June 2, 2010

Memorial Day Thoughts

The bulk of the tour season is behind me and I actually have a little free time to post something. The last month has been incredibly busy as I've worked several long stretches of tours without a break. Right now, I'm towards the end of a 10-day stretch that included the routine 8th grade tour, a marching band that came to perform in the National Memorial Day Parade, a middle school history club (starting this afternoon), and, most interesting of all, a group of families who have lost loved ones through their military service. They were in Washington for Memorial Day weekend at a conference of TAPS (Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors), a non-profit organization that helps these families cope with their loss.

I learned a lot about TAPS while I was with the group on Friday evening. The membership is made up of servicemen/women as well as people who have lost loved ones in the war -- any war -- and are willing to help others going through similar experiences. I can't even begin to tell you how impressed I was with this incredible organization! Not only do they help adults, but they have an outstanding program that matches children who have lost parents or siblings with active duty military members from the same branch of the service who act as their mentors and buddies. They even had a "Good Grief Camp" for children as part of the weekend's activities, a place where kids could express their feelings of loss and learn how to cope with it. The weekend conference had a lot of fun activities, but it also had seminars to help survivors deal with the paperwork and bureaucratic red tape, support group meetings, grief counseling, financial counseling, etc. What a wonderful resource for these families! They had over 1400 people attend!

TAPS had posted a request for tour guides on the Guild of Professional Tour Guides of Washington, DC website a few weeks ago, asking for volunteers to lead tours for the families on Friday evening, and I was quick to jump at the chance. I met the group at their hotel in Crystal City, Virginia and had just a little over two hours to show them around the city. The motor coach was packed, so I had a young man (age 13) sitting next to me, his mom and younger sister across the aisle. His father was killed in action almost two years ago and I could still see the pain in his mother's face. I kept thinking how smart she was to take advantage of this organization to help them get through the difficult times. I was so impressed by all of the people on the tour -- the pride they felt for the loved ones they had lost seemed to far outweigh their feelings of grief. I'm sure they have all had many dark days, with more ahead, but they were all happy to be in Washington to celebrate Memorial Day and honor their fallen heroes. I felt truly honored to be a part of that!

I am fortunate that I have never lost a loved one in a war, and being a part of the Memorial Day activities all weekend reminded me of how lucky I am. It also reminded me of that old, but true saying: "Freedom isn't free!" That's one of the things I try to get across to all of my tour groups, especially the students, as I take them to the various memorials and monuments. I have a tremendous respect for those who serve(d) our country -- past and present -- and do all that I can to honor them. When I see someone in uniform, I thank them for their service. When I see veterans visiting the memorials (especially the World War II), I encourage my students to go up and speak with them and I do the same.

Memorial Day weekend is over, but that doesn't mean we should stop showing respect and honor for our servicemen and women. Just the opposite! It's easy to think about them on a special day, but I encourage you to think of them and pray for their safety every day! I know I do!

May 9, 2010

Mother's Day

It's been a long time since I posted on my blog. The last six weeks have been so busy between tours, chorus competition, scrapbooking, family, etc. The tour season is going pretty well. I've had some great groups and just one that was obnoxious and rude to the point that I'd rather not work with them again. For the most part, it's been great so far.

The diet is going well, too -- I'm down about 19 pounds from when I first started Weight Watchers. It's been slow and mostly steady, with a few detours along the way. All of the walking on my tours is really helping, but sometimes it's hard to stick to the program when I end up eating out so many times in a week. Still, I'm doing the best I can and making good choices most of the time. Yesterday I was even able to wear a pair of denim capris that were too tight last year, so that was encouraging.

So you're probably wondering what has compelled me to write today when I've been "silent" for so long. Easy enough to answer -- it's Mother's Day, a day filled with mixed emotions for me. I have two wonderful, grown sons whom I love dearly and who love me. We have a great relationship, albeit somewhat long distance these days. Dan lives about 3 hours north, so I certainly won't get to see him today, but he's already called this morning and we had a nice, long chat. Paul lives about an hour south of me and I spent most of yesterday with him, so I told him not to make the trip up for a visit today. He just came back from two weeks of training and has a lot of catching up to do before starting work again tomorrow. I completely understand why I won't be with my children today, but that makes it feel like just any other day, not like Mother's Day.

