Soothing to watch Seyit Uygur marble paper after a long day at my desk. Will I ever pull paper again? I hope so.
I started: Teaching (adjunct) General Sociology at a community college. I was excited (and nervous) and so not ready given my mother had passed away just two days before the first day of class. I enjoyed returning to being "smart" and my interest in the field. It woke up a part of my brain that has been on snooze for way too long.
I stopped: Teaching General Sociology at a community college. I think it was at the four week mark when I realized exactly why adjuncts complain so much. The pay was abysmal for the hours you put in. It cut way in to my consulting time, which is actually where I make money to help pay the bills. I loved some of the students; others scared me. I felt disconnected from the department - as if I could be making balloon animals in front of the class and that would be fine - but they made me feel as if I had to continually prove my worth even though they never visited my class or reviewed my syllabus, which is what really counts. I would do it again - but at a different college. Sadly, it is THAT kind of college that sorely needs new ideas and good teachers.
I was satisfied: that I gave my students everything I had, particularly around issues of race in the United States. I challenged the status quo of avoiding race in the classroom, particularly the ugly history that led us to the sad state of affairs where we find ourselves today.
I was frustrated: with my health. Frustrated to find myself scheduling another surgery - my fourth in ten years - with the full knowledge that it might not "work." And yet, I'm having trouble walking because of all the scar tissue in my pelvis, and so I have almost no choice but to try. It's a relatively straightforward procedure, but it backs up on all the years of pain, recovery, time spent waiting for doctors, and financial stress and becomes just a great big load I'd like to dump on someone else. If I had invested everything I've spent on my health over the past decade in a fund that paid an average market return? Well...let's not even do the math on that one. And it's frustrating because I feel like there's just no one left to talk to about it. People have heard it all before and there's nothing left to say, and yet I have this giant, yawning need for sympathy at the moment. Thanks for listening.
I am so embarrassed that I: John's view is that it's minor, but I'm embarrassed that I congratulated a woman holding a baby at a family Thanksgiving dinner - thinking she was the Mom (I'd met once before) when in fact it was just a random baby holder. The actual Mom was sitting on a couch across the room. They were kinda rude to me for the rest of the afternoon and I have to say I felt like I deserved it. [forehead slap]
Once again, I failed to: write my book. Finish any of the paintings I started almost five years ago. I feel dead, creatively speaking, but I also know that this will eventually pass.
The biggest physical difference between me last December and this December: I lost another ten pounds, though I'm not sure why since I didn't really "try." But who cares, right? I'm within 5 pounds of my Miami weight (Miami the FIRST time) and this is another reason I dread having surgery. I like being thinner and recovery time is never good for weight. Downside, the significant weight loss over the past few years has given me turkey neck.
I loved: receiving a chatty letter from granddaughter Lucy, out of the blue. Grandkids are such a gift, you have no idea.
Why did: my mother spend $100 a month from her paycheck to purchase EE Savings Bonds for me? I mean, I appreciate the gift, but I wish she would have spent that money on making herself happy. I know that this was her choice, and that it made her happy to do so, but I would have been happier still to see her enjoy herself once in awhile while she could still do it.
I should have: taken off to New York by myself for a fall weekend. Expenses be damned, even though I'd already just been.
I feel so vulnerable: I'm happy to say that I don't feel all that vulnerable at the moment. Things aren't perfect, of course, but I feel pretty solid at my core. I'm unhappy about the surgery, but in a good spot, big picture. That's worth millions.
I regret: not brow beating John into building the tub deck BEFORE he put the tub in. It looks ok, but would be much neater if it had been done first. I sometimes regret not telling people what I really think because it would cause conflict; other times I think it's for the best that I just keep it all to myself. Process shot above. I found the antique flame mahogany empire mirror at a local antique store for $60.
I will never regret: fixing up the back yard. It is inspiration for the rest of the house and such a serene spot to sit in good weather. We loved tending our little vegetable garden and I have no regrets choosing edibles over flowers. Also, I have been cavity free for almost a decade. I will never regret switching to Sonicare toothbrushes.
I love: the new bathroom. It took forever, but we're really happy with it and I love the Georgetown "Hoyas Blue" that I painted the walls. I had Lowe's custom blend the paint using my graduation handbook.
The dust in the house from remodeling...drove me crazy. And it continues. The never finished status of the house drives me crazy. Everywhere I look there's a huge project to tackle, so mostly I just sit and read with the pets because I'm so overwhelmed. This helps the crazy not at all.
