Logan Next Door

The house next door to us has been sold several times in the twenty-six years we’ve lived in ours. It’s a two-bedroom, split-level house, oddly laid out and not ideal for a growing family. They’ve all been growing families and this is why, I think, no one has stayed for too many years. Unless of course, it’s us… ?

NAH!

We’ve been lucky to have great neighbors all along. But once any of them realized that they needed room for more than one child, they’d look for a bigger place to live. Tears were shed on both sides of the fence each time a family moved on, but we’ve always been fortunate to find friendship with the next family to come along. And all along, there have been little ones next door to keep us entertained.

When the last neighbors left, we were very sad to see them go and we particularly missed little Ethan. He called me “Tee” and always wanted to “drive” my car. (I let him sit behind the wheel one day and play driving. From that day on, when I’d pull into the drive way, Ethan would come running, clasp his little hands together and look at me hopefully. “Drive Tee cah?” he’d ask. I could never resist.)

The new neighbors moved in not long after Ethan’s family left. The new neighbors had a baby, Logan. Fall came and winter passed, and as usually happens during the colder months, our interaction with the neighbors was minimal. When spring came, Logan had grown considerably and was learning to walk. But oh, was he a shy little boy. He wanted nothing to do with any of us.

Another winter came and went and Logan grew some more. By this spring, he was still shy, but much more curious about us. And he could run and throw balls and put landscaping rocks in my water fountain, just like Ethan used to do. He really likes Mark, because Mark is goofy. Little kids like goofy people. Whenever Mark comes home, if Logan is out in his yard, Mark will call out to him in a big, exaggerated soprano voice. “Hiiiiiiiiii LOGAN!” Logan loves that!

If Logan is out back on his family’s deck, and we are out on ours, he will call across to us. He says, “Hi,” but it sounds more like, “Heeee! Heeee!”

When Jake drives up in his big truck, Logan points and exclaims, “Dehr Jake!”

And he’s very coy with Kacey, always calling out for her attention and then playing shy and tucking his chin when she responds.

Last week, Mark came home from work in the mid-afternoon. It was one of those days when no one had been home at our house all day, and poor Lucy was starved for attention. Mark could hear Lucy barking as he stepped out of his truck. He called out a quick hello to Logan as he played in his front yard, but then went inside to calm Lucy and spend some time with her. Logan was so offended that Mark hadn’t come to see him that he began to wail and cry to his mom, “Mahk! Mahk!”

Mark could hear Logan crying and had to go outside and pay some attention to him too before he’d quit crying.

Now Logan calls me Tee, just like Ethan used to do. Last Friday, we were all sitting around in the driveway. Logan was playing with a tennis ball. He threw it down the driveway a few times just to watch his dad have to run after it and keep it from rolling all the way down the street. This made Logan giggle uncontrollably! Finally Logan’s dad told him if he threw the ball down the driveway again, he would take it away. So Logan decided he’d prefer to keep his ball and would play catch with someone instead of annoying his dad.

Mark asked Logan to throw him the ball, but Logan looked at him and said, “No. I pway Tee.” And he whipped that ball straight at my forehead as I sat in a lawn chair. He’s got a good arm! Good thing I had quick reflexes!

I love the summer months when all the neighbors are outside and we stop frequently to socialize. Logan has grown so comfortable with us that he now considers our yard an extension of his. When my windows are open, I often hear the whine of his motorized tractor as he drives circles around our pine tree.

Farmer Logan

Farmer Logan

Now he races me – me on foot, him behind the wheel. Somehow he always wins! And he loves to pretend he’s going to run over my bare toes and he gets this devilish little grin when he cuts it a little close and I jump out of his way.

I’m hoping Logan’s family stays for a good long while. Logan’s dad has an eighteen year-old from a previous marriage and I suspect there might not be any younger siblings for Logan. We sure do enjoy having him around and would love the chance to see him grow up.

Weather or Not

Over the winter months when I’m dreaming of summer, I always imagine a nearly cloudless sky, rays of sun that brown the skin and sidewalks too hot to walk barefoot on. I think of how good it feels to come into an air-conditioned house after sweating in the sweltering heat.

We haven’t really had a lot of that kind of summer yet, although according to the local weather girl, those days are just around the corner. I am ready to welcome them with open arms (she says as she enjoys a cool breeze through the living room windows and the sounds of little Logan next door giggling and squealing in his yard.)

We’ve had a lot of rain so far this summer and days that are cooler than normal. Whenever the subject of weather comes up, we talk about it as if anything other than beach weather has no business being here. It’s SUMMER, for crying out loud! When we spent the last few days up north at the lake, we were a little disappointed that it was too cool for swimming and tubing, too windy to fish at times, and that there was downpour in the middle of one of “our” days. Sitting in the cabin playing Scrabble, wearing sweatshirts, watching movies and napping was not what we’d had in mind for our mini vacation.

