Weekly Photo Challenge: Light

Piglet in Portugal’s photo made me of this one, so I went digging in my files to find it. I took this from the deck of our condo while vacationing in Bayfield, Wisconsin in August of 2008. That was the year I gave a kidney to my dad. I was on vacation two weeks later. I was feeling good but still a little tired during those days, and in spite of that fact, couldn’t seem to sleep in the mornings. This was the view of Lake Superior in those early morning hours.

Friday Funny

While opening a piece of mail at work today, I couldn’t help but notice how disheveled the envelope was. Clearly, it had gotten wet at some point and had since dried out. It was dirty, and taped shut in places where it had been ripped open.  I was just thinking what a poor job the U.S. Postal Service had done with this item, when I noticed that it really wasn’t the fault of the post office after all.

 

The dog has graduated from homework to mail.

 

 

80-Year-Old Sex

I had a hard time getting out of bed this morning. I kept telling myself to get up and go to the gym, but then I would argue with myself, insisting I should get up, call the sick line at work and go back to bed for the day. In the end, I decided I wasn’t going to let Brenda get to me so badly that I’d waste a PTO day for her, so I did go to work, just not to the gym. And it was a better day. I tried my best not to deal with Brenda at all, but it soon became clear she had absolutely no idea she’d done something to offend me. It’s really hard to hang onto your hatred for a person when they truly don’t grasp the fact that they are insane. Now I just feel sorry for her and her extra-large butt.

On a happier note, my parents came back home today. After dinner, Kacey and I walked over to their house to welcome them home. One of my brothers, my sister and most of their kids were already there, so we had ourselves a miniature family reunion. We adults all sat around the table while multiple conversations filled the room and the kids ran up and down the stairs and around the house. The best story was the one my parents told about my 80-year-old Aunt Arlys, who also spends her winters in Arizona.

“Arlys has a boyfriend,” my mom announced.

(Arlys has been married twice and has buried two husbands, so this was some interesting news.)

“Is it the guy she went to dinner with,” Cori asked?

“Is it the one she went with to the concert in the park but they didn’t dance because they don’t like rock music,” I asked? (See? I listen when my mom talks.)

“Yes,” my mom said.

“So he’s her boyfriend now? I thought she told you she wasn’t going to get serious with him,” I said.

“Well, they’re serious now,” my mom said.

“They held hands during the entire drive to the airport,” my dad informed us, as if this were a scandalous notion. (Gasp!)

There were too many people talking at once, so I missed some of what was being said about Arlys and her “boy” friend, but next thing I knew, my dad was adding his very opinionated opinion.

“I don’t think anyone is saying no in that affair,” he said!

I nearly spit my beer out as my sister and I doubled over in laughter at the image that statement created in our minds. My dad, suddenly realizing what we were thinking, tried desperately to explain:

“No… I didn’t mean… I wasn’t talking about… sex…,” he trailed off.

“She said they didn’t do that,” my mom added.

My sister and I were out of control with laughter and my mom knows there’s no turning back once we’ve gone down this road. I’m pretty sure she was rolling her eyes at us by then. Eventually, we did regain some semblance of composure.

There are just some things you don’t want to hear your parents talk about, no matter how old you are. The sex life (or lack thereof) of a couple of 80-year-olds is one of them!

It’ good to have Mom and Dad home again, and I’m looking forward to more family gatherings because, clearly, the conversations are never dull.

The Clean-Up Effort

My parents are coming back to Minnesota this week after spending the winter months in Arizona. (Now I can feel guilty for not visiting them often enough, instead of feeling guilty for not calling them often enough.) As a little welcome home gift, my sister, Cori and I decided to go tidy up the house on Sunday afternoon by spending an hour or two doing a little dusting and vacuuming and general freshening. I arrived just ahead of Cori and immediately noticed a smell in the house. I wasn’t sure what it was, but assumed it was nothing some Pine-Sol and a few opened windows wouldn’t cure.

