The Aftermath

What a difference a week makes.

The sun is shining and the breeze gently stirs the salted trees branches. Traffic moves at a brisk pace across our city’s drawbridge. Trains whistle as the cross the bridge trestle and the smell of Maxwell House coffee drifts across the river once more.

One week ago we woke up to 70 mph wind gusts and driving rain. We watched the river crest the walkway in front of our high rise, lapping against the lobby doors. We saw canals instead of streets, and we heard nothing but the scream of Irma’s wrath.

It’s been a week of worry and grim preparation. The days of uncertainty- should we leave, is there anywhere to run? We laid in supplies, we made sure our five kids were hunkered down in safe places, and we waited.

We played rummy, started a jigsaw puzzle, read, played the piano, and tried not to watch the Weather Channel 24/7.

I made soup, and meatloaf, and creamy mashed potatoes. We drank beer, and we went on walks while the skies only misted; amazed at the white caps on the river. We watched movies and calmed the cat.

I got up at 2:30 a.m. to watch the green glow of power transformers blowing across town. I watched lights blink and palm trees bend and water sluice down the stairwells of the parking garage outside our window. I put in my earplugs and tried to sleep.

After the storm anxiety levels only increased as we called and texted family and friends. Were they safe?

The Weather Channel moves on, the local reporters go around town recording the damage. You’re ready to get back to normal, You even miss going to work. But there’s more.

The part no one tells you about- the aftermath of a natural disaster. There are trees down, and no power for many. You’ve seen it on t.v. before. Poor souls, I will write a check. Then it hits closer to home. One kid with no power, one has a flooded street and can’t return to their apartment. And one, has knee high water in her college apartment.

So you help. Anyway you can. You save what can be salvaged. You wear gloves and you sanitize the stuff that can be saved. You toss the rest in the growing pile of insulation and dry wall and wet mattresses. You watch them square their shoulders and box up their few belongings. Your heart breaks.

You swallow your tears and take the next call. No power after five days, can we sleep in a/c tonight. You clean the sheets and hang up fresh towels. You just want to lay your head down and sleep for the next 48 hours.

But work calls- the office flooded. All your stuff is being moved out so they can dry it out. Now you begin to fall apart. You wonder if you reached the tipping point. You wish you could sit down and have a good cry. But, your boss is calling and there are tasks to complete, decisions to be made, plans to change.

This morning you pull up the news- another hurricane, Maria is bearing down and you have no more emotional energy to care.

©annettealaine2017

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Nice Girls

I’m angry.  I’m upset. I’m heartbroken.

Another young woman was murdered in Florida. In my city.

In the parking lot of busy suburban shopping center, in broad daylight.

She was twenty-one; two classes ahead of my daughter.

Worked at a restaurant in this shopping center- beautiful, kind, loving, and an excellent worker.

She lived at home. She was close to her parents.

She was killed by a co-worker. A man who I gather had feelings for her.

*********************************************************************

Another young woman killed by a man who would not take no for an answer.

I read something this week about how Black parents give their kids “the talk.”

About living and surviving while being black in this country.

But what about the women who sit their daughters down and give “the talk?”

You know the script:

How to deal with the cat-calls, the crude invitations called out as you walk down the street.

How to  deal with sexual harassment on the job,  and at school.

Be careful when you are out- don’t accept a drink from a stranger.

Be firm, be clear, be direct- be careful with guys who stalk. Trust your gut.

Lock your doors, watch the street, don’t walk alone, make sure no one is following you home.

Be aware if the guy you are dating becomes to possessive- know the signs of

  • physical
  • emotional
  • sexual abuse

Stay in groups. Watch out for each other. Text me when you arrive and when you leave a place and check in with friends.

