Tuesday, May 12, 2015

A Life Well Lived

Myrtle Maleske. 97 years, 7 months, and 16 days old. A woman who I claim part of my name from. A woman who loved God and loved people. A woman who was stubborn and spunky. A woman who I loved.

My Grandma.

Born in 1917, grew up in Illinois, married the boy from around the corner, had 2 kids-one of which was my mom. Growing up I only saw my grandma occasionally. But it was at her house in Chicago that I mastered the stairs as a toddler much to my parents delight (who feared I wouldn't do well on stairs since at the time we lived in Arizona and didn't encounter many stairs there).

Several years ago she moved in with my parents in Maryland. Even though I had already moved out of the house and to another state, it was really at this time I started getting to know her. Started appreciating her yelling at me to wash my own dishes (even though she would do them before I even had the chance to). Observing that she was content to spend a good part of the day doing devotions and delving into the Word. Learning that when she still lived in Illinois she met a guy named Senator Barack Obama. Amazed that she would still occasionally go to the senior center to "workout". And truly believing she would live to see 100 years old.

This last year or two I could see her fading a bit. Her memory wasn't good. She wasn't going to the senior center so physically was more wobbly. And complained about her stomach hurting all the time. I started questioning whether she would make it to 100. But every time I saw her I made sure to give her a hug and a kiss and tell her that I loved her. And she would do the same right back to me.

In the middle of April my dad took her to the hospital because there was blood in her stool. They found a mass in her large intestine and decided to undergo surgery. Turns out the mass was colon cancer. Timeline unknown.

I'm remarkably lucky that my job has me traveling to Maryland on a fairly regular basis. So I got to see her in the hospital a couple times at the end of April. As much as it hurt to see her in pain and not fully aware of what was happening, I got to see her. Before heading back home last month I went to spend some time with her. It was just her and I, and it was a coherent day for her. The staff had gotten her out of bed and into a chair which was an improvement. I fed her some food which was also encouraging for me. We really just sat there watching a baseball game. Our pastor stopped by and my grandma commented how she was happy I was there. How I was good company. Eventually I knew I had to leave although I started tearing up any time I thought about going because I thought this could be the last time I ever see my grandma. Fighting back the tears I said I had to go but that I loved her. She said she loved me to, gave me a hug and a kiss, thanked me for spending time with her and as I turned for one last look on my way out, smiled at me and waved. I managed to hold it together for the most part on my way to my car but upon getting there full out ugly cried for at least 10 minutes in the parking lot.

My dad sent daily updates about how she was doing. While I'm happy I was updated, it was sad tracking her decline mentally as well as physically as she basically stopped eating or drinking anything. Work took me to Maryland again last week. She was in a rehab type home by now where ideally if she got better, she could stay in an assisted living type of setting. Both times I visited I knew she wouldn't last long. The first time she was completely confused and didn't have a full grasp of her surroundings. The second time she slept the whole time not rousing for anything.

May 10th the call came. She passed away sometime between 8-10am on Mother's Day. 97 years, 7 months, and 16 days old. 

In between my April visit and my May visit I really tried to come to terms with the fact I would be losing her soon. Almost hoped for it as I saw she wasn't really living anymore. Merely surviving. And knowing how strong she was in her faith, I knew where her spirit was going upon dying. I knew she would be in a better place. I knew she lived a life worth living. She was born during WW1, experienced the Great Depression, WW2, civil rights, the birth of the internet, and so so so much more! The changes she saw in the world during her lifetime are remarkable. More importantly, the people who knew her loved her.

I still cried after I got the news (cried several times to be honest). Still found myself missing her already. Found myself painting my fingernails (something I don't ever do) a light purple because it was her favorite color and I wanted to think of her often. I wish I asked her more questions. I wish I knew more details about her life growing up. But there's one thing I know. She loved me, and she knew I loved her too.

Myrtle Maleske b.9/24/1917 d.5/10/2015

Monday, May 4, 2015

Adventures in House-sitting

Isn't it fun when you are house-sitting and a loudish noise wakes you up at 3:47am and you don't know what it is and you aren't in your house so you freeze waiting to hear if it's a robber, but don't hear anything, but can't fall back asleep so you lay there suddenly hearing a clock ticking in the room you've never noticed before so of course you think it's the Clockwork Men from Doctor Who 'Girl in the Fireplace' and both simultaneously are frightened and yet pleased this might mean you are as accomplished as Madame de Pompadour. The neighbor's dog is barking outside so you go back to thinking maybe there's a robber which is still not helping you go back to sleep. Then your alarm goes off at 4:27am to go to the gym and you realize it's going to be a very long day. 
Or is that just me? 

