Life is Good – February 27th, 2009

IMG_9313 by you.The most difficult days of winter have passed, yet it still often feels as if the sun and warmth will never return. February is for me, as it is for so many, a difficult time of year. The magic of the season has long since worn off and the world at times feels grey and dreary. I’m often drawn to feelings of darkness and isolation. I’m tempted to sleep every possible minute and I forget what it’s like to feel invigorated and alive. I hate that about myself.

I’ve realized over the past few weeks that I’ve fallen into a rut. Very little seems appealing and the days pass almost without notice. I’m so busy pining for spring that I neglect to notice the gifts each day offers.

This week I was yanked from my abyss by several events that made me realize, once again, that my life is abundant.

My teenage daughter blessed me with her company last Sunday as we spent an afternoon together, shopping and more importantly, just talking while enjoying a day without obligation. Kacey isn’t ashamed to hang out with me and she talks freely with me. How many parents would give their left arm to have a kid like this? I am so lucky to have her. She even told me that in one of her classes recently, a teacher asked how many students have a good relationship with their moms. Kacey said she raised her hand without a second thought before looking around and realizing she was one of only about five students willing to admit to this. The teacher took it a step further, asking her, “Really?” And she proudly told him, “My mom and me? Yeah. We’re good! We talk.” God, I love that kid!

But as any parent of more than one child knows, your relationship with each child can vary drastically from the others. For me, this means my boys don’t appear to need me nearly as much as their sister seems to. I know that’s normal but it’s not always easy to swallow. My oldest, Brad is busy enjoying life on his own away at school. I’ve had to come to terms with the fact that he’s not going to call me constantly and when I call him, he’s not all that interested in long and wordy conversations. But when he’s home, he’s affectionate and I know that he loves and misses me when he gives me one of his fabulous bear hugs. And then there’s my Jake. I’m always trying to figure out what’s going on inside that head of his. He and I are so different in many ways and yet so similar in others. I guess that’s why I connect with him. I love that we share a love of music and the fact that he comes to me when he hears a song that strikes a chord with him. He always wants me to listen to his “new” discoveries. This week he discovered Matchbox 20 and I loved being able to go into my CD collection and surprise him with two CDs he could load to itunes and transfer to his ipod.

I have also been blessed with some amazing friends, both online and in real life. I’ve felt uplifted by several of them this past week. My best friend, in particular has been there for me through thick and thin for the past twenty-some years. On Monday I helped her celebrate her fortieth birthday. We didn’t do anything overly exciting or exotic. In fact, it was a relatively quiet night, compared to some of the adventures we’ve had. We simply spent time together having fun. I needed to laugh again and we did plenty of it. We stayed out way too late and I paid for it dearly the next day, but I would do it over again in a heartbeat. She is like family to me and I love her to death.

There were little things throughout the week too. The friendly stranger who joked with me while waiting for a very slow elevator in my building… The security guard in the lobby who always smiles and waves as I come and go…  The guy that comes to water the office plants, one of which hangs in front of my window. He’s always armed with his watering can and an encouraging word… A feeling of accomplishment in my work and the sense of a job well done… The neighbor across the street who always seems to be out and about in his yard. Yesterday he saw me come home with a trunk full of groceries and offered a helping hand… My friend Shelly who is the mom of one of Kacey’s best friends. She reads my blog – one of the few real life friends who knows about it – and joked to Kacey that someday she’s going to put together some of the things I’ve written into a book and get it published. To be given such a compliment very simply warmed my heart through and through!

We were hit with a good winter storm yesterday, but even that held blessings of sorts. Since it was my day off, I didn’t have to navigate rush hour traffic and treacherous roads. And as much as I hate to see more snow fall, it IS only February and around here, that means winter is nowhere near over. I found myself watching the snow fall in sheets throughout the late afternoon and early evening, feeling in awe of the way a beautiful snowfall never grows old in my eyes even as I realize I’ll be cursing it for one reason or another soon enough.

I’m done feeling like Eeyore. The weekend is upon us and life is good!