My own mother died in 1978, so it's been over 30 years since I've been able to spend the day with her. I used to go to the cemetery each year on Mother's Day, but stopped doing that a while ago. I was there a few months ago to visit, so that will have to do. I do think about her and wish she were still here, but that's beyond my control.

So why does this day feel so sad rather than happy? It comes down to one simple thing -- my granddaughter, Taryn. If you've read my blog from the beginning, you know I've written about her before. She's Dan's daughter, but without going into a whole, long explanation, let me just say that her mother, Liz, has kept her completely away from our family for almost four years. Yes, there's a custody agreement in place (Liz and Dan were married for only a year), but the two of them agreed that she wouldn't ask him to pay child support if he wouldn't ask to see Taryn. Dan moved away shortly after the divorce was finalized and he has moved on with his life. He is in a wonderful relationship with a lovely woman who has three little girls and I love all of them. I hope someday the two of them will get married, but in the meantime, Dan considers them to be his family. Still, that doesn't heal the aching in my heart or the emptiness I feel because I don't get to see my granddaughter.

The last time I saw Taryn, she was about 10 months old. She was crawling, pulling herself up to a stand and starting to take some steps if you held her hands. Now she's almost five years old! Think about everything I've missed! I think about it every single day of my life. I almost got to see her last June. I was at the American Cancer Society Relay For Life and it turned out that Liz was on a team, along with her mother, and had brought Taryn with her. My sister and friend saw them and tried to talk to them, but as soon as Liz realized I was there, she scooped Taryn up and took her home. How can someone be that cruel? I've never done anything to her or the baby to warrant that kind of treatment. For whatever reasons, Liz may hate my son, but that doesn't give her the right to hate me! All I've ever wanted is to get to know my granddaughter... to get to spend time with her...to have the chance to love her. My friends and family tell me I have to let go and, maybe, when Taryn is 18, she'll come looking for us. Easy for them to say...impossible for me to do. I don't know if I'll even be around when she turns 18, but even if I am, I will have missed the most important years of her life!

What can I do? From the research I've done, I have rights as a grandparent, but the State of Maryland will go along with the custodial parent's decision unless I can prove that Taryn is being abused. I know that's not the case; she's very well loved. Lately, though, I've been thinking about talking to a lawyer to see if anything can be done. What's been stopping me up to now? Liz has threatened to go after Dan for the money he owes if I do this, and I don't want to put him into that position. There's no way he can afford to pay the back child support, even though I doubt she'd win her case. She broke their agreement first by refusing to bring Taryn to our home for visitation. It was after that when she and Dan came to their unofficial agreement. Still, she's mean and vindictive -- as her behavior at Relay last year proved once again -- so I wouldn't put it past her.

So here I am again...another Mother's Day and no granddaughter to visit me. It's the same old story, but there's a little bit of a twist this time. I do have a great-niece, Hannah, who is 9 months old. My niece and sister have been wonderful about allowing me to be a part of her life, but it's just not the same. I love Hannah dearly and have since the day she was born, but now she's crawling and babbling and pulling herself up to a stand...exactly the same things Taryn was doing the last time I saw her. So as much as I love Hannah and the rest of her/my family, it is also very hard for me to be around her because of the memories it brings back. I watch my sister and brother-in-law play with her and the joy they feel as grandparents, and I'm so envious I could just die. I hate feeling this way, but I can't help it. I think that once Hannah gets past the stage that Taryn was at -- once she is walking and talking -- it will be easier. Until then, I'll smile and laugh at her antics and try not to think of the little red-headed girl -- the one who looks so much like my son -- that I can't be with today or any day.

