet, and serene, the sun just starting to break through the clouds and illuminate the March sky.  I made some lunch and sat at the kitchen table, listening to the birds preparing for nest building in the elm tree outside.

I realized today, after the busy hectic weekend, and yesterday’s bombardment of tasks at work, just how much I needed some time just to be.  I felt content for the first time in a long while – relaxed, and happy.   I started thinking again about how convoluted my life has become in the last several months, how my work life has changed so much and is so unsatisfying, how I feel this tiny nudge in my soul telling me to move on, to honor the part of my heart that’s yearning to express itself in music or words, to escape from the humdrum everyday and do something that feels right.

For a long time now I’ve been trying to decide which direction to take this life of mine.  Although my day home alone didn’t bring me any definite answers, it made me aware that some move forward is needed.  

How about you?  Do you like being home alone?  And how do you know when it’s time to make a change in your life?

Family Time

In one of life’s usual chaotic convergences, several major events collided on this weekend’s calendar.  The four performances of South Pacific happened to coincide with a major family occasion (baby shower for my cousin Rachel) and my husband’s spring choir tour to Ohio/Indiana.  

But it’s all good… this morning we had three generations of cousins in my mom’s living room (four, actually, if you count the wee one in Rachel’s belly!)  There was much food, laughter, and good times shared in the past couple of days.

My cousins are important to me, although I hardly ever see any of them.  As an only child who is the daughter of an only child, my maternal cousins are all of the second, third, and once-removed variety.  But that doesn’t matter, because whenever we do get to spend time together, we’re amazed at the similarities that crop up.  My cousin Bonnie shares my interest in geneology, and we always talk about taking a geneology trip together, roaming the hills of Kentucky in search of information about our ancestors.  This weekend I learned that my cousin Grace shares my love of writing, and harbors the same fantasies about the writing life that I do.  As Crawford women, we all share certain characteristics – we love good food, we’re extremely close to our families, and we can be a bit obsessive about certain things.  

My mom is now the eldest of the women in this family.  My aunt’s death in September marked the end of the seven sisters who spawned a generation of more than 35 children, including the five you see in this picture.  They’re scattered all over the United States, as is common these days.  So it’s a rare occasion indeed when even a few of us can gather in one place for a little while.  And I think the older we get, the more we cherish these times together, knowing how few and far between they are, and how fleeting is our time on this earth. 

 We rallied at my mother’s house this weekend, and she took care of us in grand southern style – turkey and stuffing casserole,  honey baked ham, homemade cheesecake and carrot cake, hot cinnamon rolls and fried bacon for breakfast, plenty of good strong coffee and cold crisp iced tea.  When four more people were invited for breakfast this morning, she got up at 7 and pulled together hash browns and eggs for 10.  Amazing…if only I can do half as well when I’m 83.

Spending some quality time with these good women was a treat.  We’re all excited about Rachel’s new baby, and while we don’t know whether it’s a boy or a girl,  we do know that it comes from some pretty strong stock.  It was good for me to be reminded of these roots of mine, and to see them stretching out into the future. 

That’s what family is all about.

Tales of the South Pacific

I spent the evening in rehearsal tonight at the high school where I’m accompanying for the musical South Pacific.  If by chance you’re not familiar with the story, it’s set in WWII on some anonymous island somewhere in the South Pacific.  The main characters are forced to confront some serious prejudices about race relations when they find themselves falling in love with the native islanders.  It’s an old musical, and that was a valid issue in those days – hard as that is to believe nowadays, in the 1940’s an American GI would find himself facing some serious problems were he to bring home a girl whose “eyes were oddly made” (as go the lyrics of one of the songs).

Obviously, I connect with this show on lots of levels, and not just because my son is married to a woman from Thailand.  My father was one of those sailors who served in the South Pacific, and when I watch all these baby faced high school boys dressed in their sailor whites, I realize that most of the boys over there fighting that war for real were just about that age.  My dad was – he left high school and joined up as so many of the young men did back then.  So was my uncle, who served in the air force and spent his war time in the Atlantic theater.  Both of them were second generation Americans, and yet this country was their home and when it came time to defend it they didn’t hesitate for a second.  They were no older than any of the boys on that stage tonight, boys who have grown up in a safe suburban environment, whose greatest danger probably comes from talking on their cell phones or texting while driving.