Why it may appear that I am a slacker

Someone… I’m not naming names… (*Ahem*Cough* Rock Chef*Cough*Cough*) has suggested that I’m slacking on my blogging duties. And I just want to say that I have NOT been slacking. I’ve just been very busy.

You see, Monday is bowling night, which means there is no time for a blog post. I race home from work and change into my fancy, pink Ball Busters bowling shirt and run back out the door in order to get to the bowling alley on time. On a typical Monday, the games finish somewhere around 9 pm and I get back home in time to go to bed at a decent hour and wake up the next day in time to get to work like a responsible adult. This week, however, was different. It wasn’t just any Monday. It was a special Monday.

DSCN3108 by you.

My best friend, G turned FORTY!

DSCN3107 by you.There was a very regal and proper cake.

DSCN3113 by you.There was some beer…

DSCN3109 by you.And there was some “after-bowling” bowling, during which G was kind enough to pretend she’s just as bad of a bowler as I am. Check out those scores! What a great friend she is not to show me up.

(I just have to add that I bowled a turkey – three strikes in a row – during one of the “after-bowling” bowling games. Of course. When it doesn’t matter. Next Monday, during league games, I’ll be lucky to break a hundred again.)

At approximately 11:30ish, G told me that her back was protesting and we should call it quits on the bowling. I looked at the clock and thought, “That’s not bad. I might still get up for work on time and get there on time.”

But then there were darts. I didn’t know there was going to be darts.

I’ve never played darts before. Darts take a long time. We had a great time. I randomly threw my darts at the board and got a bunch of bulls-eyes, which ironically enough, was not really the goal. Someone might have told me this sooner. Not that it would have made much difference.

We had fun and finally finished the game at 1:30 am. Have I ever mentioned that my alarm clock goes off at 4:00ish? Yeah, I came home and turned off the alarm. Mark woke up enough to ask if I had fun and I said yes and asked if he would make sure I got up at 6:00 when he did so that I could call in late to work. I shouldn’t have worried about it. I was awake at 5:15, called in and left a message that I would be taking a few hours of PTO time and would be in later. The plan was to go back to sleep for a few hours, but guess what didn’t happen. It was a long day at work, and even worse, I was made to attend a basketball game after work, which might have been exciting if my eyelids hadn’t felt so heavy. Guess who has realized she is too OLD to stay up late and party on a weeknight? Guess who fell asleep the minute her head hit the pillow on Tuesday night? Guess who couldn’t possibly squeeze in a blog post again last night?

Not to worry. A good night’s sleep was all I needed and I am back to my old self. (Emphasis on “old.”)


Did you know it was Ash Wednesday today? Yes, it is the kick-off to the season of Lent. Good Catholic that I am (not), I was completely unaware until I was reminded of it this morning. Of course, I had decided to be all domestic today before leaving for work and put a bunch of chicken in the crock pot for dinner tonight. And the problem with chicken is this. If you know anything about Catholics it’s that we’re not supposed to eat meat on Ash Wednesday or on Fridays during lent.

I was lamenting my chicken dilemma to my neighbor who had sent an email to me at work (out of sheer boredom, I’m thinking.) I asked if he remembered it was Ash Wednesday. He replied, “Yes. I called my mom and told her I didn’t go to church, but I did go to Cabela’s today. She forgave me.”

I explained that I hadn’t gone to church to get an ash tattoo on my forehead and likely wouldn’t, but I had so far managed to avoid eating meat. He then replied, “I have some thick cut pork chops thawing for dinner and I will eat them without guilt.”

I replied, “It is kind of ridiculous when you think about it, isn’t it? I mean, really. You’ve departed from your earthly body and you find yourself face to face with St. Peter at the Pearly Gates. St. Peter eyes you up and says, ‘Ah yes. Mr. B. I know you’ve given thousands to charities, sacrificed your time and shared your talents with those in need. But I can’t let you in. Sorry. It’s that pork chop thing. Down you go. Here. Take this jug of ice water. You’re gonna need it.'”

