Harmony

I gave them permission to get out of my hair. I just wanted to clean the house from top to bottom and I wasn’t in the mood to supervise anyone else. I didn’t want to have to see that look on their faces that said they were hoping I would set them loose when they asked what else I wanted them to do. So I told them to go and do their thing. I didn’t know or care what that thing might be, but I set them free. They were slightly confused by my willingness to tackle it all myself, but I assured them it was just one of those times I needed my space.

So father and son headed out to the garage. These two are not the kind who easily relate to each other. More often than not they are headed in different directions, steering clear of each other in an effort to avoid conflict. It’s absolutely not that they don’t love each other intensely. They are simply too much alike. Two peas from the same pod. Stubborn. Hot heads. Tunnel visioned. Intense. Obstinate. These can be great qualities when directed positively. They are my biggest frustration when they cause these two to butt-heads.

There have been times when the two can drive me to wit’s end; when my husband comes and says, “YOU talk to him! I’m getting nowhere.”

Or when my son asks me, “Why is it that Dad and I can’t get along half the time?”

“You’re too much alike, honey. Too much alike.” Sigh. Oil and water. That’s what these two are.

I have posed as a buffer between the two. I have listened to each complain about how difficult the other is. I have yelled at them each and told them both to “GROW UP!” I have cried at their lack of connection and prayed that they would understand each other more. They are SO much alike. Half the problem is that the father sees some of his own “flaws” in his son. He doesn’t want to see those “flaws.” What he doesn’t understand is that these very “flaws” often deserve the credit for his own successes.

Once in a very great while, a miracle occurs and these two pig-headed creatures find a way to work together for the common good. If they let down their guards, they might even find that they enjoy each other’s company!

Maybe I should kick them out more often. Look what they accomplished together this weekend!

Hunting boat by you.

They armed themselves with spray paint and stencils and soon an old aluminum fishing boat was tranformed into their new hunting boat.

Jake's paint job 4 by you.

There was not one word spoken in anger. Not one hint of irritation. An entire day passed and I’d even venture to say some real conversation took place. There may even have been words of praise spoken between the two. In fact, I’d dare to say that those times I poked my head into the garage, there were smiles and excitement. No sign of any strain whatsoever! They were having FUN!

Jake's paint job 2 by you.

I wonder if they realize what a very, VERY good day that was? (And Mark? Why are you not in ANY of the pictures????)

The magical box arrived!

Thanks, ZIG! The prize was AWESOME! The video sucks to epic proportions, but since I promised a vlog… here it is:

Warnings:

  1. I don’t have a real video camera and discovered the importance of natural lighting when trying to record something on the little digital camera that we used. As I said before, the quality is HORRENDOUS!
  2. I say “TOTALLY” a lot! (Pronounced TOE-tuh-lee.)
  3. I say “Oh, my God” a lot! (Pronounced oh-my-GAHD!)
  4. There are no retakes when opening a surprise package. If you suffer through this, YOU should get a prize. Good luck.

Life is Good – September 26, 2008

It’s Friday once again, and THAT, in and of itself is something for which to be thankful! Looking back over the past week, I have been blessed in many ways:

I have this connection with Jake. We both LOVE music of all kinds. I love that we have this connection, because it can be so easy to feel disconnected with my kids at times, especially when they’re teens and especially when one of them is the inevitable middle child. But like I said, Jake and I have this connection.  I know that he knows it too and I love the fact that he revels in it at times. On Sunday, as I was sitting reading blogs, Jake was busy loading CDs on to itunes. These happened to be some CDs of 80’s music and he was listening through the headphones. I was absorbed in my reading when I heard music playing and I looked up to see my Jake sitting at the PC, holding the jack for the  headphones in his fingers, unplugged from the computer and looking at me with a big grin on his face. Culture Club’s Do You Really Want to Hurt Me was playing from the computer and I instantly smiled and laughed. This song is one of our favorites, Jake’s and mine… from one of our favorite movies, The Wedding Singer.It’s not so much that we really love this song, but that we really love the version of it that is done in the movie. I love the movie because it is such a spoof on the 80’s and Jake loves the movie because the lead actor is Adam Sandler. This movie makes us laugh like it’s the first time we’ve seen it, every single time we watch it. I feel so lucky that my son doesn’t find it repulsive to have fun with me like this and is still happy to nurture this interest that we share.

