Spoiled Rotten Dog

The me ten years ago so would have yelled at the me today for allowing this to go on. This is not good for her health, not to mention the begging it is sure to encourage. I should remind Mark that when Lucy up-chucks by the back door, it will be his responsibility to clean it up.

Of course, I try to keep Kacey in the loop with the canine antics at our house. So I sent her the video. She wasn’t pleased.

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I told her I was only trying to protect her teeth. She called me a fun-sucker. Probably was true of the me back then. The me now is most definitely not a fun-sucker. It just gets a little easier to relax when the kids are all grown up and the only one left to spoil is a four-legged cutie.

I had a birthday this week. And I liked it.

Not that it’s probably been obvious to anyone reading this blog, but I’ve been experiencing a major shift inside for the past few months. A positive one. I’ve pondered many times how to explain it, but just can’t ever seem to put it into words. I can only say that a few months ago, I seemed to reach a sort of crossroads. Things that previously might have made me feel bitter and angry … well, they no longer dig so deep. Like I said, I can’t really explain it yet. I can only say that for the longest time, I felt like I was who I was and that I could never change. And my faith, while always important to me, had grown so very stagnant. Until something shifted inside, and suddenly … maybe not suddenly … more like gradually, but steadily, there began this whole new outlook. An entirely new sense of peace and belief and positivity began to seep in that wasn’t there before. And the more I feel it, the more I want to feed it.

Like I said, not that you might have realized it just from reading this blog. I’ve mostly tried to keep things upbeat around here. And if I was writing in a positive manner, I was truly feeling it. But if I was feeling a little dark inside, well I usually wasn’t writing it. But believe me, I felt it at times, that darkness. In my entire life, there’s been a side of me that’s been steadily bitter, sarcastic or disbelieving at certain times. Things were what they were. And maybe it’s only the things I told myself …  Some things will never change. This is as good as it gets. Don’t get me wrong. I knew that my good as it gets was pretty damn good. Still, it was this feeling that there could be nothing more. That I had no power to do or be or have the things I thought were out of my reach. But there came a point where I heard from deep down inside myself, But what if there is more? And what if so much of it is just up to me?

Anyway, that’s about as much as I can do to explain it. The whole point of all that is to say today, that this change made my having a birthday this week an entirely new and great experience.

I feel pretty fortunate to have reached this age, (closer to fifty than not,) and feel as good as I do. But as I’ve grown older, I have so much preferred to celebrate birthdays quietly. I removed my birthday from my Faceb00k profile before last year’s big day, to try to keep it under wraps. It didn’t work. Someone inevitably posts a birthday wish on my timeline and my other Faceb00k friends can’t help but notice. Soon the birthday greetings are pouring in from all over. Which is great except that I’ve always felt slightly undeserving for some reason of so much affection. I’ve never been comfortable being the center of attention. Someone forgot to tell my husband. He’s thrown me two surprise birthday parties over the years!

As my birthday approached on Wednesday, I knew my coworkers would make it known. I’ve been a party to many a stealth cubicle decorating. I’ve made birthday treats for the person of honor and helped announce to the entire office that someone was turning another year older. I knew I would have to take my turn. And when I woke up Wednesday morning, I made a mental decision to embrace it all instead of shy away from it.

When I arrived at work, my suspicions were confirmed. My birthday was being celebrated. You can’t quite tell from the photos, but no one was going to miss the fact that I was having a birthday.

There was nothing so different about my birthday this year as compared to previous ones. But somehow it felt bigger. It felt as if everyone who walked by my festively decorated cubicle at work poked their head in to wish me a sincerely happy day. There were treats – cupcakes, muffins, cinnamon rolls, caramel brownies and candy. One coworker, Diane always sings the Casey Jones Happy Birthday song to anyone celebrating their big day. In the past, I’d shy away from being sung to in the middle of the office. This time, I stood before her and proudly accepted her gift of the birthday song.

It was hard to get anything done at work that day. And it was a busy week with several deadlines! I was frantically trying to put together an important presentation for Monday morning. And yet somehow I managed to finish it by Friday afternoon.

My kids worked together (… let me repeat … my kids worked together!) to secretly order birthday flowers to be delivered to my office. This was no small feat. I work for the affiliate of the main company, in a branch location which relocated almost two years ago. Apparently the interwebs haven’t been updated very well with the new physical address, making it all that much more impressive that my birthday flowers found their way to me.