The most relaxing place I went: Omaha was oddly relaxing, once we were through with my Mom's service. Just hanging out at the hotel; going to Modern Love restaurant. As is the hotel I'm staying in right now. I crashed John's business trip, brought Sissy, my laptop, my own coffee, and three library books. It's AWESOME.
The best thing I did for someone else: Probably being with my Mom the last week of her life. She was pleased to see me when I arrived and oddly lucid for the first day. I hope I helped her be less afraid and I think the clock radio we bought to play classical music helped her as well.
The best thing I did for myself: Probably being with my Mom the last week of her life. True that the best thing you do for someone else is the best thing that you can do for yourself.
The best thing someone did for me: when I came home from visiting my Mom in hospice, John had made me a dinner of all the vegetables from our garden. It was a great act of care - from the planting, to the tending of the plants, to picking them and preparing them at just the right time. She would pass away later that night, and the next day he dragged me to the county fair to look at cute animals. I was sad, but I also knew that I was truly loved.
The one thing I'd like to do again, but do it better: Starting a new class at a new college two days after your parent dies when your own health is questionable is not a good idea. So it's hard to say how things might have been different if I'd tried to get out of my teaching commitment at the last minute, in spite of the guilt I would have felt. Or not driven to DC every week for physical therapy during the semester. The class went fine, but I was exhausted, know what I'm saying?
Kathryn K. Dalbey Rettig
(1939 – 2014)
Kathryn K. Dalbey Rettig passed away peacefully on August 16, 2014 at age 75.
Kathy received a PhD in Family Ecology and Educational Psychology Counseling from Michigan State University. She received both her M.S. in Family Resource Management and B.S.in Home Economics Education from Iowa State University.
Her own career path was important, but it was development of her students and those who worked with her over the years that brought her the greatest joy. She served as a teacher, researcher, mentor, advisor, and friend to many. Kathy retired in 2011 after 26 years as a professor in the College of Human Ecology at University of Minnesota – Twin Cities. Earlier in her career, she held positions at University of Illinois; the State of Illinois Department of Children and Family Services; the Child Development Clinic in the University of Iowa College of Medicine and Glassboro State College (now Rowan University.)
Kathy is survived by her two daughters Kari Rettig (Ben Moore) and Heidi Efner (John), sister Cynthia Dalbey Greenburg (Barry), brother Marc Dalbey, niece Jennifer Greenburg (Casey Stockdon), her cousins and many friends.
The family wishes to thank the memory care team at The Seasons of Maplewood and St. Croix Hospice. Kari and Heidi suggest a small donation to the BeFrienders project at the United Methodist Church, 1851 Birch Street, White Bear Lake, Minnesota 55110 in Kathy’s honor.
My sister sent me a link to a great article by Joe Peacock: All the New Year Advice You Could Possibly Ever Shove Up Your Ass. I found wisdom there. I liked the statement, "If you want to be honest about how you feel about stuff, start with telling yourself the truth about it." The trick is to be able to figure out how you really feel and deal with it now. Not, like, five years from now.
But I didn't bother to set any New Year's resolutions for 2014. I'm still busy trying to reach the goals I set in 2013. Or those from 2002 for that matter. If I'm honest with myself, I can't really remember what last year's resolutions were. I'm sure it had something to do with running a 10K and eating right.
I did go through all my things (again) and had a brief moment of organization in the art studio/office. I'm sure that was a resolution and it worked out, mostly. I threw away all the clothes that reminded me of my ex because every time I opened the closet I relived the fight based on what I'd been wearing during the arugments. The purple sweater I wore when he told me, "YOU DO NOTHING." Even if that statement will stay in my heart forever, anyway. There's no room for that sweater here. Even if I can't afford a whole new wardrobe - those memories have to go. So, the short summary is that I gave away all my warm coats and I'm headed Minnesota next week. My bad.
I guess I thought I'd find a coat I liked before the winter weather set in and I did. I found a really nice coat. Great style. Great quality. Great price. I ordered the large and it was too tight in the biceps. THE BICEPS. So I sent it back and ordered the extra large. And when the extra large finally arrived it was also too tight in THE BICEPS. I kept it for a couple of days and tried it on at odd moments - just in case I'd been swollen in THE BICEPS from something salty. No dice. So I had to send the coat back. Not because I'm too fat but because I'm too ripped. Bitches.
