The Reality of the Sick Day

I remember waking up in the middle of the night and realizing I was sweating. I chalked it up to the fact that I was cocooned underneath a pile of sheets, blanket, down comforter and quilt. (And we haven’t even hit the really cold season yet!) This mountain of bedding is normally the perfect setting for a good night’s sleep for me. The problem, I figured, was the combination of bedding along with one dog nestled against one side of my body and one husband against the other. I wiggled around enough to gently encourage both of them to get out of my space. I pulled my arms out from under the bedding and promptly fell back asleep. It couldn’t have been much later and I woke up shivering. Lather, rinse, repeat until eventually the alarm clock was going off, signaling that it was time to get ready for work.

I thought little of the sweat-and-chill-fest I’d experienced last night and proceeded with my morning routine. It wasn’t until I was putting my make-up on that I realized my face looked akin to one of those famous movie vampires and in spite of the fact that I felt cold, I was sweating again.

Light bulb!

It occurred to me that maybe I was sick. Of course, it’s never that easy. I had to argue with myself for a while before conceding that I was, in fact, officially under the weather.

You’re not really sick. You’re just talking yourself into it.

But I have a headache.

You always have a headache.

I feel kind of dizzy.

No you don’t. You’re just imagining it.

I think I need to throw up.

What the hell are you even thinking??? YOU’RE not going to work!

I won the argument with myself and so it was decided. As an extra measure of reassurance, I imagined how happy my coworkers would be to know that I was keeping my germs out of the office rather than sharing with the group. Heck! I was doing them a favor!

Pats self on back at this point.

I thought about the vacation days I have accumulated and how it’s likely I’ll be cashing some of them out before the new year and realized it was a no-brainer. I was staying home.

Why is it that staying home sick is never as glamorous as it sounds when you’re actually not sick but fantasizing about staying home sick? In a perfect world, staying home sick would include a long, luxurious, restful day of napping. In the real world, the headache keeps you from accomplishing any beneficial amount of sleep. You find yourself restless and so you think, “Well, as long as I’m here, maybe I’ll just get the laundry done.”

Except you’re not getting the laundry done because as soon as you attempt it, you realize that lack of appetite has made you weak and unmotivated, and so it’s back to the recliner and the fleece blanket and episode after episode of Law & Order on the USA Network.

You think I’m kidding about the Law & Order thing, don’t you? I’m telling you. I’ve had the same channel on all day long and have seen nothing but Law & Order. Not that I’m complaining. I wonder if this happens every single day and who, besides us sick people, really wants to watch a marathon of Law & Order on a daily basis?

Besides the annoying lack of variety on television, there’s not much else of interest that goes on in my non-work world. The phone rings a lot and the caller i.d. display tells me there are a lot of phone solicitors not reaching their intended targets, especially if, like me, you don’t answer the phone unless it’s someone you actually want to talk to. And I don’t want to talk to many of the people who call my land-line.

The only other remotely interesting aspects of the day were the realization that my dog is hell-bent on finding a way through the barricade which keeps her from the cat food that she thinks should be hers for the taking and that she has a weird fascination with the ream of printer paper she discovered she can access if she tries hard enough. She thinks she’s a smart dog, but if her aversion to fake snowmen is any indication, I’m not so sure…

Anyway, I am feeling a little bit better and I think I’ll go back to work tomorrow. Being sick isn’t nearly as fun as Ferris Beuller made it out to be.

Life is Good – November 27, 2011

I almost forgot to blog my thankfulness, on this of all weeks! I wouldn’t have remembered at all if it weren’t for Abby’s Silver Liningness post!

It was a nice short work week, thanks to the Thanksgiving holiday and the Thanksgiving weekend proved to be a good mix of busyness and family, fun and relaxation.

Our family enjoyed a delicious and plentiful holiday meal together, complete with multiple tasty desserts. The pecan pie was so yummy it didn’t last long. When I complimented my brother on his pie skills, he mentioned he was going to make another pecan pie over the weekend and he promised to bring me a piece. And he did! And I ate it for breakfast on Saturday!

