Chasing Contentment

Friday, August 31

This has been a long week... good, but a bit emotionally draining.

Griff's begun his gifted classes this week, and his gifted teacher has noticed some things that point to a developmental disorder. It's a physical disorder with fine motor skills called dysplacia, and as we've done some research on it this week, we've been astounded at how closely the descriptions of it fit Griff... and Mike as a child. One website we read noted that it was often a hereditary disorder, so the similarities to Mike are important.

A lot of things that we just chalked up to 'just Griff' are actually related to the dysplacia.... his really horrible writing, how long it takes him to complete assignments, him not being able to ride a bike or tie his shoes (still, at 9!), the walking on his toes (Mike still does that.). All of those things fit in with the dysplacia.

His gifted teacher is a God-send, as she picked up on this and was able to identify it within a couple of days. She's been appalled that no one had noticed and identified his problems previously. She's also being an advocate for him in the school system... she met with Mike, the guidance counselor and Griff's regular teacher today to outline a basic plan.

Unfortunately, the county occupational therapist doesn't want to evaluate Griff because he's 'gifted,' which makes me angry on behalf of Griff and of all the kids who aren't fully assisted. It's as if she believes that because he's intellectually advanced, he couldn't possibly be physically behind. Thankfully, the gifted teacher really is advocating for him, and again, we are so grateful for her.

[  posted by Chel on Friday, August 31, 2007  ]

Tuesday, August 28

Today is my one-year anniversary at my new job. I honestly didn't think I'd make it this far, both in terms of I thought it would be a temporary job while I looked for something in my field and in terms of I really thought they might fire me for not being good enough.

Two of my section members were in the break room with me at one point today, when one of them said that this was her dream job. I found that highly confusing as I cannot imagine anyone dreaming of being an insurance claims adjuster (she said she wanted to be a cop but her father - a cop - said women shouldn't be cops - this was 30 years ago - so she should find something else that would be investigative, so she went into claims.).

I then told the two of them that today was my Failure Day (as in failure to get a job in my field).

Last week, when Griff was worried about going to fourth grade, I went in to talk to him. And I began by saying, "You know, Griff, you're a lot like me in a lot of ways." And I was going to continue by saying that we tend to worry about things so much that the anticipation is most always worse than the actual event.

But he finished my statement with, "because we see the negatives and not the positives." Well. Wasn't that a lovely little kid reality check? He's right, of course. I'm a Negative Nellie. But I'm working to get better.

So, on the occasion of my Failure Day, here are the positives...
* I tried something completely new to me.
* I kept at it.
* I am, at this point, at least marginally good at the job, and I have continued to improve every month.
* I've met some very interesting people, and I've made at least one friend. Ok, I'm friendly with lots of people, and I've made one friend.
* I am open about my Christianity. I swear, that is the only reason I can fathom why God would put me in this job and not give me any other opportunities. I'm certainly in the minority, and I am not sure at all whether my witness is good or bad, but I'm trying.
* I now know a myraid of ways you can die in a car crash, which has made me a better driver and a wretched passenger.
* I can read a medical bill from the hospital and know when to call and protest a charge... handy in my home life as well.
* I have good health insurance thanks to this job that doesn't quit suit me yet.
* I am more confident about my abilities to try something new now.
* I have experienced such a lack of creativity in my job that I have attempted new creative hobbies that I wouldn't have considered in the past.
* I am in a position where people can confide in me (and they do, for whatever reason... but I'll write more about that another time).
* I didn't quit. I may have mentioned this one before, but it bears repeating. When quitting would have felt immeasurably better for me, I didn't. I kept going in to work (crying many days on the way and at work) because the salary I bring home is important to our family. I didn't quit.

Yay, me.

[  posted by Chel on Tuesday, August 28, 2007  ]

Friday, August 24

Mike and I started watching "Monk" years ago and convinced Mandy and Josh to give it a try, too (Now, I'm trying to convince them to watch "Psych" which Aleece and I both love.). And when I saw USA promoting the Monk bobblehead traveling the world, I wanted one so badly.

