In which I learn that what I want is not always what I need

We are now smack dab in the middle of our three-day weekend and I am loving it. And I have to say this because I didn’t expect to love it.

My husband is working this holiday weekend. And this is not all that unusual. If you know us at all, you know it’s not uncommon for Mark to work weekends. His job requires it of him, every other weekend, holiday or not. This is our norm and for the most part, I am just grateful that he is gainfully employed and able to help keep a roof over our heads, put food on the table, and help the last of the three kids get through college.

Obviously, I would prefer if Mark could enjoy every holiday at home with his family. I don’t feel quite whole when he’s not with us on these special occasions. I tend to feel a bit sorry for myself when it seems like most everyone I know is with their families, celebrating, or relaxing, or escaping everyday life … and we’re not.

I expected to feel let down this weekend. I expected to feel alone and a little bit bitter. Because my husband didn’t have to work this weekend. He chose to work.

Yes, there was a slight lack of communication in which he forgot to discuss this choice with me until it was too late to undo it. And I didn’t have the chance to tell him how much I would hate him making that choice.

I hate to admit this, but I … tend to … maybe be a little bit of a …

grudge-holder.

There. I said it. I’m a grudge-holder. (Hey. Everyone has a fault or two that needs continuous work. This is mine.) And if this weekend ended up being miserable for me, it would have been my own doing. But I made a pivotal choice yesterday morning when Mark’s alarm clock went off at 5:45 am.

As I lay there in bed, trying to go back to sleep, feeling disgruntled about being awakened on my day off, on my holiday weekend, I realized that returning to dreamland was not going to happen. It’s not in my early rising make-up to go back to sleep once I’m awake. Still, I thought I should have at least had the chance to continue sleeping past my norm.

Go out for a run, I said to myself.

I don’t run anymore, I reminded myself.

Well, since you agreed to run the Color Run with your daughter in seven short weeks, it might not be a bad idea to start again, my damn self said to me.

Fine! I’ll get up and go outside, I replied to myself. But I’m not running. I’ll just take Lucy for a walk.

But actually? I did run. Lucy wanted to run. Actually, Lucy always wants to run. And if there’s anyone who can melt my stubborn tendencies, (besides my daughter,) it’s my dog. So we ran. And it was good.

The sun was ablaze and the sky was a gorgeous blue. Flowering Crab Apple trees were in various stages of bloom all along the way and I breathed in deep, enjoying their floral fragrance. My legs weren’t in as bad of shape as I thought they would be and neither were my lungs. And Lucy was my motivation to keep going when I thought I couldn’t. By the time we came back home, I had a new attitude.

After our run and a good drink of water for both Lucy and me, I enjoyed a big cup of coffee with creamer and sat down to write. More therapy for my now significantly less bitter self.

Both Jake and Kacey were up early, and when Jake said, I’m going to make us some Belgian waffles, that sealed it. There’s nothing I love more than a hot, unhealthy breakfast with my kids on a lazy morning. Jake mixed up the waffle mix and I started some bacon in a frying pan. I ate too much bacon and the waffles didn’t come out of the iron in one piece, but it was all delicious.

Later, Kacey helped me do the minimum of cleaning we felt obligated to get done around the house. We watered our new vegetable plants out in the gardens, (we’re hoping to grow our own salads this summer,) and pulled Lucy’s pool out of the shed and filled ‘er up. Then we played with our crazy, adorable dog and laughed as she splashed in and out of her pool and ran circles in the yard under the warm, spring sun. Dogs really know how to revel. I could learn a thing or two from Lucy.

20140524Lucy

When Lucy pooped out after so much activity, we marveled at how cute she was, all curled up and sound asleep on the family room loveseat. Kacey and I headed back out to the patio table on the deck and  “did” our finger and toe nails with some bright pink polish. My coworker, Nick was getting married in the afternoon and Mark and I were going to the reception after he got off work. Thought I might give my fingernails a rare coat of polish to go along with the dressing up I’d be doing for the occasion.

As we sat outside soaking up as much enjoyment of  the day as we could, me polishing Kacey’s nails, she said, I just love this weather. It makes me so happy.

I said, Me too, and I thought, I really am happy. And here I had been all ready to be a pouty mess.