Cori showed up just as I was getting the stereo tuned into my favorite Country station. She agreed there was a smell, but guessed it was merely due to the house having been closed up all winter long. She’d brought her lunch with, so we started our cleaning spree by sitting at the table while she ate, talking and boosting our energy with a nice cold beer each.

Just as we’d begun to clean, Kacey came over to hang out with us. She’d been working on a photo assignment at home and having lost inspiration, thought she might find some at my parents’ house. She also voiced her awareness of the smell. Cori and I shrugged it off and continued cleaning while Kacey searched the yard and then the house for something “interesting” to photograph. She hadn’t been in the house long when I heard her shout from a lower level of the house, “I think I found the source of the smell!”

I had a flashing vision of a dead mouse or something of that nature. If only it had been that easy!

Cori and I followed the sound of Kacey’s voice and found her standing at the top of the basement stairs. “There’s water in the basement,” Kacey said.

Cori and I peeked down the stairs into the dusky basement began to slowly descend the stairs as the realization hit us that there was very definitely water down there. Three or four inches of it covered the basement floor. Ugh. What a mess.

I saw the rest of my Sunday afternoon crumbling away. We were supposed to celebrate Jake’s birthday that evening. I had a crock-pot full of Cheesy Wild Rice Soup cooking at Jake’s request and Kacey had baked some chocolate-filled chocolate cupcakes that were still waiting to be frosted.

But we had no choice other than to start tackling the mess in the basement. Thankfully, we had cleaned and organized it last spring when my parents were planning to put the house on the market. A lot of their stuff had been donated or thrown away, and what was left was pretty well-organized. Thankfully this is really just a utility area and not living space, so there was no carpet to be damaged. But their basement is a true basement, so there was still a lot of stuff, some of it stored in Rubber-Maid boxes and unfortunately, some of it in cardboard boxes, that was just sitting on the floor, lined up along the walls. Cori and I tossed shoes and socks aside and rolled up our pants, beginning the monumental task of hauling things out of the water. Kacey volunteered to run back to our house to get the wet/dry vac and when she returned, Jake was with her, insisting that he would start working on sucking up the water.

Almost as soon as Jake began to work, Kacey took it upon herself to go across the street to our friends, Bill and Tammy’s house. She found Bill and asked if she could borrow his wet/dry vac and she soon returned and was working alongside her brother.

I was seriously impressed with my kids. I love them dearly, but they are your typical seventeen and twenty year-old, often displaying an extreme aversion to any type of work. And yet here they were, self-motivating, not needing to be asked or directed in any way, and working as hard as I’ve ever seen them work.

To this point, I hadn’t asked for Mark’s help. He had been on the night shift all week and I wanted to let him sleep. But he’d heard the commotion when the kids were getting the wet/dry vac from our garage and soon he came to see what all the fuss was about too.

“Why didn’t you wake me up right away,” he asked?

“I was trying to let you sleep,” I said. “And I hadn’t yet realized how bad things were here.”

Mark waded over to the sump pump and began to inspect it. He found just what he’d suspected. It was no longer working and with all the recent melting snow, the water simply backed up into the house. Soon, he was off to the hardware store to buy another while Cori, Kacey, Jake and I continued hauling boxes, a few pieces of antique furniture, holiday decorations and family treasures out of the basement. We put everything that could be saved out onto the back yard patio to dry and everything that couldn’t was hauled to the trash barrel. The vacuums continued to run and Jake and Kacey worked on without complaint. They worked so hard, sucking up water and dumping the tanks of water over and over.

It was back-breaking work, but we managed to get the water all cleaned up. Mark got the new sump pump installed and it began to do its job. By this time, we were exhausted, but we still had to get my parents’ belongings back into the house and find a place to hang several drenched area rugs so they could drip-dry. There was rain in the forecast so they couldn’t be left hanging where we’d put them, over the deck railings. We finally decided on hanging them over the hull of Mark’s fishing boat, which was still in storage in my parents’ garage. Finally, we rounded up a couple of dehumidifiers and cranked ‘em up on high in the hopes of drying out the remaining dampness.