But I don't so much care where everyone's bobbleheads go. But how much fun would it be to send my own all over the place? With friends?

And so I sent one to Mandy as a surprise. The plan is that we're going to take the bobblehead all sorts of groovy ... and blissfully mundane ... places with our families and take photos with the bobblehead and at least one member of our families. And we're going to mail the bobblehead and the photos back and forth so that we can create this funny, groovy album of photos through the years. I can hardly wait!

Mandy took the first picture yesterday of Olivia wearing her Green Bay jersey for the game on television. Seems perfect that our little Olivia is our first Monk bobblehead photo girl.

[  posted by Chel on Friday, August 24, 2007  ]

Thursday, August 23

I'm home today... took a vacation day to wait for the washing machine repair man. Turns out, it was two men and it took them two hours to fix it, but it's humming along happily now.

This was the culprit. Notice how the fork appears to be flipping me off. Figures. I haven't been able to use the washer for more than a week thanks to this obsene fork. Literally, the laundry is piled on the floor in my bedroom (yeah, that's right... it's mine. Mike gets to sleep there. I shared a bedroom for nine months my freshman year in college, and it didn't go well. ), and the laundry is knee deep in there.

But, I think this is karma giving me a mental health day. (I once had a friend who was a big advocate of the mental health day!) This is the first day since we moved here that I've been alone in the house all day. Now, sure, I've got a ton of things to do before I go get the kids in a few hours, but still... the music is mine, and the chai latte is cold, and I'm feeling all warm and fuzzy.

I've emailed with old friends, picked up the house, read a bit of the only parenting magazine I've ever liked (Cookie), and I've had a delightful conversation with Griff's school nurse, who was bright enough to immediately follow her introduction with, "it's not an emergency call." Smart lady.

And so, I'm going to go celebrate Laundry Fork Day with some bagel bites...some of my favorite junky food.

[  posted by Chel on Thursday, August 23, 2007  ]

Monday, August 20

Griff had a good day in school today, thankfully. Thanks to everyone who prayed for him today. I'm hoping that this positive day will be a positive start to the semester.

[  posted by Chel on Monday, August 20, 2007  ]

Sunday, August 19

Tomorrow, Griff will start his second new school in two years. We bought our home in this particular neighborhood based entirely upon it being zoned for a good school. And last year, our neighborhood was rezoned.

Before we moved, Griff attended an academic magnet school where all of the kids were smart. If everyone is smart, no one can really be singled out as a nerd or a dork or a whatever simply for being smart. If anything, it was the other way around... the kids talked about the kids who weren't doing as well.

Griff will talk to just anyone, but he's always just had one best friend. And leaving his friend, Will, was really hard for him. He missed having that familiar face, that comforting presence at school last year.

The poor kid... when I think about all that he had to endure last fall, it breaks my heart. He left his best friend, his home and all that was comfortable to him, and he had to make the transition from a very structured, intense magnet school to a general public school where the teacher had to teach to a group of students with vastly different learning paces and knowledge levels.

Because it was a hard year for him last year in which he never really felt completely comfortable, he's really worried about this new school year. The poor thing came in not long ago in tears (which rarely happens these days) about having to go to school tomorrow.

He's worried he won't make friends. He's worried they'll actually do work tomorrow and that he won't be able to do the work. He's just generally feeling insecure and uncertain.

And I wish I could somehow take that pain away from him... snap my fingers and magically make a friend appear for him... find some way to convince him of how delightful he really is... to assure him that even if he is a nerd, nerds often turn out really well as grownups.

Griff and I have formed a bond of sorts in this move as it has been hardest on him and me, and we have shared special times as we both cried and longed for something different. It is nearly impossible for me to hold him as he cries and not cry myself. I wonder if our Heavenly Father is crying with us as we cry.

If He is, I'm hoping some of those tears are tears of joy as He already knows the friends He has for Griff.

