Thursday, February 26, 2009

Birthday Time Again

The sound of jingling bells echoed through the halls. Following the sound, I turned a corner. Louder, the bells rang out. Quickly, I raced to the last door and peeked inside. A large woman sat in a chair in the corner. Beside her was a bassinet. The bells rang again and I caught a glimpse of two little white shoes kicking up above the edge of the bed.

That was the first day I met my sister. I was four years old and she was about two months old. And those jingling bells were tied to the laces on her shoes so every time she kicked, they rang.

Shortly after adopting me in 1971, our parents applied for a second adoption. It took over three years for them to get the call about my sister. During the initial meeting at the adoption agency, the social worker asked me if I wanted a brother or sister and I chose a sister. Growing up in a family in which my dark hair stood out like a sore thumb, I longed to have a sibling who resembled me. So I also told the woman that I wanted my sister to look just like me. She assured me that our new baby would have dark hair and big brown eyes just like her big sister.

That day, I left the office thrilled that soon we would have a new baby. My excitement grew ten-fold by the time she arrived. And there was an added element of excitement when I found out that her birthday was the day after mine. How cool would that be?

This weekend marks the 34th time that I have shared my birthday with my "little" sister. Four years my junior, much smaller in stature and nearly my polar opposite, Denise will always be my little sister. And every year, I remember that first meeting.

Slowly, I approached the bassinet and pulled myself up on the side. Looking over the top, I sized her up. Falling back on my heels, I turned to my mom. "This isn't our baby, Mom," I said. My parents laughed and reassured me. Up on my tip toes again, I reached in and touched the baby. The baby with the fire red hair and big blue eyes was indeed our baby, and, my sister.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Root! Root! Root for the Cardinals!

In just over one month, a new baseball season will dawn with another fun-filled opening day at Busch stadium. My friends and I will set up a tent (hopefully with the tent top) on the parking lot across from Al Hrabosky's bar and sit back for three or so hours before the game to reminisce about years past and make projections for 2009. We will drink many beers and much on snacks and Jim and I will toss the ball around a bit. And it will be a good day.

Will the season be just as good as day one? Well, that remains to be seen. But if the Cardinals walked into spring training with all their birds in a row, so to speak, and without a doubt or care in the world, I'd be more concerned. I can't remember a season as long as I've had season tickets when the Cardinals roster has been built from all the right players in the prime of their careers. And, the teams who have seemingly bought perfection in recent history have been disappointed come playoff time.

So, I'm not worried that the Cardinals don't really have a second baseman. I am not concerned about our starting rotation that was plagued by injuries last year and whose most solid guy is former reliever, Todd Wellemeyer. It's not like he's a former groundskeeper or the beer guy. He's a good pitcher and has, to this point, proven himself as such. I'm not even worried that Joel Piniero is crying about not being selected for the Puerto Rican team's starting rotation nor that his biggest gripes at the moment are with a coach on the Cardinals staff. I'm not concerned because I am banking on Piniero being a professional and letting his actions speak louder than his words.

Last year, the Cardinals launched a new advertising campaign called PLAY LIKE A CARDINAL. And throughout the season, the campaign (done so eloquently by Waylon Ad in St. Louis, by the way), revealed what that statement means. In my mind, playing like a Cardinal goes far beyond the expected dedication and effort. It means that the seemingly impossible is possible and that the word CAN'T is not part of your vocabulary. It means that your belief is greater than your potential and you never quit or give up. It means that you not only love the game but you respect it. It means that sometimes you even surprise yourself with the things you are capable of doing in that uniform with the birds on the bat.

So being a Cardinal means you're the greatest? Well, yeah, in a sense. And being a Cardinal fan makes you pretty great too.

Monday, February 23, 2009

at the end of my rope

Today I feel as if I've reached the end of my rope. The problem is I'm not quite sure of the positioning of that rope.

If it is dangling from the edge of a cliff and there are miles of sharp rocks below, I am definitely in some trouble. Letting go could mean death.

If it has been cast to me in a body of very deep and dangerous water, my survival increases tremendously because I have a very buoyant head (not to say that it's hollow or empty) and I just don't sink. But staying in that water for too long could cause painful pruning of the skin.

