Howard County United at The Mall

The Mall in Columbia at the time of its Reopening 1/27/14

 

I was at first a little unsure whether or not I wanted to go to the “re-opening” of our Mall at 1:00 PM today after the tragic shootings that took place on Saturday. I decided to head off to swim practice and see how I felt afterwards. I also wanted to see if anyone else was planning to attend. In the end, several of us went to lunch, but no one was able to head over to the Mall with me. The more I thought about it, the more I wanted to go. I had no reason not to go and one very good reason to go. I am a part of this community. I spent nearly all of my youth growing up in Columbia and all my years since college living in Columbia or Howard County. We arrived in 1972. My parents still live in the same house. Columbia is in every fiber of my being. I'm not sure people new to the area understand the level of love and pride some of us long-timers have for this place. I'm not sure I even get it. But, I do love it here in Howard County, and I do feel strongly about what happens here. So, I went to the Mall a little before 1:00 and waited for the doors to open. I wanted to be a supportive presence. When the group that had gathered at the doors to the food court (not where the press and county leaders were) and I entered, it was very strange. Not all of the stores and restaurants were open yet, and some were still dark and unoccupied. Everything looked spotlessly clean and empty of people. There were a lot of “greeters,” if you will, welcoming us back to the Mall. And, of course there were a lot of security guards and policemen/women. It was very weird. I made it around to a couple of stores, although I really didn't need anything. I did talk to the employees at every store I went in, which was my attempt to bring “normal” to the day. But, it was not normal. I noticed that there were other folks just being there, as well.

Memorial tributes

The memorial tributes were lovely and respectful. There was a long line forming to sign the memory/memorial books and to drop a flower into the fountain. And I could tell that since I did not end up seeing anyone that I knew well enough to sit and chat for a bit, and I did not have anything I needed to buy, I needed to leave. I am looking forward to going back to the Mall in the days and weeks to come, as it returns to its normal levels of business and activity. As for today, I'm glad I could go and just be, standing united with my community.

 

Memorial tributes – flowers in the fountain

 

Change, Grief, and More Change

I have not hesitated to write about the number of changes that have occurred in my life since August of this year. Normally, when I am experiencing a noticeable amount of change, I whine a bit then move on. Some of the changes I have had have been “whine inducing,” like the half hour change to my swim practice time. Others, however, have been borderline devastating, like the death of our dog in the days leading up to both kids leaving home for college. There is some level of grief with each change. Grief is at best annoying and at worst all encompassing. One minute it feels like a fall down a bottomless pit and the next it feels like the start of a new beginning. It holds dread and possibility, like a prize you can't collect when you want to. There are stages of grief, meaning blocks of time in which one is to some extent not OK. I struggle to know which stage I might be experiencing because I'm not grieving one loss. I'm grieving at least several changes simultaneously. Was I ever even over the one/s before these? I can't tell. Is missing someone or something one of the stages? Or is it simply the new normal? There have been so many changes, big and small, in such a short period of time. I find myself wondering if I'll ever get back to being able to just whine a bit and move on. And that may be exactly what I am doing here, whining a bit so I can move on. And even while I am grieving some of the changes, I am still somewhat excited about what this Empty Nest stage of my life has to offer.

 

Taking Care of Family (Business)

Yesterday was the memorial service for John's Uncle Bob (his Dad's brother), who passed away in November. It was a nice little, family-only service at the chapel where his ashes are interred. Since Uncle Bob was in the army, there was a U.S. Armed Forces Honor Guard funeral flag ceremony at the beginning of the service. Hearing Taps and witnessing such a beautiful and solemn ceremony was very moving. Following the service we drove the short distance to the grave site, which was next to John's paternal grandparents. At least four sets of Great (and Great, Great) Grandparents are also buried in the “Polish Cemetery,” as it is sometimes called, somewhat neat to where we were. John had taken Alex to St. Stanislaus Catholic Cemetery on a previous visit when John was looking for the headstones of past generations to enhance his family history research. It was a very cold and snowy day, so we weren't able to walk around to visit any other grave sites. In fact, the (sort of) surprise snowstorm left about 3-4 inches of snow in the morning. It finally stopped while we were eating lunch. We had decided to eat at a popular burger restaurant, Grover's, before the memorial service. Luckily, the snow kept the crowds away and we were able to get in and eat right away. Normally, Grover's is so crowded that there is always some kind of wait for a table. My photos are from Grover's. @foodnetwork #dinersdriveinsanddives

 

Change (As Opposed to “The Change”)

I ended up not being able to get my blog post published last night because I was talking to my friend Linda for so long. We hadn’t had a chance to catch up for awhile, so it was worth talking into the night. I was telling her about how stressed and busy I’ve been. She asked a few questions about what I was doing that was adding all the extra stress to my life right now. When, all of a sudden, the conversation took an unexpected turn, and I found myself telling her how I really have not been myself since my dog died. If there is anything that can cause people to nod their heads in understanding, it is telling them I’m an empty nester and/or telling them my dog of 13 ½ years died. She was so sympathetic and understanding. I told her through tears that I believe that my grief is causing me to not be myself. For instance, I have been doing stupid things, and mostly in front of folks who don’t know me very well. I can’t seems to be “off my game” in front of people who actually know I’ve got game to begin with, nope. I have to be a wreck or an airhead in front of acquaintances. It’s so annoying. So, while I did not feel particularly unhappy last night, I still managed to have an “I miss Chip and change is not easy” moment, which may have actually lasted a little longer than a moment. I remember Gina telling me, with regard to being an empty nester, “It’s a process.” And, so it is.

I Miss Chip

It occurred to me why I have been missing and thinking about Chip so much these past few days. He died two short months ago today. He was having a lot of trouble in his last few days, it was so sad. It still is sad. I got home this evening after working two different jobs and feeling tired and a little cranky. And, as I walked through the door, I thought, “Boy, I don’t like the emptiness of the house without the dog.” To quote my daughter when she first left for college (and Alex, too, actually), “I miss Chip!”

The Housecleaning Dustup

I love to vacuum. I love how you can immediately see the progress you’ve made on your cleaning journey. I love that the vacuum leaves evidence of its hard work either by picking up the crumbs, dirt, dog hair, or whatever you were aiming its powerful rollers over or by the slightly raised pile, standing higher and free of the debris that weighed it down, that it leaves in its wake. I have another favorite cleaning tool. It’s my Shark Steamer Floor Cleaner. I love my Shark. It has cleaned my kitchen and bathroom floors and kept me from scrubbing on my hands and knees from the minute we purchased it. It would take my unbearably dirty floors and make them shine. It made me happy with its easy to use but major cleaning power. And, it just died. In mid kitchen floor cleaning. I quickly tried to get to the rest of the floor done before it completely cooled. I made it, but barely. My husband wants to check it out in a bit, hoping that it will work again. I don’t want to fight with it. I am clearing my calendar to make sure we buy a new one tomorrow. It just became the cleaning tool I can’t do without.

The First Visit

We had a great first visit today with our son since leaving him at college a month or so ago. I was tear free until he told us how many of his friends talk about how much they miss their dogs. And, he, of course, misses his dog a lot also. But, unfortunately, coming home won’t cure him of missing Chip. I still miss Chip too. I am very grateful that we had such an awesome companion in that pooch. We showed Alex a picture of the little memorial we have for Chip. He approved, as Alyssa had when we had shown her the same photo. Breathing in gratitude and breathing out sadness.