[  posted by Chel on Sunday, August 19, 2007  ]

Saturday, August 18

Last week, Griff saw the same allergist/asthma doc I saw the week before, and the testing yielded good and bad results. The good is that he's grown out of several of his food allergies - including eggs, which thrilled him. He also did not test positive for fish, and so we're having the salmon he requested tonight. Mike will grill it on our grill, so it's a very controlled situation.

I'm sure I'll be too nervous to enjoy my meal, but he's pretty excited about it.

He did test positively for several airborne allergies which is new. He'll have to start shots here in a few weeks. Thankfully, the child has the highest pain tolerance I've ever seen in a kid. I've always believed that God knew Griff would have some medical things to overcome, and His grace was to give him the ability to withstand the pain.

The bad news was that the allergies he still has - peanuts and shellfish especially - are worsening. The doctor said Griff should never be more than three to four minutes away from his Epi-pen, which is a sobering thought. But, in the end, we've been doing that for years, so it's not really as if anything will change for us.

Except that now, we get to have grilled salmon.

[  posted by Chel on Saturday, August 18, 2007  ]

Whew... we made it through the fish. And now he's asking to have a whole boiled egg. Mike told him that might be too much for the mama tonight... that Mike's a wise man.

[  posted by Chel on Saturday, August 18, 2007  ]

Friday, August 17

What makes a marriage last? What makes one crumble? What makes one relationship remain vibrant while another fizzles?

Years ago, Mike and I knew a couple who got a divorce, and it flipped me out at the time. I figured if it could happen to a couple like that, what would stop it from happening to me? Now, Mike, of course, was nice and laid-back about it and waited me out. After a few days or being flipped out, I wasn't any longer, and we went on as usual.

Last night, a friend of mine emailed and told me that a couple we all knew from church was getting a divorce. And I'm delighted to say that I didn't flip out about me and Mike at all. But it does break my heart for this other couple.

And it makes me wonder about what happened. Mike and I weren't close with this couple, but we went to church with them for years. And for a time, the year before we moved, we were in a Bible study with them and another couple.

Those two couples were close, and somehow Mike and I landed into this study with them. It was something loose and easy... one of the men led the study, and we all interacted and discussed our thoughts and faith. We chipped in to pay a babysitter, and all of the kids hung out at our house and played while the grown-ups went to another house for the study.

I've always felt uncomfortable about my lack of Bible knowledge, and I've historically been self-conscious about speaking up in groups. But for those few months, I felt completely comfortable with those people. It was a really important period of time for me because Mike and I were going through tremendous stress at work, and we already knew that we were going to be moving and that our lives were going to change dramatically.

I learned a lot about faith and the Old Testament and myself during that time. I will always remember it fondly. It was comfortable knowing that we were all Christians, committed to our families and our spouses and our faith.

And so, I wonder... what happened to make this couple choose to take separate paths? Now, I'm not naive enough to believe that things don't happen to alter people or relationships. I know they do. And I also know that there are times when that is precisely the right answer. But still, I wonder.

On our anniversary, Mike and I were talking about marriage and about how the commitment that we made to God has held us together at various points in our relationship when it might have been easier to choose something other than staying together. This last year... more than that, really... has been really difficult for us, pulling and pushing us in so many different ways, stretching us, moving us, changing us.

And yet, here we are... sitting in bed together, watching "Monk," eating Blue Bell cookie dough ice cream. Still in love. Still together.

What makes one last and another not? What happened in these last 18 months that so deeply changed their lives? I can't stop thinking about it.

[  posted by Chel on Friday, August 17, 2007  ]

Tuesday, August 14

Josh redid my jewelry website, and I think he did a lovely job, as always (because he's fabulously talented).

Looking at the site is always an encouragment to me... to keep going. I never, ever thought I could do something like that. And if I can make groovy jewelry, I can do other creative things, too, even if I don't feel like it some days.

[  posted by Chel on Tuesday, August 14, 2007  ]

Monday, August 13

Happy anniversary to us. Today, Mike and I have been married for 13 years. It's hard to believe, and yet, it also seems like it's been an instant (a sign of old age, I know).

