This Thing Called Life

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My life – my viewpoint – has changed drastically in the past few days.

On Tuesday, Gambit and I left for the national tournament.  We almost didn’t make it.

My car hydroplaned.

I will make light of this publicly, but I confess here that I have never been more terrified in my life.  I completely lost control of the car for a few endless, horrifying moments that felt like forever.  We swerved and slid and careened wildly all over the road.  Fortunately, it was late and no cars were on either side of me.  But there was a construction median wall to my left and a non-guardrailed drop to my right and I HAD NO CONTROL.  We veered perilously close to both edges but somehow did not crash or tip over or fully spin.

I have no idea how I righted us or whether fate stepped in and decided to lend a hand.  All I know is that eventually the tires connected to the ground again.

The whole incident probably took less than a minute.  Luckily, Gambit slept through all of it.

But I couldn’t stop trembling and shaking for the rest of the drive that night, adrenaline making me queasy.

On Wednesday, we embarked on the final leg of our journey.  We arrived in Chattanooga apparently minutes after the tornadoes hit.  If we had left a little earlier, driven a little faster, not stopped for coffee…yes, we would have been driving blithely along directly in the tornado’s path.  We had no idea about weather conditions; we were listening to Gambit’s iPod on the road instead of the local news.  I had noticed that the sky ahead looked odd and ominous.  I pointed it out to Gambit as a curiosity only.

After inching through Chattanooga amidst rubble, power outages, downed trees, road signs snapped in half, unable to pick up a radio station to figure out what the hell had happened, we hit a clear patch of road.

Splat.

I thought a rock had hit us.

Splat.  Splatsplatpslatsplatsplat.

We were being pelted by hail hitting the car so hard that Gambit flipped, thinking the windshield would break.  He was scared.  I was scared.  I pulled over to the side to wait that one out, shaking my head over our wild road trip, hands clutching the steering wheel in a death grip as insane truckers whizzed by, rattling our tiny car.

We eventually arrived safely, driving cautiously under a literal black cloud and a tornado watch.  Our story ended well.  But something has changed in me.

I think I came the closest to a near-death experience than ever before on this trip.  Surprisingly, I felt no fear for myself.

But while we were swerving, the first thought that flashed through my head: Please, God, not Gambit. He’s too young, he’s too young.  I was begging for him to be spared.

The second, my love: Please, God, just let him know I love him.

And then a kaleidoscope of loved faces flashed before my eyes, my children imprinted over all.

I feel corny even writing this.  It sounds sappy and maudlin, like a made-for-TV movie.  But it’s true.

I’m not sure whether the change I feel is permanent or a reaction to the past few days.  But I’ve slept through the night for two nights in a row.  My angst has faded.  I think, perhaps, I am simply grateful for another bite at this thing called life.

I am grateful – so grateful – for second chances.

Namaste, my friends.

Beach Yoga Aftermath

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A big letdown: I threw a beach yoga party and no one came.

I had told my friends to stay away for my first teaching outing, just in case I choked.  But I forgot: this weekend was chock-full of Earth Day celebrations, including the big county-sponsored festival in the park across the street, which offered free yoga during the exact same hour.  Yesterday’s timing, obviously, sucked.

Fortunately, Brainiac and his best friend, my Fourth Child, had insisted on coming.  So I gave them a private class for my own practice, pace and rhythm.  Turns out I had more than an hour’s worth of material (whew!) and everything flowed far more smoothly than I’d imagined.

Next time (for there will be a next time), everyone’s invited.  No more fear (well, maybe a little trepidation).

Decisions, Decisions

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So now that I feel freer, let’s dish…

I said no to the job offer.  The money was good, the potential fantastic, but the one-week maximum vacation time wasn’t going to cut it.  Although they said they’d work with me over flex time, I’ve been in that siutation before.  It’s all roses and daisies in the beginning, but expectations changes and resentments grow.  And I was a bit concerned about the expected 45-50 hour billable work week.  Even if I don’t have much of a life, I like to pretend I do, and it doesn’t revolve around work.

