Spoiled Rotten Dog

The me ten years ago so would have yelled at the me today for allowing this to go on. This is not good for her health, not to mention the begging it is sure to encourage. I should remind Mark that when Lucy up-chucks by the back door, it will be his responsibility to clean it up.

Of course, I try to keep Kacey in the loop with the canine antics at our house. So I sent her the video. She wasn’t pleased.

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I told her I was only trying to protect her teeth. She called me a fun-sucker. Probably was true of the me back then. The me now is most definitely not a fun-sucker. It just gets a little easier to relax when the kids are all grown up and the only one left to spoil is a four-legged cutie.

I had a birthday this week. And I liked it.

Not that it’s probably been obvious to anyone reading this blog, but I’ve been experiencing a major shift inside for the past few months. A positive one. I’ve pondered many times how to explain it, but just can’t ever seem to put it into words. I can only say that a few months ago, I seemed to reach a sort of crossroads. Things that previously might have made me feel bitter and angry … well, they no longer dig so deep. Like I said, I can’t really explain it yet. I can only say that for the longest time, I felt like I was who I was and that I could never change. And my faith, while always important to me, had grown so very stagnant. Until something shifted inside, and suddenly … maybe not suddenly … more like gradually, but steadily, there began this whole new outlook. An entirely new sense of peace and belief and positivity began to seep in that wasn’t there before. And the more I feel it, the more I want to feed it.

Like I said, not that you might have realized it just from reading this blog. I’ve mostly tried to keep things upbeat around here. And if I was writing in a positive manner, I was truly feeling it. But if I was feeling a little dark inside, well I usually wasn’t writing it. But believe me, I felt it at times, that darkness. In my entire life, there’s been a side of me that’s been steadily bitter, sarcastic or disbelieving at certain times. Things were what they were. And maybe it’s only the things I told myself …  Some things will never change. This is as good as it gets. Don’t get me wrong. I knew that my good as it gets was pretty damn good. Still, it was this feeling that there could be nothing more. That I had no power to do or be or have the things I thought were out of my reach. But there came a point where I heard from deep down inside myself, But what if there is more? And what if so much of it is just up to me?

Anyway, that’s about as much as I can do to explain it. The whole point of all that is to say today, that this change made my having a birthday this week an entirely new and great experience.

I feel pretty fortunate to have reached this age, (closer to fifty than not,) and feel as good as I do. But as I’ve grown older, I have so much preferred to celebrate birthdays quietly. I removed my birthday from my Faceb00k profile before last year’s big day, to try to keep it under wraps. It didn’t work. Someone inevitably posts a birthday wish on my timeline and my other Faceb00k friends can’t help but notice. Soon the birthday greetings are pouring in from all over. Which is great except that I’ve always felt slightly undeserving for some reason of so much affection. I’ve never been comfortable being the center of attention. Someone forgot to tell my husband. He’s thrown me two surprise birthday parties over the years!

As my birthday approached on Wednesday, I knew my coworkers would make it known. I’ve been a party to many a stealth cubicle decorating. I’ve made birthday treats for the person of honor and helped announce to the entire office that someone was turning another year older. I knew I would have to take my turn. And when I woke up Wednesday morning, I made a mental decision to embrace it all instead of shy away from it.

When I arrived at work, my suspicions were confirmed. My birthday was being celebrated. You can’t quite tell from the photos, but no one was going to miss the fact that I was having a birthday.

There was nothing so different about my birthday this year as compared to previous ones. But somehow it felt bigger. It felt as if everyone who walked by my festively decorated cubicle at work poked their head in to wish me a sincerely happy day. There were treats – cupcakes, muffins, cinnamon rolls, caramel brownies and candy. One coworker, Diane always sings the Casey Jones Happy Birthday song to anyone celebrating their big day. In the past, I’d shy away from being sung to in the middle of the office. This time, I stood before her and proudly accepted her gift of the birthday song.

It was hard to get anything done at work that day. And it was a busy week with several deadlines! I was frantically trying to put together an important presentation for Monday morning. And yet somehow I managed to finish it by Friday afternoon.

