Empty Nest

I had come to think of her as “our” duck. We don’t know why she chose this place to call home, but several weeks ago, we discovered her nesting in one of the gardens that borders our shed. She built her nest right outside the shed doors and settled in among the irises that grow there every year.

During one of those early days, Mark told me he thought she had abandoned the nest. I was out back with my camera and decided to take a look and see what she had left behind. I was almost on top of the nest, unable to see anything out of the ordinary, before she flew up and over my head. She was so well camouflaged I hadn’t even seen her there.

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There are things in the shed to which we need access – the lawn mower, the kids sports equipment, roasting sticks for toasting marshmallows over the bonfire. We couldn’t completely avoid going near all the time. At first when we had to go into the shed, she would hurry away, but not far. She would stop on the far side of the big pine tree, flatten herself in the grass and watch to be sure we didn’t disturb her eggs.

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Eventually, she grew to trust us more. The grass surrounding her hiding spot was allowed to grow taller, further ensuring the protection of her babies. We could come and go from the shed and she would watch us carefully, but no longer felt the need to run away.

We learned that as soon as the ducklings hatched, the mother would lead them to water. I knew our days with her were numbered and hoped I would be allowed a glimpse of the babies. On Saturday, she was there as always, sitting on the eggs in her little hideaway. On Sunday morning, I was saddened to see she was gone.

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Mellow

It’s been an unrushed weekend. Next weekend begins the schedule of graduation parties and weddings that fill the early part of our summer. This weekend is one of those rare, quiet ones without any obligations on the calendar.

I went out for an early morning run both yesterday and today. I feel like I can say I am a runner again! I thought I had lost my groove over the winter when too many cold, icy or snowy days prevented me from running on any kind of regular basis. And then came the weeks of back pain, (which is suddenly and completely gone, thank you, body pillow.) I had almost given up when I realized I was way, way off track and I grew frustrated with my lack of endurance. But I kept it up and I have found the drive, the endurance and the joy in running again. Both yesterday and today were beautiful, warm sunny mornings. I was out early enough that I didn’t have to hear the constant thump-thump of cars driving on the roads. I marvelled at how different it is to be outside at 6:00 am this time of year as opposed to during the winter. In the winter, at that time of day it is dark and too quiet for me. It perpetuates a feeling of loneliness and solitude. This time of year, the sun is already high in the sky. Birds fly across the sky and sing beautiful songs. My path is lined with geese protecting their goslings and keeping a close eye on me to make sure I don’t invade their space. The sun on my skin feels warm and fills me with a feeling of joy, like I can take on the world.

I took Jake and Kacey back to Pinz yesterday to go bowling. The lanes are charged by the hour, as opposed to paying per person, per game. The cost was $28 for the hour, which I thought was kind of pricey, but when you break it down, it was only about $9 per person. I guess that’s reasonable. As we were getting our lane and shoes, Jake thought to ask the boy who was helping us if employees get a discount. 

“Yes. Fifty percent.”

Jake told him he was an employee and it was that simple. Our price was cut in half! We had a great time, the three of us. It took Kacey a few throws to get the hang of it, but soon she was doing great. I was amazed at Jake’s skill and strength. He used to bowl in a youth league during his middle-school days. I had no idea how much he had learned back then. The boy is an impressive bowler. The manager even came over to us and told Jake how impressed he was with his scores and suggested Jake think about joining one of their leagues! I love seeing things like this happen to Jake. There aren’t enough instances of confidence boosting in his life.

Brad is gone for the weekend, back to Fargo to move some of his things from one house to another and spend time with his woman. Jake and Kacey both left last night, she to spend the night at a friend’s house and he to play a pick up game of basketball and hang out with friends. Mark was working, so it was just me and the cats here at home. I couldn’t even go anywhere since all the cars were in use. It was the kind of evening that I fear there are more of in the near future as my kids grow older and I’m not looking forward to it.

Today the sun is shining and it promises to be another beautiful day. I plan to enjoy it as much as possible before being forced back into the confines of the office again tomorrow.

Cool Balls

Does anyone else find themselves needing to say things like this to their spouse?

“If you suffocate my cat, I will suffocate YOU!”

