I Love Lucy Pie

I maxed out the photo storage on my iPhone, so last weekend I backed up pictures to my computer so I could delete them from my phone and make room for new ones. In the process of cleaning things up, I noticed I might be a little in love with my dog. I mean, who can blame me though, really? We took Lucy on a ride tonight and she experienced the Dairy Queen drive through. She was so cute! She tried to ask the girl at the window if they sold Frosty Paws there, but apparently they don’t speak dog at Dairy Queen. I was proud of Lucy for trying, none the less.

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Based on this collection of pictures, you might be tempted to believe that my dog is lazy and does nothing but sit on the furniture, sit on her people or sleep. Wrong. The iPhone camera simply can’t capture her energy without making her look like a fuzzy blur!

Summer Days

Quiet morning around here.

Kacey’s gone with Connor to his grandpa’s cabin up north, celebrating one last summer weekend on the lake.

Jake is still sleeping, having gone to the races at Cedar Lake with his buddies last night. He came home long after I’d fallen asleep.

I checked in with Brad yesterday to see what his weekend plans were. He told me hunting season opens this weekend. Just last weekend he was here with us. Now I have hunting season to contend with if I want to see my oldest son over the next few months. But hunting season is Brad’s happy place. I wouldn’t deny him this time each year.

The past week felt like a long one. Things at work are hectic. Good, but sometimes overwhelmingly busy. One of my work friends was out all week on vacation and I realized how much she and I tend to bounce our stresses off of one another. I really felt the impact of her absence this week. On more than one occasion, I found myself looking ahead to the end of the day, wishing the hours would pass by more quickly. Not only the hours, I wished entire days would sail by so the weekend could be here sooner. And by five o’clock on Friday, I saw how easy it is to just wish time away. Soon a whole week is gone. A whole summer. Months and years.

In just seven days, my baby heads back for another year of college and the house will be too quiet again. Soon the sun won’t burn so hot.  Leaves will begin to change and fall from their branches. The taste of fresh tomatoes and cucumbers will become just a memory. The grass won’t need to be mowed so frequently, and then the plush greens will change to brittle browns. My jean jacket will come out of the front closet again.

I love fall and I look forward to fresh apples, the reds, golds and burnt orange hues in the trees. I can almost smell cookies and sweet breads baking in the kitchen again. We’ll leave the windows cracked at night and sleep with a cool breeze drifting in through the screens. These are some of my favorite things. But they’ll get here soon enough. I don’t want to miss what’s right in front of me because my eyes are already looking ahead to what’s next.

So when Lucy’s cold, wet nose swiped across my face early this morning telling me she was ready to go out for our morning trek, I didn’t roll over in favor of another hour of sleep. I changed into shorts and a t-shirt and laced up my new running shoes. We went out into the still quiet morning and greeted the hazy summer sky. We filled our lungs with the sticky summer air. We stretched our muscles as I took in the summer scenery, listened to the songs of birds, welcomed the sweat running down my face and back, and counted my blessings . Lucy tried to chase a black squirrel while I did my best to rein her in and keep my shoulder in its socket.

Upon our return home, it felt so good to come back into the air-conditioned house and gulp down a big glass of icy cold water. As I did, I noticed again the crazy sun flowers in the back garden.

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How quickly they’ve grown, starting out only from seeds tossed into an empty space in the garden as an afterthought. The tallest ones seem to be competing with the nearby pine trees to see which can reach higher into the sky. But like all of the plants in our garden, they’ll reach their peak and eventually begin to fade away. They reminded me to embrace the here and now. In spite of the fact that the laziest of days are behind us, there is still plenty of summer left to enjoy before it fades away into fall and then winter. I’m gonna squeeze every last drop out of it.

Catching a Glimpse

Jake againHe’s the one who keeps to himself, my boy, Jake. He’s gone more than he’s around, working long hours, or hanging with his friends when he’s not working. They go paintballing, swimming at Bobby’s pool, to the races, or to see Alex’s dad’s band play. I see him for little snippets of time in the morning just after he wakes up and before he heads off to work twenty minutes later. Or maybe when he’s done at work for the day, I’ll catch him just after he showers and just before he disappears again to do whatever 23 year-old guys do for fun.

He was home tonight and just lounging around. My mom had called on me to do some grocery shopping for her. I don’t like to do my own grocery shopping, much less make a second trip in the same week for someone else. I needed support. And there was Jake, just playing Call of Duty in his room with the door open. I poked my head in.

“Hey, come grocery shopping with me,” I suggested.

“What?”

“Nanna needs me to do her shopping. Come help me so I can get it done quick and get back home. Will ya?”

“I have plans,” he said in a tone that hoped I’d let him off the hook.

