On thankfulness and prayer and starting to get it

Friday seemed a long time coming, and I woke up feeling relieved that the weekend was close at hand. The past seven days seemed endless, and yet there never seemed to be enough hours in any one day. I seem to feel this way a lot lately. Still, I’m not unhappy about it. It’s just surprising. I tend to generally view this period of  my life as a time when things should be slowing down. My kids are adults. My time is mine again (in theory.) Instead, there’s always something happening, projects to tackle, family or friends seeking help. There are plenty of social opportunities, and I participated in a volunteer project with some of my work mates recently. Every day I get more deeply involved in the business at work. Ultimately, I’m glad that my life is not boring. And I’m happy to see myself being less selfish with my time. Sometimes I just feel the need to stop a moment and take a breather.

I’m working every day on viewing my circumstances from a different perspective. While I used to be so quick to jump to a place of frustration when things didn’t go as planned, I’m now working on being grateful. For all of it. The difficult coworker doesn’t seem nearly as difficult when I consider that her constant presence in my work-life might be meant to teach me something about myself. I’m able to slough her off a lot quicker these days, and even … dare I say it? Appreciate her at times. Challenges that don’t go my way feel less defeating when I see them as a chance to tackle something from an angle I hadn’t considered. And success feels so much sweeter! If and when I remember to relax and let go of my knee-jerk reactions, everything can be an opportunity to better myself, to stop letting the things of this world have such an iron grip on my state of mind.

In just the past week, I’ve learned that my best friend’s cancer has returned. A neighbor’s young daughter is unexpectedly pregnant. A coworker’s mom suffered a massive stroke and the outlook is grim. A friend is in his eighth month of a medical leave from his job and desperately wanting to get back to feeling productive. Others are in a brighter season. Everywhere I turn, there seem to be joyfully anticipated babies on their way. (One of them is the first grandbaby for my friend with cancer!) Two unemployed neighbors found new jobs. I could go on, but you get it. We’ll all have a turn. Life is filled with good and bad. It’s not how much luck, fun or fortune you have. It’s how you manage to face the difficulties, and all of it, that determines whether or not you’ll be happy day in and day out.

I’ve heard it my whole life – that feeling sorry for yourself gets you nowhere. But it’s a concept that never really sunk in for me until I got “old.” When I woke up yesterday morning, it was with a slight sense of reluctance. There was a lot awaiting me not only at work, but in the weekend ahead. I had no concept of how to rein it all in. But there was also a voice reminding me to stop worrying. I didn’t have to have all the answers at that very moment. And somehow by the end of the work day, I’d made some real progress. I didn’t even feel that I’d had to fight that hard to get where I needed to be. The weight on my shoulders seemed to have lifted.

I find myself praying a lot more these days, asking for help for those who are struggling. But I also ask that I will see ways I can help. What words can I offer? What can I physically do to help someone else? I ask for help in getting out of that selfish state that makes it so easy to think that either I can’t help, or someone else will cover things. I remind myself to be thankful for the good stuff, and even for the things I’d rather not have to deal with. And in doing so, I’m better able to see how fortunate I am, and have been in my own life. I look back on things I’ve always wished I could change about my life, and from this distance, I can see that they held a purpose.

This weekend doesn’t hold any hope for slowing down. We somehow have to empty three bedrooms worth of furniture and belongings into some other place in the house, and then rip out the old carpeting in those rooms before the installer comes on Monday to put in the new carpet. I’m running Fun Night for our couples bowling league tonight. And since my parents have suddenly decided they’re ready to sell their house … tomorrow, my sis and I will be helping clean and purge in preparation for the showings they hope to start having within a couple of weeks. I’d kind of rather be doing anything else on an early spring Sunday that promises to be warm and beautiful. But whatever! We’ll figure out how to make it good.

I’m in a pretty good place.

A History Lesson at the Carpet Store

So many experiences these days remind me that time is passing. I’m frequently reminded that I’m growing older, but not in a way that bothers me. It’s more like … I don’t know … a gradual acceptance.