And the cycle of fear continues, because we can’t trust some men. It’s the twenty-first century and I’m giving my daughter the same talk that I got, my mother heard, and on back in history. Beware of men who can’t control their impulses. It’s the women’s job to keep them in check:

  • be sweet and kind, but not too easy
  • watch how you dress
  • watch what you say
  • don’t be a tease
  • don’t lead them on

I’m angry, frustrated and scared for my daughter. I’m sad that I had to acknowledge that being female in this world is difficult and being vigilant is a burden she will bear her entire life.

©annettealaine 2017

 

Vacation with Myself

Vacation with Myself

This is the first time in five years that I’ve taken a vacation for me.

I’ve taken time off to take kids to college, or go to a workshop, and husband and I have taken a few trips over the past few years. But this long ten day stretch has been selfishly taken for my own time to re-charge.

So many people asked me, where are you going? My answer was- no where. Blessedly no where. 

Don’t get me wrong. I love planning trips to different places. I have a bucket list of places to visit before I’m too old to travel.  And I love going on adventures with my spouse, but this year I knew that I needed some time alone. So what makes this such a wonderful vacation?

  • The boss is also out of town. So no texts, emails, or worries about a laundry list of tasks waiting for me when I return.
  • This is the first time I did not have to prep too far ahead to make sure big jobs were completed before I left. It causes tons of stress, but we hired someone to complete that job, so I don’t have to worry about it, and can actually unplug from work.
  • My location- my apartment high in the sky is the perfect place to hang out. It’s small enough to feel like I’m somewhere else, and conveniently far enough away from the work environment. Bonus- the balcony that sits in the shade most of the day and has a beautiful view of the river.
  • I’m mostly alone everyday for hours. It means no one is waiting for me to do anything for them. I can eat, walk, nap, read and do whatever I feel like doing without the usual worry about anyone else’s agenda.
  • It’s quiet. And I’ve craved peace and quiet so I can think and even write again.

 

I realize when I return to work I need to carve out more time on my own to relax and re-charge regularly so I don’t burn out. I need to selfishly guard my time. A hard lesson to learn when you are a woman and you’ve spent most of your adult life giving selflessly to others.

How do you carve out time for yourself? I’d love to hear from you.

 

©annettealaine

The Drought

The Drought

Blame it on the weather.

The rain should give me the motivation to write because I can’t walk or sit on the porch, so I have no other activities to hold me back.

But my muse is taking a break.

I haven’t had any recent revelations, no existential crisis, and nary a deep thought in weeks.

Perhaps a vacation will help.

 

I have no plans for my upcoming vacation. It doesn’t feel right even calling it “vacation.” I’m not headed for the mountains, or the lake, or another city- I’m staying home and doing the usual stuff. The only difference is I don’t have to go to work.

I usually use a portion of my vacation to tackle a project I don’t make time for- going through the closets or cleaning out the garage. But, I did that months ago as I prepared for our big move.

Maybe the secret is not about time to write but about giving myself the space to think and dream. To sit, observe, taste new words, roll sentences around on my tongue and string together a group of words or sentences to form a poem, or story.

Perhaps my muse will return from her journey soon, refreshed and renewed.

I hope so.

©annettealaine2017

 

 

Clara, Mr. Tiffany and Me: The Art of Creating

Clara, Mr. Tiffany and Me: The Art of Creating

 

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I’m reading Clara and Mr. Tiffany, by Susan Vreeland. It’s an excellent story about the women’s department at Tiffany Glass and their artistic contributions to the Tiffany brand, particularly his famous Tiffany lamps.

The themes of artists and how they create, and how women fought to work in the arts and crafts fields is well documented and sobering. Clara’s struggle is still real in many ways- for me personally it’s the balance of writing while juggling the demands of my life: work, marriage and family.

I’ve read all the books on how to carve time to write. I’ve tried writing prompts, creating a space to write, and formulating a daily routine to sit down in front of the computer (or picking up a pen.)

