Throwing Punches

I really wasn’t feeling right yesterday. This not-right feeling had been building since the weekend and as I drove to work, it suddenly occurred to me what it was. Anxiety.

The night before, I’d called Kacey at school in response to a text message she’d sent me, asking if I could make a doctor appointment for her. Her back has been bothering her for about six weeks, but she couldn’t quite decide if it was bad enough to see a doctor. While she was home on spring break, she seemed to feel better. So no doctor. Now that she’s back at school, the pain has flared up again. When I called her Tuesday night, she was in tears. She said she’d simply been walking down the hallway in her dorm when she began to feel shooting pain down the back of her leg. By yesterday morning, she was making arrangements with her instructors to be excused from her classes and Mark went to pick her up. She’s since been to the chiropractor twice and is feeling a bit better.

So there was that.

And then there was some work stuff involving somebody being arrogant… involving a power-struggle that really had little to do with me but affected me none the less. And it made me worry. Because that’s what I do. I worry about things.

By the end of the day, I was wound tight as a drum. My friend Lori said, “Come to the gym with me. You’ll like this class I’m going to.”

So I did. The class was called Club Boxing Circuit! :-)

This class was more intense than anything I’ve ever done. For the first half of the class, we did heavy-duty cardio. We lunged. We kicked. We ran. And we did it all over and over again. Then we got to punch bags! Lori said it might be good for me if I pictured the face of someone on that bag. So I did. I got to wear boxing gloves and I got to punch that bag over and over and over again. Jab! Hook! Body! Upper cut! Faster! Harder! I punched and punched.

Google Images

 Man, that felt good! I mean REALLY good. And the reality is, I got so “in a zone” that I literally forgot about my trying day. I forgot about difficult people. I just punched and punched until all the fire had gone out of me. I was out of breath. I was drenched in sweat. By the time I left the gym, I felt like a wet noodle. And when I crawled in to bed after a nice hot shower, I drifted off effortlessly. I slept like a baby, and I woke up feeling renewed.

I highly recommend boxing as a form of therapy. I can’t wait to do it again next week!

Brad is home

Brad came home from school Sunday night and along with him came Heather and Dacotah. Brad is home for the summer. Heather and Dacotah are just here until this afternoon when Heather needs to head back to North Dakota so she can be to work on time. I’m sure there will be many more visits from the two of them over the summer, though.

It’s so good having Brad home again. And Heather and Dacotah’s presence brings a calming effect, reminding me to enjoy these times with all of them. I love when Heather is here. We all seem to notice each other more and actually take the time to eat together, to have conversations and laugh. She’s such a great girl. Did I mention that she just graduated from college? Did I mention she got into grad school? Did I mention her tuition was waived and they’re paying her a stipend? Brad is one lucky boy to have her in his life. She’s smart, beautiful and sweet as can be.

Brad slept on the living room floor Sunday night so that Heather could have his bed. Dacotah chose to stay with Brad and when I tiptoed past the living room Monday morning as I was getting ready for work, she was all curled up on the living room chair. Now, she’s not allowed on furniture – not just my furniture, but any furniture. Those are Brad and Heather’s rules. But Dacotah just looked so cute and comfy there, and I am a big, sappy sucker, so I let her be. Later, when I passed by again on my way to the kitchen to grab some breakfast and lunch food to bring to work, I saw that Dacotah had vacated the chair and was curled up against Brad. His arm was wrapped around her. Her head was tucked under his chin. Her body was molded inside the curve of his. Lord, he loves that dog. And she loves him.

As I headed back to work yesterday morning, an unwelcome tense feeling returned and I wondered why I was letting a few unpleasant events of the past week keep dragging me down. I tried hard to shed the anxiety I was feeling, and eventually I did. I was pretty busy throughout the day and that helped a lot. I love to be busy and especially to feel challenged.  Once I remembered all the things I love about my job, those unpleasant things seemed to melt away. I ended up getting stuck in the office long after almost everyone else had gone home. (Our office is like the quarry where Fred Flintstone works. When the 5:00 whistle blows, look out. Mass exodus!) Anyway, I realized how much I loved working in the quiet, without a million questions and distractions all vying for my attention. I finally wrapped up what I was doing and headed out the door around 5:40.

