Monthly Archives: January 2010

Heroes or mentors?

Every young child has his or her hero — often a celebrity. That’s okay…everyone needs a chance to dream. But at some point those heroes get moved to the back burner and a more realistic mentor/hero takes his or her place.

My husband’s childhood hero was the Lone Ranger. I’ve never understood that, but of course, the Lone Ranger was a male and I’m not. Besides, the Lone Ranger was before my time. In my early years, I worshipped Peggy Fleming. Skating was one of my passions and I dreamed of the day I could do a perfect camel spin. I never got to that point, but I did finally learn to do fake figure eights. You do the first half on one foot, and the second on the other foot. Looks pretty on the ice.

By the time I reached high school, Peggy was a distant memory, and I became too realistic to imagine I’d ever be anyone but myself. During my freshman year of college, I declared myself a music major. That didn’t last because the idea of spending my days practicing piano and vocal music scared the bejeebers out of me. Still, I continued taking voice lessons because I loved my voice teacher, Phyllis Ehrman (now Moser). It wasn’t until later that I realized it was her constant encouragement, praise, interest in me, and wonderful sense of humor that kept me returning to her studio. She was my first true mentor. Was she my hero? Sure.

Sometime in my sophomore year, it occurred to me that my strength was writing. I’d had a passion for writing since my childhood. At the time, the obvious choice of a major was English. Thus began an intense few years of studying grammar, the English language, and literature of a wide variety — all of which I — gulp — loved.

Along the way, I was required to read “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings”, the biography of Maya Angelou. It is a biography of her early years, a coming-of-age story that shows how a love of literature can help a young woman overcome the trauma of racism. Angelou quickly became the Peggy Fleming of my early adult persona. I eagerly awaited subsequent books and read her poems despite the fact that I really didn’t like poetry. I simply wanted to better understand her style.

At that time, there were few female professors at Bluffton, but the English department included two — Linda Suter and Mary Ann Sullivan. For the next three years, I spent hours in their classrooms, improving my own writing skills under their tutelage. Along the way, the two of them became my mentors. They would probably shudder to hear that they’d become my Peggy Fleming. 

By that time, I was realistic enough to know that what I’d considered heroes in the past, had actually become — and would continue to be — my mentors. These are the women I looked to for guidance as I began to move toward entering the “real world”. Unlike them, I had no interest in teaching. But I did want to write, although at the time I had no idea how that might become a career.

Over the years, I’ve moved from newspaper journalism to freelance writing to the latest venture of starting an online news source. Blogging allows me to keep my writing skills from getting rusty. Those two women have never left my mind; in fact, every time I write, I envision Linda Suter reading the final product, see her smile and imagine her making a few, well-placed comments. And always, I hear her encouragement.

A few days ago, I visited Linda at the rehab center where she is recovering from hip surgery. I found her in the dining room, waiting for “those nice guys” to bring her supper. Her first comment to me was a whispered, “Mary, you could write some interesting stories about these people,” as she nodded toward her table companions. 

For the next 30 minutes, her food grew cold while she asked about our adult programs, numbers of students, expressing amazement at how many off-campus sites we now have. Since her most recent position at the university was closely involved with our department, she was interested in hearing about change and growth.

This is the way most of our conversations go. She asks questions. I answer. She makes suggestions and I have to figure out the solution. Still the teacher and the student. And that’s fine with me. Although she is now retired, she’ll always be the one person I can talk to about how to improve something — from writing to teaching. Because along the way, her subtle mentoring skills convinced me that not only was I a decent writer, I could also share some of those learning experiences through teaching. 

So sorry Peggy. You’ve been replaced.

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Why why why why why?

Anyone who has spent time with a toddler is all too familiar with the “why” stage. Every statement that an adult makes is followed by a tiny, pestering, voice asking “Why?” The too-pat answer of “Just because” rarely ends that conversation because children of that stage just won’t give up. Eventually, they grow up and in their teen years, the conversation flips to the parent always asking “Why?” Of course, by then the child no longer cares to continue any conversation with his or her parents and the “why” becomes moot.

Here’s the thing. I come from a family of what I call “why” people. We can’t just let things be. We have to know why. And this time it isn’t solely my mother’s fault. I’ll blame it on my dad, too. My dad was probably a biologist for a reason — to search for the answer to the “whys” in his mind. My mother, on the other hand, just has to know why things are the way they are.