Lest you think I don't appreciate that it's Mother's Day, let me say how thankful I am to have two grown sons who are healthy, happy and gainfully employed...who are living on their own (with only an occasional request for help)...and who worry about me. I love you, Paul and Dan. It's just that I have a lot more love available and wish I could share some of it with my granddaughter.

March 14, 2010

'Tis the Season

My life began anew today...my life as a tour guide, that is. This evening was the first day of my first student tour of the 2010 season! Hooray and hallelujah! Boy, it sure felt good to be back out there leading a group, telling them about our Nation's Capital and sharing the sights. And, I'm pleased to say, I've still got it! Sure, I spent a little time this morning going over my notes on the memorials and other sights, but once the group arrived, everything fell into place and I felt right at home.

The group I'm working with through Tuesday is from Idaho and it turns out that I've had them before. I kept thinking when I looked at the name of the middle school and the group leader that they sounded familiar, but when I looked back over last year's materials and schedule, they weren't there. So, there I was at Union Station, waiting for the group to arrive to have dinner, and as they stepped off the escalator, the group leader saw me, hollered out my name and gave me a big hug! I was right -- I did know them...but they were last here two years ago, not last year! They're from a small school and don't come every year. But they remembered me and requested me as their tour guide. I think that's the greatest honor and feedback that you can get from a group!

We had dinner at Uno Pizzeria (where I was very good on my diet), then headed for the World War II Memorial and Washington Monument. I could just feel that warm, familiar glow come over me as we drove around the city and saw all the buildings and memorials lit up. It doesn't matter how many times I see them -- and this is my fourth year as a guide -- it always sends a shiver up my spine. Washington, DC is a beautiful city, especially at night! Standing in front of the WW II Memorial, you can see the Washington Monument and all the way down to the Capitol looking east and a magnificent view of the Lincoln Memorial to the West. What a sight!

After that, we went over to the White House for a photo opportunity. The group leader had never seen it at night and was a little hesitant, but was delighted when she saw how beautiful it is all lit up. Of course, there were a gazillion pictures taken of the group in front of the White House -- heaven forbid they should actually share digital images! LOL! Every group I've been with is the same when it comes to that issue. You'd think they could designate one or two "official photographers" to take the group shots and pass them along to the rest, but everyone wants their own version on their own camera. It's okay, really. Some of them will never get another chance to come to Washington, so I want them to be happy!

That was it for tonight. These kids and adults have been up since 3:00 am Idaho time -- and with the switch to Daylight Savings Time, some of them never slept last night at all! They were beat, so the bus driver (one of my favorites) dropped me at Metro, I headed home and the group headed for the hotel. It's a very nice group -- fairly small and lots of adults (almost as many as there are students) and very well-behaved. I can't wait to meet them again tomorrow morning as we start a very long day with a stop at the Capitol Visitors Center.

I'm in the groove again and it feels great! I'm sure my attitude will be quite different by the time May and June roll around, but this is what I love to do and I'm glad it's started up again!

February 18, 2010

Up and Down and All Around

Gosh, it's been kind of a strange week. I don't know why, really, but my mood has been going up and down like a roller coaster. I guess part of it is related to the weather. We haven't had any additional snow since the second blizzard, but everywhere you go there are mountains and mountains of the stuff! I'm sick of trying to weave around piles in parking lots, not being able to see around them when I'm at an intersection waiting for traffic to clear, looking at the "black snow" that's created by the plowing and car exhausts, having events (especially chorus rehearsals) cancel because of the snow. I guess maybe I have a case of the winter doldrums, but that's only part of it.
Maybe it's because my 59th birthday was Saturday. I'm usually pretty positive about birthdays, although I'm not into huge parties or anything like that. Since my father died at the age of 54 and my mom five years later at the age of 56, I figure that every day I live is more than they had and a cause for celebration. And yet, I look at that number -- 59 -- and I know what's coming in just 360 days -- the "big 6-0"! I am already in my 60th year and that seems unreal! I don't feel that old and I certainly don't act that old! I look back at what my mom was like before she died and it seemed like she was much older than her years. I guess a lot of it has to do with my perspective and perceptions; she seemed older because she was my mother. I wonder if my children feel the same way about me? Probably not because I'm a lot more active than my mom was in her later years. After all, I sing, I'm a tour guide, a docent, and I have a fairly busy life. Mom was still recovering from the loss of my dad, her soul mate, even five years later, and I think that took a toll on her. I lost my husband to divorce almost eight years ago and, at the end, we were anything but soul mates. I have moved on with my life and done pretty well on my own.