Two warm coats remain: a real, blonde vintage mink and a vintage faux leopard with 3/4 sleeves (and no long gloves.) It's 5 degrees in Winchester, Virginia and the wind chill is around -15. I'm totally against buying something you don't like just because you need it right that second. Those purchases have a way of hanging around for years and making you subtly miserable, right? So I'll wait until I find a good coat. But...brrrr! I'm guess I'm going to Target this afternoon in the hopes they have some long black gloves and, whether I wind up in mink or faux leopard? It looks like I will be the most glamourous person that has ever visited the memory care unit in Hometown, Minnesota.
I'm not entirely sure what the point of this story is. Perhaps something about making assumptions about what you need to get rid of to be happy. Perhaps it's about what you need to keep. Or maybe it's about planning ahead. Or it could be about not waiting to get yourself what you need.
Either way. Happy New Year.
I stopped paying other people and challenged myself to dig in and do all the work myself. Even if it meant I had to step outside my comfort zone. It has given me a much-needed focus on what needs to happen next.
I started paying attention to my Internet store as if it belonged to a client. I've spent the last few months giving it needed improvements and direction. This has been an important transition for me.
I was satisfied with holiday sales in spite of all the imperfections in the site, the products, and my marketing tools. I have learned so much in the last six months!
I was frustrated by the city's lack of response to graffiti, trash, and other problems in my neighborhood. If I lived two streets away in the fancy historic section (vs. the plain historic section), it wouldn't even be an issue. The problems would be taken care of by the city that same day. It bothers me because it's something I've dealt with so many times in my consulting practice and yet...when it comes down to it...I'm not 100 percent sure that putting up a sculpture is going to keep my neighbor from letting his dog shit in front of my door.
I am so embarrassed that I am not a better communicator. By phone, by email, in person. I'm not sure what changed. I used to be really social. I want to blame it on M., for making me feel insecure about myself (him picking apart everything I said and did after a party, for example) but then I feel like you shouldn't give away your power like that. I know my hearing problem is at least part of it - I really struggle to hear in places like restaurants and even on the phone. But still. I need to get better at communicating with friends and family and there are lots of ways to do that.
Once again, I failed to achieve buns of steel. I did run a 10K or two and I did see noticeable improvements in my physical strength and appearance. So there IS that.
Once again, I did not finish writing my novel.
The biggest physical difference between me last December and this December is my overall fitness level. I can see the difference in myself in muscle tone and shape when I look in the mirror. I can zip a skirt I haven't been able to squeeze even a leg into for more than ten years.
I loved my visit to Bend to see the grandkids. Precious kids and precious time together. I'm so thankful to their parents for sharing them with me.
Why did I ever think I could help [X] situation? Why do so many people count on me to do exactly that when their problems need sorting? Is that good for them? Is it good for me?
I should have been honest with myself. In so many different ways. In so many different moments. But then other times, I'm afraid of what I'll have to change/do as a result.
I feel so vulnerable when I sort through my parents' papers and/or my own "hoard." There are pieces of paper in my collage box that I've been saving ("for a project") for TEN YEARS. That I have never started - in spite of the fully formed idea in my mind. It's tough to go through that stuff and face the reality about your time commitments. It's tough to sort my mother's papers because there's just nowhere for it to go. This is the end. All of her treasures and...for what? And I think those things (the collage box of projects and my mother's treasures) are somehow related. When I go through those boxes, I wonder what I'm good at. And I can't think of anything.
I regret not finishing my book. I'm going to put that on "client status" this winter. I guess one thing I've learned from the website thing is that even if it isn't perfect, it can give a great deal of satisfaction because of all the effort that went into it. And once you know what isn't perfect, you have a list of items you can then refine.
I will never regret adopting Sissy. I wasn't planning on a dog. I was sitting at my desk one afternoon feeling anxious and couldn't figure out why. I decided to go to the shelter (where I volunteer) to find someone more anxious than me and offer comfort. There she was. Shivering in the corner of the kennel. I picked her up and held her for almost an hour. Shelter staff started asking me if I was going to adopt her. NO. I have two cats. We are all very happy together just the way we are. Then I realized I loved her. I hated putting her back in the kennel. And that's when I knew. I'd put dozens of dogs back in their kennels after our walks - no regrets. And John was working out of town. He couldn't come and meet her.
When I called he said he trusted me to choose an animal - which is huge, if you think about it. Because neither of us knew if it would upset the balance of our very happy pet family. It worked out that he could meet her and decide. And so we did. And she fit in just fine. She and the White Kitty are surprisingly good friends. It's been a pleasure to watch her let go of her insecurities and fears - especially over the last couple of months. A scared, out-of-shape little dog turned into a cuddly, happy, 7 year-old puppy. I did that. The fact that I wrote more about the dog than anything else on this list must say alot about me. I wake up so many days wondering if I'm good at anything. I know I'm good at loving shelter animals and helping them relax into my home. That, I know I'm good at.