What a gift the day, and my kids had turned out to be. I was all prepared to be in a funk for the weekend, but instead had followed my instincts to make the best of what I had. And it did turn out to be the best. I think every day about how fast the timeline of my life is moving and I realize that I can’t afford to let the precious moments slip away while I dwell on things that aren’t all that important in the grand scheme of things. Even the wedding reception turned out to be more fun than either Mark or I expected. There was one of those photo booth type of set-ups, and my coworkers and I got in on the fun.

NickWeddingThe rest of this weekend promises to bring more picture-perfect weather. Our good friends, Paul and Megan have invited us out for a night of walking and dining in downtown Stillwater tonight, (historic and fun place). And Mark and I have had a long-overdue conversation about his choice to work. We both agree we should have had a more solid discussion about his plans. And I can now see that he was only trying to do what he thought was best for his employer, his work life and for the family. (After all, there is some serious holiday and overtime pay involved.) I can’t fault him for being a dedicated employee and trying to take care of us. He thought he was doing a good thing. And as a compromise, he will not be working on Monday, Memorial Day after all.

I really couldn’t have asked for anything more. This weekend didn’t turn out like I thought it should, but still, somehow, it has been everything I needed. Sometimes I’m my own worst enemy. But sometimes, I win the battle against myself. Perspective. It’s all about perspective. And choosing the right one. It’s a lesson I have to keep on learning.

 

Snowfall

The deep freeze went away. Last weekend, Lucy reveled in the freedom to run and play in the back yard without freezing her cute little paws off. I think we made it past the thirties! And believe it or not, I saw a few people in shorts on Saturday!

007b

Looking for a stick in the brush pile

Sniffing scents in the snow

Sniffing scents in the snow

Last night and early this morning, a snowfall came to our area. It was pretty typical as far as snowfalls in Minnesota go and it left a few inches of clean, white fluff on the ground and a bit of a dip in the temperature. During the week, I get up for the day while it’s still dark outside. There’s a street light on the corner across from our house. So the first thing I did was to go to the window and watch big, heavy, wet snowflakes rain down in a slant beneath the glow of the street light. It was pretty. And I knew the drive to work would be slow.

It was a small challenge just getting out of the driveway. The lines separating the lanes on streets and freeways were invisible. I listened to the radio, laughed at the morning show antics and sang along to favorite songs as my car crawled along in traffic along with hundreds of others. It’s a good thing I left early. My usual twenty-minute to half-hour drive took an hour.

It was a busy day at work and I was immersed. Lunch break passed me by. I ate while I continued working at my desk and it was time to go home before I realized it. When I went out to my car, it was a simple pleasure to see daylight. The sun has been scarce lately or I’ve stayed at the office long enough to miss it. Thankfully, the roads were cleaner and drier for the drive home. Unfortunately, the driveway wasn’t.

The unspoken division of duties at our house means Mark usually handles the outside stuff and I cover the inside stuff. I expected him to tackle the snow in the driveway before he went to work this afternoon, but he ended up starting earlier than planned. The driveway was not visible when I pulled up after work. I had to gun it to get my car up the slight incline and into the garage. I knew that when  Jake got home, he would have trouble getting his car through the crusty lip of snow that, thanks to the snowplow, edged the end of our driveway. And then he’d have to navigate the blanket of snow the covered the rest of it and into the turn-around where he parks at the end of each day. I thought I might clear it out for him before he got home.

My parents have a snow blower. This is what Mark uses to clear our driveway and theirs, when he does the snow removal. I don’t know how to run it, and besides, it’s finicky. I bundled up and grabbed one of the many snow shovels from the selection hanging on the garage wall.

Our driveway doesn’t seem so big. Until I’m shoveling it by hand. Then it feels enormous! As I scraped and pushed and scooped up snow, I heard the whir of snow blowers all around the neighborhood. I wondered if nobody just shovels snow anymore. Neighbors drove by periodically, honked and waved. True or not, I felt like somewhat of an oddity. About halfway through the job, I was sweating, sniffling, and the cold air felt sharp in my lungs. I was getting tired! Thankfully, Jake pulled into the neighborhood just then. He left his car on the street for the time being and grabbed another shovel. Together we cleared the rest of the snow away. It’s true what they say. Many hands make light work.

Just before we finished, I realized that dusk had fallen and the moon was hanging in the sky, just behind the neighbor’s tree. It was picturesque.  I stopped a moment to appreciate the moon, recognizing the hush of winter around us. I might not have noticed the moon or the hush had I been pushing a snow blower, and for sure wouldn’t have if I had been warm and cozy in the house instead of outside in the cold.

