Sunday, January 6, 2008

A New Year and A Renewed Perspective

Hi Friends! Happy New Year!

I’m glad to be back in touch with you guys.

I have wrestled, long and hard, with the notion of posting a blog entry again. I’ve been away so long, I didn’t know that I could I explain it all. I wondered if I really had anything interesting to report or share. What should I be writing about anyway? Blah, blah, blah…

The feeling of dread and embarrassment and trepidation at returning to the blog reminded me of one of my earliest childhood memories. I was in kindergarten and got to school late one day. I walked to school and I’m certain (though I don’t remember specifically) that I’d dawdled a good bit on the way to school that day; I was good at dawdling. When I got to school, the playground was a ghost town. It was clear that the bell had rung and the school day was well underway. I didn’t know what to do. I was much too embarrassed and afraid of getting in trouble to enter the class room – which, by the way, had an entrance door next to the playground. I hid in front of that big, solid metal door and peeked into the classroom windows (there was an entire wall of windows) to see what was going on. I slipped back behind the door and tried to get my wits about me. But, I had nothing - no idea what to do. I was totally at a loss. I just continued to stand there. After what seemed like hours, but I think was really a few minutes, my teacher, Miss White, gently opened the big metal door and greeted me. She had seen me peeking in the window. She asked me what was wrong. I explained my predicament. She was so warm, sweet, kind, welcoming, forgiving. She took my hand and led me into the class room. We got my coat hung up and I slipped into whatever activity was in progress. I recall the great feeling of relief at being there – where I belonged.

So, here I am now, quietly slipping back into this space and already feeling relief at being in this place where I feel, so strongly, that I belong. I hope that you each have a nature like Miss White’s, and can similarly forgive me for my absence and neglect. This time, though, I didn’t dawdle on my way here. This time life waylaid me, against my will.

In December of 2006 - about 12 and a half months ago - I told several friends how happy I was to be closing the door on 2006 and welcoming a new year. The new year - 2007 - was certain to be better than 2006, which had been consumed by Peter's (Susie's husband) cancer diagnosis, treatment, hospitalization and death and all of the changes, adjustments and emotional whirlwind one would expect from such an ordeal.

As it turns out, 2007 may well have been the worst year of my life. That's really saying something because I've had some crummy, lousy, terrible, horrible, no good, very bad times.

The regular visitors to this blog may have read about some of the travails of this past year. Mom’s illness and hospitalization was probably the most devastating aspect of the year. Mom lived only about 5 minutes from me and besides being the best possible mother and cheerleader, she was integral to my daily life. I relied on her to be my “back up” whenever I was in a pinch (and vice versa.) We grocery shopped together every week or so. At the store I’d always observe the elderly couples shopping together and one day I realized that I was Mom’s grocery-shopping better half (and vice versa.) She always, always bought a candy treat for Evan, my 10 year old son with a huge sweet tooth, whether he was with us or not. Before she dropped me off at my house, we’d make a stop at her place so that I could help her get her groceries up to her apartment. There I’d help her unpack her groceries and I’d unpack and put away the two cases of bottled water that she bought on every shopping excursion. She faithfully followed Doctor’s order to drink lots of water to compensate for the partial kidney that had been removed due to a malignant tumor.

When Mom was hospitalized I spent the best part of every day and every night with her, including sleeping in her room, for those two weeks. She told me she felt comforted having me there and knowing that I was there even if she happened to awaken during the night. That comment alone made all of the logistical juggling worthwhile. Mom was discharged from the hospital and went to Susie’s house to finish her recuperation. You regular blog visitors have read about some of the escapades that Mom, Susie, and Susie’s six children had together during those two months. There was always a funny story to tell and Mom always laughed as heartily about those adventures as anyone else. Mom loved being at Susie’s house and Susie enjoyed having her there. And although Mom planned to move back to her apartment, she also talked about moving back in with Susie on a permanent basis. Just a couple of days before she was to head back to her own place, Mom died at Susie’s house. Although Mom’s doctor said he wasn’t surprised, we were. I was shocked. One small comfort was that Mom was in Susie’s happy home when that happened, instead of being alone.