Still, I've spent a lot of time this week thinking about where I am in my life. My sister and I have talked about it together, too, since she turned 65 last month. It's a very strange feeling to know that the majority of my time on earth is behind me, not ahead of me. It's a perspective that I don't think about too often, but there's nothing like a birthday to put it in your head for a while. I go with my quartet and chorus to sing at a lot of nursing homes, including units for patients with Alzheimer's. I love to see their faces light up when we start to sing, but at the same time, I wonder if that's what lies ahead for me. Will I end up being one of them, waiting for some outsiders to come and entertain me? It's a frightening thought!

I've also been spending a lot of time alone during the past few weeks, what with the blizzards and all. It's been a year since Paul moved out, so I'm glad to say I've made it through my first year of solo living! Most of the time, it's good. I don't have to worry about anyone's schedule but mine. I come and go as I please, eat when I'm hungry, cook if I feel like it (not too often, unfortunately), watch whatever TV shows I want, etc. But just about every night, there comes a time when the loneliness becomes almost overwhelming. I'll be sitting at the computer visiting Facebook or playing games and realize it's midnight or 1:00 am...and then I recognize that the reason I'm still at the computer is because I don't want to go to bed. I'm tired and sleepy, but going to bed alone only emphasizes my loneliness. I'm not talking about sex; I'm talking about the comfort of snuggling up to someone you love or having a person to talk to about your day. When I get into bed, pull up the covers and turn off the lights, it's just me and the TV. (Oh, yeah, I talk to the TV...but it doesn't answer back.) I don't even have a dog any more to get in bed with me and give me comfort. These are the hardest hours of the day and sometimes, when I'm having a bout of insomnia (like I did one night this week), they seem to go on forever. Eventually I fall asleep and, with no place special to be in the morning, I sleep in as late as I want. The mood has usually cleared by morning, but this week, it seems to be lingering on.

Now, before my wonderful nieces, sons and friends decide they are going to make me their "project" and start looking for a match for me, let me make it perfectly clear: don't bother! Most of the time, I'm fine with being alone. I'm just going through a rough spell right now and I'm sure it will pass. I'm not interested in dating and, as I've said many times, if it's in the cards for me to meet someone, it will happen without anyone else's help. I have the most wonderful support system in the world! I have a great, close, loving family, a large circle of friends who go out of their way to keep me involved and active, and my work to keep me busy...at least, it will once the tour season kicks in again next month. Just allow me my little bit of time to wallow in self-pity and then I'll be my cheerful self again.

Life is a roller coaster. This week I'm at the bottom of the hill. Who knows what next week will bring? I'll just have to wait and see.

February 11, 2010

Winter Doldrums

Seven days. That's how long it's been since I've been out of my apartment. Seven days. One week. 168 hours. 10,080 minutes. 604,800 seconds.

So, why does it feel like a lifetime?

I've tried to like the snow, I really have. Look at my last post and you'll see how much I truly like it. Except I wrote that posting before "Round 2" of the "Blizzard of 2010" hit. I wrote that when I'd only been stuck inside for three days, not seven. I wrote that when all the white outside still looked beautiful and untouched and was only 24" deep...before we got another 20" on top of it!

