Life is Good – January 16, 2009

Frozen Window by you.Baby, it’s cold outside!

I can’t get that song out of my head for the life of me. It’s not  bad as far as earworms go, though. I love that one.

It was so cold yesterday that school was cancelled. I think most people here were anticipating school closings would become a reality sometime this week. On Wednesday, my coworker, who also has Thursdays off, was crossing her fingers that school wouldn’t be cancelled. She didn’t want her kids home on her day off. (I hope she was joking.) Personally, I loved that my day off coincided with a “no-school” day. It was too cold to go almost anywhere and everyone hung out together at home enjoying a lazy day.

I was so grateful not to have to drive downtown yesterday.  After three days of trying to navigate through snow or deal with black ice on the freeways, it was a blessing not to have to go anywhere.

Of course, I did leave the house to pick up the truck from the service station. The  repairs were done by mid-afternoon yesterday. It was only a broken clamp so it was a quick fix and an inexpensive bill.

And as long as we were out, the kids and I took the newly repaired truck to Target where we browsed through the Wii accessories trying to figure out which items we want to have by the time the console arrives in a couple weeks. I set aside some money awhile ago and it’s intended purpose is no longer a necessity, so I am treating us to the Wii. The kids are stoked! Ok, so am I.

You know when you’re at Target, how you can never buy only what you planned on buying? As usual, we  (I) had to check out all kinds of things and I bought myself a pair of knee-high black boots because they were on clearance. They’re not the highest quality, but I probably won’t wear them all that much so I decided they were cute enough to spend the money.  The cashier who rung up our purchases was a somewhat nerdy looking high school boy. Very nice kid! He asked if I wanted to keep the box for the boots and I said no thanks. He pulled one boot out and put it in a bag. Then he said, “I suppose you want the other boot too?”

He made me laugh and I responded, “Yeah, I find it very helpful to have footwear on both feet when I leave the house.”

“Really,” he asked? “I’ll have to give that a try sometime.”

I caught my kids rolling their eyes at me. Apparently it’s embarrassing to have your mother actually joke around with a store employee, but I love getting friendly customer service. And so often, when the cashier is a high school kid, they really don’t interact with customers all that well. This kid was a breath of fresh air.

When we got home, Jake was craving breakfast sandwiches, so he whipped up some sausage and eggs. Then he piled it on some toasted bagels and added cheese slices. YUM! Breakfast for dinner and I didn’t even have to cook.

It was kind of a tough week. The extreme winter weather takes its toll on me emotionally. Thursday was just the kind of day I needed to brighten my perspective. (That and the fact that 30s are predicted for next week. 30 above zero. Sweet!)

Life is Good – December 26, 2008

Another Christmas has passed us by. I am enjoying the luxury of a four day weekend and reflecting on what a wonderful holiday it was. My gifts were many. Though very few of my gifts were the kind that could actually be unwrapped, these were more than I could have hoped for.

Christmas Eve used to be a day on which we would gather together with my parents, siblings, nieces and nephews for a family celebration. Things have changed over the past few years with the family now scattered among a few different states. The Christmas Eve celebration we once looked forward to is no longer possible. This year, Christmas Eve was a quiet night spent at home with my three kids while my husband worked. Aside from the fact that my hubby wasn’t here, I couldn’t have asked for anything more. The kids and I cooked a steak dinner together and everyone pitched in. Jake helped prepare the steaks for the grill and set the table. Kacey made the baked potatoes and helped set the table as well. Brad grilled the steaks while I sauteed mushrooms in butter and fried some zucchini with more fresh mushrooms and sliced onions in olive oil. The four of us sat together at the table and enjoyed our dinner. Afterwards, without me even having to ask, all of the kids pitched in with the clean-up.

