chasingwonderwoman

Archive for the tag “parenting”

I’m Sorry For Your Loss

About three months, I sent my only child to college for her freshmen year and I experienced a tremendous loss that took me completely by surprise. I figured I would be a little sad but for the most part happy about this new chapter in both of our lives. After all, this is what I had been working so hard for all this time. I wanted her to grow into a beautiful, secure, smart young woman with all the advantages that I missed out on. Attending a great college after high school was one of those advantages. I cried for two weeks after she left and even months later, at times I find myself still sad at losing the little girl that once needed me for everything. Changing the nature of your relationship with anyone you love can be very painful and I have learned, takes time to adjust to. In my mind, the day I sent my daughter off to school was the hardest loss I had ever faced and I was grateful for each day that got easier and easier.

Flying Home

Flying Home

About three days ago, my phone rang at 2:00 am. It was my father’s nursing home informing me that he had passed away a short time ago and that they were “sorry for my loss”. I was in Dallas, Texas with friends for a weekend of fun and football. Standing alone in my hotel room, I realized that at that moment, listening to the calm voice on other end of the phone line was the worst loss of my life. My dad was only 71 years old, fairly young by todays’ standards. Everyone asks, “what happened?” People want an explanation, was it cancer, a heart attack, stroke. We want to know that “something” came along and ripped that person from you, and helps it all makes sense. I don’t have a good answer. It doesn’t make sense to me, I don’t think there is ever an answer that is good enough.

About a year ago there was a decision made to put Dad into a nursing home because he was sick and the caregiver he was with at that time no longer felt she could take care of him in her home. Dad hated being in the nursing home, and I knew it. Early on when I would visit, I could see how he disliked his surroundings and he wanted to go “home”. Part of me feels, he died not just because of his physical ailments but because emotionally he was unable to come to terms with his new environment and eventually he stopped trying. Medically, I know all the problems he had and the doctors have told me what happened, but in my heart I believe he gave up. During this year, at one point, I even gave up. I took a break from visiting my father. To be honest, it was because it was so hard. I had my mother living with me who is experiencing some aging challenges and I was wiped out. Every visit at the nursing home, became harder and harder. I would drive away in tears feeling angry that I could do nothing to make him happy and overwhelmed at what both my parents were experiencing. I had to take a break, to keep my sanity.

About four months ago Dad stopped eating regularly and he was taken to the hospital. A month later he was re-admitted again – dehydration. This time he was referred to the Palliative Care Unit, and a wonderful nurse was able to get through to him and he asked her to call me. He wanted me to make any of his final health decisions in case he could not. We got his wishes in what they call an Advanced Directive as to whether or not he wanted to be resuscitated should he stop breathing. During that week in the hospital, I stayed by my fathers’ side every day. I held his hand when he went for tests and treatments and signed whatever I had to see if we could make him better. Some days he seemed better and other days he froze me out and wouldn’t speak or even look at me. I never knew what would happen each day when I walked in, but I knew I didn’t have a choice anymore whether or not I could be there. He wanted me and I was there. When he was released from the hospital and returned to the nursing home, I promised him, I would be there every day and that I wouldn’t let him ever be alone anymore. I told him how sorry I was that I had stopped coming. I told myself every night after coming home, that it wasn’t my fault and not to beat myself up, but to be honest, that’s not an argument I won most nights.