My kids worked together (… let me repeat … my kids worked together!) to secretly order birthday flowers to be delivered to my office. This was no small feat. I work for the affiliate of the main company, in a branch location which relocated almost two years ago. Apparently the interwebs haven’t been updated very well with the new physical address, making it all that much more impressive that my birthday flowers found their way to me.

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After work, Mark and I went out to dinner and celebrated quietly. My food wasn’t that great, but he enjoyed his and shared with me. And our waiter was very attentive and personable. And Mark and I talked and found things to laugh about. And it was just nice.  I’d received cards in the mail, and a birthday call from my dad. My sister left a gift bag hanging on my front door while I was out to dinner. All day long, I was made aware of how many great people I have in my life and how fortunate I am to have them.

A coworker  whose birthday is coming up next month insisted she wanted no acknowledgement of her birthday when it came time. I don’t want any more birthdays, she insisted. I know she didn’t mean it so literally, but I couldn’t help but feel sorry for her. If we truly wish to not see another birthday, aren’t we wishing to quit living?

And I guess I’ve decided that I’m not ready to quit living. I’m tired of thinking that I’m at where I’m at and all that’s left is to ride out the remaining years as is. And I’m tired of letting negativity work its way inside of me and bring me down. I know there will be times when it will be harder to fight off than others. But I think I sometimes have a choice in this. Of course it’s so much easier for me to see today than it was thirty years ago, but life here on this earth is short. I want to be making the most of whatever time I have here. I have opportunities to keep growing and learning and being a better person than I was yesterday. I don’t have to remain stuck in the same place day after day, year after year.

The birthday goodies and celebration stretched out clear through Friday! It was fun to have visitors stop by my cubicle periodically to keep chipping away at all the sugar that had been contributed in honor of me turning another year older. People were still wishing me a happy birthday yesterday. Several times, I was asked if I did anything fun on my birthday. My response was that I’d been having fun all week-long. And it was entirely true.

Refuse to Behave as Expected Sometimes

I have occasionally heard others admit to their age and say, “… but I still feel like I’m forty.” Or thirty, or twenty five, or whatever. That’s me. Next week, I’ll take a step closer to the far side of my forties. But most days, I find it hard to believe I have so many years under my belt. I’m not really sure how all three of my kids got to be in their twenties already. I think it t helps that I’m surrounded by a few people who have taught me to refuse to sit back and allow life to pass by.

Yesterday I made a stranger laugh. She slowed down as she walked past Mark and me while I was making him take my picture in Target. She took one look at the snowman glasses I was trying on for size and said, Those are so you!

2014-11-07bKacey later feigned embarrassment that I would pull such a stunt. In front of people we may or may not know, no less.

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But I know that deep down, she appreciates my playful side, even if she labels it embarrassing, because she has as much as admitted that she knows she’s going to be like me in many respects.

2014-11-07I hate to break it to her, but a little bit of weirdness is in her genes. And someday, she’ll embrace it too, as soon as she begins to understand that weirdness is the part of her that refuses to fit inside the little box to which society might otherwise restrict her. Life is full of challenges. Have fun with it when you can!

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Google Images

 

 

Maybe not the most informed voter …

2014-11-04a… but I did it anyway. Let’s be honest. If it weren’t for the prodding of my husband, by the time my workday was over, I might have been tempted to just blow it off. I’m glad he pushes me to exercise the rights that some fought so hard for me to have. Still, I think it takes a lot of effort to really know who stands for what. If all you have to go on is the ridiculous campaign ads that air on television, all you’ll really know are the shortcomings of each candidate, as perceived by their opponents. For instance, all I know about a particular Republican candidate running for congress is that he has long hair, grew up privileged and according to the television, has a nice boat and north woods cabin.