It occurs to me that it’s kind of odd I find it necessary to ask my husband not to trap my cat under a comforter and then torment her from the outside. It’s not the first time a warning of this nature has been made. Of course, this is the same man to whom I’ve just explained for the millionth time that he can’t command the kids not to pout after he’s reprimanded them. Especially the girl kid. She is going to pout. That’s what girls do. Get over it. Sheesh. Besides, he should be used to pouting by now. He’s married to me.

HarveysMark, Kacey and I went over to the new Pinz to have some dinner and check out the place. The restaurant inside Pinz is called Harvey’s Pub and the food was excellent! I had a turkey avocado wrap, Kacey had chicken quesadillas and Mark had the philly cheese steak hoagie. I just grazed on everyone’s food. It was that good. It was big food too. I had to get a to-go box for my leftovers.

ball-largeAfter dinner we went to check out the rest of the place. The bowling alley is very cool, very state of the art. While Mark was checking it out, I wandered into the pro-shop and made friends with the… I guess you would call him “The Pro.” I was checking out his balls….ahemthe selection of bowling balls on display in the shop. There were pink balls, blue balls, sparkly balls, swirly balls and even Harley Davidson balls. Kacey thought I should go for the Hello Kitty ball, but it wasn’t my style. I’m leaning toward a little hot pink and black number, myself.

Mike, my new friend, The Pro, asked me if I was interested in a ball. I mentioned I might be, but didn’t know what to look for as I am very much a novice when it comes to bowling balls.

“You throw a hook or a straight ball,” he asked?

“Straight.”

“You wanna learn to throw a hook?”

“I might,” I said.

“If you want to buy a ball, I’ll help you figure out which one is best for you and I can teach you to throw a hook in three throws,” he assured me.

“Really? You give lessons? Here?”

“We’ll go wherever you’re bowling, watch you bowl and teach you some basics.”

Not a bad deal!

By this time I was leaning over the counter, deep in conversation with Mike when Mark finally wandered in, probably afraid that I was spending a bundle of money. I glanced at him and mentioned I was trying to decide which of Mike’s balls I liked best.

“I’m picking out a ball,” I tossed over my shoulder.

“She’s thinking about one of these, right here up front,” Mike said.

Mark had a questioning look on his face. “How much?”

“About $270,” Mike stated, matter of factly.

I like Mike. I didn’t even have to tell him to play along. Of course, Mark wasn’t really fooled and Mike was even nice enough to suggest I wait until August to make my purchase as there would be about thirty new styles coming out in the much-less-than $270 range.

Yeah, so I guess I’m getting serious about my bowling.

After we said goodbye to Mike, we hit the arcade and laser tag area to watch Jake working behind the prize counter. I tried not to embarrass him too much when I waved from across the arcade and shouted, “Hi honey! Don’t you look handsome in your work uniform!”

I’m kidding! I wouldn’t do that to my kid in front of his peers.

Jake looked pretty confident and very personable. I was proud of him! I discreetly caught his attention during a free moment and asked if he was scheduled to work this weekend. He said he wasn’t, so I mentioned that I had checked out the bowling alley and asked if he wanted to bowl a few games this weekend. The place is very cool! Jake gave me a very non-committal “maybe.” It’s the best I can expect when asking my 18 year old if he wants to hang out with his old mom.

We let Jake get back to work and spent a few bucks in the arcade. Kacey and I played the giant Guitar Hero game and rocked out on Mississippi Queen. Mark played some shooting games, one of them a giant virtual reality kind of thing where he was shooting at gigantic monster spiders. I was grossed out. I’m going to have nightmares. Unless maybe I end up dreaming about hot pink balls instead.

Life is Good – May 28, 2009

P5060115 by you.So normally I do these on Fridays but I’m posting a day early, just because I feel like it… And this will also be a bit rambly because I feel like I’ve barely posted anything lately. Ok?

This week was good in many ways but went by way too fast. Is anyone else feeling like there are never enough days in the week and never enough hours in the day? I think the fact that I constantly feel like time is slipping away is what makes me really look forward to Wednesday night bowling. If I didn’t have such a commitment, I would never set aside time every single week to get together with my best friend. And I need my best friend. No one gets me the way she does and no one can make me laugh harder. One of the guys at bowling (the one who calls us Therapy and Blow Torch) took this picture of us a couple weeks ago and sent it to me. I think we need to get P.U. Dave in a photo with us. He’s turning out to be a great bowling partner. He’s a really nice guy and while I appreciate Gina’s sarcastic sense of humor, P.U. Dave tempers things with his kind and encouraging demeanor. The three of us always have a great time and I always go home feeling like the stress has dissolved, at least for a while.