About two weeks ago, I walked into my dad’s room at the nursing home for my visit and he was having a good day. As we sat in the room, he motioned that he was cold. It was one of those unseasonably warm October days that we get in New England so the A/C had kicked on in his room.  Speaking was almost impossible for him at this point because of the problems he had with this esophagus. Communications between us took the form of him pointing, me guessing and him head nodding. I grabbed a lightweight jacket out of his closet and in the pocket I found two lottery tickets, a book of matches and a pack of Newport cigarettes. I immediately thought to myself, oh no, I should have taken this out before he noticed them. But notice them he did, and my dad got what I can only describe as a Herculean burst of energy. You have to understand that my Dad weighed less than 90 lbs at this time and moving at all was a challenge for him. He was motioning so fast and so much that I finally had to get one of the aides to come in and help me because I couldn’t tell what he wanted. We finally determined he wanted to be in his wheelchair and wanted his sneakers on. Once we got that accomplished he wanted to go to the lobby. As I started to push him out, he signaled me to take my purse and backpack. I thought he just wanted them to be safe. By the time we got to the lobby I started to understand that he wanted to leave the building, he wanted to go for a ride! Being uncertain if he could leave or not, I checked with the staff but all along, I was thinking, I have back to back teleconferences for work which start in 15 minutes. I had only planned to be there for a lunch hour visit. I stood at the front desk waiting for an answer and I turned back to see my dad patiently sitting with his jacket and shoes by the front door, I knew that I had to take him. I also knew secretly, that it was those damn Newport cigarettes that had gotten me into this situation. When we got the green light from the staff, they helped me get him in my car. I put our seat belts on and started to drive, not knowing where we were going or what we were going to do. Somehow in the next 4 hours I managed to take the conference calls, drive my dad around town, show him the house I had bought which he had never seen, and do things that I thought he wanted to do. Our first stop was him signaling for fried chicken. I pulled into Popeyes and after some guessing and head nodding, we got his order of chicken and sweet tea and we pulled over and he ate like I had not seen him eat in months. I took him by my house and snuck him a few sips of beer, which I could only imagine had been years since he had last tasted.

My dad's last pack.

My dad’s last pack.

Next, I knew he wanted that damn cigarette. He had been fumbling with the packet and rolling one of those cigarettes around in his hand as soon as we got into the car. While he ate, he had put it behind his ear, something I remember him doing in his younger, healthier days.  After driving around for awhile I asked him if for dessert he wanted his favorite – a milkshake. He said yes. I knew the perfect place. One of my best friends, Laura, owns an icecream shop downtown and besides making the creamiest Strawberry milkshake on the planet, she also happens to be a strikingly beautiful southern belle. My dad’s eyes lit up when Laura knelt by his side, smiled and talked with him at the car door. She told him how glad she was to meet him and helped him sip his favorite shake. With my okay, she helped him take a few puffs of that cigarette he had been holding onto all trip long. When our ride was over, “Thelma and Louise” headed back to the nursing home and I got dad ready for bed. He looked at me and patted his chest and pointed at me. I thought for a minute he was having a heart attack because of all the excitement we had been through – perhaps my gorgeous girlfriend had been too much! I asked, are you okay!? He shook his head yes. Again, he rapidly patted his chest, this time I could tell it was directly over his heart and he jabbed his finger at me. A lightbulb went off and I said, “Oh, are you telling me that you love me?” He shook his head vigorously, up and down – yes. I looked at him and very matter of factly said, “Oh Dad I know that. Of all the things I know in my life, I have always, always known that you love me. I have never doubted and never will doubt your love for me.” He smiled, I fought back tears and I thought maybe he is going to be better because he just needed to tell me that and get out of this room for awhile. Maybe I have a second chance to do it better this time.

About five days ago, (two weeks after our Thelma and Louise ride), I kneeled at my dad’s bed to tell him that I was going to Dallas for the weekend with my friends. It was Friday night, I told him I would be gone for just 2 days and that I would be right back on Monday night. I told him I wasn’t leaving him that I would be right back and I would bring him a cool gift back from the stadium. I had been reminding him for a while about my trip because I didn’t want him to wonder where I was at. I wanted to make sure he knew I was there for him and that I would never abandon him. I kept telling him, I will be right back, I promise.

Every day over the last three days, someone new says to me, “I’m so sorry for your loss”. I don’t know how to respond. Every time it gets quiet and I am alone, my heart aches and I go through every possible emotion you can imagine. I wish for so many different endings.

I guess the best one I can imagine is that one day, I will be able to post the next chapter which I hope will go something like this…. About a year ago, I lost my father and I’m here to tell you, it gets better.

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It’s Not Stalking If I Love You

I started worrying about my daughter when she was still just a thought in the very, very far recesses of my mind. I feared that I would never be a good enough person to raise someone to be an exceptional human being. I felt that my singular goal in life, if I chose to have a child, would be to make certain they made the world a better place than they found it because why else would (dare I say, “should”) we procreate. I was scared and awestruck at the responsibility. I avoided becoming a mother, because I didn’t think I was up to it. Fate apparently had other plans because seventeen years ago I brought this perfect little being into the world and the world witnessed the birth of an imperfect mother.