Neighbor replied that my St. Peter humor was REALLY funny. Like he was surprised. Which I didn’t take as a compliment because I like to think I’ve been funny a time or two before, but maybe not. I didn’t tell my neighbor this. I just told him to laugh it up because at that moment there was probably a bolt of lightning aimed at my head as punishment for my making fun of the Catholics. You’ll be happy to know I did NOT get struck dead by a bolt of lightning, and therefore, I was able to update my blog today! And now you know what I’ve been up to!

I know. You WISH you were me. I’ll be back to catch up on all the unread posts in my reader as soon as I go for a run. I have to do this while there’s still dry pavement because there is a 90% chance of snow here tomorrow.

Yay me.

Blowing off the 'have tos'

Do you know why I can’t sleep? (I mean besides the fact that my husband’s alarm goes off at 6 am on a Saturday and instead of shutting it off he hits the snooze and leaves the room?) I can’t sleep half the time because I wake up in the morning and the have tos start rolling through my mind. “What are the have tos,” you ask? You know… I have to clean the kitchen and I have to scrub the bathroom. I have to get the laundry done. I have to grocery shop, cook, etc. ad infinitum!

Well, today I decided to blow off the have tos. Just a little. I made myself stop thinking about all the things I thought I should be doing and decided to give myself a break. And that break began with falling back asleep and not getting out of bed until 11:00!

At 11:00 I finally rolled my lazy butt out of bed and strolled into the living room. There I found my daughter still in her jammies and my son in his night time attire of shorts and a thermal shirt, both curled up in the big comfy living room chairs and watching t.v.

I asked, “Who wants to go shopping today?” Of course, Kacey was all over that idea. I said that first I had to cook up some eggs and toast and I took everyone’s order. We all enjoyed our breakfast at the table together  when we should have been thinking about lunch (and while they wondered what alien had taken over their mom’s body.)  But we didn’t care. Everyone loves breakfast food around here, no matter what time of day it is.

img_9302_12After brunch, I finally hit the shower and got myself ready to leave the house. Kacey was ready too.

img_9304Jake could not be convinced to join us. He knew we would spend way too much time in the girly stores and he’d be bored. I thought if I laid on top of him and squished him, he might change his mind, but no. Squishing had no effect on this boy. Oh, well. We left him home.


The true purpose of the trip was to find a birthday present for my best friend. Where to go? Hmmm…. OH! I know!

I was pretty sure I could find the perfect gift at Victoria’s Secret and might just find a little something for me there too!

img_9311Victoria’s Secret did not disappoint! Kacey found a sweatshirt and tank top from the Pink line. We also found a sale we could not pass up and got a combination of various body sprays for ourselves and for the birthday gift.

img_9308_1And some other necessities…

We then wandered from store to store and picked up a few other things like a new pair of shoes and a sweater I found on clearance.

                                                                                                                                                         img_9310_11Before we went home, Miss Kacey wanted something fun to drink. I decided since I was spoiling us today, we might as well go all the way. We agreed on Caribou Coffee where she got a smoothie and I got a large white chocolate mocha and a hot chocolate to bring home to Jake.

What a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon. The only problem is…

Now I have to get some chores done!

Life is Good – Childhood Memories edition

At the request of Rolling… a peek into my happy childhood:

In my earliest memories I am three years old. My big sister is five and my younger brother is just a year old. Our family lives in a little rambler on a quiet street on the outskirts of the city. Similar houses line the street, so close to one another that we might hear the radio playing from the neighbor’s living room when the windows are open. Ours is a white stucco house with black shutters on the windows and two maple trees in the front yard that is surrounded by a chain link fence. One tree is more mature than the other. The big one sits outside the picture window of our living room. The younger tree is so small I can wrap my hands around it. The roots of the bigger tree are near the surface of the ground and the grass there is sparse. My dad is always sprinkling seed on the ground below the branches in a futile effort to get more grass to grow there. The tree wins the battle year after year.

The front door is centered on the house and a small set of cement steps lead to a sidewalk that splits our little yard in half. On either side of the steps, there are flower gardens that line the house, meticulously bordered and cared for by my parents. Colorful tulips surface there in the spring and petunias bloom throughout the spring and summer.