We all headed home then, utterly exhausted. Cori returned to her own family and the rest of us back to our house to salvage what we could of the birthday celebration. It wasn’t much of a party. Everyone was just way too tired, but we were all hungry, so the hot soup that had been cooking all day was a welcome meal. After dinner, Kacey and I frosted the cupcakes, making one of them special for Jake with a tower of frosting on top. He was a good sport about it all, and even joked about what a great birthday weekend it had been. His friends came looking for him after dinner was over, so I didn’t feel too bad when he went off for some well-deserved fun.

The whole event was such a disaster, but I can’t help feeling thankful we discovered it on a Sunday, when we had time to tackle the clean-up job. But more than anything, I’m grateful to Jake and Kacey, who showed a level of maturity and dependability we don’t often get to see. There was no sign of their typical bickering and rivalry. They proved that when the situation calls for it, they can be counted on. I am so very lucky to have such great kids!

Ready!

Spring was here this weekend! In Minnesota, some years it takes the weather a while to catch on to that fact. This has been one of those years. It warmed up a few weeks ago, then the cold came back. Some more snow fell. Some more snow could still fall. I hope it doesn’t. I’m so tired of cold, so tired of gray skies, dirty snow-covered earth, lifeless trees. I’m ready for the spring rains that will wash away the sand in the streets and bring the green back to the grass. I’m ready for blossoming trees and warm breezes. I’m ready to welcome back the ducks that live in these neighborhoods and to watch for their adorable little ducklings to arrive! I’m ready to trade off my sweaters for short sleeves and feel the sun on my skin again.

The long months of winter can have a depressive effect on me. I don’t usually notice it right away. Those first snowfalls often seem beautiful and even exciting! There’s something fun about hunkering down inside the house while waiting for a big snowstorm to wear itself out. Those first snows conjure up images of Christmas and family and that warm feeling that comes from spending time together. They make me want to fill the house with the delicious smells of cookies baking and hot meals cooking. But then the holidays pass, the months drag on, and suddenly it feels as if there is nothing more to look forward to. The world seems to hibernate and starts to feel like such a lonely place. The lack of color and sun wears on me.

So when spring comes along and the snow begins to melt, I start to feel like I am melting too.

Saturday was a beautiful day. The sun shone brilliantly from a bright blue sky. The surface of the deck finally reappeared after spending the winter under a mountain of snow. The melting created streams that poured down the curbs of the streets, the water glistening in the sun‘s rays. As I ran my errands, there were people out everywhere enjoying the day. I saw people out walking their dogs and people out walking themselves. There were runners and a dad teaching his little girl to ride her bike. There were young boys tossing a football back and forth. (They were wearing shorts and t-shirts while they ran through the remaining snow in their yard. A bit optimistic in my opinion. It’s not that warm yet.) I saw a toddler on a little tricycle with a long handle coming off the back where her grandpa held tight, pushing and steering her up the street.

The next-door neighbors stopped over with baby Ethan, who is six months old already. He was a newborn the last time I actually saw him. It was October and I’d just returned from a shopping excursion with my sister while my men-folk had been off on a hunting weekend. It was one of those beautiful, warm fall days when the leaves on the trees were full of reds, golds and oranges. Ethan was sound asleep in his stroller then, bundled up and curled in a ball the way newborns tend to do.  Now, he seems a different child. We all caught up with one another while standing on our front sidewalk and I held Ethan, no longer a newborn,  while he took in his surroundings. His eyes were wide open this time and he did a constant frog-kick with his little legs as I tried to keep a good hold on him.

I was even able to open some windows and let some fresh air into the house and was greeted by one of the less attractive aspects of warm temperatures – the chorus of barking dogs from across the street. Sigh. The houses in this neighborhood are in close proximity to one another. I love dogs, and I know they bark, but when it’s gone on for an hour, I wish the owners would do something about it!

As I sit here writing this, it is early morning and I can hear a strong wind blowing through the trees and against the house. It is causing the back gate to clang against the fence post and it reminds me that the warmest days of spring might not be here to stay just yet. But they’re just around the corner. And I am ready.

