Thursday, December 31, 2009

Ten years...wait...I can't process that fast...

Water over the bridge.
Life goes on.

Except...sometimes water freezes and doesn't run over the bridge quite so quickly.

It hangs there, and creates weird forms that are both opaque and translucent.

Eventually the forms will resolve, melt away and move on, but for a moment all the ripples and spray can be examined.

Tonight...I want to take a moment to look at the frozen memories of the decade about to leave us. To try to make sense of it...process it...and remember how it was.

For surely if there ever was a decade that flowed swiftly though my life, it was this one.

There was a time for me when life unfolded at a reasonable speed. There were the grade school years with predictable summer vacations and classmates, high school, college, marriage, babies, family life...

Then the "family" years were children had graduated from college, and I found myself in a new house in a city I had never imagined living in, with letters after my name.

It was a new century. 2000 dawned upon me in Houston, and I was a newly graduated MLS, who was to work at an amazingly huge corporation using my yet untried research skills. was all so new...but my life still revolved around Bernie and the family was in San Diego mostly, and all that was new felt like an interesting interlude in my life.

I imagined my children would soon marry and have children, and Bernie and I would make new friends and travel, and all would continue in a cheery way with some typical bumps and highlights along the way.

The Internet access was great and still pretty new...but not all that mesmerizing to me yet.

Looking back, I see with crystal clear precision the moments when all the cheery expectations changed.

My boss was a fine law librarian named Carolee who had lived in Houston for about twenty years. Within the first week of work she warned me about flooding...pointing out the freeway underpasses that had flooded awhile back stranding city workers until the water eventually receded.

"Happens once every decade" she explained, taking me over to one of the windows that afforded a view of the city from our 44th floor library.

"A big flood or hurricane happens once a century. That flood was probably it. But if you ever see water covering the rail tracks, leave. Otherwise you'll get stuck here downtown".

Secretly I shook my head. Surely she was an alarmist.

Life in the year 2000 was pretty good. Enron, where my husband worked, was rocking the business world with their success. In fact, every company seemed to be thriving in America. We were richer than we had ever been before and our newly purchased house was simply amazing.

Late in May 2001 a tropical storm called Allison blew in from the Gulf, and circled around and around, while dropping nearly 40 inches of rain on Houston in less than 48 hours. It really was the once every 100 year flood...and all around us people lost their houses, and freeways were so deeply underwater that moving vans were completely submerged.


Thankfully we were at home, about an hour north of the city. Had we not turned on the television we would have never known of the destruction around us. Had Bernie not decided to go get a hair cut, we would not have known that all ATMs and cell phones were not functioning. We wondered why no one called to see if we were OK...we didn't know the phone lines were not functioning.

I guess that was the beginning of the wake up call that still has me disoriented.

A few months later, in September, Carolee called to me as I headed out from the library to go to a training session wherein I would learn to pull legal documentation. I wasn't particularly interested in learning about law research, but I knew the trainer, an attorney who always brought great kolaches and donuts to the sessions.

"A plane just flew into a New York high rise" Carolee called, peering at her computer screen. I back tracked to her office and together we looked at the news report. We both agreed that was quite odd, perhaps a hoax, and decided that it certainly was weird.

I headed to the meeting. A projected computer screen on the wall instructed me on how to create search strings and research strategies.

The door to the training room opened. "Another plane has hit another high rise" someone whispered.
The training sputtered...and then some one asked if we wanted to watch the television report.
We were curious...and gathered around watching the seemingly endless loop of planes flying into buildings.
What on earth could it mean?
A phone rang.
An announcement was made: Everyone was to leave the building and go home.
I called Bernie, and moments later he pulled up in front of the building.
I climbed into the car and we headed home, north, as behind us the streets filled with cars and people that were swiftly caught up in grid lock.
Our cell phones stopped cell circuit overloaded.
We got home just in time to watch the buildings in far away New York fall.

After that I had a hard time not checking the news constantly. When I returned to work, no airplanes were seen the skies outside, and when a military jet did a fly by, I felt every nerve in my body tense.