I love my home. And all of the people and things in it. In spite of its imperfections. In spite of the neighbors. In spite of the long list of repairs that need to be made. I know that I love it because whenever I leave, I'm always so glad to get back here.
My neighbor, the leaf blower guy, drove me crazy.
The most relaxing place I went was probably the gym. I also really enjoyed my trip to Pittsburgh to see my friend D., and my trip to New York City. Also, we went to Denver during the storms and had a ball.
Why did I think it was a good idea to rip out my bathroom the week before Christmas? Plaster dust everywhere. Decisions to be made at a super busy time for website orders. I didn't get a tree up. Didn't get anything baked. No presents to my family. Horrible. It was just that extra thing that pushed me over the edge.
The best thing I did for someone else? Raised a stink with the head nurse about the poop under my Mom's fingernails. She wound up in Depends, but it was inevitable, really.
The best thing I did for myself was marry John. It would have been easy to just continue to live in sin because I was afraid of making another mistake, but I'm really glad we tied the knot.
The best thing someone did for me: Perhaps I'm just fresh off of Christmas and forgetting other things - but I was really touched by the time and effort that my sister and my mother-in-law put into our gifts this year. So many nice things! And I did nothing.
The one thing I’d like to do again, but do it better: I ran a really crummy Freedom's Run 10K last fall - and it so discouraged me I've had trouble getting back in the saddle. I'd like to a) run a better Freedom's Run in 2014; and b) work on my response to disappointment. You can't just wallow in it for two months. You have to keep going, know what I'm saying? And I'm going to stop comparing myself to my ultra-marathoner online friends. That doesn't help.
My mother was a sociology professor who believed she needed to work 14 hour days, seven days a week. Her kids came last. She never took vacation and forced herself to live on half of everything she earned. She was promoted, widely published, but had few friends and was clinically depressed for most of my life. And didn't treat it. She lived in the past. She lived in fear. At retirement she went straight from her office to a dementia unit where she is today, aged 72. That room costs nearly $7000 a month.
All that work and saving and this is what she bought herself. Her childhood and college friends send cards and letters. Her "best" friend from work hasn't visited her once in three years. My sister and I moved her out of her office because she was unable to do it herself and her end-of-career accomplishment was a pile of papers in giant recycling bins. No one was there. No one cared.
It broke my heart in that moment and, two years I am having trouble "leaning in" to my own work after seeing all that go down. Sometimes I am honest with people about this, but more often I just create an illusion that I still find meaning in what I do and am enjoying being busy. The reality is I am questioning almost everything.
Maggie (2007) Watercolor on paper. --Sue Rubira
It's going to happen. It's happening already. It's been going on for some time. Maybe five years ago, I noticed that when I looked at photos I'd ask in confusion, "Who is that?" before the eye settled and realized it was me. The doughy under-chin. The turkey neck. The dark roots. The fat. The one, brave age spot on the right side of my face where the Montana sun beat down through the window on the passenger side.
Even my mother, through the fog of dementia, recognized that I have her mother's hands. She'd never said it before. I can only assume that she saw how my thumb knuckles seem to be swelling or lengthening - doing something strange, anyway - as I get older. And yes, my hands look like my grandmother's. Not when she was young, but when I knew her in the last part of her life.
Now, I let people take pictures of me and simply don't look at them. I'm not one of those hovering over someone else's camera display pressing the trash can button. I know that in ten years, I'll think I looked great. I think, while I pose and smile, of my youth and beauty and how I wasn't confident enough at 103 pounds to wear a bikini. That I thought I was fat when my weight climbed to 117.
Every pair of pants I try on, I'm still 42. Not 22. I can lose weight but I'm not going to lose my scars, or the extra skin that folds over them. I'm not going to spend $10,000 to get any of it removed. All I have is the memory of what it used to be like to be able to wear almost anything I tried on. My biggest problem in any dressing room was that my waist was too tiny relative to my bust.
I ran a 10K this past weekend and posted a photo of me crossing the finish line. It was all I could do not to caption it, "Fatty at the Finish." But I held it back. The girls are watching. What message does it send to train for something for so many months if you are only going to degrade yourself once you've met your goal? And, when I look back at the photo in ten years, what will I be thinking?