But, for me, it’s not that simple. I need quiet time to clear my mind of all its incessant chatter. Then there is the clamoring for attention by others. Sometimes I walk with earbuds connected to a silent iPod. I want to get lost in my thoughts as I breathe in the world around me.

I drive to work with the radio off. I often try composing poetry in my head as I drive. Today, I was writing this post as I waited at traffic lights. Sometimes it works.

But, more often I am distracted by the host of other people and tasks that fill my day. Here’s what typically happens:

I went for my walk Thursday evening and passing a mosaic that resides under the bridge I had an idea for my next blog post. I composed some of it as I continued to walk. When I stepped in the door I quickly showered and changed and went out to eat with my husband.

I keep composing in my head as I got ready for bed. I will sit down first thing in the morning and get this down I thought. Then I woke up and remembered my dentist appointment. And then the boss called and I had to go in and fix something at work. And then I remembered I needed to get the cat flea medicine and we were out of toilet paper…

You get the drift. I didn’t write that day. On Saturday I tried again, but by then the words sounded stale and the distractions around me kept me from recapturing the feelings I had Thursday evening.

Maybe I am just not disciplined enough. Or maybe I don’t value my talent or my time.

Clara knew the men in the Tiffany Glass Company did not think she was a serious artist. But she believed she was and she fought for her right to create.

Food for thought.

©annettealaine2017

 

No Regrets

No Regrets

In my line of work, you experience death. We go on the death watch journey with a family as someone’s loved one goes into a decline. Or it’s an unexpected shock- and we must be the calm in their tumultuous storm of shock and grief.

I have answered the phone when someone calls with the news. I have sat and listened as a family sits and waits for their appointment with clergy to plan the funeral. And what I hear over and over again is:

Don’t waste a moment.

Tell everyone you love them.

Hug often.

Fill your days with things that bring you joy.

In a week that in our biz is filled with more tedious busy-ness and mind-numbing details than is the norm, it’s easy to forget those wise words. But this week was the perfect time for me to repeat the sage advice like a mantra as I drove to work each day.

For my children- they are ready to leap to the next adventure. Perhaps my concerns have some merit, but this is the time to fly. I have few regrets, but can look back and wonder how my life would have turned out if I had boldly picked choice A over choice B.

For myself- I’ve already started 2017 with a bang. Our radical lifestyle change has reaped many blessings and giving both of us an appreciation for another chance to turn the page and start something new.

As the grieving widower sat speaking quietly to us with a smile on his face and tears in his eyes,

We had a great life, but the last ten years was more than we were promised. And we did everything she wanted to do, and had no regrets. We loved, we played and we lived every moment.

©annettealaine2017

Reparation

Reparation

I just finished the book, Good on Paper, by Rachel  Cantor.

The protagonist, Shira learns about forgiveness through a series of poems and writings by both Dante and a fictional poet, Romei.

Here was my favorite line in the book:  Nice if the offender can account for herself- confess, be contrite, make reparations, change. Nice if we can put ourselves into the offenders shoes, as if she were a character in fiction: recognize her humanity, identify with her, emphatically imagine our way to forgiveness. But ultimately, forgiveness begins not in the intentions of the offender, but the heart of the offended.

Forgiveness has been on my mind- I’ve cut the last tie to my past with the sale of the house, but during the sale another betrayal was revealed. And I was left again to wonder if I could ever forgive the person who caused so much pain and who evokes an equal amount of anger.

Cantor’s character learns that some people’s offenses are unforgivable, others will not be confessed- we can’t always wait for penance.

I’ve tried to forget the past- The agreement and the support is over, and so is the emotional manipulation that came with each check.

Forgiveness is a funny thing. You can wake up someday and a past offense no longer stings. You realize it no longer hurts, the anger has disappeared. Your heart is lighter.

But some offenses are unforgivable- in this case it’s the offense coupled with a total lack of remorse.

One day my heart may soften enough to forgive the trespass against me. I won’t waste my precious energy waiting for reparation.

@annettealaine2017