Then again, when we stopped to think about it, what exactly was wrong with lounging around together and enjoying some new flicks and some old favorites? Nothing! It’s not often we find time to watch one movie, much less several of them. What was wrong with a wicked competitive game of scrabble, with Connor trying to make up words with his most valuable letters? Nothing! (We laughed so much! And I won!) What was wrong with falling asleep in the middle of the day, with dogs cuddled up against us while the rain poured outside? Absolutely nothing! Sure, it would have been way fun to be floating around in the lake with the sun beating down on our shoulders, but we were still having fun, making memories, all that good stuff.

If we count the “good” days only by the weather they bring, we’ll end up missing some really great moments.

Besides, it’s been really good for the garden!

Happier

These past few weeks, something has changed in me.

I’m happier.

Maybe happier isn’t entirely the right word for it. Happier, yes. But moreso, significantly less anxious. About everything. There’s a level of calm I don’t remember ever experiencing. Which in turn translates to happier. 

It would be hard for anyone else to appreciate the enormity of this change unless you had any idea how uptight I tend to feel at any given time. Uptight is just a part of me and I’m used to it. I don’t know exactly when I started to feel as if I just worried enough, that I could have some control over any problem. It was probably always there to some extent. I see it within my extended family in varying degrees. But I have a feeling it seriously escalated when I became a mother. And even though I never had a chance of knowing or controlling the future, over the years, I’d developed a habit of holding on too tightly. Such unrealistic expectations inevitably lead either to relief that things turned out the way I’d hoped – or to disappointment and bitterness.  Really, I didn’t even understand how much I normally allow things to brew inside of me and how often I think and worry and rethink any situation. Until something changed for the better.

And the irony of it all, is that this ability to start letting go came when normally, I would have been least able to cope. Without getting into too much detail, this shift happened just after I learned that some of my loved ones are going through a really rough patch. (No one is sick or dying, and in the grand scheme of things, it is the kind of thing that happens, and life goes on, one way or another. But it’s hitting close to home right now and it’s really hard.) I spent a few days crying here and there. There were days when every hour brought an aching over the fact that there was not a single thing I could do to steer things in the direction I want them to go. It took me a few days to realize that with or without my painful emotions, the situation is going to play itself out as it will.

I mentioned recently that I’d been reading a particular book that had stirred a significantly positive shift in ideas that had been cemented in my mind for years. My goal in wanting to read this book was to ease my guilt over my church-going habits, or more accurately, the lack thereof.

I’d started reading Jesus>Religion with only a mild curiosity about what the author had to say. After all, in comparison to me, the guy’s just a kid. What could he know? But he’d made an impression on the friend who loaned me the book. I wanted to see what she was all fired up about. And the impact on me? Ended up being profound!

I’d had a somewhat strict religious upbringing and in all my years of practicing the faith, I’d always felt out of sync. I just didn’t get it and never felt like I quite fit the mold. I couldn’t find the peace and connection I thought I was supposed to feel as a Christian. I couldn’t figure out what I was doing wrong and why it was so easy for others, but always seemingly just out of my grasp. My struggle as an adult was that I’d quit practicing my faith, but wanted to find the place where I belonged, either with a church or just within myself. But going to a church of a different faith, or getting comfortable with not belonging to one at all meant going against the teachings of my upbringing, which incurred tremendous guilt. Even though I’m a well-seasoned adult, I know how disappointing it would be for me to acknowledge any of this to my dad. So I tried for a while to get myself right without finding my place, and now I’ve done almost nothing for years, always with the thought that I’ll figure it out eventually or get comfortable with going back to where I started. How? I didn’t know. Not surprisingly, I spent a long time going nowhere and doing nothing where my faith was concerned.

The book fell into my lap. The ideas in it filled in so many gaps in my mind. I was flooded with a sense of relief so big that I wanted to share it with others. But I didn’t know how to describe what exactly had happened. I’d read a book. So what? But something was different. I couldn’t quite put it in words just yet. The book felt like a launch pad in my life to something I couldn’t quite put my finger on.

So I was in the midst of this book, and very pleasantly surprised at the fact that I was absorbing something that felt good and important when I came to know that certain someones I love were really struggling. I couldn’t fix it and I found myself frequently distracted from my daily routine. Tears were coming often while I reminded myself that this situation might play out happily in the long run, or it might not. And nothing I could do or say could fix it. And normally, something like this would make me angry and sullen inside at the unfairness of life. Not that anyone outside of my immediate family might know this. I can put on a pretty good face for the world when I have to. But I knew what to expect in the face of a tough situation like this and I wasn’t looking forward to it.

The thing is, those dark feelings with which I’m pretty familiar didn’t continue to overshadow every minute of every day as I’d expected. Something was different, and ironically, in the midst of a situation I was certain would continue to pull me down until it righted itself. Some people are naturally glass-half-full kind of people. I’m just not. I recognize this and have worked hard to deal with it for years, and I guess I’d let myself get comfortable with this aspect of my personality. Acknowledging it seemed the best way to combat it, so why not?