That’s not to say, of course, that the world will always be safe for them, or for their children.  These kids were about 9 or 10 years old on September 11, 2001,  the morning that “will live in infamy” for those who came of age in the 21st century.  For only the second time in the history of our country, we were attacked on our native soil.  It’s a sobering event, certainly, and makes you think differently about your safety and your freedom – makes you less likely to take it for granted.

My friend Pat, who is directing the show, and is a teacher to her very core, has spent lots of time educating the kids about what life was like during the Second World War – the spirit of sacrifice, the rationing, the patriotism.  The Sunday afternoon matinee performance is dedicated to veterans of that war, and they will be admitted free of charge and given reserved seats in the front row of the auditorium.  It’s likely to be an emotional moment for me, as I recall my father, and my uncle, and think about them as young, innocent men, stepping up to make the ultimate sacrifice if necessary for the country they both loved.  I will blink back tears, I’m sure, as I say a silent prayer and thank them for their service.

And as I think about my son, who was able to bring a young woman from the South Pacific home to American without a second thought about prejudice or discrimination. 

That’s really what it was all about after all, wasn’t it?

Write On Wednesday – Birth-Day

First, let me say that I know it isn’t Wedneday…

But, it’s March, and life is crazy for me during this month.  There’s always lots of musical stuff going on, and this year is no exception.  Plus we’re crazy busy at work these days (which is a good thing I know), and my husband has been getting tons of contract work from his former employer (also a very good thing!) but it means I’ve lost my household helper.  I had become quite accustomed to having someone else doing the grocery shopping and the vacuuming and paying the bills…

However, all things work together for good, or so I’m determined to believe. 

And the other thing about March- it’s my birthday month.

Oh yes indeed, in the midst of all the fun and games, I’ve grown another year older.  So, indicidentally, has the Byline.  Because I started this blogging thing as a 50th birthday present to myself, four years ago, and it has been the best present I ever gave me.

Let’s talk for a minute about birth-days.  I’ve always totally loved my birthday.  As a child, it was the occasion of much hoopla.  There was always a big family party, involving all my aunts, uncles, and cousins.  Then there was my “friends” party, which was one of the coveted invitations of the spring season at Horace Mann Elementary.  Back in the 60’s birthday parties were not the dime a dozen occurrence they are in the 21st century, so my parties were quite the event.  My mother threw a mean party, too, with a hot lunch, two kinds of cake, lots of games, and great prizes.   One year our table centerpiece was a Dream Barbie complete with prom dress and accessories (my friend Lisa’s older sister took that one home.)

Of course, as one ages, the significance of birthdays wanes.  What is the thrill in getting another year older? After 50, it’s just more wrinkles, more hot flashes, more grey hairs…and less energy.  So this year I decided to look at my birthday in a different way.  I’m completely disregarding my age, since, after all, it’s just number.  Instead, I’m focusing on me, on all the things I’ve accomplished and all the dreams I’ve yet to see realized.

I’m rather proud to have made it for 54 years, to be married to a man who still loves me, to have raised a healthy, intelligent, handsome son, to have a good relationship with both my (still living) parents, to have the love and respect of friends and colleages, to have work that I enjoy (most of the time).   I’m still standing, as the song goes, and I’m happy to be here.

In the years ahead, of which I hope there are many, I want to write more – maybe polish off those novels that still languish in the bottom drawer.  I want to play more music, maybe get involved in another small ensemble of some sort.  I want to spend more time with my family (including the grandchildren I’m still confident will arrive someday),  and travel more (getting started on that one with a trip to Paris in October!)

This year’s birth-day itself was rather low-key.  I worked all day, but enjoyed a nice birthday lunch courtesy of my boss and office mates.  I came home to an evening of snuggling with the pups in front of the big screen tv, enjoying the homemade chocolate cake my mom made for me.   I don’t need fancy parties anymore – it’s enough to have some “me” time.