“What plans? When?” I asked.

“With Bobby. Whenever he texts me.”

“Then let’s go now. We’ll get done quick and you can go.”

“Okay,” he agreed.

He followed me down the hallway and to the foyer.

Kacey had just returned home from work and was getting ready to go to dinner with friends. “You’re going with mom to the grocery store?” she asked Jake, incredulous.

“Yeah,” he said.

“You’re a good person,” she told him. I knew she was impressed that he’d agreed. was impressed that he’d agreed. I mean, he should help out with some of the family stuff. And I know I could have just demanded that he come with me. But I didn’t want him to go just because I was forcing him. I was glad he’d agreed without too much resistance.

It’s rare that I get one on one time with Jake when we can have an actual conversation. We talked as we drove to the store, about my new car, about his new truck, about his job. In the store, he was playful and goofy, stepping one foot up on the cart and pushing off with the other, riding down the uncrowded, weekday store aisles. It’s not uncommon to see kids riding shopping carts through the grocery store. They’re usually not over six feet tall.

It’s so rare that Jake participates in anything domestic. It’s his age. What guy his age wants to hang around his parents and younger sister and do unfun chores? I’ll tell ya. None.

I was enjoying this time with him, getting a glimpse of the old Jake I knew so well when he was younger and less free to roam, less able to come and go as he pleased, and required to interact with me more often, simply because he was young and I was the mom. We passed through a section of back-to-school supplies. There were some items clearly targeted to the preschool crowd.

“Jake, I’ll buy you this pink fuzzy bunny backpack,” I offered, running my hand over its white belly as we passed by the display.

“No, I definitely want the yellow duck,” he said without missing a beat and no hint of a smile whatsoever.

That kid! I knew that deep down inside he appreciates my sense of humor, even if his typical response is a roll of the eyes and a faint smirk. And I didn’t know he had it in him! He came right back at me with the perfect response! He didn’t know it, but that was the highlight of my day.

Of course, he took off to hang with his pals just as soon as humanly possible after we’d dropped off the groceries at my parents’ house. I’m sure he didn’t give the shopping trip a second thought. As for me? I’ll be smiling about it for the rest of the evening.

Adjusting Our Sails

It was a busy, whole-family kind of weekend. All of our kids were under the same roof again, an occurrence that grows increasingly rare with each passing month as they move further out of childhood and become more settled in their adult lives.

Brad came home on Friday night and it was so good to see him. We learned a while back that plans for his wedding have been put on hold. It was a shock to everyone, and I needed to see for myself that he was still doing okay. We’ve all been pretty sad. I’ve had a particularly hard time knowing my son is dealing with a broken heart and there’s nothing I can do to fix it. And on the flip side of the coin, I’m trying to come to terms with the fact that his fiance, someone I had already considered one of “ours,” may not ever really be one of ours. I miss her.

It’s been a difficult learning experience. I keep reminding myself that no one is immune to the hurts and disappointments of life. My kids, like any of us, will learn and grow from their challenges. Although, as their mom, I’ll never stop wanting to shield them from the truly painful stuff. I keep wishing I could fast-forward my son through the most hurtful times and into easier days. Unfortunately, I can’t. As for me, I just have to keep reminding myself that they are young. He is strong. And everyone has to figure out what they want in life. If this isn’t right, better that they figure it out now than later.

It felt good to wrap my arms around my boy, all six foot whatever of him, and tell him in person that I love him. This weekend was time well spent. Brad is okay and we made the most of our time together. We ate – a lot! Kids at home means I want to cook – a lot! Big breakfasts full of stuff requiring maple syrup and bacon on the side, goodies for snacking, and dinners with more food than we can possibly eat in one sitting.

A wish for ice cream on Saturday afternoon turned into a family trip to the locally famous Nelson’s, where most of us had never been before. At Nelson’s, flavor choices are plentiful and portion sizes are enormous! The line of customers snaked out the door and we soon learned why. It was worth the wait!

Inside Nelsons

Kacey being the only non-first-timer, advised us to order nothing larger than the child size ice cream. Here’s Brad with his child size cone.

Brad Ice Cream

I saw a man with what must have been a regular size cone. There were at least six scoops of ice cream stacked above to top edge of the cone. I don’t think I need to explain why Kacey and I split a child size cup.

While at Nelson’s I realized we were experiencing a rare photo opportunity. “Quick, get all together,” I encouraged the kids. “I want a picture.”

Cooperation was minimal as Kacey desperately tried – and failed – to get Jake to put down his malt and smile. And while she warned me not to put any of the failed photo attempts on the internet, she did admit that this one was kind of funny. I’ll take that as permission to post just this one.

