Life is Good – April 30, 2010

Flowering Crabapple Tree in my front yard

Wow, the weeks pass by quickly, don’t they? I can’t believe it’s the end of April already. And what a week this has been. It started out a little rough on Monday when we realized it was time to say goodbye to our ailing 15-year-old cat, Holly. It’s funny, because I never considered myself a cat person. I never really wanted her to begin with. She just sort of landed in our lives and found a place in our hearts for 15 years. It was so hard to let her go, but knowing that doing so put an end to her suffering helps ease the pain a little bit. Tigger is a little confused. When he joined the family, he had to compete not only with Holly, but with our Springer Spaniel, Shelby. Now he’s the only one left and he’s trying to find his bearings.

Dogwood bush in our back yard

But life goes on, and it is still good.  It’s been a beautiful spring so far here. The flowering trees are in full bloom and the air is filled with their sweet scent.  The weather has been warm and mild and there has been plenty of sunshine. The warmth of the sun does wonders for me. I’m so glad it’s back! And as you can see from the photos posted here, I’m taking full advantage of the opportunity to use my camera to capture the beauty of all this new life springing up outdoors!

Hastas resurfacing under the deck after a long winter

Work is keeping me busy. There are plenty of challenges and lots of opportunity to exercise my brain and find a creative outlet. Every day when I look at the clock and realize it’s almost quitting time already, I find myself feeling grateful to have a job that fulfills me.

I had a nice day off this week on Thursday. I decided to start the day by browsing through the local tile shop since the kitchen remodel project is still in the works. Yeah, the big stuff is done and it’s operational, but there are still some finishing touches that need to be done. Mark is working on installing new trim work and crown molding. I still have to find some lights and some glass panels for one of the new cabinets. And the back splash needs to be done. Mark is going to tile it, so I went in search of the perfect tile. And I found it. The only thing I knew for sure is I wanted to incorporate glass tiles into it somehow. Wayne, the salesman at the tile shop took a look at my counter-top sample and pulled out some tiles for me to ponder. I loved them immediately and made my decision immediately. So that’s done. Who knows when Mark will get around to the actual tiling, but at least we’ll have all the supplies when he’s ready.

Another thing I accomplished was picking out a pretty good gift for Mark. Why? We’re celebrating 22 years of marriage today! Over the last few years, Mark has really surpassed me in the awesome gift department, but I think I got him this time.  Happy Anniversary, Honey!

And happy weekend to everyone else!

Preacher Dave & the Pseudo-Gina

My Wednesday co-ed bowling league started up last night. It is co-ed because of me. I am now the only female in the league! WTH? There were two other women last year, besides Gina and me. They didn’t return. Gina didn’t join again because she’s moving out-of-state soon. One of the women’s teams from my Monday league said they were joining, but it appears they decided not to.

Hmmm. This is kind of weird. But it’s going to be okay. Preacher Dave, one of my team mates from last year (who is not a preacher, by the way) is back and it was fun to bowl with him again. He brought his friend Dan to the team to replace Gina. Dan is a cool guy. He’s young though; only twenty-four. I told him he had some big shoes to fill, taking Gina’s place. I asked him if he was capable of belching like a 300 pound trucker and if not, he better get to work on it. I also told him it would be his job to make snide remarks at the opposing players in an effort to intimidate them and compromise their game. Dave added that if he could talk loud enough to be heard all the way down at the other end of the lanes, that would be good too.

Dan seemed a bit hesitant to commit to our requests, but I think if we keep working on him, he’ll become a decent Pseudo-Gina.

Halfway into the first game, the bartender, Karissa came over with a cold bottle of beer for me. I already had one and wasn’t ready for another, but she said, “Some guy at the bar bought this for you.”

I gave her a quizzical look and wrinkled my nose. “Who?” I asked, slightly creeped out.

Karissa just shrugged and smiled as she walked away. Our waitress, Lisa happened to be standing nearby when all of this transpired. “You got an admirer?” she asked.

“It’s probably my husband,” I answered. Sure enough, not long afterwards, Mark and Kacey came through the doors from the bar and into the bowling alley.

“Thanks for the beer,” I called up to him.

Kacey nudged him with her elbow and said, “I told you she’d figure it out.”

I introduced Mark and Kacey to Dave and Dan and they watched us bowl for a while before informing me that they were leaving, since their presence seemed to be throwing off my game. (Little did they know that their departure did nothing to improve the situation.)

