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!

Have you hugged your chiropractor lately?

I did. I saw my chiropractor this afternoon and instead of the usual handshake, we hugged. I have to admit, it felt a little awkward. Usually he just shakes my hand. But I have been seeing him now for over eleven years, (we figured out this afternoon.) And we have socialized outside of our doctor-patient relationship, so we do tend to be a bit comfortable and casual around each other.

Thing is, the hugging took place at a wake I attended for my coworker’s father-in-law, who also happens to be the father-in-law of my chiropractor. So I guess the hugging was appropriate, considering there were sympathies involved and such.

Strange, small little world I live in at times, isn’t it?

So things have been busy, as you might guess from the lack of any posting around here. Kacey came home from school for the weekend, mainly to see the dentist on Friday. (And as far as I know, there was no hugging involved there.) Lucy was thrilled to have her “sister” home. Got herself a little spoiled-rotten pampering, she did.

Can you see how big Lucy's smiling?

Can you see how big Lucy’s smiling?

I was pretty happy too. I sure miss that kid when she’s away. We had a big weekend breakfast together and I let her spend some of my money on a new dress for a wedding she’s attending with Connor this coming weekend. Course, I found a little something(s) for myself too. Retail therapy is much more fun with Kacey!

Since Kacey had plans with friends on Saturday night, I accepted an invitation from my sister to go to karaoke. You remember my sister? The one with the musician husband who is in several bands? Yes, that one. So my brother-in-law hauled along a couple of his band buddies and they awed everyone in the bar with their vocal talents. There may be photographic evidence of my sister and I belting out something by Captain and Tennille, but any and all photographs were declared banned from Faceb00k and the internet in general. Amazing what a few beers can do for your confidence, even while you remain fully aware that your singing abilities are just not that great. Good thing people in karaoke bars tend to be a little drunk. Also, they love when someone sings poorly. Makes it easier to follow and fail just as miserably! I did everyone a service!

OH! And I got to meet Jake’s new girlfriend on Saturday. It’s too early to say much about that but initial impressions are really, really good. She made him buy new jeans. I like her already!

Work is … uh … busy. Over the last couple of weeks, there’ve been a few instances of skipping lunch, arriving early and staying late. I haven’t made my lunchtime trek around the pond in at least a week! I’m not complaining. I love my job as much as always.  At the moment, I’m just juggling multiple big happenings and deadlines demanding attention all at the same time.

I’m sure glad to be surrounded by such great people in the office, though. One of my responsibilities is to monitor several of our websites to ensure the content stays current. Part of that job is to make sure that expiring forms are updated when new versions are issued. But for reasons beyond my control, I’m not always on the receiving end of announcements of new forms. So then I have to remember to go out and look for updates. It’s not the greatest system. I have a techy teammate who’s created a few processes in the past to automate certain aspects of my job and make my work life so much easier. So I had this idea about the forms and thought I’d just give it a shot. I asked him if, in his bag of magic tricks, he had a way to create an alert system to read the expiration dates on the forms and send me a heads-up. It only took him a day or so. He stopped by my desk yesterday, walked me through a few things on my computer and there it was. My own personal alert system. I told him he’s a rock star. Hopefully that makes up for all the times I tell him to speak to me in English (not database, code or some other technology language,) and to stop getting frustrated with me already because I don’t speak geek! Really, though, we make a good team. I tell him he doesn’t communicate well with me. He told me I’m demanding. I said that makes me his work wife, to which he said, “I could do worse.” I’m grateful for him.

Just another couple of days and another weekend rolls around again. I’ll be ready for it!

Weekend with Brad

Every year, from late September through early November, Mark makes some time to go on a few bird hunting weekends. It’s been this way for as long as I’ve known him. When my boys were little guys, they couldn’t wait for the day they could go hunting with Dad. As they grew up, those annual hunting weekends with Dad became tradition.

Now my boys are adults and they still love to hunt. Brad is an avid outdoorsman through and through. This comes as no surprise. I cut out his horoscope from the newspaper on the day he was born. It reported that he would be a lover of the outdoors. He fishes all winter and summer long, but when the middle months start to fade away, it’s hunting that takes over all of his spare time. Brad’s been hunting for weeks already. There was “early goose” season and some dove hunting. Now duck opener is fast approaching.

