Ball Busters get busted in championship game

It was a dark and stormy night in South St. Paul, Minnesota…

Ok, technically, it was a mild and calm night with a gentle breeze blowing off the Mississippi River in SSP, MN… but dark and stormy feels so much more ominous. Doesn’t it? Where were we?

Oh, yes. Dark and stormy…

The hot pink t-shirt clad Ball Busters arrived at Mattie’s Lanes prepared to face off against their arch-enemies, the Mattie’s Lanes team, also sporting hot-pink uniforms, though not nearly as cute nor with as clever a logo as the Ball Busters’ darling t-shirts. 

Tensions ran high. Sneering looks were passed between the players.

Ok, technically, the players high-fived each other after well-played frames, even if they weren’t on the same team.

The Ball Busters performed their pre-game stretches. Words of encouragement were passed in hushed tones amongst each other. The Mattie’s Lanes team would go down this fateful evening.

It was a tight game. The score was neck and neck throughout round one. One of the lanes was uncooperative and some maintenance was required, temporarily halting the game as tensions ran high.

When the game resumed, the Mattie’s Lanes team pulled ahead. By the tenth frame, Mattie’s Lanes had taken the round.

The Ball Busters came on strong in game two. There were more maintenance problems and frustrations were elevated. Homie-T held her own, but couldn’t seem to pull off a strike unless G-Dawg left the scene when it was T’s turn. G-Dawg was ordered to make herself scarce while it was Homie-T’s turn from that point on. Game two was taken by the Ball Busters and spirits were high.

Game three presented more scoring and maintenance problems. Pinky found the owner and demanded the teams be allowed to play this momentous game on lanes that properly scored each frame. The ladies in pink moved their gear four lanes down and resumed their games, but the damage had already been done. Sel-Nizzle couldn’t pull off a spare. Syd-Swad seemed to leave one lone pin standing every frame.

The Mattie’s Lanes team boosted their confidence with strike after strike. By the tenth frame of game three, the Ball Busters knew they had no chance of pulling off a championship win. Homie-T began her tenth and final frame, throwing her first ball and leaving a 4-10 split. In frustration, she approached the lane and tossed the ball without care, then watched as the ten pin went into a spin, taking the four pin with it. Cheers erupted from the Ball Busters. The championship was lost, but they had gone down with style.

They had no reason to be ashamed. Their bags were packed. Hugs were exchanged. Each face held a smile.

2nd Place – not bad for a bunch of girls who have never bowled before this year. And just wait until next year, when Homie-T gets a ball that’s actually fitted to her own hand. (And a new name on the back of her shirt, if she has anything to say about it…)

bowling1

Oh, come on. It wouldn’t be the same if I didn’t post this picture one last time.

And how was YOUR weekend?

It’s been a busy, busy weekend here. For starters (and I’m not entirely sure how this happens, but…) the house was a disaster area. We clean EVERY week. How it goes from neat and clean to complete chaos in the span of seven short days is beyond me. (I guess having busy and sometimes lazy teenagers has a lot to do with it. I’m sure the fact that I work full time has a little something to do with it as well.) Thankfully, the weekend was lacking in any sports tournaments requiring our attendance, so domestic duties were on the top of the priority list. Everyone was assigned a list of chores and we got to work making the place look presentable again. What a relief. I don’t know about you, but my ability to act like a reasonable human being diminishes proportionately in relation to the level of cleanliness and tidiness in my home.

By Saturday evening, I was breathing a sigh of relief that the house was back in shape, and none too soon. We had some unexpected visitors come to deliver the last of the Girl Scout cookies. We invited the neighbors to come join the gathering, since they are mutual friends. Before I knew it, there was beer being passed out and the kids were engrossed in playing Wii. We had a great time, and our visitors headed home just as I was thinking I might be ready to call it a day. But then the phone rang, and another couple of our friends asked if we minded them stopping by for a short visit. Another round of beers and a few laughs later, they headed home too. It was a full day.

I allowed myself to sleep in today and enjoyed a relaxing morning, catching up on reading blogs and watching Spanglish on t.v. (Love that movie!) But I couldn’t lounge around too long as we were desperately lacking in anything to eat. I knew I would have to bite the bullet and face the prospect of grocery shopping on a Sunday, of all days. I loathe grocery shopping on Sundays with all those after-church shoppers! I usually try to shop during the week, but Sunday shopping today was a necessary evil. To ease the pain, I made a stop at Bed, Bath & Beyond for a few household items I’ve been needing. I know you’re going to think I’m crazy, but I spent a hundred dollars on a waste basket for my kitchen and it made me very happy. Now, before you decide that I’m completely insane, let me just explain that I have a waste basket that sits out in plain sight in my kitchen. The one I have is really an eyesore and I have been eyeing this particular waste basket for a couple of years. I had a Visa gift card from Christmas that I had yet to spend, so it wasn’t like I was really spending my own hundred dollars on something in which to toss my garbage. Isn’t it pretty? I know. It’s a trash can. I’m easily excited.