One really special thing about this Thanksgiving was that my parents were with us. Since they’ve been wintering in Arizona for the past several years, they are often already gone to their winter home by the time the holidays roll around. This year they decided to stick it out in Minnesota through Christmas before escaping to a warmer climate. We kids were happy to have them. The holidays just don’t seem quite right without Mom and Dad.

Oldest boy, Brad was missing from our holiday gathering. He and Heather were spending this Thanksgiving with her family, about an hour away from here. (The trade-off here is that we get them for Christmas!) But since Heather’s parents live relatively close to us, Brad and Heather paid us a visit for the day on Friday. They brought Dacotah with them and Lucy was a happy girl!

I love weekends like this one, when there’s extra time to enjoy the kids, the comforts of home, and the company of friends. We visited our friends, Paul and Megan on Friday night and enjoyed a crazy and loud game of cards. Megan sent us home with her copy of Bridesmaids, which we watched on Saturday night. For me, it lived up to its reputation for gut-busting, tears-running-down-your-face laughter. But about the time I was trying to catch my breath, I noticed Mark was just staring at television with a rather blank look on his face. Guess it’s not for everyone, but I enjoyed it.

Doesn’t it seem like the long weekend just got here? And now it’s over already. That’s okay. There will be another one in about… oh… four weeks! And I need time to get ready for it!

Life is good!

Thanksgiving in Pictures

Thanksgiving came and went. It was a very nice day. My sister and I did a fabulous job of putting on the feast, if I do say so myself. My brother, the pie-maker, made several pumpkin pies and what I’m pretty sure was the best pecan pie I have ever tasted. He may be moody, but he can make a damn good pie! And he and I bonded over the turkey carving, which was nice.

The photos are pretty minimal, since I spent a good part of the day in the kitchen with my sister, doing preparation and clean-up instead of playing the role of family photographer. Kacey served as dish-dryer extraordinaire. It felt like we were there for hours! Does anyone else find it’s always the same people helping clean up after these kinds of things, and the same people relaxing in the living room in a food coma without a care as to all the work involved?

Yeah, me neither.

Anyway… it was a pretty typical holiday celebration for us, with the usual share of goofball antics.

My pumpkin roll - not quite as pretty as the ones Mom used to make, but tasty!

Just a few of the family members - From left to right, brother Jim, sis-in-law Lisa, niece Lauren, sister Cori, Dad, and nephew Matthew in front

Sisters!

What? Your family members don't measure each others height on holidays?

Matthew tolerates being kissed by his favorite auntie!

And the little ones on the in-law side were thrilled to get a visit late in the day from one of their favorite cousins!

No wonder they love Kacey so much! She's great at being silly and having fun!

The husband and sons managed to avoid the camera… again. Maybe I’ll catch them on Christmas.

Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving Day already. Where has the year gone?

I hung out in my kitchen last night, an activity I find myself enjoying immensely more than ever before. Maybe it’s an age thing.

First thing after I came home from work, I had boxes to unpack. I had a Pampered Chef party a couple of weeks ago. (For those not in the know, this is one of those home party businesses that sells kitchen products.) The merchandise arrived yesterday and Kacey, who is home for the holiday weekend, helped me separate and sort all of that fun kitchen stuff. We bagged up the orders for the guests first, and then gathered up all of my stuff. The beauty of hosting one of these shows in your home, is that as the hostess, you earn free and discounted products based on the amount of purchases made by the guests. And I did quite well. My kitchenware has been nicely refreshed just in time for the big cooking and baking season. (de-I, you will be pleased to know that I now own a set of stainless steel mixing bowls!)

After a quick dinner, I set out to prepare some things for Thanksgiving dinner at my sister’s home today. I made a cream cheese filled pumpkin roll for dessert and a snack mix to keep the hungry guests at bay until dinner is ready to be served.