There is road construction going on everywhere in Minnesota right now, and I do mean everywhere! Don’t plan on getting anywhere easily and don’t plan on getting there on time. Due to all this construction, I’ve been taking the side streets home and avoiding the freeway. For some stupid reason, I thought I’d take the freeway yesterday evening and “just zip on over” to the exit just beyond my normal exit where I knew there would be major delays due to construction.

Except there was no zipping. And there was a whole lot of being stopped at a dead standstill. I felt my frustration trying to return as my car creeped along until I could finally get off the freeway. It only took me forty minutes to get home, which is only twice as long as normal.

Thankfully, when I finally pulled into the driveway, there were Brad and Heather at the grill, cooking dinner. The table was set and all I had to do was sit down and enjoy a meal with (almost) the entire family (minus Jake, who was already gone to work). My frustrations were quickly forgotten. What a wonderful way to come home! My oldest boy is home and I am a happy mom!

Back on track

Almost!

I felt like I was in a slow burn last week. The previous weekend was overflowing with activity. It started with playing photographer for my best friend’s wedding vow renewal ceremony. After the ceremony, there was the reception/going away party during which I had a way lotta fun! At least that was what I thought on Saturday night. By Sunday, it felt more like I had had too much fun. Translation: Headache!

On Sunday, I slept half the day away and then spent the rest of the day visiting moms (for Mothers’ Day) and my best friend (to share the hundreds of pictures I had taken the previous day). Needless to say, nothing was accomplished as far as domestic duties. The weekly cleaning didn’t get done, no laundry, grocery shopping… nada. Monday and the work week arrived. Outside of work, there were obligations to be met every evening. My day off was spent running from one appointment to the next and running necessary errands. I felt like I was falling hopelessly behind, and if you know me, that feeling is not good for my overall well-being.

The sun hadn’t shone in four damn days. It rained nearly every day and it was cold! I felt more mentally and physically overwhelmed with each passing day.  I couldn’t find time to squeeze one more thought into my brain, much less think about making space for my typical stress relievers of choice…a run or some writing.

The family flitted in and out of the house all week-long. We were all on clashing schedules and seemed to simply pass one another on the way in or out the door. Mark was busy spending every minute of free time working on tiling the back splash in the new kitchen, which is still not quite complete. It seems like I am continuously tripping over trim work and crown molding that has yet to be installed. There was tile dust from all the cutting and tools on every inch of available counter space. You know when you just want to scream in frustration but you know you can’t because the thing that’s frustrating you most will eventually lead to something that makes your life easier? Yeah, that was me last week.

I woke up almost every morning last week with a less-than enthusiastic attitude, to put it mildly.

When I wrote my Friday “Life is Good” post, which I typically do on Thursday night and schedule for the next day, I felt like I was trying to talk myself into believing that life was, in fact, good. Most of the time, it works and writing about the good things in life really does fuel a positive spirit. Sometimes, I feel like a big, fat phony. Last week was one of those times.

Friday came and the sun returned, but a couple of things happened at work that had me wound up tight as a drum. I was exhausted by the time 5:00 arrived; really and truly exhausted, but I couldn’t go home and kick back because I had a wedding reception to attend. The reception was for the daughter of a coworker of Mark’s. It was a nice reception and I tried to enjoy it, but I just felt ready to snap. The bride stood up at one point to make a speech about how happy she was and how grateful she felt for the presence of all of the friends and family there.  She tearfully spoke of her love of life and her new husband expressed her understandably celebratory mood. At that moment, ironically, as she invited all of the guests to join her in embracing the joy of life, I sat there fighting back tears and trying not to show it. We left not long after dinner and dessert and by the time we got home, I was completely and totally wiped out. Mark asked if I was okay. I gave my typical response to such a question, “Yeah”, and I went to bed at 9:30.

And I slept. I slept solidly and soundly and it was exactly what I needed. I needed to revive myself. I woke up fairly early on Saturday… before 7:00… and I began to address all of those things hanging over my head that I had allowed to drag me down over the past week. I cleaned and I tackled mountains of laundry. I organized and restored order to the house and in the process, began to restore some order to my chaotic state of mind. As much as I often proclaim to despise the constant need for cleaning, organizing and all those other domestic duties, the process is often cathartic for me. With each task I checked off my list (and mind you, I accomplished this stuff while helping Kacey get ready for her prom last night, which, if you weren’t aware, for girls, is an all day affair) I felt my spirits lifting.