In the last week, I've been outside for a total of 15 minutes. I haven't gone anywhere -- not for a drive, not for a walk, not even sledding (which I'm way too old to even attempt). I have been housebound. Yes, I had offers from family and friends earlier this week (between Rounds 1 and 2 of the storms) to come join them. I politely said no because I really am more comfortable in my own home. Solitude can be very nice...up to a point. It got old around Day 4!

I'm tired of watching TV. I'm tired of cooking. I'm tired of doing dishes (yes, Ed, I've been doing the dishes!). I'm tired of looking out the window at snow everywhere. I'm tired of sitting at this damn computer. I have plenty of things I could be doing, but at this point, I have such a case of the blahs that I really don't want to do anything unless it means I can get out of here! I'm a doer, a go-getter, a run-around-er. Sitting in one place for a week is almost like torture. Thank goodness I'm a law-abiding citizen 'cause I don't think I could ever cut it in a 12'x12' prison cell!

This is the longest amount of time that I've ever been alone; ever, as in my entire life! I've been talking to myself. I've been talking to the TV. I've been talking to the computer. I know I'm not completely over the edge because I haven't been answering myself, so I guess I'm okay. The only thing that has saved my sanity is that I discovered Skype this week, so I've been talking on the computer to family and friends. At least I'm seeing another face and they are talking back to me!

I still haven't dug out my car, but with the sunshine and a bit warmer temperatures today, about half the snow on it has melted off. I am determined to get out tomorrow, no matter what. I don't care how much snow I have to shovel. I don't care if I only get to drive two blocks, then turn around and come home. I am going to leave this development and see another part of the world...or at least, another part of this town. I am going to be free, even if just for a short time.

Because -- believe it or not -- the weathermen are already predicting more snow for Monday! Now, most of them say it's a small storm that won't amount to much, maybe 2-3". I remember when 2-3" of snow in the Metro DC area sent the entire city into a panic. Not this year! After setting an all-time record for the most snow in one winter [and it's ONLY February 11!], 2-3" seems like just a dusting. But there are some who are saying it could be more like 6-8", not as bad as the blizzard, but enough to keep me home again. Just thinking about another snowstorm puts a knot in my stomache!

Seven days. Tomorrow, I shall escape, just for a little while...because I'm not sure my sanity will make it through Day 8 if I don't!

February 8, 2010

More Snow

So, I look out my window and just about all I see is white. We had over 24" of snow on Friday/Saturday -- the blizzard of 2010! Some people are calling it "snowcropolis" or "snowmageddon"; personally, I'm just calling it a pain in the ass! And now we are under another Winter Storm Warning starting Tuesday at noon thru Wednesday evening, with a prediction of another 10-20" of now!

Now, don't get me wrong -- I love snow. It's nice when this area around DC has a couple of snowfalls during the winter, especially if they're less than a foot at a time, there's time in between them for the old snow to disappear, and I don't have anywhere I need to go. But this is getting a bit ridiculous! By the time Old Man Winter moves out of here, this may very well be the snowiest winter in the 150 or so years they've been keeping weather records!

Okay, I'm done complaining. I learned a long, long time ago that weather is one of the things we can't control...which is probably why it drives me crazy! Since I'm basically a "glass-is-half-full" kind of person, I'm going to attempt to talk about the positive things about the blizzard we just had and the storm that's coming up, as well as winter in general.
  1. There are few things prettier in nature than freshly fallen snow, especially when you live near a wooded area like I do. The trees, grass, rocks, streams all covered with untouched snow are magnificent....Mother Nature at her best. Unfortunately, the humans have to mess it all up by shoveling, plowing, and turning the snow black from car exhausts. [Oh, sorry -- that was a little bit of negative thinking sneaking in.]
  2. If I have to be outside walking around, I'd rather do it in snow or cold weather than in 95 degrees and 75% humidity! I have done both in my tour guiding experiences, and I'll take cold over hot any time! Fortunately, this week I haven't had any tours to worry about, so it's been a non-issue.
  3. It's peaceful and quiet. Stand outside during a snowfall -- especially at night -- and you can almost hear the flakes hitting the ground.
  4. It's a time when neighbors actually get a chance to visit with each other. It's also a time when human behavior seems to be at its best -- friends and family calling to make sure I'm okay, offers to pick me up and take me to the store or anywhere else, invitations for me to come and stay with friends or family so I won't be alone, neighbors helping out by shoveling snow. It restores my faith in humankind.
  5. Memories....snow takes me back to my younger days. I remember several big snows when I was a kid. The blizzard of 1966 kept us out of school for a week. We spent hours and hours outside sledding, building snow forts, having snowball fights. Ah, to be young again and have the energy for all that. It brings memories of when my own children were little and we'd take them out to play in the snow, too. We lived in a townhouse until Dan was almost 6 and we were at the top of a long hill. Great sledding! And, of course, our own special family memory -- the Blizzard of 1993 that came on the day of Paul's Bar Mitzvah! We still talking about that one 17 years later!