In between all of this activity, I spoke with my sister, who called in a panic. It seems the requisite episode of family dysfunction had occurred in the form of a phone call with one of the brothers. Hearing her side of the story, it seemed he was upset over nothing. I’m guessing some kind of stress – work, family, life, who knows – prompted his complaints. Who ever knows why some people feel the need to stir the pot. Regardless, my sister was worried there might be a dark cloud over Thanksgiving. I told her I was sure our brother just needed to blow off some steam and she was the unlucky recipient. I said Thanksgiving would be fine, and even if it didn’t happen exactly as planned, we’d be okay.

Sigh! Why does this stuff have to happen within families? It’s tempting to let it sour my attitude about the holidays and family functions, but one nice thing about getting older is coming to the realization that no family is the picture perfect family. Everyone has their issues and no one is immune to conflict.

I just read a wonderful book called An Invisible Thread by Laura Schroff and Alex Tresniowski. It is the true story of an unusual friendship that is formed between a successful, single woman, Laura Schroff and an 11 year-old panhandler, Maurice. Maurice lives in a world of drugs, violence and poverty. One day while begging for change on the street, he asks Laura for some change. She passes him by at first, as if she hadn’t seen or heard him. But for reasons unknown, she comes back to him and offers to buy him lunch at McDonald’s. It was the beginning of a lasting connection that enriched and benefited both of their lives for years to come.

Understandably, the book describes many instances of what is wrong with this world, with people and among families. Near the end of the book, I read this passage:

We all want relationships that are healthy and resolved, and sometimes that simply doesn’t happen. But the beauty of life is that inside these disappointments are hidden the most miraculous of blessings. What we lose and what might have been pales against what we have.

Those words struck a chord with me. Over all the years of my life, how often have I wished for something better or easier or more carefree within my relationships? How many years have been spent expecting things to miraculously change, only to find disappointment time after time? It rarely occurred to me to consciously be grateful for what is. And yet, somewhere, underneath it all, I can see that I am thankful for what is, even if I didn’t know it. Despite the flaws within my family, I wouldn’t wish for any other family. Given the chance, I would never go back and change the people who were predestined to be my parents, my siblings, my aunts, uncles and cousins. In spite of all of our quirks, I know, this is right where I belong.

This morning as I began preparing stuffing and thinking about when the “back-up” turkey needs to go in the oven, I realized something. I don’t love the occasional fighting and bickering that happens. But I do love my family’s silly nature. I love the way we reminisce about the past and find things to laugh about together. So maybe I don’t love the fact that my brother once wore a favorite radio station t-shirt on Christmas that stated across the back, I have to poop. That may have been a little much! But I love the goofy banter that takes place at family gatherings. I love the chaos and the noise and everything that makes us unique. And I am thankful that in spite of all of our imperfection, we have abundance.

Dear family, I love you … even though you can’t all possibly hope to be as perfect as me! ;-)

Happy Thanksgiving!

Magic Snow

You know that winter is inevitable around here when people start talking about the snow. The weather forecasts for the past few days were suggesting we might see some of the white stuff. It’s been awfully warm this November, though, and there was speculation that the best we would see is some rain.

When I awoke yesterday morning, the skies were a heavy gray and they held a sense of promise. Something was going to happen. I just wasn’t sure what.

I had some grocery shopping to do. We were having the annual turkey give-a-way at our bowling league last night, and as the vice president of the league, I had to do my part in the purchasing of said turkeys. Both of the local grocery stores were offering coupons for a bargain on the price of turkeys with an additional twenty-five dollar purchase. And since my sister and I are cooking the family Thanksgiving meal this year, I had things to buy. I decided to divide my grocery list between the two grocery stores and pick up the two turkeys for bowling and one for Thanksgiving dinner.

So off to the store I headed, along with everyone else and their brother. I don’t like grocery shopping on a good day, much less in the middle of the morning on the Saturday before Thanksgiving. And with the state of my mood these past few weeks, I knew I simply had to bite the bullet, go get my shopping done and get out of there as fast as I could. Thankfully, Mark agreed to accompany me, in an effort to minimize the pain of such a trip.