Winter Moon

Winter Moon

That moon can come back any time it likes. I won’t mind if the snow doesn’t.

While the boys are gone fishin’

I bowled last night, really badly. I would mentally go over all of the mechanics of throwing my ball, position my feet in my spot, stay low, roll the ball forward while following through, hit my mark… Everything should have been perfect, right? Or at least respectable, right?

But it was far from perfect. I can’t tell you how many times I watched my ball head for the pocket, just where I wanted it, and then it would suddenly hook in the opposite direction. Instead of hitting the head pin and taking down the rest of the pins, I was hitting the ten pin. Or worse, landing the ball in the gutter. At one point, I stood there after throwing my ball, just looking down the lane and thinking, “How in the heck did I even make the ball do that?”

Almost to the end of our first game, I threw up my hands in defeat, looked at my teammate, Preacher Dave as if it was his fault and said, “I give up. I hate this game!” Dave said, “No you don’t. And lemme see your ball.”

He inspected it quickly while I pouted and in an exasperated voice, informed me, “Your fingertips are coming loose.” (Fingertips are rubber inserts that fit inside the finger holes.) I was aware of their looseness, but had simply been pushing them back down in the holes for several weeks with no ill effects. But last night, they began inching up over the edge of the finger holes, enough that my ball went sailing in the other direction when it rolled over them. I got the guy in the pro shop to glue them back in after game one. He brought it back to me in time for game two, told me I should be good for the night, but to come in early next week to get new ones put in. I then threw two strikes right off the bat! Too bad I didn’t realize this before I threw my first game in the trash! BUT… as always, I had fun. And that’s all that matters. (Translation: We lost.)

Meanwhile, Mark and the boys have gone off on a man vacation. They’re spending a few days fishing on Lake of the Woods, way up north where I suspect it’s still cold. I suspect that because Brad sent pictures and in them, it looks cold!  But it seems apparent that there is some male bonding going on as evidenced by the good humor being displayed by the subjects in the photos.

Brad says: "Dad's fish... Excuse me... Dad's sorry excuse for a fish."

Brad says: “Dad’s fish… Excuse me… Dad’s sorry excuse for a fish.”

Brad says: "Jake's fish. Look, I got him to smile and show his teeth!"

Brad says: “Jake’s fish. Look, I got him to smile and show his teeth!”

Jake is smiling! With his teeth and all! I know he’s having fun if he’s smiling with his teeth.

Kacey and I didn’t get to go on a vacation this week. We’re consoling ourselves by eating pancakes for dinner, watching girl shows on Netflix and we’ll probably throw in a little retail therapy for good measure. Maybe I should buy a new bowling ball.

Life Lessons of the Job Market

A few weeks ago, Jake lost his job at the bowling center. Actually, several of his co workers lost their jobs as well. So did several people who worked at the bowling alley where I bowl, which is owned by the same group. Seems there was a sort of sweep going on. Maybe the owners were trying to cut down their payroll, since it seemed to be the long-time employees who were cut. Jake had worked at his place since it opened more than four years ago.

Jake was completely taken by surprise and hurt by the loss of his job. He has a good work ethic and it seemed to me that he was always at work. If someone called in sick, Jake covered. When there were snowstorms that prevented other employees from getting to work, the one who lives only blocks away – Jake – was called to cover. He worked extended shifts. He worked holidays. He was one who could be counted on to drop everything at a moment’s notice if he was needed at work. His immediate supervisor had been grooming him for a position as manager of the bowling desk. Jake was already running one of the bowling leagues and he wanted to get promoted. To lose his job was a complete shock. I was heartbroken for him.

He was at a loss as to what to do next. Mark and I talked with him. We talked about whether he wanted to give school another shot. He’d been thinking again about an auto mechanics program at a local tech college. We talked with him about his options, maybe applying for school and getting out there and applying for other jobs. Sort of cover all the bases and then decide which way to go. As hurt as I was for my son, in the back of my mind, I knew this was a good learning experience for Jake. He’s not one to leave his comfort zone. As long as things were going along just fine at the bowling center, he would likely never think to consider there might be something better for him out there.

Jake’s shift at the bowling center was typically 5:00 pm to 1:00 am, so I saw little of him. He left for work most evenings just as I was returning home from my job. And because he worked late, he slept late in the day. When he would finally get out of bed, typically after noon, he was always quiet and sullen. His end of any conversation usually consisted of the least number of words he could get by with, or even just a grunt. Whether it was the hours or the atmosphere at work, it was clearly not good for him. And one of the first things I noticed a few days after he’d stopped working there was that Jake was a “real” person again. He actually communicated in whole sentences and even found a sense of humor. I enjoyed this new person he was becoming. And it was nice to have him join us for dinner and see him on weekends again.

