Blossoming

The world outside is coming to life again and so am I. As much as I try to fight it, the winter months quiet me. The long stretch of cold, sharp months make it hard to find my energy and motivation. Many of those days find me slogging through my daily routine. And I don’t even often realize what a rut I’m in until the air begins to warm, the sunshine visits more frequently and suddenly I feel as if I’m exiting a long, dark tunnel.

Spring makes me feel alive again and I know I’m not the only one. A coworker who was tanning during the last weeks of winter told me, “I know it’s bad for me. I just need the light and the warmth right now so much more than I care about the health hazards.”

Last weekend, as Kacey and I were running errands, she exuded joy when she exclaimed, “It’s so good to see the sun! It just makes me so happy!

I know what she means. Just a little sunshine and warmth is all it takes sometimes to make me realize what a cocoon I’ve been in the last several months.

It’s been warm this week. It’s been a no-jacket kind of week (and what a treat that is!) It’s been a week when I welcome the sound of the alarm clock, lace up my running shoes and head to the gym. (It’s still just a bit too dark and cold at that hour of the day to do my exercise outdoors.)  It’s been a hop in the car, roll down the windows, crank up the tunes and sing along like nobody’s watching kind of week.

The robins are back!

The robins are back!

It’s rainy and overcast this morning. And tomorrow will bring a dip in temperatures and I may have even heard there’s a slight chance of the S-word. But it’s not going to bring me down. The extended forecast calls for more spring-like temperatures. Winter’s in the rearview mirror now!

Streams of water trickling down the street

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Birds singing…

Sun shining…

The front windows are cranked open just a little bit and I wore my flip-flops when I ran a quick errand to Target this afternoon with Kacey. She came home this weekend for a summer job interview.

Last Thursday and Friday brought what I hope was our last snowstorm.

The rush-hour drive into work Friday morning was a mess. Here at home, we probably got five or six inches of snowfall. But by the work day’s end, it was already beginning to melt. Warm temperatures have held steady throughout the weekend and the mounds of snow around our yard are disappearing right before our eyes.

The sunshine feels SO good. Just ask Lucy. She is so done with being inside!

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It was a busy week. We finally got serious about buying a car. I narrowed down the list of vehicles I was considering to just two. We visited the Chevy dealership where Brad bought his truck last year and spent some time talking with the very same salesman. He was a nice guy and knew his stuff. We took a test drive in an Equinox and I liked what I saw. But we left without making a purchase. I’ve also been considering a GMC Terrain and I was pretty sure I liked it just a little bit more than the Equinox. I wanted to see it, drive it, and compare pricing.

20140406 aSo the next night we visited a GMC dealership. A very young salesman met us as we approached the showroom. I was a bit skeptical of working with him, considering his youth, but as we began to talk, I could see that he knew what he was doing. I took a Terrain for a test drive and young Sam the salesman pointed out when the quality of the road changed and what I should expect to feel as we drove over various stretches of road, as well as when we navigated curves and sharp turns. I really liked this car and I knew if Sam could give us a price that came close to what we’d be given at the Chevy dealership, the Terrain would be my choice.

When all was said and done, he gave us the right price. Unfortunately, the vehicle that fit our specific requirements did not exist in the dealership’s inventory. Sam said he could do a dealer trade with another GMC dealership and promised he would do his best to find one that fit the bill. Yesterday, we got the call. A dealership 150 miles north of here has a shipment of vehicles coming in straight from Detroit. The Terrain I want is in that shipment – which isn’t arriving until somewhere near April 18th. And once it arrives, someone has to go get it and bring it down here.

Well, it’s been more than a year since Mark and I started talking about a new car for me. I guess I can wait just a little bit longer. Anyway, it will give me time to spiff up my old car for Kacey before handing it off to her. And let me tell you, she is every bit as thrilled to be inheriting my old car as I am to be getting a new one! And we’re both glad for friendlier weather as we get to know our new cars!

Melting

It’s been happening in small doses lately and it brings me hope! Over the past few days, we’ve been hearing that the weekend could bring the warmest temperatures this year. Keep your fingers crossed! The snow cover is slowly diminishing, but there is still a long ways to go.

20140328Lucy and I haven’t had any regular morning walks in months. There has been too much snow and too much cold. I feared for the well-being of her paws. But with all the talk of a warm weekend, I was determined to get out there again. I didn’t dare say the word to Lucy before it was time. Last night as she was sitting with me in the recliner, I told her, “Tomorrow, we’ll go for a double you!

Her curiosity was piqued and she tipped her head to the side, looking at me with questions in her eyes. “I can’t tell you anymore right now,” I told her. “But I promise. You’ll be happy.”

