La Vida es Buena! November 6, 2009

Brad & Jake HuntingAND we’ve found our way to Friday once again!

It’s been a good week…

Monday began with a smile as I opened up my email at work and saw a message there from our good friend, Paul, along with a picture that he had attached. My boys had been hunting with him the previous weekend and he managed to capture a rare moment on camera – my two boys, standing together and appearing as if they actually like each other. There are very few such pictures in existence, so this was a treasured gift. I may have to frame it in spite of the presence of dead animals in the picture.

Wednesday brought an opportunity to spend time with the two best girlfriends I’ve ever had. Gina, Kendra and I met at the bowling alley. (I know, I know. The bowling alley. Big surprise, right?) After Kendra finished her league games, the three of us bowled a few games just for fun, then went into the bar to find a table and just talk, since we couldn’t seem to keep the game going for all of our gabbing. That night, I realized how lucky I am to have such amazing friends. Gina has been there for me for over twenty years. She knows me and gets me in a way most people don’t. Kendra is the person who filled those same shoes in an earlier part of my life. We kind of forgot how important we were to each other for a few years and I feel extremely blessed to have been given a chance to renew that friendship. And as the evening wore on, I realized that Gina and Kendra seemed to like each other just as much as I like each of them. How cool is that?

Speaking of long-lost friends, Facebook brought me another blast from the past. Becky is a coworker from the bakery where I worked during my teenage years. The bakery was a family owned place, and those of us who worked there were sort of like a little family. We have such good memories and so many stories from that place. (Suffice it to say that when the owners left teenage girls in charge of the place for the evening, there were plenty of antics.) Kendra was one of my coworkers there and so was Marilee, who now lives just a few miles from me and whose daughter is one of Kacey’s best friends. I haven’t seen or heard from Becky since she left her bakery career to go to college. She contacted me on Facebook yesterday and said she was trying to organize a little reunion of all of the people who worked at the bakery during our years there and wanted to know if  I would be interested. I responded something to the effect of, “BECKY! OMG! HOW ARE YOU! IT’S BEEN FOREVER! WHAT HAVE YOU BEEN UP TO? AND OF COURSE I’M INTERESTED!” And soon, we were walking down memory lane, catching up on each other’s lives and promising to stay in touch from now on.

And finally,  I’ve been thinking this week about how much I love my daughter and how lucky I am to have her. I was talking with a coworker this week about daughters; particularly teenage daughters. They are famous for causing their parents much angst and frustration. But Kacey isn’t your typical teenage girl. She’s so easy-going and yet so responsible. She’s an excellent student and she has a great sense of humor. She’s a good person and likes almost everyone. She talks to me with ease (and often in Spanish, just to keep me guessing.) I am blessed to have such a great relationship with her. I know not all parents are so lucky. I love that kid.

La vida es buena!

Life is Good – October 10, 2009

Snow - on October 10th by you.All day yesterday, I kept hearing we were going to get some snow overnight. I didn’t really believe it was true but when I opened my eyes first thing this morning, I peeked out the window and there it was! I have to admit, the sight of the snow on the ground made me feel like a kid again. It still had that magical charm a first snow always held when I was young. But…I’m still holding out hope for an Indian Summer! It’s too early for winter just yet.

It’s been a busy week with lots of good things going on. At the office this week, we celebrated National Customer Service week. The boss and a few others did a great job of putting together some really fun team building activities. People were enthusiastic and there was a lot of laughter. And yours truly won a virtual scavenger hunt with a prize of two bonus hours of PTO time. What an excellent prize!

Kacey is still knee deep in volleyball season, playing for both the J.V. and varsity teams.  It’s so fun to watch her play a game she loves so much. She is a constant on the J.V. team and her confidence grows each time the varsity coach puts her on the court. I am so very proud of her!

On Thursday, I went out for an early morning run. I have to admit, after a year of running, I’ve begun to grow frustrated with what feels like a lack of progress. I often feel like I’ve hit a brick wall or even that I’m losing ground. I often feel like I lack the stamina to run the same distance I always try to go. I have begun to think, “Maybe I’m just not a runner.”  But I made myself get out there again that morning, and something was different. I don’t know what it was, but I kept myself on pace and everything just clicked. I felt great and just like that, my motivation returned. I returned home and thought, “I AM A RUNNER! WOO-WOO-WOO!”