Why am I stressed? I’m making myself crazy over Jake’s graduation open house, which we’ll be hosting in a few weeks. Jake is graduating! I can’t tell you how very proud I am of this boy! He’s worked so hard for this and we are going to celebrate his success with a big *ss party! And we’re trying to tackle all the little home-improvement projects that need doing before the party. (Because, you know everyone is going to be inspecting my bedroom walls, so I absolutely MUST get my bedroom painted before the party!) I’m kidding (sort of) about needing to paint my bedroom, but I’m trying to get the flower garden looking good and we’ve got to stain the deck (it’s due and the guests will be sitting outside.) The house needs a good deep cleaning (because I’m sure the guests will be inspecting my closets and kitchen cupboards too. Isn’t that what everyone does at a party?) Jake has decided on a menu of home-made manicotti and fettuccine alfredo. Mark has requested that I make my mom’s home-made spaghetti sauce for the manicotti. No pressure there. No. None at all. We’re only talking a hundred and fifty or so guests. Hopefully I can make some of this stuff up ahead of time and freeze it. I really can’t wait for the party. It’s just all the planning that’s making me crazy.

My other big source of stress is work. In spite of my company’s recent decision to stop funding loans for the coming academic year, I’m busier than ever. I’m still working on the accounting project which has become an issue of getting as much done as quickly as possible, yet it feels never ending. It’s good, fulfilling and intensive work, but there’s always that feeling of pressure. I love it though. On top of the accounting stuff, I’m dealing with “my” loan program on a daily basis. (We’re still servicing existing loan accounts.) The “numbers guy” with whom I work on this program and who I mentioned a while back thanked me this week for being so diligent and organized. Without my knowledge, he wrote an email to my boss, copying the COO and CFO and saying what a wonderful job he thought I had done and how much it eased his burden. I only knew about it because my boss copied me on her reply to him, in which she said, “Terri is a gem and Accounting is also very lucky to have her help with the accounting project.” I gotta tell you, those words in that email exchange made.my.day.

And now on to a total change of subject. Because it’s my blog and I can totally switch gears without warning if I want to. And I have to tell you a funny story. So about two weeks ago, I was in the laundry room and pulling the jeans load out of the dryer when I noticed a pair of women’s jeans that belonged to neither me nor Kacey. Does this happen to anyone else? In our house, there have actually been several occasions when an unfamiliar item of clothing shows up while we’re folding laundry. I don’t know how or why, but people seem to leave things here now and then and they end up in our laundry.

Anyway, the night before the jeans were discovered, Jake and Kacey had been at their school’s Relay for Life fundraiser. This is an overnight event, so I assumed that somehow, one of the two had managed to come home with some other student’s extra clothing. After making them call or text all of their team mates, we could find no one to claim the jeans. And they were nice jeans. Kacey thought they were from The Buckle, which means they are expensive jeans. So these jeans have been sitting on my dryer for a couple of weeks and yesterday I picked them up and held them up to me. And I said to myself, I said, “Self, these jeans look like they might fit you. Why don’t you try them on?” So I listened to myself and I gave them a try. And I liked them! They were a good fit and very comfortable. And I said to myself, I said, “Self, if no one else wants these jeans, then I think you should keep them and wear them because jeans that look and feel this good will make you happy.” And so the decision was made…until… a dawning realization came over me. It was a realization that Brad came home from school the same day that Jake and Kacey went to Relay for Life. And when Brad came home from school, he brought with him a mountainous pile of dirty laundry (because supposedly the washing machine in his house at school bit the dust. A likely excuse!) And as I thought back to that big pile of dirty laundry, it occurred to me that Brad has a girlfriend who once divulged her pants size to me and it was the same size as I wear, which I found interesting because I wear long pants and she is several inches shorter than me. And then it occurred to me that since Brad and his GF have become nearly inseparable lately, there was a strong likelihood that the GF’s pants may have been left behind at Brad’s house and made the trip back home with my son. He was quite confused when I asked him if he liked my “new” jeans (because I don’t make a habit of asking how he thinks my butt looks in a pair of jeans) and then he became a bit embarrassed when I explained my suspicion that they belonged to his GF.  He made a quick call to her and they determined that they were most likely hers. She found it funny that I was wearing them and said I should feel free to wear them until she could get them back. (So I wore them to bowling!) Brad tried to offer excuses as to why he might have had her pants. I told him I didn’t need to know.