When morning arrived, even though I knew better, I said the word before my teeth were brushed or my shoes were on. As my electric toothbrush hummed in my mouth, Lucy whined and pranced in the bathroom doorway, wanting me to hurry up and take her on her walk already! When we finally hit the pavement, she was bound and determined to race toward all of those fun smells and sights.

The weather app on my phone said nineteen degrees this morning. I knew the warmer weather wouldn’t show up until later today, but nineteen degrees was better than the single digit and below zero temps that hung around for too many weeks. Lucy and I had the path pretty much to ourselves, save for one ambitious runner who wore a black mask over his mouth and nose and passed us by pretty quickly. We had to weave our way off the path and back again here and there to avoid large patches of ice, but the fresh air and sunshine felt amazing.

See the ice up ahead?

See the ice up ahead?

Also, that annoying kink in my back that I haven’t been able to shake all month feels like it might be gone; Just one of the many perks of outside versus the treadmill. Lucy and I burned off a bunch of cabin fever! Looking forward to many more mornings like this in the coming months (minus the snow and ice!)

Lucy’s Fun Weekend

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We always tell her she’s so pretty. I hope she doesn’t get conceited.

Lucy sure was happy to have Kacey home for the weekend. It was the icing on the cake after Lucy had spent the entire past week palling around with Mark, who had taken some time off work to go hunting. Except he didn’t go hunting.  Instead, he did chores around the yard, while Lucy followed him around. And he spent time at his parents’ house doing some chores there too, with Lucy in tow. Lucy loves to go visit Grandma and Grandpa. Knows exactly where the treat cupboard is and how to sucker the grandparents into giving some to her. After treats, Grandma and Grandpa will be sure to shower Lucy with attention and tell her what a good dog she is. They’ll encourage her to go upstairs to look out their bedroom window where she might spot a deer in their backyard.

Kacey came home just in time to take over where Mark and the grandparents had left off in the dog-spoiling department.

Our dog is so spoiled! Did you ever get that sense from the things I’ve written about her? Just in case there was any doubt, I kiss Lucy’s head every morning when I wake up and she comes to tackle me with affection. I snuggle with her and say, “G’morning Sweat Pea! How’s my Sweet Pea?” She nearly wiggles out of her skin and smacks me repeatedly with the vigorous wagging of her tail. (As much as we love her, there’s absolutely no doubt she is pretty fond of us too.) I kiss her head and nuzzle her before I walk out the door for work each day, saying things like, “Mommy wuvs you! Yes I do. Be good girl!”

I’ve been known to hug my dog and tell her, “Lucy, you’re the cutest dog in the whole world! Yes you are!” And then I’ll ask her, “Who loves you the mostest? Huh? Huh? Who loves you best? Huh?”

We all know that the answer to these rhetorical questions is “Mommy,” but when Kacey’s around, she insists on telling Lucy, “Kacey loves you the most! Don’t let her tell you different, Luce!”

To be honest, Kacey does love Lucy pretty intensely. I might have a slight edge with Lucy’s favor, only because I’m here to take her out for walks and share my apples with her on a daily basis. Kacey has the disadvantage of being away at college much of the time. But when Kacey is here, she spoils her dog. She’ll sit cross-legged on the living room floor for the sole purpose of letting Lucy come sit in her lap and be petted for as long as she wants. She’ll stretch out on the floor in front of the t.v. with her fleece blanket, knowing Lucy just loves to come cuddle on a fleece blanket.

Also? Kacey teaches Lucy new games, such as “find the treat.” This is a really impressive game, I have to say.

Lucy knows where her box of treats is stored, and when Kacey opens the closet door to get one, Lucy follows close on her heels, wondering, I’m sure, whether she’ll be asked to sit, speak or shake. It all begins when Kacey tells Lucy, “Sit.”

Lucy sits.

Kacey says, “Stay!”

Lucy stays.

If they’re playing “find the treat, Kacey then walks slowly down the hall toward the three bedrooms while Lucy watches her disappear into one of the rooms. She sits. She stays. But her body quivers while she fights the urge to take off after that delicious treat before she’s given the okay! Meanwhile, the treat is stashed into some hiding spot in a bedroom while Lucy patiently waits. I watched this game unfold last weekend and was seriously impressed that a dog who does not understand the command, “come,” knows to sit and wait for her treat to be hidden. I was also seriously amused to see that Lucy wanted that treat so badly that several streams of drool fell from her mouth as she watched for Kacey to return and give the command to “go get it!”