So, snow isn't all bad. I know that many of my friends love it and are enjoying every minute and every flake. I guess that down deep I feel that way, too. I've spent a lot of time the last four days looking out my picture window as the snow came down and watching neighbors digging out. I especially like to watch the dogs jumping and playing in it. It makes me miss Cookie, my special mutt who died almost two years ago. She really loved the snow and would have totally enjoyed this winter. I do have to admit, though, that it's a relief that I don't have to worry about walking a dog out there right now. After all, we got about 24" of snow and I only have a 27" inseam, making it almost impossible for me to walk around where it hasn't been shoveled. If we really get another 20" on top of this, I may be stuck here until Spring!

My calendar has been cleared for the rest of the week. No rehearsal tonight, my Guild of Professional Tour Guides meeting for tomorrow was canceled, I found someone to take my docent shift at Library of Congress tomorrow, so I really don't have to go anywhere at all for the next few days. I have plenty of food in the house, firewood in case I lose power again, and plenty of things to keep me busy. That means it can snow all it wants, as far as I'm concerned.

Go for it, Mother Nature! But don't forget that in just 5 short weeks, I'll be out there walking around and leading tours again, so PLEASE get it out of your system now!

February 3, 2010

Inspiration Comes From Many Places

I just finished reading my niece's last two blog postings and I have to say, for the record, that she has become my inspiration. Isn't it supposed to be the other way around? Isn't the adult supposed to influence and inspire the next generation? Well, I may have done that to some degree with both of my sister's daughters over the years, but right now, Rachel is the one that I am turning to for courage and determination.

If you haven't read her blog, you really must! Check it out at http://reshapingrachel.blogspot.com. She started her blog last October when she decided the time had come to take control of her life and her health, so she joined Weight Watchers. She began blogging as another form of reinforcement to help her stay on track. Now, I've known Rachel since before she was born and I've watched her grow up into an incredible, beautiful, successful young woman! I've also seen her struggle with a weight issue her whole life, just as her mom and I do (along with half the world, I think). She's been on the yo-yo diet track for almost 30 years, but this time is different. This time, she has gone public and laid out all of the feelings, emotions, frustrations she feels right out there for the world to see in her blog! She has shared the positive moments, the negative setbacks, and, yes, even her true weight for anyone who is interested. I think that is extraordinarily brave and something that I don't think I could ever do! I admire her for her honesty and openness and I have drawn strength from her example!

In fact, last month I joined Weight Watchers, too, along with my sister (Rachel's mom). It hasn't been easy, but it is necessary! And Rachel has been right there with us -- in spirit, at least -- by calling with words of encouragement, sending us recipes, passing on tips she's learned along the way, etc. I think I've talked to her more on the phone in the last month than I have in the last 2-3 years! She calls to check up on me and see how I'm doing. She gave me a pep talk when it turned out I'd gained a pound this past week -- not a surprise since I had lost 7 pounds the week before. She wanted to be sure I wasn't discouraged and ready to give up, which I wasn't. She has been a godsend and I hope she continues her support. Knowing her, wild horses couldn't keep her from helping me make the lifestyle changes I need to do to succeed in reaching my goal and keeping the weight off.