The wonderful thing about accepting that you are an imperfect mother is that you are fully aware that you can and probably should be doing things better, but you don’t beat yourself up over it. I love my daughter with my entire heart, body and soul and conceptually there is nothing that I wouldn’t do for her. That’s in “concept”; realistically, there are plenty of things I haven’t done. I remember when she was 11 and said to me, mom I have a splinter in my finger and it hurts. She “ouched” and hollered the entire time I tried to remove what was a microscopic sliver of wood. I was tired and had to work in the morning. Eventually I handed her the tweezers and sat a computer in front of her with a YouTube video on how to remove a splinter and said – “go for it, I’m going to bed”. Yes, Bad Mother award; but hey she got the splinter out and learned a valuable lesson about the importance of the internet and the fact that your mother places a high priority on her sleep!

Despite what I hope wasn’t too disturbing a story for you the readers, I’ve done things as a mother that are 180 degrees in the opposite direction. When my daughter started Kindergarten, I was a wreck about her taking the bus. Let me paint the scene, we lived in a lovely raised, ranch in a suburban town that was roughly 98.7899999% Caucasian with a median income of 100,000 — and this was fifteen years ago. We were the only minorities on our street and she was one of only 3 in the entire school. Yet when it came time to send her to kindergarten I seriously thought that if I put her on the bus something bad could happen. Perhaps the older kids would be mean to my little peanut, maybe they would bully her, maybe they would try to sell her drugs! In hindsight I realize I was out of my mind, but back then, I was torn between sheltering her and letting her experience the world. I came to a compromise those early days, and as I put her on the school bus that very first day, I waved and smiled as the bus rolled down the street. As soon as she was gone, I began to cry and behind my tear stained glasses, I ran in the house, threw on my sneakers and jumped in the car to follow the bus and ensure my child’s safety. I don’t know what I thought I would see, I just needed to feel that she was okay. I followed that big yellow bus through six more stops following a safe distance behind in case the bus driver “made” me – (yup, too much Law & Order). As the bus pulled up to the school, I parked across the street and strained my eyes so I could see if that little piece of my heart was smiling or crying when she descended. I never did see, I tried but I couldn’t tell. I saw her get off the bus and walk into the school and I thought, unless you plan to go inside and start hiding in the hallways, you probably should go home.

Her first day was fine, and in fact, to my knowledge no fourth graders ever tried to convince my daughter to snort cocaine on the elementary school bus. It would be years later before I told her about following her that first day of school. From that day of admission to this day, she thinks I am a freak for doing it.

As the years passed, I stopped following busses but I never stopped crying on the first day of school. Each first day of school my mind would fast forward to the fact that we were a step closer to her becoming more independent and to the day when she would eventually be on her own. A day when there would be no more busses I could follow.

This year, my ‘heart’ graduates high school and in the fall she will go to a college that is a five hour drive from our home. We both will be in college at the same time – kind of crazy! I am 10,000 times more scared and in awe then when I was considering whether I would be a worthy mother over seventeen years ago. I am both terrified and thrilled at the unknown. I’ve done a few decent things in my life that I am slightly proud of, but this kid, this daughter that I was blessed to be chosen to mother is the absolute best part of me and of my world. I now know that she will do amazing things and make the world a better place than she found it, because she’s already done it, just by being in my life.

This March, my daughter got her driver’s license. Her car (a birthday gift from dad) combined with hours of hair-graying -practice drives and paying what amounted to a small fortune in registration, insurance and drivers training fees, made her official. Her first day driving to school alone, I stood at the kitchen door as she came downstairs. She was beautiful…full of confidence and excitement, keys in hand, smile beaming on her face. She was 20 minutes earlier than when she needed to leave. I gave her a hug, told her to be safe and when the door closed, I promptly started crying.

And yes, you guessed it, I grabbed my sneakers, jumped in my car and followed her with tear stained glasses to the high school.

Unlike the elementary school bus driver, my daughter “made” me as she got out of the car. She looked over at me, shook her head, smiled that smile that melts my heart and mouthed the words, “you’re a freak.” Later that night she would tell me, I knew you would follow me. I don’t think she or I would have had it any other way.

