Post Party Post

The family Christmas party was a success. It still feels strange to celebrate without those members of the family that live in other states, though. There’s a part of me that still feels like something is not quite right and maybe I’ll never quite get over that feeling. But in spite of missing the ones I love, I am learning to embrace new traditions and we did have a good time.

I have to give my brothers a hard time and officially remind them that for future reference, they may want to call me a few days before the party to coordinate who is bringing which foods to the gathering. We don’t all want to bring the same things. Right? All I can say is it’s a good thing everyone likes cheese and crackers because there was PLENTY to go around. LOTS of cheese and crackers…. And not only were there plenty of cheese and crackers, there was plenty of cheesy-wild rice soup which was a huge hit. There are probably going to be a few constipated kids tonight after all that cheese!

When the moment all the kids had been waiting for finally arrived, I thought some of the younger ones were going to crawl out of their skin in anticipation. We adults tormented them by making them open one gift at a time, starting with the youngest and moving on to the oldest. The kids were amazingly patient and everyone went home happy at the end of the night.

IMG_8873 by you.Josh was excited by his Transformers toys.

IMG_8931 by you.And Matthew got a toy tank, but here he is with a Target gift card he can’t wait to spend.

IMG_8887 by you.And Hannah was so happy with her play make-up and nail polish, she could barely contain her excitement. Apparently, Kacey knows just what Hannah likes!

IMG_8907 by you.Alec has inherited his daddy’s taste in music!

IMG_8893 by you.And Zach is getting trendy. He loved his American Eagle hoody.

IMG_8934 by you.Kacey is ready to use her gift card at Bath & Bodyworks. Mom wants to go with!

IMG_8935 by you.What could be better for Jake, the music maniac than an Itunes gift card? He’s already trying to figure out twenty-five songs he doesn’t yet have.

IMG_8933 by you.Brad will be shopping for new hunting or fishing gear. It seems like he can never have enough!

IMG_8930 by you.My brothers are beer geeks! None for me, thanks. I’ll stick to my Michelob Golden Light.

IMG_8913 by you.And Mark wonders why there are so few pictures of him on the blog. Here’s one for the family photo album! Not!

We had a great time but I am wiped out! Now I can relax and look forward to a nice quiet Christmas eve with the kids.

Celebrating

Christmas Tree 2008 by you.We’re celebrating Christmas with my family here today. I spent all day yesterday cleaning, doing laundry and getting the last of the food items needed for the party. We had our first real winter storm yesterday and it was my goal not to leave the house, but I ended up having to anyway. The kids had nothing to wear for Christmas Day and I realized there was no way I was going to find time to shop with them in the days before Christmas, so off we went to shop yesterday afternoon. All I can say is I’m glad we have a truck with four-wheel drive. There were so many cars spun out and in the ditches. We made it to Kohl’s and back home without incident and got everyone outfitted for the big day.

Kacey and I finally spent some time baking together last night. I cut out the sugar cookies and she frosted them after they were done baking. We listened to our favorite Christmas CDs and Jake even came to hang out with us and enjoy the cheer. I was exhausted already by this point, but Kace has been asking me to bake with her and I was feeling seriously guilty for not having found the time. I’m glad I did last night. We had fun!

View out the back door by you.This morning I woke up to a beautiful scene outside the windows. I was up by six o’clock, starting the rolls, mixing up another batch of cookies and preparing the wild rice soup. It was beautifully quiet and although I was facing a big to-do list, I felt remarkably relaxed and peaceful. I love these quiet mornings all to myself. I tuned in to my favorite radio station which was in the midst of an all Christmas music weekend, got busy with the Kitchen-Aid mixer and just enjoyed my time alone. I was a little stressed out yesterday (always am the day before having company,) but this morning I’ve found the holiday spirit and I can’t wait for everyone to get here, especially the little kids. They’ll be bouncing off the walls with excitement, I’m sure.

I better get back to my to-do list, but before I do, I wanted to show you what a funny girl my daughter is.