This man is an absolute moron... routinely. And about half the time, he drives me batty. And I would be lost without him.

I have always said I married up, and I believe that to this day. And I am grateful beyond words that God saw fit to give the two of us to one another, knowing that we would complement one another, that we would make one another better.

In all honesty, I adore this man. He is smart and clever, and I do love a smart man. He's funny... I think that if I could laugh with him for the rest of my life, I wouldn't need anything else (except maybe new shoes and Starbucks... well, and chocolate, but still). He's a smart-ass, and I love the verbal sparring. Not arguing. We never argue or fight. But I love that back and forth teasing. I love the tenderness in the inside jokes and the knowledge of what makes each other laugh.

I loved Mike 13 years ago, but that love was nothing like it is today. We've been happy together, and we've shared sadness and loss. We've become parents and changed together through that. I like to think that in lots of ways, we've sacrificed for one another, loving one another.

The years have been kind to him. Age serves him well. He is calm and contented, centered in who he is and what he wants. He is stronger now than he was then. He takes my breath away. The boy that I fell in love with is this phenominal man that I fall in love with every day (ok, most days... some days are just moron-can't-get-the-trash-out days, but then, I've got witch-bought-too-many-new-shoes days).

This last year hasn't been easy, and there have been days, weeks, and admittedly months in which I felt so lost and adrift, alone, even. And yet, I'd take the worst of those days with Mike than the best of days without him.

I adore this man.

[  posted by Chel on Monday, August 13, 2007  ]

Sunday, August 12

This is for Mandy and Josh who laughed at and with me and Mike for years... you'll love this one.

[  posted by Chel on Sunday, August 12, 2007  ]

Happy anniversary to my friend, Aleece, and her husband, Warren. They've been married 12 years today. I've enjoyed going through these marriages of ours and these years together.

And Happy birthday to my friend, Courtney. Today is her last birthday with just her and her husband as she's expecting their first child. Happy day, Court!

[  posted by Chel on Sunday, August 12, 2007  ]

Saturday, August 11

We're all alone here this morning, me and Mike. It's astounding to me how quiet the house is without the kids and all of the things that go with them.

Chuck and Stacy graciously offered to take both kids this weekend so Mike and I could have a weekend to ourselves to celebrate our anniversary (on Monday). We're trying to make the most of it... Eliza's at a particularly prissy/annoying stage, so we've teased that they won't offer to take her again till she turns about five.

We went to see "The Bourne Ultimatum" last night, and we're going to Tampa/St. Pete today. We're going to the Salvador Dali Museum (my brother's jealous) and to the Melting Pot (I do love some melted chocolate). And we're just going to hang out a bit.

We're having a great time already.

[  posted by Chel on Saturday, August 11, 2007  ]

Thursday, August 9

It was a long day. I'm sitting on the sofa with the laptop watching "Cash Cab" with Griff while Mike sweeps and Eliza moons each of us in turn (such a lovely gesture for a little Southern girl).

We've been here for more than a year, so it seemed like a good time to see an allergist/asthma doctor, so I went this morning. And while I like the doctor and his staff, it was a hard morning. I failed the first asthma test, had to do a nebulizer treatment, did the second asthma test, did the back test for allergies, didn't test positively for anything and then had to do the second allergy test.

The second allergy test consisted of me crossing my arms in front of my chest while a nurse on either side of me took 45 needles to my arms. So they could tell me the good news that I'm not allergic to anything. It was a hard-earned bit of good news, in my opinion.

But the bad news is that my asthma is completely uncontrolled and that I need to add a series of meds to control it. So I've started on the meds, and I'm worn out, not to mention a little sore.

So I'm going to sit right here on the sofa and watch an hour of "Designing Women," one of my alltime favorite shows.

[  posted by Chel on Thursday, August 09, 2007  ]

Monday, August 6

I've been working on my August pledge, and I have to admit that I'm astounded at how often I casually toss about less than positive statements about myself. I think promising not to has made me more aware, and that, at least, is a start.