So…again, this is a genetic thing. I know this is so. Here’s an example: as a teenager, I developed a severe case of Achilles tendonitis in both ankles. This in itself is quite painful, so I finally sought relief from the family doc. He hemmed and hawed, then left the room and returned with a hypodermic the size of a horse needle. I asked why. Wouldn’t any sane person want to know why?

His response was to snort at me and say, “You’re just like your mom and your brothers. Always wanting to know why.” Well, hey, buddy, it’s not every day a doc wants to inject my Achilles tendon with a giant hypodermic. My response was to keel over in a dead faint. I’m still wondering why he did that.

I developed my tendency to question things at any early age. My preschool years were spent on a farm outside Bluffton. We just lived in the house . But the man who farmed it kept cows in the barn. Outside the barn was — of course — a fenced-in area full of manure. My mother had warned me numerous times not to go into that area. After asking “why” so many times, I finally got the impression that she meant that the cows might attack me. But they were so cute, with their big brown eyes and switching tails that one day I decided to explore the area. Don’t try this.  As it turned out, my brother had to hose me down with ice cold water before I was allowed in the house for a bath.

My inquiring mind and unwillingness to accept “because” for an answer has caused me much pain. During my childhood, we rarely wore shoes during the summer which means that we were constantly stepping on things — bee stings were a commodity. One summer day, my dad was setting up our tent in preparation for an upcoming vacation. As I walked toward him, he cautioned me not to come near if I was not wearing shoes. Before the “why” even popped out of my mouth, I took a step forward. Suffice to say that rusty tent post stakes can cause serious injury.  In fat, the pain from the resulting tetanus shot — directly into the cut — still causes my stomach to flip over when I think about it.

In about fourth grade, I was skating on the frozen Riley out behind my best friend’s house. She and I were investigating something on the bank near the college cabin. She said to me, “Don’t go over there.” I didn’t bother asking “why” that time. I just did it. Stuck my foot right on the spot she’d pointed at. Went right through. It wasn’t frozen. My toes were. But hey, I just wanted to try it for myself. The trouble was — unknown to me — my uncle was spending the weekend at the cabin with his Boy Scout troop. Apparently, they happened to be hiking nearby and he saw me do it. He never let me forget that.

Similar events have occurred over the years as I’ve continued to question just about everything. Age has not made me any wise, nor has it dimmed my wish to know the “whys” of things. I still ask “why” at least 10 times a day. It’s a genetic trait I have passed on to my children. It has gotten them into trouble from time to time, but on the other hand, it’s taught them some measure of self-sufficiency.

Personally, I think life would be pretty boring if I didn’t ask “why” from time to time. I want to know why the dog circles and circles and circles in the quest for the perfect dumping site. I want to know why my computer font size increases every time I take it with me to an off-site location. I want to know why my shoulder could go from rotating 360 degrees one day to less than 90 the next. I want to know why the sun won’t come out.

Most of all, I just want to know why.

Organized vs. disorganized

By the age of 53, you would think I’d learned the fine art of organization. But maybe it has nothing to do with age. Probably it’s genetic. Here’s where I get to blame my parents for something — my tendency toward disorganization. It’s all their fault.

So here I am…married to Mr. Organization himself. I’d hoped that after 30 years of marriage, I’d have gained some of his skills through osmosis. Nope. Hasn’t happened.

Case in point: my sewing room. The door is usually shut if (a) there is more than one dog in the house, and (b) there’s an outside chance that someone from the “outside” might pop in and just perchance, need to partake of the “facilities” and get a peek at my sunny yellow sewing room.

There is a reason the door is shut. It is a mess. Technically, it is clean and the hardwood floor is (usually) clear of items. Except those bags of fabric, but they don’t count because they’re underneath the sewing table and no one but Ike can fit under that.

On any given day, my sewing table will be covered — well, at least part of it — by piles of fabric waiting to become items of clothing, Eric’s faded jeans waiting to be patched, some favorite DVDs, and one piece of fabric laid out so as to give the impression that I am mid-project. Oh, and my favorite sewing scissors might be there to lend creedence to said sewing project. I can leave them there safe in the knowledge that no one will touch them. They’ve learned — the hard way — that use of them for anything other than fabric is VERBOTEN.