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I decided not to play roulette with my ballot and simply voted for those with whom I’m at all familiar. So that was basically the mayoral candidate who married the girl who was my neighbor across the alley when I was growing up. I babysat their oldest kid in my late teens when I actually had a paying job but wasn’t opposed to earning a little extra cash on the side. He’s been a dedicated city council member for years, and when he asked if he could post a campaign sign in our front yard, I said yes. Mark also said yes to his opponent, so we billed ourselves to the whole neighborhood as a house divided. Oh, well.

There was also the guy running for city council who owns the liquor store and who gave us a deal on beer and ice for all of our kids’ graduation parties. He’s a small business owner who knows how to build good relationships with his community. He got my vote too. Mark voted for the seventy year-old guy “with experience.” So I guess we cancelled each other out, but at least we made our voices heard.

Every election, I swear I’m going to be more informed the next time around. I know there are cheat sheets for this stuff. You know, something that says which people are running for what positions, and what issues each is for and against. Right? There’s something like this out there, isn’t there? If only it was as easily accessible as those stupid television ads.

Next time, I swear. I’ll work a little harder at this.

Changes

Until the past few days, it’s been a relatively warm fall. But this morning, as I was out driving around, I really felt the shift in seasons. I had the heat on in the car. I noticed other vehicles that obviously hadn’t spent the freezing night in a garage. Windshields bore scraper tracks and still held remnants of the overnight frost. I passed a runner in long pants and long sleeves, with gloves and a headband to cover her ears. I saw a man on a riding mower in his front yard, mulching leaves, bundled up in a heavy, red and black plaid flannel shirt, a knit hat on his head.

But it’s not just the weather that’s changed. Another of my kids’ lives has taken an unexpected turn and I’ve been worried.

Kacey spent last weekend here at home. On Sunday evening, she drove back to school while I went off to see a concert with my sister and niece. After the concert, as we were just pulling into my sister’s driveway, my phone rang. It was Kacey.

“So… guess what,” she said in a slow, sort of flat voice.

“What?” I asked, hesitantly.

“Connor and I broke up.”

No! I didn’t know what to say and I felt just awful. We’d only recently learned what it’s like to watch one of our kids suffer a broken heart, and I wasn’t ready to see it happen again. I asked her if she wanted me to come be with her, but she insisted I stay home. “I promise, I’ll be okay,” she said, sounding a little shaky.

Four years they’d been dating, since their senior year of high school. They’d come through so much together, in particular, the death of Connor’s mom. I think that brought them closer than most kids their age would otherwise have been. And maybe because of that too, Connor was like one of our own. He spent endless days hanging around at our house. A few nights too. He’s been a part of our family celebrations and vacations. He ate countless meals here and was comfortable enough to help himself to snacks and drinks. He is in bunches of our pictures. Kacey so often referred to him as her best friend. And so many times, he’d make reference to “when Kace and I get married.”

When. Not if. As young as they still are, (they’re only twenty-one,) I guess I’d sort of come to think too that it would eventually be true.

I couldn’t sleep Sunday night and didn’t do much better Monday night. I kept imagining the worst, my daughter unable to smile, crying. She didn’t seem to want to talk, so I texted her frequently in the following days just to check on her. She’d respond, but not surprisingly, her words were much fewer than usual. I asked her to come home again for the weekend and she first said she was thinking about it, then later confirmed she was definitely coming home. I planned to spoil her rotten, try to help her start healing from the hurt. I bought a couple of fun movies to watch and stocked up on Ben & Jerry’s ice cream.

Kacey’s last class of the week is on Thursday mornings. She planned to drive back after that class and would be home when I got back from work. Thursday felt like the longest day in the world to me. I just wanted to come home and take care of my daughter. When I finally got here, she and Mark were in the kitchen, having just returned from picking up Chinese food for dinner. Kacey was talking and laughing with her dad and I experienced such an immense feeling of relief. Laughter! I hadn’t imagined she’d be capable of laughter. Still, I went straight to her and wrapped my arms around her. She hugged me back tightly, and laughed again, assuring me, “Mom! I told you I’d be okay. I’m fine, really.”

“Yeah, she’s fine,” Mark agreed absently as he unpacked the cartons of food from a plastic bag.

