Wasted

Yesterday was the most beautiful summer-like day. I’ve been waiting for a day like this for what seems like an eternity. It was perfect. Perfect cerulean skies with just a sprinkling of gauzy white clouds that didn’t stand a chance of getting between the sun’s rays and where I am. Perfectly warm … but not too much. The kind of day when the windows could be open, letting a light breeze carry in the scent of cut grass and the chirping of birds.

And I was home for it. By some stroke of luck, the handful of days I’d chosen to spend away from the office happened to land on this perfect day.

Except I didn’t even really notice it. I couldn’t see it until now. And now it’s gone.

See, I have this bad habit of saddling myself with every worry, every irritation, every little hurt until they are all I can see and all I can feel.  I know I should let go but instead I grip all this sh*t tightly and carry it around with me until I’m beyond miserable and so is everyone around me. So some things have gone wrong over the past week. And some things just haven’t gone the way I’d like them to over the past few months. And some days I give in to the temptation to keep heaping every unfair thing onto a pile and hauling it around with me.

Which is what I did yesterday.

I was relieved to go to bed last night and just escape my self-imposed misery. I slept with the window open, the only drawback of which was that I had forgotten how loud the train’s whistle sounds in the dead of night. And normally that’s a sound I take comfort in, except when it brings me back to that place of worry and anger and hurt and then I can’t get back to sleep because I can’t shut off my mind again.

And so there I am at three in the morning wondering what kind of things a person can do around the house that won’t wake up everyone else and make them think you’re a total lunatic for not going back to bed. Turns out there’s not much. But there is the internet. The internet’s a pretty quiet thing and not likely to alert anyone to the fact that I might be just slightly off my rocker. Turns out the internet is a pretty good place to find reminders that all that worry and anger and giving up a gorgeous day to self-pity? … Completely wasted and pointless effort. Turns out that in spite of all the sh*t … even the one thing that I can’t fix … it’s just not that big of a deal, really. I mean it is, but…

I’m going up north sometime today… as soon as a few things can be resolved or I can at least put a band-aid on them. All of our kids will be there and we’ll have a couple of days to be with each other … without the constant drone of alarm clocks and suburb noise and cable t.v. and ringing telephones. We’ll have a dock to sit on and a beautiful lake to look at and really bad beds to sleep in. But that’s beside the point. And with any luck, it won’t rain the whole time we’re there and we’ll probably get to go fishing and we’ll definitely get to enjoy a few meals together, watch some late night movies and just be us for a while before we go back to the real world.

We’re all okay. We’re not sick. We have a place to call home and we have plenty to eat. All the other sh*t will work itself out eventually.

It’s still dark at the moment, so I don’t know if I’ll be graced with another beautiful day like yesterday. But if I am, I won’t forget to appreciate this one.

Really and Truly All Grown Up

The days seem to be running together lately and nothing goes as expected. We were going to take a trip up north to the in-laws’ cabin last weekend. Brad and Heather were going to drive over from North Dakota and meet us there. But a few days before the weekend, Mark’s mom suffered some chest pains. She turned out to be okay. Spent a few days in the hospital and in the end, had her gallbladder removed. I don’t  know what was ever decided about the chest pains other than they were not indicative of a heart attack. We stayed home for the weekend to do our part helping take care of the ailing parents.

Brad and Heather came here instead. Brad thought we could all go looking for a new truck for him. (Just looking, he said.) He’s been thinking “new truck” for a while now, especially since the vehicle he’s been driving is now 14 years old. He’s a college graduate with a “real” job, living on his own like a “real” adult. I guess that means he can decide to buy a new truck if he wants, even though the mom in me still wants to mother him and insist that he scale back his ambitions a bit. Play it a little safer. Maybe look for something a few years old, something more economical than a truck. But he’s not a kid anymore. He is a real adult and he’d gone over his budget and figured things out. He could manage buying new if the right deal came along.

Saturday morning, he said, “Everyone get dressed! Let’s go look at trucks.”

I thought I might tag along and look at cars to replace the nine year-old one that I’m driving and that Kacey would like to inherit some time before she forgets how to drive. But it was raining. Hard. We’re talking black skies and rain coming down in sheets. I couldn’t see me enjoying getting all soggy and soaked wandering the car lots. I said I would stay home and keep the dogs company.

“This is gonna pass over anytime now,” Brad said. But it really didn’t look like it was going to clear up. I said, no, I was staying. Mark took off with Brad and Heather to go just looking.

And it did rain for hours. And they were gone for hours. By the time they came home, the sun was beaming. So was Brad.

He found one!

He found one!