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After work, Mark and I went out to dinner and celebrated quietly. My food wasn’t that great, but he enjoyed his and shared with me. And our waiter was very attentive and personable. And Mark and I talked and found things to laugh about. And it was just nice.  I’d received cards in the mail, and a birthday call from my dad. My sister left a gift bag hanging on my front door while I was out to dinner. All day long, I was made aware of how many great people I have in my life and how fortunate I am to have them.

A coworker  whose birthday is coming up next month insisted she wanted no acknowledgement of her birthday when it came time. I don’t want any more birthdays, she insisted. I know she didn’t mean it so literally, but I couldn’t help but feel sorry for her. If we truly wish to not see another birthday, aren’t we wishing to quit living?

And I guess I’ve decided that I’m not ready to quit living. I’m tired of thinking that I’m at where I’m at and all that’s left is to ride out the remaining years as is. And I’m tired of letting negativity work its way inside of me and bring me down. I know there will be times when it will be harder to fight off than others. But I think I sometimes have a choice in this. Of course it’s so much easier for me to see today than it was thirty years ago, but life here on this earth is short. I want to be making the most of whatever time I have here. I have opportunities to keep growing and learning and being a better person than I was yesterday. I don’t have to remain stuck in the same place day after day, year after year.

The birthday goodies and celebration stretched out clear through Friday! It was fun to have visitors stop by my cubicle periodically to keep chipping away at all the sugar that had been contributed in honor of me turning another year older. People were still wishing me a happy birthday yesterday. Several times, I was asked if I did anything fun on my birthday. My response was that I’d been having fun all week-long. And it was entirely true.

Refuse to Behave as Expected Sometimes

I have occasionally heard others admit to their age and say, “… but I still feel like I’m forty.” Or thirty, or twenty five, or whatever. That’s me. Next week, I’ll take a step closer to the far side of my forties. But most days, I find it hard to believe I have so many years under my belt. I’m not really sure how all three of my kids got to be in their twenties already. I think it t helps that I’m surrounded by a few people who have taught me to refuse to sit back and allow life to pass by.

Yesterday I made a stranger laugh. She slowed down as she walked past Mark and me while I was making him take my picture in Target. She took one look at the snowman glasses I was trying on for size and said, Those are so you!

2014-11-07bKacey later feigned embarrassment that I would pull such a stunt. In front of people we may or may not know, no less.

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But I know that deep down, she appreciates my playful side, even if she labels it embarrassing, because she has as much as admitted that she knows she’s going to be like me in many respects.

2014-11-07I hate to break it to her, but a little bit of weirdness is in her genes. And someday, she’ll embrace it too, as soon as she begins to understand that weirdness is the part of her that refuses to fit inside the little box to which society might otherwise restrict her. Life is full of challenges. Have fun with it when you can!

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Maybe not the most informed voter …

2014-11-04a… but I did it anyway. Let’s be honest. If it weren’t for the prodding of my husband, by the time my workday was over, I might have been tempted to just blow it off. I’m glad he pushes me to exercise the rights that some fought so hard for me to have. Still, I think it takes a lot of effort to really know who stands for what. If all you have to go on is the ridiculous campaign ads that air on television, all you’ll really know are the shortcomings of each candidate, as perceived by their opponents. For instance, all I know about a particular Republican candidate running for congress is that he has long hair, grew up privileged and according to the television, has a nice boat and north woods cabin.

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I decided not to play roulette with my ballot and simply voted for those with whom I’m at all familiar. So that was basically the mayoral candidate who married the girl who was my neighbor across the alley when I was growing up. I babysat their oldest kid in my late teens when I actually had a paying job but wasn’t opposed to earning a little extra cash on the side. He’s been a dedicated city council member for years, and when he asked if he could post a campaign sign in our front yard, I said yes. Mark also said yes to his opponent, so we billed ourselves to the whole neighborhood as a house divided. Oh, well.

There was also the guy running for city council who owns the liquor store and who gave us a deal on beer and ice for all of our kids’ graduation parties. He’s a small business owner who knows how to build good relationships with his community. He got my vote too. Mark voted for the seventy year-old guy “with experience.” So I guess we cancelled each other out, but at least we made our voices heard.

Every election, I swear I’m going to be more informed the next time around. I know there are cheat sheets for this stuff. You know, something that says which people are running for what positions, and what issues each is for and against. Right? There’s something like this out there, isn’t there? If only it was as easily accessible as those stupid television ads.