Disconnected

It’s 4 am on Sunday and I am wide awake. I was hoping to wake up early today, but 4 am is not quite what I had in mind. I mean, I am an early riser, but this is extreme, even for me. I was thinking more along the lines of 5:30 or 6:00. I was going to start my day with a sunrise walk, but I was not planning on having to wait for the sun

This is all the internet’s fault.

Okay, it’s not exactly the internet’s fault. It is my internet provider’s fault for not having a repair technician available to restore my lost internet connection on a weekend. (And in all honesty, I applaud them for that. Having a husband who has had to work his share of evenings, weekends and holidays for 25 years, I know how much that sucks.) But I had my Saturday all planned out. And those plans involved the internet. You can see why I am upset!

See, Mark was working the night shift, and on the weekends when he is on the night shift, he is out of the house by 6 pm. While he slept all day, I cleaned house and did the usual Saturday stuff. I took care of the routine scrubbing, dusting and vacuuming. I even descaled the Keurig coffee maker, cleaned the oven and washed a winter‘s worth of dirt and sand from the entryway rugs! After all that hard work, I was ready for some down-time. When Mark left for work, I headed for my favorite recliner to catch up on my reader and do some writing. Call me boring, but there are plenty of Saturday nights when I go out and live it up. I just wanted a quiet night with my internet for a change, but no… the internet decides to be fickle!

To the internet’s credit, I did get some time in. I cleaned up the sidebar on my blog a bit, changed the header photo to give things a more spring-like feel, and even browsed the WordPress themes to see if I might like to give the blog a whole new look. (Decided against that idea. I like the clean feel of this theme.) I managed to get through just a couple of posts in my reader when I wanted to look something up on Google. I couldn’t get a new browser window to open and assumed I’d just lost my wireless connection. It happens. I reset the router, but still… nothing. Weird. I checked the desktop computer, which has a wired connection and was unable to open a browser window there too.

Uh-oh.

So I called my internet provider and a representative ran some diagnostics. I confirmed that all the proper wires and power cords were, in fact connected. He had me unplug the connections and plug them back in and then the modem lights were supposed to begin to blink green, which they did. Then he said that hopefully, they would all glow solid. One of them refused to cooperate. One of them would not quit blinking and go solid. The technician confirmed that my modem was not defective but that it wasn’t receiving a signal. Most likely there was a problem with the wiring outside of the house. Had we had any work done recently, like the installation of a security system? Nope, the security system was installed long ago and we’ve made no changes for quite a while. He said this problem would require a service technician to come physically check things out… on MONDAY!

MONDAY? Seriously? Did he not realize that Monday was two days away? Did he not realize that I had no plans for this particular Saturday night, other than those that involved the internet? Did he not understand that the internet and I spend time together every single day? To his credit, he was very apologetic and made sure to remind me to call again after repairs were made so that I would not be charged for usage on the days I was disconnected. I thanked him for his assistance, we hung up and then I thought, “Now what?”

The phone rang then and it was Mark, wanting to know if I’d seen a particular email from our bank. I told him I had not seen it last time I’d checked, but that I wasn’t able to look just then. I told him about the loss of internet and how it could not be restored until Monday. There was a pause on his end before he spoke again.

“No internet? You’re freaking out, aren’t you?”

He knows me well. “I am not freaking out,” I lied.

He knew I had planned to spend the evening with the internet. “What are you going to do now,” he asked?

“Read,” I told him. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo has been waiting for me to give it some serious attention anyway.

When Kacey came home with some friends, I figured I’d better inform her of our loss. Even when they hang out together as a group, FaceBook is always part of their festivities. So I immediately broke the news to her.

“No internet? I’m going to die,“ she replied. (And you thought I was dramatic!)

She seemed to get over her devastation rather quickly, though. The friends’ laptops were left in their back packs, abandoned on the living room floor and Kacey then asked if they could have use of the family room in order to watch a movie on the big t.v. I told her that was fine. I could get comfy in my bedroom with my Nook and knock off some chapters in the book.