But I’d read that book. And while doing so and since finishing it, I’ve noticed a huge shift. I was thinking differently than I used to and recognizing that my thoughts have power. I always knew they had more power than I wished they did when it came to negativity. Suddenly, the idea began to sink in that they might have power in a good way. I know there are others who have always firmly believed in the power of positive thoughts. I did too, as long as my mood was right. If it wasn’t, well then it was all just a nice idea but not very realistic. This world is an ugly place sometimes.

Now though, something’s different. I don’t feel like I’m enduring this alone and I don’t feel like I have to fix it. I’m still sad about not being able to fix it. And although I wish I could pray and obsess over it enough to influence the outcome so that everyone is happy, I know that’s impossible. I now see that it might work out as I hope and it might not. If it does, maybe it was a learning experience meant to make those involved stronger. If it doesn’t, maybe it was meant to be a gateway to a new road for all involved. And I no longer feel so impossibly tightly wound over the fact that I am not in control. This is such an unfamiliar feeling for me. For the first time, I recognize that crap can be going on all around me, but that I don’t have to dissolve inside into a total emotional puddle because of it.

Ultimately, I am a person who wants God in my life, but I’d had these preconceived notions of how I was supposed to know him. And since doing it that way didn’t seem to work for me, and doing it some other way was “wrong,” I was stuck. Suddenly, something began to click and I realized I was free to seek God wherever and however I could find him. The trickle-down effect was that I didn’t have to try to know what tomorrow will bring. I don’t have to tie myself in knots until everything works out as it’s going to. And if I’m not finding God in the place where I’m “supposed” to find him, then maybe I should just be open to him wherever he finds me. And everything is just a little bit … actually a lot easier.

My 21 year-old daughter seems to have a much stronger handle on all of this than I ever did. I was telling her yesterday how as a mom… even as a mom of adult kids, I always want to protect them from hurting. I wish so much sometimes that they never had to feel sad.

She sort of laughed at me (in a gentle way.) “Mom,” she said. “I get that as a mom, you wish you could control this stuff. But sadness is a part of life and we have to deal with it sometimes. We can handle it.”

I wanted to hug her, but I was driving.

I feel like this is the tip of the iceberg, that it took something that really shook me up to make me recognize that there’s a better way to face and embrace life. (Also? Feeling a little silly that it took me this long to get here.) I realize that the old me used to think the only way to empathize with someone was to really embrace the sadness and hurt until I was aching inside myself. And how much this all held me back from really embracing everything else the world has to offer! How did I not see this?

Weirdly, I wake up each morning lately with a new ambition. Not because I’ve distanced myself from difficulties and not because I think everything is going to be all sunshine and roses now that I’ve learned a new way of handling problems. It’s because I’m anxious to keep strengthening this new attitude. I want to test it out (but hopefully just a little bit at a time!) and see how the new me deals with challenges. There are some that I know will continue to challenge me. That’s okay. If not, how else will I learn what I’m supposed to learn from it all?

It feels a little bit strange to share something so personal as this and I’ve been debating it for days.  I got this email a few days back – one from a daily subscription to which I’ve begun to pay closer attention. I kept going back and rereading this particular message which said:

What if, Terri, happiness didn’t have anything to do with what you had, where you’ve been, or who you were, and arose entirely from what you chose to think about, yet nobody knew this?

And what if changing your thoughts, so that you could feel happier more often, would entirely change what you had, who you were, and where you’re headed, yet nobody knew this either?

Do you think if we told them they’d choose to think differently?

The part of me that said “its weird” to share this thing lost out to the part of me that believes that message was right and I was supposed to do something with all of this.

So there you have it.

 

The Color Run – SO MUCH FUN!

Sunday morning arrived, the day of the Color Run. I was excited in a way I can’t remember feeling in… well, forever! I was surprised at my level of enthusiasm, partly because when Kacey asked me to sign up with her, I was less than enthusiastic. I had given running a try a while ago, but seemed only to meet with frustration and failure. Eventually, I decided there just wasn’t a runner in me. But my daughter wanted to do the Color Run with me and she was excited about it. So I agreed and decided to do my best to get in running shape, at least enough to succeed in this fun run.

I ran my usual three miles on Saturday morning, the day before the run. The air was heavy and it was harder to breathe than usual. I felt like I was struggling through most of my run and I arrived home dripping in sweat. I worried that Sunday would arrive with more of the same. But all Saturday afternoon it rained off and on. And when Sunday dawned, the air was lighter, the sun was bright and the temperature was a near perfect seventy-ish.

Color Run 1

Starting out clean!

I was awake early and enjoyed my morning coffee in the quiet house before getting ready to go. Soon Kacey was awake too and we got dressed in our shorts and white tees, pinned on our numbers and decorated ourselves with a few complimentary Color Run tattoos.

John and Shelby came to pick us up and we headed off to the state fairgrounds where the run would take place. We all chattered excitedly as we drove and John made it clear several times that he does not consider running to be enjoyable and that he would likely hold us all up with his slow pace. I told him I was relieved to hear that. I didn’t have the greatest confidence in my own ability. But any doubts I had about succeeding in this run were erased when we arrived and saw all of the other runners and walkers heading for the starting line.