“Just looking” had turned into a deal he couldn’t pass up. Word has it his hands were shaking when he signed the paperwork, but when the last signature was made, he was the proud owner of a new truck payment and he couldn’t have been happier. Proof of his real-adulthood.

Nervous as I was about my son taking on his first major financial responsibility, I was proud and I told him so. When I was his age, I was pregnant with my second child. My car was a used car and I wasn’t sure when I’d ever be in a position for a brand new one. (Turns out that my first brand new car came along only nine years ago.) He’s enjoying his life as he goes along, not rushing headlong into it like I did. He got some important stuff taken care of, like getting an education, which allowed him to find a decent job as soon as he graduated. He’s enjoying his relative freedom before the responsibilities of a family take precedence. So good for him! He should enjoy the feeling of being a proud new truck owner.

Seems like just yesterday he was asking me to read Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel to him, AGAIN and the idea of him driving a motor vehicle was in the vast in distant future. It’s true what they say. Time really does fly. Although, how I can still only be twenty-nine is beyond me. Just lucky I guess!

Happy Mothers Day – 2013

It’s hard to believe that my “babies” are all grown up now. The boys are taller than me and Kacey is nearly as tall. It doesn’t seem all that long ago that they were so little and cuddly. Now they’re living on their own, working full-time jobs and going to college.

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Brad, Jake and Kacey when they were little bundles of joy – and other things.

We celebrated Mother’s Day last weekend when they were all home for a few days. Having them all under one roof was a wonderful enough gift. But the kids couldn’t let the holiday pass without presents. They know me well and honored me with a new dog!

015bCute, isn’t he? He’s pretty low maintenance compared to Lucy Pie. He doesn’t bark at all, doesn’t eat much and doesn’t shed all over the furniture! He stands guard on the front step at all times just waiting to welcome visitors. He soaks up the sun and glows brightly at night when the sun has gone down.

My  gift also included a lovely, hanging solar sun which I placed out in the “tiki lounge” on the deck. I’m looking forward to warm summer nights, relaxing on the deck and basking in the light of my special sun!

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I can’t imagine a life in which I wasn’t a mom now . We’ve had our ups and downs throughout the years, but the highs far outweigh the lows. I look at my sons and daughter and see bits of their dad or pieces of me in their personalities and I am proud. I see all the ways they’ve tackled life’s challenges better than we did and I am even more proud. Each of them is special in their own unique way and they have taught me about love that is deeper and more profound than anything I have ever known.

And if it weren’t for the example of my own wonderful mother, I wouldn’t have had half a clue about how to be a mom to my own children.

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Me, Mom and Cori

Happy Mother’s Day to all women – moms, grandmas, aunties or otherwise – who are so important in the life of a child. The world is a better place because of you!

Only 119 days until summer break begins

I’m sure for many others, that holiday feeling faded away almost two weeks ago, once the holiday celebrations had all become a thing of the past. I too have returned to the routine of everyday life, but for me, the “ordinary” doldrums were kept at bay while my baby has been home from college.

I always say that I’m not sure what I might have done to be blessed with such good kids. Believe me, I certainly didn’t earn these blessings with my own behavior in my younger days. My three have very distinct and different personalities, for sure, but between them, there is diligence, confidence, good humor and compassion. There have definitely been highs and lows as we’ve watched them grow, but I am so proud of the people my children have become.

Now that they are grown and working toward lives of their own, the house is so much quieter than it ever was. Yes, they are each still in transition to their adult lives, but the two boys are well on their way to independence, only leaning on us here and there at times such as when facing a particular situation for the very first time. (Brad called last week for help understanding his employee benefit offerings.) Kacey’s ties to home are still a bit more secure, but as a college sophomore, I know those ties loosen a bit more with each passing day. It’s no secret that some of the highlights of my days are those times when the kids come home to stay for any length of time.

For the past four weeks that Kacey has been home from school, it’s often her voice or face that greets me when I come home from work. She’s so full of enthusiasm and energy for life, she’s just a joy to be around. She has such a knack for finding the silver lining in every situation and has an easy ability to laugh at herself and help me not to take myself so seriously. (Really, sometimes I wonder who’s the adult and who’s the child here!)

The dogs are always happy when their favorite cuddler is home too.

The dogs are always happy when their favorite cuddler is home too.

I remember my own years at Kacey’s age. My mom and I did whatever possible to steer clear of one another. She (wisely) knew there was no winning with me and I was too cool and too perpetually annoyed with my life to reach below the surface with her. I’m happy to say that, eventually I did some growing up and Mom and I have made up for lost time, but now I’m sorry I couldn’t give her what Kacey has given me.

