How do you like my new shirt?

It's a Royal Mail shirt! by you.I’ve been meaning to post a picture of myself in this shirt. It’s a very special shirt as it arrived all the way from England, a gift from my friend, James. How many people can say they are the proud owner of a Royal Mail shirt??? James also sent me a copy of the Rugby Observer newspaper and  an article from a magazine with some ideas about writing a novel. (Is that a hint?) Thanks, James!

If you have a chance, please go visit James’ blog, Them’smeprivatethoughts. James’ mom has been in the hospital for a while and her health is diminishing by the day. I’m sure James and his family would appreciate some extra thoughts and prayers.

I’m off work this week, trying desperately to prepare for Jake’s graduation open house this Friday. I’m preparing bunches of pasta for a crowd and as is typical of me, I’m panicking. Every day I worry about how much needs to be done yet and whether or not I’ll be able to accomplish it all. Mark and I nearly took each others’ heads off last night over the most ridiculous thing and I know it’s just stress. I also know it will all come together fine and it will be a great time.

I’ll write more when I feel like I have a chance to breathe.  In the meantime, the grocery store awaits my arrival….

She loves him

It’s another perfect day. I arose with the sun and went out for a run beside the Union Pacific this morning. The mist was still evaporating from the fields, rising toward the sky. Did you know the early morning has its own scent? It’s spectacular. I couldn’t get enough of it today. I had a great run and when I came home, I found a couple of sleeping beauties on my living room floor. I think Dacotah has missed Brad since he’s been home from school.

IMG_0220 by you.

IMG_0221 by you.

IMG_0222 by you.

Life is Good – June 13, 2009

I woke up today to a gorgeous morning. The sky was clear and the sun was shining brightly even though it wasn’t even six o’clock yet.  Mark had just left for work and I was lying in bed just soaking in the quiet. I heard the patio door sliding open upstairs and the jingle-jangle of dog tags, then puppy feet trotting down the deck steps. (Dacotah-dog and Heather are visiting this weekend.) I decided to get up and go for a run.

When I went upstairs, Heather was awake and Brad had one eye open as he peeked at me groggily from inside his sleeping bag cocoon on the living room floor. I asked Heather if she ever takes Dacotah for a run. She said she hadn’t but I was welcome to take her with me. Dacotah seemed ready for an adventure, so off we went.

Once I convinced Dacotah that I should be the one to hold the leash, we got off to a good start. She’s just a puppy though, and doesn’t know how to heel. She’s too curious. She criss-crossed the path in front of me and wanted to chase all the birds and sniff every patch of clover. We hadn’t gone two blocks when I turned a corner and she stopped dead in her tracks. I have no idea why, but she was going no further. I guessed she was growing uncomfortable putting so much distance between herself and Heather. So I brought her back home and headed out once again on my own.

The sun, when I faced it, was nearly blinding and the warmth on my face felt incredible. A train passed through as I continued my run. Sometime over the past twenty years of living near the tracks, the rhythm of a train has become a welcome and familiar sound to my ears. All my worries and anxiety seemed to melt away as I listened to the train’s rumble and my feet pounded the pavement.

I thought about the past couple of days as I ran. After Wednesday night when Gina broke the news about moving out of state, I had a hard time shaking my sadness. I’m having a hard time accepting that there’s now a limit to the days of dropping everything and just driving over to her house, or meeting up for an afternoon of shopping, or our many fun-filled nights out. I was kind of a sad sack on Thursday and Mark kept asking if I was alright. He couldn’t seem to grasp why I was having such a hard time and he was starting to frustrate me. I felt like I had to put on a different face for him, so he wouldn’t be so worried. Maybe it’s juvenille of me to rely so heavily on my friend. Other people do it all the time…deal with distance, I mean. Then again, I think friends of this caliber are a rare treasure and maybe not everyone can understand that kind of bond.

Regardless, it occurred to me that at some point I’d have to accept things. I can’t be running around crying over the loss of my friend for the next six months. I remembered something Dwayne told me once in reference to some other situation that was worrying me. Dwayne’s a smart guy and his theory is something that fits perfectly here too.  The day that Gina moves away is going to be one day. There are approximately 180 days (give or take) between today and that one day. I could spend the next 180 days being sad and mopey. And  in essence, what I’d be doing is wasting every single day that could be better spent enjoying my friend and squeezing in as much togetherness as possible before she moves. I’m going to choose not to waste those days.

I couldn’t help but think yesterday about that old saying; something about when one door closes, another one opens. I had been telling my friend, Shannon at work about Gina leaving. Shannon and I have grown close over the past year and she knows most of what goes on in my life, though we have yet to expand our friendship outside of the office. I could tell that Shannon understood why I was sad and she felt bad.

Her words took on a sympathetic tone and she asked, “Who are you going to bowl with this winter?”

In a mock-wine, I answered, “I don’t know! Gina is the glue that kept the team together. I don’t know if the other girls are going to return to the team without her there to push them.”

I looked at Shannon and half-jokingly asked, “Do you want to bowl with me this year?”

