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!

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.

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!

 

Minnesota State Fair 2013

Mark and I visited the Minnesota State Fair on Sunday, admission compliments of my employer. And speaking of my employer and State Fair-related things…

Yay me!

We woke up bright and early on Sunday morning. We like to get to the fair early in the day. We drove to our usual free park-and-ride spot, a little gem we discovered a few years ago. Oh, sure, you can drive right to the fairgrounds and wait in an endless line to pay nine dollars or more to park and then walk for blocks before arriving at the actual entrance to the fairgrounds. OR you can park at one of the free park-and-ride lots only a mile or so from the fair. There, you can get on a lovely air-conditioned coach bus, ride for free, and get dropped off right at one of the fair entrance gates. When you’re ready to leave, after walking and sweating for hours, one of those air-conditioned buses will be available about every fifteen minutes to take you back to the parking lot where you parked. Can’t beat this deal!

Sunday was another hot and steamy day, one of the hottest of the summer so far. But the weather didn’t keep us away and judging by the crowds, it couldn’t intimidate many others either. The blustery winds from the day before were still hanging around and we were grateful. And since it was shaping up to be such a warm day, we decided to do “inside” stuff first. We headed for the grandstand to check out the fair’s wares.

We didn’t find much of interest to buy, but we did get sucked in for a little health assessment. Mark tried to walk on by but I was actually interested, so we agreed to watch a short video and then have our skin scanned to measure the level of advanced glycation end-products in our bodies. (The video had explained that these were bad!) The scanner would then produce a reading that would indicate a person’s “TruAge” as opposed to their actual years. I gathered that the expectation was that most people would read older than their actual years. And if so, there was a nutritional drink available for purchase that will help bring your reading down to one that meets your actual years of age or, hopefully, even lower. I placed my arm on the scanner, thinking of the greasy, sugary mini-donuts we’d just consumed and wondering just how old I was going to “read.” Shortly afterwards came my reading.

TruAgeb

 I had actually measured sixteen years lower than my actual age. All I could do was laugh as the salesman informed me that I had a gift! Mark measured only two years above his age. The salesman kindly informed us that he couldn’t sell us anything. I had to appreciate his honesty, even if I didn’t have any idea whether the things he’d just measured truly meant anything health-wise, since I’d never heard of them before. And so we moved on, with full intentions to eat lots more greasy, calorie-laden treats in the hours ahead.

Next, we made our way to the 4-H building. Caitlin, the fifteen year-old daughter of our former next-door neighbors was performing in a 4-H musical production. We’ve known Caitlin since the day she was born and she’s like family to us. Since she was performing on the very day we would be at the fair, we wouldn’t think of missing her show. It was a great little production, full of history, humor, popular music and valuable life lessons.

IMG_1281We fully enjoyed the production, but by the end, we were sweating. It was time to get back outside. Our travels led us to the biggest pumpkins I’ve ever laid eyes on! If I remember correctly, the blue ribbon winner was over 800 pounds! (Wonder how they transported that baby?)

IMG_1287bWe walked through the horse barns and sat for a while in the coliseum to watch some horse shows. We people-watched, which can be endlessly entertaining. All kinds of us are drawn to the fair and I’m sure we’re each fascinating in some way to someone else. We found things to eat, such as deep-fried cheese curds and an amazing steak sandwich offered by a locally famous char-house, Mancini’s. We tried one of the fair’s newest offerings, deep-fried, cream cheese-stuffed green olives on a stick! (Only $6.50 for six olives! Hey, no one ever promised bargain prices at the fair!)

IMG_1291And thanks to the heat, we drank what seemed like gallons of water and gallons of lemonade. Lemonade has never tasted so good to me! And the chocolate malt we shared didn’t taste too bad either!

Our travels continued on foot until I let Mark talk me into taking a ride across the fairgrounds on the sky ride, which is a colorful chairlift that carries riders high above all of the attractions and fair-goers. I’m not sure what I was thinking when I agreed. I have an insane fear of heights and after trying briefly to enjoy the view, I spent the remainder of the ride squeezing my eyes shut, sweating profusely and attempting not to hyperventilate. If I weren’t gripping the safety bar with a death grip, I would have punched Mark when he lied to me and said we were almost to the end. Obviously, there are no pictures as I couldn’t loosen my grip long enough to take out my phone and brave an aerial shot.