Just as we pulled into the crowded grocery store parking lot, the snow began to come down. It wasn’t one of those gentle, light, flaky kind of snows. It was a steady shower. The snow looked less like flakes and more like those candy sprinkles that are used for decorating cookies and cupcakes.

But there was something else about this snow. Story books and Christmas carols often describe snow as magic. I’ve never given the theory much credence, but as I made my way from the back forty of the grocery store parking lot to the store entrance, I began to believe it. It is possible… it could be… that snow has some magical qualities.

The sky was still dark. The grocery store was still packed to the gills with shoppers. I knew I’d be trying to weave my grocery cart around people who don’t have a strong grasp of grocery store etiquette. I was already anticipating a long wait at the check-out lane.

And yet, as Mark and I walked from the truck through the masses of cars and people in the parking lot, something happened.

This heavy mood that has been weighing on me began to lift. Just like that. A little bit of snow, on a busy weekend, which would likely prove to be nothing more than a traffic nuisance… lifted my spirits for the first time in weeks.

As we headed toward the store entrance, Mark was wondering something about how much accumulation we were supposed to get. I was busy pulling on my leather gloves and pulling the zipper on my jacket up to protect me from the cold. We were walking past the multitudes of parked cars, when we saw a man heading back to his car with his grocery cart. I would have guessed him to be in his forties, maybe. And he wasn’t just trudging back to his car with the weary expression of a shopper who has just weathered the holiday crowd of a packed grocery store. His face held the innocence and excitement of a young boy. And as we watched him, he propped one foot up on the bottom rack of his grocery cart and he began to push off with the other foot. When he had gained some momentum, he brought the pushing foot up to the bottom rack as well. He held the cart handle tight with both hands, leaned forward into the wind, and he raced that grocery cart right down the aisle of the parking lot toward his vehicle.

And the best part of this scene? Just a few feet behind the man, his wife followed suit as she raced her cart against her husband’s. He had gotten a head start, and he beat her to the finish, but the looks on their faces were priceless. They were grinning from ear to ear, with the wind blowing in their hair and the snow falling all over them and their grocery bags, and they didn’t care. They were happy.

When their race was over and they stood by the open trunk of their car laughing, I realized there was a huge smile plastered across my own face. I looked at Mark and saw the same.

“That just made my day,” I told him.

“Mine too,” he said.

A Salvation Army bell-ringer stood at his post at the store entrance and Mark slipped a bill in the bucket. The automatic doors of the store opened and welcomed us inside where it was swarming with shoppers and store employees and the general hustle and bustle that accompanies this time of year.

As I had expected, we had to creatively navigate the store aisles around clueless people and unsupervised children. But there was an unexpected and noticeable absence of the cranky-pants attitude that has been hovering around me these last few weeks.

I think the rumors are true. I think that snow might actually be… magic!

Lucy took a cautious approach to the frozen ground-cover!

(Someone please point me back to this post come February.)

Life is Good – November 18, 2011

How boring would life be without laughter?

Do you ever laugh so hard that your stomach muscles ache? Do you ever laugh so hard that you have tears running down your face?

Life is full of hurts and frustrations. It’s full of injustices and disappointments. Maybe that’s why it feels so good to laugh when an opportunity comes along.

I love to laugh. I laughed a lot this week.

Things that are just goofy make me laugh; things like this article, a worrisome, dramatic piece of journalism which ponders whether or not Tuesday will ever come to an end and casting doubt on whether or not Wednesday will ever get here, OH MY GAWD! (Thanks to Oscar for sharing this with me!)

Or what about those emails? You know the ones! They’ve been forwarded on by eleventy-hundred other people and inevitably land in your inbox. Sometimes I don’t even look at them. Rarely do I pass them forward. But once in a while, a goody comes along. Check out these graphs:And there’s nothing like a good old-fashioned juvenile game to spark a bunch of good belly laughing. We had a catered lunch at the office this week, consisting of Asian food. Of course, there were fortune cookies – enough to feed a small country – and these lasted throughout the week.