One thing I am good at (I think...see, I have this self-doubt thing) is sensing the truth about people (which, in theory, would be a real asset in my current job... if I didn't keep hoping people would do the right thing).

An older gentleman who was on faculty with Mike at our former place of employment was one of my favorite faculty members to work with, hands down. He wasn't universally loved (but, then, who is?), but I just adored working with him. He was professional but flirty (which I admit to enjoying), capable and caring. I always felt such warmth from him.

He and his wife (also a teacher) spend many of their summers in China teaching English, and he sends out a Monday Memo each week, updating family and friends. I am flattered to be on the recipient list, and I am humbled to read of his love for his wife, of the caring they show to those around them, of how they show Christ in their daily lives. And I'm proud to have judged his character correctly.

Also in our former school, there was a man with an initial image that was very prepared and professional. Time, however, showed a different side. I couldn't quite put my finger on what it was, but my friend, Linda, and I agreed that when things began to change in earnest at that educational institution, he would be at the head of the change. He would be the one who wasn't to be trusted.

And there were plenty of people who thought we were nutty. But we were right.

I was reading Corrine's blog post earlier about the complexity of being a parent and having uncomfortable feelings about a friend of her children's while also remembering how it felt as a child to have a parent disapprove of a friend.

When I was a teenager, my parents disapproved of my dearest friend, LeeAnn. I had another friend who they very clearly preferred. I was forbidden to see LeeAnn on at least one occasion.

I haven't spoken to their favorite in years and years. But LeeAnn is dearer to me now than she was when we met 23 years ago. Twenty-three years!! I've enjoyed her friendship for longer than some of my co-workers have been alive!

And I'm quite sure that it's because I saw something in her, even then, that was precious and enduring. And I am proud of the teenage me who saw that then and of the grown-up me who respects it now. She is one of those people I am humbled to call 'friend.'

So, in terms of being more positive about myself, I'm a good judge of character. And that's something.

[  posted by Chel on Monday, August 06, 2007  ]

Friday, August 3

I've always been very forthcoming here (which may be interpreted either as good or bad, depending entirely upon your perspective), and I often try to work things out here that are swirling around in my head.

I've written before about my self-image and self-esteem issues before, and I've been thinking about some of those things lately.

I'm getting better at my job, which is nice. I've written about how I've chosen to be a 3 and a good mom rather than a promote-able 5 and an absentee mom. Yesterday, my supervisor gave me my July scores, and I'm a 3.79. How exciting is that?! I'm almost a 4! Who knew?!

One of the girls in my section came to me today to ask a question, and I answered her and then promptly told her to ask someone else to be sure. An older lady in my group who has been doing this for years asked me, "Michele, why do you do that? Your answers are usually right. Why do you assume you're doing it wrong?"

And I don't really have a good answer for that.

I've always felt like somewhere along the line, grownups forgot that genuine pride in work well done or in skills well honed was a good thing. All of that "pride goeth before the fall" stuff... I think that those most in danger of pride becoming arrogance are those who are the least affected by the sentiment. Those who should feel a genuine pride and confidence sometimes take the meekness too far.

And while I doubt anyone would describe me as 'meek' and while I'm quite sure that wasn't the reason I did it, I did at some point begin to downplay my own talents and skills in an effort to not seem 'braggy.' But I think it wasn't the best choice, and now it's an irritating habit.

When Debbie said that to me today at work, it was like she shook me. The way I feel in my head isn't always accurately reflected by the things I say about myself. And that's a weird disconnect.

So here's my goal for the month of August... I'm not going to say anything ugly about myself out loud (maybe in September I'll aim for not saying anything ugly about myself in my head either). I'm not going to say I'm an idiot or that I'm stupid or that I'm fat (shh... that's one I say in my head more than out loud... if I say it out loud, someone might agree with me) or that I can't do that.

Instead, I'm going to say, I didn't realize that or I didn't know that, I'm glad I'm learning these things or I'm quite lovely or oh, my goodness, I'm really good at that.

We'll see how it goes.

[  posted by Chel on Friday, August 03, 2007  ]