It was a total party atmosphere and there were people of all ages, shapes and sizes getting ready for the big event. I relaxed and just decided to soak it all in. I couldn’t seem to stop smiling as we made our way into the crowd of people. It was such a beautiful day and Kacey kept telling me how glad she was that I was there with her.

Kacey, me, John and Shelby... ready to run!

Kacey, me, John and Shelby… ready to run!

As we waited our turn to start running, music was pumping through the air and a young emcee was busy tossing out Color Run goodies and keeping the crowd pumped up. Our countdown began and we were off.

I soon found out the true meaning behind the words “fun run.” There were both runners and walkers. No pressure! People were dressed in crazy clothing with colorful tutus and crazy socks. One woman ran in a wedding dress!

The route itself was actually much easier than my usual route, which has a lot of incline. I was able to run it easily and even found myself conversing with John and the girls as we ran. The color stations were crazy and we did our best to get our shirts as colorful as possible as we ran through each one. I was having the time of my life!

Color Run 3After the finish, we made our way to the big party. We received our own packets of colored powder and joined the huge crowd in the grandstand area of the fairgrounds. Music was blasting, we were dancing and laughing and took our turn volleying the huge beach balls bouncing around above the heads of the crowd. And when it was time to toss our colors up into the air, we did our duty, whooping and laughing along with the rest of the crowd. If there was any part of my body not covered in color before the big toss, it was sure covered afterwards!

Now that we were tasting and sneezing colored powder, we were ready to head back home. All the way back, we all kept saying how much fun it was. I think John and I were both really surprised how much we had enjoyed it and we told the girls we would definitely do it again next year! Heck, I want to do another run well before next year!

My HAPPY tattoo!

My HAPPY tattoo!

As soon as we were back home, Kacey and I packed up the car and headed up to the cabin to join Mark, Brad and Connor for a few days of fun. We were anxious to get there, so we skipped showering and just tossed some towels over our seats to keep the car as clean as possible. When we arrived a couple of hours later, Mark couldn’t believe how covered in color we were! Yep, we were definitely not as clean as we’d started out, but we’d had such a great time!

Color Run 6

Nothing a nice shower and a good scrub wouldn’t take care of!

Color Run 4

Okay, maybe two showers! (I discovered after my first shower that my armpits were still a little blue!)

I am so totally doing this again next year. And probably the best part of it all? I discovered that there is a runner inside of me. And now I just want to push her harder and see what more I can do! Nobody is more surprised than me!

Peaceful Independence Day

Sometimes I dwell on things I can’t control. Sometimes to the point of making myself absolutely miserable. I think I’ve taught myself to believe that if I don’t worry enough – about my loved ones, or particular situations – that I’m not doing something right, and that I’m being selfish. And often, the end result is a BIG failure to live in the moment or appreciate anything else that might be right or good in my world.

I think this is a pattern of behavior that I’ve really honed over the years. And I guess I’ve just continued to do what I know.

I recently began reading a book that a coworker mentioned. She felt moved to share it with a former coworker of ours and came to me because she thought I might know how to reach him. After she described the book, I was intrigued. I said I might pick up a copy myself. She enthusiastically invited me to take her copy. She said, “I’m reading it for the second time. I can read it again later. You take it.”

My desire to read the book had nothing at all to do with the worrying habit I’ve just described. I wanted to read it because I thought it offered promise of easing some guilt over my withdrawal in recent years from the religion of my upbringing. Though I couldn’t easily sum it up here, the book’s been amazing in opening my eyes to an interesting perspective where ‘religion’ and God are concerned. Though I didn’t anticipate the book would help at all with my problem of dwelling and worrying,  it has played an unexpected part. And coincidentally, my arsenal of daily positivity messages that I receive via email and Faceb00k have come together to support a burgeoning idea that I can shift my pattern of behavior to something healthier.

Two specific ideas moved into my head over the past few days and they’ve stayed very present there.

1.  ‘Happiness’ was never meant to be a constant state of mind. It’s not something that exists outside of me and it’s not something that can be attained and held on to if I just check all the right things off of a happiness checklist. It’s out there amongst all of the other feelings and emotions I experience as a human. It takes its turn in the cycle of reality that is everyday life.

And not being happy every moment of every day? Is okay. It’s normal. Feeling down, worried, upset, angry, bored, mellow or merely content at various times? It’s normal too and I can stop beating myself up because I happen to feel those things now and then.

2. All of that worrying and obsessing I do about things that are out of my control is not going to change a thing. The world continues spinning even if I get myself stuck in some worrisome place in my head. So much is just out of my hands. A moderate level of worrying is okay. Beyond that, all I can do is keep doing what I can and keep loving and supporting my people to the best of my ability. I don’t always and can’t possibly know – how every situation is going to end. And while it all plays out, I’m still here. In my life. With opportunities and moments to grab on to. If I let too many of them pass me by because I’m dwelling in dark places that serve me little purpose, then it’s going to be pretty hard to notice anything else.

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

Yesterday was Independence Day. I decided from the start to just be there, staying present in the day. I set my alarm for early and Lucy and I went out for a run. Temps were in the fifties at 5:00 am and it felt good. Lucy is a great running partner and she encourages me to keep it up when I might otherwise think I don’t have it in me. I felt stronger than ever as we ran while the sun came up.