Knowing Shannon has three kids, all younger than mine and one with special needs, not to mention the fact that she plays volleyball once a week throughout the winter,  I knew what the answer was likely to be. Her sympathetic voice now took on a Duh-tone as she responded, “Well, yeah! I thought you’d never ask!”

I can’t tell you how happy that made me.

Not that anyone could ever take Gina’s place, but Shannon and I are very similar creatures and there’s always room for another good friend. It occurs to me that as much as I hate the fact that Gina is leaving, had this not happened, I might not have ever opened the door to building on my friendship with Shannon.

Having reached this point in my life, it still surprises me that I’m just learning a lesson like this. But I guess the day I stop learning is the day I stop living and I’m not ready for that yet. Life is good.


P.S. If you have a Blogger blog and it seems like I haven’t visited or commented lately, it’s not that I haven’t tried. Anyone else experiencing this?


Update: I downloaded Google Chrome and dumped Internet Explorer. Problem solved!

In My Dreams

I’m always jealous when I read about the dreams that Rock Chef and Wreggie have. Rock Chef recently dreamed that he had two wives. They were clones of each other and I think he rather enjoyed having two women in his life, even though it was a bit much to manage both of them. Wreggie has vivid dreams of travelling to places that don’t exist in reality but are very exciting. Generally speaking, I either don’t dream, or I sleep so hard that I don’t remember my dreams. It’s a rare occasion that I do remember what went on inside my imagination at night. So on Saturday night when I awoke from a dream, I made a conscious effort (as conscious an effort as possible when awakening in the dead of night) to commit the details to memory.

In my dream, I was walking down a local frontage road. It’s a road that exists in reality. I lived near it when growing up and still live fairly close. It is situated between a local lake and a section of I94. For as long as I can remember, there has been a mobile home community which is accessible from the road and there’s also a boat and marine business. Various other businesses have come and gone from this stretch.  I most recently drove this road last Friday while dropping off a coworker at a repair shop to pick up her car. I noticed how much the businesses located along this stretch had changed. Right now, Harley Davidson and Indian Motorcycles are the high profile businesses located there. Over the past several months, the road has been under construction and on Friday, I realized between the reconstruction and the addition of new businesses, the area seems to have received a nice makeover.

In my dream, the road was in shabby condition, the way it was before the recent reconstruction. It was lined with old, abandoned brick office buildings. As I walked along the road, I could see there were demolition crews working on the destruction of all of the buildings. I stopped to watch the demolition of one of the smaller ones. There was a crew of several men and one woman working on top of the building and they were destroying it by hand, working their way down with sledgehammers. I was surprised that what they were doing was acceptable…you know… by OSHA or whatever powers are in charge of safely destroying buildings.

Just as I was marveling at all of this, I saw the woman swing her sledgehammer taking out a section of brick. Just as she did so, the structure began to give way beneath her. Only part of the building gave way while the rest remained intact. The rest of the demolition crew and I could only watch in horror as the bricks disintegrated beneath her and the woman tumbled to her death. It seemed to take forever while she crashed through weakened sections of the building, finally crumbling to a stop among a pile of brick and dust. It was at this point that I startled awake.

Seriously? I finally have a dream and this is what I get? I wonder what this means? I wonder if I could do it again – dream – and remember what I dreamed? And if the dream gods are paying attention, I’d like to request a happy dream for next time, thank you. Otherwise, I’ll be happy to go back to my dull and uneventful rest.

A Visit

A few days ago, I placed a photo order online and the prints have now arrived. Two of them I had made specially for my mom. One is a picture of Tigger, her cat. He has lived with me for two years now, but he’ll always be hers. I had emailed her a close-up that I had taken of Tigger lying on my bed and she had mentioned she would like a print. The other photo is one of all eleven of her grandkids. I took the picture on Thanksgiving Day last year when the whole family was celebrating at my house. My sister and I managed to gather all of the kids at once. It was an unusually warm day for November and we led the whole group outside to the deck. We got the little ones to sit still long enough to pose for a picture with their bigger cousins on the back steps. This picture, she already has an 8 x10 framed copy, which I mailed to Arizona last year as part of my parents’ Christmas gift. She left that copy in Arizona and hinted she’d like another print for at home. It’s a warm Friday evening and I’ve got little motivation to do anything productive after a long day at work, so I decide to walk the pictures over to my parents’ house on the next block.

There’s a cool breeze blowing as I stroll through the neighborhood, my sandals flip-flopping against my heels. Rounding the corner onto their street, their house becomes visible. It’s the second one from the corner and I see my brother’s white pick-up truck parked in front. I wonder if it’s just him stopping by for a quick minute, or if the whole family is there. When I approach the house, before I can even open the front door, my eleven year-old nephew, Zach bursts through it and wraps an arm around me.  Soon eight year old Hannah and five year old Josh are bouncing and chattering in front of me, waiting on hugs too. I ask where their brother, Alec is, but I’m not sure anyone hears me and an answer never comes. Seeing my brother, Craig standing by himself in the kitchen, it’s clear to me that Alec and his mom are not here.

