Mornings and Family and Snow

These mornings when I don’t have to be at work until 9:00 really suit me. I love having time to get a few things done before I race off to the office. And I get to see my daughter before she heads off to school. These mornings with her have taught me a little something about her, though. Unlike her mother, who is at her very best in the early morning hours, she is not a fan of the morning. I can see her, but it’s best not to talk to her. She takes a long time to come to life and prefers not to be disturbed. If I try to draw her out of her morning bubble too soon, I’ll just be disappointed. She answers when she must, but it’s mostly in grunts. I’ve learned to just leave her alone as much as possible and know that she’ll be her normal bubbly self later in the day.

She’s just asked me to make her something to eat. I guess we can break the silence for food. Be back after I scramble some eggs…

There we go. She is much more pleasant with the smell of a hot breakfast waiting for her!

The snow that fell last weekend looks like it’s not in a hurry to leave anytime soon. I know I’ll be tired of it soon enough, but it really was a welcome sight this weekend. A big snow brings people together. The neighbors call out to each other from their front yards as they shovel their walks and driveways. We had the luxury of having little to do this weekend but stay home and watch the snow fall (and shovel the driveway a couple of times.) My house was full of family and it was crowded and chaotic at times, and I loved it. So often, we run off in such different directions. The snow this past weekend brought us together. The burden of shoveling heavy, wet snow was lightened because we shared it among us.

The stores are all decorated for Christmas now and Christmas carols play out over their speakers. Now that’s something I’m not quite ready for yet. I’d like to enjoy Thanksgiving first before I start hearing Christmas tunes!

Great Weekend!

This past weekend was such a good one! It was my birthday on Friday and my day was filled with good wishes and fun. Mark was working the night shift this past week, and so even though he wasn’t home when I woke up that morning, and wouldn’t be before I left for work, he made sure I knew he’d remembered. He left a gift bag on my bathroom vanity where he was sure I would see it first thing in the morning. Inside was a big box of Godiva chocolates!

When I arrived at work that day, I found my cubicle festively decorated with birthday banners and there were fresh, warm bagels for everyone in honor of my day, courtesy of my friend, Megan. The day passed quickly and I was looked forward to the coming evening. My friend, Kendra had contacted me weeks before to arrange a fun night out at a local bar where a popular local band was playing. Word had spread around the office about this plan and several of my coworkers were on board to join the fun.

I got home early from work on Friday afternoon and went to spend an hour at the gym. When I walked into the house after being at the gym, looking through the railing into the living room, I noticed someone wearing a baseball hat sitting in the chair facing away from me. At first I thought it was Kacey’s boyfriend, but pretty quickly, I realized it was my favorite oldest son, Brad! Brad, Heather and Dakota dog had come home from Fargo to spend the weekend for my birthday. The day just kept getting better!

I felt a little bad about my evening plans, since Brad and Heather had just driven four hours to come home just for me. Brad told me not to worry though. They were coming with for the party! Kacey had her own plans with friends, Jake went off with his uncles for a weekend of deer hunting, and Mark went to work. So when the time came, Brad, Heather and I piled into the car. We swung by Megan’s house to pick her up and we headed to the bar where we found Kendra and her hubby. Kendra introduced me to a couple of her friends, including Joey, the lead singer of the band.

Soon the band was playing and they were really good! Early on, between songs, I heard my name being called out. I looked around to try to figure out where it was coming from and I realized it had come from the stage. Kendra grabbed my arm and said, “Come on! It’s your birthday and you need to go up there!” My first instinct was to feel embarrassed, but then I just decided to have fun with it. As we approached the stage, Joey told me to get up there. He announced to all that it was my birthday and asked how old I was, to which Kendra shouted out “Twenty-two!” (She was half right.) Joey then handed me a shot and asked everyone if they agreed I should drink it. Of course they agreed. Of course I drank it. Thankfully, we danced all night long, so any alcohol consumed had little chance to catch up with me. It was an incredibly fun night!