I got to talk to Brad a few times this week, and although I was disappointed to hear that he thinks it might be Thanksgiving before he comes back home, I couldn’t be too upset. It seems he is truly happy and thriving at college. He gets along well with and truly likes his roommates. They seem like really good kids. He loves being out of the dorm and living in a house. He’s doing well in his classes, attending football games, finding time to hunt with his buddies and being very socially active. He’s even reconnected with a girl from his high school who switched schools after last year and now lives only a few minutes from Brad. It sounds like they have fun together. I’ve met her and she’s a very sweet and extremely intelligent girl, not to mention… gorgeous! I’m pleased that he’s surrounding himself with such good company.

My dad is doing so well after his kidney transplant that he no longer has to travel to downtown Minneapolis multiple times each week to be evaluated at the transplant clinic. He has been given the ok to have his blood drawn only once a week and can have it done at a local hospital instead. This involves a much less nerve-wracking drive for my mom and frees up their schedule immensely.

The neighbor who I hired to do some cleaning at my parents house is doing a fantastic job and my mom called this week to tell me how much she appreciates it. She said it is such a relief knowing someone else will tackle the chores that are so difficult for her. And the fact that the more difficult things are taken care of makes it easier for her to manage some of the lighter duties around the house. I feel so blessed that this neighbor does such a thorough job for such a reasonable price and it’s an added benefit that she knows and truly cares for my parents too.

I was able to find time several evenings this week for my walking/running routine and have felt very encouraged and motivated by all the support I received here on my blog. The weather has been perfect as the days are still warm, and the evenings cool down just enough to make it very comfortable for getting outside and working up a sweat. Normally I feel discouraged when fall arrives and it begins to get dark earlier in the evenings, but this has been a blessing too. Since I’m still trying find my rhythm and figure out what works best for me, I like the fact that it’s dark when I head out and I don’t feel as if I’m being watched by passers-by. (I explained to Mark that I’m still feeling dorky about this and don’t want to be seen. He said I’m my own worst enemy. He’s probably right, but I’m motivated to keep it up, so I’m not too self-defeating!)

Kacey is still occasionally being forced to deal with the mean girl and it saddens me to know that there are girls who seem to take great pleasure in putting others down. Luckily, my girl has a strong sense of self esteem and self worth. She knows that people like this girl, who constantly try to make others feel like they are not good enough, only do so because of their own feelings of inadequacy. And although I can hear the frustration and hurt in Kacey’s voice when she tells me of these episodes, I am so proud to see her bounce back quickly and not take the hurtful behavior to heart. There were two instances this week in which the mean girl tried to make Kacey feel like an outsider, but Kacey is a well-rounded and well liked kid and gets along well with almost everyone else. She didn’t let that girl get the best of her and simply shrugged off the hurtful behavior and surrounded herself with more compassionate friends.

We had our annual meeting with Jake’s teachers to renew his IEP. Jake is a senior this year and we have seen him through many years of struggling to succeed in school. In the past year we have seen Jake take so much more responsibility for his success, and that is such a gift after years of frustration. In talking with his teachers yesterday, there were still glimpses of some of the old behaviors, but there were overwhelmingly more positive comments than negative. In the past, some of his biggest roadblocks included being too quiet and not advocating for himself, showing a lack of focus, and neglecting to turn in his work. Yesterday we heard that in some respects these things are still present but he was also described by some teachers as being a leader, focused, active and well liked. One teacher even mentioned that he is passionate about the upcoming election! He’s getting an “A” in Political Science! I think my jaw dropped when I heard that! I’m so proud of him.

And finally, the weekend has almost arrived and that’s always a blessing!

Thinking about happiness

I’ve been thinking about this all morning. Actually, I think about this a lot because I probably have an idealized picture in my mind about what true happiness really is and I feel like either consciously or subconsciously I’m always striving to reach that place I’ve concocted in my mind. And usually falling just short of the ideal.