Wow… this post got long. See what happens when I don’t post daily? I’ll stop torturing you now and just wish everyone a great weekend!

Memorial Day Weekend

This will just be a quick photo post of our weekend adventures at the in-laws’ cabin last weekend. The weather was gorgeous. The kids had a blast. There were sixteen people in the teeny-tiny cabin but we had fun. Some of us slept in. (That would include me.) Some of us rose at the crack of dawn to go fishing off the dock. (That would not include me.) I did some fishing, some napping, and some sun worshipping. I finished a book and fell asleep at night while trying to make it to the end of My Big Fat Greek Wedding (which I never managed, but that’s ok. I’ve seen it before.) We enjoyed simple meals that seemed to taste better than usual, I think because we were sharing them with family.

Kacey’s big catch – a 28 pound carp she caught on a tiny hook and a bit of worm. Brad had to help her haul it in. It broke the net.

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The keepers

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Our 5-year old niece, showing off her face painting that she received at her preschool “graduate.” (No, not “graduation.” “GRAD-U-ATE.” She says so.)

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The neighbor’s little boy worshipped her. She tormented him.

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The big kids “convinced” her to share…

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Jake showing his soft side

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And I’m off to catch up with all of you…

Life is Good – May 22, 2009

IMG_0042 by you.Life is good.

Sometimes it’s hard to remember that fact, especially when the world seems to continually crumble around us. Sometimes I get so stuck on the negative that it’s almost impossible to look away. That’s why I write these posts. They serve as a reminder to shift my focus to all of the positive things in my life.

And I do have to consider myself lucky. It became abundantly clear to me this week when my company announced the first round of layoffs. Even though none of us were surprised that it happened, it still felt like a blow. We’re a small company and the people there are almost like family. It hurt to see some of our coworkers have to go. Some of them have young children. All of them have families. They were our sales staff. There is no product left to sell at this point and they were the logical choice for a first cut. And while our hearts ached for the ones who were let go, we all thanked our lucky stars that it wasn’t us, yet.

Going to work each day, hoping for good news and hearing none can take its toll. I have to remind myself that my life is so much more than my job. And my life is full of good things. Brad is home for the summer! Anyone who has visited here for a while knows how much I look forward to having my oldest son at home again. His return from his second year away at college brings with it a realization. He’s making it easier for me not to miss him so much when he goes away! ;-) It seems he’s become quite comfortable with living on his own and answering to no one. Having Brad home again has been an adjustment for all of us and not always a pleasant one. But that’s a good thing. It means he’s growing up; becoming an independent adult; and that was always the goal. And overall, I LOVE having him back home again. He makes me happy.

And then there’s Jake. Jake is nearing his high school graduation and this is a major victory for him. He has had to fight so hard for this and he’s almost there! He’s breaking out of his shell. He landed a fun job and is finally starting to realize that he has gifts and talents of which he can be proud. He makes me proud.

And Kacey…IMG_0067 by you.Kacey received the sacrament of Confirmation on Tuesday. And while this is an accomplishment for her and the service was nice, and she looked beautiful and sincere and I was overwhelmed with pride in her…there was something more about this event that struck a chord with me.

I have been on somewhat of a faith journey for a while now.  This journey has been a little bit about having a place to worship that feels right and fulfilling. But more than that, it’s about feeling at peace inside, no matter what is going on outside of me. I am often filled with such self-doubt. So often, what I feel is not peace and contentment, but emptiness. I don’t mean to imply that I’m never happy. It’s just that I feel like I’m spinning my wheels much of the time. I have this need to control everything and seem to think I can take care of it all. And I can’t. And then I feel like a failure because I can’t fix everything that’s wrong. Sometimes I wonder why I want and need an unshakable faith when many others manage to get by without it. But I have come to accept that I just do. I’m sure it has a lot to do with my upbringing and now that need is just a part of who I am.