Have you ever played the fortune cookie game? It’s simple. Once you’ve cracked open your cookie, read your fortune out loud and add the words under the sheets to the end of your fortune. My little lunch crew  was entertained with this game as we enjoyed leftover cookies all week-long. I saved a few fortunes. Read these, and as you say them to yourself, add the words under the sheets.

Never underestimate the power of the human touch.

A woman’s thinking is quicker than her action.

Your problem just got bigger. Think, what have you done.

Your nature is harmonious and affectionate.

I swear, I am not making these up! (Yes. I admit it. I am a child.)

But my favorite source of laughter this week came from an instant message conversation at work between three coworkers and me. We were trying to resolve an issue with our project. I won’t even try to explain it. It was one of those had to be there sort of things and it went from silly to ridiculous in the course of ten minutes. It had us shrieking with laughter, tears running down our faces and stomach muscles convulsing, proving that while work is necessary and important, it can also be fun.

Lately, at times, I have felt… not entirely happy. It could be an early onset of winter blues. It could be something to do with this stage in life and not being quite sure who I am and what I’m supposed to be doing. It’s not always easy, but it’s okay. I’m figuring it out. And while I do, it sure feels good to laugh whenever I can.

This week, I am grateful to be surrounded by people with a sense of humor, who know how to have fun and who know how not to sweat the small stuff. I am thankful for the positive and uplifting effect they have on me and the contagious influence of their happiness and laughter.

Life is good.

Escaping

I admit it. I read the Twilight books. Every last one of them. And I thoroughly enjoyed them too!  So much so that I could not put them down. Laugh if you want. I don’t care.

I was reminded of my enjoyment of these books when I saw thatTwilight, the movie was on television last night.  You won’t count me among the ranks of fans who can’t get enough of these movies, by the way. They are poorly acted and do not do the books justice. I know grown women who align themselves with Team Edward or Team Jacob and are anxiously awaiting the moment they can attend the premier of the latest Twilight movie. Not me. I rarely enjoy the movie if I loved the book anyway, so this comes as no surprise to me.

But as I said, I did enjoy the books enough to count them among some of my favorites.  And I’m sure there are many that would have to wonder why? 

The premise is downright ridiculous. A family of modern-day vampires, the Cullens live among the town folk in almost complete anonymity. All of the Cullens possess such physical beauty that anyone who encounters them nearly goes weak in the knees. They never eat food and never sleep. Their skin is cold to the touch and hard as smooth marble. Their complexions are white as snow and their lips are blood red. And yet no one living among these vampires has ever stopped to wonder that there is something extraordinarily different about them.

Sure. That could happen.

But the thing about these books, at least for me, is that even as I begin to read and am scoffing at the story line, I begin to buy into it.  Suddenly it seems plausible to me that there is a family of vampires, who has managed to deny their appetite for human blood in favor of animal blood in the interest of living in harmony with their human neighbors. I completely accept that they exist and that their skin sparkles like diamonds when exposed to sunlight. And that they can run and drive at mach speed without coming to any harm. And they never sleep and possess superhuman strength. And that one of them would fall passionately, hopelessly, desperately in love with a gangly, insecure human girl who possesses physical perfection that rivals that of the vampires yet somehow has not a single clue about her drastic beauty.

And lets not forget the families of werewolves who also somehow manage to go unnoticed among the humans. Hmmm. We humans are a rather oblivious group, aren’t we?

Like I said, it’s ridiculous! What logical person would buy into this stuff?

Me, and millions of others apparently. And do you know why? Because ridiculous as it is, it’s a fantastic, passionate, dramatic, exciting escape. Ever read the Harry Potter books? Remember how you felt when you first began to read about all of those things that seemed medieval yet were somehow meshed into the modern world? It was a wildly unbelievable story that we couldn’t wait to dive into. And who can’t use an escape every now and then?

I sure can. When it comes time to pick out a new book, I’ll take adventure and romance and passion and drama and a happy ending over reality any day. It’s a cheap vacation for me!

So what about you? Where do you like to escape?