I looked from Mark to Kacey and asked her if it was true. “Are you? Are you really okay?”

“Yeah,” she said! “I mean, I’m gonna be a little sad for a while, but this wasn’t really a surprise to me, or anyone else.”

“It wasn’t?”

“No,” she said. “Connor and I have been in different places in our lives for a while now. Maybe  somewhere down the road when we’ve both grown up a little more, our paths will cross again. But right now, this is probably what’s best. He was the one who made the decision to break up, but I didn’t exactly fight him on it.”

Um. Okay. I hadn’t even considered my daughter would be in such a healthy place.

“So…,” I said. “You’re really okay? I mean, you sound so much better than I thought you’d be about this. So, are you going to date other people eventually?”

“Not for a while, ” she said. “But, I mean, yeah, of course.”

I felt like such a weight had been lifted! I thought my baby girl would be beyond consolation and here she was doing the best thing I could hope she would do in a situation like this. Clearly she’s got a great sense of self. She knows who she is as an individual. And her self-worth isn’t tied to her being one half of a couple.

All week long I’d been praying for her, for comfort, for strength, for healing. And now, all I could do was pray, “Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you!”

We were laying on the living room floor Thursday night after dinner, she and I, watching one of the new movies. I couldn’t help but keep looking over at her and checking to be sure she really was okay. Finally, she caught on.

“What?” she laughed at me.

“I’m just so proud of you.”

“Why?”

“Because you’re being mature, and handling this with such grace.”

“Don’t get all weepy on me now, Mom,” she laughed.

“Can’t help it,” I said, wiping a tear that had escaped.

She is just everything I could ever have hoped for in one of my kids. She’s doing it all so much better than I ever did. She has an amazing ability to embrace life, have fun, know what’s important, and still not take things too seriously all the time. Sometimes I wonder where she came from. She certainly didn’t get this stuff from me - someone who has been as dysfunctional as I’ve been in the course of my life at times. I guess that’s what we all want as parents, though. To see our kids manage at least a little bit better than we did.

All I know is that I’m so very grateful – that she’s okay - and that she’s my daughter. She is such a gift to me!

And life will go on. Seems like she already knew that.

Gratefulness

This week…

An actual phone call from Brad. Hi Mama. Just calling to talk. Mom is for getting my attention. Mama is his term of endearment and makes me feel all warm and fuzzy. He renewed his lease on the apartment in Fargo for another year. Maybe this time next year he’ll look at moving closer to home again, he says. As much as I want him closer to home now, he wants to give his job at least another year and establish a good work history before moving on. Smart boy! He’ll be home for Thanksgiving. The old Brad is resurfacing after the heartache of the past months. I’m happy. And relieved.

2014-10-17Another phone call from a kid, this one from Kacey. She was pretty sick last week, with a fever, chills, spots in her throat and a rash on her body. And as someone who has rarely ever been seriously ill, she had to make her first all-by-herself decision to see a doctor. Her symptoms mirrored those of strep throat. It wasn’t strep throat. She was tested for mono and it wasn’t that either, thankfully. But she was treated with antibiotics and feels much better now. It was good to hear the energy back in her voice and know that she was able to get back to her old self, focus on studying again, and have a little fun with friends again.

Jake and his new girlfriend, Alysha. Introvert and private person that he is, it took him awhile to bring her around and make introductions. She’s sweet and he’s clearly enamored with her. She’s bringing out good things in him and I love the results of the ego boost he’s feeling. He hangs out at home a little more often, and talks to me more, giving a long-missing bit of insight into his world.  He’s maturing, realizing how good it feels to think of someone besides himself for a change. And he’s visibly happy. I love it!

Fall. The color of the sky. The smell of dried leaves. The red, orange and gold hues in the tree-tops. Geese in a V-formation flying over the house, honking, making Lucy stop sniffing one of the many invisible-to-me trails in the backyard to gaze up in curiosity. Temperatures just cool enough that Lucy is willing to snuggle again. Doggie snuggles are the best!