Later in the day, Kacey’s boyfriend arrived to take her to the prom. I took bunches of pictures at home, then met them at a friend’s house to take pictures of them with their group of friends. Oh my god, they looked stunning. When they were finally off to the prom, I came home to finally, finally sit down, relax, edit and play with all the prom pictures and catch up (almost) on all my blog reading.

I woke up this morning feeling lighter than I have in a week. I got my butt to the gym and spent some time on the much-missed treadmill. I slowed down to a walk a few times, but always returned to my running pace and finished strong. It felt wonderful! When I left the gym, I walked out into the sunshine and warmth of a beautiful day. I had to stand outside of my car for just a few moments, close my eyes and lift my face to the sun. I needed to stop for a few seconds, take a deep breath and embrace the moment. For as much as I hate weeks like the one I just had, I know I haven’t seen the last of them. I just need to remember not to let them beat me.

Scattered thoughts

Kacey's Jack-o-lanternAnother Halloween has come and gone. Kacey made the most of it. I hadn’t hauled out a single decoration as of yesterday, so she went in search of our stuff and put a few things out around the house. She carved a pumpkin and baked a batch of homemade sugar cookies, cutting them into Halloween shapes and frosting them with colored frosting. Thank God for that kid. Sometimes I think if it weren’t for her, one day would just run into the next around here without anyone bothering to stop and take notice of special occasions.

Kacey invited a bunch of girls over in honor of the day. They played Wii for a while, then went trick-or-treating. Yes. This bunch of sixteen-year-old girls actually went trick-or-treating. My mother never would have allowed it when I was that age. But considering the fact that the girls could have been out, driving around, going to the big party that even I caught wind of, and doing god-knows-what, I actually decided that trick-or-treating wasn’t such a bad idea. They didn’t go far and just seemed to enjoy running around and being silly.

I had a couple of invitations to go out and celebrate last night, but passed on them since Mark had to get up early for work today. He’s always willing to go out with friends even when he’s got to get up for work the next day, but either he starts to mention going home just as the fun begins, or he sucks it up, stays late and goes to work exhausted the next day. So I stayed home and passed out candy. There were far fewer kids coming to the door than in years past. The neighborhood is growing up. We used to get well over a hundred kids. Last night there were only about sixty. And there’s too much leftover candy.

I felt good when I woke up this morning. I slept all the way through the night. It was a good feeling. I’ve been battling a bit of insomnia lately, waking up feeling anxious and panicky and unable to shut down my brain. It’s nothing more than the usual worries, but they seemed to be weighing on me a little heavier than normal.

I felt rested enough when I woke up to go for a run outside. I figure there probably won’t be many more days where running outside seems appealing. I wanted to take advantage of pounding the pavement before it gets too cold. It was thirty-seven degrees this morning when I left the house. Perfect running weather for me. I threw on a pair of wind pants, a warm hooded sweatshirt and an ear-band. I’ve come to realize that I run much better in the cool weather. I’m slow but steady. It works for me.

When I first stepped outside, the sky was a solid wall of clouds, making everything a little gray and gloomy. Eventually, the wall began to break up, creating popcorn clouds, allowing a bit of sun to shine through.  The gray was still there, the sun appearing a little weak today. Many of the trees are suddenly bare of any leaves. There was a hefty wind the past few days and those leaves just couldn’t hang on. It makes me a little sad. I like the fall weather, but it doesn’t last long enough. It always gives me a sense that things are ending; like we’re all closing up shop for the winter.

It’s November first already. It’s already snowed a couple of times, but thankfully, the temperatures haven’t stayed cold enough for the snow to hang around long. Everything seems to be changing. My parents leave for Arizona for the winter in two days. Halloween is over and the race to Christmas is on. At least, if you’ve set foot in any of the stores over the past few days, that’s what the retailers would have you believe. Kacey and I were at Target yesterday – on Halloween – and already, the Halloween and fall decor was being pushed aside to make room for the Christmas stuff. I like fall. I enjoy Thanksgiving. I wonder why we can’t dedicate a few weeks of the month to thinking about and preparing for Thanksgiving. These days, Christmas is shoved in our faces so early that I’m tired of it by the time the actual day arrives.