After our run, I cleaned up quickly. Mark, Kacey, Connor and I then headed out for a day at the cabin with some of Mark’s family. We arrived in time for a big family breakfast and then everyone dispersed for various activities. Connor wanted to go fishing on the dock. Some of the nieces and a little nephew joined him. Mark and the bigger nephews got started on a building project outside the cabin while sister-in-law, niece-in-law, brother-in-law and I cleaned up the kitchen and did dishes. Funny how even something like drying the dishes of fourteen people, in a setting like that, can be fun. We bantered back and forth and made jokes until the cabin was tidy again.

Soon we were outside with the others. The building project provided some entertainment for a while. I spent some time on the dock with the kids and later, alone, just listening to the breeze in the trees and the sound of the water lapping against a boat as it sat in the boat lift. The sun disappeared behind a wall of clouds just as I’d changed into my swim suit. Then came some rain. The rain was disappointing, but it provided a chance to watch ‘The Lego Movie’ with both big and little kids. The movie was surprisingly enjoyable for all ages. Later, there was more eating as we all enjoyed a simple summer dinner together.

A few times over the course of the day, my mind wanted to wander away to things that will play themselves out, with or without me.  I’d remind myself to come back, to just “be here.” I don’t want to ignore life’s problems, but I want to get better at not letting them overshadow everything else. Yesterday was a day to be with family, to enjoy a simple place and some simple fun. I think this is something I really need to keep working on, to handle life and to support my loved ones in a more healthy and productive way. And I find myself anticipating the hours and days ahead a little more enthusiastically than usual.

This is a path I want to keep traveling.

Six Degrees of Kristi Yamaguchi

Mark and I went on an excursion to the buy-stuff-in-bulk store yesterday. We don’t go there often, and especially try to avoid it on the weekends. But we had some time on our hands and I had mentioned wanting to look at bath towels there. The bath towel prices weren’t all that impressive, so I took a pass. But you know, being in the land of jumbo food quantities, we couldn’t leave empty-handed! We bypassed the three-foot tall bags of Cheetos and the ten-pound bags of M & Ms and filled our cart with some mostly responsible food choices.

With two cases of bottled water, jumbo containers of green grapes and red strawberries, a box of Chipotle veggie burgers, and enough Drumstick ice cream treats to last us a month, – (Who am I kidding? Two weeks, tops.) –  we headed for the check-out area.

This store has at least twenty check-out lanes and most of them were open. Customers were oddly jammed up at the lanes closest to the side of the store where shoppers tend to finish their shopping. Mark and I glanced at the less congested lanes a little further down and strolled on by those who couldn’t seem to notice the fifteen million other less-busy registers. We took our place in line behind one other customer.

As we stood waiting our turn, a woman with literally a handful of items took her place behind us. Mark motioned for her to move ahead of us.

“What?” she asked. “No. You don’t have that much in your cart. I can wait.”

“Go ahead,” he said. “You’ll be checked out in half a minute. You shouldn’t have to wait. You don’t want to be here all day!”

The woman was appreciative and as we all waited for the customer ahead of us to get finished, she became very friendly and conversational.

“I was actually here twice yesterday,” she admitted. “Living nearby can be a hazard. BUT I had a brush with fame in the produce section, so it was totally worth it!”

I cocked my head in curiosity. A brush with fame? In the buy-stuff-in-bulk store?

“Yep,” she went on. “You know where that little refrigerated room is behind the lunch meat section? I was in there, picking out a bag of salad when I saw this black hat that I just fell in love with!”

I momentarily wondered how this woman’s big brush with fame could be with a hat, but before I could ponder any further, she went on to explain.

“… And then I noticed the face beneath the hat and guess who it was!”

She didn’t wait for us to guess. Her head jutted forward and her eyebrows rose upwards  in excited remembrance. “Kristi Yamaguchi!” she revealed with a clear expectation of awe and wonder in our response.

I surely disappointed her as I was skeptical. Really, why would Kristi Yamaguchi be in our buy-stuff-in-bulk store? What reason could she have for being here? I couldn’t think of any big sporting events that might draw her to Minnesota right now. The woman clearly thought she saw Kristi Yamaguchi in a refrigerated room behind the deli meats, but I decided she might have been a little nuts.

She must have noticed my skepticism. Mark does tell me that even though my mouth often doesn’t reveal the thoughts in my head, my facial expressions usually tell it all. (Serious marital drawback at times.)

“I knew it was her the minute I looked at her face,” our friend explained. “She’s so cute and so tiny! Her waist is only about this big.” She gestured with her hands to show me that Kristi Yamaguchi’s waist is approximately ten inches around as she went on with her tale.  “I looked at her and said, ‘Excuse me, but are you Kristi Yamaguchi?’ She admitted that she was and that she was here for her husband’s niece’s graduation party. She married a guy from North St. Paul, you know.”