I have to admit, though, that the terrifying sky ride was worth it. It brought us close to the car dealerships where we checked out several models for the purchase I’ve been planning to make for months, but still haven’t. I think I’ve got it narrowed down to three fuel-efficient, decently priced models. And we collected free t-shirts and drawstring backpacks for our efforts, not to mention three coupons good for a $50 gift card when we go take a test drive at our local dealerships.

After wandering, eating, drinking and seeing so much, we took a break under a shady tree to watch the daily parade.

The Budweiser Clydesdales

The Budweiser Clydesdales

A BIG steer!

A BIG steer!

The Minnesota Wild mascot

The Minnesota Wild mascot

After the parade, we realized we were bushed. I’d applied industrial strength deodorant before leaving the house and it was no longer even remotely effective. It was time to go home. We were already near the gate where we’d entered the fairgrounds early that morning, so we walked the short distance back to the spot where a lovely air-conditioned bus was just waiting to take us back to where we’d parked. Although the fair continues through Labor Day, it’s over for us this year. One day-long visit is enough for us, but we’ll eagerly do it all over again next year.

Reveling in the Heat

I believe we are now smack-dab in the middle of what are referred to as the dog days of summer. These days are hot and steamy. It’s the kind of weather that becomes news-worthy. At home, we’re working hard to keep the grass, the flowers and the vegetables thriving. We’re careful not to let Lucy Pie stay outside too long. She has a habit of stretching out on the deck and laying in the sun until her fur is hot to the touch. But us? We are not hiding from the heat inside the comfort of our air conditioned home. We are embracing it!

Saturday brought an invitation from our friends, Bill and Tammy to join them on their big boat for a day on the St. Croix River. Mark was tempted to decline in favor of getting chores done around the house. But I reminded him that summer is all too short and opportunities like this don’t come along every day. When we’re laying on our deathbeds, we’re not going to wish we’d done more chores, I’m sure. And so once he was suitably convinced, we willingly accepted the invitation. We dressed in our swimsuits and packed a picnic lunch. We tossed some towels and sunscreen in a bag and off we went. It was just a beautiful day of bright sunshine and as Bill described it, a blustery wind. We were thankful for the wind. Without it, we might not have been able to tolerate being out of the water for any length of time.

IMG_1270Bill found a good spot to beach the boat and we made ourselves comfortable. There were plenty of other water-lovers out swimming, tubing and playing on the beach. There was a celebratory feeling in the air. We were soon joined by old friends and former residents of our neighborhood, Kirk and Nancy and family. We all marveled at how grown up their kids have become and eight year-old Alex kept us entertained with a shell he found. He dug holes in the sand with it. He filled it with water and tried to trick his mom into dumping it on her head, which sounds rather harmless until you see how big this shell actually was!

mussel shell b

Mark demonstrating the size of the mussel shell

We stayed out on the river until near dinner time before calling it a day. We were all a little sunburned and a little worn out. These hot days will soon be a fading memory as kids return to classes and leaves begin to fall from the trees. My house still needed cleaning. There was laundry and grocery shopping to be done. But I wasn’t having any regrets. My day ended with a feeling of gratefulness for time with good friends and the chance to enjoy a beautiful summer day in such a fun and relaxing way.

October in July

We had a little get-a-way planned last weekend – a couple of days at a cabin with a bunch of bowling friends. It’s become an annual event and last year, the weather was gorgeous. We spent hours on a pontoon in our bathing suits, puttering around the lake, soaking up the sun, enjoying some drinks and generally having a good time. We were looking forward to more of the same this year.

But no. The sun was scarce and the air felt more like fall than summer.

Platte Lake 3There was no boating, no swimming and there were definitely no bathing suits. Instead, there were sweatshirts, jackets and bonfires – not for roasting marshmallows, but for keeping warm.

Platte Lake 4But we still had fun. We played bar Bingo. And didn’t win.

Platte Lake 1There was some good fishing.

Platte Lake 5We played badminton and bean bags.

Platte Lake 2There were a few rounds of bocce ball. I’d never played before this weekend and discovered I’m pretty good at it!

020And there were yummy drinks that tasted like homemade apple pie.

018We had a dinner of the best ribs and brisket I have ever tasted, prepared and smoked for hours by our pal, Richie. We slept late in the mornings and grazed on breakfast food, lounging in our pajamas and sipping coffee until late morning. When it was too dark and cold to stay outside at night, we played a game called Guesstures, (kind of like charades,) girls against the guys. The girls always won! There was endless conversation, much laughter and general silliness.

007Whether next year brings sunshine and warmth, or clouds and cold, I’m looking forward to doing it all over again!