Product Image

So, after amusing myself with the new trash can, I took a deep breath and hit the grocery store. You’ll be happy to know I made it out alive, having avoided any altercations with people lacking in grocery store etiquette (like the woman who looked at me in a way I can only describe as “disdainfully” – I have no idea what I did to provoke such a look from her. Maybe she was jealous of my bananas…)  and only two-hundred some dollars poorer. (Teenagers eat a lot!)

Once at home again, the kids helped haul all the groceries inside and we made quick work of getting everything put away. Then it was off to my parents’ house to clean. Why? Because they are leaving their winter home in Arizona and returning home to Minnesota for the warmer months. I wanted to make sure they will return to a clean and fresh house when they get back THIS WEDNESDAY! (I’m a little bit excited about their return. Can you tell? I’ve missed them.)

And as if my parents’ return weren’t enough, I get almost another week to spend with my oldest son. Since he goes to school in Fargo, North Dakota (where there’s a bit of a major flooding issue going on at the moment) school has been cancelled for the next week and he’ll be coming home on Tuesday – with his girlfriend. (I think it’s safe to say this is getting serious. And I’m ok with that. She’s a sweetie.) It’s going to be a very good week! Busy, but good!

So? How was your weekend?

TAG! Storyline 1, part 6

(Previous installments of the story can be found here.)
Terri hung up the phone and grabbed her purse, reaching inside for her keys. Heading for the service door that led to the garage, she made a stop at the closet and grabbed a jacket. Sliding one arm inside, she felt someone lifting the jacket to assist her with the other arm and realized Rich was standing directly behind her.
 
“Thanks, honey,” she said, shrugging into the jacket and turning to give her husband a peck on the cheek. 
 
“Not so fast,” he replied, circling his arm around her waist and pulling her against him. He dipped his head and kissed her neck and she tipped her head back to accommodate him, winding her arms around his neck at the same time and giggling.
 
“You smell so good,” he murmured into her neck. “It’s not right, you going out to see another man when you smell this good. Are you sure you don’t want to hang around here with me and… you know…find something to do?”
 
She giggled again. “I won’t be gone long,” she promised. “We’re just going to have coffee. Besides, I feel bad. I feel like I let Matt down by not offering sooner to help him celebrate his success today. And when he told me he met someone tonight, he sounded so excited. It’s not often I see Matt so happy. I feel like I owe this to him. I don’t think he’s got a lot of people in his life that he can lean on and this is really important to him. OK?”
 
Rich kissed her lightly on the lips. “I know, baby. You’re a good friend to Matt. Go. Celebrate with him. And try not to smell so good while you’re gone, will ya?”
 
Terri laughed. “I’ll try. Maybe I’ll run across a skunk while I’m out.”
 
“Don’t do that,” Rich teased. “I’d love it if you smelled this good again when you get back. Just try to put a hold on the whole smelling good thing while you’re out.”
 
She kissed him one more time, suddenly feeling reluctant to leave, but assuring him he had nothing to worry about and that she’d be back as soon as she could.
 
Ten minutes later, her car turned into the Barnes & Noble parking lot. She climbed out from behind the wheel, slamming the door behind her and pressed the lock button on the remote as she headed toward the entrance of the book store. Pulling the heavy front doors open, she looked immediately to the right, searching for Matt in the coffee shop section of the store. It didn’t take long to spot him. He was seated at a cafe table for two, his hands surrounding his cup of coffee and looking up from under his eyebrows at her. He was unable to hide the grin that had been plastered on his face since he had left the restaurant. She quickly made her way to her friend and hugged him as he rose to greet her.
 
“Wow! You are positively glowing,” she exclaimed! “This must be some girl. I haven’t seen you look this happy in a long time.”
 
“Thanks so much for meeting me tonight,” he said, releasing her from the hug. “Hey, you smell nice,” he mentioned approvingly.
 
“So I’ve been told. Just don’t let on to Rich that you noticed. I got the distinct impression that he wouldn’t have been opposed to me staying home this evening. But I promised him I’d make it up to him when I got back.”
 
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to intrude on your evening.” Matt looked slightly worried. Since Terri had become his best friend in the last year, he often found himself feeling extremely grateful for her friendship, but he often wondered what it felt like from Rich’s perspective. Rich had always been very gracious about the friendship but Matt couldn’t help but wonder sometimes how he might feel if the tables were turned and it was his wife who shared a close bond with another man.
 
“Don’t be silly,” Terri said, dismissing his concern. “It’s not a big deal. Rich understands and I won’t be out late. This is what friends are for. Now, come on. Spill it. I want to hear all about her.”
 
“I don’t know what to say,” Matt admitted, the giddy-looking grin returning to his face. “We only exchanged a few words, but I must have made them count. I think I’m going to get to see her again.”
 