And the best news of the week? I finally went in for my one year post-donation check-up (just a few months late – I should have been there in July) and my kidney appears to be functioning perfectly! And the one that now belongs to my dad is working great too!

Life is good!

Perspective

Awake before the sun today. I had my alarm clock set, but my internal alarm had my eyes open before it went off. Kacey had a volleyball tournament today and I had to have her at school to catch the bus by 7:00. I tossed on a t-shirt and shorts and got her there by ten to seven. The bus was already there.

I swung by the post office on my way home. I had an envelope for Brad that I’ve been meaning to send off – some toothbrush heads for his electric toothbrush and a copy of the Darius Rucker CD I promised him weeks ago.  Nothing too exciting. Of course, the post office isn’t yet open at that hour of the day. I swung through the drive-through on the side of the building and tossed my envelope in one of the boxes there.

Driving the short distance home from the post office, I realized the streets of our little city were quite empty. There’s something I love about being out while the day is just beginning. It’s like the world hasn’t come to life yet and I get to be there before all the hustle and bustle begins. I’ve always been a morning person. I can think so much more clearly when my mind isn’t being assaulted by activity and noise.

When I got home I went out for a run. I love the fact that the gym doesn’t open until 8:00 on the weekends. It gives me an excuse to run outside again. I welcomed the sounds of birds singing, crickets chirping, geese honking, and the general hum of life in the air. I needed this today. It helped me think and put things in perspective. I needed some perspective.

I’d been allowing my thoughts to turn in a pretty negative direction last week. There was a lot of doubt and self pity running around my heart and head. Today things look so different. You want to know why? Two things.

On Thursday, while sitting in the bleachers watching Kacey’s volleyball games, I became aware of some excitement going on in the next section where most of the student spectators were sitting. The boys were calling out to one of their classmates who was just coming in to the gym. I could hear them all shouting, “Tyler! The MAN! Tyler!”

I looked back toward where their accolades were directed and recognized the boy they were welcoming. He had been a classmate of Kacey’s since her early grade school days. It wasn’t clear to me why everyone was making such a big deal of his arrival and presence. I hadn’t realized Tyler had become so popular.

Later, after the games were over, I saw one of Kacey’s team mates holding a newborn baby. She was parading that baby all over the bleachers and I was worried she would drop him. I leaned over to Mark and said, “I wonder whose baby that is?” Mark just shrugged. I thought about the viruses already making a strong impact in the schools and worried about the baby catching something. Who was allowing their newborn to be so easily exposed?

Soon all of the junior girls were flocking toward the girl holding the baby, begging for a chance to hold him too. I watched the whole scene with curiosity. Someone asked whose baby it was and a young, blonde girl said, “It’s my baby.” I thought I recognized the blonde girl, but couldn’t quite remember where I had seen her before. She was absolutely eating up all the attention as her classmates oohed and ahhed over the baby. Suddenly, Tyler appeared at her side (looking a little shell-shocked) and it all came together for me. Two years ago, I had run into Tyler and his mom at conferences when the kids were freshman. The blonde girl had been Tylers girlfriend even back then. She had been there that night I talked with his mom at conferences when the kids were just starting their high school lives.

And now Tyler is a father. He and his girlfriend have just begun their junior year of high school and they have a newborn. Sixteen years old. Maybe seventeen. And they have a baby. I know it happens all the time, but this hit too close to home. I felt almost sick as I watched all those girls marveling over the baby. I wondered if any one of them stopped to think how difficult the next few years are going to be for this new little family. How many pitfalls will they face? How many opportunities lost? I truly hope they are able to make the most of their lives in spite of this. The odds are against them though.

And I thought I had problems.

Driving home from the game that night, Kacey and I talked a little bit about Tyler, his girlfriend and the new baby. I asked if the girl had been in school last year during her pregnancy. Was she back now? Kacey said she didn’t remember seeing much of her and guessed she was taking online classes. She approached the whole subject with an air of disbelief. She just can’t imagine being in that position. GOOD!