So…back to the organization thing. A few years ago, Mr. Organization brought home a piece of furniture from his dad’s shop. In its shop days, this cupboard of hundreds of tiny drawers was filled with nails, screws, etc. — likely catalogued alphabetically. Mr. O set down the “object” and without saying a word, set about cleaning and painting it. 

Nonchalantly, I asked what he intended to do with it. His eyes bright, Mr. O said he didn’t know, but if I wanted it, I could have it. Clearly, he hoped I’d use it to create my own semblance of order. I caved. Sure…why not…so up to the sewing room it went. I spent the afternoon placing notions of all sorts — buttons, snaps, elastic, pins, sewing machine parts, thimbles, needles, etc. in the tiny drawers. Patterns fit perfectly into the larger drawers on the bottom.

As I said, I spent the afternoon doing that. One afternoon. Now and then I ponder the possibility of spending another afternoon finishing the project but that concept is overwhelming. In an attempt to help out, Santa brought me a label maker — ideal for labeling each drawer. This would be a great idea…if I could figure out the label maker. Instead, there it sits on top of the cupboard.

Now whenever I need a specific button or type of elastic, I think again how much easier it would be if the drawers were labeled. I wouldn’t have to spend the better part of an hour opening and closing every drawer until I find the right item.

In contrast, take a peek at our basement office. Well, technically, it’s Mr. Organization’s office because Mr. O has organized it. All too well. There are all the drawers, clearly labeled with every item in its place. On the wall is a huge white board divided into categories of projects, their progress and their due dates. A three-month calendar is filled with scheduled events — color coded.

The bookshelves are filled with books — not necessarily alphabetically but by author when possible. The desktop might be strewn with papers, but clearly each one has its place. And every weekend, it gets DUSTED. I am not making this up.

Somewhere — hidden away — are stamp albums filled with stamps, carefully categorized. Other stamps are filed in envelopes. This is probably also true of his coin collection, although I don’t know. I think he’s afraid I might cash that in if he shows it to me.

This whole concept of organization is a fascinating subject. He’s organized and ALWAYS on time. I’m disorganized and RARELY on time. He can (usually) find things at the drop of a hat. Except for his car keys and wallet. And items in the refrigerator. And phone.

At any rate, I recently read an article on organizing specific areas of the house (i.e., kitchen, office, gift-wrapping room). Gift wrapping room?? Who has time for that? I’ve got to admit, though, that I fell in love with the organized kitchen — pretty little clear plastic containers stacked and labeled. Everything in its place.

So…guess what I’m going to do this weekend? Well…at least for one afternoon. But I will NOT become Mrs. Organization. That would only confuse our daughters. You see, one of them is Mz. Organization. One is not. Gotta keep life in the balance.

More random thoughts

You know how there are days when you’ve really screwed up and by the time you get home from work, your brain can conjure up only brief, random thoughts? Nothing really connects to the next thought except the realization that your brain is short circuited for the evening. Or maybe you don’t have those kind of days. I do. This is one of them.

Random thought #1 — We had some kind of squash for supper. I say some kind because we don’t know. Maybe Jerry Suter knows. Maybe one of my brothers would know. I don’t. Anyway, there were the seeds looking remarkably like pumpkin seeds. What would you do with seeds like that? I know what I’d do. I’d roast them. So we did. Roast them. Here’s the strange thing. They start to pop when they’re getting really hot. In fact, they continued to pop after we pulled the tray from the oven.

Random thought #2 — There are some genetic traits that I regularly thank my parents for passing on. An ability to talk to just about anyone (this would be from my mom, not my dad). An ability to write and spell well (both). My eyes (this according to my dad, the geneticist, would be a combination of both — except in my case my eyes are not the color he thought they were). Dry humor (my dad). The fortitude to move forward even when my body would rather give up (both).

Random thought #3 — The opposite of #2. The tendency to say things without thinking them through (um…my mom?). The ability to let that get me in trouble and not realize it before it’s too late (probably my mom, but then maybe I’ve figured that one out all on my own).