“This is so unlike you,” Terri gushed. “I’m thrilled to see you taking a little risk for a change. You deserve to have someone nice in your life.”
 
Matt laughed. “I think you’re getting a little ahead of me here. I just met her tonight and barely spoke to her. It might be a little soon to assume she’ll be a part of my life just yet.”
 
“I know,” Terri laughed. “I’m just happy for you. You stepped outside your box for a change. You’re a nice guy, and a good looking one too. So, you wear that goofy Jedi hoodie once in a while. So what? Fae, is it? She didn’t seem to mind your odd taste in clothing. Maybe Fae is just your type. Just promise me you won’t ask her to watch Star Wars movies on your first date.”
 
Matt pretended to swat at her head and Terri quickly ducked, laughing. 
 
“You know I’m just kidding you,” she said. “Let me go order a mocha and when I get back, I want to hear all the details.” She got up to place her order and then quickly returned to the table with her steaming cup. “So, tell me what happened tonight.”
 
Matt shrugged, looking down, still grinning self consciously. “She was sitting with a couple of friends at the sushi bar. I was just around the corner of the bar from them and I could hear most of their conversation. I didn’t even realize it at first, but I found myself staring at her. When I realized she was staring back… and seemed interested, I felt my confidence soar. I don’t know what’s gotten into me, but I took a chance for a change.”
 
“That’s good, Matt. You know I’ve been worried about you since the accident. I worry about how much time you spend alone. I know you have your Kendo and that’s great. But the people you connect with there aren’t real friends. Not really. You just share a common interest and nothing more. And I love the fact that we’re friends and all, but it won’t hurt my feelings if you have other friends too. And even if I might feel just the slightest bit jealous at seeing another woman taking up some of your time,” she teased, winking, “you know that deep down, I would really love to see you find someone special. You deserve that. It’s not healthy to spend so much time alone.”
 
“I know. You’re right,” Matt conceded. “I’ve been in a funk for a long time now. It’s time I stop moping around and start living again.”
 
All Terri could do was smile. It was good to see her friend acting so optomistic for a change. The accident had taken it’s toll on him, and for a while there, she thought Matt was going to be content to simply go through the motions for the rest of his life. The Kendo classes were a step in the right direction for him. They got him excited about something again and gave him something to keep striving for. But it wasn’t the same as allowing another person into his life. She knew that living…truly living… required a certain amount of risk and until now, she wasn’t sure that Matt was willing to ever take those risks again. It had taken some time, but tonight she was sure that he had broken down a wall that had been holding him back for so long. Maybe he would finally allow himself to consider sharing his heart with another person.
 
“I don’t know what it was about this girl,” Matt continued. “But she stirred up feelings I haven’t experienced… or wanted to experience… in a long time.” 
 
Terri just smiled, encouraging, while Matt rambled on about Fae’s gorgeous hair and her beautiful eyes. He couldn’t hide his excitement when he described how she had actually called him after he left his business card for her and how he loved the sound of her voice. He repeated for her the short conversation he and Fae had shared and how she had asked if she could call him sometime.
 
“God, I hope she calls soon,” he exclaimed! “Look at me! I’m acting like a teenager. What is wrong with me?”
 
“Nothing’s wrong with you,” Terri assured him. “You’re happy. Remember happy? It feels good, doesn’t it?” The two friends talked and laughed easily for the next hour until it became apparent the book store was closing for the night. They parted ways, each feeling happy about Matt’s encounter that evening and promising each other, “See you on Monday!”
 
When Terri got home, she found Rich sitting up in bed, the lights off, but watching t.v. He gave her a wary look and smiled half-heartedly.
 
“What’s with you,” she asked him? “Is something going on?”
 
“Aw, I got into it with Jeremy tonight. I tried to talk to him about school and making some decisions about what he plans to do after graduation. I should have known better. As usual, he ended up getting defensive and before I knew it, we were yelling at each other again. He’s closed himself up in his room and I think he hates me. I’m frustrated and I don’t know what to do.”
 
“I’m sorry,” Terri said, understanding all too well. “I can try to talk with him in the morning. Do you want to talk about it? Is there anything I can do?”
 
“Maybe…” Rich looked at her with a mischievious grin. “Come here. Let me see if you still smell as good as you did earlier…”
 

TAG! Storyline 1, part 4

Matt followed the hostess to the sushi bar and took a seat near the corner. He nodded to the itamae and asked what the chef recommended. After making his selections, Matt settled back in his chair to survey his surroundings.

The restaurant was fairly busy.  He noticed a family with two children chattering animatedly as their young parents smiled attentively trying to follow the conversation. At another table, a couple spoke in hushed tones, the air of intimacy unmistakable. Matt’s celebratory mood began to dissipate as the all too familiar veil of loneliness made its presence known.

Just then the cute young hostess appeared, asking what he might like to drink. His spirits lifted again and Matt ordered a beer, quickly suppressing any feelings of self pity.

“Dude, don’t do this,” he reminded himself. “This is your day.”