Spending time with my daughter is one of my favorite things. Just yesterday, as we were greeting the day in that weekend way, slow and lazy, she said, “You should make us some omelets with peppers in ‘em.” It was long ago decided that I am the best omelet maker in the house and breakfast being one of my favorite meals, I easily agreed to Kacey’s suggestion. As it turns out, there were no peppers in the refrigerator, but we did find some ham and cheese and some breakfast potatoes.

“I think I’ll put some chopped onion in mine,” I mentioned.

“If you saute’ them first, I’ll have some too,” she said.

Simple, little things I learn from her sometimes. I’d never in the past sautéed my onions before putting them in my omelets. Turns out I really liked them!

Together, we made a mess of the kitchen, the end result being steaming, cheesy, overstuffed omelets that were almost too big for either of us to finish. We should have split one! But sitting together at the table, enjoying our over-sized breakfasts, talking, laughing at how the dogs never give up begging for a bite of “people” food they’re not going to get… it’s the kind of precious moment I look forward to more as opportunities grow fewer.

I’ve loved having Kacey home the past four weeks, and not only because she’s the one family member who might notice the dishwasher needs emptying and just take it upon herself to just do it without being asked. She’s my ray of sunshine, always anxious to share her stories with me, making me laugh, or wanting me to watch a chick flick with her. I feel honored that at her age, she carves time out of her busy life for me. My world can feel a bit empty at times. She reminds me that I’m wrong. My life is overflowing.

My holidays come to an end today. Second semester is starting tomorrow and it’s time for Kacey to go back to school. But I get to ease back into the old and sometimes boring routine. Her college isn’t all that far away. She can come home often, and I’m happy that she does. Next weekend is the home opener for the Minnesota Wild and Kacey and Connor are big fans. Now that the NHL season is finally starting this year, they plan to be at that first game. They’ll be back home in just a few short days! Think I’ll stock up on some fresh red and yellow peppers before next weekend rolls around.

Planting the Seeds for a Better World

Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant.  — Robert Louis Stevenson

Friday, December 14th was a big day for my oldest son. That morning, the rest of the family and I were on the road to Fargo, North Dakota to see Brad. Later that day, we would all be sitting in an auditorium on the campus of North Dakota State University to watch Brad receive his college diploma. My head and heart were filled with happiness and pride in our family’s first college graduate.

The drive from our home to Fargo is about four hours long. While Mark drove and the kids slept or listened to music on their iPods in the back seat, I spent my time reading a book and catching up on a stack of unread People magazines. At one point, tired of reading, I checked in on Facebook on my cell phone and that’s when I first saw news of the shootings that had occurred at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.

I could feel my heart sinking at yet another senseless act of such horrific violence in this country. My heart broke as we heard of parents waiting and hoping desperately for the return of a child. While my family’s life continued on safe and sound, there were others whose worlds were spinning out of control. Not for the first time in my life, I worried about what a dark and dangerous world my own children were facing.

For a brief while, I thought about how unfair it was for us to be celebrating. Mark and I had the privilege of seeing our son reach a major milestone in his life while there were other parents whose children’s lives were ended before they’d barely begun. We were allowed another day to hope and dream and imagine all of the world’s possibilities for our kids. The families of the shooting victims were left to wonder how to even face another day.

There was nothing we could do for the Newtown families that day but pray for them. Our unspoken realization was that the world does go on in spite of the pain and tragedy that strikes seemingly at random. There’s not a one of us in this world who doesn’t face each day without at least a small thought in the back of our minds that if we make it through another day unscathed, we’re one of the lucky ones. And hopefully we’ll spend more of our time seeking out the goodness and light in the world as opposed to just running in fear of the dark. That’s the deal in this life. We’re all going to be scarred in some way. But we have to learn from those scars and make this a better place. Sometimes I wonder if we’re winning that battle, but I hope that by loving my kids and by nurturing their sense of self-esteem, they will go out and make a difference. Maybe their generation can figure out how to make this a safer, brighter, more loving world than we have today.

And so we celebrated my son’s graduation. And I knew we were doing the right thing when we arrived at his apartment and after reminding him again how proud I was, he wrapped me up in a bear hug and whispered, “I love you, Mom.”

We gathered together with our son, his girlfriend, Heather and her parents. We took our seats in the stands above the graduating class and watched with pride as this long-awaited moment arrived. The ceremony was impressive and as the university president welcomed us all, he asked for a moment of silence and reflection for the Newtown victims and their families. The world moved on, not in ignorance of the tragedy in Connecticut that day, but with a new resolve to prevent it from happening again.