I said yes to the date.  I’m impressed by his persistence, curious over what he’s planning.   I’m hoping the completely different environment will spark something fresh in me, rouse me from my impossible dreaming.  Work friend advised me: Let your hair down, have fun, let him spoil you.  Just don’t give him your heart (only your body, she added, with a snicker).  Ha.  Like either one’s going to happen again anytime soon.

It’s been another thought-provoking, decision-making week. I hope I made the right ones. Sigh.

Beach Yoga

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Here’s my Meetup blurb, short, sweet and surprisingly repetitive.  I guess I wrote it too hastily, sandwiched as it was between kid mayhem and more kid mayhem.  It was posted today, warts and all.  Ack.

Let’s hope my class is a lot more thoughtful…and interesting.

And yes, it’s really happening.  Breathe, breathe, breathe. 

Did I mention: Ack?

___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Date – Saturday, April 23th – this weekend

Time – 9-10:00am

ClassEarth Day Celebration Yoga with [kimwolhee]

Description – Come celebrate Earth Day where it’s meant to be celebrated: in nature, surrounded by sand, sun and sea. As important as it is to sustain our planet, it’s equally vital to sustain our spirits. Let this gentle Hatha Yoga practice renew you, ground you, and help you connect with your higher self.

All levels of practitioners are welcome.

Canned (non-perishable) goods will be gratefully accepted in lieu of cash donations. However, nobody will be turned away due to lack of donations.

All items received will be donated to Hope South Florida.

Location – [the beach]

What to bring – Bring a mat or beach towel, water, sun glasses and sun block (or wear a long sleeved shirt).

Contact – If you have any questions please contact [kimwolhee]

___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Gory details – maybe even photos – tomorrow.

Lovin’ It

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As much as I talk whine about how too much noise disturbs my inner peace and all that meditative woo-woo yoga jazz, recently my life has been all about noise.  I’m shocked and gratified to find I’m serenely happy in this blaringly loud world.  For now, at least, extensive exterior clatter is translating into peaceful interior contentment.

My former brother-in-law (FBIL) and his son, the world’s most adorable nephew (I double-dog dare anyone to challenge that statement), are visiting for a few days.  From the moment they arrived last night, instant extreme noisiness was a given. Whenever this family gets together, the activity never, ever stops, not even for a moment.  We are, me included, one high-energy bunch.

At least three lively conversations were conducted simultaneously, the volume level ratcheting higher, the speed level increasing as all talkers competed to be heard above the din.  Mix in high-pitched children’s laughter, insistently yowling, attention-seeking cats, bouncing balls, the thud of darts hitting the board and you’ve got the recipe for a potentially major headache.

But for some reason, I’m thoroughly enjoying the crazy mixed-up soup this time.  I even managed to keep up, barely, with my nephew during enthusiastic, seriously in-depth discussions about Pokémon characters and their respective super-powers.  Fortunately, I can draw upon memories from almost a decade ago, when Pikachu and Ash Ketchum ruled Brainiac’s (and therefore, my) world.

Nephew and I moved our discussion to the piano, where he entertained me by performing Grieg’s In the Hall of the Mountain King from Peer Gynt.  When I expressed my delight over my nephew’s musical selection, impressed that he knew Grieg, he snickered merrily.  “Oh, Aunt [kimwolhee],” my nephew laughed.  “Don’t you know that’s the theme song from Sonic [the Hedgehog]?”

So much for Grieg.  Apparently, this piece has been appropriated by an animated, spiky-haired blue character not found in nature.

I am definitely feeling my age.

Of course, there was the epic basketball challenge (Nephew won), followed by a massive pizza, garlic sticks and brownie infusion.  Dizzy and lost in a starch- and sugar-induced coma, I finally settled in to visit with FBIL while the kids flopped in front of the television to watch the hockey playoffs.

FBIL and I share a warm and wonderful relationship; we always have. I cherish the email he sent to me shortly after The Ex and I divorced, one in which he spoke of family and friendship.  He began by stating that one’s true family is created by choice, from the heart, and not by accident of birth or marriage.  He ended by promising that I would always be family to him, that I would never lose his friendship, no matter what transpired between The Ex and me.  For reaching out to me, shining an unexpected bright light during a very dark and dim time, I will always adore him.