It's Not Stalking if I Love You

It’s Not Stalking if I Love You

I will always be an imperfect mother and I will never get any Mother of the Year awards but I am positive I was wrong in thinking I wasn’t good enough to raise someone who would be better than my best dreams. If there’s an award for daughter of the decade, well then, as the kids say, “I have it on lock”.

“I love you for reading”.

Branded

blog

A few weeks ago I squeezed in attending a workshop for a handful of people within my organization selected to be a part of an inaugural protégé/mentoring program.  The workshop was titled “How to Brand Yourself” – – well it probably wasn’t really called that because that conjures up images of a branding iron and either horses or slaves, so I’m going to guess that they called it something else, but you get my meaning.  I arrived about 30 minutes late to the virtual workshop but what I caught was really very good. I wrote down on one of the hundreds of post-it notes that are scattered all over my dorm/office a challenge from the presenter … Fill in the blanks: “I want to be known for being ____ so that I can deliver _____ to _____.”  He dared us to complete that sentence as we attempted to discover our personal brand.  Moreover, he said, we could use it in both our professional and personal lives.

It’s been over 4 weeks since I attended that workshop and I find myself at times, looking for that scrap of paper so that I make sure I don’t forget to fill in those blanks.  You see, I really want to fill in the blanks.  It feels like something that not only I should do, but that I really need to do.

For the past 15 months, I have spent so much time being an over achieving employee, a bewildered student, a so-so mom, an elderly care-giver and let us not forget a jilted ex-lover that branding myself in a good light has been non-existent.  Week after week, month after month has gone by and I think to myself that I am grateful because my life is better than most.  But in my heart I feel like very little to rejoice over and I wonder what happened to my joy?  I believe I had it at one time, at least I think I did.

Since the time of Aristotle (throwback to last semesters’ Ethics course – – yikes), man has been asking the question that I now ponder of myself, why are we here, what’s the meaning of life, what’s my brand statement. Well maybe the great thinkers of all time weren’t quite thinking about the latter, but I believe they are all loosely tied to one another.  One day soon (I anxiously await), I will finish this undergraduate degree and I will put it behind me.  One day even sooner (sadly), I will stop having to baby my 17 year old.  She will be making grown up decisions on her own.  Sure, she will always need her mother, but not in the same way as today.  And someday soon (please God, sooner rather than later) I will stop being a Sourcing Manager for this nightmare of a position and I will advance to other work.  When all these things, that are so much a part of me now, wrap up, what will I look back on and say? Will I have found joy throughout the journey, so that when they come to an end I will say it was all worth it and I’m a better person because of it?  About seven years ago I dated a man who I believe was the one true love of my life. I remember saying to him, in his cozy condo, over large glasses of wine and even larger plates of pasta, “No matter what happens, no matter if this ends terribly, I will never regret one moment I spent with you. This was the best feeling I have ever had, exactly what I had always dreamed of, and I’ll never ever be sad it happened”.  I have dated a lot of men before and after him, and I’ve never said or even thought it with any other.

Makes me wonder, what else I feel that way about.  Being a mom? Of course, no brainer, my daughter is the most amazing person and the sole reason I haven’t tossed in the towel years ago.  Returning to school?  Yes, despite how much I hate the homework, and the expense and the juvenile classmates, I will never regret the decision to come back to college and finish my degree.  My job? Yes, even that.  Despite how much I absolutely hate pest control, office politics, and multi-client RFP’s, I will never regret the path that I took to get this role because I wouldn’t have advanced to this level without it.

I think the joy is there, underneath the layers of self-doubt and sadness I often feel, it’s there I just have to dig for it a little deeper some days, some months.  I have to be careful not to let my joy get over shadowed by the perils of a life unbranded.  So in that respect, I took my first stab tonight at my branding statements.  I think they may need a little tweaking and massaging here or there, but it’s a start. Let me know how you do with yours….

Professionally, I want to be known for being highly competent and trustworthy so that I can deliver positive, common sense results to people who trust and depend on me.

Personally, I want to be known for being worthy so that I can deliver joy and happiness to special people (and one day a special man) who loves me.