After dinner, we relaxed in the family room, watched The Santa Clause, and then something unheard of happened! Jake and Kacey opened up the game cupboard; the one that holds all kinds of those old-fashioned kind of games of the type that can’t be played in an electronic game system or on the computer. They dusted off a few old favorites and soon my children were playing together without bickering or antagonizing each other! They played a game of Life and then Harry Potter – Mystery at Hogwarts (the Harry Potter version of Clue.) Then out came Kerplunk and I noticed they were talking and laughing together. They were actually enjoying each other’s company. Soon the electronic Catch Phrase game came out and Jake and I faced off against Brad and Kacey. We were in hysterics and passing the game off to the next player as quickly as possible before the buzzer went off. Even yesterday, the kids kept referring back to various moments during that game to laugh again over so many of the fun moments. Their favorite was when we were playing a round of the sports and games category. Jake had to give me a clue and was drawing a blank. He began with, “It’s a baseball team…” and then hesitated. Then a light bulb went off over his head. He scrunched up one eye, curled his lips, looked me in the eye and shouted, “ARG! SCURVY!” I jumped out of my chair shouting “PITTSBURGH PIRATES,” in response and the game was tossed off to Brad just in time for the buzzer to sound and for Jake and I to earn a point. We played many rounds and honestly, I don’t know who won, and don’t think any of us cared. That evening, surrounded by my kids, with everyone enjoying each other was the best gift I could have asked for.

Christmas morning came and the kids were overjoyed with their gifts and very gracious. We don’t go overboard with Christmas gifts but the kids can always count on getting that one thing they really want (within reason) along with several other things we know they’ll enjoy. Throughout the morning, each of the three would come find me wherever I happened to be to give me a hug and say thank you again. I have great kids!

New Books by you.Mark and I had agreed not to exchange gifts this year. Of course, he didn’t follow the rules and I was mildly irritated when Kacey, playing Santa, dropped a rather heavy gift in my lap. I should have known better than to think Mark would abide by the agreement, but I couldn’t hold a grudge when I saw that he had really thought about something I would enjoy that wasn’t a huge expense. Inside the shiny wrapping paper were two brand new books. One is a book I had been wanting. The other was one I’d never heard of but is written by a Minnesota author and I’ve started already and am really enjoying it. (Mark is getting his gift today. The garage door opener bit the dust, so he’ll be buying and installing a new one today. Don’t feel too sorry for him, though. He loves the challenge of a good project.)

The rest of our Christmas day was spent at my in-laws’ home with Mark’s extended family. We managed to take a nice family picture before we became too immersed in the festivities. I might actually have to frame this one:

Family Photo 3 12/25/08 by you.

There were thirty-one of us in all and we had a great time. Mark’s dad has recovered enough from his bout with pneumonia to enjoy the day. We had a delicious meal and sat around the table long after the meal was finished, drinking wine, talking, laughing and generally having a great time. There have been years where there was tension between a few family members, but this year was just easy and peaceful. It was great!

Gift opening takes a couple of hours with so many people, and the way it begins with the youngest child and moves progressively until Mark’s parents finally open their gifts. The evening finally ended with a huge spread of Christmas cookies, candies and pies. We returned home happy and stuffed to the gills.

This morning I woke up to a wonderful 24 degrees. It’s the first time in a week that the temperature wasn’t well below zero or there weren’t several inches of new fallen snow on the ground. I was out by 6:30 this morning enjoying the darkness and quiet and a much needed run.

The coming week brings short work days again and another four day weekend. I could get used to this!

I hope that all of you were able to enjoy and recognize the gifts of this beautiful season as well!

Life is Good – December 19, 2008

pinecone ornament2 by you.As the holidays quickly approach, it’s easy to reflect on how blessed my life is. Sure, I can think of a thousand things to complain about (so much more easily than counting my blessings sometimes) but during this season of sharing, giving and often over-indulgence, it’s hard not to recognize that my gifts are many.

I didn’t have to worry about how I was going to get through Christmas this year like so many others during this tough economy. I was able to finish my Christmas shopping today and I was blessed to be able to do it without having to think too hard about whether I had enough money to cover the expense. Not a day goes by that I don’t wonder how long I will be able to keep my job. I’m thankful that I will at least get through the holidays. And if my company can hold on through this spring, there’s a good chance I may be able to stop worrying about losing my job.