I’m sure I trip myself up on this quest for “true” happiness more than is truly necessary and a lot of the time I recognize that. It’s a lot of “one step forward, two steps back.” Actually, looking at it more positively and objectively, hopefully, more often it is “two steps forward, one step back.” At least there’s progress and hope in that scenario. And most of the time I recognize that life is a roller coaster and nobody is perfectly happy and content ALL of the time.

What prompted me to contemplate this today is a post I found in my reader from a blogger who removed herself from the blog world a while ago. She had been battling depression and I think, needed to get the turmoil of her emotions away from the internet. I can’t say as I blame her.

So she showed up again in my reader today and I was curious. I read on and was so pleased to see that she’s feeling better. She’s happier than she has been in a long time. She avoided the anti-depressants she so desperately did not want to take. GOOD for her! Yes! And then came the big surprise. 

She left her significant other, the father of her children and her best friend.

I’m not judging her. Not at all. I’m positive that there is much that I don’t know and it’s none of my business. I’m sure that’s exactly why I felt shocked. I don’t really know her. I’m glad she’s happy and doing something she loves and feeling right with the world again, but, there’s a part of me that just doesn’t get it. I don’t think I ever read one of her posts in which she expressed doubt about her significant other. Maybe I don’t read between the lines very well. But I was just shocked. She left him. She had always written about how she missed him when he worked long hours, and how sexy he is and what a great dad he is and that he was her best friend. Why did this happen? I don’t even really know her and I feel so sad for all of them.

See, the thing about writing… blogging… is we can be anybody we want. We can put on any face we choose for the internet. And I wonder if everyone does it because I know I do and I’m guessing my “friend” did it too. A couple weeks ago I was feeling the heavy weight of depression. Every morning I woke up and would think, “It’s still here. Why won’t it go away?” My husband kept asking me all week long what was going on and I would just mumble, “Nothing.” I go through this every now and again and I’ve learned that it’s my choice to pull myself out of the fog. I can choose the attitude I present. I can choose to smile or not to. I can choose to eat well and get enough sleep, excercise and pray. Sometimes I let myself slack off in my positive choices and depression might be the result. Combine it with work stress and kid stress and husband stress and life stress (and girl stuff) and it can feel overwhelming at times.

I wonder if anyone could see through my writing that I wasn’t my usual self. I doubt it. I try to be honest in my writing without being fake and at the same time, without getting morbid when I’m feeling down. So I guess, I have to admit that there are pieces of me that I don’t bring to the table when I’m blogging. Being seriously unhappy, for me is usually a temporary feeling, but a vulnerable feeling and not one that’s easy to share. But today, I will venture to admit it… THERE ARE TIMES WHEN I AM UNHAPPY!

There are some things I don’t plaster up on my blog and I’m sure that’s true for everyone. I wonder if it would surprise you if I outright admitted certain things. My husbands job takes him away from so much of life’s big events. You know this. Did you know that for most of our married life that fact made me feel as if I’d been cheated somehow? For a long time this was a source of an ongoing resentment. Sometimes that resentment still lingers, but I’ve learned how to prevent it from making or breaking my happiness. I know there are others who have lost a spouse, others whose spouses are away for extended periods of time. I know I could have it much worse. But that’s the thing about unhappiness. It involves being a little bit selfish and not allowing yourself to recognize how much is truly right in your world.

Confrontation scares the hell out of me. If I’m not careful, even witnessing signs of discontent between my kids or watching my husband butt heads with one of the kids can make me feel as if I’m sinking. I guess I still need to learn that there are things that don’t have to seep inside of me and negatively alter my outlook. It’s not all about me. I think allowing myself to be happy sometimes requires me to separate myself from all the things I often let hammer away at my heart.

Today I read about one person’s life changing event and it made me contemplate my own general feelings of happiness or lack thereof. It got me to thinking about how in the back of my mind, I do often wonder about all of you and how you manage stress, emotions, depression… life! What makes you happy? How do you stay happy? Do you have to actually remind yourself to choose to be happy at times, like me? When life spirals out of control, how do you prevent it from dragging you into an abyss or causing you to simply quit and start over? Do all you women who refer to your husbands with loving, gushy pet names like “Hotty McHotness” ever, just once in a little while, like me, think of him instead as “Mr. Jerky McPissMeOff?” C’mon! You can admit it! ;-)

Help Wanted: Personal Running Coach

Seriously. I want to run. For exercise and good health kind of purposes. The problem is, I can’t. My body, after years of slacking, just can’t comprehend what I’m asking it to do.