Gingerbread house party by you.

Looks like they’re havin’ a party at the Gingerbread house!

Life is Good – December 19, 2008

pinecone ornament2 by you.As the holidays quickly approach, it’s easy to reflect on how blessed my life is. Sure, I can think of a thousand things to complain about (so much more easily than counting my blessings sometimes) but during this season of sharing, giving and often over-indulgence, it’s hard not to recognize that my gifts are many.

I didn’t have to worry about how I was going to get through Christmas this year like so many others during this tough economy. I was able to finish my Christmas shopping today and I was blessed to be able to do it without having to think too hard about whether I had enough money to cover the expense. Not a day goes by that I don’t wonder how long I will be able to keep my job. I’m thankful that I will at least get through the holidays. And if my company can hold on through this spring, there’s a good chance I may be able to stop worrying about losing my job.

And speaking of finishing my Christmas shopping, I am thankful for flex hours! I love working ten hours a day, four days a week, and enjoying a full weekday off to finish all the shopping, all the wrapping or do anything anything else I please.

I am thankful for the joyful spirit the holiday season brings. Both at home and at work, those around me have been positively affected by this season. I love seeing smiling faces, hearing laughter, and seeing kindness in the hearts of others. I was just wishing that everyone could behave the same way all year round, but then realized I wouldn’t appreciate it as much if such generosity and warmth was a common, everyday occurrence.

I am blessed with some fantastic kids. My oldest will be home tomorrow and doesn’t have to go back to school for almost a month. I can’t wait to have him close by me again and be able to bear hug him whenever I like. The younger two, though they love to push my buttons, are good kids too. They do what I ask (sometimes even before I have to ask a second time!) They don’t cause trouble and are generally nice to everyone else. They help me keep my sanity by handling many of the chores that I can’t attend to because I’m gone at work all day. AND…they cooked a spectacular taco dinner for the family two nights ago. They did it together without bickering or fighting. Now THAT is a fantastic gift!

I am grateful to have my parents and in-laws in my life. We had a scare early this week when my father-in-law was admitted to the hospital with pneumonia. This is a man who rarely gets sick so it was a shock to find out he was in the hospital. Thankfully, he’s on the mend and was discharged yesterday and can be home to enjoy Christmas with his family. My dad, too is doing fairly well since recovering from his recent bout with pneumonia. These illnesses reminded me that I often take for granted the amount of time we have together on this earth. It makes me think of friends who had to say goodbye to their parents much too soon and I remember what a gift they are to me.

It seems like the days are moving past at the speed of light and soon Christmas will be upon us. I am going to try my best not to get too caught up in all the chaos and to take a step back now and then to remember what these days are all about…love.

So much to do, so little time

I have got to make the most of my day off today. I’ve still got a little bit of shopping to do, I’ve got presents to wrap, cookies to bake (or at least make the dough so Kacey can make them… Yeah. .. That’s a good idea… Kacey loves to bake.)

Remember me last year at this time?…

IMG_5980 by you.

Don’t expect any of that this year. Of course I say that now but in a few days I’ll be complaining because I stayed up past my bed time baking Christmas cookies. You just wait.

Brad comes home on Friday (YAY!) and on Sunday we’ll be hosting my family Christmas celebration. It’s just not the same with my parents in Arizona and my sister and her family in Illinois, but it’s still fun to spend time with my brothers and their families. We got the neice and nephews some pretty cool gifts so I’m looking forward to watching the excitement as they open their presents. I’m going to make a big pot of cheesy wildrice soup and I’m going to try some of Beej’s pepperoni bread too. (Beej was kind enough to share her recipe with me. Thanks Beej!) We’ll just have a smorgasbord of hors doevres and things and eat until we’re too full to move.