Next time, I swear. I’ll work a little harder at this.

Changes

Until the past few days, it’s been a relatively warm fall. But this morning, as I was out driving around, I really felt the shift in seasons. I had the heat on in the car. I noticed other vehicles that obviously hadn’t spent the freezing night in a garage. Windshields bore scraper tracks and still held remnants of the overnight frost. I passed a runner in long pants and long sleeves, with gloves and a headband to cover her ears. I saw a man on a riding mower in his front yard, mulching leaves, bundled up in a heavy, red and black plaid flannel shirt, a knit hat on his head.

But it’s not just the weather that’s changed. Another of my kids’ lives has taken an unexpected turn and I’ve been worried.

Kacey spent last weekend here at home. On Sunday evening, she drove back to school while I went off to see a concert with my sister and niece. After the concert, as we were just pulling into my sister’s driveway, my phone rang. It was Kacey.

“So… guess what,” she said in a slow, sort of flat voice.

“What?” I asked, hesitantly.

“Connor and I broke up.”

No! I didn’t know what to say and I felt just awful. We’d only recently learned what it’s like to watch one of our kids suffer a broken heart, and I wasn’t ready to see it happen again. I asked her if she wanted me to come be with her, but she insisted I stay home. “I promise, I’ll be okay,” she said, sounding a little shaky.

Four years they’d been dating, since their senior year of high school. They’d come through so much together, in particular, the death of Connor’s mom. I think that brought them closer than most kids their age would otherwise have been. And maybe because of that too, Connor was like one of our own. He spent endless days hanging around at our house. A few nights too. He’s been a part of our family celebrations and vacations. He ate countless meals here and was comfortable enough to help himself to snacks and drinks. He is in bunches of our pictures. Kacey so often referred to him as her best friend. And so many times, he’d make reference to “when Kace and I get married.”

When. Not if. As young as they still are, (they’re only twenty-one,) I guess I’d sort of come to think too that it would eventually be true.

I couldn’t sleep Sunday night and didn’t do much better Monday night. I kept imagining the worst, my daughter unable to smile, crying. She didn’t seem to want to talk, so I texted her frequently in the following days just to check on her. She’d respond, but not surprisingly, her words were much fewer than usual. I asked her to come home again for the weekend and she first said she was thinking about it, then later confirmed she was definitely coming home. I planned to spoil her rotten, try to help her start healing from the hurt. I bought a couple of fun movies to watch and stocked up on Ben & Jerry’s ice cream.

Kacey’s last class of the week is on Thursday mornings. She planned to drive back after that class and would be home when I got back from work. Thursday felt like the longest day in the world to me. I just wanted to come home and take care of my daughter. When I finally got here, she and Mark were in the kitchen, having just returned from picking up Chinese food for dinner. Kacey was talking and laughing with her dad and I experienced such an immense feeling of relief. Laughter! I hadn’t imagined she’d be capable of laughter. Still, I went straight to her and wrapped my arms around her. She hugged me back tightly, and laughed again, assuring me, “Mom! I told you I’d be okay. I’m fine, really.”

“Yeah, she’s fine,” Mark agreed absently as he unpacked the cartons of food from a plastic bag.

I looked from Mark to Kacey and asked her if it was true. “Are you? Are you really okay?”

“Yeah,” she said! “I mean, I’m gonna be a little sad for a while, but this wasn’t really a surprise to me, or anyone else.”

“It wasn’t?”

“No,” she said. “Connor and I have been in different places in our lives for a while now. Maybe  somewhere down the road when we’ve both grown up a little more, our paths will cross again. But right now, this is probably what’s best. He was the one who made the decision to break up, but I didn’t exactly fight him on it.”

Um. Okay. I hadn’t even considered my daughter would be in such a healthy place.

“So…,” I said. “You’re really okay? I mean, you sound so much better than I thought you’d be about this. So, are you going to date other people eventually?”

“Not for a while, ” she said. “But, I mean, yeah, of course.”

I felt like such a weight had been lifted! I thought my baby girl would be beyond consolation and here she was doing the best thing I could hope she would do in a situation like this. Clearly she’s got a great sense of self. She knows who she is as an individual. And her self-worth isn’t tied to her being one half of a couple.

All week long I’d been praying for her, for comfort, for strength, for healing. And now, all I could do was pray, “Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you!”