It’s a warm summer day and my sister and I play jacks on the front sidewalk or bounce a ball back and forth in a game of two square.  We watch the ants scurry along the sidewalk, building their homes along the edge and wipe them out with a single sweep of a sneaker clad foot. The little black ants begin building again almost immediately. We often go hunting under the big tree, searching for caterpillars or finding the helicopter seeds that fall from the tree. We toss the seeds in the air and watch them twirl back to the ground again. 

When we grow bored of the front yard, we traipse around the side of the house, past the picnic table that sits just outside the back door, to the metal swing set that sits in the corner of the back yard, next to the garage. My sister and I each claim a swing and “race” each other while pumping our legs to make ourselves go higher and higher. Other times we sit together swinging on the big swing that has seats that face each other. While we sway back and forth, we sing the songs we heard on my mom’s Elvis – Blue Suede Shoes album. We call that swing “the train” because in our imaginations it allows us to travel far and wide. While we are traveling, mom comes outside to hang freshly washed sheets on the clothesline.

Our dad is at work and the car is gone from the garage where our red tricycles are. My sister’s is bigger than mine and we ride an endless loop inside the garage. Dust particles dance in the summer sun shining in through the door. The rays cast a light upon our “track.” When we get dizzy from pedaling in circles, we head back through the garage door to the back yard again. Attached to the garage is a screen house where more of our toys are kept; balls and frisbees and jump ropes and something called a hoppity-hop that we can bounce on. In front of the screen house and on the other side of it are trellises where morning glories climb towards the sky and display beautiful blossoms. Sometimes I can see humming birds sipping from the flowers. Just beyond the clothesline is the  big vegetable garden. It is filled with green beans, tomatoes, cucumbers and squash. There are green onions and radishes too. Mom and Dad work hard in their gardens, keeping them free of weeds so the plants can stretch out and flourish.  Our dinners often include something that grew in the vegetable garden.

In the very back part of the yard, bordered by the vegetable garden, the back side of the screen house , the side of the garage and the alley behind our property is a small patch of yard. In it sits a white, square, wooden sandbox that my dad built. It’s full of fine white sand and my sister and I build castles and dig tunnels there. My brother’s little red toy truck is stuck in the sand, tilted at a funny angle as it tries to climb a mountain.

When it’s time for lunch, mom calls us inside. She has made our favorite – buttered macaroni noodles. We climb up on our chairs at the table in the little kitchen and she fills our bowls with the steaming pasta. But this lunch isn’t quite right yet. We ask mom for some ketchup and she pours it on our noodles. Only when we’ve mixed the ketchup into our noodles are we content to eat. No one has told us this is a very odd meal. We love it. A jar of Grandma’s homemade applesauce sits on the table and we each get a dish of this too. Once in a while we get a special treat; some chocolate powder to mix in our glasses of milk.

After lunch, mom makes us take naps. Just down the hall are the two bedrooms. Mom and Dad’s bed is in the smaller room and in the other are the twin beds belonging to my sister and me as well as my brother’s crib. Mom pulls the shade down over the window and I’m sure I’ll never be able to sleep but soon I lose consciousness.

When I wake up later in the afternoon, my sister is gone from her bed and I’m sure I’ve missed something very important or exciting. I wander into the kitchen and find my sister sitting at the table watching mom make bread. My baby brother sits in his high chair, banging on the tray and playing with colorful plastic blocks. I climb onto a chair and watch as mom kneads the dough over and over. I love the yeasty smell and the way the aroma fills the house when the loaves go into the oven.

When the loaves of dough are ready to rise, mom shoos us off to play so she can start dinner. At the end of the kitchen there are stairs leading to the basement. We climb down them, hanging onto the railing until we jump off the final step, landing flat footed on the basement floor. It’s cool down here and it provides a reprieve from the hot summer sun. Our play kitchen is down here; a metal stove with burners painted on the surface and a metal refrigerator. There are toy pots and pans and plastic food. I pretend to make coffee in the little pot on top of the stove. We play house, taking turns being the mom and we gather all of our dolls to play the role of our children. Our play area seems huge to our young eyes; spanning the width of the house. Our toys end up scattered all over the place as we play, but we hurriedly pick them up and toss them back in the toy box when we hear our dad come home from work. My sister and I scramble up the stairs, competing for a place on dad’s lap as he sits at the kitchen table, sipping a beer and talking with mom about the day while dinner cooks on the stove. When I get a turn on his lap, he pulls me against him with one arm as he gives his attention to my mom sitting at the other end of the table. I press my back against him, feeling the vibrations in his chest as he talks. I ask him if I can have a sip of his beer. I don’t really like the taste, but he always allows me and I take a sip just because I can.