It’s been hideously cold and snowing off and on since last Sunday. But first it had to rain all day Sunday so we could get a nice sheet of ice underneath our snow. Temperatures have been below zero and driving anywhere requires at least doubling the drive time. We’re finally starting to head in a warmer direction today. It was one degree when I woke up but there was no windchill so I went for a run. Can you believe it? I just had to. I hadn’t run since Saturday and I’ve reached the point where I’m almost afraid of falling out of the running habit. I put on an extra layer of clothing and actually wore a hat. (You know it’s cold when I wear a hat. Usually it’s just one of those ear bands.) I feel like my head is back in order and I’m ready to get on with the day. Wish me luck and productivity!

Rude Awakening – Part IV

This very long story begins with part I, here

And continues with part II, here

And then on to part III, here. (But if you want to read part III, you need to request a password here) before catching up to the fourth and final installment which is where we are now…

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In the spring of 1986, my sister’s wedding preparations were being finalized as she and my future brother-in-law looked forward to their big day on June 14th. I had managed to get through my first year of college and was relieved to be on break from classes. Ben and I had weathered yet another tumultuous year of our unhealthy relationship, but we were, at that time, experiencing a period of calm.

The day of the wedding arrived and it was perfect. The temperature was comfortably warm, the sky was clear and the sun shone brilliantly. I had a gorgeous, red, off-the-shoulder dress to wear and I felt like a princess that day. As a member of the bridal party, I was immersed in all the happy chaos that took place as we neared the time of the ceremony. I was relaxed and having fun, chatting and laughing with the others as the photographer posed us for picture after picture. Ben hung out in the church, waiting patiently and watching the goings on with mild curiosity.

The wedding was picture perfect and afterwards there were more photos for the wedding party. We took a trip down to Stillwater, Minnesota; a historic tourist hot spot that showed off the St. Croix River as a backdrop.

Finally the formal photos were completed and the wedding party strolled to one of the many bars in Stillwater for a celebratory drink before heading back to town for the reception where Ben had been hanging out with my brothers and waiting patiently for me. I was happy for my sister and enjoying being among family and friends for such a special occasion. Ben and I were on the same page for a change and I looked forward to enjoying an evening with him, without strain. I couldn’t remember the last time I had felt so content and at ease.

After dinner was served to all of the guests, the band began to play. We watched my sister and her new husband dance their first dance as husband and wife. As that first dance came to an end, the band rolled right into another song and invited the bridal party to come join the bride and groom on the dance floor before the dancing would be opened up to the rest of the guests. Each member of the bridal party paired up with their partner from the wedding ceremony. My partner, my brother-in-law’s younger brother met me on the dance floor and we danced along with all the others. My sister and her new husband looked so happy together and I wondered if Ben and I would ever arrive at that same place in life.

Soon the song came to an end and all of the guests were invited to come and celebrate with the happy couple. I thanked my partner for the dance and went in search of Ben to invite him to come enjoy the music and dance with me. When I arrived back at the table where he was sitting, I could see that his face had turned to stone in the time that I had been away.

“What’s the matter,” I asked him, frustrated and worried all at the same time. I didn’t want our issues to surface on what was supposed to be the happiest day of my sister’s life. It was one thing for him to mess with me, but I’d be damned if he was going to make a scene on her day.

“You were dancing with another guy,” he sulked. He had a way of pouting and a habit of refusing to be brought out of it once the mood had set in.

I tried to explain to him. “Ben, it’s a tradition for there to be a wedding party dance. You heard the leader of the band say it. You saw the rest of the wedding party dancing with each other. It’s all a part of the tradition. It doesn’t mean anything!”

“Well, I didn’t like it,” he continued to sulk, glaring sideways at me.

One too many times I had tried, unsuccessfully to pull Ben out of one of his moods. I knew exactly where we were headed and any other time I would have allowed myself to get sucked in. Any other time I would have foolishly believed that this would be the time it would be different. This would be the time I would figure out how to head off the anger and resentment. But on that day something snapped. I had no more energy for this losing battle that Ben and I constantly engaged in.

“Let’s go outside,” I suggested.