We were laying on the living room floor Thursday night after dinner, she and I, watching one of the new movies. I couldn’t help but keep looking over at her and checking to be sure she really was okay. Finally, she caught on.

“What?” she laughed at me.

“I’m just so proud of you.”

“Why?”

“Because you’re being mature, and handling this with such grace.”

“Don’t get all weepy on me now, Mom,” she laughed.

“Can’t help it,” I said, wiping a tear that had escaped.

She is just everything I could ever have hoped for in one of my kids. She’s doing it all so much better than I ever did. She has an amazing ability to embrace life, have fun, know what’s important, and still not take things too seriously all the time. Sometimes I wonder where she came from. She certainly didn’t get this stuff from me - someone who has been as dysfunctional as I’ve been in the course of my life at times. I guess that’s what we all want as parents, though. To see our kids manage at least a little bit better than we did.

All I know is that I’m so very grateful – that she’s okay - and that she’s my daughter. She is such a gift to me!

And life will go on. Seems like she already knew that.

As My Parents Age

A whole week already since I’ve last written! I don’t know where my time goes sometimes.

Last Sunday afternoon, my parents hosted a family meeting. My dad had asked all of his kids to come talk with him and Mom about … Well, I thought we’d discuss living circumstances, for one thing. My parents’ four-level home is no longer suitable for either of them. They have great difficulty with all of the stairs and a single level situation would be much better. We didn’t resolve anything though. As always, we skated around the topic without actually making any progress toward really addressing this concern. However, I’ve long since resolved myself to the fact that they aren’t comfortable moving and it won’t happen until there’s no other choice. And at least my sister and I are nearby enough to come help when help is needed. Though I sure would prefer for them to be in a place where emergency help is close at hand.

StoleWe talked a little bit about their wishes for funeral arrangements. Some of this is documented, thankfully, although not formally. At least we have something. And my parents do seem willing to actually deal with these arrangements today. Dad, being a retired Catholic deacon, is concerned about which stole he’ll wear when he’s laid out in his casket. He said he isn’t really fond of any of his. At least we can find one he likes now, while he’s still here to express his opinion on it!

My dad wanted to talk about who wanted what. There are some old leather-bound books that were important to him. My dad played a part in the assembly of these books at one of his jobs long ago. As a young husband and father, he purchased and brought home a copy of each book he’d helped create. Coffee table books, I guess, is how I’d describe them. As kids, we took great pleasure in paging through them and admiring the colorful photos within. He sent a couple of books home with each of us that day. I got the Norman Rockwell book, which makes me happy. Norman Rockwell was a big part of our home decor while I was growing up and I have a nostalgic attachment to his work.

There was discussion about wedding rings and Christmas ornaments that have sentimental value. There are some old, old home movies and we talked about researching whether we can still get them transferred to DVD. Hopefully they’re not so deteriorated that they’re lost to us. Ultimately though, we agreed that while we could spend hours that day “divvying up” all of my parents’ stuff, it was more important for them to get a formal will in place. My sister has taken charge of finding the best options for that and hopefully we can check that need off the list soon. Besides, it just seemed a bit morbid to start laying claim to my parents’ things while they’re still here with us. And one sibling failed to show up for the meeting without explanation. So it was tough to make decisions that would have been best made while everyone was present and able to voice opinions.

I’m grateful that my sister and I finally got my parents to sit down with us and fill out health care directives. We did this the previous Tuesday evening. I’ve had the paperwork for a year, but haven’t been able to get my parents to agree to sit and complete it. Mom has had a few more bad days lately than usual. I think that prompted the agreement to finally tackle the paperwork. I’m relieved to have that under our belts.

The whole meeting left all of us feeling a bit out-of-sorts, I think. I’m struggling with mixed feelings. Part of me feels like I’m pushing my parents to think about and do things they’re not comfortable addressing. While my sister and I feel it’s important to deal with this stuff now, the other siblings don’t seem to feel good about discussing these things. I have to keep reminding myself that I’m not being unfair. We’re only trying to take care of them as best we know how, and make sure we know their wishes while they’re still here to voice them. No one wants to think about the days when we’ll part ways with our loved ones. But the reality is, it can’t be avoided by simply refusing to think about it. I guess I’m more relieved than guilty. Once we get all of the difficult stuff formally documented, we can relax a little bit and enjoy the days we still have together.