Around the time of the second game, Dan said, “Hey, I think I saw someone fitting the description of your friend…”

I turned around and there was my best friend, Gina. I squealed and ran to hug her and told her bowling was not the same without her. She apologized and promised to come watch us bowl every Wednesday until she moves. I was so happy to see her! It ended up being a very fun night!

All in all, not a bad start to the season!

The "nice" reputation pays off

Sometimes at work, we are given quizzes to help strengthen our knowledge of the ever-changing rules and regulations of our business. Creating these quizzes is the responsibility of our “Corporate Trainer.”  Corporate Trainer (who shall remain nameless) has a reputation of (over) confidence and fearlessness, and she has a way of delegating tasks so that she appears to be in charge, but someone else does the grunt-work for her. This makes her one of those love-her or fear-her kind of personalities.

I like her.

I admire these qualities and often wish I could be like her and care less what others think of me. Sometimes it’s necessary to speak your mind and not worry about others’ opinions of you, especially when taking a stand is for the overall good of the company. I respect the Corporate Trainer, but am often glad I am not her. I like to be liked.

However, I am often the one to whom Corporate Trainer delegates some of her quiz tasks. I’m not dumb. I know she’s passing this stuff off on me. And if it really bothered me, I’d find a way out of it. But I love a good challenge, so I play the game. I consider it a compliment that she trusts me enough to put things in my hands.

Yesterday, she asked me to create a quiz on a particular piece of subject matter. The only rule was that she wanted me to create examples of various scenarios we might experience, then ask what would happen. Participants would then fill in the blank with an answer. (And participation is not optional.)

So I did it. I created a quiz. It was a major learning experience for me, but I soon realized, this was going to be one tough quiz. There was no way to make this easy. I ran it by the Corporate Trainer, stating that I knew it was pretty difficult and maybe we should rethink how to better present the information. She decided to take the quiz herself before looking at the answer key I had also provided her.

Afterwards, her response was, “This is tough. I like it. It will make people really think. We’re going to use it.”

She asked if I wanted to email it to our department. Sensing this one would not be well received, I graciously declined with some such b.s. as, “Oh no. You always write such a nice introduction to these things. You go ahead and send it out!” …with your name and not mine!

Not long after the quiz was distributed and employees had a chance to look through it and figure out it wasn’t going to be a cakewalk, the griping began. Several people came to my desk and whispered things like, “This is crazy! Does she think we have nothing better to do?”

“What did you get for number 6?”

“Corporate Trainer is trying to trick us! This sucks. How are we supposed to figure this stuff out?”

One of my peers said to me, “Corporate Trainer needs to have a baseball bat shoved down her throat for this one!”

Of course, she was joking, sort of :-)

In each case, I sat back, smiled, paused a moment, then divulged, “I wrote the quiz. Corporate Trainer asked me to. She was just the one to distribute it.”

And in every case, the reaction was some serious back-pedaling with a response along the lines of , “Oh! Seriously? Wow! This is really good stuff. This will help me learn the information so much better than one of those stupid word finds we usually get!”

Somehow, what was perceived as a difficult challenge was acceptable, coming from me. But not if it had come from Corporate Trainer.

Yep. Sometimes it pays to have that “nice” reputation.

********************

P.S. Thank you for all the kind words on the death of my cat, Holly. Hugs to all!

Goodbye, my favorite kitty

When I pulled into the driveway after work, I saw Mark sitting on the front step while Holly lay in the fresh spring grass. I knew it was time. The look of pity in his eyes when he looked up at me was unmistakable. She’s always been my cat.

He didn’t say anything, just let me pick her up and cradle her against my chest and under my chin. She mewed, a meek little cry of pain. I knew it was time.

I carried her into the house while he held the door for me.

“It’s time,” he said.

“I know.” The tears began to flow.

He made the call to the vet. She’s so compassionate and agreed to stay if we wanted to come tonight. Mark told her what had transpired today. I listened while nuzzling the soft fur on Holly’s head.

“…think maybe she had a stroke… seems to have lost her balance…desperate to get outside. I think she’s trying to find a hiding place…”

After he hung up, he looked at me and said, “It’s time. She’s waiting for us.”