Mark was checking in with Brad by phone a week or so ago and asked when we were going to see him again. Brad said he thought he could take a break from his huntsman activities to make a little trip home for a couple of days. He and Dacotah came home this past weekend. Of course, Saturday and Sunday went by all too fast.

We try to do too much when he’s home. See the grandparents. Spend time with his friends who still live in the area. Visit with the neighbors. Eat a meal together. Watch a movie. Make time to play race and chase and fetch in the back yard with Dacotah and Lucy. This time, Brad also squeezed in a jaunt to a nearby gun club with a couple of buddies to shoot trap. Or skeet. I forget which. Doesn’t matter. We also included dinner out together before he came along to watch us bowl in our Saturday league.

Before he came home for the weekend, I asked Brad if he wanted to go to the Renaissance Festival on Sunday. I’ve been there a time or two in my life, and really enjoyed it, and a few weeks back, I won tickets at work for this year’s event. Mark and I haven’t been there, probably since before Brad was born, so that’s over 25 years. Our kids have never gone. The Renaissance Festival is kind of a big deal around here so I wonder if I deprived my kids of an important experience by never taking them. I always meant to. Maybe we were just always broke after an annual trip to the state fair, or busy with soccer, football, activities and back to school. Whatever the reason, we never took them.

I always tease Brad that he’s a redneck. If it involves guns, professional sports or fishing equipment, he’s in. So I figured the Renaissance Festival was a little out of his comfort zone. But he willingly agreed to go, and as we drove there on a beautiful Sunday morning, I was describing what I remembered of it. The festival employees dress in costume and speak the language. Many festival visitors will also dress up. As you come through the gates and look around at the shops and attractions, you feel as if you’ve stepped back in time. He was pretty curious by the time we arrived.

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We had a great time. My take on the festival was this. Everyone is a little bit unique, some of us more than others. And if you like to really revel in your uniqueness, the Renaissance Festival is your place. Many of the costumes were elaborate and impressive. Tall, black leather boots, vests, sashes, swords and dresses with revealing bust lines were the norm. A few costumes were just strange, having nothing to do with the Renaissance. (Pretty sure Mexican capes and sombreros, and Dorothy of Kansas/Oz were not typical of the era.) Whatever the case, costumes or not, it was festive and joyful.

The weather was perfect – sunny and just cool enough to be really comfortable. We enjoyed a few different foods, the best by far being the cream puffs. We watched a Tortuga Twins show. Their sign said the performance was rated PG and it was. Lots of thinly veiled references to boobs and body parts and plenty of sexual innuendo. We laughed so hard! It felt really good to laugh like that, to see my boy laugh like that. He’s had a rough few months and I think he might just be starting to turn the corner toward some kind of normal again. Driving home from the festival, I marveled at how quickly the years have passed. Not so long ago, he was just a little boy learning what kind of person he was to become. And now, he’s this caring, kind, amazing man.

I  turned around from my spot in the front passenger seat to smile at him and his head was tipped back into the corner between the back rest and the car door, He had rolled up the fleece jacket I’d tossed into the back seat and was using it for a pillow. By the serene look on his face, I could tell he was asleep and there for just a moment was my little boy again. Just a cat nap later, he was awake again and Brad the man was back.

Early Monday morning was here all too soon and Brad and Dacotah were heading back to North Dakota, Brad needing to get back in time to go to work. If we’re lucky, he’ll be able to come home for Thanksgiving.

I don’t care how grown up they are. It always feels more like home when my kids are home. And it’s always bittersweet when they leave again.

Adjusting Our Sails

It was a busy, whole-family kind of weekend. All of our kids were under the same roof again, an occurrence that grows increasingly rare with each passing month as they move further out of childhood and become more settled in their adult lives.

Brad came home on Friday night and it was so good to see him. We learned a while back that plans for his wedding have been put on hold. It was a shock to everyone, and I needed to see for myself that he was still doing okay. We’ve all been pretty sad. I’ve had a particularly hard time knowing my son is dealing with a broken heart and there’s nothing I can do to fix it. And on the flip side of the coin, I’m trying to come to terms with the fact that his fiance, someone I had already considered one of “ours,” may not ever really be one of ours. I miss her.

It’s been a difficult learning experience. I keep reminding myself that no one is immune to the hurts and disappointments of life. My kids, like any of us, will learn and grow from their challenges. Although, as their mom, I’ll never stop wanting to shield them from the truly painful stuff. I keep wishing I could fast-forward my son through the most hurtful times and into easier days. Unfortunately, I can’t. As for me, I just have to keep reminding myself that they are young. He is strong. And everyone has to figure out what they want in life. If this isn’t right, better that they figure it out now than later.