On the bright side, I took my parents to the transplant clinic this week for my dad’s annual kidney health check. It was six years in July since the transplant operation and thanks to a daily buffet of medications, my dad appears to be doing very well. There was a slight increase in Dad’s creatinine level (which measures kidney function.) His doctor didn’t seem to feel it was cause for alarm, but said he would be scheduling an ultrasound for Dad in the coming weeks, just to be sure nothing’s going in the wrong direction.

This annual appointment is actually a series of appointments including blood tests, bone density tests, a meeting with a nurse, a pharmacist and the nephrologist. Dad also has to fill out an annual survey about how he’s doing and feeling since his kidney transplant. The thing is about eighteen pages long, and since Dad’s vision is poor, I was reading the questions to him and filling it out for him. (Really loved getting to ask him about his sexual function! Gah!) Dad, being my dad, couldn’t just answer any question. He wanted to elaborate on every single question, which really wasn’t necessary. (Thankfully he didn’t do this with the sexual function question!) We might have been there for two weeks before finishing the darn thing. So as he was called back for various tests, I told my mom that we’d just keep going on the survey and answer the questions for Dad to the best of our knowledge.

We laughed at questions such as, In the past four weeks, due to your current health, have you felt stubborn or obstinate? There were always six response options ranging from Very True to Not at all true. Mom and I laughed, joking that there should have been an All my life option on this one.

And Dad, who is known for his weird sense of humor, but not necessarily for being truly funny, actually made me laugh out loud. While sitting with the pharmacist and reviewing the long list of Dad’s medications and dosages, he was then asked if he drinks alcohol.

Occasionally, he said.

Did he use tobacco? No.

Marijuana? Can’t afford it, he quipped.

Dad! I exclaimed laughing! The young pharmacist took it in stride and laughed along with us. She said it might not be long before it’s legal here in Minnesota anyway, at least for medicinal purposes.

Might be kind of fun to add it to Dad’s daily regimen. Might really ease that stubborn and obstinate thing! :-) (Don’t worry… I say that with love!)

Seriously, though, there are big lessons in all of this. Mark and I have realized the importance of addressing our end-of-life wishes now, while it still feels like a distant concern. I want to keep as much of this burden off my own kids’ shoulders as humanly possible.

Gratefulness

This week…

An actual phone call from Brad. Hi Mama. Just calling to talk. Mom is for getting my attention. Mama is his term of endearment and makes me feel all warm and fuzzy. He renewed his lease on the apartment in Fargo for another year. Maybe this time next year he’ll look at moving closer to home again, he says. As much as I want him closer to home now, he wants to give his job at least another year and establish a good work history before moving on. Smart boy! He’ll be home for Thanksgiving. The old Brad is resurfacing after the heartache of the past months. I’m happy. And relieved.

2014-10-17Another phone call from a kid, this one from Kacey. She was pretty sick last week, with a fever, chills, spots in her throat and a rash on her body. And as someone who has rarely ever been seriously ill, she had to make her first all-by-herself decision to see a doctor. Her symptoms mirrored those of strep throat. It wasn’t strep throat. She was tested for mono and it wasn’t that either, thankfully. But she was treated with antibiotics and feels much better now. It was good to hear the energy back in her voice and know that she was able to get back to her old self, focus on studying again, and have a little fun with friends again.

Jake and his new girlfriend, Alysha. Introvert and private person that he is, it took him awhile to bring her around and make introductions. She’s sweet and he’s clearly enamored with her. She’s bringing out good things in him and I love the results of the ego boost he’s feeling. He hangs out at home a little more often, and talks to me more, giving a long-missing bit of insight into his world.  He’s maturing, realizing how good it feels to think of someone besides himself for a change. And he’s visibly happy. I love it!

Fall. The color of the sky. The smell of dried leaves. The red, orange and gold hues in the tree-tops. Geese in a V-formation flying over the house, honking, making Lucy stop sniffing one of the many invisible-to-me trails in the backyard to gaze up in curiosity. Temperatures just cool enough that Lucy is willing to snuggle again. Doggie snuggles are the best!

New guy at work – blowing me away with his skills and adaptability. New girl at work – provides frequent opportunities to remember my patience and shows me where my training skills need more work. And gratefulness that all three of our new teammates are so personable and willing to learn.

The weekend. So glad it’s here. While Mark is off on a hunting jaunt, I’m going with my sister to do some hunting of my own – for bargains at the new outlet mall.

Hope your weekend is happy!