Ben followed me, his mouth a tight line across his face. When we stepped outside the reception hall, he stood in front of me in silent anger.

“I don’t want to do this tonight,” I said.

“Maybe I should just leave then,” he retorted.

“Maybe you should.” He glared at me for a moment, looking for some sign of surrender, but I gave him nothing.

“Fine. I’m going then,” he huffed and stomped off to his car. I watched him go, and then pulled the door to the hall open and returned to the reception, determined not to let this ruin my night. I forced myself to forget about Ben for the evening and spent my time socializing with relatives and friends of the family. More than once, my brother-in-law’s brother came and invited me to come dance with him. I was thinking about nothing but enjoying each moment. We talked and laughed, had a few drinks and enjoyed each others’ company.

During one dance, Howie, a friend of the groom’s family walked past as my partner and I were dancing and stopped. He looked at my partner and suggested, “You two look good together. You should take her out on a date.”

My partner looked a little embarrassed, but agreed, “We should go out some time. Do you want to maybe go out to dinner with me?”

“I think I’d like that,” I smiled and he smiled back at me.

The wedding reception came to an end all too soon. In the days that followed, I went about my business. I thought about calling Ben and trying to talk with him about what had transpired between us but I was just tired of it all. I didn’t plan on ignoring him forever, but as each day went by I had less and less desire to get in touch with him. Finally, after three days had passed, he called me.

“So are you still mad at me,” he asked?

“You know, I think I’m just tired of the whole routine,” I told him. “I just don’t think I want to do this any more.”

He was shocked. He wasn’t used to me taking a stand. He was used to having me cajole him out of his moods. He was used to me thinking I couldn’t live without him. He was accustomed to me walking on eggshells and doing whatever it took to try to make him happy for whatever short amount of time I could achieve it. This… this new found strength in me… he didn’t know what to do with it.

Suddenly he was remorseful. “I just thought you’d be mad for a few days and get over it like you usually do. I’m sorry. Don’t be mad,” he pleaded.

“I can’t do it anymore, Ben. I’m done.”

It was the hardest conversation I’d ever had in my life but I’d never felt more full of hope, never seen so much promise in the future as I did at that moment. It hurt like hell but I’d never been more confident that I’d done the right thing than at that moment.

The weeks that followed were a  roller coaster of emotion. Ben hadn’t taken the break-up lying down. I had changed my role in our relationship and he was no longer sure of his own. He didn’t know what he was supposed to do. He made a few visits to me at work and spit words at me in anger. He called and begged me to reconsider, but I stood my ground. His friends even caught up with me to report that Ben had made a (mostly for show) suicide attempt and had spent a night in jail after being confronted by a police officer and taking a swing at him. These facts were presented to me in the hopes that I would take Ben back and make it all better again. But somehow I knew that if I tried to rescue him, I would only lose myself in the process. It was over for good.

Ben’s life did go on. Ironically enough, I never saw him again after those first weeks after our break-up. I didn’t stay in touch with any of his friends and didn’t know what might have happened to him. A few years ago, I saw his mother’s obituary in the local newspaper. I didn’t go to her wake or funeral. It just didn’t seem right, but I wondered about him at that time. Even more recently, a good friend of mine who had known me during the “Ben years” asked me what Ben’s last name was. I reminded her and asked what made her think of him.

“His wife runs a daycare and takes care of my sister’s baby,” she told me. It seems he was living in the city right next to the one where I live. How ironic. But I smiled at the news. So… he could live without me after all!

As for me, the months following my sister’s wedding were spent forging a new relationship with my brother-in-law’s brother. We got along great and I learned what it was like to exist in a give and take relationship. We had a great time for a few months and truly enjoyed each others’ company until the inevitable happened.

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He asked me to marry him and we lived happily ever after.

The End!

Password

If you’d like to read Rude Awakening III, please leave a comment here and I’ll email you the password asap. Sorry, I know it’s kind of a pain, but there are some things my kids don’t need to learn about me from my blog.