PS-turned out it was the shampoo bottle inexplicably falling from the side of the bathtub onto the floor. 

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Getting back to a true triskele mindset

2014 brought about a bit of unraveling of what a triskele life should be in my opinion. The harmony between mind, body, and soul got lost along the way. Part of my goal for 2015 was to try and refocus. Find that harmony again.

One of the big areas that took a hit last year was my spiritual life. I lost the joy and passion of pretty much all religious practices. Especially wanting to go to church. When January came I decided to forget the past. To wash away past thoughts, and start with a clean slate. I decided I would start attending CBC again and if I found it wasn't what I needed, that I would look for another church. I was hesitant at the start of the year, but then found my stride. Found enjoyment in the songs. Found comfort in the words. Found the love that comes with a church family.

So far I've only missed 2 Sundays. One was due to just being overwhelmingly exhausted from work and other was today because services were cancelled from inclement weather. I've also started doing daily devotions. The Portals of Prayer that I secretly thought were pointless for most of my life and never gave a second glance at, I've now found an appreciation of. It reminds me of the different times of the church year a bit as well which is something I don't want to forget.

I'm still absolutely miserable at praying, and honestly don't feel as though I have the same relationship with God I once had. But it's improving. I'm improving.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Time flies when you're having......a lot of work to do?

Somehow it's the middle of February. 2015 has flown by remarkably fast so far! It could be in part because work has kept me fairly busy. I've become that person that goes into work extra early, stays late, and still brings her laptop home in the evenings and the over the weekends. It's not exactly something I'm proud of. I enjoy hard work and being busy. I'm happy to put in the extra effort when need be. However, I'm also a fan of finding a work/life balance. And lately that balance has been skewed.

I've had quite a bit more on my plate in 2015. With my boss quitting, it meant her work was spread between several of us. I am involved in some of the bigger, time-consuming projects. Plus February is home to the 2 biggest events of the entire year for my office. And most of the committees I'm on have also stepped it up a notch. Plus, I still have all my normal tasks I'm required to do. All of this to say, work has become a focus while things like reading and blogging have fallen to the side.

So far I've read about 1 chapter of a book this year. While I'm not necessarily proud of this fact, I'm ok with it. Work requires me to focus so much that in my spare time I just want to relax and catch up on current shows and classic Doctor Who. I have also been striving to keep up with my friendships. To feel comfortable leaving work behind and going out with friends for drinks, food, movies, etc.

I've been told before how people admire my ability to keep a work/life balance. I think a prime factor of my ability to do this is compartmentalizing. To know exactly what my primary focus is, and putting all other areas aside for a bit. So when I'm out with friends, I don't check and respond to email constantly. When I'm at work, I try to avoid Facebook. It's one of the ways I've stayed sane and stayed happy at my job for so long. It may be a reason why I wouldn't make it as a VP where I work as well. But to live a triskele life means to be in harmony. To not let one area fully take over another, and to be satisfied with all components of life. Sure, I'm not 100% in harmony right now, but I'm making strides. And after all, realizing this and continuing to strive for harmony may be the most important thing of all.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014 in Review

Lately I've been thinking about how 2014 has been for me. I partially blame facebook for this because they automatically put together little video reviews for people to look back at the year (I'd like to point out that as a society we have reached the point where technology feels the need to automatically put together a 1 minute clip to remind you of what you've done over the past 364 days so you don't forget *shakes head*). I never watched my video. It was when I realized that I didn't watch it because I didn't want to be reminded about the year that I started really thinking about 2014.

Good things did happen. I want to start with that and remind myself of that fact. Good things did happen. I explored new places, met my Goddaughter, saw all 7 of my nephews, met my goal of reading at least 1 book a month (grand total ended up being 42), and successfully donated blood 6 times which was my unspoken goal for the year. Of course I had plenty of fun with friends and good times as well.

I'm not sure why these things all tend to fade when trying to get a full feel for the year. Perhaps it was just that the couple losses I had impacted me more than the good times. The loss of Robert had a bigger effect on my life than I expected. Obviously the sudden loss of someone is always a shock. But it reached beyond that and made past demons, so to speak, reappear. I now feel further from the church than I have for several years. I also experienced the loss of friendship this year. It's this type of loss that makes me question my friends and those around me. That makes me remarkably cautious around all my friends.

Of course I had other down days or days things weren't going my way. Those are the norm though. I think it was the fact that the couple bad things that occurred really shaped my mindset and outlook. On the one hand, I had good things that were great, sure, but were just experiences that were passing. I hope to have plenty more times were I see my Goddaughter and nephews, and meeting goals that made me feel accomplished, but are not necessarily life changing. On the other hand you had moments that made me question the bigger aspects of my life-my friends and my religion.