“What about the kids,” I asked? “They’ll be upset if they don’t get a last chance to say goodbye…”

“It’s not about the kids right now,” he said gently. “She’s in pain and it’s not fair to make her try to make it through another night.”

I knew he was right. It was time. No matter how prepared you are, no matter how much time you’ve had, it still hurts when it’s time to say goodbye. But she let go easily and I knew then that the time was right. She simply fell asleep. No more pain.

Rest in peace, Kitty Baby.

Beautiful, wasn't she?

Loved when she cuddled on my lap...

Oh, how she loved a box! Any box. Size was of no matter.

Always one of my favorite photos of her, taking a break from admiring herself in my bathroom mirror.

The End of a Season

Volleyball is over for the season, ending with an “away” tournament up north, in Duluth. It was rainy, cold and windy, preventing a visit to the shores of Lake Superior. Another time.

The girls showed up with a vengeance for their last tournament and played out of their minds. It was a long day, and fatigue was beginning to set in by the time they played (and lost) their last match. They came in fourth place, but left the court with smiles on their faces.

For me, the best part was watching my girl play and revel in a sport she truly loves. Have I ever mentioned she was team captain this year? It was a well-deserved honor. She is dedicated, a team player, and encouraging of her team mates. I am so proud of her.

She plans to play on the school volleyball team in the fall, but then she will be done. This team is not coming back together for another year, for various reasons. She’s not sad about it, but I know she’ll miss the game and playing it with these girls.

What are we going to do now? Oh, don’t worry. We surely won’t be bored. The school softball season is already well under way, and the summer team is already in the works as well!

One of those just really good days…

I just realized what a great day I had yesterday.

Oh, it didn’t start out so hot. There nearly was a dead cat in this house, and it’s not the one who is actually supposedly dying. No. It was Tigger, the very healthy, very neurotic cat. I think he’s feeling neglected since we learned that Holly doesn’t have much longer to live. Since she’s lost so much weight, we’ve been feeding her whatever she’ll eat; tuna, chicken, canned cat food. And trust me. She is milking the sympathy. Tigger still only gets the occasional people-food treat and is expected to eat his dry food as his main diet. And I think he’s jealous. Yesterday morning as I was getting ready to leave for work, I had just fed Holly her tuna. When she finished, I grabbed the bowl she was eating from and put it up on the counter so that Tigger wouldn’t eat the leftovers. He can’t have them. He’s getting fat. He must have felt extremely resentful because I ran downstairs to grab something and when I returned, I caught Tigger PEEING on my canvas tote bag that I had dropped on the kitchen floor.

Anyone know of a good cat psychiatrist?

But the day improved from there. I had a very productive day at work. I have been working on various new improvements for our company website. The one I have been working on lately is a user guide for the site. Sounds boring, I know. But there is something about writing instructions in a way others can understand and meshing them together with screen prints and graphics that I am finding deeply satisfying. Look at me! I have an inner geek!

After work, I went straight to Kacey’s softball game, hoping to catch the last few innings. Her team was doing so well that the game ended early due to the ten run rule. But it was a gorgeous, sunny afternoon and the little while I did spend at the ball field was enjoyable. I got to see a little bit of the game while talking with a few of the other parents with whom we’ve become friends through our kids’ sports.

After the game, my best friend called and we decided to go bowling, just she and I. It’s been a long time since we had some one on one time together and we had a great time bowling and talking. The time together was somewhat bittersweet though. It’s been almost a year since Gina told me she and her family would be moving to Ohio. I’ve had almost a year to get used to that fact, and at times have even been able to forget for a little while that she will soon be more than a 15 minute drive from me. But the move has now become official. They are leaving at the end of June. Pretty soon there will be no more spontaneous girls’ nights out. So we enjoyed our girl night and after bowling, we hung out in the bar with a few regulars. We talked with each other and with the other patrons and it was just nice.  It was a great night, but over much too soon, as all good things are.

Today is a gorgeous, sunny day. I had a great run at the gym and am off to take care of errands and chores and enjoy the day.

Enjoy yours!

A Dream

I’ve been dreaming a lot lately. I never used to. Or more likely, I never used to remember my dreams. For whatever reason, lately I wake up almost every morning and realize that I have dreamed. Of course, unless I make a conscious decision to think about the dream and commit it to memory, it soon evaporates. I couldn’t tell you a thing about most of my recent dreams, except for one.