I remember right after Mark and I were married, we lived in the upper level of a duplex his parents owned on Reaney Street on the East Side of St. Paul. It was located in the very inner edge of the city, where our grandparents had built their lives so many years ago. Mark’s sister, her husband, and their two kids at the time lived in the larger, lower level. It had been Mark’s grandparents’ home years ago, before it was divided into multiple residences. The Reaney house had beautiful, dark, ornate woodwork, and solid six-panel doors. Our upper level bathroom had an old-fashioned claw foot bathtub. The basement was dark and dank. Only a portion of the floor had been cemented. The rest was dirt. The place had history, and possibly a few ghosts!

I didn’t appreciate any of it at the time. To me, it was all old and dusty. It belonged to someone else and I didn’t feel at home there. I wanted to live in a new place. I wanted to be in a young neighborhood, in a house with bigger rooms, and a yard with more space. I wanted my house to be more than an arm’s reach away from the ones next door. I wanted to invent my own history, not fit myself into the spaces someone else had created. Most of all, I wanted to separate myself from the changes of an aging neighborhood. All I could see back then was the decline and I wanted to get away.

Mark and I were very fortunate to be able to build our own home in a brand new neighborhood within our first year of marriage. We settled in a suburb not all that far from the old place in St. Paul, and still close to our parents and families. Our house was simple, and by no means a mansion. But it was ours. Over the years, we made changes and improvements. We made it truly ours. And looking back over the ups and downs of life, I know we’ve been blessed.

But … the desire to separate myself from the East Side has mellowed. I grew up on the far edge of that area and a part of me will always consider it home. Not that I want to pack up my things and move back there. The sad reality is that many of those neighborhoods are in serious decline. A lot of the homes have become rentals, with absentee landlords. There is a lot of crime. But the history of that place still shines through. I still look at the old homes and wish I could live inside a place so beautifully designed as many of those houses were.

We’re planning to put new carpet in the three bedrooms in our upper level. One of Mark’s sisters and one of his brothers have recently carpeted spaces in their homes. Both made their purchases at Deluxe Carpet, which happens to be on the east side of St. Paul, just a few blocks from the old duplex where we lived during our first months of married life. In fact, we purchased our original carpet from Deluxe when we built our house. When we learned from Mark’s siblings that the owner at Deluxe guaranteed he could beat any other retailer’s prices, it only made sense to go back there.

Deluxe Carpet is located in a pretty ugly section of St. Paul, in my opinion. But looking out the wide front window of the store, you can see a few old houses. One of them was restored in the not so distant past. It has the wide, open front porch that used to be a standard on almost all of the East Side’s homes. I’ve always wished for a porch like my grandparents had. There’s a building across the street from Deluxe that used to be a meat market. The brick side of the building stills displays large, painted, peeling letters advertising the now defunct business.

Inside the store, it was quiet. Mark and I were the only customers there on Thursday evening. Phil, the owner, gave us his immediate and full attention. I’d forgotten what it was like to have a store representative come to us, one who was passionate about his business and who knew the answers to every question. Phil’s enthusiasm to help us find the exact, perfect carpet was impressive. He asked questions. He talked a mile a minute. He led us to various rolls of carpet and extolled each of their qualities.

I could almost see the light bulb go on over his head when he raised a finger and said, “I want to show you something. It’s new and different, but I just want to see what you think. You might hate it, but you might love it.”

“It” was a unique style of carpet, of which Phil had been able to purchase a roll at an unbelievable price. There was plenty of it to carpet all three of our bedrooms and he said it was all the up-and-coming rage on the east and west coasts. We learned that here in the midwest, our trends tend to follow just behind the coasts. If we decided to purchase this trendy carpet, we’d get in on the front end of the trend for a price much lower than it will be in the coming months.

Phil led us to a back storage area where more rolls of carpets were stacked on high shelves. He needed to rearrange some things in order to get to the one he wanted us to see. While he drove a little forklift around, rearranging, Mark and I stood and looked around the old building. I pointed out a painted design on one of the walls above a set of doors.

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“Lookit that,” I said to Mark, pointing. “I wonder what this place used to be.”

We looked along the upper portion of the walls and saw more evidence that something once existed before this was a flooring store.

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Mark pointed to the right of the painted design I’d first pointed out. Above supplies and more carpet rolls, we could just see a wooden arch with more design surrounding it. “I’ll bet this was a theater at one time,” he said.

When Phil had extracted the carpet roll, Mark asked him about the history of the building.

“Oh, yeah,” Phil confirmed. “This place was built in the early 1900s. They used to do vaudeville here.” He pointed out the doors below the design I’d first noticed and explained that they led to “back stage.” He went on to tell us all kinds of history about the place and I was momentarily transported back to the heyday of the East Side.

We ended up spending a lot more time with Phil, observing samples of my carpet choices in different lights, and eventually with Mark and Phil swapping stories of people they had in common, and the way it used to be in the neighborhood back in the day. I’m guessing it was near closing time (8 pm) when we finally said goodbye to Phil. I’ve since decided against the trendy carpet that he was so anxious to show me. One of the other choices won out, and we are definitely buying from Phil!

Well, who’d-a-thought?

Last weekend found us hosting yet another family holiday at our house. A couple of years ago, I swore I would never do it again. I did do it again, but not without a lot of stress beforehand and resentment afterwards. And last weekend, we were doing it yet again. I decided not to get crazy about certain things this time around.

Our family gatherings are supposed to be a group effort. The host family always tends to incur the largest share of the expense, cooking the main course, and purchasing beverages and incidentals like condiments and such. Other family members are supposed to contribute side dishes or desserts. Since my parents have stopped being able to do it, my sister and I take turns hosting the family gatherings.

I’ve attempted to orchestrate a nice meal in years past, and this was often met with a lack of commitment from some other family members as to their food contributions, if any. Seems some people don’t take well to suggestions as to what they might contribute. There was that Christmas when one family member showed up with spouse, a bunch of kids, and a 12 pack of Pepsi. (I’m not still bitter! Really.)

This time, I chose to let go. I decided to cook what I was cooking, and if everyone else showed up with pickles, cheese and crackers, then so be it. At least we would all be together. Who knows how much longer we’ll have the luxury of all of us together. I also decided to use flattery when trying to determine who was bringing what. I told one brother that I remembered he made a mean pecan pie. And would he consider baking something for our Easter brunch? I asked the other brother if he was bringing his famous quiches again and he said he might, but if not, something equally tasty.

I’ve come to realize that all those times I allowed myself to stress out over whether others were cooperating with my plans for the family gathering, I was only punishing myself. No one else was tying themselves in knots over whether or not the meal would be well coordinated, or if everyone was contributing equally. Just me.

I decided not to get crazy this time over things like the carpet needing a good cleaning. (There are a few family members who don’t bother to remove their shoes anyway. And food was bound to get spilled.) I refused to worry about whether Mark had really dusted the family room to my satisfaction. Brad and Kacey were home for the holiday weekend and the whole family pitched in with cleaning, shopping and setting up our little house to somehow seat and serve twenty-one people.

I was so relaxed that I happily left the house to go bowling in our league on Saturday night. And I bowled the biggest game of my life!

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Yeah, that was fun!

I woke up early on Easter morning to take care of the finishing touches. When family started showing up, I was blown away. The 12-pack of Pepsi brother brought two big pans of sweet rolls, two coffee cakes, two homemade pecan pies, and a homemade turtle cheesecake. And the quiche brother brought, instead of quiche, two huge, homemade breakfast pizzas. All this accompanied our traditional Easter egg bake, ham, polish sausage, specialty breads, hard-boiled eggs and fresh fruit. We were not lacking for things to eat!

I’d also let myself off the hook with dishes. I’ve spent too much time on previous holidays, in the kitchen with my sister, washing the good china and silver while everyone else gets to kick back and visit with my parents. I bought party plates this year. Instead of washing china, we just threw ’em away. And no one cared.

Dad led a nice Easter prayer before we ate, and I was rather enjoying it, until I heard him add, “… and Lord, may we each reach out to another family member today. Someone maybe we don’t feel so close to or happy with…” I know my Dad had a good point, but … My siblings and I looked around at each other. We think we were getting scolded via the Easter prayer. It wasn’t necessary. We all played nice and Easter brunch was a great success.

I think the biggest reward, for me, came from the 12-pack of Pepsi brother, the one with whom I’ve experienced some incredible lows the past few years. It was early evening, and I was just settling down after being on the move all day long. I was exhausted and had curled up in my favorite living room chair and was channel surfing when I heard my phone buzz. It was a text message from the brother to both my sister and me.

2015-04-05bI was speechless. I think that’s all I ever wanted. To be thanked. If my brothers never host a family holiday, I don’t care. I would just like to feel a little bit appreciated when I do. And with this message, I did.

Women behaving badly

I went to the state bowling tournament last weekend with a bunch of women. I’m the friend-of-a-friend member of this team. A few years ago, one of my Monday league teammates got asked by one of her friends to bowl at state. The next year they needed another bowler and she asked me if I wanted to fill the spot. This was my third year with this group.

The first year is a blur to me now, but I distinctly remember that it wasn’t fun last year. That was partially because I ended up getting sick with a killer headache. Ironically, I bowled one of the best games of my life, all the while wishing for it to be over and done with. All I wanted was to pop some Tylenol and crawl into bed. And I did just that while the rest of the group went off to party for the night.

But the bigger issue was that I was surrounded by a bunch of women behaving really badly. They demonstrated the kind of juvenile behavior that at first was mildly amusing, but the more it continued, the less funny it became. I’m up for a good time as much as the next person, but I draw the line when things become disrespectful. I remember thinking after last year’s tournament that I needed to let the others know I wouldn’t be back again. But it was made clear that I was expected to join the “fun” again and my reluctance to hurt feelings ended up winning out over my desire not to go.

So last Friday, I was packing a bag once again to spend a weekend with this group and trying to talk myself into believing it could be fun. Almost from the start, things turned sour. Several of the “girls” demonstrated a complete lack of self-control when it came to alcohol, food, manners or common courtesy. Oh, and let’s not forget … the law!  Letting loose, for these women, ranged from belching loudly … in restaurants and other public places, to drinking alcohol in the van during the two and a half hour drive to the tournament. The passenger drinking continued throughout the weekend, whenever we were driving anywhere. A couple of us voiced concerns about drinking in a moving vehicle, but we were quickly dismissed. To be honest, I spent most of the weekend feeling embarrassed, nervous, or as if I needed to apologize for my teammates’ behavior.

To top it all off, I spent a good chunk of money on the tournament fee and hotel costs, and didn’t even bowl well. I was never so happy to get back home as I was last Sunday. I think I’ll have no problem saying no thanks to next year. I think I’ll just stick to my league bowling from now on.

On the bright side, our team shirts were kind of amusing!

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Leap of Faith

I was raised Catholic, (strictly Catholic,) and still spent most of my life not really getting it. I’ve known people who seemed almost on fire for God. And I never really understood that, although I found it rather fascinating and always thought it would be pretty cool to be that passionate about your faith. But I was never, ever anywhere near having a faith so deep.

I looked for it. I really thought I did. I thought if I put myself out there enough, in the right situations, I would find ways to experience God. When we were regular attendees at church, I got involved. I volunteered to be a Eucharistic minister. Ultimately, I just felt uncomfortable standing in front of the church serving Communion.

I joined a Bible study once. Lamentations. Bad place to start your first Bible study. I was confused and not the least inspired. And the woman who lead the group was deeply knowledgeable about all things biblical. She looked down her nose on newcomers. She left a bad taste in my mouth and I stopped attending when there were still a couple of classes left to go.

I was an RCIA sponsor once. (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults – a process  in which a person spends time learning and studying in order to become a member of the Catholic community.) I spent … I don’t know … six months or so supporting a friend who wanted to become Catholic. I attended weekly classes with her and stood beside her as she was confirmed at the Easter Vigil that year. I remember expecting to feel something really spiritual during that mass. It was the culmination of months of preparation and prayer. I expected to feel something tangible as all of the RCIA candidates were baptised and confirmed. But … nothing. I went home that night feeling disappointed. I don’t know exactly what I was expecting to see or feel. I just thought I might feel something really amazing deep down inside.

My friend gave me a woman’s study Bible as a thank you gift for sponsoring her. I tried reading it now and then with little success. Being raised Catholic, I was never required to read the Bible. Don’t laugh! That’s true. My favorite joke was made by a priest I once knew. He told the story of a woman who was going to read one of the gospel readings at mass. She asked him how to pronounce a name in the reading because she didn’t want to say it wrong in front of the whole church. He said to her, “It doesn’t matter how you pronounce it. No one will know the difference. We’re Catholic. We don’t actually read the Bible!”

Eventually I stopped attending church. I was burned out. Part of that had to do with the fact that when you get really involved in church, behind the scenes, you see and experience a lot of not-so religious people and behavior. Our church didn’t feel like a place I wanted to be and that in itself was a problem. I was merely going through the motions, and all of the ritual of the mass just made me feel distracted. No offense intended to anyone who finds God in this setting. I just felt blind to Him there. So I stopped going. It’s not that I stopped believing. I just didn’t see what good church was doing me.

For years, I was in limbo, doing little, but periodically thinking, “I should get back to church … somewhere.”

And then last summer, a coworker shared a book about faith and religion with me. And I felt a spark, which actually felt like hope, and also like happy, and often it meant being able to stop worrying, which I’d become pretty good at. Reading that book led to wanting to and actually reading more books, seeking more information, and a sense that I might finally be starting to know and understand God. I often marvel to myself that it took this long for me to begin to grasp this, but it’s also amazing enough that I’ll finally allow myself to keep finding God where I feel Him, not just where I’ve always thought I was supposed to find Him.

Most of the time this feels like an evolution to me. I find myself attempting to be more positive, more understanding, and more forgiving. Or at least striving to be those things, even while I continue to fail at them fairly often. Every day, I remind myself to be grateful, for everything, even the really challenging stuff. And I’m mellowing out in a lot of ways, I think. Sometimes it feels like a light bulb finally went on. But every once in a while a part of me wonders when all of the wonder and optimism might start to fizzle away again and I will go back to the feeling that stale way I often used to feel.

Then yesterday on lunch break at work, the conversation turned somewhat morbid. My lunch mates were talking about what kinds of personal tragedies they were sure they could never endure. Two of them mentioned friends and relatives who had endured more heartache than any one person should have to in a single lifetime. One of them said, “Doesn’t it just make you wonder if there’s really a God?”

It actually kind of hurt to hear him say that. Which is ironic because not long ago, I don’t think I would have been all that bothered. I didn’t offer a response, mainly because I just didn’t know how to respond to that. (I suppose a simple “no” might have done it.) But it was enough to realize that it bothered me. That’s when I knew, I’ve made a leap.

House Aplenty

Sometimes I feel packed into this house … jam-packed. It’s not the biggest of houses, but we’ve managed to live pretty well here as a family of five. Mark and I built this home and moved in before our first year of marriage was over. Our kids have all been born while we’ve lived here and it’s the only house any of them has ever known. As they grew up, so increased the amount of stuff inside our house. Over the years, we learned to be creative with our home furnishings. Any new furniture was chosen because it included some kind of hidden storage or ability to maximize space. There were bunk beds at one time when the boys shared a bedroom, cube shaped end tables with removable tops in the living room, and a captain’s bed with drawers underneath in Kacey’s tiny bedroom. The closets have all been equipped with organizers and we’ve had to be somewhat diligent about purging and donating unneeded things on a regular basis.

While many of our friends and relatives have house-hopped over the years, we’ve stayed put. Sometimes I was jealous. There’s always been a part of me that has wanted more. More space. More room. More house. And it’s when we have company, in particular, that I wish for a better space in which to entertain.

I am just fascinated with living spaces. I love to look at others’ houses, and see how they make them their homes. I love to watch those television shows where the experts make something useful and beautiful out of homes that just don’t work for the owners. I love to watch The Rehab Addict and see old houses restored to their original charm! I’ve even had dreams in which I discover entire additional rooms in my house that I never knew were there before! SO disappointing to wake up from those dreams!

Mark always says we’re going to live here until we die. And why wouldn’t he feel that way? So many of his talents have created and enhanced this place we call home. Besides, we live in a good neighborhood full of great people. And as much as I always think I would go in a heartbeat if the right house came along, I don’t think it would be so easy. I dreamt of that very opportunity just the other night. And in my dream, I felt so conflicted and sad about leaving the place where so many of our memories have been made.

Anyway, we’re pretty happy where we are. We began with a very basic house, only as much as our newlywed budget would allow. And over the years, we’ve improved and remodeled and refined things until this place really became us. Our personalized touches are everywhere, inside and outside of this house.

Of course, being a homeowner means there’s always something to be done. It’s been awhile since we’ve taken on a major home project and I’ve had a list brewing in my mind all winter. Oh, it’s nothing some new carpet and fresh coats of paint won’t cure. But I’m kind of thinking we need fresh paint throughout the entire upper level. And painting is no one’s favorite chore around here. Still, we’re starting to dig in.

Our purchase of a new bed a few weeks ago got things kick-started. Kacey happily claimed our old queen sized bed. She’s long been ready to abandon the twin bed that’s been in her room since she was four years old. And along with the bigger bed, she moved herself into the bigger empty bedroom that’s been serving as the spare room. She claimed that bedroom in spite of the fact that Brad seems to think it should be reserved for his visits home.

I was talking to Brad today, explaining that we were preparing a new spare bedroom and that it would be ready when he comes home for Easter. He was concerned that we might not be planning to paint over the colors that have adorned the walls of Kacey’s old room for the past many years.

I assured him there was a fresh coat of paint on the way, along with new carpeting and a new bed.

“Is it going to be big enough for me and two dogs?” he asked. “You know Lucy always wants to sleep wherever Dacotah and I are.”

“It’ll be a full-sized bed,” I told him. “Plenty of room for all of you.” He tried to argue for something bigger, but I reminded him that the room just wasn’t big enough for a bigger bed. I told him that as long as he’s planning only to be a visitor and not a resident here, he’ll have to settle for a full-sized bed and fight for sleeping space with the dogs if necessary.

We packed up Kacey’s old furniture today. Mark’s niece and her husband just bought their first home, which is ironic, because it seems like just yesterday when she was born, just three months after my Brad was born. And here she is all grown up, married, and with a baby on the way. She and her husband are happily taking any home furnishings they’re offered. The timing was perfectly aligned with our need to swap out some of the stuff in our own house and I was so happy to donate it to someone we know and love. I helped unload the matching dresser, nightstand and captain’s bed from the pick-up trucks, and watched as the guys hauled it all into the house and up a very narrow, steep staircase into the upper level of the house.

Theirs is a teeny tiny old home, in an old neighborhood in St. Paul. I was instantly fascinated by its charm and history, the six-panel doors with glass doorknobs, the plaster walls, and the bathroom tile. The tile was recently painted white, presumably to make the house more sell-able. But when we looked inside the vanity, we could see the tiles behind it hadn’t been painted. Those tiles had retained their original Pepto-Bismol pink color – the very same pink tile as was in the bathroom of the house where I grew up!

As I looked around the old house, I was struck by the smallness of it all. Mark remarked that when we were kids, our parents raised bunches of kids in these tiny houses, and we never thought a thing of it. True story. My parents raised four kids in what was technically a two-bedroom house. Back then (if you were lucky) they just threw paneling on the basement walls and created extra bedrooms. Others just squeezed as many beds as would fit into one room and the kids just had to deal with it. We didn’t feel deprived by the houses we lived in. We didn’t think twice about sharing a bedroom with a sibling, or pushing the kitchen table back against the wall after meals so there was room to walk through the kitchen. That’s just the way it was. We lived in little houses and we grew up just fine.

I recalled all the times I said I hated this or that about our house, and all the times I wished for something more, something different. Looking around our niece’s house today, I realized that I’ve never needed more. Of course, it’s not easy to entertain more than a few guests here. And when we do, it’s crowded! But it doesn’t matter. What matters is that our friends and family spend time with us here. We’ll continue to make memories here. No one is going to look back and remember only that it was too crowded. If that was important, they wouldn’t keep coming back. And they do keep coming back! No, we have enough. In fact, we have more than we need.

(Still, if Mark ever makes good on those plans to expand out the back of the house, you won’t catch me arguing!)

The Last Spring Break

It’s the last day of what is likely to be the last spring break we acknowledge in our family.

Kacey got a part-time job after Christmas, working for a retailer in the mall near her college. It’s limited her ability to come home any weekend she likes, but it’s been good for her to earn a little spending money. She’s doing very well there and has been praised by her supervisors for her ability to learn quickly and her good work ethic. One might assume that means she’d be scheduled to work as often as her class schedule allows. So I was grateful when she told me she had a stretch of free days during spring break and that she’d be coming home for a few days. As it turned out, she was able to stay for the better part of the week.

It’s always a treat to come home from work to find my daughter waiting here for me, with stories to tell and a willingness to help pull something together that resembles dinner. It’s wonderful to have her at the table with us at meal time! She’s a natural optimist and always brings laughter and fun to the household. I took a day off at her request, so we could have lunch together on Wednesday and she could help me spend some of my money at the new mall which she hadn’t yet had a chance to visit. We had a gorgeous, unseasonably warm day for walking around the outdoor outlet mall. And she came home with some new fashions and footwear to add to her wardrobe.

There is a pile of home improvement tasks to tackle that Mark and I have lately committed to addressing. And Kacey even helped get us started on one of them. The upstairs bedrooms need new carpet and one of them needs to be repainted. We’ll soon be giving some of the “kid” furniture to a niece and her husband who are buying their first home. Then we can begin the chores of ripping out carpet and replacing it, and then the dreaded painting!

Of course, Kacey was highly motivated to help us get the ball rolling on the great bedroom clean-out. She moved her belongings from the smallest bedroom she’s occupied for nearly twenty years to the bigger bedroom which has been serving as the spare bedroom since Brad moved out of the house. We emptied closets, moved beds back and forth, and got rid of stuff! You can’t imagine the amount of stuff that was packed into that littlest bedroom of Kacey’s! We filled up several bags which were later delivered to the Goodwill and there was plenty more which took up a good amount of space in the trash barrel.

I was a little sad to see some things go. There were toys that just a few years ago I had tucked up onto a high shelf in Kacey’s closet. Keepsakes, I’d thought. But with a few more years between, I’ve come to the realization that there’s only so much space in a little house to hold onto the belongings of five family members. Some items will serve a better purpose in the hands of others who can enjoy them rather than gathering dust here.

There were a few photos too, a sweatshirt, and a stuffed toy dog that went into the trash pile. Gifts from her ex, Connor. Kace seemed way less melancholy about letting them go than I felt. But I only had to see how easily she was looking ahead in her life to know that there was no point in dwelling on the past.

And ultimately, it was my daughter who helped me feel good about the major purge that was happening. She was enthusiastically making the bigger room her new “home.” Her college career will come to fruition by the end of this year. And she is planning to come back home, at least for a while, after she graduates. Yesterday as we were driving back from the Goodwill, she talked about a good friend of hers, who has likely job prospects after graduation in the city where she attends school. “But she wants to find something closer to home,” Kacey was saying. “She just wants to be able to come home for dinner whenever she feels like it, and spend time with her mom. You know? She doesn’t want to be hours away and limited to a weekend here and there when she can come visit. She and her mom are close. Not like you and I are, but in their own way.”

That made my heart swell, that my daughter acknowledged feeling the same closeness that I feel with her. She went on to tell me that she’s of the same mind as her friend. She can’t imagine living and working far from this home, our family home. I love that she cherishes the bonds of family and wants to stay close and connected. I see great things ahead for her, and I’m thrilled that whatever waits for her, she wants to experience it in close proximity to her loved ones.

So later today we’ll say goodbye when she hops in her car and drives back to school. I’ll feel a little sad, as always to have to part ways. But only temporarily.