Sometimes I’m Proud

More often than not, if I were to say how I feel on any given day, it would be Sometimes I’m Overwhelmed or Sometimes I’m Filled with Self Doubt or Sometimes I Think I’m Super Fat.

Fortunately for me, the key word is “sometimes” — I don’t feel that way all the time or even often.  But every once in a while those nagging feelings of what I think I can’t do come to the surface and take hold like hungry ticks on a fat lap-dogs’ belly.

lifelineA few weeks ago I hoped that someone or something would throw me a lifesaver because I couldn’t breathe.  I am happy to say I found it bobbing up and down in the waters of my mind and I made it to dry land.  I do believe that writing this blog provides me with much-needed therapy.  I started this journey, not because I wanted to become a famous blogger, but because I felt it would motivate me and keep me from quitting.  That’s what it does.  Every post I write and every reply from one of my dear friends; every email I receive that someone new is “following me”, or “liked” my post is like a virtual hug that I feel here in my little “dorm room/office“.  I crave those hugs, I need them.  Sometimes I think I’m In over My Head but I know there are people reading this who believe without a doubt that I’m not; that “I got this”.

The good news is that I signed up for class again this semester! This is a 100% on-line class which fits in perfectly with my hectic life.  I’ve also taken a mental “chill pill'” when it comes to my new job in the new year.  I had to because I was quite literally  making myself sick with worry.  I am learning to say no to some things and how to say, I’m the boss and this is the way I want it to be done. Words I would never have thought I could say, never mind would feel the confidence to believe in after I say them.  But I do.  It’s empowering and it helps me get through the day and start to feel these small glimmers of, dare I say, — success (okay let’s just say, ‘not failures’).

Although its 22 degrees outside and a winter storm is blanketing my home like a scene from a snowpocalypse movie; technically its Spring in the world of academia.  So today its Spring for me too! This semester begins with a renewed sense of hope and a deep sense of gratitude for all of you who, whether you knew it or not, tossed me the life lines I needed.  I have to admit, I didn’t think I would be writing this message this way.  I thought it would be an explanation of why I had to take a short break, and filled with promises that I would return and not let myself down. But that’s not today’s message.  Today I’m still here, I’m still on this journey, and as I look back on the last few weeks, I have to say Sometimes I’m Proud Of Me.

…PS, I Miss You…

I seriously cannot believe that summer is coming to a screeching halt.  Here in the Northeast it becomes amazingly apparent that fall is rapidly descending upon us.  Now at 8pm it’s just about dusk, by 8:30 it’s pitch black!  It seems like yesterday the sun was still high in the sky even as late as 9:00 at night.  But it really wasn’t “just yesterday” it was about 60 yesterdays’ ago.

…I miss summer already…

I mentioned that I decided to take this summer off from college classes.  I have to admit that at first, I felt a little guilty about it.  Especially since my partner in crime, Pez, who’s on this journey with me, did take a summer class. As I type this blog, sipping an extra yummy Cabernet, she is enduring her twice a week, 3 hour lecture! Tonight’s topic…single parenthood.  We both half-jokingly agreed that when we finish our degree we could and should teach that class!

…I don’t miss summer sessions of college…

Dorm Room

My “Dorm Room”

This summer has been an interesting one.  Besides my trip to Italy, the other monumental event that took place was opening my home to my 70-year old mother. She has now been living with my daughter and I since May.  It was necessary. Living alone was becoming increasingly concerning for everyone.  I couldn’t see how she could stay in her own home the way things were going.  Around April, after a very upsetting call where my mom was certain her neighbor had graduated from stealing her hot water to stealing her church offering envelopes and triple A batteries, I made an executive decision.  During that call I said, “Pack your things mom, I will be there in 30 minutes to pick you up.”  She has not slept in her apartment since that day.  With the help of some truly life-savings friends, we packed my mom up in a weekend. The following week, I gave away my bedroom furniture to make way for her set. I moved upstairs, turning my office into an office/bedroom which I now refer to as my “dorm room”.  This seems incredibly appropriate given my “back to college” themed life.