I can walk for miles and miles. I walk fast enough that none of my friends are willing to walk with me anymore because either they can’t keep up or I’m slowing my pace for them. (Could have something to do with my longer than average inseam.) It has occurred to me on more than one occasion that I should turn this walking thing into a running thing. I literally get this urge to begin running and so I give it a try. What happens when I try is that I manage to run a few blocks and that’s all I can do and I have to slow it back down to a walk. I don’t have the stamina to keep running.

For the past week, I’ve been trying to alternate the walking with the running, going a couple of miles and yesterday I probably managed to do about half and half. Maybe. I could be exaggerating the running “half” in my mind.

I have reached this half-and-half point before and always get frustrated and give up. I want to push past that plateau and actually be able to say that I’m going out for a run instead of a walk. How come my friend, who is a smoker, can up and decide to start running one day and the next thing you know she’s running three miles at a time and I can’t make it three blocks without slowing back down?

So, when I got home, I asked the advice of my athletically active kids. Jake plays soccer and runs track. During the off-season, he exercises his thumbs in front of the PS2. I asked him if when his seasons start and he has to run for the first time, if he is able to run an entire mile without having to walk some of the way.

“Yeah,” he said with just a hint of duh in his tone.

“How come I can’t even run a slow mile?” I asked.

“Because you’re out of shape,” he answered matter of factly.

Hmmm. Not the answer I was looking for.

So, then I went to Kacey, who plays volleyball all fall and winter and plays fast pitch softball all spring and summer but who also has a tendency to eat brownies with chocolate malt chasers.

“Kacey, when you have to run the mile for the first time during volleyball tryouts, can you run the whole mile without, you know… dying? Are you able to run the ENTIRE time?”

She responded less condescendingly than Jake. “Yeah, but it’s hard those first few days.”

I asked how she does it and she told me, “I just keep running, no matter how slow I’m going. I just keep talking myself through it.”

That made me feel somewhat better, but still didn’t tell me everything I needed to know. My kids run only because their coaches require them to, and when the season is over, so is the running. They’re not serious about it. It occurred to me that some of my bloggy buddies are runners now and some of them probably have been at one time or another, so I thought I’d ask all of your advice.

Anyone have any running tips for someone who lettered in DORK in high school?

  • Should I try to run every day? Every other?
  • Should I continue alternating walking with running until the running completely takes over? Or should I just start trying to run only?
  • Should I try to run first thing in the morning, before eating? (This could be a problem since the alarm already goes off at the butt-crack of dawn.)
  • If I eat before I run, like, say in the evening after dinner which is much more likely with my schedule, how long after eating should I wait to try to run?
  • What should I wear if when it gets cold?
  • Will Whoppers with cheese impede my progress? Any special diet hints?

Really, I’ll take all the help I can get. Anybody? Beuler? Beuler…..?

Life is Good – September 19, 2008

Another week is coming to a close, giving me a chance to look back on the ways I’ve been blessed this week and the things for which I am grateful.

I have been very worried about my mom since last week. Some tests she had done at a routine visit to the oncologist indicated a possibility that her cancer had returned. She had an appointment on Monday to have a scan done to further investigate if anything was truly wrong. By Wednesday she still hadn’t heard the results and I was really beginning to worry. That night when I went to bed and there were no distractions to keep me from thinking about it, I broke down. I cried and I prayed that my mom wouldn’t have to face this again. Yesterday, while I was out running errands my cell phone rang. It was my mom calling. She apologized for having to “track me down” and I heard her say she got her results. I felt my heart pounding as she told me that everything was clear. There was no sign of cancer!

That was the biggie, but some other things that I’ve appreciated include: 

  • The fact that the weather has been beautiful and warm this week.
  • I’m reading books that I enjoy so much I can’t seem to put them down.
  • My kids have made me laugh more times than I can count.
  • A relief from the stress we’ve been feeling at work for the past few months.
  • Having the weekend ahead free of obligations.
  • Blog friends!