Smiling sheepishly to himself, he returned his attention to the sushi bar just as his food was presented.  He couldn’t wait to dig in and dipped his nigiri in the small bowl of soy sauce. Tipping his head back, he placed an entire piece of fish and rice on his tongue in traditional Japanese fashion. It was every bit as delicious as he had anticipated and he nodded at the itamae in approval. The jubilance he experienced earlier in the day returned and he allowed it to take hold.

Conversations overlapped one another at the sushi bar. A couple of business men to Matt’s right were engrossed in a serious discussion. To his left was a group of three women, dressed casually but stylish. A few shopping bags littered the floor near their feet. The three laughed and finished each others sentences in the way only longtime friends are able. He estimated them to be near his age.

He hadn’t realized he was staring until the one with the strawberry-blond hair caught his eye and smiled in his direction. She had her elbows resting on the bar, her hands clasped together under her chin. She appeared to be  listening as one of her girlfriends described in mock-painful detail the difficulties of trying to keep romance alive in her marriage with a two and a four year old in the house. Matt, himself was trying not to be obvious while he followed the woman’s comedic story but hadn’t realized he had been noticed until the moment the pretty woman’s eyes met with his own. Her head was tipped slightly to her right and he couldn’t help feel that she was teasing him with her gaze. Feeling his face grow red, Matt returned his attention to his food but couldn’t seem to erase the smile from his face.

It felt good, being noticed in such a positive way. As Matt enjoyed his meal, he wondered what more he could ask for. First, there was his huge success in the Kendo ceremony that morning, then being able to share his elation with his best friend, Terri. Now he found himself on the receiving end of an attractive woman’s attention, even if it was only for a moment. Yes, it had been a very good day. He enjoyed the rest of his meal and allowed a sense of contentment to engulf him.

Raising his beer glass to his lips, Matt chanced another glimpse at the pretty woman who had raised his curiosity. The one who had been entertaining her friends with her tales of foiled romance was still at it and the others were laughing freely. Feeling brave, Matt allowed himself to study the one who had caught his attention. She had shoulder length hair, brushed off to one side and she unconsciously swept it from her face periodically as she interacted with her friends. She had beautiful, hazel eyes and long dark lashes and Matt felt warmed by her smile and laughter.

Suddenly, as if she could feel the weight of Matt’s stare, her gaze once again met with his. She hadn’t turned her head and her friends didn’t notice. It was only her eyes that remained unabashedly focused on his. The lively conversation continued without interruption. But her full attention was on Matt.  Feeling encouraged by her boldness, Matt refused to allow his eyes to break away. A wide smile engulfed his face as he raised his glass ever so slightly toward her and drank the last of his beer. The woman’s friends were oblivious to the exchange as Matt excused himself from the sushi bar and prepared to leave. Glancing over his shoulder as he headed for the exit, he saw the woman’s eyes still following him and a flirty half-smile on her face.

continued on Matt’s blog

Life is Good – March 27, 2009

Think they told us to sit still? by you.I was the second of four children in my family. My sister was born not quite two years earlier than I. My brothers were born two and four years later.

Growing up, I’m sure we girls were a drain on my mom’s sanity. Cory and I were as different as two girls could be. She was obedient whereas I was defiant. My sister was cooperative. I was not. I was a tomboy. Cory was a girly-girl. She could quietly push my buttons, whereas I was forceful in both my words and actions. It was a rare occasion when we got along together. Most days found us in our own separate worlds. We didn’t share friends and did everything we could to keep our distance from one another.

Mom was constantly admonishing, “Quit your bickering!” My mom had three older sisters, all of whom were out of the house by the time she started grade school. She didn’t understand why we weren’t thrilled to have the companionship of one another.

Our relationship didn’t improve in our teenage years. We were like oil and water. My sister couldn’t hide her disdain for my friends or boyfriends. I accused her of being a run-around. She was always “going out” with her best friend and I told her I couldn’t keep track of the boys in her circle of friends.

Neither of us liked the way the other dressed, yet we constantly “borrowed” each others clothing and jewelry without permission. Living in the small house in which we grew up, we were forced to share a bedroom all of our lives. I could not wait for her to go away to school when she was eighteen.

I rode along in the car on the day my parents drove my sister to college. The ride home was a quiet one. I wasn’t sure what I was feeling, but it certainly wasn’t the celebratory mood I expected. In the months that followed, I realized having the bedroom to myself wasn’t the big thrill I thought it would be either. The first time I heard the news that Cory was coming home to visit for a weekend, I was secretly ecstatic.

Something had changed. In the next few years, we began to stop judging and competing and really get know each other. We started to think we might actually like each other!  Before long, we found we had more in common than we’d ever given ourselves a chance to realize. My sister had become my best friend.

Our oldest children were born within months of each other and we shared the joys and trials of being new mothers together. We babysat for one another and we spent our free time together. When our older children were all old enough to go to school, I would spend my days off from work at her house enjoying her company and playing with my two baby nephews. Rarely a week went by that I wasn’t at her house or she wasn’t at mine.