In the last couple of weeks, I found a new blog. Or more accurately, Sam found me. When I found her blog and read her words, I connected with her feelings immediately. She knows that same dark cloud that seems to trail around after me at times. She knows that same questioning feeling; the one that makes me wonder, “What am I missing?”  And she’s ready to take charge and shake it off.  The title of Sam’s blog is modeled after a scripture passage  which I read with interest but without recognition because… well… I was raised Catholic and everyone knows that Catholics don’t actually read the Bible. So I’ve been reading about her journey for the past week or so, connecting with many of her feelings and internally cheering her on as she described a potentially life-changing experience which seemed to solidify her faith like never before. I sat there thinking, “If she can do this, I can do this.” But I haven’t done this…not really. Not yet. Maybe it’s a work in progress.

And so there I sat, in the St. Paul Cathedral on Tuesday, participating in the Confirmation mass with my daughter. I was trying really hard to feel God’s presence. It has become increasingly difficult for me to feel God’s presence in the Catholic church. (Hence, the journey.) I was trying really, really hard to maintain focus and not let my mind wander. One of the lectors was reading a scripture passage and a sudden wave of recognition came over me. I knew this passage. I found it ironic that I knew this passage because as I mentioned, there’s that whole not reading the Bible thing. It wasn’t a typical reading that I might have heard at mass over the years. If it was, I wouldn’t have realized it anyway because of that whole unable to stay focused at mass thing. It was the passage from Sam’s blog. I felt a jolt of electricity go through me. Maybe it was nothing. I chose to believe it was God, telling me not to give up. I haven’t been able to shake the feeling that it wasn’t just a coincidence. And I don’t really want to.

Scent of Home

Have you ever noticed upon entering someone’s home that it had a very distinct aroma? That scent, if you noticed it somewhere other than in that particular home, would remind you of that person or family. And I’m not talking about the smell of trash that needs to be taken out or a litter box in need of a good cleaning. I’m talking about that scent that so much embodies a home that its occupants fail to recognize it, but to a visitor is so distinct that it instantly becomes associated with those who live there.

I used to notice this a lot more when I was a kid. My grandparents’ home had its own aroma; a mixture of home made baked goods and days gone by. All of my friends’ and relatives’ homes had their own signature smell. Maybe it was a certain brand of soap; always present at every sink in the home. Maybe it was the smell of my uncle’s farm, mingling with the aromas inside the house. It wasn’t usually anything I could name specifically, but it was something I always associated with that family and it brought a sense of familiarity.

I used to walk into my own house and feel as if I was being greeted by the familiar aroma that made up our home. That aroma used to fill me with a sense of comfort, promise and the future. My awareness of that scent usually faded away as I went about my business, but it was always there when I first came through the door.

Somewhere along the line, that awareness left me. I hadn’t realized it, but it was just gone. I think that my awareness hinged too much on expectations for the future and the misguided notion of having all the time in the world. I wonder if somehow the loss was connected to a tendency I developed to focus (often with a bit of sadness) on the days that have passed us by.

On Thursday morning when I returned from my attempt at a run, (I say “attempt” because it was forcefully windy and I ended up walking…) I was met with an overwhelming sense of the scent that I have been too busy or preoccupied to notice for a while. It was early and the rest of the family was still sleeping. From the entryway, I gazed up through the wood railing into the living room. I simply stood still and realized something that hasn’t happened in a long time was happening again. As I stood there in my reverie, I saw a series of events from the past years of our lives… The boys playing matchbox cars on the living room floor; little hands making creations from Legos; excited squeals as cars flew around race-tracks; Kacey playing with her baby dolls and all of their accessories, toddler giggles and baby voices. I remembered lying on the floor reading books to the kids or watching a favorite Disney flick (for the hundredth time.) I had visions of days when all of us eating together at the table was the norm and there was a hot meal every night.

I was suddenly impacted with the realization that I may have quit making the association with “our” scent because I associated it with loss… the loss of  all the years that passed by too quickly. And then came an epiphany of sorts – an understanding that those years are not lost. They live forever in my heart and I will carry them with me forever.

…And all of this materialized because I smelled something. My brain is a strange place sometimes.