And speaking of finishing my Christmas shopping, I am thankful for flex hours! I love working ten hours a day, four days a week, and enjoying a full weekday off to finish all the shopping, all the wrapping or do anything anything else I please.

I am thankful for the joyful spirit the holiday season brings. Both at home and at work, those around me have been positively affected by this season. I love seeing smiling faces, hearing laughter, and seeing kindness in the hearts of others. I was just wishing that everyone could behave the same way all year round, but then realized I wouldn’t appreciate it as much if such generosity and warmth was a common, everyday occurrence.

I am blessed with some fantastic kids. My oldest will be home tomorrow and doesn’t have to go back to school for almost a month. I can’t wait to have him close by me again and be able to bear hug him whenever I like. The younger two, though they love to push my buttons, are good kids too. They do what I ask (sometimes even before I have to ask a second time!) They don’t cause trouble and are generally nice to everyone else. They help me keep my sanity by handling many of the chores that I can’t attend to because I’m gone at work all day. AND…they cooked a spectacular taco dinner for the family two nights ago. They did it together without bickering or fighting. Now THAT is a fantastic gift!

I am grateful to have my parents and in-laws in my life. We had a scare early this week when my father-in-law was admitted to the hospital with pneumonia. This is a man who rarely gets sick so it was a shock to find out he was in the hospital. Thankfully, he’s on the mend and was discharged yesterday and can be home to enjoy Christmas with his family. My dad, too is doing fairly well since recovering from his recent bout with pneumonia. These illnesses reminded me that I often take for granted the amount of time we have together on this earth. It makes me think of friends who had to say goodbye to their parents much too soon and I remember what a gift they are to me.

It seems like the days are moving past at the speed of light and soon Christmas will be upon us. I am going to try my best not to get too caught up in all the chaos and to take a step back now and then to remember what these days are all about…love.

Life is Good – December 12, 2008

It doesn’t always seem that life is good. Sometimes it’s hard to find the good when on a daily basis we are assaulted with bad news. It feels like we’ll never see the end of this staggering economy. There have been so many job cuts and so many people left to worry about how to continue providing for a family on a day to day basis.

Crime is never-ending. Our society can seem so callous and cold at times. People are insensitive, thinking only of their own needs and considering no one else. We live in a world that seems rampant with destruction, greed and selfishness.

Our loved ones suffer with illness and disease. They are often taken from us much too soon. There is too much pain and hurt. And it can be easy to want to admit defeat.

Too often, it can be difficult for me to see anything but the pain and frustration of the world. It becomes overwhelming. Sometimes I just want to crawl inside of myself and quit trying to deal with this awful and unfair place. Why bother caring? Where does it get you?

Other times, this time of year especially, I see evidence of hope. It’s hard not to notice people reaching out to those in need. We are given so much opportunity to share our abundance with those who don’t have enough. Even online, people are reaching out to one another. So often, those that we call friends here on the internet are people we have never actually met in person. Yet I see people reaching out, taking charge, inviting others to extend a helping hand and doing what is in their power to make life a little easier for one of  their blog friends who is down on their luck.

It astounds me and it gives me hope. My perspective shifts for the better and once again, I remember, life is what you make of it. And life IS good.

Life is Good – December 5, 2008

It has been an ups-and-downs kind of week. This time of year tends to make me feel pressured and overwhelmed, especially when things don’t go exactly as I had planned. But I am learning to take responsibility for my actions and reactions in the face of challenges. Feeling in control can make a world of difference and often makes my entire outlook feel more positive. Even when I’ve had a bad week, life is still good.

Monday arrived way too soon after a nice four day weekend. I could feel attitude seeping out of my pores that morning. It seemed like all I did at the office was try to put out one fire after another and I arrived back home exhausted. BUT… lucky me, at least I still have a job and fires to put out. It took me until Wednesday but I managed to get all of Monday’s issues resolved. The radio station I listen to has had a segment every evening where people call in and talk about what’s going on in their lives and allows them to ask listeners to pray for them. So often, the caller has suffered a job loss. People are applying and interviewing for jobs and there’s just not much out there. Many have mentioned that they have reached the point of qualifying for food stamps. It just makes it hit home how lucky I am to have a job, week after week, no matter how frustrating it can often be.