I think I may have gotten through one or two chapters. Next thing I knew, it was 4 am and there was a cat marching up and down my legs. I wasn’t surprised by this because after a certain point in the morning, once Tigger senses movement of a body, he begins his plea for treats. (I’m not sure what his specific criteria is, but it seems any time after 3 is fair game.)

So. The cat has had his treats. I’ve written this entry and it’s still too dark outside to go for a walk.

I‘m still blaming the internet.

(And I am SO grateful to Caribou Coffee for their free Wi-Fi so I could post this even though I am without internet! I kind of like it here. I may have to make this a regular thing!)

What Goes Around, Comes Around

We attended a softball parent meeting/pot luck dinner last night at the high school. Every year before the season starts, they hold these mandatory meetings so that the coaches can touch base with the parents about what to expect during the softball season. This year was the first time a pot luck dinner has been incorporated into the meeting.

As much as I sometimes dread going to such things, this was actually pretty enjoyable. Through all the years that Kacey has played softball within the community and on her high school team, we’ve developed quite a few friendships and acquaintances. The pot luck dinner provided a chance to reconnect with people we haven’t seen much of over the long winter.

When we arrived, we immediately found a group of parents with whom we’ve formed real and close friendships. These are the parents of the girls who have played on teams with Kacey since their earliest years in the sport. We all have girls who have played on the same summer team for the past several years. We’ll be enjoying one last summer with these folks before Kacey goes off to college and I’m looking forward to warm summer weekends, enjoying their company on the sidelines of a ball field.

As  we talked, and then moved to find tables at which to sit and eat, I looked around the school cafeteria and saw other clusters of parents who were  talking, laughing and catching up with one another as we were doing.

And then I noticed the lone woman. She sat all by herself at a table farthest from the main group of parents and softball players. Her back was set straight and her mouth formed a tight line. Her eyes stared ahead defiantly. She looked like an outcast, maybe because she actually was.

This woman was not a stranger to me, as she likely wasn’t to many others in the room. She is the wife of a man who coached Kacey’s team several years ago. I won’t bore you with the details, but this woman and her husband were not very nice people. They were selfish and their actions were only in the interest of promoting their own daughter, whether her athletic abilities warranted it or not. They had no idea of the meaning of sportsmanship. This couple was actively involved in our community athletic association for several years, and they used their positions to their own advantage instead of in the best interests of the program or the participants.

This woman and her husband were not nice people and they were not fair. And unfortunately for their daughter, children learn what they live. The daughter is one of those girls who none of the other girls really trusts. She became a mean girl, a very mean girl. This family burned many bridges over the years, but it took some time. For a few years after we cut our ties with them, I would still see this woman in the softball circles. She hadn’t changed, and yet there always seemed to be someone who had as yet failed to see her selfishness and arrogance. I guess people are, for the most part, forgiving. But people can only take so much before they cut their losses and walk away from a toxic relationship. In a room of about 200 people, this woman was left completely and utterly alone.

My family has been on the receiving end of this woman’s mean-spirited behavior. My daughter has been subjected to her daughter’s mean-spirited behavior. When Kacey was elected one of the captains of the softball team, this girl went out of her way to tell her and the other captains that they had not earned those honors, that no one actually liked them. (Funny, because the captains were elected by their peers.)

As we sat through the dinner and listened to the head coach’s spiel, I couldn’t keep my eyes from wandering over to this woman sitting all alone throughout the entire dinner and meeting. I have no reason to feel sorry for her, but so help me, I did. After all the mean-spirited and selfish behavior she has displayed towards us and towards many others whom we care about, I still felt sorry for her. She has never grown up.

I thought about seeking her out after the coach was done speaking, but I was stopped by an old school friend and by the time we finished talking, the woman was gone. I might have reached out to her had I had the chance, but I didn’t. And I doubt it would have made any difference in her mind whatsoever. The whole thing really shouldn’t bother me so much, but obviously it does. I am still thinking about her tonight.

How sad it must be to be her.