After all, that’s what birth-days are all about.

Me.

And I’m worth celebrating.

for Write On Wednesday

Sunday Scribblings -Fluent

When  my son was small, we played a creative sort of game in which he (the artist) would draw pictures for a story which I (the writer) would write.  I would lay on his bed with sheets of plain white paper beside me and start out…”One bright, shiny morning,” I wrote  on such a page, “Peter and Benjamin decided to go into town.”  Then I would hand the sheet to Brian, who waited expectantly beside me at his drawing table, a box of 132 Berol Prismacolor pencils at the ready.   His little hands fairly flew across the page, creating the magical cartoon figures of Bear Town that were like members of our family in those days, creating an illustration to accompany my words.

 We developed quite a rhythm, and I learned to write quickly so as to keep up with his lightning imagination.  If I faltered for a moment, or stopped to think too long, he would urge me on impatiently.  “What next?”  he would say, literally bouncing up and down, practially grabbing the  sheet out of my hand before I was finished putting the words on it.  When the story ended, we’d create a construction paper cover and add it to our growing collection, volumes of stories for every occasion a small boy might wish to write or think about. 

We were good partners in those days, and honestly, I’ve never since experienced such a fluent collarboration.   We were almost like two halves of the same mind.  But children can demonstrate creative fluency in a way that we as adults sometimes forget.  They aren’t encumbered by rules or fears, the woulda shoulda coulda’s that adults concern themselves with when undertaking creative endeavors.   As Brian’s art teacher once said, it was as if his pencil were connected directly to his brain.  There was no critical middleman to stop his creative flow.

That’s what makes true fluency possible, being able to connect directly and without fear to the soul of an idea, and allow it free expression.  My life doesn’t often allow me to do that nowdays, but thanks to those afternoons spent with a small boy, I have a marvelous memory of how glorious it can be.

Write on Wednesday~ Good Neighbor

“You know our good neighbor is moving away,” G. told me one day last summer when I took over a letter  of hers that was mistakenly delivered to my house.

“I know,”  I said sadly.  She was referring to our across the street neighbor, whom we all called by his nickname, Bud, but whom she always referred to as “my good neighbor.”

It was a fitting moniker – he was the man who brought in our trash cans if they blew into the street, collected the mail or watered the flowers when we were on vacation, supplied us all with bounty from his magnificent vegetable garden throughout the harvest season.  He was particularly good to G., a widow in her 80’s who lives in a big four bedroom house on 1/2 acre of land.  He did everything for her ~ from replacing light bulbs to clearing snow to putting gas in her car every Friday.

“I just don’t know what I’ll do without him,” she said with a small shake of her head.

We all feel that way, for he was a man of remarkable goodness and generosity.  Oh, he had his prejudices, similar ones to many people of his generation.   But deep down, he believed in the golden rule, and he lived it to the hilt.

From his easy chair in the living room he had a direct line of vision to my house.   “When are you gonna slow down a little, doll?” he’d say, after watching me go in and out of the driveway six times a day.   He was always the one to call me if a package was on the porch, or if I’d forgotten to close the garage door.  From the day I moved in here as a new bride, almost 34 years ago, he was like my benevolent protector, one I called upon many times.

But now he’s gone, packed up his own 55 years of memories in that house and moved his wife and aging Basset Hound south of here to Ohio, where he’ll be within a stone’s throw of his two daughters and his grandchildren.   “We need to be near our kids now, ” he said wisely.  “We’re gonna need people to help us pretty soon, and I don’t want to have to call on the neighbors to do it.”

Isn’t that ironic?  Even in the end, he was being a good neighbor.

So now we’re waiting for our new neighbor to arrive – a young man in his late 20’s will soon be moving in.  Maybe I”ll bake some cookies for him, take some treats for his dog.  Offer to pick up his mail if he’s going to be away.  A young man all alone like that might be in need of a good neighbor.  I can be one I suppose – I certainly had a good teacher.