By the time we headed home, it was well after midnight and it had been snowing like crazy for some time. I didn’t think much of it. The past week had been unseasonably warm and although I knew we were supposed to get snow this weekend, I didn’t expect it to hang around long. So imagine my surprise when I woke up Saturday morning and looked out the window to see a very heavy, very wet accumulation of snow that looked like it had no intention of going away anytime soon. The snow was so heavy it weighed down the branches on the trees and I worried some would break right off. We were lucky. None of our trees lost branches, but I saw plenty of others in the area this weekend that did.

It continued to snow all day long on Saturday, and we enjoyed a lazy day around the house watching the winter scenes outside the window. It was the kind of snow that required shoveling of the driveway a couple of times. Brad and Heather shoveled early in the day, giving Dakota a chance to romp around in the snow and burn off some energy. Later on, after we’d all gone out to dinner at Applebee’s, Brad, Heather, Kacey and I shoveled the driveway of a neighbor who was driving home from Chicago and arriving after midnight. She had called our house to see if she’d be able to get in her driveway and Brad told her we’d make sure she could. So we took care of the neighbor’s driveway and then cleared ours again. It was tiring work, but not so bad with four people working on it. The snow blower was worthless. It kept jamming with the sticky, wet snow. And I broke a shovel under the weight, but we managed to get it all done. As a reward afterwards, we picked up some movies and we watched Toy Story 3 together (really cute and fun) and The Hangover. (I hadn’t seen this one yet and it was not as funny as all the hype made it out to be, if you ask me.)

This morning, there was still a light snow coming down. Brad and Heather left late this morning to head back to school and before I even had a moment to feel sad about that, my sister was calling asking me to go out on a photo adventure with her. So I grabbed my camera and we spent a fun afternoon shooting winter scenes in the fresh snow.

I couldn’t have asked for a better weekend.

Beautiful November

I took this picture today while leaving the office in downtown St. Paul. This is a man hanging Christmas lights – in short sleeves! It’s November 10th! November! And this is Minnesota! We are not used to warm weather this time of year.

I am not complaining. Besides, the weather can turn on a dime around here. The forecast for Friday includes the possibility of snow. It’s been in the sixties all week and it’s going to get cold enough to snow by the end of the week. We’ll all complain  if it actually does snow. That’s what we do here in Minnesota. We alternately complain about the cold winters and pride ourselves on our ability to function in spite of them.

Anyway, Christmas lights are prettier in the snow.

Ashamed

So I’m suddenly feeling a little ashamed. I’ve been acting like a spoiled brat.

I don’t think it’s any secret that I am reluctant to face change, especially where my children are concerned. I look to the next few years when they will be leaving the nest with a mixture of fear and sadness for years that have passed too quickly. So it’s probably no surprise that over the past few days, since I learned that Brad won’t be coming home for Christmas, I’ve been wallowing in a vat of self-pity.  I’d convinced myself that my 21 year-old son not coming home for the year’s biggest holiday, in combination with my husband’s having to work a 12-hour shift on said holiday was justification for an extended pity-party. And believe me, I was partying.

I hadn’t actually heard from Brad that he wasn’t planning to be home for Christmas. It was Mark who had informed me of this plan after he had talked with Brad’s girlfriend, Heather. A part of me was holding out hope that once I talked to Brad, he would inform me that it was all a big misunderstanding. So while driving to bowling last night, I dialed up Brad. (Kids, do as I say. Not as I do. You should not drive and dial a cell phone at the same time. Thank you.) So Brad answered and I tried to be very casual about my call, asking him when he’d be home for Thanksgiving and then also very casually asking, “And you’re spending all of Christmas with Heather’s family?”

He very nonchalantly told me that was correct. (He clearly had no idea he was breaking my heart and that my heart has no sense of fairness or logic. Heather spent all of Christmas last year with us. It’s her family’s turn. But my heart doesn’t grasp that concept.) I gave none of this away as I said, “But you’ll be coming back for New Year’s and spending a few days at home, right?”