I confide in FBIL about almost everything; he’s my go-to neutral male perspective.  Like me, he slogged through a rough emotional period post-divorce, trying to find his bearings, falling in love with people not right (or not good) for him along the way.  He worked hard to become self-aware and healthy and he’s reaping the well-earned rewards: today he’s calm, happy, well-adjusted and ensconced in a comfortable, passionate, drama-free new relationship.  He’s my inspiration that one day I’ll find my own balance, sanity and strength.

And so, bring on the noise, the joyful noise of a cheerful household.  To paraphrase a popular fast food giant’s slogan: I’m lovin’ it.

Love and Music

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It’s been the work week from hell.

This morning, I did the unthinkable: I actually closed my office door and turned off the phone.  I was racing against the clock to complete a major site plan review for today’s meeting: a nine-acre campus that involves four new buildings, two existing zoning districts, one proposed overlay district that may or may not be adopted but needed to be considered, a community redevelopment district, a new set of design guidelines, and coordination between county and state transportation agencies, fire, police, engineering, building and landscaping.

It’s been so hectic that I couldn’t even visit the site until yesterday, given my absurdly shortened time frame for the review.  Between other deadlines, citizen drop ins, phone calls, meetings and suddenly becoming the planning point person for the revamped licensing procedures, my work days have been filled with way too many “top priorities.”

So yeah, I was a little stressed.

But it all worked out.

Whew.

Exhausted after the two-hour meeting (and everything leading up to it), I decided to mentally chill for the last hour of the day, straightening my overturned office, folding up site plans, humming the Merry Widow waltz (Lippen Schweigen) as I organized.

My friend, the cleaning man, heard me humming as he emptied trash cans.  “That melody is beautiful,” he said. “So romantic.”

I told him it had been replaying in my head since last night’s concert.  And I agreed: the melody is impossibly romantic.  As we chatted, I admitted to my friend that being single isn’t so bad, except for when I go to concerts.  When the music fills me with longing, that’s when I wish I had someone special to wrap up in.

My first husband, for all his faults, was my only romantic partner who shared this concert-going love with me, the only one whose shoulder was available as we both thrilled to a performance.  He, more than I, would seek musical opportunities everywhere and anywhere, ferreting out indoor concerts, outdoor concerts, ballets, operas…throughout the state and beyond.  Frequently he’d appear at my office after work, pizza box nestled in the front seat of the car.  “Hop in,” he’d say. “The Chicago Symphony’s in Austin.  I bought tickets for us.”  And off we’d go.

After his own concerts, my first husband would be restless, wired, adrenaline coursing through him.  We’d stroll along San Antonio’s Riverwalk, which was far less manicured in those days, reliving the concert’s highlights, sharing cheesecake at Kangaroo Court or enjoying jazz, extra-spicy, at The Landing, where some of our friends played.  Our lives revolved around the arts, especially music.

I don’t miss him, for too many painful reasons, tortured musician angst being among them.  But I do miss having a romantic musical partner-in-crime.

In the early stages of our relationship, The Ex tried.  He really did.  But his boredom was so palpable that it ruined the concerts for me.  I could almost see the stopwatch ticking down in his head as he impatiently waited for the last note to sound, itching to hurry home where a project always awaited.  Lingering over coffee, rehashing the concert afterwards, sharing a meal or a moment was not ever a remote possibility with him.

I quickly released him (and me) from any and all concert-going obligations.  Fortunately, I’ve found good friends who share my musical proclivities.  We have fun together.  Sometimes, if we’re being particularly decadent, we’ll begin the evening with a pre-concert dinner and end with a post-concert dessert.  We talk, we laugh, we share, we sigh.

But I don’t rest my head on their shoulders when the music touches my soul.

A Night At The Opera

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Tonight marked the end of the symphony season. As usual, the orchestra put on a jolly good show, a perennial favorite featuring a fast-paced mix of arias, show tunes and other delights. I arrived late, racing in from counseling with Girlfriend and an unexpected battle involving a parking meter and my debit card. I landed in my seat just in time for the downbeat: the gorgeous waltz from Lehar’s The Merry Widow, breathtakingly supple. As part of the festivities, guest dancers swayed and twirled in the narrow passage between the conductor and the stage’s edge.