Will I be thinking that, at this weight (whatever it is, because I only weigh at the doctor's office and most of the time I make them keep the number to themselves) I could run seven miles; that I was stronger than I'd ever been at that point? That the race weekend was an incredibly happy weekend with John, the man I would marry just a few weeks later? That it was the perfect weather when we stood, that same weekend, under a blooming dogwood tree and held hands while we watched the old fire trucks and the floats and high school marching bands go by in a parade? Will I remember the play I saw in the city with my friend the next day? Or how John and I sat on the bed and talked all night afterward, playing with our cats and simply being happy?
I stole that title from the movie. I've always loved that movie. Joan Allen plays her character caustic and brittle. So much pent up anger about their unsuccessful marriage that, when her husband suddenly disappears, she finds it imposible to consider any explanation other than an affair. That his gorgeous, Nordic secretary left at the same time to return to the homeland only confirms the suspected cliche. His body is discovered many months later at the bottom of a well in a wooded section of their property. It's impossible for the viewer not to ask -- out loud and even many months, or years, later -- what might have happened if she had set her anger aside and gone out looking for him. Or even picked the fight she'd really wanted to have before he'd gone.
I've spent so many years being angry - often without really knowing why. Sometimes I did know why but had to force it down. My sister thinks of me as a grudge keeper, and perhaps this is true.I think of it less as grudge keeping than of hurts kept to myself. All in the interest of keeping the relationship civil. At least we can keep it civil, if we can't keep it kind.
Of course, anger in occasional doses is a healthy emotion. A reaction -- they say in all my books -- to being taken advantage of. To not feeling valued. Sometimes things happen and suddenly I get that bitterly familiar taste in mouth and I'm not sure what to do with it. Do you chew, spit, or swallow? Break it up into little pieces and push it around the plate or spread it thin over something sweet?
Just once, I want to take the other road. Not the high road. I fantasize about that every once in awhile. What it would be like -- just once -- to tell people what I really think and feel. Civility and my own dysfunction aside. I might say:
--You've raised your children to be a bunch of little assholes.
--This moment is about me, not you.
--You exhaust me and everyone around you with your anxious drama.
--You're sick. You need help for your alcoholism/anorexia/histrionic personality disorder/(insert dysfunction here.) And I don't want to be around you until you deal with it.
--You're spoiled and rude.
The short list.
I imagine that if I ever really did that, people would just stand back and stare. They're used to me being a doormat. And, of course, they love that about me.
I found this via Pinterest, and tried it this morning. I'm always looking to upgrade my 'do on the days I don't want to wash my hair before I go running. Weirdly, it worked for me. I didn't curl my hair first (I have plenty of natural wave) and I forgot to put hairspray in first. I did not manage to roll the second part the way she did. Still? It looks pretty cute. Try it!
I find myself, now, in a very strange place. I don't *really* have anybody, anymore. Apart from my sister, of course. Not having anybody makes it easier but it also makes it harder. Easier not to have to tell my grandmother that I'm about to get married a third time but harder because big events like these sharpen the edges of friendships that have faded over the last few years.
I got married in Hawaii the first time. In a long white dress and veil in a beautiful outdoor chapel on the edge of the sea. Surrounded by people I mostly don't know anymore, I said my vows into the harsh light of a setting sun. I couldn't see a thing. By the end I was so sick to my stomach, I didn't attend my own reception. It might have been something I ate. In the middle of the night we snuck out of the hotel and drove to the emergency room. My then-husband had a severe allergic reaction to something. We passed a pack of wild dogs on a golf course in the dark.
My second wedding was in the living room of our Montana home the day after Christmas. I spent the morning vacuuming on my hands and knees with a Dirt Devil handheld because the housekeeper forgot to tell us she broke the belt in our regular vacuum and there was no time to run to town and find one. Afterward, we rode up the hill with a "Just Married" sign and a bunch of empty soup cans tied to our ATV. My old friend from high school made us a carrot cake with Hershey's Hugs sunk into a thick layer of cream-cheese frosting and we listened to our contractor give a toast about how M. was, as a man, the "new head of [our] Christian household." My sister promptly dropped a champagne glass and broke it. We were all a little gobsmacked by that 'Christian household' thing.
My third wedding is on May 25, 2013 at 11 a.m. at The Old Stone Church in Winchester, Virginia. There will be a simple cake, vegan cupcake and punch reception afterward. All my people are gone, now. I keep hearing that in my head. My parents. My grandparents. My step-brothers. There are once-close friendships I'm less sure of today than I was just two years ago. My still-good friends are few and feel very far away. After twenty years of waiting, whether anyone shows up or not, I'm finally going to marry my best friend. And I can hardly wait. If you're reading this - you're invited.