Tuesday night my car decided it had had enough of this starting and driving around business. We took it in to have it looked at because there was still an issue with squeaky brakes anyway. Turns out the problem was merely the battery which is a very manageable expense. The brakes are still squeaking but since the brake job was paid for weeks ago, it won’t cost me anything more to take it back and have them looked at AGAIN. And thankfully I have a very good friend, who is also my coworker, who just happens to live a mere mile or so away from me. She was more than happy to swing by and give me a ride into work on Wednesday and my hubby graciously came downtown after work to pick me up right outside the front door of the building.

My parents arrived safely in Arizona last Sunday and almost got settled into their winter home before the cold that’s been bothering my dad for a couple of weeks quickly worsened. Tuesday afternoon found my parents at the hospital and my dad was admitted with pneumonia. This feels so reminiscent of last year, before the kidney transplant when he seemed to be constantly in and out of the hospital. However, I’m grateful that my dad is now under constant medical care and that his body is that much stronger and hopefully able to fend off this illness quickly. I know he’s looking forward to being in the winter home they worked so hard to make their own.

naughtynicemugThursday, on my day off, I heard the doorbell ring. I couldn’t imagine who might be at my door in the middle of the day. When I took a peek into the foyer, I could see the mail truck sitting out by my mailbox and the mailman walking away from my door. There on my front step was a package. I figured Mark had ordered something from Cabela’s again and opened the door to bring the box in out of the snow. Much to my suprise, it was MY name printed on the box and the return address was that of my sweet friend, Kate. A while ago I won a contest on Kate’s blog and I had forgotten all about the fact that she was going to send me a prize.

katesprize

Don’t you LOVE that card? Can you see what it is? On the inside it says, “Muchas grassy ass.” Kate, you know me and my sense of humor so well! I knew that I was getting the cookbook and I’m so excited to try some of the recipes out! The mug was a surprise. There was a note attached that said, “I immediately thought of you when I saw this! Enjoy!” I wonder what Kate is trying to say? Naughty? Moi???? I LOVE it! I actually laughed out loud when I opened the box and saw the mug. Scared my cats and everything. What a sweet treat to get a surprise package! Thank you, Kate!

I wonder if you guys are getting sick of my running updates? I went for a run yesterday morning around 6:30. It was really cold outside. Probably below twenty degrees and it was windy. I had such a hard time for the first quarter of my run, but somehow I pushed past the desire to turn around and crawl back underneath my down comforter. It was so worth it. I finally found my pace and a rhythm and it ended up being one of those runs that’s completely exhausting and satisfying all at the same time. I am almost up to three miles per run and that is huge for me. I honestly didn’t think I’d ever keep up with it, but I did it. I’m ready to call myself a runner.

Oh, and one last little thing. I have to thank my new friend, Oscar for telling me how to wrap text around my pictures in a post. I’ve often wanted to do that and could never figure it out until Oscar shared the secret with me. So exciting isn’t it? Maybe next time I’ll put the pictures to the right of the text. Or in the MIDDLE! Whoa! I hope it’s not too much excitement for you guys!

Yeah, I know… I’m easily amused…. But as it was decided over at Rock Chef’s place yesterday, life is happier when you’re just a little off your rocker!

Life is Good – November 28, 2008

All the kidsZ by you.

First, an update on the turkey wars. My turkey, at 21 pounds came out TENDER, JUICY and FULLY cooked. Mom and Dad’s turkey was somewhere around 17 pounds. What happened to the “no bigger than 15 pounds” rule, I wonder? When Mark began slicing into that bird, there appeared some evidence of undercookedness near the bones. We shoved it back in my oven for a while and all was good, but I believe this makes me the clear and decisive WINNER! (Not that I’m gloating or anything…. nooooo.)