We watched in anticipation for Brad to proceed with his class. We pointed him out to one another and gazed with pride as he accepted his diploma and a degree in Business Administration. Weeks ago, he had told me he didn’t care to participate in the graduation ceremony. He was happy to receive his diploma quietly and without fanfare. Along with Heather, we encouraged him to “walk” and as he came away from the stage with his diploma in hand, I focused my camera’s zoom lens on his face. I could see his big smile and I knew that he was not sorry.

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We love you, Brad! Go out and make it a wonderful life!

 

Little Moments of Pride

Does every parent have that one kid that they worry about just a little more than the others?

It just doesn’t seem right that so many things were just a little more difficult for him. And some things were a lot more difficult. The real worry started when he was in Kindergarten and we went to his first parent-teacher conference. I expected to see some art projects and some lined paper with letters of the alphabet formed in childish printing. And there was that. But there were also harsh words from a teacher who clearly had no patience for those who lagged behind.

“He’s always the last one finished. I always have to keep steering him back on track. His fine motor skills are lacking. He can’t… he can’t… he can’t…”

I left that conference in tears. And we worked with him on things that needed improvement. He had no interest in learning to read and progress was so slow. We worked with him through all of his school years to keep him where he needed to be. There was testing over the course of a few years and there was an ADD diagnosis. I still wonder if there wasn’t something more. I knew kids with ADD and ADHD that were managing okay on their own. There were some wonderful teachers in his high school years. I will always owe them a debt of gratitude for keeping him believing in himself.

He was so happy to graduate from high school. We were so happy. I learned of kids much worse off than him, kids who didn’t graduate on time or who didn’t graduate at all. I know it could have been much worse for him, but I will still always hate that it was so hard for him.

College wasn’t his thing. He gave it a try, but he just didn’t have it in him. There was some searching and contemplating, but in the end, he decided on simply working. People ask me if he’s considering going back to school and when I say, “Not right now,” there are looks of pity. I hate that. They don’t know him like I do. He’s doing what he feels competent at right now. And he is good at it. It’s not what I’d dream for him in my best dreams, but I know people who do what he does for a living and support a family doing it. The hours aren’t great, but it’s steady work and he’s really good at it. He’s got a good work ethic and he’s reliable and he’s working in something he’s always enjoyed – bowling.

Still, I can’t help but worry. I want him to be happy in the long run and I worry that he might not be when he sees others his age doing bigger things.

People remind me now and then that he’ll find his way. Some people take a while to get there. (Hell, took a while to get there!) I just always seem to wish he had an easier path.

But then something happens to remind me that he’s in a good place.

He wasn’t supposed to work on Friday night, but he got called in. It was the Thanksgiving weekend and all and the place with packed with people out for fun and entertainment. As a reward, he was given Sunday night off.

But Sunday night is league night. He runs the Sunday night leagues. He’s not much of a talker, so I don’t know what’s really involved in this, but I do a lot of bowling. I know it’s a big job to run a league.

As he was trying to enjoy his Sunday night off, his phone kept ringing. It was one of his coworkers. Sunday night leagues were in full swing and no one could get things running right. I listened to him walk his coworker through the computer system and try to explain how to add the pre-bowl scores to the team line-ups. He spewed program details left and right and finally said, “You know what? I’ll just come in. I’ll be there in five minutes.”

So he went in to work and he fixed whatever problems were being had and he came back home again. He was just making plans with a buddy when his phone rang again. Again, I listened as he related details of the job to a less experienced coworker.

Hanging up the phone, he said, “Idiots!”

I said, “Hey, they’re not idiots. They just haven’t learned things like you have. You’re the go-to guy, Buddy!”

“Eh,” he said. “I’m going to shoot pool with Bobby.”

I felt content as he walked out the door. He’s okay. He’ll be just fine. After all, who said his life had to go the way envisioned it?

 

When you know you got at least a few things right with that parenting gig …

BZZZZZ!

TEXT MESSAGE!

… from my darling daughter upon her return to school after a weekend at home …

Forgot to tell you this, but on the way back to school Conn was saying how happy he was that we got to go out to eat with you guys, and how much he loves you guys and how sad he was to leave Sunday, and how he looks at Dad as one of his few ‘father figures’ so thank you for everything. Love you guys! Have a good week ;)

That just felt like the kind of message I wanted to write down and keep forever. ‘Cause as much as I know we’ve screwed up in our roles as parents, it’s amazing to read words like these and know that once in a while, we manage to make a positive impact.

And these kids? We think they’re pretty great too.