A couple of mornings ago, I woke up bothered by what I saw in my dream. I thought about it and purposely remembered those scenes that I could. I dreamed I was dying. I knew I only had months or weeks. I went to some sort of social gathering to say goodbye to friends and family. The scenes are hazy, but I was walking down a hallway, coming across groups of people and knowing I was saying goodbye. I didn’t appear sick or weak in any way, but I knew I was dying.

In one scene there was a little girl; a toddler. I don’t know who she was but without a doubt, I loved her. I picked her up and held her in my arms, holding her tight against me and crying. It was a horrible feeling, knowing my days were numbered and the sudden realization that it wasn’t enough and I wasn’t ready.

My recent visit with my uncle obviously had a strong impact on me. For me it was just a dream. For him, he wakes up each day, knowing this is his reality. I wonder if he’s scared. I wonder if he’s ready. I wonder if he believes in the afterlife, something more, or if he simply expects his world to suddenly go dark and silent and that he will just cease to exist.

The whole thing makes me want to… something. I’m not sure what… Give more of myself. Take less. Stop worrying so much what others think. Let go of inhibitions and LIVE!

I constantly remind myself to appreciate the here and now because it all goes so fast. And in spite of those constant reminders, I wish days away. I do it all the time. I wish away the routine and the redundancy, the frustrations and annoyances. I forget to look for the all of the treasures mixed in among  the muck of life. And then I hear myself ask someone, “Are we really more than half-way through the month of April already?”

Are my kids really almost grown?

Where did the time go?

When did that wrinkle appear?

I don’t want to spend every day looking back and wondering where the time went. I want to live in the present. I want to appreciate the sunshine and a blooming crab apple tree, and the sound of my kids bickering because they’re here right now but someday they won’t be and I’ll miss that bickering. I want to reach my eighties and go out golfing with my grandma-friends or meeting up with them at the weekly card party. I want to have grandkids that love to visit and be arguing with my kids that I am still very capable of driving because I have places to go and people to see.

That dream makes me worry that all I’m accomplishing some days is building up regrets and it makes me want to change.

I just might. Who knows.

"You'll miss this when it's over…"

“…and you and your husband will sit and stare at each other and wonder, ‘What are we supposed to do now?’”

These are the words of wisdom that were offered to me by another parent as I sat at Kacey’s softball game yesterday, complaining that we had softball games and a volleyball tournament all in the same weekend.

And I suppose he might be right…

Visit with a dying man

The first thing that hits you when you walk in the door to Greg’s house is cigarette smoke. Old, stale cigarette smoke.  Justin sits on the couch smoking a cigarette when we walk in. He mutters a quick hello and disappears off to his room. Justin must be in his mid-twenties by now. He is Greg’s stepson; or ex-stepson. He doesn’t work or go to school. God only knows what he does with his time, but if you’re one to stereotype, you could make some pretty good guesses just by his appearance. Greg is long since divorced from Justin’s mom, but Justin now lives with Greg. Don’t let that fact lead you to believe that Justin’s mom was the lesser parent, because she wasn’t.

Greg is my uncle; my dad’s youngest brother. And he’s dying of Pancreatic Cancer. He lives about three miles from my house. I’ve never been to his place before last night. Sad, isn’t it? That’s just sort of how it has worked out. He’s been to my house a couple of times, most recently for the kids’ graduation parties, but there’s never really been occasion for me to go to his house. There was that one time last summer. He had a family party, but we couldn’t go. I can’t remember why. We must have been out of town. One of Kacey’s softball tournaments, I bet. Anyway, it’s not like I haven’t seen him at all. We just usually tend to connect at someone else’s house, like my parents’.

My sister is the better niece. She’s closer to Greg than I ever was. She, being his oldest and first niece held a special place in his heart. Always has. She has made it a point to visit him regularly, bringing him meals many times. I’ve admired her for having the guts to go visit. Life and unfair circumstances have made it so that he’s now nearly deaf. He suffered a stroke a few years ago  and is now pretty much wheelchair bound and partially paralyzed. The paralysis is most prominent on the left side of his face. It’s quite sunken. It’s an effort for him to speak clearly. He’s difficult to understand and it’s hard for him to get what is being said to him. But my sister rises above it. She knows that what is more important is being there for him, and not the fact that attempting to communicate and seeing him in this condition is hard to bear.