Random thought #4 — I’ve been thinking of creating an “I hate bananas” fan club on Facebook. I know for a fact that there would be at least two members — me and my niece, Caroline. We argue about which of us hates them more. Probably her. Say the word banana and she melts. Eat a banana in my presence and I come darn near close to tearing it from your hand and pitching it out the window. But that would mean touching it and that definitely is not within the realm of possibilities. Ewwwww.

Random thought #5 — There is something completely unfair about the fact that — despite running for 30 years, limiting my intake of nasty fats, and eating mountains of flax seed — my cholesterol is through the roof. My husband, on the other hand, proudly boasts a count of less than 100. Life is just not always fair.

Random thought #6 — There is a reason that I live in Ohio. There must be. After all, I’ve lived here all but one year of my life. I don’t know the reason. Someday I might discover it.

Random thought #7 — Am I the only person in the world who despises January? It is the single most boring month of the year. There are no interesting holidays. There are 31 days of no holidays. Except today — MLK Day — and I have to work.

Random thought #8 — I love my job. I do. Usually. Most of the time. Except those moments when I goof up (see #3) and think maybe I’m in the wrong business. But on the first Sunday in May (well, except for the years when this event falls on the second Sunday of May), I remember what I really love about my job. Watching all those students accept the piece of paper that proves they made the right decision when they chose Bluffton. Of course, I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that every year around Christmas, I remember another reason I love my job. Where else would I get a whole week off to enjoy Christmas? There are other reasons — Steve, despite his tendency to believe he is a stand-in for my brothers which translates to near-constant teasing; Deb, because she loves the stupid music I play AND can remember the right words because she is…well, sort of my age; Coral, because she knows when I need a hug and makes me laugh; Becky, because she gives me the BEST local gossip that not even my husband knows; JP, because she’s been my friend since we were silly undergrads; Nancey, because she can tell me how to drive through Putnam county without getting lost; Ted, because he supports me even when I make mistakes; and Yelena and Kirsten, just because they are pretty terrific students.

Random thought #9 — (This is from my husband). You are what you think. Napoleon Hill said that. He’s the guy that wrote that “How to get rich book…kind of a Dale Carnegie guy.” So says Fred.

Random thought #10 — (Another from the husband). “A fly can’t bird but a bird can fly.” You have to realize this comes from the man who recited Robert Service poetry (think “The Cremation of Sam McGee”) to me on our first date and managed to keep my interest.

Random thought #11 — Somewhere in this house is my very own (inherited) copy of Dr. David Reuben’s “Everything you ever wanted to know about sex but were afraid to ask.” Okay, skip this if you don’t like the subject. My brother, James, gave this to me when I was a freshman in high school. My mother doesn’t know this. Well, she didn’t. She will now. And if Kathy Bohn Kendrick reads this blog, she will remember our most favorite part of this book. Or maybe she won’t remember it, but at least it’ll give her something to think about when she’s trying to get to sleep.

Random thought #12 — “Julie and Julia” is a terrific book. The movie is okay, mostly because Meryl Streep has proven yet again why she is one of the best actors around. How she developed that perfect mimicry of Julia Child is beyond me. Perfect. Absolutely. Down to the strange sinusy breathing at the end of a sentence.

It’s time to end, not because I’m suspicious about the number 13, but because if I don’t take the dog out now, I’m going to have to make a grocery run for that stuff that everyone claims gets the smell out of the carpet. Good night. May all your random thoughts be entertaining.

Sisters

My friend, Deb, is one of three sisters. Together, they make up the foundation of the “Simon Sisters” that has become an extended sisterhood. Over the years, the three have added to the Simon Sisters by allowing daughters to join. As each daughter turns 18, she is “inaugurated” into the sisterhood.

This is truly a Big Deal for each Simon sister and daughter. It is, truly, a coming-of-age moment. And I — a lone sister in a family of five siblings — am truly envious. I am a sister, but I have no sisters — just brothers. Much as I love them, my four brothers are (a) too far away to enjoy monthly events together, and (b) too male. Not that that’s a bad thing, but when it comes to sisters, they just can’t fill that need.