Jake began to submit employment applications at various local businesses, and only a week later, a friend of ours called Mark asking if Jake would be interested in a job. Our friend is with an engineering firm that does concrete testing and he had given Brad a summer job for two years when he was home from college. He was offering Jake the same type of work, entry-level with a chance to learn new skills. What amazing timing! What a great opportunity and how fortunate for Jake to have a job come looking for him! When we mentioned it to Jake, I could see how shaky his self-confidence was and he was reluctant to commit. But we talked for a few days and he finally called our friend to find out how to apply for the job. He then filled out an online application and began the wait.

A couple of weeks went by and I began to get nervous. Maybe his application hadn’t passed the first requirements. Jake called to follow up and was told that he was still being considered and should hear from HR soon. And he did.

The interview was scheduled and I talked with Jake about how he wanted to dress. This is a company that does work on construction sites. When Brad worked there, his daily attire consisted of his oldest, most worn-out jeans, grubby t-shirts and sweatshirts and a pair of steel-toed boots. The son of some other friends of ours had also interviewed for a job there recently and had dressed casually. At Jake’s old job, he had worn black dress pants and a uniform shirt. He thought he would just wear his black pants but felt he needed to get a “decent” shirt. I agreed it was a good idea.

I went shopping with Jake and asked him what he liked. He picked out a very nice dress shirt and I suggested he go try it on. On his way to the fitting room, he stopped by a rack of ties and said, “I think I should get a tie too.”

“Okay,” I said. “Pick one.”

He picked up a few and asked which ones I thought matched the best. When he went to try on his new shirt, I browsed through the dress pants, thinking how he could use a new pair anyway. When Jake came out to show me the shirt, (which looked great on him,) I asked if he would try the pants too. He did and came back out looking not like my usual, scruffy 22 year-old son, but a very sharp young man. I was so impressed with him and told him so. And as long as he was going the whole nine yards, I suggested a new pair of shoes to round out the outfit.

Jake was all set for his interview. I was pretty sure he wasn’t expected to dress in business attire, but I wasn’t about to discourage him from making the best impression he possibly could. On the day of the interview, he dressed up and went to meet with our friend, who jokingly asked Jake, “Did your dad make you dress up for this?”

Jake assured him that Mark had nothing to do with it and the clothing was completely his own choice. The interview went well and Jake was offered a job. It is a summer job, yes, but with potential to learn a lot and possibly to stay on if he is needed. Either way, it will be a great opportunity for Jake to break out of his comfort zone and learn to trust that he is capable, intelligent and has strengths to contribute in the work environment.

He has just finished his first week at his new job and seems to be reveling in the new experiences. I like this new person I see in my son. He’s more confident. He’s happier and already more mature than he seemed just a couple of short months ago. He even greeted the day before noon on Saturday, taking advantage of the beautiful weather to go outside and pamper his car.

004b

Jake spent the remainder of the day helping me do chores and some much-needed spring yard clean-up before he went to hang out with his friends last night. He made a great day even better for me.

It’s hard to remember when in the midst of such disappointments, that it is often the means to a better end. It was difficult to imagine on the day he lost his job, that it would ultimately be the best thing for him. I think he and I both learned from this experience and I hope that it enables him to more easily balance the difficulties that will inevitably face him as he moves forward in life. But for right now, I just want him to have some time to enjoy this time of learning and feeling successful. I am so proud of him!

Life is Good – 2/2/2013

Life is GoodIt’s that time of year that I knew would inevitably come, when winter feels as if it’s been here long enough already and there’s no end in sight. This kind of winter is what I know, gray days and bone chilling cold at times. It’s not the season itself that really bothers me so much. It’s what I let it do to me. When I can’t seem to stay warm, I slow down. I stay inside, doing still and quiet things, like reading books or watching movies. My motivation  to get these muscles moving fades away. I can’t seem to get enough sleep.

These aren’t bad things, when I allow them in moderation. And lucky for me, I always seem to recognize when enough is enough. And this has been that week.

