And I’m on my knees, looking for the answers…


Just hours after my last entry, our home phone rang, and the answering machine picked up. It was my brother in law, letting my husband and me know that his father was in ICU and that it was serious.Within an hour, my husband was on his way to Oregon, a 12-hour drive, to say goodbye.

Losing a loved one is never easy, but losing a parent with whom you’ve had a contentious relationship seems that it would be doubly hard. I know that I never fully “got” my father in law (he and I were like oil and water) and I experienced a wide range of emotions over the next few days. I’ve asked my husband what he’s feeling and, being a guy, he gave me a short answer that hinted at more. From Wednesday through Friday night, I occasionally heard from him but mostly wondered what was going on.

You know how, when you fall in love and break up with someone, every song on the radio seems to be speaking to you? It’s the same when someone in your circle is about to die. As I rushed to pick up my son from daycare on Wednesday, I listened to a local Bay Area radio station, and hoped that my husband would get to his parents’ house in time to have one last conversation with his dad, before it was too late to apologize. I wondered whether I’d be summoned, and if I did, how would it be received? Am I part of the cure, or am I part of the disease? Then, I would start to break down at the wheel… I guess that I, I just thought, maybe we could find new ways to fall apart.

It was breaking the news to my 8-year-old that helped me put everything into perspective. He was more curious than anything, and after my father in law passed on Thursday, we talked about funerals, cremation, life after death, reincarnation and more. He said he was a little sad, but mostly worried about his Daddy and assured me he’d “pat his back and tell him it’s OK”

My father in law, who could be combative, argumentative, caustic and curmodgeonly to a fault went peacefully, surrounded by loved ones. A former pilot for Pan Am, he left this plane the day before the anniversary of his first wife’s death.

A few minutes after Jack went, I got an email at work to let me know. I walked to the HR department to ask about bereavement leave and the Employee Relations Manager had someone in her office. To kill time, I checked out the management books library. The very first book I laid eyes on was titled JACK – a biography of Jack Welch. I believe it was a quick goodbye.

My husband returned late last night and we stayed up until 1am talking. His dad has bowed out of the dance of life, and the rest of us continue to waltz.

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Buon Anniversairre


 

I can’t do math to save my life, but I have a head for numbers. I can remember, for example:

 
My high school best friend’s old phone number 
The exact weight, down to the fraction of an ounce, of my son at birth
The birthdays – and quite a few hire dates – of almost all my direct coworkers
 
It should be no big surprise, then, that anniversary dates are meaningful to me. I was delighted to learn, the other day, that today marks two years since I began blogging on WordPress. 
 
I’ve had other blogs before, but this one has longevity. By writhing and sharing a piece of myself with the world, I have grown and seasoned myself. Along the way, I’ve also worked through some personal issues and met a few people.
 
So, yes, today’s anniversary is significant to me (and, for what it’s worth, tomorrow is the anniversary of my birth). Here’s to two more years of writing and sharing!

Who Are You Calling Weak?


First, Happy Mothers Day! It’s well after 9am, and I am the first one up, so I’m taking the opportunity to spend a few minutes writing.

I could tell you about the worst Mothers Day I ever had (it actually started the night before, including me in the ER), but that’s probably a story for another time. Instead, let me tell you how I spent my day yesterday.

I got a sitter and traveled about 40 minutes away to an insurance company in Marin County where I, along with 500 other members of Toastmasters clubs throughout the Bay Area, spent the day listening to speeches and educational sessions on everything from personal growth to communication skills and leadership. It was the District 57 Spring Conference, and I’d won a ticket to go last Monday during my club’s Tall Tales contest (again, another story for another time). While I was away, my husband, after he got off work, took our son to see a movie.

If you’ve never been to a Toastmasters event, I will spoil it for you a bit: the vast majority of the speeches and table topics have a similar, recurring theme. While many are humorous, nearly all are inspirational in some way or other.

Yesterday was no exception. The first table topics speaker (a woman from the same small town I live in) had lost both legs and described the choice she’d made to have prosthetics built so she and her husband could travel during their retirement. Another woman, who has Tourette’s, explained that Toastmasters is her “drug of choice” and that when she’s speaking, she has no symptoms. A third speaker, a man who’d been a mega-athlete in high school before being paralyzed from the chest down, went on to lead his power wheelchair soccer team to international victory.

The theme of the conference was Stand and Deliver, but I think it could just as easily have been “Oh Yeah? Watch Me!” Clearly, none of the participants let their supposed weaknesses get them down for long, and the message wasn’t lost on me. What you might view as a disadvantage in your life can actually be your greatest source of strength.

When I got home last night, my family and I watched an episode of Undercover Boss. On the show, the CEO of a soft pretzel company was stunned to learn how much some of his valued employees were struggling, and he cried several times throughout the show. Visible displays of emotion in men are seen as a weakness in my country, but this guy let loose while cameras rolled. The benefit? I, and I imagine, thousands of other viewers now see this CEO as a genuine human being. He’s elevated the status of his company in my eyes.

I’ve talked about this concept before – the idea that a disability is actually a super human ability or that a supposed character flaw can, in fact, be a person’s ace in the hole.

It’s one such flaw, in fact, that ultimately led me to where I was yesterday. You see, my entire life, I’ve been mistaken for being unfriendly or even arrogant when the reality is that I am excruciatingly shy… sometimes to the point that I have a hard time talking to someone, one on one, that I’ve known for years (thankfully, more and more lately this is not the case).

I was asked to give a short presentation during my department’s staff meeting and I choked. I’d worked with these guys for almost two years and I couldn’t do it. That night, on Facebook, I jokingly asked whether anyone knew anything about Toastmasters. A coworker, who’d helped me out by driving me to work shortly after my Mothers Day weekend mishap mentioned above, replied and said he’d love to check it out!

That was a year and a half ago, and the tide is beginning to turn with regards to my personality flaw. If I had to guess, I would say a good percentage of the 20 other people in my club could tell a similar story.

Think about your own personal weakness or flaw, and decide for yourself: how can I turn this into my personal strength or strong character trait?