Dang Kids

The weekend included “guy time” at the Game Fair, time with old friends, big dinners, and playing with the dogs. Dacotah and Lucy soaked up every bit of attention they could elicit from their dog-loving people. We watched She’s Out of My League … again. It’s become tradition to watch this movie every time that Brad is home and compete to see who can remember and recite the most lines. We all hung out in the driveway Sunday afternoon, shooting hoops, soaking up the sun and watching Brad wash his truck while neighbors wandered in and out of the driveway to say hello.

The weekend was fun, if not a little bittersweet. Our sense of “normal” has changed a little bit. But if I’ve learned anything over the past few weeks, it’s that we’ll all be okay, as long as we have each other.

First Summer Tomato

Maybe because I’ve taken a more active role in the garden this year, I’ve been keeping a close watch for the fruits (literally) of our labor.

There seem to be hundreds upon hundreds of cherry tomatoes. We’ve enjoyed the first of these sweet, red-ripened baby tomatoes. It’s been a good summer for the garden, with just the right amount of rain and sun. We already have more cherry tomatoes than we can possibly consume. Kacey brought some to Connor’s grandma, who lives in a townhouse and only has one or two tomato plants growing in containers on her deck. They don’t seem to grow as well when they’re confined like that and Grandma is always a willing recipient of our extras.

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There have been a handful of sweet bell peppers and cucumbers too.

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But what we’ve really been anticipating are the first “real” tomatoes. The vine-ripened varieties you can buy at the grocery store aren’t bad, but there is nothing like a home-grown, summer tomato. We’ve had varying success in the past and last year, while the tomatoes were delicious, they didn’t get very big and weren’t all that plentiful.

This year, whether it was the rotation of our back yard crops, or the abundance of rain and cooler temperatures, the tomatoes are coming in big and bountiful. Some are baseball sized, some even bigger! The plants have grown so tall and full, that I have to search carefully through all the foliage to see what might be growing in the under-reaches of our garden jungle. Most are still a light shade of green, but I caught a hint of pink last week and have been keeping an eye on it as the color finally morphed into red. Yesterday, the first tomato of the summer was finally ripe for the picking!

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That baby was lunch! I rinsed it in the kitchen sink, sliced it thin and spread the juicy slices on a piece of wheat bread with some mayonnaise. Added a sprinkle of seasoning salt, a slice of provolone cheese, and topped it with another slice of bread. Then I brushed the outsides of my sandwich with a little olive oil, tossed it into the Panini maker and a few minutes later … YUM! When Kacey came home from work some time later, I made one for her, this time with a slice of roasted red pepper cheese instead. She agreed that I’m a sandwich genius.

 

Choosing the Good Thoughts

I’m so glad it’s Saturday. I’m sitting here enjoying the quiet start of a day. The windows are wide open and I hear the hum of crickets and tweeting of the morning birds outside. The sun has risen in a hazy sky, so the air is still cool and comfortable. Lucy and I went for our run a little while ago and saw places where the ground was blanketed in fog. So peaceful and pretty. It did me good to get out and run on a morning like this.

The past week was one of those where there never seemed to be enough hours in a day. The pace at work seems to grow more hectic every week as our current business grows and new possibilities abound. I have my hands in a little bit of everything, from account management to technology to the creative to exploring our ability to dive into new avenues.  And I like it that way. And just when I was beginning to feel slightly overwhelmed and slightly frustrated, there was this response to a project I’m involved in.

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The project lead’s timing couldn’t have been more perfect with this comment. I was feeling a little put upon because I’d been asked to draft some content for a web page. Writing isn’t one of the things I get paid to do, although I did plenty of it before we recently hired an official writer. I was just to the point this week of wondering why I’m still writing when they’re paying someone else to do it full-time. I have plenty enough other things to do that constitute my “real” job, I’m struggling to get it all done as it is, and nowhere in my job description does it say “writing.” This particular bit of feedback came after the project lead had a look at my words along with our graphic designer’s artistic talents.

Her comment was like a knock on the head. HELLO! I love to write! Why am I complaining about being asked to do it? Shouldn’t I instead be grateful to be given the opportunity now and then? And when I stopped to think about it, I was asked to draft the initial version, because I have knowledge. I know what information needs to be conveyed on this page, thanks to my years of experience with the company. The fact that I was asked to contribute speaks volumes about others’ faith in my abilities. The “official” writer will take my stuff and polish it up with his easy and fun tone, but it’s my ideas that will sit behind his work. Why was I griping about having to be involved? Oh yeah. Because I was letting myself get overwhelmed.