I’ve been guiltily joking about falling off the exercise bandwagon lately. Sure, there were contributing factors in the past couple of months – varying illnesses and a back strain that left a weeks-long ache in my hamstring muscle. But those things have long subsided. I said I couldn’t run outside. It was either too cold, too icy or too snowy. And as for the treadmill in the nice warm gym, it was getting boring. And the gym was packed with new bodies anyway. I felt crowded by all of those enthusiastic exercisers hell-bent on honoring their new year’s resolutions. And each day that’s gone by without any attempt by me to keep my body strong has gradually added to my pile of guilt. The guilt became too much this week, but I knew I needed something new, something to make me enthusiastic again.

I’m exploring the world of yoga! Thank you, Cable T.V. for your on-demand fitness programs that are tailored for everyone from beginner to advanced. I am once again starting the day in a healthy way. And don’t worry. I’m not giving up running – just taking a little break.

The good mojo seems to have worked its way into my work life this week too. I’ve found myself steadily busy and productive, just the way I like it. There’s been no word from the CEO about the headline contest, but he did send me another assignment yesterday. Seems he wanted a press release for a new product that’s up and coming. He gathered all of his thoughts and ideas on the subject and spewed them into an email which he then sent to me. He asked me to give it a good work over and “tighten it up” and I found myself with company approved time to just sit and write.

Brad Diploma 2Things are all good with the family. Our winter laziness has at least inspired Mark and me to do a good amount of home cooking, which feeds right into my ongoing goal to eat better.

Brad received his college diploma this week and sent me a text message to let me know. “Turns out I graduated after all,” he said. The day of graduation, he was joking that he might be cutting it close and wouldn’t know for sure until days or weeks after the graduation ceremony. I never doubted it though, and I told him so.

Kacey texted me several times this week from school. Once was to let me know that two of her friends had mentioned they were craving some soup that I’ve made on several occasions. It’s nice to know that my cooking skills are adequate enough to generate requests for a repeat performance.

Kacey also texted me to let me know she and her friends have signed up to do the Polar Bear Plunge – a fundraiser to support Special Olympics Minnesota athletes. Kacey and her team will be gathering pledges and in order to collect on them, they’ll be taking a plunge into Lake Calhoun on March 2nd – which means they’ll be taking a plunge into a hole cut into the ice and dipping into the frigid water! I think they are brave, and I am proud!

And I actually saw Jake this week and spent time with him for about an hour, while he was wide awake and in good spirits. He’s been working a lot, so time with him is often hard to come by.

And this morning, after a long, dreary, cold week… it is still cold, one degree outside as I write this. It was snowing as I left work yesterday afternoon, big, fluffy, lazy drifting flakes. The snow continued into the evening and left the landscape clean and fresh. It’s the weekend and the sun is shining.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Temperatures are predicted to rise up into the teens today. It’s better than single digits. I’ll take it. Life is good!

My Boys

My boys have grown up. I write a lot about Kacey here, but lately Brad and Jake haven’t made many appearances. Days often pass when I don’t cross paths with Jake at all. Days, sometimes a week will pass when I don’t hear from Brad. Today I got to see Jake and I got to spend time talking with both of my boys.

Brad is getting ready to finish college in North Dakota. Next month, the whole family is going to attend his graduation. I’m so excited, but Brad acts as if it’s not that big of a deal. It is a big deal! He’ll be the first in our family to earn his college degree! That’s huge! He didn’t even want to “walk” for graduation, but Heather and I insisted he should go to his graduation.

“I guess so,” he finally agreed. “I mean, I’ll only get to do this once.”

Brad called me today to let me know he’d be going hunting this weekend. No matter how big he gets, he still calls me to let me know when he’ll be going away for the weekend. He knows I’m a worry wart and just like to know where he is. You know… Just in case.

Brad loves to hunt. I mean LOVES. I knew from the time he was a toddler that he was going to be an outdoorsman. He has always been fascinated with wildlife and the outdoors. He was casting a fishing pole like a pro by the time he was three years old. He hunts and fishes every chance he gets. Last time he was home he told me he had a great dream about a flock of geese flying over him as he sat watching from a hunting blind.

“You probably think I’m crazy, dreaming about hunting,” he said to me.

“I don’t think you’re crazy,” I said. “I think you just have a passion.”

“Mom, I practically eat, sleep and breathe hunting,” he said. He wasn’t telling me anything I didn’t already know.

We’ve started asking Brad when he thinks he’s going to ask Heather to marry him. We all just love her and want her to be an official member of the family. Brad says we should let him graduate first and get a full-time job before we start putting such pressure on him. I suppose he has a point.