My sister and I had finally become the friends my mom always wanted us to be. And that’s what made it so difficult when Cory and her family moved to Illinois. My best friend was gone. I was truly lonely without her. True, she is only a seven hour drive away. Visits now and then have been possible, but it just isn’t the same as having her just a few miles down the road, like she used to be. There are never enough days, never enough hours in our visits to make up for the time we spend apart. It’s been six years now since she moved away and I miss her terribly.

 We are wierd by you.On Wednesday this week, I was more tired than usual. I normally go to bed at ten o’clock, but I was ready to go at nine. I had just finished putting my pajamas on when I heard the phone ring, then Mark calling my name. I walked into the family room, mouthing to him, “Who is it?” I didn’t want to talk. I wanted to go to sleep.

“It’s your sister,” he whispered.

I was worried. It’s unlike her to call in the evening, much less near bedtime. I took the phone and put it to my ear.

“What’s up,” I asked?

“We’re moving back home,” she exclaimed!

I was so happy I couldn’t stop crying. (You know me by now. I cry at the drop of a hat.)

It’s job related. The economy has everything to do with it. They’ve both found jobs here and a house that is just as close as the last one was to mine. They’ll be here by June!

LIFE IS GOOD!

Sobering Reminders

Someone very close to me lost his job today. I want to describe him as a friend, but he is more than that. This friend ranks up there in the best friend category. He is the one we refer to as Man Friend; a term of endearment bestowed upon him because of his tight bond with my husband. The title, Man Friend insinuates a relationship that is something akin to girlfriend …only manlier. (Insert Tim Allen grunt here.)  Man Friend is more than just a friend. He is like family, only the kind of family you actually like and with whom you spend time willingly.

Man Friend  isn’t a solo act. He has two boys, one of whom has been my oldest son’s best friend since the first grade. (That’s about fourteen years for those who are counting.) And there is Man Friend’s wife too. She is one of my best friends. We work together. She is the reason I have the phenomenal job that I do.

When she told me the news today, I felt shell-shocked. She was at a loss, still trying to process this news. There had been nothing to indicate this job loss was a possibility. She cried and I hugged her and tried to find words of encouragement. And failed miserably.

We all talk about the economy and we worry about job losses. We hear about the increasing numbers in the unemployment lines. And we count ourselves among the lucky ones. And deep down inside we hang on to the belief that it won’t happen to us.

And then it happens to one of us and all the what ifs become reality. It is sobering.

I think he will be ok. He has many, many contacts. He has an incredible work ethic and a charming personality.

I think about all the times I complained about something… anything having to do with my job. I feel selfish. And I hurt for my friends.

So these friends who are family are facing a scary unknown tonight.

And my son has been busy sandbagging in Fargo, North Dakota where the Red River is going to crest and flood the area, causing chaos for those who live there.

And I am sitting here doing nothing more than writing a blog post with little else to worry about at the moment.

It all makes me feel a little selfish. It makes me realize how much I take for granted.

I have so much for which to be thankful. Why do I need constant reminders of this?

News from the Ball Busters

Just thought I’d make up for that last insanely long post with a quickie.

After a successful night of bowling, I felt compelled to share this exciting news with you.

I’m not saying it’s because of me (because it’s not,) but since I left my subbing days behind and joined the Ball Busters as a regular bowler, we have moved from sixth place into FIRST PLACE!

bowling

Are you getting tired of this picture yet?

TAG! Storyline 1, part 2

The story begins on Matt’s blog. You’ll want to read this post first. Then continue here…

Snow crunched under her feet as her legs warmed up. The trail-running shoes she wore gave her solid footing, reducing her chances of slipping on this newest powdering of snowflakes. She was grateful that it was only a light snow; one of winter’s last attempts at wearing out its welcome in the suburb. The last few days had been unseasonably warm and much of the heavy snow-pack that had blanketed the ground for the past several months had melted away under the heat of the sun. This snow would be lucky to last until the end of the day if the temperatures continued as they had been. 

Terri could feel the tension in her body dissolving with each step she took. She loved to run in the early morning hours on the weekends. It always felt as if the morning was a symphony of color and sound which never failed to leave her in quiet awe. When she first left the house on this day, the sky was just beginning to awaken, stretching from a dense fog of gray into folds of blues, then fading into layers of lavender. The transition from dawn to daylight wouldn’t take long.
 
Her feet carried her away from the checkerboard of houses and yards. She and her husband, had moved here several years ago when the area was still mostly an expanse of farmland. Their own home was in a development that had been purchased from a local farmer by one of several enthusiastic builders who were busy making a good living in the area. At the time she had felt as if they had moved to a whole new world after years of living in the crowded and noisy city. She remembered how during their first few months in the hushed suburb, a little fox used to come visit, sitting in their driveway and keeping a curious watch over what had become of his home. The area had quickly developed and the country feel of it all was quickly disappearing as new homes continued to sprout up where once crops of corn had grown. The days of visits from the fox or deer strolling down the block were long gone.
 