Kacey told me something else Thursday night just after we got home. A sixteen year old boy who attends her school was driving to school that morning. There may have been dew on his windshield and the sun was blindingly bright that morning. The rumor is that this combination made him unable to see what was in front of him. His car hit a 33-year-old woman who was out walking her three month old child in a stroller. He couldn’t see her. The baby is fine. The mother suffered head injuries and died in the hospital that evening. For both the boy and the woman, and for their families, the day started out as normal as any other. And in the blink of an eye, their lives have been irrevocably changed. I can’t imagine the anguish and heart ache that is being experienced by the families of each of these people.

And I thought I had problems.

I needed to run today. I needed to feel the air on my skin and see the sun in the sky and the wildflowers surrounding the ponds and the mist that hovered in the distance over the railroad tracks. I needed to breathe the fresh morning air and remind myself that I am able to run. I am able to see and hear and smell and experience. I am free to leave my house to go for a run. I have a home to return to. I have my family to return to. They are safe and healthy and as happy as can be expected.

My plans about the kids and life might not come to fruition as I’d expect someday. Who ever said everything was going to work out the way I planned? The world as I know it might come to a screeching halt tomorrow, next month, or five years from now. Am I going to let that stop me from enjoying the gifts I’ve been given today? Am I going to let my fear of the worst cripple me?

No.

(Could someone point me toward this post the next time I decide to host a self-pity party? Thank you!)

Life is Good – August 21, 2009

IMG_0622_1 by you.Another week has flown by and it’s Friday again already. Time to look back over the past seven days and count my blessings.

There were plenty of clouds and rain this week and even a tornado warning.  On Wednesday there was a tornado sighted in Minneapolis. Outside my office in St. Paul, the sirens began to blow. A quick glance at the calendar reminded me it wasn’t the first Wednesday of the month, so it wasn’t just a drill. Looking out my window, the skies were dark and the wind was blowing. Rain was pummeling the downtown streets below. The employees were actually asked to seek shelter in the stair wells as we waited for the worst of it to pass. Tornadoes are known to hit hard and fast without much warning and the damage can be severe. In Minneapolis, the roof was blown off a duplex and the residents were left homeless. Luckily, the storm mellowed and no damage was done in our area.

All the rain this week has made the prospect of going out for a run less than appealing. Lucky for me, I’m enjoying a one week free trial at the local gym. I have given a few of the machines a try and quite enjoyed them. (I really like the elliptical machine!) I have decided that I do, in fact want to actually join the gym. I’m trying to be smart about the process of joining and get the most for my money. I have asked around about initiation fees and monthly charges at other gyms. I even went so far as to ask my neighbor and good friend, Bill if he’d mind telling me what he paid when he and his family joined the same gym a few months ago. Bill avoided giving me a direct answer and instead reminded me that he is a member of the local business professional association and that he has an “in” with Susan, the manager at the gym. He promised to talk with Susan and ensure I was offered the best prices. A couple days later, Bill called me with some good news. I will not be paying an initiation fee at all and will pay only the very reasonable monthly fee that I was quoted. It pays to have friends in positions of power!

IMG_0613 by you.Speaking of friends, we had a couple of special ones staying with us this week. Brad’s girlfriend Heather, and her dog, Dacotah arrived on Monday. Brad finished up at his summer job early this week and he and Heather have been enjoying some down-time before they leave to return to school in North Dakota today. It was nice having them around. Heather is just a sweetheart and she fits right in and accepts all of our family craziness as if it were normal. She and Brad even cooked a taco dinner for everyone one night. IMG_0608 by you.And Dacotah was entertaining as always. There is still a lot of puppy in her and she’s fun to play with. She found a big stick in the back yard and entertained herself endlessly, refusing to let anyone take it and throw it for her and even wanting to bring it in the house, though we wouldn’t let her.