“Well….,” came the reply.

“Well? Well??? What is with this well business?” I thought.

“That depends,” he continued. “I might have to get back to Fargo for work.”

Work.

Damn. I’d forgotten about his new job; the one I’d pushed him to get when he called home one too many times looking for money from us to fund a weekend hunting trip. We told him we were more than happy to pay for gas, groceries, rent and such. But with a third child heading toward college, if he wanted to hunt, he was going to have to pay the expenses himself. So he got a job.

Employers probably aren’t so willing to let their college student employees have a month off so they can go home to visit Mommy.

I didn’t let Brad know how devastated I was. He has no idea what a big deal this is to me, just as when I was nineteen years old, I had no idea how hard it must have been for my parents when I preferred to spend Christmas in Texas with a boyfriend than at home. (Although, on Christmas Eve that year, I realized just how much I’d really rather have been at home.)

I hung up the phone with renewed sadness, appeased only for a short while by a few hours of bowling with the girls and a couple of beers.

A busy morning at work today kept me from thinking about it too much and then a conversation with a couple of coworkers sparked my indignation all over again at the unfairness of it all. I’m not sure where the conversation began, but it spanned parenting, and holidays, tradition and family dysfunction. And it fanned the flames of my pity party. While other families will spend Christmas together, dysfunctional or not, I will be spending yet another holiday without a husband and now without my oldest son!

As the conversation continued, one coworker described some very difficult years in her family’s life. She talked about how they had to make the decision to walk away from a secure job and a comfortable home. This decision was a life saving measure for an alcoholic husband who saw himself turning back to the bottle due to the stress of his job. They ended up living in a low-income apartment for several years with two teenage kids. My coworker was pointing out the irony of the situation while at the same time, a realization seemed to come over her and she said, “…but you know, those were some of the best years of my life. I learned some hard lessons and times were tough, but those were good years.”

Suddenly, I was very, very ashamed. I have several former coworkers who were recently laid off. There are people all over the country who are unemployed or underemployed with no relief in sight. I’ll bet most of them would gladly work or see their spouse off to work for 12 hours on Christmas day rather than face another week without a paycheck.

There are men and women in the military who give up their Christmases for the sake of not only their immediate families but for the entire country.

There are those whose loved ones won’t be with them on Christmas this year or ever again. They won’t wake up the day after Christmas knowing that their sons or husbands or daughters or wives will come walking through the front door again soon.

What right do I have to feel so sorry for myself? What message am I sending to my other two children when I make it seem as if Christmas isn’t worth celebrating if I can’t have it my way? So Christmas won’t be the same this year. It’s going to be different. I’m just going to have to figure out how to make it a good kind of different. It’s taken me a few days, but I’m over it now. Because I really don’t have it so bad.

Moody Weekend

This was my “catch up on stuff” weekend and I went into it feeling motivated and with a sense of contentment. The stuff that needed catching up on was of the domestic chore type, so while I can’t say I find that kind of thing exciting, I do get a definite sense of gratification when the house and my life are restored to order.

I came home from work Friday evening, as I do most Fridays, feeling wiped out. But I had been feeling guilty for several days about the lack of anything decent to eat in our kitchen, so I hauled Mark with me to the grocery store. It felt good to be getting a jump-start on tackling the weekend chores.

While at the grocery store, Mark asked me if I had talked to our oldest son in the past few days. I told him I had not.  “Well then, you probably haven’t heard yet that he’s not going to be home for Christmas.”

This news hit me like a ton of bricks. Yes, I’ve always known there would come a time when our kids might have to make choices about where they’ll spend their time over the holidays. I guess I just didn’t expect that time to come so soon. Brad has been dating his girlfriend for just over two years now, and she spent Christmas with us last year. So I guess it’s only fair that her parents get a turn with the kids this year. I understand that, but it still doesn’t make it any easier. What makes it harder is that Mark will be working on Christmas this year. That happens and we’re sort of used to not having him around for major holidays or family events. The combination of knowing both he and Brad will be absent, and that I’ll get the “honor” of representing the family at the in-laws’ house on Christmas Day (a typically stressful event) was just really depressing.