…I don’t miss worrying about my mother…

When I bought my home 3 years ago, I was thrilled that I had done it “on my own”.  I had a lovely bedroom with a master bath and sliding glass doors that led out to my dream deck overlooking (from a distance) the water.  Now, my new 11’ x 8’ dorm room houses a ton of clothing, shoes and purses (imagine the storage boxes),  my work desk, my 3 drawer legal sized

file cabinet, a recently purchased full size bed, a printer/fax and a 26” box style Panasonic television.  Some people say I made a sacrifice but it doesn’t feel like that to me…it feels right.  Believe it or not, I like it – – a lot.  Sharing a floor and a bathroom with my 16 year old teenage daughter has gotten increasingly easier and I think has made us even closer.  Everything happens for a reason and maybe the reason is that this time next year I will be sobbing when I send my daughter off to college. I will be grateful that I had this year with her on the same floor, sharing the same small space.  Last night, she crawled in beside me to watch the television show, Arrested Development on Netflix.  I wouldn’t have had that moment if my mom hadn’t come to stay with me.  Everything happens for a reason.

…I miss my daughter already…

As summer closes, of course, fall commences.  I am all signed up for class which begins in 2 weeks – – PHILOSOPHY 101.  I

See I wasn't kidding!

See I wasn’t kidding!

can only imagine the plethora of material that it will provide to feed this blog!  I actually wanted to take two classes this fall but financially I just couldn’t swing it.  I refuse to go into debt getting this degree.  I’ve worked too hard on building my credit score to throw it all away now.  The truth is, between me and you, I had to make another very important purchase this summer.  Hopefully those that read the description of my dorm room noted the 26” BOX television and cringed at the very thought of such an egregious situation. Yes, I know, I know.  But never fear, after months of online bargain comparison shopping, I settled on an LG 32” LED flat screen from Amazon.com.  It gets delivered tomorrow.  So what can I say?

Something had to give….only one class this semester, BUT I get to watch the final season of Breaking Bad in HDTV.  Priorities people!

…I’ve missed real pixels on television…

My summer wouldn’t be complete without one final reflection.  My world, my life, my heart is what it is because of the people I share it with.  I can’t begin to tell you how grateful I am for the beautiful, wonderful female friends who are a part of my life and keep me sane day after day, week after week, year after year despite everything which comes along.  And, along the way, there have been some ‘menfriends’ who I am often shocked and amazed by how much they mean to me and how integral their support is to everything I do.  For ALL of those in my life this summer, THANK YOU for being there for another memorable season of ups and downs.  For those who were not here but who, in my heart of hearts, I wish were…

…PS…I miss you…

——

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Lastly, this post is in memory of Jackson Boudreaux BoJangles Berry-Beckham, who passed away to doggy heaven this summer.  ...Jackson, we all miss you baby.

In Memoriam

In Memoriam

The Agony of De’feet’

I’m calling it “Bootie-gate”

Pop quiz: What do Mark Sanchez, My Left Foot, and 3/4 of the students in my pre-algebra class have in common?

Answer: All have experienced the same things in the past two weeks : anxiety, pain, discomfort and embarrassment.

Listen, I’m no “sportsnista” but I do don my Dallas Cowboy sportswear faithfully on Sunday afternoons.  In the pre-season, I talk a good game about how we plan to rule the gridiron and restore ourselves to our rightful place of glory.  Round about Week 3 or Week 4 (even earlier this year), I hang my head a tad lower and defiantly state, “we’ll get ’em next year” and “fire that bum, Romo.  No one, not even I, believes either is going to happen anytime soon.  That being said, even with a dismal 5-6 record, I was prouder to be a loosing Cowboy then to be even remotely affiliated with Mark Sanchez and the New York Jets over Thanksgiving.  I missed the game, but the highlights (or low lights in their case) were mortifying. They were booed off the field at half time by their own fans in their own stadium! Sanchez, the quarterback of the Jets, actually ran with the ball, slipped and plowed head first into the backside of one of his own players!  I think they may be calling it “Bootie-Gate”.  If they aren’t, then I just coined it.  On Friday morning every media outlet from print, to radio, to web were rehashing every dirty Sanchez detail. The team and definitely Mr. Sanchez, know what “DEFEAT” feels like and all the agony associated with it. Just relaying the story makes me wince, and I’m grateful it wasn’t our Romo, no matter what I said about him earlier.