So I dedicate this blog to my wonderful niece, Rachel, who has already lost 33 pounds on her road to her new self. The changes you've made in your life -- not just when it comes to weight loss, but in everything you do -- are an inspiration to me and to many others! Keep up the good work....keep sticking to the program....and keep on blogging! I love you lots!!

Oh, and a P.S. to Sara -- I haven't forgotten about you; I love you, too!!

January 31, 2010

Random Thoughts

I thought I'd do something different today -- just some short thoughts that have been running through my head, rather than one "big" subject. (Thanks to Airman Mom for the idea!)
  • Is it spring yet??!! Geez, I'm tired of snow already. Okay, the 22" in December, right before Christmas, was nice and very seasonal. But the storm that hit yesterday was enough already! All week the weathermen were saying that we'd only get a dusting...well, 5"+ is one heck of a dusting! Of course, I was downtown doing a shift at the Library of Congress when it hit and had to drive a long ways home in that mess!
  • Where do people get their drivers licenses these days? Are they being sold at Sears? While driving home in that mess of snow and slush yesterday, I was passed by 4-wheel-drive vehicles doing at least 50-55 even though the roads were covered with slush and very slippery. Yes, I understand that they can do it with their 4WD running, but that doesn't mean that they should! The 4WD won't stop them from sliding on the ice or slush and running into someone....probably me!
  • Okay, enough griping! I'm a "glass is 1/2 full" kind of person, so I need to be positive. I gave two tours at the Library of Congress yesterday morning and totally enjoyed it! It was my first time doing it on a Saturday. I didn't expect there would be very many people because of the weather, but the die-hard tourists still came out to see it. We had over 30 people in one group and 40 in the next. There were three of us docents working, so we were able to split the groups. Every tour I do gets a little bit easier and better. If I could just remember the order of those darn Putti going up the staircases in the Great Hall. (Don't know what a Putti is? Either Google it or come down to LOC and take a tour!)
  • I spent a good part of this afternoon in a pool hall with Paul and some friends celebrating his birthday. Lots of fun! I got hugs from all his friends -- they're all so sweet. I'm so glad he has made so many new friends through work and that they all like to socialize outside of the office, too.
  • Only 6 weeks until my tour season starts up again! Hooray! I really am anxious to get started again. I miss being on a busy schedule, although I'm sure that sounds a little crazy. By the time I get to mid-May, I'm sure I'll be wishing for the season to end so I can get some rest. You know what they say about the grass being greener on the other side of the fence. I do miss the interaction with the people, though, and the chance to share our beautiful Nation's Capital with them. Soon it will be time for me to start brushing up on my facts and figures again.
  • I can't believe I've actually been retired for three years already! Wow! And I'm getting ready to start my 4th season as a DC Tour Guide. Funny, though -- I still feel like a rookie, especially compared to some of the guides I know who've been doing this for 15-20 years or more!
  • With tour season just around the corner, I really need to dedicate myself to getting my apartment in order....going through piles of papers and getting rid of trash, filing things away, hanging pictures, taking some new pictures to be framed. The list goes on and on. Why is it so easy for me to ignore these things and so hard to get motivated to complete them? I want to spend time working on my scrapbooking while I still have the time to do it, but feel guilty about working on a fun project when there's so much "un-fun" things to be done.

January 26, 2010

Happy Birthdays!

It's been a long time since I posted on this site. In the month since I last wrote, a lot has been happening -- holidays, a new year, hand surgery (doing fine now, thanks), singing, etc. In other words, "life". I've been busy and, for some reason, haven't felt inspired to write about much. I've been waiting for something to happen to get me going again.

Well, today is the day. Actually, the "something" that happened really occurred 30 years ago today -- the birth of my first son, Paul. Thirty years! I can hardly believe it! Where did the time go? I look at him today and can't even imagine that he was ever a baby...yet, I remember every detail of that day like it was yesterday! It's just all the years in between that are a blur!