Really. Like five streams of drool. But she stays. And she waits for Kacey to give her the go-ahead. And then she goes off to find her treat. It could be behind a door, under a bed, or tucked in a corner. In less than a minute, Lucy tracks down and devours her treat.

Late Sunday afternoon, it was time for Kacey to go back to school. Lucy watched as she packed up her clothes and as I packed up food to send with her. Lucy’s disappointment was evident as Kacey hugged her, said goodbye and went out the door.

I felt bad for Lucy on Monday morning. Kacey was back at school. Jake left for work early. Mark went back to work not long after Jake had gone. Soon it was my turn to leave for the office. Lucy laid at the top of the stairs, looking at me with sad, sad eyes. I told her I was sorry and gave her extra kisses and behind-the-ear scratches.

Monday was a long day for Lucy. But all was forgiven as soon as I came back through the door after my work day. I knew it because when I walked in the door, Lucy bulldozed me and licked me to death. Life with a loving dog. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

 

Happy Goals

Kacey came home from school for the weekend. She and Connor had a wedding to attend – his uncle’s. It was a casual affair, a second marriage for both the bride and groom. The event was a  fifties-themed backyard party and Kacey and Connor dressed accordingly, to the best of their ability anyway. As college students on limited budgets, poodle skirts and leather jackets weren’t really in the cards. But I thought they looked great.

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Mark and I went bowling while the kids were gone. We were home at a decent hour and the kids were already back from the wedding. They said they had fun. The food was good and there was even some dancing, which they love to do.

This morning, Mark, Kacey and I went to the farmers market in St. Paul. We bought carrots, bell peppers, sweet corn, radishes, beets, cauliflower and apples. I think Mark would have bought more stuff, but I reminded him that we had to be able to realistically eat all this stuff before it went bad. Besides, we couldn’t carry anymore in our overloaded arms.

At home, Kacey and I baked. I had a bunch of bananas going bad that we made into bread and I’d been craving some pumpkin cookies I made for the first time last year. So we did those too. I always have so much more fun working in the kitchen when she’s there to work alongside me or just keep me company.

We packed up some of each for Kacey to take back to school. She also took a little cooler of things I’d been freezing in individual portions for her. The oven in her apartment gets hotter than it should and the girls have burned a lot of food in their attempts at home cooking. So I’ve been stashing stuff in the freezer for Kacey – a couple of containers of pot roast and potatoes, some chicken and wild rice soup, pulled pork and taco meat. Kacey was thrilled. She said something about feeling a little bit bad for letting me do so much for her. I told her I enjoyed the chance to still “mother” her whenever I could. She said, “Good. ‘Cause I like it when you do.”

Everybody’s happy!

Speaking of being happy, I’ve been thinking about things I can do to promote a more positive attitude. I found a good quote to keep in mind this week. Considering where the idea of “happy goals” began, this seems appropriate.

Anger QuoteI’ve thought and thought and thought about what my specific goals should be. And I finally realized I was putting too much pressure on myself to come up with something really impressive. But then I finally realized that starting simple might be the better way to go, at least at first. So, this week I will strive to:

  1. Look for the good – There are usually more smiles, laughs and positive exchanges in my days than negative. I will choose to let the good stuff take up residence in my head and let the negative stuff roll off my back.
  2. Get outside – I spend too much time inside, at a desk, behind a computer. Fall is my favorite time of year. And I have a dog who loves to go for walks. She has plenty of room to run in the yard, but she would much rather go exploring around the neighborhood.
  3. Eat better - at least one vegetable a day. (I’m good with fruits, not so much with vegetables.)
  4. Perform a random act of kindness

In a week, maybe I’ll be willing to share how it all went. :-)

Still part of their lives

Having a husband who has worked rotating shifts for all of our married life, I’ve learned to deal with managing on my own. His work schedule pays no mind to weekends, evenings, special occasions or holidays. We consider it a bonus when he gets to be around for these things. Our family and friends know the routine. When he’s not there, the question is always the same. “Mark working?”

His “weekends” often happen during the week. His off-time can happen during the day, when most of the rest of us are at work. We spend so much time dealing with life without each other, that when we retire someday, we’ll have to relearn how to deal with each other.

I remember when the kids were little, trying to manage the house on my own while also being solely responsible for diaper changes and feedings. A few years later, I was trying to navigate play dates and game schedules for the three kids while trying to figure out how to get the grocery shopping done. I remember wondering if I’d ever experience quiet again or have time to sit down and read a book to my heart’s content. Of course there were perks to his crazy schedule, like having him around during the days when I ran a home daycare. It was nice to have the support of another adult while living amongst all those little ones!