When dinner is ready, we all sit together around the table. We never eat before we say a prayer of thanks. We are having baked chicken and mashed potatoes with gravy. It’s a really good night because we’re having corn instead of green beans!

After dinner, and after the kitchen is cleaned up, my sister and I take a bath together, playing in the tub until the water starts to grow cold and mom makes us get out and put our pajamas on. It’s still early so we have time to play in our bedroom for a while as mom and dad watch t.v. We get out our crayons and paper and sit on the hardwood floor drawing pictures. When I get tired of drawing, I go climb up on the couch where dad is stretched out watching Adam 12 on television and I lay on my back in the crook of his arm feeling him breathe in and out as he relaxes. Too soon, mom tells us it’s bed time and we beg her to read us a story first, postponing the end of the day just a bit longer. She makes us climb into bed and under the covers, then sits on the edge of my bed reading my favorite story about the teddy bears who visit the city for a day. Too soon the story is over and it’s time to say our bedtime prayers as we kneel next to our beds. Mom kisses each of us goodnight and dad comes in to say, “Good night. Sleep tight. Don’t let the bed bugs bite!” One more kiss from Dad and it’s lights out. I fall asleep easily, unaware as yet of changes soon to come. A new brother, a new bedroom, and so many other things are all on the horizon. But on this night, I am completely unaware and completely content. I don’t have to grow up just yet.

Proof that winter WILL end someday

I woke up at 6:00 with the thought of going for a run. It was 3 degrees according to Weather Underground but I went out anyway because sometimes I’m stupid like that. I put on some extra layers and off I went. I thought it odd that there were birds chirping. I haven’t heard birds in a long time and it still seems much too cold for them to be back. I’ll take this as a sign that spring truly will return someday, as unlikely as it has seemed lately.

As soon as I left our driveway, a wall of cold air hit me in the face, but I thought once I started running I’d warm up and wouldn’t notice how frigid it felt.

“The best laid plans of mice and men…”

The run didn’t work out as well as I had hoped. I warmed up just fine but it had snowed slightly Tuesday night; a wet, sticky looking snow which has now frozen solid to the path. There was a slight wind and I just had no stamina. I couldn’t shake the cramps in my sides. It was a struggle and I was simply running on empty. Why? Dinner was waiting for me on the stove last night when I got home, but everyone else was either gone, or had already eaten. It’s no fun eating alone. I ate some garlic bread standing in the kitchen and never went back to eat a real meal. No wonder my body was retaliating today.

There is no room in this house for a treadmill but I wish I had one anyway. I’m sick of the weather dictating whether or not I can run. The sporadic exercise schedule is making for slow (or no) progress. Maybe I’ll have to bite the bullet and join a gym. I just hate the thought but maybe I should just give it a try. Who knows. I might enjoy it.

Regardless, even though the winter seems endless, I know warmer days are on the horizon. Talk around the house these days is turning to spring and summer sports. I just bought new running shoes for Jake in anticipation of the track season. The team will start running inside the school soon until it warms up enough to move practices outdoors. 

Kacey’s volleyball season doesn’t end for another couple of months, but school softball sign-ups just opened up. She wants to get her own catcher’s glove. She proved to be a good catcher last year, but I hate to buy the glove not knowing whether or not she’ll actually be awarded the catcher’s position. I think she has a good chance. She told me that all her practice serving a volleyball has strengthened her throwing arm. She went to a captain’s practice at school last night and said her throws were stronger than ever and right on target. They practice throw-downs (the throw from the catcher at home plate to second base) and said she was able to get them to the second baseman (basegirl?) with ease. That’s not an easy throw for many to make.