New guy at work – blowing me away with his skills and adaptability. New girl at work – provides frequent opportunities to remember my patience and shows me where my training skills need more work. And gratefulness that all three of our new teammates are so personable and willing to learn.

The weekend. So glad it’s here. While Mark is off on a hunting jaunt, I’m going with my sister to do some hunting of my own – for bargains at the new outlet mall.

Hope your weekend is happy!

Golden Landscape

I switched my hours at work. This was partly due to our newly expanded department. Change brings more change. When it was just the three of us, we had a little more flexibility. Start early, leave early. Start a little later, leave a little later. But ultimately, there was nothing to say any one person was required to start and end her day at any specific time. And we were usually all out the door no later than 4:30.

Enter three new team members and the boss now thinks it makes sense to have someone covering all the bases until five. We all get it, but no one was chomping at the bit to take that 8:30 to 5:00 shift. At a team meeting, the six of us tossed around ideas. Take turns. Rotate weeks. Rotate days. Rotate months. While one person argued for rotating weeks, another was pushing for rotating days. And as this was going on, I was thinking to myself that maybe I wouldn’t mind having a little more cushion in the morning. Maybe I’d just volunteer to be that five o’clock person. While the discussion went on, largely unresolved, I finally spoke up and said that I would possibly volunteer to just cover the later end of the day.

My two long-time team mates were a little taken aback. Clearly, neither of them wanted to make any serious commitments to working until five. They asked if I was sure, and I said I just wanted to run it by Mark to make sure he had no issues with me making the change, but I would probably let them know the next day that I had it covered.

As we walked back to our desks after that meeting, they continued to ask if I was sure. They suggested I try it for a little while, but then speak up if it wasn’t working out and we could go back to the idea of rotating responsibility. And I agreed that I would, but assured them that I might actually like having that extra half hour in the morning. I like to go to the gym a few mornings a week and always feel like I’m rushing home afterwards in order to clean up and get out the door to work on time. With the later start time, I can relax a little. And truth be told, I’ve been at work until five for the last several weeks anyway. Why not shave that extra time off of the front end of the day? Our new team mates all have children of varying ages, and are tied to daycare, school and activity schedules. Those days are behind me. And I didn’t want to add stress to their lives by making them take a turn with the late shift if it was just as easy for me to adjust my hours altogether.

So I did. And here’s the thing. It takes me for-ev-er to get home after work! I don’t know why the five o’clock rush hour is so much worse than the 4:30 rush hour, but criminy! Granted, much of this is due to some major road construction near my office (I think) and when it’s complete, it should be much easier to get through the local streets and over to the freeway, (I hope.) Over the few days I’ve been making the later commute home, I’ve found that there’s no getting around the congestion. And even once I get through the road construction, or through the alternate route that everyone else is taking too, there’s that stretch of freeway on my home stretch that’s just always so jammed up. Last night, it was almost six o’clock before I walked in the door. A 17.2 mile drive took me nearly an hour and I could just feel every last one of my nerves fraying as I inched my car toward home. I walked in the door and Mark asked, “How was your day?” And I replied, “This five o’clock shift is bull shift!”

‘Cept I didn’t say bull shift.

He laughed, and I reminded him and myself that I should try that other route that would at least help me avoid the home stretch traffic jam.

Tonight I tried the other route and it shaved ten minutes off my drive. I realized I was much, much calmer than yesterday, singing along to the radio and recognizing that the view was so much prettier than the one I get on the freeway. I looked ahead of me as I drove the road to home tonight and saw that the fall landscape was just golden. And the fall sky is such a deeper shade of blue than the summer sky. Everything around me seemed so warm and beautiful. It brought me back for a moment to my grade school days, and shuffling home through dry leaves along the sidewalks that led to home. I have always loved fall and still do.

So I found my perk for now. And I suspect I’ll soon grow accustomed to the change in hours and drive time and it will be no big deal.

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And what? No! I wasn’t snapping photos while driving… Shush! Okay, maybe just one. Kids, do not try this at home. Do as I say, not as I do, etc.

Really, though. Isn’t that just the prettiest?