It’s one of those days when it’s almost too quiet in the house. Jake has been hunting for the past few days. He’ll return later today. I haven’t seen Brad since he left for school in August and I’m really missing him. He has met up with Mark and Jake a few times on their hunting trips, so they’ve been able to see him, but he hasn’t made the drive home since school began. I talked to him today and he says he doesn’t plan to come home until Thanksgiving. Sigh! It seems so far away. Even Kacey misses him. Since my kids generally sort of hate each other, the fact that she willingly admits to missing him is huge.

Tonight Mark and I are going to dinner with his parents and six siblings and their spouses in celebration of his dad’s eightieth birthday. Remember me talking yesterday about how silly and juvenile my family gets when they get together? There’ll be none of that when we’re with Mark’s family and not just because we’ll be at a restaurant. There’s always a slight underlying feeling of tension when we get together with his family. Maybe it’s just me. Sometimes I care too much what other people think of me.

I wish it were Monday.

Dark

Maybe I’ve heard one too many stories lately. They’re in the news; stories of anger, hatred, bitterness and tragedy. I hear them from friends and coworkers.  I read about them through some of your words. They involve divorce, parenting struggles, abuse, loved ones in jail, illness and death. Often the words are masked with humor. Sometimes the words are raw. The underlying message is hurt and pain; the darker side of life.

I always say that I rarely dream while I’m sleeping. Lately I’ve been trying hard to hold on to the remnants of dreams before they dissolve from my memory. As it turns out, I do dream. Maybe there’s a reason I couldn’t – or didn’t want to remember my dreams. They can be very dark at times. Last night I dreamed that I was walking in the darkness with my children through an unfamiliar neighborhood. It was well into the night and tall trees lined the boulevard, illuminated only by a street light, casting shadows onto the lawns of large brick houses. There was a man with a gun roaming the neighborhood and I wanted to hide my kids and myself from him, but I couldn’t get my kids to grasp the magnitude of the situation. They are young adults now, and they thought I was overreacting. As soon as I would gather one or two of them near me, another would go off somewhere on their own. I was growing increasingly desperate to protect them and frustrated with my inability to get them to a safe place. That dream faded away without resolution, but another soon took its place. In this dream, I witnessed a car accident and ran to help the victims, a young mother and her toddler and baby. Someone, I’m not sure who, was ridiculing me for thinking I could help and asking me why I was bothering to try. That ridicule sunk straight through to the heart of me and I instantly stopped believing I could make a difference.

There is so much darkness and so much bitterness in life sometimes. There is so much that it seeps into my subconscious at night. I look at people and see not only their actions and reactions, but the forces behind them. I wonder how many people are who they are because they can’t let go of a past guilt or cling to the negative influences of their pasts; influences that are not their fault; influences that precede even their own births. Why do we allow the words and actions of others to dictate who we think we can or cannot be?

Most of the time I tend to focus on a very small part of the world that is familiar to me. That’s where my comfort zone lies, I guess. But once in a while I take off the blinders and see the bigger picture. I see a  world full of people struggling to find their way. Some of us struggle day after day, year after year, never quite “getting it.” We grow older, wiser in some ways, but always just missing the mark on what is truly important. Why is real and lasting happiness so hard to grasp? I’m always in awe of those who seem to have it figured out; the ones who seem to know a true inner peace in spite of all the barriers life tries to throw at them. Sometimes I feel like my grasp of it is just around the corner, and then life throws up another wall and instead of climbing it, I admit defeat. And when I look around me, I know that I’m one of many who gets stuck in this place. Maybe my mistake is thinking that inner peace makes one immune from hurt, anger and sadness.

I need to remember that happy wouldn’t feel so happy if there weren’t sadness to contrast it. We would never know what it felt like to burst with pride if we didn’t know failure. Love could never overwhelm us if we didn’t first know what it was like to be disregarded.

I’m going on a little vacation tomorrow. Maybe I need it more than I knew.

It's only today

I’ve been letting some things eat away at me lately. I know better. But I do it anyway. I think when I get tired, I let down my guard and these things work their way inside of me. And I have been tired the last few days.

These things that are nagging at me are people who broadcast negative attitudes and situations I wish I could change but over which I have no control. Suddenly, they have all this power over me. These are forces that, in the big picture, have no meaning, no value unless I let them. But for some reason I open the door to them and they bring me down. Suddenly I’m worrying not only about today, but yesterday, and last year and tomorrow and next month and ten years from now. There is no time to enjoy the here and now because I’m so busy fretting over situations and events that aren’t happening today.