At any rate (wow! that was quite a tangent…) Mom’s illness and death were a large part of the notorious year, but there was more – some of which I’ve written about and some of which I haven’t. It was, now that I think about it further, definitely the worst year ever. But, I am now able to see that there were many positive aspects of this past year as well. And I’m finally able to appreciate those things more fully, to focus on moving forward, and now I am excited about possibilities again.

Among other positives, It’ll Fit’ll was born this year. We’ve gotten great, invaluable support and encouragement from you guys. I’ve been able to meet and connect with many of you. That was absolutely a highlight of the year. Another positive aspect was the renewed realization that I’m blessed (and I don’t use that word often) with wonderful family and friends. Those people that helped me cope and heal - they enrich my life immeasurably.

My children are among those wonderful people. They remind me, by living their lives so fully, how much fun life can be and what we can accomplish in each day. One fall day weeks ago Evan reminded me how much joy we can find in the simple things, if we just look and imagine. I picked him up at the bus stop that afternoon and he asked if we could stop by the garage sale which he’d seen advertised on a home-made sign along the bus route. He had no money, but he told me if he found something of interest, we could go home and get his cash. I waited in the car, finishing a magazine article. After a while, he bounded into the car with an armload of stuff. I assumed that he’d bought it with a promise and his winning smile. As it turns out, though, he’d found those treasures in the “free” section of the garage sale. He explained to me, with glee, his plans for his loot. The three votive candles, dusty, dented, with barely any scent left were "just nice to have" and could be used for some “wax experiments.” The decades-old framed “art” (which I suspect was a grocery store give-away from my childhood days; we had one or two similar pieces for a while during my childhood) would be perfect for one of our bonfires. He described how he planned to throw it on top of the burning bonfire and explained how he expected it to be consumed (the center part first, then the frame, etc.) There was a huge, neon green coffee mug from the home center megastore which he thought he’d give to his father. I can’t remember the rest of the haul and it’s long ago been tossed or burned. But I do remember that the evening of that rummage sale, Evan and I drove to Susie’s for something or other. We stopped and grabbed him a fast food dinner to eat on the way. Not long after I handed the bag to him in the back seat, I heard him say “Mom, look.” I turned to look and he said “A candle light dinner!” He’d set the rummage sale candles on the ledge of the back seat drink holder and had spread out his dinner like a feast. He enjoyed that dinner and those candles as much as any gourmet would appreciate a 5-star restaurant meal. And, I’m sure I enjoyed it nearly as much as he did – without having to ingest all those empty calories!

So, my renewed perspective is one of appreciation for the positive facets of life and a return to those days when I was more like Evan with an ability to see the possibility and upside of most things and most situations. And, I see with great clarity that you guys, this blog, this It’ll Fit’ll initiative are a magnificent aspect of my life. I also understand, finally, a bit about blogging.

During the time that Mom was in the hospital, I read a book about business-related blogging called “Naked Conversations”. After a while I stopped working so hard to find a way to “casually” explain the subject of the book I was reading. If the doctors or nurses jumped to conclusions - oh well! It made me smile to see their surprised looks. The book was an interesting review and analysis of businesses that blog or sanction employee blogging (like Microsoft), the advantages, the challenges, the topics, the tone, etc. etc. etc. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking, worrying, about what to write – all business? is some personal stuff OK? does familiarity really “breed contempt”? updates? what about when there are delays or bad news? questions, requests? will that imply that we’re too green? and on, and on, and on.

Now I know that It’ll Fit’ll isn’t a typical business and you are not typical customers (potential customers, at this point.) In fact, Susie and I talked about that very topic on Saturday. She pointed out that the term “customer” doesn’t seem to fit you guys because you’re more than that, or our relationships are different than that. After discussing a few possibilities we agreed to noodle on it separately a little more and revisit the topic in a short while. Anyway, I think you’re more like friends. Some of you are friends I haven’t met yet, some I’ve met in person, some I’ve only met electronically, but there is an element of friendship to our collective relationship rather than a commercial element. At any rate, that’s how I think of you and I’ve stopped worrying about the minutia of how to communicate with you. I’m not so much blogging anymore as I am dropping a line or two to a group of pals.

So, friends, there's my stream of consciousness blog entry. And, here’s to you and to us and to the possibilities of a great new year! We'll talk again soon.

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