I didn’t know that Kristi Yamaguchi had married a guy from a neighboring city to ours, and momentarily scanned my brain to see if I remembered ever knowing anything about Kristi Yamaguchi’s personal life. I didn’t. I couldn’t dispute this woman’s story but remained skeptical that she had actually encountered Kristi Yamaguchi in the refrigerated room behind the deli meats. I figured Kristi’s look-a-like decided to have some fun with this woman and play along.

“Her mother-in-law was with her and kept shooting me a look that told me I’d better not blow Kristi’s cover. I assured them there was no way I would have done that. I just can’t believe I actually met her here!” she finished.

The cashier had now finished ringing up the customer ahead of us and was ready to scan our new friend’s purchases while I mulled over whether or not to believe the story she’d just told.

Mark turned and interrupted my thoughts. “Who’s Kristi Yamaguchi? She a golfer?” he asked in his typical abbreviated way of speaking.

“Figure skater. Famous olympian,” I responded in kind.

“Hmmm,” he said.

“Hmmm,” I said.

The woman paid for her purchases and bid us a friendly goodbye. By the time we’d paid for our stuff, the likelihood of whether Kristi Yamaguchi could actually be found shopping at our buy-stuff-in-bulk store was already slipping from my thoughts.

Then this morning, I read Rock Chef’s tale of ‘Playing the Game’ at the check-out lanes and it reminded me again of our odd encounter. A quick Google search tells me that our new friend from the check-out lane quite possibly did have a legitimate encounter in the refrigerated produce room behind the deli meats with a famous figure skating olympian who did, in fact, marry a famous hockey player from Minnesota.

So to our new friend in the check-out lane, I apologize for doubting your story. And to Kristi Yamaguchi, I apologize that my husband confuses you with Michelle Wie.

But thanks to all of you for spicing up what otherwise would have been just another mundane food shopping trip. The Chipotle veggie burgers alone would not have been enough to do it.

Lake Escape

Mark’s parents have a lake cabin up north. It has always been a great summer getaway or a convenient hunting destination for the outdoorsmen of the family. The best thing about the cabin is that it has always been open to any family members who want to come spend time at the lake. It’s not big. It’s not fancy. And it’s full of old stuff, history and memories. I think that’s why I like it so much.

The cabin used to be where you could find Mark’s parents most summer weekends. Sadly, not anymore. Mark’s dad is not doing well and hasn’t been to the cabin this year. I’m afraid he probably won’t ever get back there again. So it’s up to the rest of the family to keep things maintained up at the lake.

Mark’s “weekend” began on Monday this week and so he decided to go to the lake, mow the grass and take care of some other chores. He asked if I wanted to take a couple of days off and join him. It seemed like a good idea and I have some vacation time to burn before the end of the year. So I went too.

We stopped at the local convenience store/gas station/marine/bait shop just before arriving at the cabin. We bought some night crawlers and minnows in the hopes of finding time to do some fishing amongst the chores that needed doing.

We arrived late morning and since we were only staying overnight, it didn’t take long to unpack the truck. Soon Mark was hauling out the riding mower and Lucy was happily exploring new smells around the property.

“Do you want me to run the push-mower?” I asked Mark.

“No, I didn’t bring you along to put you to work. I’ll cut the grass with the rider. You go fish or something.”

Who was I to argue? The skies were clear and the sun was shining brightly, a seemingly rare occurrence at the lake. So often when we find the time to go up north, it always seems to rain. I changed into my swim suit (for catching a few rays) and grabbed the bucket of minnows (for catching fish.) Lucy happily followed me down onto the dock and soon my line was in the water, the bobber bobbing up and down on the surface of the lake.

It wasn’t but a few minutes later when my bobber was slowly pulled under the water. I gave the pole a light hitch, and began to reel in. I didn’t feel much resistance. Figured it was probably one of the little perch that are always going after whatever bait we drop in the water.

But when I’d reeled my line all the way in, it wasn’t a perch that rose to the surface. It was something much bigger! I wasn’t sure what it was. I couldn’t get my hook out of its mouth and it was so big I couldn’t hold onto it without grabbing it by the lip, which I didn’t want to do because it had teeth! I tried calling Mark to come help me, but the noise of the mower prevented him from hearing me. Lucy was prancing excitedly on the dock. She wanted to see!

Finally, I decided to leave my fish in the water and lead it behind and around the dock to the live well. I opened the lid and dropped my fish in, still hooked to my fishing hook and line. When Mark made another pass with the mower, I waved him down and he came to see what I needed.

“I caught a big fish and I can’t get the hook out of the mouth.”

“What is it?” he asked.

“I dunno, but it’s big. I just know it’s not a dog-fish.” (I caught one of those once and I remember how ugly it was!)

Mark lifted the live well out of the water until he could see my fish as it flopped around in protest. The hook popped out of its mouth just then, so at least I had my hook and line back.

“Oh my god, Ter!” Mark exclaimed. “You caught the holy grail of fish! That’s a walleye!”