Brad comes home for a long Thanksgiving weekend this month and I can’t wait. We don’t get him for Christmas. It’s Heather’s family’s turn to have them. But we get them back again over New Year’s so it all works out.

Jake works evenings, so even though he still lives at home, sometimes I don’t see much of him. I see evidence of him … his whiskers on the bathroom vanity after a shave, the ever-present cereal bowl in the kitchen sink with a few bits of Apple Jacks still floating there. He often leaves for work just before I get home. And when Jake gets home from work, I’ve usually been sleeping for several hours already.

But this morning, I heard Jake get up and move around. This was strange. Jake doesn’t get up that early even when he’s had a full night’s sleep. I was finishing getting ready for work and went to investigate. I found him wrapped up in his comforter, laying on the love seat in the living room and watching t.v.

“What’s up,” I asked him?

“Grbl mmbl mmm,” he said.

“What,” I asked?

“Grbl mmbl mmm.”

“Sorry, honey, but what?”

“Don’t feel good,” came his muffled reply from inside the comforter-tortilla.

I managed to find his face in a small opening and he did feel warm. It didn’t occur to me that a 21 year-old might not appreciate his mom checking for fever, but he didn’t complain. I suggested he should think about calling in sick to work.

“Can’t,” he mumbled. (He may seem lazy at home, but he’s got a good work ethic when it comes to his job!)

I had to leave for work and I passed out doggy-hugs as I always do and then leaned over to kiss Jake on the head too, as long as he was laying there. Again, he didn’t complain and I got a little case of the warm fuzzies for being allowed to express affection to my “little” boy. I’m sure the dogs were thrilled to have Jake to hang out with while I left for the day. Jake is so good to the dogs. He plays with them and loves them up and they just love him.

As I was leaving work this afternoon, my cell phone rang. It was Jake, calling to confirm what dates he needed to request off work for Brad’s graduation. After confirming the dates, I asked how he felt and he said his body hurt.

“Where are you calling me from,” I asked?

“From work,” he said. So he went after all, just like he said he was going to.

“Well, maybe you should tell your boss you’re probably contagious and see if he’ll let you go home,” I suggested.

“Can’t,” he said.

And I let it go. I felt bad for Jake, but at the same time felt a sense of pride.

I’m so lucky to have such good “boys.”

Life is Good – January 22, 2012

It was warmer this morning when we woke up. Twenty-two degrees! Lucy and I decided to go for a walk since it’s been a while. We headed out before sunrise and it was so quiet and peaceful. Did I say we walked? Lucy likes to run. She made me run a little bit too. It wasn’t so bad. I might try that again sometime soon.

There’s a temple along the route we took today. It looks really pretty in the pre-dawn morning.

Later in the morning, Jake and I went to the bowling alley. I have a friend who is not only a phenomenal bowler, she’s a bowling coach. She runs clinics to help others learn to bowl better. I nagged her for months to run a clinic at our bowling alley, and so she did. We spent three hours figuring out what we were doing wrong and what we were doing right. We practiced drills and honed our new skills. I am amazed at how much I didn’t know going into this but I’m excited to start working on improving my game. And it was really fun having Jake along with me. He keeps to himself too much sometimes, but we have our love of bowling in common. I’m really glad I convinced him to come along with me.

After bowling, it was time to return Kacey to school. Her long winter break is over. She wasn’t happy to be leaving Connor. Connor wasn’t happy to see her go. I was feeling sad she had to go back. But I keep reminding myself that college is a good thing for her; the right thing. As much as I love having her around, she has to grow up. We picked up her friend, Matt and brought him back to school too. They chatted and laughed in the back seat while we drove. I was glad Matt was there to take her mind off the sadness of leaving Connor.

It rained most of the day, so the roads were sloppy and a bit slippery. But we made it back to school safe and sound. Kacey’s good friend, Caitlin was already there and waiting for her. They were happy to see each other, which made it easier for me to drive away. My sister had come along for the ride, so I had some fun company on the drive home, making it hard to feel too down.

Besides, I give Kacey two weekends before she’s back home again. And I’m not complaining!

Life is good!

 

Fingers Crossed

I have a kid who I worry about, maybe more than the others. My middle child. My Jake.