Bernie was out of work. He had figured out what Enron was doing...or at least a bit of it, and was promptly fired. The business world was about to was almost impossible to do business with the new security measures due to 9/11, but soon other things were about to unravel.

The government, or specifically, the Securities and Exchange Commission, had woken up, and was investigating how major corporations were deceiving their shareholders. Enron was one of their first marks, and more businesses were to be toppled as well.

Bernie did find another job, and God was gracious to us during that time. Had he not lost his job before 9/11, things would have been much much worse.

So there were floods, terrorists, and criminal companies impacting my world.

The same old, same old wasn't the same anymore.

We realized that while we slept, things could change drastically. A moment away from the news could mean being too late to escape catastrophe. People had drowned because they had not known water was rising, financial ruin befell those who could not keep up with financial changes afoot.

I began to hunt information relentlessly. I taught attorneys how to research Securities and Exchange Commission filings, and learned how corrupt most businesses were.

I also learned that our country's financial well being was seriously compromised in ways that people would only learn about in breaking news released over the decade.

All this was jangling information was "out there". It still had nothing to do with my own physical being.

Then my friend got a call: her husband and two children had died in a fire while they slept. Four days later as we walked into the church for the funeral for her husband and two very young children, overhead the newly exploded space shuttle Columbia was dropping pieces of hardware and human remains around our area.

The deep grief we felt: What was it really about?

A day or so later a routine check up revealed that I had a large mass...and would need surgery immediately.

I had a handle on the news "out there", but not on this kind of news: seeing how frail bodies could be was different. No amount of research could guard against that kind of danger. My faith was strong. Yet I stared the facts of the world in the eye, and realized how clueless I had been.

Twice more during the decade I would be hospitalized with "life threatening" situations. Having a doctor tell me I might die began to feel like being told I needed routine eye checks. I might be going to heaven soon, or maybe it wouldn't be for years.

Who knows.

They certainly didn't .

From 2000 to 2009 many good things happened too. Bernie and I travelled more than ever before, visiting Switzerland, Italy, Germany, Canada, Cayman Island, Scotland and more and more states each year. Lovely trips...

Yet even vacations became a time for wariness for me: As we flew to snorkel and swim in the tropical island's waters, my brother suddenly passed away. All week I felt as though there was something I should know...and figured it was just being away from my news sources that was bothering me.

I didn't imagine the news that I missed while I was away would be about such an unexpected personal loss.

How could I have prepared for something like that?

I couldn't.

Engagements were made, weddings were planned, and one marriage actually occurred.

What I "knew" changed engagement ring and wedding invitations turned out not to mean a wedding would actually take place. Meeting "special" people didn't necessarily mean they would be part of my future either when those romantic alliances ended.

I made friends, and friends moved on. And each time it made it harder to risk friendship again. I realized friendship was more fragile that I had imagined.

Turns out loosing friends may have been for the best: it made it much easier to move away from Houston when we did.

We moved to Salt Lake City just in time to miss Houston's "Once In A Hundred Years" hurricane that Carolee had discussed with me during those early years of the decade.

Hurricane Rita and Katrina had taught us the value of being prepared, and for the idea of having everything we owned wiped out. Thankfully Hurricane Ike didn't destroy our Houston house. Everything we owned except for two duffel bags full of clothes, our cars, computer and cats had been in that house during the storm. We were so thankful all was safe, but lived for a week not knowing if even a fragment of our belongings there remained.

For eight months in Salt Lake City we found it quite possible to live with just the meager amount we had left Houston with, and a bit more that we purchased or borrowed as needed.

We discussed that fact over and over. How much did we need to own anyway?

So here I am on December 31, 2009. Was it only a year ago that we bought the house we are living in?

2009 was not easy for us. I made sure that every bit of beauty and wonder around us in Utah was enjoyed as much as possible while our "new" fifty-five year old house was being renovated, and while our family life changed.