Her run took her north of her own neighborhood where the last of the open plots of land were now being transformed into a shopping and entertainment mecca. The city had been wise enough to at least surround the development with an asphalt path for the locals who needed a place to bike, walk, skate… or run, as she did. She made a left turn, moving past the Target store which had been in full operation for over a year already. She could see lights glowing through the front entrance of the store and saw a group of cars parked at the far edge of the lot. She guessed they belonged to the employees on the early shift, now preparing for the store’s opening that day.
 
As she reached the end of the Target parking lot, she arrived in a section of land that was now developing at a rapid pace. Empty parking lots surrounded a couple of block buildings, their pristine asphalt surfaces not yet damaged by a constant flow of traffic. A construction crane hovered, appearing as if one of the workers had stopped it right in its tracks at quitting time on Friday, frozen in place over the roof of a new fitness center. She sneered at the fitness center, vowing never to become one of the drones running in place on a treadmill amidst a crowd of other drones doing exactly the same thing. Running, for her, was a means of not only keeping in shape, but a way to burn off stress, quiet her mind and get her sometimes chaotic thoughts back into some semblance of order. She couldn’t imagine accomplishing any of that among the distraction of other voices, excercise equipment, music and the smell of other people’s sweat. No, she preferred to “get her rah rahs out” (as she often described it to her friend, Matt) in the great outdoors while most others still slept. 

The movement of her feet and the pattern of her breathing continued to keep time with one another as the new bowling alley caught her attention. Bowling was her son, Jeremy’s thing. He had a small group of friends with whom he had joined a youth bowling league. Terri was mildly surprised when Jeremy had first mentioned an interest in bowling. He had always been more drawn to traditional kid sports like soccer and baseball. But she was more than willing to support this new interest. It was one of the few things to which he awarded any kind of dedication, aside from video games  and his fascination with NASCAR. At least the bowling got him out of the house now and then. She worried that he was too much of a home-body for a kid his age. For the hundredth time, she wondered what she was going to do with that boy. His high school graduation was drawing nearer and that particular thought reminded her to offer up another silent prayer that he would actually pass the last of his classes and earn his diploma. Jeremy still had no solid plan as to what came after high school and it was a constant source of worry for Terri. Running had yet to produce any brilliant answers to the problem, but at least it kept her worries from bubbling over. 

 
A small pond was situated behind the bowling alley and a flock of Canadian geese startled her out of her thoughts with their staccato honking, scolding her for intruding on their territory. A large dark form began to take shape as an egret took flight from the pond in graceful slow motion, it’s massive wings stretched wide and waving at his sides carrying him into the now pink cotton sky. She pushed away fears that all of this wildlife would disappear as the development continued. She simply let the distraction of the birds  quiet her worries again and she felt a sense of peace washing over her. This is why she ran.
 
She allowed the lack of thoughts and worries to settle over her, merely noticing her surroundings without having to contemplate anything. As she circled back toward the Target store, the path led her to the far side of the property. Remnants remained of a once massive pile of snow that had been plowed to the far edges of the parking lot; the recent warmth having diminished its stature. It was now merely a dirty lump of frozen muck, spilling over onto the path and speckled by empty soft drink cups, food wrappers and a few landscaping wood chips that used to adorn the young trees surrounding the parking lot.
 
Rounding the corner on the final stretch of her route, she heard the low whistle of the Burlington Northern freight train blowing from the east. “How far away,” she wondered? She could see the crossing arms up ahead, about two blocks away. Not wanting to interrupt the momentum she had created to wait for the freight train’s passing, she told herself, “You better run, baby,” and picked up the pace at once! Her shoes beat a pattern against the light layer of snow and the asphalt that peered out from beneath. She could hear the train rumbling, drawing ever nearer to her path, but managed to get past the crossing arms before they began to drop. She glanced to her left just as she hit the tracks and saw the  headlight of the train shining blindingly bright. It gave her a slight adrenaline rush, making her feel as if she were tempting fate by crossing the tracks while the train approached so rapidly. Her mind produced a momentary collage of scenes from so many movies she had seen in which a character’s foot becomes trapped between the rails as the train speeds nearer; impending death a certainty. But this would not be her fate. There was no danger in her situation. The train’s proximity was deceptive and she continued her run, making it another full block beyond the crossing arms before she heard their clanging warning and they began their slow descent. She reached the corner at the end of the block before the freight train finally released its long, loud whistle, shouting out a warning to any approaching vehicles or pedestrians. She turned momentarily to take in the vision of the powerful engine slicing through the divide between the residential and business districts.
 