If the rope is horizontal, then my chances of reaching the beginning of the rope ever again are fantastic. It would probably entail a simple one-foot-in-front-of-the-other strategy.

To be at the end of one's proverbial rope implies that all course of action have been taken, there is no more help to be acquired and there's just nothing left to do.

I could try pulling myself up hand over hand, I suppose. But I am afraid if I let go, even for a second, I won't even have this little bit left. And then what? What happens when you have no rope at all?

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Why Does God Make Tornadoes?

I believe in God. And I believe that God gave us all free will. I also believe in His grace, that we are forgiven before we ask and that sometimes God allows bad things to happen to bring out the best in us.

Last night, my nephew interrupted our conversation about people of different ethnicities when his train of thought jumped tracks to tornadoes. "Aunt Michele," he said, "why does God make tornadoes?" Leave it to a six year old to test your knowledge and beliefs on a calm Saturday evening drive.

I had never really thought about why we have tornadoes. But after a minute or two of pondering the question, I realized that it's another one of those scary and sometimes tragic events that we are allowed to go through in order to bring out the best in people.

Bad things happen to people who don't deserve it. And sometimes good things happen to people that we don't believe deserve it. And in all things, we are given the chance to respond. We can choose to respond in a way that is helpful or kind or loving. Or we can choose to respond otherwise. Every one of us has had ample opportunity to respond to various situations in our lives, some personally and some through the hardships or blessings of others.

In my own life, I have had some really crappy experiences and there have been moments when I have been very angry at God for allowing them. And in every situation there has been that one person that comes along and says, "you know Michele, everything happens for a reason." As difficult as it is to hear and understand in the midst of tragedy, I know that it's true. I have had to go through each and every experience to learn what I've learned and to become who I am.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Cheater, Cheater, Pumpkin Eater

Expert M. Gary Neuman has written a new book titled, THE TRUTH ABOUT CHEATING* and was featured on The Oprah Winfrey Show. Neuman's twenty years of counseling sparked the book idea and the statistics he shares on the number of married men who cheat on their wives is discouraging. According to Neuman, 1 in 2.7 husbands have affairs and the reasons Neuman gathered during his research rarely included better sex or a prettier woman. Most often, their reasons revolved around feeling under-appreciated or taken for granted.

In my experience as well as based on what I heard from M. Gary Neuman, it's all just selfishness. Isn't it?

He goes to work day after day after day and provides for his family. And eventually, it becomes a part of his routine and his wife forgets to acknowledge him for being such a good provider. So he cheats. He spends his Saturdays cutting the grass, washing the cars or shuffling kids from soccer game to soccer game and sooner or later he starts to feel like just another thing that happens on Saturday because his wife neglects to hug him or pat him on the back or stroke his ego. So he cheats. When his life becomes routine, he starts to feel routine. He needs to feel special. And then... he cheats.

So what makes him feel appreciated and special? Sex is on the list but time alone with his wife and a newlywed-type interest from her is important as well. Doing the things you did in the beginning of your relationship gets lost in the shuffle of the daily responsibilities of house and home and children but they are still important to most men. And as women, it's hard for us to understand because women perform the same duties and tasks listed above, not for rewards or accolades or sex, but for the love of their families. And that should be enough, right? Well, apparently it's not.

To be fair, I did a bit of my own infidelity research and found that on average, studies show that 40% of married women cheat too. Unfortunately all these male and female cheaters aren't married to each other so 80% of marriages today are affected by infidelity. EIGHTY PERCENT.

We live in a country that constantly debates what constitutes a marriage but the truth is that 80% of married people don't even know the definition.**

*Neuman's book is available for FREE for a limited time on Oprah's website so if you are interested in the details of his studies, go download it today. Once you've read it, please come back to post your comments or send me an email. And don't forget to answer the questions to the polls on this blog. I will write a follow up blog with the results and comments from all of you.