Fuego on the Field

Three years ago, as Kacey was heading into her senior year of high school, I began to mourn the end of her softball playing days.

The summer after senior year, she informed us she was eligible to play one more season of fast-pitch softball in her age group. We all celebrated and enjoyed one last summer of competition, fun and friends. Afterwards, I began to mourn the end of Kacey’s softball playing days.

Last summer, after finishing her first year of college, Kacey informed us that her softball pals were forming a slow-pitch team and joining a rec league. We were all amused at how Kacey’s softball “career” never seemed to end and enjoyed a summer of less serious competition and watching this group of friends enjoy spending time together playing a game that they love. At the end of the season, I didn’t feel so mournful. Kacey had squeezed out every last bit of opportunity to play softball and had many fond memories to look back on.

This spring, after finishing her second year of college, Kacey informed us that as long as she was still only nineteen years old on January 1st of this year, (which she was,) she was still eligible to play in the summer rec league with her pals.  And so began another summer that included weekly ball games. These games were much different from the ones the girls played in their fast-pitch days. The girls’ long-time coaches were still there to “coach,” but really, the girls just decided what positions they would play each inning, running from the bench and calling out, “I got second,” or “Shortstop!”

They had much fun, as they always have. From week to week, they would assign each other different names by which they would be known. One week, they all had to go by their grandmother’s first names. Kacey was known as Margie that week. When the coach called out the batting order last night, we heard, “Mark, John, Ronald!” Mark and I laughed and wondered what the naming convention was this week. Turns out the girls were going by their dads’ middle names. Kacey and two other girls shared the same name, so to avoid confusion, they were known last night as Richard, Dick and Richie.

In Kacey’s younger days, I never missed a ball game if I could help it. Now that she’s a young adult, I attended very few games. She’s older now and I assumed she wanted this time with her friends, without her parents hovering over her all the time. Then one evening recently, she joked to me, “You don’t love me. You never come to my games.”

Now that it was clear that she wanted her mom at her games sometimes, it was an easy decision to go watch her play last night. It was the last week of the regular season and I had so much fun watching the girls play, bantering back and forth on the field and on the bench. They’ve known each other for so long that there’s a plethora of inside jokes and they are constantly laughing.  When Kailey goofs up on the field, all the other girls ask her if she blacked out again. When Kacey is running the bases, the girls all shout to the third base coach that he better not send “the turtle” home.

After years of being team mates, the girls play ball like a well-oiled machine. I’m still impressed as I watch them on the field, each seeming to know exactly what to expect from one another. In spite of all their goofing around last night, they won both of their games by a landslide, taking third place in the league.

FuegoI told Mark last night that if Kacey wants to continue to play softball next summer, “she’ll have to join the adult league and she’ll be required to drink beer between games. You okay with that?”

“As long as she’s not driving my truck,” he replied.  Nice.

I have a feeling Kacey will continue to find a way to play softball as long as she is able. And hopefully, she’ll continue to do so with this great group of girls.

 

Life with Lucy

Since Lucy’s a rescue dog, we’ve never been entirely sure of her breeding. When we first saw Lucy’s photo on the rescue group’s website and I inquired about her, I was told she was most likely a Boxer/Lab/Beagle/Hound mix. Her body shape and the color of her fur seem to verify that she’s part Boxer. The other breeds aren’t so immediately apparent – until I take her for a walk. That’s when I know that Lucy’s got some Hound in her.

When we go out in the mornings, Lucy spends most of the walk with her nose to the ground. She spreads her front legs wide and literally pulls me along as she chases one scent or another. And just as I get in a rhythm with her pace, she’ll stop dead in her tracks to sniff the grass, a light pole or some low hanging pine branches where some other dog has most likely left his mark. Then, like a toddler with ADHD, she’s off like a rocket again to chase some other smell.

It’s a good thing I have long legs. They make it easier to keep up with Lucy. And if I run to keep up with her, she just moves even faster. I’m apparently not allowed to get comfortable. And to make matters worse, the local bunny population seems to have exploded all of a sudden. These cute and fuzzy bunnies reside in the grasses along the neighborhood paths we walk each day. They hop out into the open and Lucy catches their scent before I can even notice them. Unfortunately, the bunny defense mechanism is to stand completely still. Lucy does her best to yank my arm out of the socket when she lunges after them and I get an arm workout while trying to remind her who is in charge on this walk. I swear, I could hire her out as a farm hand. Hook her up to a plow and put a bunny in front of her and off she’ll go.