Knowing of a brother fighting cancer, while your son plans a wedding, while the news continues to reveal more and more convoluted all seemed like too much to process.

Life has happened and changed too fast this decade.

Maybe it is my age....maybe it is knowing how to find information....maybe it IS actually that life that is happening too fast.

I really don't know.

Tonight is a blue moon. By definition, a blue moon is a second full moon in a single month's time, making the year have thirteen instead of just twelve full moons.

The last time New Year's Eve had a blue moon was 1990. The next time that will happen won't be until 2028.

The oddities of the calendar as related to the moon doesn't really bother me, although Biblical dates were set by lunar rather than solar occurrence. I guess what I am trying to say here ultimately is that the last ten years has had more than I was expecting.

Sort of like a thirteenth full moon in a year instead of twelve.

As the hours run out on the year and the decade, I am recording all this with the hope that the waters of time will continue to flow and wash away the odd memories of the past years.
I will step back and view the decade and make a decision to believe that it is was part of the story that God has written, a story that He promises will end with a wonderful ending that as yet we can not fully imagine.
Let the flow of time continue.
Let the next chapter be written.
But please...could it be possible for my life's events happen just a tiny bit slower?
I need more time to process change as it happens


Julie said...

Jill... you need to write a book.
A fascinating post... your decade was definitely filled with the stuff fiction is made of.
I wish you a very Happy New Year and pray 2010 is filled with God's blessings... maybe another wedding?? or a grandchild? smile

Vicki said...

Your post brought the last ten years back in full view (at least the non-personal parts). The years definitely passed quickly, like the downhill part of a roller coaster.

I agree with Julie - perhaps you should look into being published! You have many fascinating tales to tell.

May this year, and all upcoming years, be filled with peace and health and all of God's riches. Be blessed, my friend!

Heather L. said...

I thought of you this past week while I was constructing my new years hat. :) You'll have to check it out. i just need places to wear it now! :)

Judy ~ My Front Porch said...

Wow! when you put it all on realize how much has really happened in the last decade. A few of those biggies impacted all of us...others were in your world much water over the bridge in ten years!

May the new year have many good things in store...and may they come be savoured and enjoyed! Happy New Year.

Just a little something from Judy said...

In my thinking, this post you did was one of the most interesting and thought provoking posts that I have ever read. You drew me in and had me reading every word. I do believe your lists of talents could include writing books. I want to thank you so much for taking time to sit down and share your life and your thoughts on this New Year's Day. It was a real blessing to me, and I found myself agreeing with you wholeheartily.

I wish you moments of joy and blessing as you face the coming year. I enjoy visiting this blog and do so often.

Sara said...

Your wonderfully written retrospective brought back memories of my own on a few of these same events. Life indeed does seem to move more quickly as I age and others have said the same. But it's true that so very, very much has happened in the past 10 years and the world has changed so drastically too...our safe little cocoon has split wide open.

But we know the ending to the story and have chosen to believe in it. Amen to that!

Ken Lay came to visit my boss in that year before Enron went south; I googled myself once and came across my email to his assistant working out the meeting arrangements, out there in cyperspace for all to see - !

The 911 events I remember so clearly...and that same boss' son was in a cab on his way to a meeting at the twin towers at the time, but saw what was happening and was able to avoid it.

We don't know what new things 2010 holds, but we do know Who to hold onto. Blessings to you and Bernie and your family for the New Year.

Pondside said...

That was quite a ride, Jill. When you put down the events of a decade in relation to the big picture that underscored them the impact is considerable. I hope that the next decade gives you and your family the opportunity to make lots of happy memories.

Lovella ♥ said...

I read the post and savoured it with the luxury of knowing your voice and your heart.
Somewhere in this last decade. . you and I connected .. and I'm so glad we did.
When you write your book I'll be able to say I knew Jill when she was pounding out her blog and I read it once and never missed one after that.
I found your ten years fascinating and it has inspired me in the next week or so to look back on my last ten years as well.
Happy New Year. . and may it run slow like thick maple syrup.