The singers were marvelous, all of them, richly nuanced and engaging. Broadway’s original Phantom from Phantom of the Opera rendered Music of the Night so lyrically and touchingly that shivers rolled up and down my spine. I closed my eyes, wished for a shoulder to lean on.

And then, near the end of the concert, to my absolute delight…the boisterous Drinking Song (Libiamo…) from La Traviata. Bravo!

Life has been a little hectic lately. It felt wonderfully relaxing to step out of time and into the music.

And yeah, I confess…cookies and champagne certainly took the edge off, too.

Ooh Baby Baby

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I wrote this during my lunch hour…and then the mood shifted during yoga.  Hence, two completely different posts tonight:

The weekend flew by in a blur of nothing special.  I was definitely thrown off by the Relay for Life all-nighter, which caused me to drag through Saturday, fall exhausted into bed early Saturday night, and begin Sunday morning way too late and lazily, unable to rouse myself from my purring cat and cozy bed.  I had brought home a ton of work, but the fogginess in my brain left me staring out the window most of the time, wishing I could divest the work guilt so I could go out and play in the sunshine.

I did manage to weed, rake and generally spruce up my front patio, which had fallen prey to a thick, suffocating blanket of Norfolk Pine needles and six months of yoga teacher training neglect.  And I hosted my children’s friends – at one point five simultaneously – two of whom spent the night.  Plus I ferried Girlfriend – a/k/a Miss Social Butterfly – around to various friends’ houses.

I wigged out unexpectedly when I picked up Girlfriend from her final get together of the weekend.  She hopped into the car happily, immediately flipping the radio to her favorite Top 40 station without asking, as she and her brothers always do.

I usually don’t mind.  But suddenly I couldn’t stand the hammering and insistently pounding beat, the banality of the lyrics, the juvenile electronic repetitiveness: Ooh, baby baby.  Ba-ba-ba-baby.  Ooh, baby baby.  Nahnah-nah-nahnahnah-nah. Repeat endlessly.  Argh!

I snapped off the radio, irritated, much to Girlfriend’s dismay.

I had slipped into noise overload.

I later realized that my life is so filled with others’ noises that I have increasingly forsaken my own.  My once-cherished alone time in the car – when I played my operas or sang along with my favorite artists – has disappeared.  Lately, whenever I’m driving solo, silence reigns; I absolutely need the space and quiet to clear my head, to sit with my thoughts (oh yeah, and to concentrate on the road).  My house, too, remains silent whenever the children aren’t with me.

I’ve also become increasingly impatient when the phone rings: I don’t want to fill the air with chatter.  I’m turning selfish, hoarding my precious quiet moments, not wanting to share (what seems to be) my fleeting silences.

Now I’m worried that I’m developing into a bit of a hermit, that the quiet times I once cherished in measured amounts are feeling progressively more necessary.  I can’t decide if my tolerance level has decreased, my general day-to-day noise levels have increased, or a little of both.  But I’m afraid I could be headed down the dreaded path of crotchety old geezerdom, and I surely don’t want that.

I made a point of turning on the music today on my way to work.  It was, surprisingly, fun.  I connected back to my favorite sounds; as always, they worked their magic, lifting my spirits, bringing me joy.  I sang along, loudly, proudly and really, really badly, once again contributing gleefully to noise pollution, shoving crotchety old geezerdom to the side for at least one more day.

Ooh, baby baby can eat my (singing) dust.  So there.  Nah nah.

None But The Lonely Heart

As always, music fills the spaces in my soul.  Today it’s Tchaikovsky’s melancholy, beautiful romance, originally written for soprano and piano, here performed by the inimitable Joshua Bell:

None but the lonely heart
Can know my sadness
Alone and parted
Far from joy and gladness
Heaven’s boundless arch I see
Spread out above me
O(h) what a distance drear to one
Who loves me
None but the lonely heart
Can know my sadness
Alone and parted
Far from joy and gladness
Alone and parted far
From joy and gladness
My senses fail
A burning fire
Devours me
None but the lonely heart
Can know my sadness

Yeah, let’s just say it’s that kind of day.  But at least it’s set to poignantly delicious music.