I was a little big embarrassed that I hadn’t recognized the holy grail of fish. I’m not used to catching anything good! But I was pretty proud. We measured it at 23 1/4 inches long. I wasn’t allowed to keep it. This year’s regulations say it has to be between 14 and 18 inches in order to keep it, unless it’s 26 inches or more, and then I could keep it. Bummer. So we took pictures and then set the poor guy free. He’d been through enough already anyway. I texted a picture to the kids and my boys were pretty proud of their mom for catching something so respectable!

photo 1We found time to get done what we wanted to get done. Mark worked on a new coat of stain on the outside of the cabin and I did some deep cleaning inside. And we had time to spare to do a little more fishing and relaxing. The weather was just perfect, even if the mosquitos were a little too abundant. Lucy was in seventh heaven, running off leash (and surprisingly, obeying us when we reminded her to stay close.) She went bonkers over the bobbers, running back and forth along the dock, and kept whining at us as if to say, “Hurry up and pull another fish in!”

We slept like babies last night with the windows open and the sound of loons calling out across the lake. And I really appreciated a couple of days away from work. The lake is such a peaceful and calm place. We’re going to make it a point to make more of these mini-trips up north and I’m especially looking forward to a few days there with all of our kids this summer. I can’t wait to go back again!

 

The Assisted Living Discussion

The week started out cloudy and rainy and ended up sunny and steamy. Overall, not the kind of weather that bodes well for my mom’s health. The high humidity makes it hard for her to breathe with her lung condition.

I went over to Mom and Dad’s on Thursday evening to type up a homily my dad had written for a wedding he was presiding over on Saturday. Mom usually types up Dad’s deacon stuff, but even her fingers are in worse shape than usual. Typing would be painful for her.

Mom sat in the chair by the reading lamp in their upper-level office while I typed. I could hear her breathing heavily, as if she had just finished a marathon. It pains me to see Mom struggling for air like that. When I was done typing up Dad’s message to the soon to be newly weds, Mom told me to change the font to Calibri, size 36, and bold it so that Dad would be able see his own words when it was time to read them. When Dad came upstairs to check the final draft, I noticed he moved a bit slower than usual and was slightly short of breath too.

The aging process sure does have some ugly tricks up its sleeve.

Yesterday, I had a rare chance to talk with Mom for a while without Dad around. She was feeling so weak that she had chosen not to go to the wedding with Dad. She dropped him off at church and came back home to wait until he was finished and then would go pick him up again. In the meantime, I was delivering some greeting cards I had picked up for Mom. As I stood in her kitchen making small talk with her, she was lamenting the fact that her health had kept her from a funeral she’d wanted to attend the day before and would keep her from attending a graduation party at my cousin’s home yesterday. I told her that I’d rather she and Dad stayed home and rested. Pushing themselves to go places and do things when they aren’t feeling well is not going to help them feel any better. I hoped that having someone else tell her it was okay to miss these events made her feel a little bit better about it.

The assisted living discussion is off-limits when Dad is around, but since he was wasn’t around at that moment, I took the chance to mention it to Mom again.

“I know Dad doesn’t want to talk about it,” I said, “but I really wish we could get you guys into a place where you don’t have to manage stairs, try to maintain a whole household and yard, and where there’s medical staff close at hand.”

“Oh, actually,” Mom said, “Dad is willing to look into the Marion Center. It has a chapel and if we lived there, he could go to mass every day.”

Mom and Dad have been struggling to manage their living circumstances for a while now. They need help with yard work and snow removal. They need assistance with shopping, errands and housework. Worst of all, I just don’t feel that they’re safe there anymore. There have been one too many close calls over the past few years.

Mom mentioned that a couple of longtime friends were on the waiting list for the Marion Center. I liked the idea of there being familiar faces if they have to leave their home and move into a senior facility. I jumped on this chance. “Don’t let this idea slip away again,” I pleaded with Mom. “Bring this up with Dad again soon. I want to take advantage of his willingness and get an appointment, give you guys a chance to check the place out. And realistically, if you want any chance of getting in there when the time is right, we have to get you on a waiting list.”

It would be such a comfort to get them in a place with other people their age, and with assistance close at hand. Dad would have other people to socialize with and he wouldn’t have to rely on Mom to drive him around when he wants to get out and see people or do things. She could just sit in a chair and rest when she wants and he could just walk down the hall to the community room. I feel that this decision has been delayed too long already. I hope this time we can actually get some solid plans in place for my parents’ future care.

I spent today shopping with my daughter, and appreciated my (relative) youth and good health, because who knows… there’s no guarantee they’ll still be here tomorrow.

Fahrvergnügen

After two months of waiting, my new wheels finally arrived!

Terrain 1

2014 GMC Terrain

When we signed the purchase agreement in early April, we were told it wouldn’t take more than two weeks to make the trade with another dealer and get the car delivered here. In the end, it took two months. Our salesman, Sam and the dealership staff made every conceivable accommodation to keep us happy while the wait dragged on and on. And it was definitely worth the wait! This dealership has our future business!

I’m not one to name my cars, but during the long wait, when the car came up in conversation, Mark could never seem to remember the name of the vehicle we were trying to buy. He would look at me and ask, “What is it again? A Traverse? An Equinox?”