Lap DogLucky for Lucy, she’s got such a funny personality. She loves to give hugs and sit on laps. She doesn’t seem to realize she’s a canine. She rarely sits on her back legs, instead sitting on her back end with her hind legs stretched out in front of her.It’s obvious she thinks she’s a people. And she knows her favorite people by name. The other night, I asked Kacey, “Is Connor here?” Lucy leapt up from the floor, woofed and went running to look out the front door.

Sometimes we take her collar off and tell her, “Lucy! You’re naked!” She won’t relax until her collar is back on. Clearly she doesn’t like to be naked.

She has never learned to obey when we say, “Lucy, come!” But if someone even whispers the word “treat,” she’ll come running from the far corners of the back yard. And when it comes to treats, Lucy definitely knows sit, speak, and shake.

005b

 

She’s got the prettiest topaz-brown eyes, and she’ll melt your heart when you talk to her directly and she cocks her head to the side as if to say, “Really! Tell me more!”

She constantly makes us laugh and Kacey and I are always remarking at how we somehow managed to find the cutest dog in the world. (Feel free to argue with me, you other dog lovers. I know you will, and we’ll agree to disagree!) We spoil Lucy just a little bit, like when she hears one of us scooping ice cubes from the plastic bin in the freezer. She thinks ice is a treat, and we always give her a cube to chew. We’ve added Princess to Lucy’s long list of affectionate nick names, and she seems to take the new name to heart. But spoiled as she may be, she’s generous with her love and is the best cuddler. Which is probably the only reason I’ll forgive her for waking me up at 3:30 this morning and whining to go out for our daily walk.

Serendipity

Lucy was pawing at the side of my mattress this morning before six, very near where my face was still laying on the pillow. She whined repeatedly in this obnoxious way she has that sounds like an exaggerated lawn. In Lucy-speak, this means, “You’re late for our walk. Get up.”

Lucy doesn’t understand the concept of weekends.

Since I was now awake with no chance of falling back to sleep, I got dressed and went to find the leash. The weather took a nice turn overnight and the morning air felt good without the intense humidity that had been hovering for most of the week. When we walk, I let Lucy decide which way we’ll go and this morning she took us to the west. (I use the term “walk” loosely. Lucy has one speed and it is “intense.” Walks with Lucy are a workout!) We passed the farmhouse up the road, but there were no cows out this morning. (Lucy is fascinated by them.) So we continued along the familiar path, me listening to the birds chirping and admiring all the summer flowers, and Lucy sniffing trails of scents along the way.

It occurred to me that just a few short years ago, on a summer day like this one, my weekend wouldn’t have been such a blank slate.  A few years ago, I’d have been knee-deep in my kids’ stuff.  On those Saturday mornings, I would likely already be on my way to a ball field with Brad, Jake or Kacey and their baseball or softball gear in tow. I got to thinking about how often Mark’s weekend work schedule kept him away from things like that. I sometimes resented the way it made me feel like a single parent. And then I remembered how, in spite of  my resentment, it always turned out to be so much fun hanging out with the other parents, cheering on our kids. In those years, I got to spend time watching my kids be happy,  just being kids, forming the bonds of friendship and doing things they loved to do. We were lucky to be able to have that.

Those were good times and as I walked this morning, I was really missing the days when the weekends were all about my kids’ lives. I remember the way I used to struggle with being away from home for so many hours of the precious weekend and not getting things done; things like keeping the house perfect or being able to grocery shop leisurely whenever I felt like it. I remember a sense of always trying to squeeze it all in and never quite managing it all. I used to wish for more hours to balance the kid stuff and my own responsibilities. But now I realize, there is never enough time to do it all and really, it doesn’t matter. Those weekends had a way of making me stop for a little bit to take a break from the routine of life. They made me quit worrying about everything and forced me to take time to enjoy the good stuff – relaxing and having fun with friends and my family. Now that the kids are grown up, Mark still works a lot of weekends. Saturdays and Sundays are sometimes quiet, sometimes a little lonely. Sometimes I think I’d like to be rushing out of a messy house again, trying to make sure we made it to the ball field on time and wondering when I’d get the laundry done.