I think Mark could see me sinking under the weight of this news and he tried to fix it by telling me that Brad and Heather would be coming to our house over New Year’s and spending several days here. But sometimes things like this take a hold of me, and I just need time to work through it. When I’m in one of these moods, I get very quiet. I can’t just turn my mood off, as much as I wish I could.

So I sort of ruined half of the weekend because Mark thought that I was taking out my sadness on him. And I wasn’t, though I was getting frustrated because he wasn’t catching on that I wasn’t mad at HIM, but at the situation. The fact that he wasn’t getting it just made me brood about it all the more.

We went bowling Saturday night and bowled badly. (I’m blaming my poor games on a sore back.) Bowling and socializing eased the tension and I felt the dark mood starting to lift.

I woke up this morning with a better mood, but with a nasty headache that was definitely coming from my neck and back. I pulled something last week while using an ab machine at the gym which requires twisting of the torso. I should have known better. I have a weak lower back. The pain has been hanging around since.

I was glad for the extra hour today, thanks to daylight savings time, because I could feel less guilty about hanging around in bed for a while longer this morning. When I finally got up, I popped some Tylenol and when that wasn’t working after a while, I added some Ibuprofen. A long hot shower helped and I got to work tackling the chores I so desperately meant to catch up on this weekend. It was a very productive day and it felt good to get the house back in shape. Later in the day, Kacey and I did some shopping and picked up, among other things, a new Vikings jersey for Jake. He was going to a buddy’s house to watch the football game and left the house wearing a Randy Moss jersey. When I asked if he was really going out in a Moss jersey, he told me it was the only Vikings shirt he had “and everyone wears a jersey during the Vikings games.” (His shirt was a leftover from years ago when Moss was with the Vikings the first time around.) Can’t have my kid running around sporting the number of a disrespectful, arrogant, and ungrateful player, so I splurged and got him a Harvin jersey to wear for the rest of the season.

Dinner was t-bone steaks on the grill with sauteed mushrooms, salad and home-grown squash. Thanks to the extra hour in the day, it was still early in the evening when we finished eating. I’d been hoping all day to go for a nice long walk outside to stretch out the muscles in my back, and that’s exactly what I did. It had been an unseasonably warm day (61 degrees) and it made for great walking weather. I took my iPod along and listened to an audio book that I purchased last week for the purpose of listening while I work out. (This is the first time I’ve tried an audio book and I like it!) It made the time go fast. I became absorbed in the book and the walk ended up being good for my back and for my mood.

So the weekend wasn’t quite what I’d planned, but it ended up working out alright after all.

They Really Don’t Allow that in the Office

I work in a cubicle farm. With a bunch of women. We talk to each other. A lot. We don’t bother to get up and go to one another’s desks most of the time. We just talk over the walls.  Our work stations are set up in quads, like this:

So, if this were actually my office, the blonde chick in the lower corner would be me. The bald bow-tie-wearing guy would be Shannon. The dark-haired neck-tie-wearing guy would be Kim. The guy in the upper corner would be Dianna. Dianna is quiet and doesn’t do much over-the-wall talking. And all of the girls are much better looking than they are represented here. But you get the idea.

Today, Shannon was trying to figure out an odd situation on one of our customer accounts. She apparently wanted me to come look at what she was looking at.

“Terri,” she said. “Can you come look at this?” There was a slight pause as I got up and began to make my way over to Shannon’s cube and she added, “I didn’t know people could do this!”

Before I could respond or even see what Shannon was looking at, Kim’s voice came from the other side of the quad. “Shannon, get off the porn websites, will ya?”

I love my coworkers.