He had such a hard time in school. I’m talking about Kindergarten right through his high school years. We did everything we could to try to help make it easier for him, but he was just one of those kids who didn’t do well in a standard classroom setting. I think back to those years and I remember “lost” or forgotten homework, battles at the kitchen table over homework, worrying … constant worrying. I think about the years of summer school and the expensive tutoring we paid for. Could’ve paid for a year of college with that tutoring money.  There were compassionate teachers who loved him and encouraged him through the tough times. There were teachers who I still can’t think about without getting furious all over again. They made my son feel as if he was worth less than his peers. There were times that my child told me he “knew” he was stupid. It broke my heart to see him struggle the way he did. But he worked hard. He found the drive within himself and in the end, he put the push on and graduated from high school. On time. With very acceptable grades. I was so proud of him, especially because he had to work so hard to accomplish it.

After high school, Jake took a little break. We agreed to let him take a breather from his education. He worked and allowed himself to relax for a while. But after one semester at home, I reminded him that he had to pick some sort of direction and work towards it. He registered for classes at the local community college.

Let’s just say that didn’t work out so well. And he hasn’t been in school for the past year and a half.

Jake is a hard worker. He has a job at a bowling center. Not a bad job for a 20 year-old guy. They rely on him there. He’s one of the “go-to” guys. They know if they need someone in a pinch, Jake will drop everything and be there for them. He’s moved up a little bit and earned a little raise. He started out in the arcade and laser tag area. He’s moved up to the bowling desk. He helps manage some of the leagues. He does a little maintenance on the lanes. Sometimes it’s after 1:30 a.m. when he comes home, tired, with oil from the pin-setters staining his uniform shirt.

I still worry about him. A lot. People are always telling me, “He’ll find his way.” He’s a good kid. He’s polite. A little introverted. Charming when he wants to be. People tell me, “Not everyone figures out their direction in life right away. Give him time.”

I know. But I still worry.

Lately Jake’s been wanting to buy a car. He already has a car. He doesn’t want to get rid of his car. He just wants another one. A ’99 Mustang.

“… to work on,” he tells me.

“We already have three vehicles here,” I tell him. “We don’t have the kind of garage or enough driveway or yard to keep so many vehicles.”

The bottom line, I told him, (and I hated having to say it, but it needed saying,) is that he is twenty years old. He is living at home. People who have two cars to their name don’t live in their parents’ houses without a plan for the future.

“And besides,” I asked, “What kind of work do you plan to do? You don’t know enough about cars to do work on them.”

“Well, I might want to take some auto-mechanics courses,” he said. He has a buddy whose dad is completely into cars and he’s spent some time hanging around there, getting a feel for what it’s all about.

I wondered if he could see the hope welling up inside of me. I latched onto that sliver of possibility and went with it. He has always loved cars. When he was nearing his high school graduation, I had tried to get him to consider going into auto-mechanics. He thought he needed to pursue a college degree and shunned the idea at the time.

“Well…,” I said. “If you’re serious. Maybe this is something we could talk about.”

His face lit up, but I cautioned him that there would be some give and take in this deal if his dad and I agreed to consider it. I told him that he couldn’t just say he was going to enroll in classes, then get the car, then fail to follow through with enrolling in a program. I told him I wanted to see him make the effort. Research schools. Find out costs and when he could register.

It’s been a couple of months since the Mustang discussion first came up. Yesterday afternoon, Jake called me to say he was on his way to take a tour at a school. He had spoken with a guidance counselor about admissions requirements. He was taking charge of this. I was impressed!

When I came home from work, he wanted to talk about things. The first thing he wanted to talk about was buying the car. Red flags went up for me.

“Jake,” I said. “I don’t want to sit here and be convinced that you should buy the car. Tell me about the tour and your plans for enrollment. Tell me about school! I don’t want you thinking you can run out and buy a car just because you toured a school. And if you do get the car, you need to know that the agreement comes with stipulations. If you fail to enroll, or drop out, the car goes.”

“Mom.”

“Yeah?”

“I know this isn’t just about a car. I work with a guy. He’s 41 years old and he works at a bowling center for nine dollars an hour. He rents a place because his parents won’t let him live in their house anymore. He can’t afford to do anything fun. Mom, I don’t want to be that guy.”

(I think I heard angels singing at this point.)

“Okay, honey,” I said. “Tell me about the car.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I don’t know if he’ll get the car. It’s been for sale for a while and is still available. Not a great sign. I still don’t know where we’d put it. But if this car is the link to helping my son make a future for himself, we’ll figure it out.