Now I sometimes wonder why I was in such a hurry to have life all to myself again. Sure, it’s nice to wake up on the weekends and have the luxury of sitting with a cup of coffee, reading, or having time to write. But more often than not, I find myself missing each moment when I’d hear the sound of a bedroom door opening and a sleepy-headed, pajama-attired little body would come greet me with a morning hug. I miss making hot breakfasts and watching them eat together at the table. I miss hearing the dialogue of The Sandlot as it played on the living room television for the hundredth time. I miss having a little one cuddle on my lap and twirl my hair in a little finger. I miss being needed.

Brads big fishThey’re off living their own lives now. Two of them are out on their own, a couple of hours or more from “home.” One of them is still under the same roof, but living his own life just the same. The moments of pride that were once about an impressive play on the baseball diamond, are now focused on things like Brad’s job promotion that was earned only months after starting his first “real” job after college graduation. It’s knowing that he’s building a life that allows him to balance responsibility with the things he loves to do in his free time.

Jakes FishI used to marvel over the fact that eight year-old Jake could tell you the name of every NASCAR driver and the number and sponsor of his car. I used to beam when others would comment on how fast he could run from one end of a soccer field to the other. Now I find happiness in the fact that he’s found a job that he loves, one that fits his personality and makes him proud. He works with his hands and gets to drive to different job sites from one week to the next and he loves it. And I guess I don’t mind too much that he still “lets” me wash his dirty, smelly work clothes.

Kacey Vikings CampKacey was a little girl with what seemed like a million baby dolls and Barbie dolls. She was constantly invited to sleepovers with her little girlfriends. She loved making art projects and had a personality that was a combination of athlete, social butterfly and scholar, making her just a really well-rounded kid. Now she’s in her third year of college already, and not surprisingly, embracing it to the fullest.

Now, another holiday weekend is upon us. Mark is at work for this one. The “away” kids didn’t come home this time. The quiet feels strange. Years ago, even if Mark was working, the kids and I would find something to do; whether it was a gathering with extended family, or a trip to our favorite beach and park. I wasn’t quite sure what to do with myself this weekend. My sister, my friends… they all have spouses with “normal” work schedules or still have younger kids at home. I wasn’t up for hosting a party with extended family without help from Mark or the kids. Besides, our extended family get-togethers have kind of fizzled out recently, unless it’s a major holiday. And I’m okay with that.

I had all this time on my hands and no obligations. So when Kacey said, “You should come visit me,” I readily agreed. The drive is less than two hours. There were still a few things here at home that she decided she needed for her new apartment near school. I could bring those to her. I could bring her some of the leftover kebabs I’d made on Friday night. I could bring her some fresh garden tomatoes and cucumbers, and the favorite tank-top that somehow ended up in my stack of clean laundry before she left.

So I took her up on the offer. I woke up early on Saturday morning and packed the car with things to bring to her. I tossed in a case of bottled water that I’d bought for her. She’s a college kid without a car and as yet, still without a job. As her mom, I love to help her with the little things like that. I arrived just before 11:00 and took her and a hungry Connor out for breakfast/lunch. Then we went to the mall where they introduced me to Scheels, a store with a huge variety of athletic clothing, fan gear, shoes and outdoor equipment. We browsed around and found things that caught our attention but didn’t buy anything. Then we went to Target to pick up a few things, including some light-blocking curtains to hang over the window and mini-blinds in Kacey’s bedroom. Apparently, this was one of her most pressing needs so far.

The domestic activities were too boring for Connor. He went back to his house while Kacey and I got creative with some Command hooks and a tension rod back at the apartment. She’s not sure her lease allows her to screw things into the walls, so we played it safe. And I have to say, the end result was aesthetically appealing as well as highly functional. “Now I can sleep in past sunrise,” Kacey happily announced.

Afterwards, I treated my girl to groceries and some kitchen supplies. She and her roommates have realized how difficult it is to function in the kitchen without a liquid measuring cup, measuring spoons and a colander.

Kacey was so gracious and grateful for the purchases. She’s so responsible and careful with her money, but I remember living on a shoestring budget. It wasn’t fun. As her mom, I was the one who was grateful that I could do these small things for her.

They’re all growing up. They need me less and less, which ultimately, was the real goal. But I’ll always want to do things for them when I can. It helps me to feel that I’m still part of their lives, even as they learn to fly on their own.

My day with my daughter went by too fast, but I’m happy we had it. The remainder of the weekend stretches ahead and I’ll fill it with chores of my own, and some relaxing activities too. Maybe I’ll finally paint that old water pump and milk can I’ve been wanting to put out in one of the gardens. Yep, this stage in life has its perks too!

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.

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 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!

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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!

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…