I only went because she texted me yesterday morning to say she was going to see him and to ask if I wanted to go with. She has asked me a time or two before but there’s always been some excuse. This time I didn’t look for excuses. I said I’d go. I don’t imagine he’ll be with us much longer.

We stopped at Dairy Queen to buy Greg a chocolate malt first. When we went in the house, he was happy to see us. Standing in the early evening sunlight just inside his door, I guess he didn’t realize who I was. When I came closer, the surprise and happiness showed on his face. I know he didn’t expect to see ME. I immediately felt bad that I hadn’t been there sooner.

He sat in his electric wheelchair in the middle of the living room. The Twins game was on the t.v. He turned off the sound after Justin left the room. I noticed the closed-captioning was on. The t.v. is a nice one. It’s huge, a flat screen. He said he bought it late last year, hoping to finally see the Vikings play in a Super Bowl. He wanted to see his Vikings play in the Super Bowl and he wanted to see it on a good t.v. But that didn’t happen.

I looked around the house, at the furniture and the things on the walls. I recognized many pieces of decor from the house, years back, where he used to live with Justin’s mom. It was my grandparent’s house before he bought it. So much of what surrounded him came from that house years ago. Funny how some things don’t change much over the years.

We sat and we attempted to talk. Thankfully, my sister carried the bulk of the conversation. He knows so much about her, her life and family. Because she visits him often. He had to ask me what my kids were doing these days and when I tried to explain about college and high school, he attempted to understand me. The vague nod he gave told me he couldn’t understand and had given up.

I admired my sister’s strength as she held this whole, sad little social gathering together. Clearly she is stronger than I am. The two of them talked while I listened and looked around the living room. The smell of cigarette smoke was constant and grew worse when Greg lit up a fresh one. I watched my uncle as he conversed, remembering a tall, cocky, confident man. Now he’s weak, unnaturally thin, lonely. A visit from a couple of nieces was probably the highlight of his day. The thought that he might have only months to live, maybe less, was constantly on my mind. She made him laugh a couple of times. It was good and heartbreaking at the same time to see that half smile on his face.

He talked about the deer he sometimes sees out his front window. There’s a pond a few hundred feet away. He really wanted us to see those deer, but it wasn’t to be. He talked with pride about his daughter from his first marriage; a daughter he hasn’t seen often enough over the years. He talked about his friend who takes him to the grocery store and how sometimes when he just needs a few things, he just rides the wheelchair the few blocks to the local grocery store. I try to imagine the difficulty he experiences picking up a few things from the store shelves, paying the bill, speaking with the cashier. I worry about him wheeling around on the streets with traffic. Clearly, he hasn’t let this disease completely defeat him.

I’ve never wanted so badly to leave some place while at the same time wanting so badly to stay as long as possible. I’m not proud of the fact that I’ve remained distant from him simply because of my own fear and discomfort with the situation. We finally left after dark. I hugged him before I left. He didn’t ask when we’d be back. I made no promises to return. But I hope I do get the chance.

Life is Good – April 16, 2010

In the Life is Good department this week, I bring you…

Fun Night at Bowling

Hosted by the Ball Busters!

We had a great time on Fun Night. During the first game, we played “Bowlo”, which is Bingo for Bowling.  We played Low-Score-Bumper-Bowling, which is just what it sounds like. We put the bumpers up and whoever got the lowest score won. You should have seen these women trying to strategize! And finally, we played No-Tap, which is where the scoring is set up so that if you knock down nine pins with one ball, it gets marked as a strike. There were cash prizes for each game, but more importantly there was lots of fun and laughter. I can’t tell you how many women came up to our team to thank us for making it such a fun end to the season.

Sam - Willing her ball to go where she wants it to go

Did you notice anything in particular in the above picture?

Maybe this will work better?

Fun? Yes, this is definitely fun!

Suzie gives Sam's method a try

Alyssa can talk on the phone and bowl at the same time!

The "Who's Up?" team

The Sleepers and The Wild Things... My friend, Big Boobed Mary is in this shot. Can you find her?

The "Cannon Tree Farm" team, and our waitress, Lisa in the middle. I love Lisa. She brings me a cold beer before I can even ask!

The "Fort Road Florist" team

The "Mattie's Lanes" team. They took first place. We'll get 'em next year!

The Ball Busters! (Minus Sheila and Gina who were out of town.)

My Peeps!