We did have a wonderful Thanksgiving. The food was good and plentiful. The desserts were delicious and everyone was made to take some leftovers home. Not only did we eat well, we had a great time. It’s not often that the entire family can get together all at the same time anymore. It made for a very special day. We were very well behaved and proper too.

My youngest brother did this to himself. It was as simple as me daring him to do it. Just like old times!

My brother, the dork by you.

Things got a little out of hand from there and the Cool Whip attacks began…

Only his favorite uncle can get away with this by you.

My niece's turn by you.

Why we were taking pictures in the kitchen, I have no idea.

Why are we taking pics in the kitchen? by you.

Lots of goofiness ensued. The “bend and snap” pictures have been deleted!

My niece, my sis and me by you.

This week I’m feeling so grateful for my family. My dad is doing well and we got to enjoy Thanksgiving together before my parents leave to spend the winter in Arizona. They are leaving today and I am glad that they have someplace warm and a place they love in which to ride out the winter months. I’m thankful for my youngest brother who is going to make sure my parents get to their winter home safely. My sister, brother-in-law and their kids are here from Illinois for the weekend. My sister and I are the best of friends and I love having her here. I miss her so much sometimes. Tonight we’re going out to see a fun local band and whoop it up! My son is home from school for the weekend too and he has filled my days with love and lots to smile about. He’s having a great time living at school and being independent. He’s had a few adventures during the weekends since he moved back to school and he’s enjoying life, but it’s obvious he’s missed being home. He hugs me several times a day and tells me he’s missed me. I’m so glad that he considers home to be a place he wants to come back to.

This weekend always seems to be the last relaxing weekend before the Christmas craze begins. I plan to take full advantage of it and I hope you can too.

Life is Good – November 21, 2008

life-is-good

As I look back over the past seven days, I’m almost hesitant to admit that it’s been another incredibly calm and peaceful week. I mean, it wasn’t all smooth sailing, but it didn’t make me crazy. I’m confused! Who’s life is this? It can’t be mine! I don’t make it seven days in a row (much less, fourteen) without having some kind of emotional melt-down. In fact, exactly two weeks ago, I was facing the end of a horribly tense and worrisome week. I remember going to bed that night, early, simply wanting to escape. I curled up in a ball and drifted off to sleep. The next morning, something had changed. It wasn’t the economy, or my work situation, or my son’s grades or my husband’s crazy work hours. None of those things that normally weigh on me had gone away overnight. But something had definitely changed. By the end of last week I was very pleasantly surprised to realize how good I had felt all week. I never expected to get a repeat of it.

Oh my gosh! Do you know what this means? I just realized! I have learned to manage stress! Can it really be true? Have I figured out how to stop obsessing about the things over which I have no control? I like this! This is good. This is very good. I am sure this positive shift in attitude can be largely attributed to two things: prayer and running. The running has been good for the body, the prayer, good for the soul. And I don’t want to be overly enthusiastic because I know me. I know that not every day or every week can be this peaceful. But I do hope that the past two weeks have taught me enough that the next time I’m stressing, I won’t try to convince myself, as I usually do, that whatever I am facing means the end of the world as we know it.

That being said, these are just a few of the simple pleasures in my week:

  • Several phone calls from my oldest. He can’t wait to come home for Thanksgiving and I can’t wait to have him here.
  • Looking through family pictures while loading all new photos to my parents’ digital photo frame. (They somehow managed to damage the internal memory. Thankfully the frame accomodates a jump drive. HEY! Remember the pictures of my kidneys? I put one on the jump drive just for fun. I wonder how long it will take them to notice?)
  • The way my daughter confides in me.
  • My husband coming downtown and plugging money in a parking meter, just to spend a short half-hour having lunch with me.
  • My down comforter.
  • A white chocolate mocha.
  • My coworker, Shannon. She and I are SO much alike, it’s not even funny. And she keeps me laughing all day long.
  • Oreo Cakesters
  • This little find that I stumbled across at Target: (and yes, I did listen to it already!) Rick! Sigh!

Have a wonderful weekend, all!