Team Mates

As Lucy and I walked the last stretch toward home, I heard voices behind me. Two cyclists breezed past us and then one of them shouted, “Hey!” He squeezed the brakes and made an ungraceful u-turn, calling out to his friend to hold up. Under the helmets, I recognized Dan and Kent, two dads of  a couple of Kacey’s earliest softball pals. When the girls were very young, before their high school years came along and took them in separate directions, we were all, girls and parents alike, very close friends. A lot of people came and went from our lives over the years of sports and activities, but Dan and Kent and their families were some that held a special place in our hearts. Dan, in particular, was very closely involved in his kids’ lives. His daughter, Angie and Kacey were really close for many years and Kacey spent a lot of time at the home of Dan and his wife Judy. Dan’s family had a strong religious faith and Kacey not only played and hung out with the family, but they often took her along to their church. They were a good influence on my daughter. Kacey often remembers the good times she had with Angie and remarks how much she misses those days.

Dan and Kent and I chatted for a few minutes this morning, remarking on how our girls have grown up and how strange it seems that they are adults now. We told each other, “Say hi to everyone for me,” and soon they pedaled off again. Lucy had worn herself out and I was smiling at the chance encounter with our old friends. Funny, I thought, that I had just been thinking about those years and those friends, and suddenly, there they were. I wondered… there’s a word for that…

And this brings us up to speed

Summer is in full swing here. We’ve had two weeks of sun, heat and humidity with the occasional thunderstorm mixed in. I love to slide into my car after eight hours in an office where the air conditioning works too well. For just a few minutes, I welcome the feel of the car’s heat surrounding me like an oven. As I drive out of the company lot with the windows rolled down, the hot air washes away and the car’s air conditioning kicks in. Feels good!

Mark continues to carry on the A/C battle at home, although I think it’s just become a joke to him now. We’ll watch the news and hear the weather man say, “Tomorrow is going to feel like a hundred!” Then Mark chimes in. “Should we turn off the air?”  I think he just does it to get me riled up and hear me yell, “Don’t you DARE!”

The summer days are passing by too quickly, as they always tend to do. In the nine days since I’ve documented any bit of my life here, much has happened.

My dad had a short hospital stay and while he was there, my mom took a pretty good fall. Both are better now, but in the midst of it all, there was a good amount of coming and going to check on everyone and make sure all was okay.

Gina came from Ohio for a visit and we were able to squeeze in some much-needed, much-missed girlfriend time. It felt so good to catch up with my best friend. There’s nothing like the feeling of talking endlessly about everything and nothing with the person who has known you so well for so long. She’s recovering well from her bout with breast cancer. She looks and acts more like the old Gina than she has in a long while. She and her husband are building a new house. Her kids are doing well and she seems happy. I still miss having her in close proximity, though. Fourteen hours distance from my best pal is just too much for my liking, but I am happy that things are going well for her.

Brad and Heather came home for the weekend. They had hardly been here an hour when the doorbell rang. It was Brad’s old baseball coach. Mark had run into him the night before and mentioned Brad would be home for the weekend. Coach came by to reconnect with one of his favorite players! Over the weekend, we also squeezed in a trip to the farmers’ market on Saturday morning and a graduation party in the afternoon. Brad managed a fishing trip with his high school buddy, Joe. And we all enjoyed a visit from another of his high school pals, Justin. Justin is getting married in September and Brad has the honor of being a member of the wedding party. Justin and his fiance, Jenny came to have pizza and catch up with everyone. I went to bed long before the kids were done visiting.

On Sunday morning, Heather joined her girlfriends in the local Color Run 5K. After the run, Brad met up with Heather and friends for pizza at Cosetta’s. While they were out of the house, I enjoyed some quiet time with “the girls.”

Dacotah and Lucy in a rare still moment...

Dacotah and Lucy in a rare still moment…

Sunday was a beautiful day and I spent some of it doing “activities.” Activities is Heather’s way of describing sun-worshipping. Brad has declared that none of us should purposely sit in the sun. “I don’t want any of you developing Melanoma!” he says. But after enduring snowfalls into the month of May this year, I sometimes feel as if I’m still thawing out. I can’t help but want to soak up a little bit of sunshine and Vitamin E. Not too much; just a little – with some sunscreen. And as soon as the kids were back from lunch, I moved out of the sun and under the shade of the canopy to sit with the family around the patio table. We snacked a little bit and laughed a lot until it was too warm to sit outside any longer. By late afternoon, it was time for Brad, Heather and Dacotah to head home again.

We still have some fun stuff ahead of us this summer – a weekend at a friend’s family cabin, our annual vacation in Bayfield, Wisconsin, and the Minnesota State Fair. Of course, the fair marks the unofficial end of summer, so I’m not looking forward to that too much just yet. The long, snowy winter is still too vivid in my mind. I can sometimes still feel the cold in my bones. So I am just taking this summer one beautiful, warm day at a time.