I kept reminding him, “Mark! It’s a Terrain!

So our friend, Paul, in an effort to help Mark remember, started referring to it as Terri Terrain, (a nod to local radio host, Terri Traen.)

And it seems to have stuck. Terri Terrain it is.

I am so happy! And protective. I parked in a less crowded part of the company parking lot today.

Terrain 4Trying to delay the inevitable door dings as long as possible!

(Yes, I know I know I didn’t quite make the parking spot. I wasn’t being one of those obnoxious parkers. Really, I was centered when I arrived at work. Then two of my coworkers insisted on a ride around the parking lot and when I came back to my spot and backed in, they insisted it was fine where it was. And I was supposed to be working. So I left it.)

Now I just need to learn how to work the NASA control center that is my dashboard and I’ll be all set.

Dash

 

 

Celebration in the Rain

The weather has been fierce this weekend, bringing torrential rains and powerful winds. While we were out of the house, running some errands yesterday, the wind ripped the canvas canopy right off the gazebo on our deck! Oh, well. We needed a new one anyway and I found a replacement online a while ago. I just never ordered it because we didn’t need a new one that desperately.

June is graduation season though, and I was feeling bad yesterday for those whose parties were scheduled for this weekend. Our neighbor, Maria was celebrating her high school graduation yesterday afternoon. Maria’s brother, Luke graduated three years ago with Kacey. His party was the same weekend as Kacey’s. I remember that weekend well. We had a Friday evening celebration at our house and the weather couldn’t have been more perfect. Then came Saturday and it rained steady and heavy for two days straight. Luke and many of Kacey’s friends had to improvise on their outdoor party plans while the rain refused to let up. Maria’s mom reminded me that her oldest son, Charlie’s graduation party five years ago took place in the rain as well.

We lucked out weather-wise with all three of our kids’ graduation parties. But this is Minnesota, and the weather can be unpredictable. Any outdoor celebration has to include shelter, either from the hot sun or in case of rain. That’s why most outdoor graduation parties here are centered in the garage and include a few portable canopies set up around the yard.

The weather didn’t put a stop to Maria’s party, although the wind took out the large canopy that had been set up in her family’s back yard. The rain couldn’t keep guests from coming to celebrate with the guest of honor. We all just squeezed into the garage or house. And we had fun! Graduation parties like Maria’s give us a chance to reconnect with old friends. Many of us in this neighborhood have children of similar ages. We were all so tight when the kids were little, coordinating play dates and keeping in close touch. But as the kids grew up, as they tend to do, they expanded their interests and circles of friends. Our kids sometimes moved in different directions, and without the play dates to keep us in touch, we parents connected less as the years went by.

I love the photo collages at graduation parties and seeing the timeline of a graduate’s life. Maria had photos galore and a digital slide show too. I clearly remember when Maria’s parents and two brothers welcomed the addition of a sweet baby girl to their family. I remember that Brooks and Dunn’s version of My Maria was Maria’s mom’s favorite song back then. And now that “little” girl is heading off to college! Her photo memories were filled with pictures of her with her friends, family and many of the kids from the neighborhood. They made me smile and brought back memories of my own. They made me marvel at how quickly she seems to have grown up and reminded me how fast time passes us by.

And we got to reconnect with old friends. Even though our kids have grown up and gone in different directions, we all remain connected. We all seem to be tied to a larger circle of people in some way. Many of Maria’s friends’ parents have other children who went to school with or played sports with our kids. The weave of relationships grows larger as the years pass by, yet keeps us connected even as we move on to the next phases of our lives.

With the heavy rain and chill in the air, I didn’t think we’d stay at the party long. But we encountered so many old friends and neighbors, we were there for hours. Hugs were exchanged. We listened to each others’ stories and caught up on the goings-on in everyone’s lives. We talked about our kids – their experiences, good and bad with college. We talked about upcoming marriages, and the loss of one of our friends last week at a much too young age. We talked about figuring out how to adjust our lives as our kids move out of childhood and on to lives of their own. We comforted each other with shared experiences as our parents grow older. There was so much conversation inside the three-car garage, it was sometimes hard to hear. But what struck me most was the genuine warmth in the eyes and smiles of our friends and neighbors as we reconnected again. Many of the people we saw have moved out of our daily lives since our kids left grade school, or since their sports teams played their last games, yet we conversed as comfortably as if we saw each other daily. The laughter we shared and the closeness we felt reminded me that even though we no longer see each other on a regular basis, we’ll always have those moments in time to bring us back together when we happen to cross paths again.

The sun eventually peeked out from behind the clouds and the rain subsided long enough for the crowd of guests to find some breathing room, meandering out into the driveway and front yard. Evening was closing in by then. It was time for us to be on our way.

I rarely regret growing older. Times and celebrations like these only further remind me that growing older, though it has some pitfalls, also has so many rewards. Congratulations to Maria. My wish for her and for every graduate is that they’ll enjoy the days and years ahead and feel the same rewards of time as I feel right now. Life is a gift. Make the most of it!