Having reached the final block before her feet would carry her back to her house, she slowed her pace to a walk and clasped her hands behind her head, allowing her lungs to fill deeply with the crisp morning air. She took in the now brilliant blue sky. She wasn’t in a hurry to return to the house today. It sometimes felt claustrophobic there and she wanted to absorb every bit of tranquility the outdoors were offering her. She knew she let things eat away at her too much at times and she wanted to fill her entire being with a surplus of the calm and serenity she now felt. The roar of the train was already fading into the distance and the sound of birds calling out to one another took over her consciousness. A pair of ducks flew overhead, their mocking quacks rising and falling as they retreated toward wherever it was they were destined. Another duck could be seen roosting on the roof of one of the neighborhood homes. The duck kept a watchful eye on her as she neared her own driveway. One corner of her mouth turned up at the duck’s almost cartoonish appearance and she wondered why that roof was more appealing than one of the many ponds in the area.
 
At last the driveway of her own home greeted her. She approached the garage door and flipped open a key pad, punctuating a code that would open the big door for her. She made her way past her own car, her husband’s truck nestled right beside it in the dusky garage. She peeled off the head band she wore to keep her ears warm and her hair out of her eyes while she ran. She could feel the sweat settling over her tired limbs as she turned the door knob and was greeted by the sounds of her family as they started their day. The aroma of bacon permeated the house and her husband, Rich poked his head through the kitchen door, smiling at her as she plucked her shoes from her tired feet.
 
“Hey, early riser,” he said, warmly. “How was your run?”
 
“Good. Just what I needed,” Terri replied. “Breakfast smells good. Did you make some for me?”
 
“I can,” Rich offered. “Why don’t you tell me how you want your eggs today and then you can call your boyfriend while I put it all together.”
 
“Matt,” she asked? “Why? Did he call?”
 
Rich often teased her about her friendship with Matt, insisting on referring to him as her boyfriend. But it was only teasing. He knew that Matt was just someone who had needed a friend a few years ago and Terri stepped in to fill that void. He was proud of her for it and while he occassionally experienced a mild hint of jealousy about Terri’s connection with Matt, Rich kept those insecurities to himself and supported the friendship. Deep down he knew it was just one of those wierd things. Two people who seemed the most unlikely of friends had found a common bond. He was glad that Terri had someone with whom to share some interests with and talk with when he himself was working one of his crazy shifts with the odd hours. Besides, any time he might have let it slip that he had the slightest of doubts, she had always found a way to remind him that he was her number one and all the doubt just seemed to evaporate.
 
“He called just a few minutes ago while you were out running,” Rich explained to Terri. “I think he’s got some good news he’s dying to share with you.”
 
Terri remembered that Matt was taking an important test in a traditional Kendo ceremony that day. She didn’t fully understand Kendo, but Matt was passionate about his martial arts and she reached for the cordless phone, dialing his cell phone. He picked up on the first ring, exclaiming, “Looney Woman! How are ya?”
 
“Hey, Matty,” she laughed. “I heard you might have something exciting to share with me. What’s up?”
 
“Haven’t I told you a thousand times not to call me Matty,” he teased?
 
“Are you going to gripe about my nicknames for you or are you going to tell me how you did on your test today, MATT?” She added the last part with emphasis.
 
“You should have been there,” Matt gushed! “It was so incredible. All of my training is finally paying off. I wasn’t even nervous. It was like I was in a zone and each movement I made just flowed. It was almost flawless. I was completely oblivious to the audience and my body seemed to know what it needed to do without even thinking. It was amazing! I completely aced this test!”
 
Terri felt her heart swelling with pride for her friend and she listened as he described in detail each element of the test that would allow him to advance to the next level of his training. She knew that Kendo did for Matt what running did for her. He was bursting with enthusiasm and his excitement was contagious. She was honored to share this happiness with him. Three years ago, she never would have guessed that he could have pulled himself out of the dark hole he had settled into after his terrifying accident. Their bond had come as a result of the after-effects of that accident. She had stood by him as he slowly began the process of embracing life again after his initial reluctance. Her own worries were forgotten as she happily listened to her friend talk.
 
Soon Rich was signaling to Terri that her breakfast was ready and she congratulated Matt one last time on his amazing accomplishment that day. Her husband took a seat across from her at the kitchen table and raised his eyebrows, insinuating she should wrap it up before her breakfast got cold.
 
“You should be proud, Matty,” Terri told her friend. “I’m proud of you.”
 
Matt allowed the nickname to slide this time as he said goodbye, smiling as he hung up the phone… (to be continued on Matt’s blog.)
(I’ll go back and link to Matt’s continuation once he posts it.)

TAG! Explanation

My friend, Matt, who writes mattdaddy.net has been encouraging me to write something more than blog posts. He knows from reading my blog that I would like to write something of significance and he never misses an opportunity to ask if I’m making an effort to follow through on my dream. I’m always quick with the excuses.