Part of me thinks I should go back and watch the Facebook video. Because honestly, it'll probably all be pretty good things they incorporate since I'm not one to complain via facebook or twitter. But more than anything it makes me look forward to 2015. It makes me want to focus more on some of those bigger aspects of life and open up more conversations about those key areas. I don't want to forget the bad or the good. I just want to grow from it all.  To really strive to understand myself more and how I can better myself from 2014.

Monday, December 29, 2014

December Book Recap!

Woohoo! Another successful year of actually sticking to my new years resolution!
My original goal was to read at least 1 book a month. For almost every month I went above and beyond that with reading multiple books! December has turned out to be one of the more successful months!

There are some books that as you start, they introduce you to the characters, set the scene, and it's very easy to follow. Others seem to throw you into a story and you have to try your best to understand what's happening. The latter is how Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta is. At first I worried I wasn't going to piece together everything, but figured I'd just keep reading and hoping it all fell into place. And boy did it! I ended up really loving this book and not wanting to put it down! Set in Australia (which was awesome to begin with although it did have me googling Australian slang a couple times to make sure I knew what a character was saying) and based around Taylor Markham who is trying to figure out who she is just as much as the reader. It's a fun story of how people who shouldn't really get along, end up putting their differences aside, and how their story is connected back to a similar group of teenagers 20 years prior. As the reader you are able to figure some things out before Taylor does, but you are still left wondering how everything is going to resolve itself.

Next up was Night by Elie Wiesel which I have heard quite a bit about, but never read. Night is the story of Elie Wiesel's time as a 12 year old Jew and being taken to concentration camps during WW2. It is a fairly quick read, but has so much to it! This is his story following him over the course of a couple years being in a ghetto, transported by train, what it was like at various concentration camps, and being marched for miles in the snow. Some of what I found most interesting is when Elie would reference his faith. As a devout Jew he studied and asked questions to learn more about his religion as a child, and during the book you almost forget that background until he makes a couple passing remarks from hating God for allowing this cruelty, to moments when suddenly a prayer of praise comes to his mind even in the darkest of times.

Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah was just a quick spur of the moment decision. I had read other books by Hannah and figured why not read another. I didn't expect this book to go as deep and pull me in as much as it did. Even though I swear I didn't know-this book also takes to WW2. This time however you learn about what it was like in part of Russia. A fascinating part of this book was looking at the familial relations between a mother who was always very cold and distant to her 2 daughters. This is a family that is held together by the father who passes away and leaves the rest of the family trying to figure out how to relate to each other without him. My mother was not cold or distant, but the conversations that the mother and daughters end up having with each other in this book are inspiring and something I hope to have the courage to begin having with my family.

I always knew this month I would read at least 1 book because every year when I'm at my parents for the holidays I read my favorite book A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle. I always love the adventure and science fiction. The characters travel to other worlds, meet different species, and stand up to The Dark Thing which is trying to take over planets. Oddly I don't own this book myself. It keeps me from reading it constantly and getting worn out on it. Just reading once a year is like a present I give myself. Didn't disappoint this year either. Still love it!

This next book took all of no time to read as it is written on a elementary school level, but I'm a sucker for The Boxcar Children! As part of my Christmas present my sister gave me The Animal Shelter Mystery by Gertrude Chandler Warner which is #22 in the series. As a kid I couldn't get enough of these books!! Four kids going around solving mysteries and basically being awesome. Granted they were far to independent for their own good. And I question their grandfather for letting them go off on their own so much, and the responsibility everyone around them gives them. But that's just my adult self going a bit to far. My inner child was enjoying the story and figuring out who done it.

The last full book of 2014 was The Children Act by Ian McEwan. Found this one by googling top books of 2014. I honestly am not sure which list it came from, just that it caught my eye. It was a good book to pass the time, but not one that I found awe inspiring or touching. Focused around a High Court judge and a specific case that has longer lasting effects then when she makes her decision. I was drawn in because this case was one in which the family doesn't want to pursue medical treatment for their son due to religious beliefs, but by not pursuing the treatment, the child would die. Does the judge side with religious wishes, or deciding to save the kid. Meanwhile just to add to the drama, the judge's marriage is also on the rocks. It was an interesting story and enjoyable, but I don't know if I would have put it with the top books of 2014. 