It's been an incredible journey these past 30 years, filled with peaks and valleys. We've had moments of pure joy and moments that scared us to death. When he was born, the doctors thought there was something wrong with Paul because the shape of his head was a little elongated towards the back and his neck seemed to be too short. Of course, it turned out to be nothing at all. My theory -- because I'm so short, he ran out of room to grow lengthwise and that caused the problem. By the time he was 6 weeks old, he looked as normal as any other baby....except he was the most beautiful baby in the world! (Of course, I might have been slightly biased about that!) He really was adorable, although he was bald until he was 18 months old. Just a little platinum peach fuzz all over his head. Sorry, son -- I think that was a precursor of what you would look like as an adult! (That male pattern baldness thing comes from both sides of your family!)

As kids go, he was a fairly easy one to raise, although he had his moments, like any child does. We had our first real scare with him when he was a little over 2 years old. Long story short -- he had grand mal seizures, three of them in less than a 12-hour period. We ended up at the Children's National Medical Center for a few days of tests and were told his diagnosis was "idiopathic epilepsy". Apparently, it's quite common in little boys and the neurologist said Paul would outgrow it by the time he was 4 or 5. Well, it took a little bit longer, but before his 9th birthday, his eeg was clean and he never had another seizure after the initial ones. He grew up to be healthy and normal, thank goodness!

But there were far more positive, happy times than negative ones and those are the ones I choose to remember. He was always a loving child, never afraid to hug his mom or dad, even in front of his friends. He was never embarrassed to be seen with us....at least, not as far as I know. We never went through that awful teenage time when he thought we were from another planet -- he was happy to hang out with the family and do things together. In fact, he even asked me to take him and his friends to Kings Dominion when they were in high school...twice! Those are times I'll never forget!

There have been so many times that I've been proud of him that I can't even list them all! He was always polite, helpful and hard-working (except when it came to doing chores around the house or keeping his room clean). He became an Eagle Scout at the age of 15, then continued with the Troop and eventually became an Assistant Scoutmaster. He traveled to the Netherlands to attend the Boy Scout World Jamboree and went to the BSA Jamboree in Virginia, too. He learned to be a leader and still possesses those skills today.

He developed an interest in athletic training, so he attended a course the summer after his freshman year and became a Certified Student Athletic Trainer. He spent three years as the trainer/manager for the football, basketball and volleyball teams. He was the first CSAT to ever serve in his high school and he received letters and other awards for his good work! He also was honored for earning the most Student Service Learning hours of any other graduating senior.

Thirty years. Wow! That cuddly, sweet, little baby -- a clone of his dad from the moment he was born -- is all grown up. He's turned into a strong, intelligent, independent, caring man with a heart of gold! I am so proud that he is my son!! HAPPY BIRTHDAY, PAUL!

But, wait -- there's more to the story.....

There's one more thing that makes January 27 a very special day for our family -- it's my sister's birthday, too. That's right -- Paul was born on Judy's 35th birthday (you can do the math yourselves). For the nine months I was pregnant, she kept saying that he was going to come late and ruin her day....and she was right! I, on the other hand, choose to believe that he was the perfect present for her that day -- a nephew, a godson, and a playmate for her daughter who was born six months later! For 30 years, Judy's been a great sport about sharing her special day. She's celebrated many a time at Chuck E. Cheese, hockey games, movie parties, etc. It became "Paul's Birthday...and, oh yeah, Judy's, too" in 1980 and pretty much stayed that way until he graduated high school.

Thank you, my dear sister, for sharing your birthday with my son. Thank you, also, for always being there for both of my sons...for being their "other mother" when they needed you...for loving them as much as you do your own children! They are so lucky to have you as their aunt (and, of course, to have Ed as their favorite uncle!). You are the best! HAPPY BIRTHDAY to you, too! I hope you have many, many more of them!!

Love to both of you....and may this day be as special as you are!