IMG_0581 by you.Of course, with the extra bodies in our not-so-large house, there was a need on my part for some space. Wednesday evening provided the perfect opportunity. Our summer bowling league came to its official end and we celebrated with a banquet. Our team didn’t break any records. In fact, it was quite the opposite. We came in 17th out of 18 teams. But we had fun and that’s all that really matters. We didn’t walk away entirely empty handed though. Dave earned a couple of patches and yours truly earned a bobble-head trophy! Never mind the fact that it was pretty much the booby prize since I won it for low series!Trophy by you. It was cool! Check this baby out! The top teams may have won big money, but everyone wanted to see my cool trophy.

I just got myself a new pair of bowling shoes and women’s leagues begin in a few weeks. After a summer of bowling against the very competitive men, I’ve learned much, improved my skills and I’m ready to kick some butt in the women’s league!

Jake has had a busy week, working like crazy. He loves his job and has been wanting to get more hours. He has a new manager who really seems to be impressed with his work ethic, so Jake got his wish.  Suddenly, he’s got all the hours he wants!

Finally, my list of blessings wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t mention Kacey. She’s been busy trying out for the volleyball team at school. She brought home an evaluation form that was completed by the team of coaches and it listed her strengths as her “calming attitude” and “consistency.” I am proud to report that she earned a position on the JV team and I’m looking forward to watching her play her favorite sport this fall.

Life is good!

Life is Good – July 24, 2009 – Our Transplant Anniversary

It’s hard to believe it’s already been a whole year. Last year on this day, I was a patient at the Hennepin County Medical Center. So was my dad. I was donating my kidney. My dad was the recipient. After several years of dialysis, he finally had hopes of surviving on his own again.

My dad and me, just before our surgeries

It was an amazing time for my dad and me during the weeks preceding and following our surgeries. I was gathering information trying to learn all there was to know about being a kidney donor. I was connecting with people in the online community who had donated a kidney too. Michael, better known as De-I is one of those people. He supported and encouraged me from the start, shared his own story and has remained a cherished friend ever since.

My dad was preparing for a major and difficult surgery and what I remember best about him at that time was how hopeful he seemed. After several years of dialysis, feeling sick and tired and as if he was missing out on a big chunk of life, he was ready to get back to the business of living.

I also remember being surprised at how so many people seemed, I don’t know… I guess, kind of… awestruck… at what I was doing. Maybe it’s because I was doing it for my dad and once I knew I was a match there simply was never a question as to whether I wanted to do it. I certainly never felt like I was doing something amazing, and I still don’t. It was just something I had to do. The decision wasn’t really a decision at all. It was merely an understanding that this was something I would be doing. And it was one of the easiest things I’ve ever done. It really was. There was some pain after the surgery. True. But once I was home, two days later, healing happened quickly. Aside from being a bit tired for a few weeks, my life returned to normal; you might even say, better than my previous normal, very quickly. Afterwards, I had a new appreciation for the body and began to respect my own a little better than in the past.

As for my dad, he is doing phenomenally well. I know as well as anyone that an organ transplant doesn’t always have the happy ending that is anticipated. Not true for my dad. I think he is doing infinitely better than anyone ever expected. Just a few months after surgery, my parents were able to move to their winter home in Arizona. Although I kept in touch by phone and heard things were going well while they were away, I was still amazed when I saw my dad for the first time when they returned home to Minnesota this past spring. He had energy and spunk. He wasn’t so sleepy all the time and he was back to his old self and getting on my mom’s nerves again! ;-) It was one of the simplest things that really solidified for me the reality of my dad’s recovery. He was able to mow his own lawn again. Seeing my dad zipping around on his riding mower made me incredibly happy. I can see my parents house on the next block from my own driveway. I’ll often stop to just watch my dad as he putters around in his garage. Such a simple thing, and yet so significant to me, considering all he’s been through. He’ll celebrate his 69th birthday in September and I’m sure many more in the years to come.

Jake & Grandparents by you.

My mom, Jake and my dad, last month

I don’t think much about the surgeries anymore. Life is back to its normal routine. I do however, pause when I see my reflection in the mirror and the scars that remain from my incisions. A couple of those scars are pretty ugly, but they don’t bother me at all. Rather, they symbolize a miracle; the miracle of my dad’s life.