Books Read in 2014:
Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
Wild by Cheryl Strayed
The Fault in Our Stars  by John Green
Burned by Ellen Hopkins
Freedom by Jonathan Franzen
A Grief Observed by CS Lewis
The Monument Men by Robert Edsel
The Nazi Officer's Wife by Edith Beer
Out of Africa and Shadows on the Grass Isak Dinesen
And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
Looking for Alaska by John Green
When Life Comes Undone by TJ Addington
Number the Stars by Lois Lowery
Angels and Demons by Dan Brown
Where There's Smoke by Jodi Picoult
A Passage to India by E.M. Forster  
Black and Blue by Anna Quindlen 
The Peppered Moth by Margaret Drabble 
The Maze Runner by James Dashner
The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver 
The Scorch Trials by James Dashner
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
Larger than Life by Jodi Picoult 
The Death Cure by James Dashner
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown
Little Lord Fauntleroy by Frances Hodgson Burnett
Who Will Run the Frog Hospital by Lorrie Moore
Isaac's Storm by Erik Larson
The Kill Order by James Dashner
Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline 
The Magicians by Lev Grossman
Charlotte Gray by Sebastian Faulks
Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult
Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta
Night by Elie Wiesel
Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle 
The Animal Shelter Mystery by Gertrude Chandler Warner
The Children Act by Ian McEwan

Sunday, November 30, 2014

November Book Recap!

While I feel as though I've read enough college essays submitted by high school students to fill a book, sadly they don't count. I have however read a couple other real books this month!

First up was The Magicians by Lev Grossman.This is a book that I honestly probably would have never thought to read except a member of my book club was pretty excited for it. I went into it thinking it would be a more "realistic" version of Harry Potter. As the name suggests, there is magic - and not slight of hand and pulling rabbits out of hats. It centers around a guy named Quentin who suddenly discovers he has the ability to do real magic and goes off to a magic boarding school. He is also obsessed with a children's book series in which four siblings travel to this other world to be kings and queens. If these sound familiar to you, you're not alone! The story covered many years quickly, but with minimal character development and maturity. More than anything I found myself constantly saying "Ok that's just like Harry Potter" or "oh that's just like the Narnia series", which took away from the book. Probably my favorite part was a random trip to Antartica that was more original. This is part of a series, but odds are I won't be moving forward with finishing it. 

Next up was Charlotte Gray by Sebastian Faulks. Once again I find myself reading a book based in WW2. Such a good time period for books to be placed. This is kindof a mix between girl power and true love. The main character is Charlotte, a woman who moved to London from Scotland, and fell into love very quickly with a pilot in the war. He ultimately disappears while on a mission over France which prompts Charlotte to take on a task which puts her in in France in some dangerous situations but potentially closer to finding her love. This was a book that was a bit of a slower start for me. I admit I wasn't really in the mood to really sit down and read after work when all I had done at work was read so that may be part of it, but it seemed like it really picked up about halfway through when Charlotte was in France. At that point I was totally on board and interested to see what would happen. While I really liked Charlotte's courage and determination, part of me wishes that it didn't take a guy for her to get involved though. 

Lastly was Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult. I'm a sucker for Picoult's books. This is her latest which I have been looking forward to for a while. Picoult had previously released two short stories written from the perspective of two of the characters in this book as prequels (both of which I mentioned earlier in the year as I read them). I felt the prequels actually did add to the book, especially the one from the perspective of Serenity. I loved Leaving Time as I do most of her books, in part because this one dealt with the mindset of elephants and if you add in animal behaviors my interest will automatically be peaked. It's about a tragedy that separated a mother and daughter when the daughter was only 3, and the daughter's search for her mother years later. One thing I enjoyed was the seamless story telling between the present day and 10 years earlier when the incident took place. There wasn't really a dull moment. It was captivating and yet another one of her books I enjoyed.  

Books Read in 2014:
Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
Wild by Cheryl Strayed
The Fault in Our Stars  by John Green
Burned by Ellen Hopkins
Freedom by Jonathan Franzen
A Grief Observed by CS Lewis
The Monument Men by Robert Edsel
The Nazi Officer's Wife by Edith Beer
Out of Africa and Shadows on the Grass Isak Dinesen
And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
Looking for Alaska by John Green
When Life Comes Undone by TJ Addington
Number the Stars by Lois Lowery
Angels and Demons by Dan Brown
Where There's Smoke by Jodi Picoult
A Passage to India by E.M. Forster  
Black and Blue by Anna Quindlen
The Peppered Moth by Margaret Drabble 
The Maze Runner by James Dashner
The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver 
The Scorch Trials by James Dashner
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
Larger than Life by Jodi Picoult 
The Death Cure by James Dashner
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown
Little Lord Fauntleroy by Frances Hodgson Burnett
Who Will Run the Frog Hospital by Lorrie Moore
Isaac's Storm by Erik Larson
The Kill Order by James Dashner
Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline 
The Magicians by Lev Grossman
Charlotte Gray by Sebastian Faulks
Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult