Couch, Sofa, Davenport

My daughter’s summer is officially over. Kacey worked her last days at her two summer jobs last week. Yesterday she vacated her bedroom at home and made the road trip back to school. She’ll spend the next year with four roommates in a college rental house that has a lot of … let’s just say, character.

Her car was packed full with all of her belongings yesterday morning. And we might have waved goodbye from the driveway as Kacey left, were it not for the fact that she needed our help in hauling a couch. So we followed not far behind as she went.

The couch use to reside in my parents’ lower level family room and it was only gently used. When Mom and Dad downsized and moved to a town house last month, the couch was gifted to Kacey.

By the way, I can’t say the word “couch” without hearing my sister saying “sofa” or my mother-in-law saying “davenport.” What’s your preference?

2015-08-22Lucy rode in the back seat of Mark’s truck while we traveled to college town. She loves to go for rides, but we had other reasons for taking her along. Kacey will be taking care of Lucy for several days when Mark and I go on a little vacation in the near future and maybe again this winter. We want to be sure Lucy starts to get familiar with the new surroundings ahead of time. She recently spent a weekend there with Kacey and all went well, so I’m feeling good that all will be fine.

Lucy sat upright in the back seat for a while, watching the scenery go by outside the window. Eventually, she grew sleepy and stretched out on the blanket Mark had laid out for her. She happily snoozed while we drove.

When we arrived, Kacey brought Lucy inside where two of her roommates gushed over our dog while Mark and Kacey hauled the “new” couch inside. The previous couch had been purchased from the university. It formerly resided in a common area of one of the dorms for who knows how many years and who knows how many people sat there and … other things . According to Kacey, it was uncomfortable and disgusting. The roommates who lived at the house over the summer were supposed to figure out how and where to get rid of it. When we showed up with the “new” couch, the old one was sitting on the front porch.

There were some major rain storms last night. I don’t even want to think how much more disgusting that couch is this morning! And although the mom in me wishes the kids had responsibly disposed of it before now, I have to remember that it’s not my problem.

Anyway, for the short while we were at Kacey’s new residence, we got the couch positioned in the living room and Mark hung some brackets for shelving in our daughter’s bedroom. That was that, and we headed back home. A few quick hugs and I-love-yous and that was all. Definitely a different scene than the first couple of years of her college life. Our baby has definitely grown up. She’s matured. She’s confident. And we know she’s capable of managing on her own. That makes it a little easier to say goodbye, I guess.

Still, times like this remind me how much all of my kids have grown up. I think I’ll always miss them when they’re away from us, and goodbyes will always be a little bittersweet. But more and more, I realize this is the natural order of things. They’re supposed to grow up. They’re supposed to become independent. Our house is supposed to gradually become ours again. Guess we did something right.

Summer Wind Down

Well, summer was sailing along just fine and I was just perfectly happy with it. And then one day it happened. That little nudge that change is just around the corner.

I remember not all that many weeks ago, I would wake up to the songs of the wrens singing their little hearts out while they perched on the railings of our deck out back. I could sit outside under the canopy and just listen to their pretty little songs. If the windows were open, the melody would float in through the screens. Then the wren babies came along and all the wren parents did anymore was scold us for being in the vicinity. And shortly afterwards, the birds all moved out and all the singing and scolding was done.

There was mostly quiet from the backyard for several weeks. Then I woke up early one morning and heard the trill of … crickets? Maybe? I don’t remember hearing that hum during the early summer mornings. At night, yes. But not in the morning. I was intrigued, and listened happily to the chorus for a few days before I realized – it’s a sign. Of fall.

Then came two straight days of gray skies and rain. The temperatures dropped way down. For those couple of days, I traded sleeveless shirts for sleeves and sweaters. It was a shock, especially considering we’d just been in the nineties not too many days ago.

So yeah. It’s that time again. My kiddo has been gradually packing up her stuff. She’s made a few weekend trips to the house near school where she’ll be living this semester. I came home from work one day earlier this week and saw a couple of big plastic storage bins on her bed, packed with clothes.

“Stop packing,” I said.

“I’m sorry,” she said. “I kind of have to go.”

2015-08-16She’s right. I mean, I’m going to miss having someone at home who likes to help me cook, who keeps us pretty well supplied with baked goods, and who’s generally willing to do the dreaded grocery shopping with me. Particularly, I’m going to miss having her here to help motivate me to go to the gym on the three mornings a week that my other gym buddy isn’t there. (Really. I found muscles this summer I didn’t know I had!) I just hope I can self-motivate to keep up this habit!

But, I mean … she does leave a lot of shoes in the entryway. And her room does get kind of messy now and then. And when I’m crabby, she has this habit of calling me out on it. Also, she takes a lot of selfies and sometimes I don’t realize she’s taking them on my phone. So,I guess it might be good to have a chance to miss her for a while.

Yeah. It’s time for her to go back to school. She leaves this weekend and she’s excited. Anyway, it’ll be good that she’ll actually graduate in a few months after all this time spent studying and learning.

Yep. I was getting kind of tired of her being around all the time anyway.

The Promotion

Something was brewing around the office over the past few weeks. There was clearly something going on that was supposed to be kept under wraps, but a few odd circumstances raised suspicions in our small work community.

I really shouldn’t have had any idea. I’ve been known to be a bit clueless when there have been big changes on our corporate horizon in the past. This time was no different initially. And had it not been for the whispers of a few more attentive associates, I’d probably have remained blissfully oblivious until the formal announcement.

It was the approval of a coworker’s PTO request that prompted suspicions. Our very small department has specific rules about how many employees may be out of the office at any given time. Two of my peers had long ago scheduled vacation time for the entire past week. According to our vacation policy, in order to ensure adequate staffing, no one else could be approved for more than a single day off during the same week.

TK had previously worked for one of our vendors and held a pretty respectable position there. When TK’s company had a major layoff, he was out of a job. And when our small department of three was looking to expand last October, TK joined our staff. We immediately liked him. He brought a fresh perspective and good work ethic along with him, along with a unique set of valuable skills. And I suspected almost immediately that this job was just a placeholder until bigger things came along. I had no hard feelings about my suspicions. TK is a young guy, divorced, with children and a fiance he’d like to marry soon. Obviously, he would like to improve his employment situation in order to support his life goals. And I knew that coming in brand new, it was likely he had come in near the lower end of the pay scale for his position.

I was TK’s mentor for his first few months on the job and as happens with many of my coworkers, we developed a comfortable bond. We work well together. We share the similar passions about our work and have the same need for our work to be fulfilling as opposed to just a way to pass the days and collect a paycheck. In the course of our days, we’ve come to know a bit about each others’ lives and families. TK has a wicked sense of humor and he’s always making someone laugh. And whenever one of us veterans enjoys vacation time, he’s been sure to playfully remind us not to give a thought to him, the newbie with an extremely limited PTO allowance, slaving away at work while we’re away.

Still, if someone hadn’t pointed out how strange it was that TK was suddenly approved for a stretch of four whole days off during the same week two others would be out all week, I might not have questioned it. Even though he’d probably recently reminded me how few vacation days remained in his account until the end of this year, and even though if I really thought about it, I knew he needed to keep a few days in the bank in case of illness or family emergency. I guess as long as it’s not causing me pain, I’m just not that concerned with whether anyone is abiding by these types of rules. It’s summer time. TK said he had a chance to spend a few days at his uncle’s cabin on a lake. Seemed pretty normal to me and I was just glad he had the opportunity.

What finally raised my suspicions was when someone pointed out the fact that TK was approved for four days off, not only when rules should prevent it, but during the same four days when most of our management would be attending meetings at the corporate office. Maybe TK wasn’t going to the lake, and maybe he was going to the big meeting. I wondered about it for days afterward. Why wouldn’t the rest of the team be informed if TK was going to the meeting and not on vacation? Why lie about it? If there was something the rest of us weren’t supposed to know, there were better lies that could have been told. TK runs a particular pilot project. If someone had told me he was attending the meeting to present an update on the project, it would have made way more sense than telling us he was approved for a spur-of-the-moment vacation request for a stretch of days I knew he couldn’t afford, and wasn’t really allowed to take at this time.

You’re probably thinking that my coworkers and I are much too concerned about why TK was stretching his PTO limits. I mean, if he wants to wipe out his vacation account, why should we care? Well, normally, I might not. But there were other things that raised the suspicion that this was about much more than one employee carelessly using his PTO benefits. You know there is always a pot-stirrer in the office. Our office is no different. The resident pot-stirrer from another department – in our parent company actually, would wander over to us, the affiliate company, and find a person he knew he could stir up. He would say things like, “How can I ask you this without actually asking you this? … Have you heard any, you know… news? Anything about … I don’t know … some new collaboration or something like that?”

I was annoyed by him. He had a good friend of mine worried, telling her that if we were to possibly merge with his department, how did she think we might contribute. There wasn’t enough work for everyone to do as it was, to hear him tell it. My friend then worried she might lose her job.

Why do people have to create drama like that?

The lid was completely blown off for me when an associate in another department unknowingly let the cat out of the bag. We were on a conference call that Friday, casually talking with each other while we waited for our client to dial in. She said to me, “Now remember, I’ll be at the meeting at corporate next week.”

“I know,” I said. “It’s going to be pretty quiet around here.” I wondered out loud whether a particular other person was going as well as those I knew of.

“No, he’s not, but…” she proceeded to list those who were attending. And she ended by naming TK as one of the attendees.

“Um. I don’t think I’m supposed to know he’s going,” I said.

“Why not?”

I explained that we were informed TK would be out on vacation. “Wow,” she said. “That’s really weird.” And then she was quiet for a moment before adding, “I’ll bet there’s some kind of announcement coming.”

And so was created the perfect recipe for office buzz. My friend continued to worry about her job security. She obsessed about perceived advancements for others that might leave her unfairly in the dust. We walk around the pond together at lunch time, and a frequent topic of conversation was what might be actually going on below the surface of TK’s vacation approval. I tried to alleviate her fears by reminding her of her unique contributions and value. Still, she continued to fret.

I have to say, I just wasnt’ that concerned. I’ve experienced a sort of transformation over the past year that has helped me learn to just accept that whatever will be, will be. If big changes were on the corporate horizon, it meant major decisions had already been made. Worrying about it now would do nothing but weigh on me. Sure, I gave it plenty of thought. It was hard not to, now that it was obvious we were all pretending not to know anything we weren’t supposed to know. Besides, I realized that I have confidence in my talents and capabilities. If some pending change was ahead, I was pretty certain it would bode well for me. And if it didn’t? I would just do the next thing. I’ve realized more often than not lately, that I live a pretty blessed life. I have a roof over my head and enough to eat. I’m in pretty decent health and am surrounded by family and good friends. We have everything we really need. And our income leaves enough left over to have a little fun now and then. If I was going to have to learn to do with less, I would. And if anything ahead meant that I was going to have to look for a new job, I knew that my years with this company had provided enough opportunities to learn and grow that I could confidently sell myself somewhere else. I could do something new and different if I had to.

I suspected TK was in line for some type of advancement. My boss is preparing for retirement, so I also thought some level of reorganization was coming that would ensure her position was filled. Unlike others, I wasn’t worried that the “new” guy might advance ahead of me. I’m pretty aware of where there is to go from where I’m at. My boss once told me that my next step is where she is. Management. The thought of supervising others is completely unappealing to me. And I’m really happy with where I’m at. In my job, I get to be creative. I get to write. I continuously learn more about technology, and still get to exercise my customer service skills. I’m just fulfilled in what I do most days. And when I arrived at work on Monday, I was ready to face a quiet, busy week while the big meeting went on at the corporate office. I was sure there would be an announcement when our company leaders returned on Friday.

I was surprised when I logged in to my computer Monday morning to see that TK was logged on. After all, he was supposed to be out “on vacation” through Thursday. I couldn’t help myself. I poked my head in his cubicle and asked, “Why are you here?”

“I don’t know,” he said. “I got a text from (the boss) over the weekend telling me I needed to be here today.”

“That’s strange,” I said, shrugging, before I went back to my own desk.

I had just decided that all this game playing was ridiculous, and I was going to go to TK and say, “I know you’re going to corporate this week. I don’t care why. Someone will tell me what I need to know when it’s time, so let’s stop all this stupid pretending.”

And that’s when my boss came by, which was also a surprise because she was supposed to be on her way to the corporate office.

“Hey,” she said. “Do you have a minute? Can you come to my office?”

“Sure,” I said, realizing as I followed her that the news was coming sooner rather than later.

We sat down in her office, her at her desk and me in a chair across from her. “Do you want me to shut the door?” I asked.

“No, that’s okay. Let’s just leave it open.”

In a matter of seconds, I pondered and dismissed the idea that I was getting laid off. I’d seen layoffs happen at my company in the past and they didn’t work this way. But I was still surprised when she said, “I’m leaving for corporate at eleven, but before I go, I need you to know that you’re being promoted.”

I was momentarily speechless. During all of the days of whispering and wondering, this was not something that had occurred to me. My boss touted my abilities and explained how capable I was. I sat with a dazed smile on my face while she explained that we were reorganizing. We as the affiliate company were being slightly integrated into our parent company. She gave me many details but it all spelled good news both for me and for the company as a whole. This meant more job security and a whole new set of opportunities for all of us!

I guess the big secret was all because TK had to be informed of his promotion ahead of the corporate meeting. It required him to meet with some of his new associates at that meeting. But the reorganization wasn’t final and ready to be announced company-wide prior to the day the corporate meeting was to begin.

In my last performance review, I had possibly shot myself in the foot by telling my boss I had no desire to manage other people. In such a small company, I knew by saying as much, I had openly limited my ability to move any higher up the ladder. But there I sat in front of my boss on Monday, realizing she had found a way to advance me while still honoring my wishes. What more could I possibly ask?

I’ll technically have a new boss in the parent company. I’ve worked with him and come to know him in my time since our companies joined forces. I like him and am excited to build this new relationship. I love my “old” boss and my new boss will report to her until she retires sometime in the next year. So I’ll be able to maintain the connection with a person who’s played a big part in my growth and achievement over the past ten years.

The most exciting thing for me is that I’ve been promoted to the lead position in my department under the new boss. TK is advancing to a role that will still ensure we can work together regularly. I’m so happy and proud for him. My worried friend has retained her position and I’ll still get to work side-by-side with her.

There’s a support person we hired nearly a year ago, who has proven she wasn’t cut out for the job. She’s done little to contribute, but we all felt bad at the prospect of her losing her job. She was offered a position in another department that seems more suited to her abilities. It’s a slight demotion, but at least she’s not completely out of a job.

And finally, the person who has created the most stress in my work life for the past three years? Has made a lateral move to a different department. I’ve been learning to accept her ways and cope with her idiosyncrasies. I’ve long since realized that much of the problem stemmed from a sense of competition that’s unhealthy on her part. And she would never admit it, but she clearly has some underlying insecurities. I know I created much of my own stress by allowing her to impact me negatively and absorb my focus too much of that time. I’ve learned to rise above it, but I’m not unhappy that she’s making this move. I honestly think she’ll be thrilled with this change. We’ll still work closely, but her move should provide just enough breathing room from each other that we might just make something really good and productive of our working relationship after all.

I am so grateful and excited to see what these new opportunities bring!

Never a Dull Moment

As crazy weeks go, this one ranks right up there. Going into the work week, I knew most of my department would be either out on PTO or leaving late Monday morning for business travel.

That basically left two of us to hold down the fort. I knew that could present some challenges but we were actually excited to rise to the challenge.

What I wasn’t counting on was my boss calling me into her office first thing Monday morning before she left for the week – and offering me a promotion I had no idea was coming!

More on this soon! :-)

Saving Grace … and a Giveaway!

I’ve mentioned my friend Kim a few times in my writings here. If you’ve been stopping by this blog for the past few years, you might remember that Kim was one of the first people I met when I began blogging over seven years ago. When I first started reading Kim’s blog, I remember thinking that without fail, her words were always so positive and uplifting. I loved that about her writing … and had to wonder what it was that drew her to mine! Whatever it was, our connection through writing made us fast friends. Kim’s faith and positivity have been always been an inspiration. We’ve blogged together, we’ve talked on the phone, and we’ve met in person. I’ve stayed pretty faithful to blogging, while Kim has stepped away at times to focus on writing books. And in spite of our lack of in-person connection, our friendship has only grown stronger over the years. And I was honored when she provided me an advance copy of her latest book and asked me to write the cover review!

Kimberly McKay came on the scene as an author with her first book, Finding KylieSome of the peripheral characters of that first story were brought into the limelight in her second book, Facing Redemptionwhich in turn, spun off Kim’s third book, Coming Home

Saving Grace Cover BSaving Grace is Kimberly McKay’s fourth and latest novel, and it tells a parallel story to Kim’s last book, Coming Home. In Saving Grace, we meet Grace Aundine, a young, beautiful, twenty-something girl whose life seems nothing short of fabulous … at first glance. But beneath the surface, Grace feels her life is lacking all the things that are really important.

Orphaned at the age of seven, Grace and her older sister, Anne are taken in by grandparents they never before knew existed. The two young girls are suddenly thrown into a life of privilege in the Hamptons. With every luxury at their disposal, life should have been nothing short of a fairy tale. But the sisters soon learned that the security and unconditional love they’d known with their parents were things of the past. Their overbearing grandmother had made it abundantly clear that above all else, it was appearances that mattered most. The facade of perfection maintained by their grandmother only masked a life of loneliness. At least the two sisters had each other. But as Anne grew older and more independent, friction in the household increased. And when Anne enrolled at a college that didn’t meet their grandmother’s approval, she gradually disappeared from Grace’s world.

Grace, always the optimist and eternal people-pleaser, makes the best of her diminishing family ties and does all that she can to stay in her grandparents’ good graces, even dating a man who meets her grandmother’s strict standards. Grace’s heart isn’t exactly on fire for Zach, but she’s sure, with time, she’ll feel the stirrings of true love. That is, until she gets the annoying sense that her grandmother has had a less-than benevolent hand in orchestrating the relationship. It seems that her grandmother’s matchmaking had little to do with Grace’s happiness and everything to do with appearances. Why was she surprised? To make matter’s worse, Grace realizes Zach’s intentions are less honorable than either she or her grandmother could have known, and she suddenly finds herself in real physical danger.

God’s hand is on Grace’s shoulder as she escapes Zach’s grasp, but in so doing, finds herself estranged from the few people she still calls family. Alone, and with limited resources for the first time in years, Grace wonders how long she can manage on her own. She misses her parents more than ever before, and feels a renewed ache at her sister’s abandonment. All she’s ever done is try to make her loved ones happy and she wonders now how she could have mattered so little to them.

Knowing she has likely only temporarily distanced herself from a dangerous and abusive relationship, Grace worries where she’ll go and how she’ll manage on her own. Sitting on a beach, staring out into the ocean, at a loss as to what to do next, Grace isn’t sure how to move on. And just when she’s at her lowest point, along comes Nathanial Davis Burkette to save the day. Grace doesn’t make the greatest first impression on “Burke” and the last thing he needs is some damsel in distress to clutter up his quiet life, but he can’t deny the tug on his heartstrings.

Kimberly McKay has truly come into her own as an author with Saving Grace. This book holds just the right balance of suspense and romance, along with a bit of humor and a sprinkling of Kim’s unshakable faith in God. The characters are a beautiful blend of human frailty and strength and I love the way the story emphasizes that no matter who we are, no matter our position or circumstances in this world, the one thing we all want in this life is stability and love.

If you’re looking for a fun and adventurous read, I highly recommend Saving Grace. You can find it on Amazon, or better yet, register to win a free signed copy here.

Gardens Wild and Still

I’m not a huge fan of gardening. I’ll plant a few low-maintenance flowers in pots around the yard every spring and I do manage to keep them reasonably hydrated and alive for the most part until fall. As for the vegetable gardens, I enjoy the produce, but the planting and maintenance is usually Mark’s thing. Except for this year.

When we came home from our long weekend at the lake earlier this week, I noticed the gardens out back were out of control. I think it was all the rain we had earlier this summer, combined with a lack of attention on our part that did it. We didn’t mean to completely neglect the gardens. It was just that we’ve been … SO busy!

2015-07-30b

The tomato plants had grown so tall and wide that they were bent over and fighting each other for space. The pepper plants too were tangled up with each other and falling over from the weight of their size. And the weeds! Ugh.

2015-07-30aI had taken one extra day off to spend at home before returning to work after our vacation. And the first thing I did that Wednesday morning was find some gloves and head out to the back yard. First things first – Mark had planted some sunflower seeds and they had taken off. He remembered out loud that the seeds had been a giant variety. No kidding!

Before doing anything else, I asked Mark if we had any string or rope. He disappeared into the shed and resurfaced again with a cord of rope. I made my way in among the sunflowers that were stretching out into the grass, the leaves and weeds scratching against my arms and legs. I pulled the sunflower stalks upright and Mark cut lengths of rope for me. Then I tied the stalks up to the fence so they stood tall again like they’re supposed to.

Next we pulled weeds. We pulled and pulled and pulled until we had mountains of weeds piled up in the grass. Mark went back to the shed and came out this time with wooden stakes. We bolstered the tomato cages and I did my best to redistribute the weight of the plants so they didn’t choke each other out. Then I looked at the pepper plants and realized they needed support too. We’ve never had to stake the pepper plants before, but this clearly hasn’t been a typical year for our vegetable gardens!

Hopefully, we’ve managed to save most of the plants. Both the regular and cherry tomatoes are starting to turn red and the pepper plants are looking pretty fruitful. I think the cucumbers are a lost cause, but we’ll see if they rally back. The sunflowers are looking happy again. I went out this morning after my walk with Lucy to look around and as I stood beneath one of the giant flowers, was startled to see a Goldfinch perched on one of them, right above me. He didn’t seem concerned with me and proceeded to hop to and fro between the big, round faces of the flowers, plucking little seeds in his beak as I observed. I was just marveling at how comfortable he seemed to be with my presence when I noticed other birds singing, warbling and chirping. I strolled slowly beneath the nearby branches of our white pine and looked up to see a flock of chickadees flitting among the branches directly over my head. They too seemed unconcerned with my close proximity. It occurred to me that not so long ago, I wouldn’t even have bothered to notice, much less appreciate the plants, the colors, the birds, or the sounds of a lazy Saturday morning.

While by no means do I feel old, I do appreciate that as I grow older, I have an increasing ability to slow down and be still, to recognize beauty in the world that I hadn’t seen before. And I might just become inclined to spend more time in the gardens from now on!

Four Heavenly Days

Four days away from it all. Four days to spend with all of my kids and hubby and dog and … “granddog” as the kids sometimes refer to Dacotah. Four days at the cabin with the lake just outside the door. Four days of perfect cabin weather, so hot and sticky that we couldn’t stand to stay inside for any length of time. We practically lived in our swimsuits and I spent glorious hours floating in the water.

I needed it. I hadn’t fully realized what a frenzy the past couple of months have been until I had a few days to just stop. I stopped making to-do lists. I stopped worrying about my parents. They were under someone else’s watch for those few days. I stopped obsessing about all of the things that “need” to be done around the house, and about what’s happening or not happening at work. I just stopped. And relished it all.

The weather at the lake rarely seems to work in our favor. For the handful of summer days that we’re able to be there each year, luck usually hands over clouds, rain, or cool temperatures. Kacey jokes about the eternal rain cloud over McGregor, Minnesota where the cabin resides. For the past few days, though, we got our wish. We were blessed with exactly the kind of sun and heat we always hope for when at the lake. The fishing wasn’t great. Too hot, I suppose, but the guys managed to catch one walleye that was too big to keep and a good-sized sunfish that went back in the lake just as soon as it was caught.

It was Brad’s idea to have a family vacation. My outdoorsy son proposed a few days together at one of his most favorite places in the world – his grandparents’ cabin. We all requested time off from work for the same few days and kept our fingers crossed that it would all work out. And it did – so perfectly. Brad drove over from North Dakota and met the rest of us at the cabin late Friday night. Dacotah and Lucy were overjoyed at seeing each other again, their tails wagging furiously, whipping our legs, the old furniture and everything else that got in their way. After getting settled, we all claimed a place to sleep in the old cabin. There was a friendly skirmish between Brad and Kacey for the daybed in the front room. It’s the newest and most comfortable bed in the old place, which isn’t saying much since it was second-hand when it belonged to Kacey during her toddler years and only became a cabin furnishing when she got a new bedroom set.

Ultimately, Brad won the battle and Kacey settled for the back bedroom. Jake, not being picky about where he sleeps, spent the first night on an ancient daybed in an open area off the kitchen, and subsequent nights on the couch in the front room in an attempt to sleep where there might be more airflow through the open windows. Mark and I slept in his parents’ bedroom. My father-in-law’s health kept him from his beloved cabin for the last two years before his passing last December, but his presence is still tangible there. I found it rather comforting to be in the room where his work boots are still arranged neatly alongside the dresser and his bottle of cologne still sits on top.

On Saturday we left the cabin for a few hours to attend Mark’s family reunion. A cousin hosted the event at his rural home not far from the lake. It was our first time attending since the family started reuniting a few years ago, and it was a good time! Mark’s extended family isn’t vast. His dad had only two brothers, and only one of them had kids – five of ’em. During the years we’ve been married, it’s only been the occasional wedding or funeral that brought us together with Mark’s cousins, so this was a chance to spend quality time with people we don’t see often enough. It was entertaining to see which kids go with which cousins … and amazing to see the family resemblance when we discovered two Jake-look-a-likes among the second cousins. We cooed over adorable little ones who have made grandparents out of the cousins in the past few years. And good-natured jealousies flared up when a darling little eighteen month-old girl inexplicably wanted to kiss me while the girl cousins, her aunties, protested that even they, the familiar faces could rarely coax a kiss from this little beauty. I’ve got a way with the little ones, apparently! :-)

Top Gun!

Top Gun!

Both uncles passed on long before I ever knew Mark, but Auntie Florence was at the reunion. She’s nearly ninety years old and her memory is fading. But we attended the same church as she for years and she always remembers us. I’m not sure she remembers my name, but she knows my face, and my heart swelled when she squeezed my cheeks between her hands and planted a kiss on my face.

Later, there was a trap-shooting contest among the men-folk and Jake’s smile was as big as I’ve ever seen it when he proved himself the champion! He was made to promise to return next year to defend his title.

Back at the lake in the afternoon, we wasted no time finding “floaties” in the garage and diving into the lake. The surface water was steamy, but a few feet below it was cool and inviting.

Over the next few days, we allowed ourselves to sleep, to play, to eat and relax. I ran laps up and down the long driveway in the early mornings, and then came back to the cabin to make a big breakfast – with BACON even – for everyone as they were waking up.

One of the things I really love about being at the cabin is cooking and sharing meals as a family. With nowhere else to rush off to, and no obligations hanging over our heads, cooking becomes fun again. And food just tastes so much better when we’re all together, eating, talking, laughing and happy. Also? This toaster. It makes the most perfect toast ever. You can’t get ’em like this anymore. Check out that cord!

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Kacey and I spent Sunday in the water. We’d be in for a while, get waterlogged and come out. Soon the heat and humidity would become too much to bear and back into the water we’d go again. The guys spent Sunday morning cutting down a dead tree, and afterwards, joined us in the water. I’m sure it felt good after all that hard work.

Monday, we took one of the old boats out on the lake. (Everything is old at the cabin, which gives it such a nostalgic feeling, and also means that when something gets broken, it’s not a great loss. There’s something to be said for making do with just enough.) The kids hooked up a tube and took turns being dragged around our bay. When they’d had enough, we loaded the dogs into the boat with us and took a cruise around the bigger lake, admiring the other cabins and homes and contemplating what it would be like to have this property, that beach, or a mansion like any of the ones we saw.

Tuesday, our final morning arrived with a thunderstorm. We lost power for a little while and I guess it all just made it easier to accept that it was our last day and it was time to go back to reality. The power eventually came back on. The rain stopped, but a fully clouded sky promised that it wouldn’t be another picture-perfect lake day anyway. We tidied up the cabin for the next visitors and loaded up the trucks to go back home again. It was hard to say goodbye to Brad, but I reminded myself to remember what a gift the last few days had been. And if we didn’t have to all go back to work and normal life and everyday routines, none of this could have felt as special as it did anyway. It was heavenly!