It felt good to wrap my arms around my boy, all six foot whatever of him, and tell him in person that I love him. This weekend was time well spent. Brad is okay and we made the most of our time together. We ate – a lot! Kids at home means I want to cook – a lot! Big breakfasts full of stuff requiring maple syrup and bacon on the side, goodies for snacking, and dinners with more food than we can possibly eat in one sitting.

A wish for ice cream on Saturday afternoon turned into a family trip to the locally famous Nelson’s, where most of us had never been before. At Nelson’s, flavor choices are plentiful and portion sizes are enormous! The line of customers snaked out the door and we soon learned why. It was worth the wait!

Inside Nelsons

Kacey being the only non-first-timer, advised us to order nothing larger than the child size ice cream. Here’s Brad with his child size cone.

Brad Ice Cream

I saw a man with what must have been a regular size cone. There were at least six scoops of ice cream stacked above to top edge of the cone. I don’t think I need to explain why Kacey and I split a child size cup.

While at Nelson’s I realized we were experiencing a rare photo opportunity. “Quick, get all together,” I encouraged the kids. “I want a picture.”

Cooperation was minimal as Kacey desperately tried – and failed – to get Jake to put down his malt and smile. And while she warned me not to put any of the failed photo attempts on the internet, she did admit that this one was kind of funny. I’ll take that as permission to post just this one.

Dang Kids

The weekend included “guy time” at the Game Fair, time with old friends, big dinners, and playing with the dogs. Dacotah and Lucy soaked up every bit of attention they could elicit from their dog-loving people. We watched She’s Out of My League … again. It’s become tradition to watch this movie every time that Brad is home and compete to see who can remember and recite the most lines. We all hung out in the driveway Sunday afternoon, shooting hoops, soaking up the sun and watching Brad wash his truck while neighbors wandered in and out of the driveway to say hello.

The weekend was fun, if not a little bittersweet. Our sense of “normal” has changed a little bit. But if I’ve learned anything over the past few weeks, it’s that we’ll all be okay, as long as we have each other.

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.

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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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

grudge-holder.

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

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

Go out for a run, I said to myself.

I don’t run anymore, I reminded myself.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

20140524Lucy

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Twenty-One

I’ve been referring to my offspring as young adults for quite some time. They are, after all, in various stages of grown-upness and responsibility. Brad is living on his own, working full-time and engaged to be married. Jake continues to live at home (and I’m grateful that he does,) but works full-time and just purchased his first new vehicle. Kacey just finished her third year of college and is preparing to start her summer job next week.

Yes, my kids have definitely grown up. And it’s official today. My baby is twenty-one years old today! It’s hard to believe how quickly the time has passed. I still remember that day twenty-one years ago, when Mark was driving me to the hospital and based on my two previous experiences, I was preparing myself for another twelve to eighteen hours of labor. Then we arrived at the hospital and thirty minutes later, I was holding a baby girl in my arms.

Having only been a mom to two little boys to that point in my life, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I just knew I was in love with her from the moment she arrived. I dressed her in frilly, pretty dresses just until she was old enough to move around on her own and it became clear she needed durable clothing. She had two brothers to keep up with, sand castles to build, climbing to do and bikes to ride. As she grew up, she grew to love playing sports and she also displayed a thirst for knowledge. She loved school and for many years, she would tell anyone who would listen that she wanted to be an art or phy ed teacher when she grew up.

She has always loved to be involved – in almost any kind of activity. She mentored younger kids in high school, was a youth leader at our church, and babysat the littler kids in the neighborhood. She went to school dances and played volleyball, softball, soccer and basketball. There were hundreds of sleepovers to have and to go to. Her social nature helped form the bonds of strong friendships. She loves her friends and they love her.

And so do I. She’s my best friend and the world’s greatest daughter. And she’s twenty-one today. Of course, there are plans to celebrate with her friends later on this evening, but she gave her family the honor of taking her out for her first celebration – for dinner – and her first legal drink.

Kacey and Me on her birthday

My baby’s all grown up now. And I’m officially old. (Not that it took her twenty-first birthday to make me realize that!) Happy Birthday, Kacey!