There isn’t enough time…I have the desire but no grand ideas…Maybe I’m trying too hard…Maybe it’s not meant to be…

Matt decided that he’s using the same excuses as I am for not writing and came up with a plan to help both of us give our writing skills a workout. His plan is outlined on his blog in this post, but the basics of it, as explained by Matt are this:

What if I start a story – a few paragraphs of something off the top of my head, and then leave the last line open so (Terri) can continue it.  I’ll put a link to her blog at the bottom so people can go to her blog and read the follow up to my post.  See if we can play storyline pingpong for a while and see what becomes of it.  I figure if we begin to get something going, or we finish a storyline and want to start another, we can grab each other’s posts and put them in a story section, except all in the same place.

Matt’s idea was just the push I needed and I’m excited to give this a try. Our first attempts will be in the next blog post and I’ll probably set up a page on my blog to keep everything neatly packaged in one place. Stay tuned to see where this goes!

Realization

I could feel the tears trying to spill from my eyes already the day before he left. Why? Why does it continue to be so hard for me to watch him leave home each time. He’s twenty years old now. This is the way it’s supposed to be. He’s going to college and he’s surviving well. Maybe a little too well for my liking. Maybe that’s what my problem is. Maybe I can’t really accept the fact that he doesn’t need me like he used to. Why is that so hard for me to accept? It’s not like I want my kids living with me into their adult years. Maybe it’s me that needs them more than I’m willing to admit. Like so many before me, I long for the ability to stop time in its tracks once in a while, just to soak up a bit of uniqueness for a little while longer before having to move on again to the routine and sameness of every day.
 
I knew it was going to happen. Sometimes he comes home and I can watch him leave again without shedding a tear. Most of the time it’s not possible. I’ve become skilled at holding it back until the moment I hear the latch click as he pulls the door shut behind him. It’s become almost embarrassing. I have this idea that all my friends who have children off at college manage to handle the goodbyes with ease. I imagine that I’m the only one who hasn’t caught on to the beauty of finally seeing my kids take flight. Shouldn’t I be celebrating this? Shouldn’t I be planning for those long sought travels that were impossible during those years when every second of my time and attention was needed for their well being and survival? Why am I not reveling in the ability to sleep late on the weekends? Why am I not celebrating the fact that they can make their own meals and drive themselves to their destinations?
 
Sometimes I wonder if I started having kids too young. Granted, twenty-two isn’t all that young to start having babies, but it’s not quite the way we had planned it. Maybe if I had “lived” a little bit more first, I wouldn’t be feeling so short-changed. But I wouldn’t change the way things happened if I could. We always joked that since we had our kids young, we’d still be young enough to enjoy our life when the kids were all grown up. What is that supposed to mean anyway? Did we really believe we weren’t going to enjoy raising our kids and were only living for the moment we could push them out the door so our time would be our own again? The problem is, time to myself will never be the same again since these children came into my life. Children have a way of changing everything. They have a way of showing you how trivial so many things were until the moment of their arrival. Once I held each of those babies in my arms, I knew they were the greatest things I had ever done. Being their mother settled me. It made me who I knew I was meant to be and erased so many doubts and insecurities. I’ve never been perfect at being a mother. I’ve made my share of mistakes; some small and some regretful. But I never had a doubt that it was what I was supposed to be doing.
 
Since the time that my oldest son was very young, I had a clipping from Dear Abby taped on the inside of one of my kitchen cupboards. It’s gone now; cleared away during a cleaning and purging frenzy. It’s been filed away among the bits and pieces that tell the story of who we are. It’s no longer in sight but its message remains locked in my soul. The advice in that particular column warned parents not to wish the years away too quickly. Day in and day out, as I reached for plastic cups for someone’s milk, or put clean cereal bowls back where they belonged, I would see that clipping. Over the years it shared space with school lunch menus and sports schedules. Days, weeks, months may have even passed by without me reading it in its entirety, but I was always acutely aware of the message in those words. Savor every moment, for each one is a gift. Resist caving in to frustrations and irritations. Look for the silver lining in every situation and celebrate every happy moment with abandon. These years pass too quickly. Don’t let them be filled with regrets. I saw that message every day. Every day I made a mental note. Here is another day. Now ends another day. Sometimes it was hard to live…really LIVE during all those moments, hours and days. There were moments of which I am not proud, but I was always aware. Don’t let them pass too quickly. And yet somehow, no matter how hard I tried, they sailed by in the blink of an eye.
 
Ironically, it has just occurred to me that as I sit here mourning the passing of my children’s childhoods for what seems the hundredth time, I am at this very minute wasting precious moments that are right here in front of me. They are passing by unnoticed while my attention is focused on what has already gone. A wise person would keep this realization in the forefront of her mind long enough to permanently and positively adjust the way she faces each day and each phase of her life. A wise person would accept every circumstance and embrace it without the need to measure it against the lives of others. The alternative is an endless cycle of under-appreciating every second, every minute, every hour, every day; leaving only a string of regrets. 
 
This story is one that I’ve thought of and written many times, but today the ending is different. I think I like this ending.