Why?

What good does it do? Not a bit. I know when I give in to all this stuff, the stuff wins. I don’t want the stuff to win.  I have wasted too much time letting anger and frustration, hurt and sadness burn inside of me unnecessarily. I have been trying really hard lately to notice and appreciate life. Everything about it. There are so many amazing, simple, everyday, beautiful things and people in life and I’m getting better at realizing it. Last week I noticed how comforting a train sounds to me as it’s rolling down the tracks, and I heard the music of a hundred frogs croaking from a pond along the path when I run. I noticed the sweet scent of the morning right after the sun rises high in the summer sky and how energizing it is to inhale it. I realized how good it feels to just stop for a moment and breathe it all in and how much easier the rest of the day can be when I’ve allowed myself to slow down and just notice everything.

Today I realized that the last few days have felt dull and lifeless because I’ve allowed all the negative stuff to steal away anything bright and good. Today I heard a song on the radio that I’ve heard a hundred times before but only really heard today. There are some lyrics that say It’s only the world I’m livin’ in, It’s only the day I’ve been givenI needed to hear those words. I remembered that there’s no promise that I’ll be here tomorrow and yesterday is already gone. So why am I letting all this worry chip away at me? It might only be today that I have and if that’s the case, I have to live in and appreciate today. It’s a waste of time to spend the majority of my waking hours worrying about anything else. A little bit of worry? Ok. But not too much. I was reminded to let go of all those negative feelings. And I did.

And it felt SO good!

I'm sweating the small stuff…

and I need to quit.

Seriously, why do we throw graduation parties for our kids? Wouldn’t it be easier to toss a bundle of money at them and call it good?

A word to the wise. When your son decides he wants stuffed manicotti at his grad party, and your husband suggests making grandma’s home-made spaghetti sauce, you should not say to yourself…

“Self? Wouldn’t homemade stuffed manicotti and Grandma’s sauce be good? Won’t everyone just love all your homemade food? What a great idea!”

No…Instead, pull your head out of your nether regions and just say no. And call a caterer.

Seriously though, I think I have the food situation under control. Gina (the best friend) came over Monday night and we did an assembly line production of stuffed manicotti. I cooked the pasta and mixed up the cheese mixture. She brought some kind of cake decorating tool that looks like a cookie press, filled it up with the cheese mixture and squirted the cheese inside the pasta. We got nine pans done Monday night and I made five more Tuesday morning. I hurt my shoulder filling all those shells. (Don’t ask.) And did I mention that I didn’t think that the manicotti would be enough pasta? I didn’t. I decided to add mostaciolli to the menu and spent the rest of Tuesday afternoon making ten pounds of meatballs and three batches of Grandma’s sauce. Everything is in the freezer and ready to just toss into the roasters on Friday. Now I just have to make a couple more batches of sauce for the manicotti. That’ll be easy enough. It’s just a matter of dumping some ingredients and adding some spices and cooking on the stove for a couple hours. Yes, that will be easy enough if I’m not in jail for killing someone first.

You might have guessed that tensions are running a little high around here.  Some of the big stuff that could have been done, oh… I don’t know… anytime in the past year, as opposed to leaving everything until the last minute… didn’t get done before this week. Divorce court, session two nearly happened last night over the hanging of some pictures. Alright. Nine pictures, to be exact. I’ll explain. There’s a wall in our entryway that has never been decorated to my liking. Using the grad party as an excuse to do all the home improvements that we’ve let slide over the years, I decided to take care of that wall. I had nine of my flower photos printed. I framed them and enlisted Mark to facilitate the hanging of all of these photos. Did I mention the wall in question is a section of wall over the stairway to the lower level? Did I mention this project would require the use of an extension ladder? Did I mention that I had a vague idea of the placement of said pictures, but no solid plan because I was sure Mark could figure out details such as spacing and measurements and patterns? I just may have set my expectations a little too high and let me just tell you it was a recipe for disaster when things were not happening to my liking. Thankfully, Brad stepped in with a great idea for the placement. Tempers cooled and pictures got hung to my liking. Crisis averted.

On the plus side, this house is going to see a level of cleanliness and organization such as it hasn’t seen in a couple of years, since the last graduation party. I wonder if I’ll learn a lesson from this and face the next graduation party in two years with a little more organization and planning?

What?

It could happen!