There are two softball seasons that sort of blend together every year. There’s the school season, and before that one ends, practices for the summer teams begins. A couple of weeks ago, Kacey mentioned she might not want to play summer ball this year. (Secretly, I was thrilled at the idea of free evenings and weekends, even if I was a little sad that after all these years she was thinking of giving it up.) She debated with herself for a few days about playing. Her best friends with whom she has played for years have decided to pursue other interests. One wants to work. One is thinking of playing summer hockey. Another has joined a club softball team and won’t be playing in the local league. Kacey felt like it wouldn’t be the same without her buddies.

She came to me several times, lamenting the fact that she just couldn’t decide if she wanted to play in the summer league. I finally suggested that if she was this conflicted about it, her heart was no longer in it. I told her it was ok to give it up if that’s what she really wants and she seemed relieved to be given permission. She told me she would try out for the school team but would skip the summer league.

I thought it was settled. I started thinking about spending weekends at my in-laws’ cabin at the lake again. I thought about relaxing evenings at home or outside with the neighbors. And then I received an email from a woman who was organizing a summer team saying she wondered if Kacey would be interested in playing for them. I replied to the email, telling the woman that Kacey had been feeling very uncertain about playing ball this summer but to be fair, I would discuss the invitation with her.

And that’s all it took. All my girl needed was to be needed. She knows many of the girls on the new team and there was no question in her mind that she wants to play. She was talking on Facebook with one of the girls yesterday, and it seems they could use a catcher. I guess that settles it.

So there will be weekends when the house doesn’t get cleaned and there will be times I complain that we have to drive way too far to the tournaments. But I’ll get to see my girl doing something she loves (all while soaking up the summer sun.) Besides, in a couple more years, it will all be a fading memory and I’ll have all the time in the world to lounge around with nothing better to do. Right?

I guess I’ll be pricing catcher’s gloves now.

Running Away

There are times when I feel as if I can not look at the same four walls another day. The same conversations play out in a seemingly endless loop and I find I have no desire to take part in them. I can’t answer any more questions or solve any more problems. I can’t stand to go through the motions of the same chores I faced yesterday and the day before and last week and last month. Lately I look out the window and see the same dull winter scenery and it’s all I can do to keep from pulling my hair out.

It is times like these that I know I need to make my escape. I need to disappear before I completely lose my cool. I am no good to anyone around me when my spirit grows restless. These are the times when I realize I need to go away for a little while. Those around me don’t always understand it, but they allow me this indulgence knowing I will return to them renewed.

My daughter’s volleyball team had been eliminated from the competition in this weekend’s tournament. We spent the afternoon yesterday cheering them on for hours. We were back again early this morning and the day had grown long. After the final loss, the team was required to stay and referee a match between two other teams. It was at that moment that I decided to go.

Before anyone knew it I was gone from the gymnasium. No more did the pounding of palms against volleyballs ring in my ears. The slapping of feet against a wood floor evaporated from my consciousness. The constant clapping of hands and shouts from the crowd were silenced. Screams of players and the echo of teenage conversations bouncing off the walls were stilled. I left it all behind me this afternoon. Finally… some peace.

I’m not sure how, but I soon found myself in another state, in a quiet Wisconsin town.

Wait…maybe you’ll get a better idea of this peaceful place I found if I show you exactly where it was that I slipped away to. It was right… here…

Ah yes, there is NOTHING in this world like a good book. When I so desire, I am capable of completely immersing myself in a book and The Story of Edgar Sawtelle is proving to be one of the best I’ve found in a long, long time. While my daughter and her teammates took on their roles as referees, while my husband and other parents remained as spectators at yet another game, I became completely oblivious; lost in the pages of this phenomenal book.  The author has a way of describing scenery, emotions and expressions in a way that I’ve never known yet makes complete sense to me. The words played out so truly that at times I felt the calm and peace of the story wash over me. At other times,  my heart was gripped with pain, tears nearly running down my face. I have enjoyed many a book, but it is a rare one that is capable of transplanting me in another time and place; in another person’s being. This one has accomplished that with ease. I am only two-thirds of the way through the book. I don’t expect I’ll be getting much else done this week. I’m not quite ready to return to reality yet anyway.