**For the record, Merriam-Webster defines marriage as : "the state of being united to a person of the opposite sex as husband or wife in a consensual and contractual relationship recognized by law" or "the state of being united to a person of the same sex in a relationship like that of a traditional marriage." And united is defined as "made one" or "being in agreement." It's an institution built upon the relationship of TWO people. Not three and certainly not four.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Miss You Much

Tomorrow is the one year anniversary of the death of my friend, Phil Williams. It's rare that a day passes that we don't think of you, Phil. Reminders sneak up on us and we smile. Miss you much!

Valentine's Day

Last week sometime, my mom hung a new wreath, decorated with red & pink hearts and a teddy bear, on the front door. Valentine's Day is just around the corner. Candy and flowers and cards will be sent from one to another across the country that day. And pink & red will be the colors of the day.

Some historians say that Pope Gelasius declared February 14th St. Valentine's Day around 498 A.D. The oldest known valentine still in existence today was a poem written by Charles, Duke of Orleans to his wife while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London following his capture at the Battle of Agincourt in 1415. There are rumors that he didn't write it himself but thanks to Hallmark most of us don't write our own love notes today either.

I'm not a huge fan of Valentine's Day for the simple fact that I believe we should be celebrating love every day and telling each other every day how we feel. Dates should be special all the time and not so rare. Flowers are grown year-round so why wait for February 14th to send them? And despite what they'd like you to think, card companies create beautiful cards filled with lovely words quite regularly.

While I won't be stimulating the economy much this holiday by sending gifts or cards, I hope I've sent a clear message already to those who are near and dear to my heart. Love to all of you today, tomorrow and of course, on Valentine's Day.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

February 6th

I don't know how many February 6ths there have been. Mostly because I don't feel like figuring it out. But there have been a lot of them.

I have done just enough research to know that a lot of history has been made on February 6th. For example, in 1862, Ulysses S. Grant scored the first US victory in the civil war when he and his troops captured Fort Henry and in 1891, the Dalton gang pulled off their first great train robbery.

Babe Ruth was born on February 6th, as was Ronald Reagan, Tom Brokaw and Bob Marley. And February 6th is Bob Marley day in Jamaica and Ethiopia. It is also National Frozen Yogurt Day.

In spite of the many good and fascinating things that have happened on this day, my personal list of February 6ths has not been so wonderful. Nine years ago, this year, was scheduled to be the best February 6th of my life and it became the polar opposite. And year after year, it has been a painful and difficult day. History repeats itself but I believe it does so because we allow it. So after eight years of painful difficult 6ths, I decided that this February 6th was absolutely, positively not going to suck.

From here on out, it will be remembered as a special day. Not only will it be the day of the first US victory or the birth of one of the best baseball players to ever play the game or a day to nationally recognize yogurt, it will also be a day that represents potential and possibilities.

Today is February 6th. It is a good day. Happy birthday little guy.

To Delete Or Not To Delete

To delete or not to delete? That is my biggest question at the moment. Everyone should be so lucky as to have such simplistic things upon which to dwell, right? Although it seems less than complicated or fairly straight-forward, deciding whether or not to delete is an arduous, mind-bending process for me. 

Much like cleaning out that old box of crap from high school that you have carried from apartment to apartment and house to house, scouring the unsavory parts of your past from your life (as much as that can be done) demands your time and thoughtfulness. Most of the bad stuff in my life has been connected to plenty of good and as the old saying goes, you don't want to "throw the baby out with the bath water." 

These days, it's much harder to compartmentalize your life than it once was, thanks to technologies that have made the world much smaller. And it makes it harder to separate good from bad. Then comes the question, to delete or not to delete? 

Do I delete the people from my life that are still associated with someone I want completely removed from my life? Some of them are nice people. Some of them I know well. And the rest of them, well, they just remind me of stuff I don't want to remember. But it's not really their fault is it? That's where the dilemma comes.  Some folks were removed swiftly and without a second thought. But these folks in question... I hold onto them partly because I don't want to seem like a catty bitch and partly because I don't know if my reason for deleting them is valid. Also, because so many people are connected, once you start deleting, finding the end may be difficult. So do I delete them or not? 

Deleting can eliminate drama yet it can create so much more and in my effort to have a drama-less 2009, I want to make the right decision. 

To delete or not to delete?