Back to the Simon Sisters. Once a month, the three sisters and the daughters who have made the cut, gather for a day of fun. And no, that doesn’t mean a shopping trip or jewelry party, although over the years, they’ve probably done that. For example, at their most recent “Simon Sisters Saturday”, they “inaugurated” the newest member. This included food — homemade veggie soup, cookies, etc. On inauguration day, each sister wears her “ya ya” hat, which is a self-designed hat that is often outlandish and not something to be worn in public. Deb says that her first one — a straw topper decorated with her pin collection — fell apart several years ago. So she and another sister made what she describes as “ugly 70s crocheted pop can hats” except theirs featured beer cans.

Simon Sisters Saturday ranges from an afternoon of football watching to the annual Christmas craft party to a weekend away. The location rotates from one sister’s home to the next, and the husband in residence has to watch from afar or disappear for the day.

Did I mention my envy? If only I had sisters. In my mind, this is a group of women who have grown up together, share common memories of childhood events, girlhood silliness…women who simply can be themselves because they’re sisters and they understand each other.

In fact, I am SO envious that I wonder if I could start my own sisterhood? We’d be faux sisters. Over the years, I’ve collected friends who have served as my sisters and today, they’re the ones I turn to when I need to just be me. No pretenses necessary. Wonder what we’d call ourselves? I know what our song would be….just conjure up Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen in “White Christmas”, singing  “…Sisters, sisters, there were never such devoted sisters….”

Ghosts from the past

As is true for many outdoor sports enthusiasts, the snow, ice and chill of Ohio’s winter has forced me indoors for my morning runs and walks. Running round and round on the local rec track isn’t my preferred way to get in my miles, but I do love running in shorts and a tee shirt. To vary the scenery, I sometimes do my walk days at the elementary school where the halls are long and turns are less frequent than the track.

In the early morning hours before teachers and students have begun their day, the silence of the building is broken only by the squeak of my shoes on the polished floor or a greeting from another walker. But I never feel alone on those walks — the ghosts of my past filter in and out of walls and doorways as I make my way from one end of the building to the other.

The first section of the building was opened in 1956, the year I was born. Five years later, kindergarten and my introduction to formal education beckoned. It wasn’t a good year — I hated being away from my mother, hated having to take naps on a stupid rug on a hard floor, listening to the teacher read some stupid book.

As I approach what in 1961 served as the kindergarten room, I can hear the sharp voice of a teacher I didn’t care for, as she singled me out for talking  — which I probably deserved although it was usually to respond to a question from another classmate — who, of course, was never caught.

Through an open door, I catch a glimpse of the coatroom just inside the door. That spurs a memory of the horrible day Miss G made me sit in the corner and released me just seconds before the end of the day. Through a window in the coatroom, I can see my dad riding up on his bike to pick me up. I never told him.

Just around a corner is today’s computer room, which back then was a first grade classroom (not mine) but standing at the door is the ghost of the intimidating principal, Miss S, who also taught first grade. Lucky me. I didn’t have her. As I approach the next room, I feel sick to my stomach. My first grade classroom. Another not-so-memorable year of wishing I were anywhere but that room.

A few feet down the hall, my heart begins to lighten as I reach the door of my second grade classroom. There, standing by the open door, is Becky Winkler, my friend. Each morning, she waited for me and took my hand, somehow instinctively knowing that I would cry when my mom left. I never understood that feeling because I so loved Mrs. Bixel. Oddly, the smell of freshly baked bread lingers in that room today, reminding me of the day she taught us to bake bread and make butter.

I take another turn, and the ghosts suddenly change. My classmates and teachers are replaced by those of my children. I’ve entered the wing added long after I moved on to middle school at Beaverdam, where no doubt more ghosts exist — surely one in the shape of Chrome Dome himself.

I see Dave (Mr.) Sycks as he cajoles his young band students to work a little harder, play a bit louder. Passing the cafetorium, the smells are those of the foods of my daughters’ childhoods. It is not my cafeteria — these smells are of walking tacos and pizza.

Down the hall and I’m back to my old stomping ground. This time it is the ghost of Miss Hilty (third grade) as she discovers a few of us testing her chair with wheels. She is not particularly happy with us, but even now I can glimpse a slight lift to her mouth as she tries to keep from laughing. About halfway through this year, I began to like school and worried less about leaving my mom at home.

That was also the year of JFK’s assassination, and as I glance in the door, I see me and my classmates, staring, stunned, at the brown speaker on the front wall. Understanding begins to dawn as the voice of the principal informs us of the president’s death and our early release from school.