If this keeps up, I’m totally going to get fat.

So there’s this thing in my kitchen that I’ve barely noticed before now.

I thought it was just a place for the kids to put clean dishes when they unload the dishwasher and they don’t want to bend down to put things away all the way into that cupboard nearest the floor. Bending down is hard work, you know.

Turns out, you can actually make food on that thing!

I also discovered this vast collection of books that sit on a rack in the kitchen.

Turns out these books contain instructions for making food that tastes good and doesn’t start out as something frozen that gets heated up in a microwave.

In fact, as it turns out?

I?

Can COOK! 

I know. I was as surprised as you are.

It was a rather cool day today. Perfect day for making lasagna, I thought.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

And so I did. I made lasagna! And I’m just going to be honest. It was phenomenal! There was so.much.cheese in this recipe. Can’t go wrong with lots of cheese. There were three kinds of cheese; one pound of mozzarella alone! The recipe said I should shred the mozzarella cheese, but HELLO! Why would I do that when I can buy it already shredded in a handy plastic bag? Yeah, I know, you food-snob types are thinking I just compromised the integrity of my lasagna with the pre-shredded stuff, but let me reiterate. Phenomenal!

How do I know? Because Jake ate it. And he even said out loud that it was good. And he said to make sure there were leftovers for him to eat when he got home from work. So there you have it.

Tell me this doesn’t look good:

Maybe you need a closer look?

And yes, this cooking thing is totally a ploy to lure the kids back home when they get sick of that nasty college food.

And I know you’re drooling now, so here’s the recipe. Go make your own.

Conversations with Jake

I keep my cell phone on my desk at work every day, turn off the ringer, and set it to vibrate. If my family needs to talk to me, I have them call or text my cell phone. If I’m in a position to respond, I will. If not, they can leave me a message.

This afternoon, my cell phone buzzed. I could see it was Jake, and I wasn’t overly busy, so I answered.

Jake: Hey, Mom!

Me: Hey, Bud. What’s up?

Jake: Where’s Dad?

Me: At work, why?

Jake: What time did he leave?

Me: I don’t know. Probably two o’clock.

Jake: Well he wasn’t home when I woke up at ten fifteen either.

Me: Oh, that’s right. He switched his shift today. He would have left home at ten.

Jake: Oh. Okay.

Me: Why? What do you need?

Jake: Nothing. I was just wondering. Hey, there was something else I wanted to ask you too.

Me: What’s that?

Jake: Who sings Come on Eileen?

Me: Ummm… (humming)… Hmmm hmm hmm hm. Hm hm hm hm hmm hmmm. Hmmm hmm hm hm…. DEXY’S MIDNIGHT RUNNERS! Riders? No. Runners. Dexy’s Midnight Runners.

Jake: How do you spell Dexy’s?

Me: D – E – X… just look it up. That’s what Google is for.

Jake: Okay. Hey. Who sings Aeroplane?

Me: Aeroplane? I don’t know. How does it go?

Jake: I don’t know.

Me: Can you sing a little bit of it?

Jake: No.

Me: Hum it?

Jake: No.

Me: Then look it up. That’s what Google is for.

Jake: Okay. I think it might be The Red Hot Chili Peppers, but I’m not sure.

Me: Just search it on iTunes. You’ll figure it out.

Jake: Okay. See ya later.

Me: K, bye.

And then I returned to my fascinating and gratifying world of work. I was diligently creating a user guide for our website. Approximately a half hour later, my cell phone rang again. It was Jake.

Me: What’s up now, Jake?

Jake: I’m smelling gas by the stove. Not a lot. Just a little. (Ongoing problem. We’re working on this. Steve the G.E. appliance expert said he smelled no gas, but I swear, it’s there. I’m calling someone on this to come check it out.)

Me: I know. I keep smelling it too. I’ll have Dad look at it again tonight.

Jake: Okay. There was something else too.

Me: What’s that?

Jake: The kitty wants to say hi to you. Hold on.

Cat: MEOW

Me: Which cat was that?

Jake: It was Holly. She wanted to say hi.

Me: Okay. Thanks. And as much as I appreciate it, I really can’t be spending my time at work, on my cell phone, talking to cats. Even if her days are numbered.

Jake: Okay. See you when you get home.

Me: K, bye.

Hey, he’s nineteen. If he’s actually willing to talk to me, I’ll take it. I won’t dictate the topic of the conversations. But I do draw the line at talking to the cat.