Further north in New England, and a week prior to Bootie-Gate…my Problem Solving Algebra classmates and I, were treated to Test #2 of our season.  It was expected to be a hard exam, much more so than Test #1 and ten times more difficult than our weekly quizzes. When I stepped into the room, however, I felt as “In Control” as Janet Jackson.  Not only had I prepared extensively but I was confidently touting a 98 average and the professor had tapped me as a tutor candidate for next semester.  I flipped the test over and my heart sank.  Gone were the easy, copied from the textbook questions, and in there place were algebraic monstrosities that dared to force us to use the core concepts learned and apply them to never before seen problems.  Hold it a second, this is not what I signed up for!  As I looked at the test, I knew I was in trouble and the happy humming of another easy A, quickly shifted to a sadly, soulful plea of “please, babee, babee, please don’t let me get a D!” I knew if I was sweating the outcome of this test and I had been riding high, then many other students, had to be freaked out.  There was a definite scent in the air…you might call it EAU“DEFITTE”.  Test results came in this past Saturday, I missed class, so I don’t know my grade yet, but I’ve talked to others and for them it was their own personal butt-fumble.

Finally, the oddball of the pop quiz trio, my left foot! What in the world does that have to do with this? Well, call it a silly play on words (or call it an unbelievably clever play on words, if you are so inclined) but two weeks ago my left foot and I underwent surgery.  Not for any cool reason like a sports injury or dramatic reason like foiling a robbery attempt but just your garden variety, somewhat embarrassing, run of the mill reason called a bunionectomy.  A symptom of wearing too high, too narrow, and too small shoes since I was old enough to slip into my first pair of wedge heeled Candies at the ripe old age of 8.  Those shoes were so cute that I ignored the pinching in my toes all Summer long.  I wore them bravely to church every week; no one could have told me not to.  Fast forward, thirty plus years and hundreds of too cute but too small shoes later and I found myself laying on a gurney with a plastic cap on my head, an IV inflaming my arm and an ice-cold, red antiseptic liquid being applied to my foot to prepare the surgical site.  The procedure lasted no more than an hour and when I awoke, there were two victims, I mean patients, on either side of me waiting for their turn under the scalpel.  It’s been a little over 10 days and I have to tell you this is not what I expected, not what I planned for and is a physical pain the likes I which I would not wish on another soul.  “DESE” FEET are what I and my friends refer to as “a hot mess”.

Feet, football players and flunking classmates.  This week they all have come up against something that knocked the wind out of them and set them back a few hundred paces.  None of them, however, have stayed down for the count.  They all have gotten back up, dusted off the pain and are figuring ways to regain their position.  It may not be the way it was before, it may be changed forever, but that’s not always a bad thing.  There comes a time for all of us when we feel defeated.  Something, someone causing pain, embarrassment or discomfort…maybe it’s a workload, your school work, or a loved one, or a boss. Take comfort in my stories of this past week and my poor ugly swollen feet that in 4 to 6 weeks will be healed and like new, and this time buying shoes that fit. And take comfort in my catch phrase: The Agony of Defeat is Always Quelled by the Victory of Resurgence.   I know it won’t garner the decades long status of the Wide World of Sports’ “thrill of victory…agony of defeat” but I’d like to think Mark Sanchez, aka the new Vinko Bogataj, might like it a little better.

‘Breaking Bad’ patterns

One of the easiest exercises for me in the Math 1020Q Problem Solving class I am taking this semester was Inductive Reasoning.  Problems went something like this:

Identify the pattern and find the next three terms

1, 2, 4, 7, _____, _____, ______

2, 5, 10, 17, _____, ______, _____

1/14, 1/9, 1/12, 1/7, 1/10, _____, _____, ______

I have begun thinking of patterns in my own life.  Behaviors that I repeat and whether they are good or bad.  In Math, you always continue the pattern to get the correct answer.  That may not be the case in life – or at least not in my life.

Recently, a friend suggested that I try watching the hot, new cable drama, Breaking Bad, about a suburban dad that becomes a drug dealer to support his burdened family.  After one episode I gave it a pass – – it didn’t fit my pattern.  I always watch shows where there’s a VERY attractive lead or supporting character.  Simply put, the dad in Breaking Bad just wasn’t “hot” enough to capture my attention.  Sounds seriously shallow — right? Well, I agree BUT I didn’t even know that about myself before I starting thinking of the patterns I follow.  While my predilection to attractive television actors will likely not cause me any harm, I began to see patterns emerging in other aspects of my life – in relationships, in raising my daughter, in dealing with my siblings, and in handling my return to college.