As I mull over that sad memory, I reach the old cafeteria — one of my favorite places. Ghostly food smells waft through the cracks of the closed doors, but the memories of chocolate milk (something we never got at home) and tomato soup and peanut butter sandwiches make me hungry.

The cafeteria was also the location of gym class and I hear the sound of kickballs as they smack against the wall. I imagine little girls trying to run in dresses and wishing they could wear pants like the boys did.

As my footsteps echo in the empty hallway, I sense rows of children marching past me, snickering and poking each other, in anticipation of some assembly about to take place. There is Miss Hilty in her black tie shoes, shaking her finger at some misbehaving child.

Farther down the hall and a turn to the left. This is my favorite place. I can almost hear my fourth grade teacher as she cheerfully jokes and greets each of us as we enter the room. This Mrs. Hostetler (not Marty, as I came to know her later in life when we managed a store together), a wonderful apparition as I approach the end of my walk. It is she who taught me to relax in the classroom, to laugh at my mistakes, and to enjoy the process of learning.

There beside her is our student teacher, Sarah Steiner. There is a classroom of giggling fourth graders preparing to surprise Miss Steiner with a fruit roll — a concept that is as dated as my memories. I hear the surprise in her laughter as she sees oranges, grapefruit and apples hurtling down the aisles toward her. If they were bruised, she never said a word.

By this time, my hour is up and it is time to return to reality. Life does move on, but as long I walk the halls of my childhood, the memories of ghosts will follow me.

Procrastination

I think I must be the best procrastinator in the world. Take today for example. There are about 50 things I could be doing, but I just don’t feel like doing them. Since the world won’t fall apart if I don’t get them done immediately, why not sit here a few minutes longer and ponder which one I should do first.

For starters, there are two bathrooms just begging to be cleaned. The thing is we usually do this on Friday nights, but last night we simply didn’t feel like it. So we didn’t. Of course, at the time, we chose not to remember just how much we hate to clean on Saturday morning. So here I sit at 12:19 p.m. tapping away at the keys and doing my best to ignore the germs that are invading the bathroom sink.

Then there is the shoulder stretching routine. It has to be done. I know that. It’s just that the dog is out cold on the spot on the couch where I need to lie down to do the first part of the routine. And yes, I could just shove him to the other end, but that would mean facing nasty looks from him. It’s easier to wait a few more minutes…hours…

Speaking of said dog. There’s that torn doggie coat that means making a new one. Upstairs on my sewing table is the fleece laid out and ready to be cut, along with all of those other sewing projects I could be working on. It’s not that I don’t enjoy them; it’s just that doing them requires getting up from my nice, sunny spot on the south side of the house.

And then there’s that bread recipe on the kitchen counter. So far, I’ve gotten out the flax seed meal. It does need to be baked and sooner rather than later. I know that. After all, there’s that niggling little voice at the back of my mind that keeps reminding me of my conversation with my doc yesterday. Cut back on the carbs — your sugar’s up. That means thinking a whole new way, creating a new diet and baking new kinds of breads. 

Therein lies the basis of procrastination. I — and I assume this is true of other procrastinators — put things off because it means thinking a whole new way. Becoming always ready to move on to the next project requires  organization…of the mind, of the projects, of life. And that’s just it. I’m not organized. There are too many things to do (most of which I really do want to do), but where to start? How to start? Which to begin first?

There’s only one way to find out. Ask Mr. Organization for help. He is the master of scheduling projects…one after another. But there’s a problem. He’s in the basement. That would mean getting up off my chair and going down there to seek some help. So…here I sit…pondering…wondering… and waiting…just a few more minutes.

A return to routine

It’s time. Time for life to return to routine. Which, by the way, I love. I thrive on routine. Vacations are nice for awhile, but sooner or later, my brain begs for routine. I want to go to bed at 9:30 p.m. and get up at 5:30 a.m. I want to hit the road running by 6 a.m. I want to get to work by 8:15 a.m. Okay, that was a lie. 8:30 a.m.

In the midst of this reflection, daughter #1, reading the New York Times, innocently (or perhaps not so innocently) comments that “Here’s an article on ‘How to train the aging mind'”. I rest my case. Routine is necessary for my aging mind. And yes, at 53, it is aging…ever so slowly but oh so obviously.