I’m really working to learn not to do that so much – being overwhelmed and anxious. I know it’s not a new concept – that having a peaceful mind is within my own control. I’ve always just assumed that it took a certain personality to put it into action and live that way. And I didn’t think I had that personality. I was hard-wired to be high-strung. But all of a sudden – whether it’s age or life experience – I suddenly get it. I’m slowly learning to reign in my focus. Instead of worrying what tomorrow will be like, or next week, next month, next year… I’m trying to just keep my sights on what I’m in control of right now.

I’m learning that not worrying, stressing and being full of anxiety doesn’t have to mean that I don’t care what happens in the future. It just means that I accept the fact that I ‘m not in control of it. Because of this new mindset, in the past few weeks, I feel lighter, not just emotionally calmer, but physically better as well. It’s like a whole new world has opened up to me. Instead of waking up every day feeling like “same old, same old,” I feel more like, “Bring it on!”

Of course it’s all new to me and I’m reminded that making a habit of staying centered is going to take time. I realized this after falling back into my old ways for a couple of days. I woke up yesterday morning with my stomach in knots and an ache in my head behind my eye. Could have been what I had for dinner the night before, but I like to think it could have had something to do with where my thoughts had been living, and that I’d forgotten for a while that I have the ability to change how I feel, for the better.

I signed up a while ago to receive these daily email messages, recommended by several friends at work. They’re a source of daily encouragement and inspiration. You can think of them as messages from God or the universe or just the guy behind a keyboard who comes up with awesome words to propel readers into their day with a can-do attitude. But I love them and they do my heart and mind good. I know each morning that my daily message is sitting in my inbox waiting for me and I look forward to that point in the morning when I let myself go see what waits for me that day. And no matter what the daily message is, it always ends with these same words:

Thoughts become things… choose the good ones!

It’s so true! I’m learning to choose the good ones, and it’s amazing how different, how much more inviting the world looks when I do.

Grateful for Summer

Twice this past week, I’ve heard someone complain about the summer we’re having. I guess it’s not measuring up to expectations. In fact, just yesterday, my friend and coworker said, “We’ve been cheated out of summer.”

I thought, “We have? No we haven’t!”

It’s all a matter of perspective, I guess. My friend has a cabin on a lake up north where she and her husband spend their time every other weekend. It seems that while we may have had some beautiful, sunny, warm days, they haven’t typically happened on the weekends. Since I haven’t spent much time on a lake these past couple of months, I guess I haven’t noticed.

What I’ve noticed is that I don’t have a chill in my bones. I don’t have to put on extra layers before going outside the house. I don’t have to warm up my car before I’m willing to get in and drive it. In fact, I really love the wave of heat that hits me when I get in the car after work, a welcome change of temperature from the chill of the office air conditioning.

I can let Lucy run around the back yard for as long as she likes without worrying that her paws will get frostbite. I can take her for runs out on the path behind our house. Instead of worrying about the cold, I need to be careful not to take her out when the heat may be too much for her. Between her morning run and chasing squirrels in the back yard, she often wears herself out by the end of the day.

Sleepy Lucy

During lunch breaks at work, every day unless it’s raining, I go outside with a few coworkers. There’s a pretty, peaceful pond right outside our doors and it’s surrounded by an asphalt path. We walk the mile around it, sometimes twice, and get to breathe the fresh air, share space with Monarch butterflies, watch little mice and toads scurry in and out of the tall grass that borders the path. We see turtles sunning themselves on logs in the water and watch flocks of geese float lazily around the middle of the pond. We are graced with the beauty of pretty wildflowers, dragonflies and bumble bees. We blow off steam, laugh, and have serious conversations beginning with questions like, “I wonder if there’s an online poop translator.” (A large poo was seen on our path for two days in a row. We debated whether it was left by an irresponsible dog owner, or something wild.)

I don’t think we’ve been cheated out of summer. No, we haven’t had long stretches of ninety degree days. If we did, someone would be complaining about that too. We’ve had a steady pattern of rain, enough to make it so we don’t have to run sprinklers to keep the grass alive. The trees are lush and flowers gardens are full and colorful.

See these?

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Those are my sunflowers, planted from seed as an afterthought in a back corner of our gardens, next to the shed and our back fence. They’re growing so tall, they’ve risen above the roof of the shed. So I would guess they are somewhere around ten feet tall? Look at how they’re all reaching for the sun! (They’re so tall, and in such a position that I can’t quite get a picture of one of the flowers head-on. Maybe when the flowers get a little bigger and heavier, they’ll drop their faces low enough for me to see them.)

Here’s a look at one from last night, facing west, as the sun was getting ready to go down. Do these seem like sunflowers that have been cheated out of summer? I don’t think so.

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While we may not have had great “water weather” so far, the past winter is still way too vivid in my mind. I’ll take this kind of summer over that any day of the week! I am not complaining!