I have talked before about this not being my first experience in attempting to complete  my college degree. After leaving for the first time when I was 18, I made three other short lived attempts to get serious and take classes and buckle down and finish my degree.  They all failed.  What is the pattern I have here? The better follow up question is, how do I get it to stop?

Why is it that we do the same things over and over and somehow expect a different result?  They say that’s the definition of crazy, but I also think it defines many of us who aren’t “crazy” but can’t escape certain patterns we have been following our whole lives.

I’m on my way to a three day conference in Denver, Colorado that will have me stuck in an airplane and airports for four+ hours each leg of the trip.  Plenty of time to think about what’s going on with my college pattern and start devising some tweaks.

My goal is starting November 1, when I return from my trip, to spend the next 30 days breaking patterns – from the minor to the major and see what changes might shake out of it.  The first and easiest one to break will be to watch episode 2 of Breaking Bad.  There are a few others that will be considerably harder, I am sure.  But I will let you know how I make out as we go along.

Maybe think about a pattern you need to break, take this 30 day challenge with me starting November 1 and let me know how it goes!

 

 

No Crying In Problem Solving

It never fails to amaze me how ironic life is.  The class I am taking this semester is called Problem Solving. A slimmed-up (or down, depending on your view) version of high school algebra focused primarily on return to college adults to meet basic math requirements while obtaining their degree.  There are several variations of this type of course and mine happens to include the added twist of word problems.  Not only do I have the pleasure of being re-taught the magic and mystery of the Pythagorean Theorem but I also get to apply it to “real life problems” by solving something like this:

It costs a business (0.1x2 +x + 50) dollars to serve x customers.  How many customers can be served if $250 is the cost?

Seriously!  There is no way I actually envisioned a scenario where I would now be paying 1,600 in tuition to remind me how much I hated quadratic equations, cubing integers, and solving for the dreaded x.  I go to sleep thinking of that stupid letter “x” and what it is doing to my social life these days.

Taking a problem solving course is ironic not because of my venting about “x” but because that’s what I do in my everyday life.  I’m actually very good at it.  My job for the past five years as an analyst involves analyzing data and coming up with solutions to a myriad of challenges my teams face daily. My email In-box is a repetitive chorus of “help me”. Personally, my friends call me with anything from “where’s a good place to eat dinner”, to, “how can I get rid of 10 extra pounds”.  And there isn’t a girlfriend out there worth her salt that hasn’t been a shoulder to a fellow fallen sister in the problems involved with the game of love.  It’s become part of who I am to solve other people’s problem or at the very least offer up viable solutions for positive results.

Anyone who is in that role at WORK or with FAMILY or with FRIENDS can likely relate to me when I say it can be draining being a problem solver.   If that’s your primary role in all three areas of your life, it can be exhausting.   Yet in many ways it validates me.  I feel needed and wanted and that my opinion is valued and necessary – – that I make a difference.

Recently, I have come across a problem that has thrown even me for a loop.  This one is scary and personal and has nothing to do with the value of pie or the square root of rational numbers.   It has to do with my mother.  In our 40’s, some of us, have to take on a double role – that of parent to our children as well as our aging adult parents.  It’s as overwhelming a task as it seems.  The issues now face you on both sides of the spectrum.  Solving dating and driving issues for your teenager on Saturday night and battling the bureaucracy of Medicare and Social Security for your 70 year old mother or father on Monday morning.

For me, a new problem has recently emerged with my mother, and I wish like hell there was a simple solution in my text book that would tell me how to solve for the sweetest woman who ever walked the planet seeming to unravel before my eyes.  When I read this line back, as I have done several times, it breaks my heart each time.

Tom Hanks said “there’s no crying in baseball” when admonishing the female players in the movie, A League of Their Own; and my friends there are “no tears in problem solving”.  As much as I may want to.  In Math and with my mom, my job is to solve the problem and succeed. That’s my plan…I’ll keep you updated.

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Kalia Kornegay

Freelance Journalist

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