Life is Good – July 10, 2009

IMG_0338 by you.It’s been another beautiful week. I couldn’t ask for more perfect weather than what the Minnesota summers bring.

Last weekend, our family went up north to my in-laws’ cabin for the Fourth of July holiday. I prepared myself for the worst as it seems any time we find time to take a break there, temperatures drop and rain falls, leaving me feeling claustrophobic inside the cabin. Not this time. The weather was absolutely perfect. The skies were clear, the sun shone and we were able to enjoy sitting down on the dock, soaking up the sun or fishing. We played bean bag toss and volleyball out in the yard. I brought a couple of books and read to my heart’s content. We spent time with our extended family, and I got my baby-fix while doting on my sweet six-month old nephew, Ryan. Ryan is an absolutely charming baby. He’s always smiling, with a grin so big it lights up his eyes. He was perfectly content to let me carry him around the property while he gazed wide-eyed at his surroundings. I took a long, quiet walk with him down the secluded driveway, just enjoying the way he clung to me and cooed over my shoulder as he took in the scenery around him. If you ask me, one of the best feelings in the world is having a happy little baby cling to you contentedly. Sigh! I miss babies.

On Saturday, we all piled into the speed boat and headed out to watch a fireworks display from the water. I’m not a big fan of riding around in a boat in the dark, but thankfully there was a full moon out that night to help light our way. We anchored in a bay that was already beginning to fill with other boats full of spectators. The night air was warm and the fireworks show was spectacular. We arrived back at the cabin near midnight and I fell asleep almost as soon as my head hit the pillow. It felt so good to sleep with the windows open and the night air blowing through the room while I huddled up inside a warm sleeping bag. I slept long and hard; something I don’t do often enough.

My employer was very generous this year, giving us both Friday and Monday off with holiday pay. I felt so much more relaxed coming home from the cabin on Sunday, knowing I had an extra day to get back in the swing of things at home before heading back to work.

And I can’t complain about having a short work-week two weeks in a row! Everyone at the office seems to have benefited from the long weekend. The atmosphere is relaxed and everyone is in a good mood. I have laughed more at work this week than I can remember doing in a long time. The funniest thing ever happened Wednesday morning. My boss received a couple of voice mails that had her laughing so hard there were tears flowing down her cheeks and she could barely speak. Of course, she came out to find me, and I managed to understand a few words…

“…Made my day…gotta hear this… “

She motioned for me to follow her into her office and dialed into her voice mail, instructing me to just listen and to also pay attention to the time the messages were received. The automated voice on the system announced,

“You have two messages. First message, received Tuesday at 9:20 p.m.”

(It’s important to note that our office is closed each day by 5:00 p.m.)

On the message system, a familiar voice was heard. It was that of my coworker, K, sounding a little frantic.

“Hi (Boss), it’s me, K. Oh my gosh. I’m so sorry! I’m late for work. I don’t know what happened. I guess I overslept. It’s after nine. I’ll…I’ll…I’ll be there as soon as I can.”

And then came the second message. Again, it was K, sounding much calmer and maybe a bit sheepish this time around.

“Hi (Boss), it’s K again. Disregard my last message. It’s after nine o’clock on Tuesday night. I must have fallen asleep and when I woke up, I thought it was Wednesday morning. It’s still Tuesday night. Never mind. See you tomorrow.”

K showed up in the boss’ office just as we were listening to the end of the message. She was a good sport about it and by the end of the day, had encouraged almost everyone in the office to go have a listen and a laugh at her expense.

Another good thing this week; Mark got his new truck, a silver 2009 Chevrolet Silverado Extended Cab. (Yes, Oscar. He buys American!) He’s happy as a clam. I’m happy he’s done stressing out over trying to find the best price and having to deal with car salesmen and driving me a little bonkers in the process. Now he’s like a little kid with a new toy. He keeps asking me if I want to drive it but I’m ok with being the passenger and playing with the XM radio. Besides, I don’t want to be the first to put a scratch on it. I’m perfectly content to drive my “old” Impala that gets excellent gas mileage, has already met the butt of one deer and has its share of scratches.