But it’s not only my mind that aches for routine. The body that used to be able to handle random breaks in routine, doesn’t do it so well anymore. Well, it never really handled random bouts of non-routine, so it only stands to reason that it pretty much falls apart at the seams these days.

I notice all my Facebook friends moaning and groaning about the return to work. I’m almost afraid to admit that I’m actually looking forward to seeing my office again. I can imagine the dislike buttons flashing red if I state my true status…”is happy to return to work.” I’m even ready to see my Goldmine calendar again — the electronic system that glues the pieces of my job together. No more wondering what to do next because there on my calendar will be names of people to call, minutiae to complete.

I’ll admit there will be moments when I’ll wish I could just stay home all day because…wait for it…I HATE TO TAKE SHOWERS. It’s the real reason I look forward to weekends. I can run, sweat, cool down, and not shower until I darn well please. Eventually, I have to take one because a.) it’s bedtime and there is nothing worse than going to bed smelling of a day’s sweat, or b.) we have to go out in the world where cleanliness matters.

So…as my kids would say, “routine rules”. And a return to it is as welcome as the sun on a 10-degree day. Which, by the way, describes today. So as I approach that return to the routine of normal, everyday non-vacation life, I will now take my back-to-routine midday walk. In the cold. Three layers of clothing. Which, after all, is simply a part of the routine in these parts in January.

Random thoughts from 2009

It’s 8:15 p.m. Dec. 31, 2009. I have just been beaten in Scrabble — again — by my mother, who does the Sudoku puzzle every day and has a mind like a steel trap. This I know is true. She is smarter than anyone else I know, maybe even smarter than my dad. He couldn’t  — or maybe wouldn’t — balance the checkbook, but could dissect a cat with his eyes blindfolded.

It occurred to me that while my brain is not so perky by this time of day, I could cobble together a sort of blog of random thoughts from the year that we’re about to put behind us.

Good riddance, 2009. You were a year that started out with a crack (actually two of them, thank you very much) in my sacrum, an unfixable tear in my RC, a huge blow to my mental stability, and dang near blew up my 30-year-and-not-ready-to-stop running fix.

But thanks to a husband who just won’t give up on me, a mom who makes me mashed potatoes five days in a row because it’s the only thing I can eat, two daughters who took their turns watching stupid comedy episodes with me, trimming my nails, and walking me and my walker around the block, brothers and sisters-in-law who spent hours listening to me cry on the phone, my beloved Mary who dropped whatever she was doing when Fred called her and then promised me that I WOULD run again, coworkers who picked up the slack, all those relatives and friends who brought food, sent cards, visited but never told me how horribly awful I looked, I survived. And came through stronger.

Oh yes, you were one heck of a year, 2009. You dealt us a nasty blow in June — a blow that temporarily put us into a tailspin — only to bring us back with a terrific idea for delivering our version of community journalism. Did you really think you’d gotten the best of us? Today, the Icon might just reach 25,000 hits. Take that, 2009.

You were, of course, not a completely bad year. We got to see the first African-American inaugurated as president of the USA. We got to see idiots like Madoff stopped in their tracks.

We got to watch our oldest daughter graduate with a master’s degree and watched her enter her first year of PhD studies. We got to have most of our family members and many friends together for a wonderful wedding in our back yard, an event that gave us a son-in-law who makes the best sushi we’ve ever had. You gave us a cute little Schnauzer who — even as we speculate on these random thoughts — is happily sacked out on the couch, snoring quietly and looking like the angelic little guy he — usually — is.

Oh 2009, you were one heck of a year. You let me reconnect with my beloved cousin, Claire, who I hadn’t seen in almost 20 years, and let me spend an afternoon with my best junior high/high school friend/cousin, Kathy, who I hadn’t seen in oh so long. You gave me Facebook, which gives me more pleasure than you can imagine. All those old friends…and yes, we’re getting older, but then, who doesn’t? You gave me a 35th — ulp — class reunion that turned out to be so much more fun that I ever expected.

And now, 2009, in just three hours, we get to say sayonara to you, and welcome in a new year. But since I no longer can stay awake beyond 10:30 p.m., I’ll say goodbye now. I’m going to hoist my goblet of white wine and toast 2010 because it sure as heck is gonna be a lot better than you. Has to be.