I’m still trying to comprehend the crisis I mentioned earlier this week. The whole thing makes me feel very helpless. I guess I have to look at it with the knowledge that it’s not a life threatening situation for anyone involved and as much as I hate to see people I love hurting, I have to believe that somehow they’ll get through this.

For now, I’m looking forward to a spending the weekend at a softball tournament, watching my daughter play. How she loves to play! I just want to enjoy these times with her before they pass us by. It makes me realize that in spite of life’s trials, life is still good.

Have a great weekend!

Life is Good – June 26, 2009

IMG_0258_2 by you.If you read my post yesterday, you might recall that I mentioned I had a conference call in the morning. The participants in this meeting consisted of a small group of executive account managers of which I am a part. Normally my boss doesn’t expect us to participate in conference calls from home if the meeting occurs on a day one or more of us are not in the office. Normally, a meeting among this group serves the purpose of touching base and making sure everyone is on the same page. In the past, if one of us happened to be out of the office on the day of one of these meetings, we would just catch up with one of the others when we returned to work. But something seemed different about the meeting invitation this time. The message was vague but there seemed to be an expectation that anyone not in the office would call in if at all possible.

Anxiety levels in the office have been high. The economy hasn’t improved and neither has my company’s business. I was nervous about this call.

I won’t bore you with the details of my job, but suffice it to say that changes implemented by the Bush administration, the current economy, and impending changes being made by the Obama administration to the federal student loan program have made it nearly impossible to expect that we can resume business as usual. Our normal operations have been steadily grinding to a halt over the past couple of years, culminating with a recent company announcement that we would be unable to fund any loans for the coming academic year. Funding loans is what we do. If we don’t fund loans, then there is little left to do other than service our existing accounts. Without the benefit of new business, we have all wondered how long the company could afford to keep us all on staff. Most of us have been waiting for an announcement of layoffs and over the past few days, the fear in the office seemed almost tangible.

It was with trepidation that I dialed in on the conference call yesterday and prepared to hear the news my boss had to share.

In spite of what I know about my company, I honestly, deep down inside, never expected to hear what was said on that call yesterday.  My boss spoke for quite some time, finally filling us in on what had been going on behind the scenes in upper management recently. It didn’t take me long to understand that the news was good!

We are not folding beneath the weight of this economy. We are not throwing up our hands in defeat and calling it quits. Instead, as I have been hoping for months, it seems that management has found a way to reinvent the company and market our  expertise in other areas. I am not losing my job! At least not yet.

This news is all very preliminary and I need to be careful not to get too comfortable just yet. Our future success depends on being able to market the products and services that are being developed. But there are already some potential customers and things look promising! I was excited to hear that I will have a very active roll in this new venture if things go as well as we hope.

When I hung up from that call, Jake was the only one home besides me. He had been playing on the Wii while I was on my call and was still at it when I was finished. Still holding my cordless phone, I went to find him in the living room and began to jump and dance around and sing, “I’m not losing my job! I’m not losing my job!” He asked a few questions and laughed at my antics, saying that he didn’t think he’d ever seen me in such an excited state. My kids are very aware of how precarious my job situation has been and so I’m sure Jake understood my celebratory mood.

I suddenly realized that for the past many months, there had been a tremendous weight on my shoulders and that it had been casting a shadow over me, every day, in everything I did. Some days were worse than others. Some days I would barely worry about it, with only a mild awareness in the back of my mind of the bleak outlook. Other days, I couldn’t seem to stop worrying. This may seem dramatic to some. I’m not sure I can even explain the attachment I have to my job except to say that this  is the first job I have ever had in which I not only feel competent but that I excel in my duties and find the work to be extremely fulfilling. As much as I’d be willing to do most any kind of work necessary to support my family, I know this job and this company are a rare almost-perfect fit. The thought of giving it up hurts.

Before yesterday’s call, I was prepared to enjoy my day and simply enjoy it without worrying about anything else for a change. After the call, I don’t think there was anything that could have dampened my spirits. It turned out to be a beautiful day in so many ways.

I know there’s always the possibility that things could still go sour with my job, but for now I’m just happy that we’re not going down without a fight. I  feel like I can breathe again! Life is good!