While I try to disengage the tangle of little arms and legs from around me, my mom’s face lights up and she welcomes me inside. I’m still wearing the casual skirt and short-sleeved v-neck t-shirt that I wore to work and she comments on how nice I look. After all of my tom-boy years, it’s probably still a pleasant surprise for her to see me in a skirt.

My dad and Craig greet me, somewhat absently as they are wrapped up in conversation. They continue as I hand my mom the shipping envelope in which the pictures were packaged.

“What’s this,” she asks? She’s obviously forgotten her requests and in all honesty, it’s been a while since she made them and she most likely thought I forgot all about them.

Before I can answer her, she pulls them from the envelope and a pleased, “Oh!” escapes her lips. “You didn’t have to do that,” she scolds, but I tell her I was ordering a bunch of other prints anyway and it was no big deal. The pictures make her happy, and that makes me happy. She’s busy offering them to my dad and Craig so they can see too.

“Oh, yes! Very nice,” my dad is saying and Craig nods in approval. Before long, though, they wander outside to do who-knows-what. Maybe look at the garden or tinker with the lawn mower. My dad loves to be outside, especially now that he’s got his strength back and I’m glad Craig is there to keep him company.

The kitchen is quieter now and it gives my mom and me a chance to talk. Josh has settled in the living room. He’s laying on the couch, absorbed in some t.v. show. When I glance over my shoulder, I can see the arm of the couch, but not his head. All I can see is his little leg swinging outward in time to some rhythm only he can hear.

My mom is telling me about what’s going on with her neighbors and Zach is standing near the table where we sit. He is listening quietly and I notice there is writing on his arm. There’s a heart next to the name, “Emily.”

I ask him, “Zach, why is there writing on your arm?”

He smiles, embarrassed and just shrugs. But Hannah is quick to answer. “He has a girlfriend,” she says, dragging out the word girl and looking at him with a taunting smile.

“So what,” he says, trying to look cool. “You have a boyfriend.

“I do have a boyfriend,” she admits proudly. “I have a boyfriend and Zach has a girlfriend.”

“You can’t have a boyfriend yet,” my mom teases her.

“Yeah. You’re too young for a boyfriend,” I add.

“That’s what Mom and Dad say too,” Zach throws in for good measure.

Hannah smiles, shrugs and bounces back to the living room where she flops herself into the over-sized recliner to join Josh in front of the t.v. Zach decides he’s had enough of the adult conversation and he too goes to join his siblings.

“I’m so glad you stopped by tonight,” my mom tells me. Why does that make me feel guilty? It’s probably because even though I stop by fairly regularly, it’s not often for more than a few minutes. My visits tend to get squeezed in between other obligations.

Before long, Dad and Craig come back in the house and Dad joins Mom and me at the kitchen table. Craig chooses to stand, leaning against the kitchen counter and finishing the bottle of beer he started earlier. He’s telling us stories about his neighbors who “don’t take care of their stuff.” They don’t fix things, they just replace them when they quit working. Everything that’s fallen into disrepair ends up underneath the neighbors’ deck to rot away.

As I listen to Craig talk, I realize it’s still quiet in the living room and glance in there to see Josh’s leg still swinging and the other two kids still absorbed in the program. Craig talks on, telling us that the neighbor’s most recent replacement was a new lawn mower. Craig tried to convince his neighbor that he could probably just repair the old one and he’d be willing to help, but the neighbor wasn’t interested. He gave Craig the old mower and told him to have at it. We laugh as Craig describes how he replaced one part of the mower and found another one that didn’t work. Then he’d replace that part and would find something else that needed repair. After two days of tinkering with the mower, the last straw came when he pulled on the starter cord and gas sprayed out across his garage. We all laugh when he says that after that episode, he pushed the mower back to the neighbors’ yard and parked it under the deck to rot with the rest of the junk.

Craig’s phone rings and he answers it, wandering into the living room to talk briefly with his wife. When he hangs up, he tells the kids to get ready to go and tells Mom and Dad that they need to head home. The kids are protesting. They don’t want to leave. Craig continues chatting to all of us while trying in vain to round up the kids. They seem to keep slipping away from the door and back into the living room. Finally in frustration, he shouts, “Let’s GO!” They know he means business and they all scramble for hugs goodbye. I get two from Josh because he’s making the rounds and forgets who he’s already hugged. I don’t complain.

Craig and the kids finally make their exit and my mom goes to stir something on the stove. I hadn’t noticed the pot sitting there before and didn’t realize that she and Dad hadn’t had their dinner yet. I take this as my cue to get going too, and say so.

“Don’t go yet,” my mom says. “You don’t have to leave just because we’re eating. Do you want to join us? We’re having stew.”

I tell my mom I’m not hungry and have already eaten, but I’ll help myself to a bottle of water from the fridge and agree to stay a while longer, sitting myself back down in the chair I had just left. I bow my head as Mom and Dad make the sign of the cross before their food and recite the prayer I grew up saying before meals.

The conversation continues as they eat their dinner and they listen as I talk about what’s going on in my life. I talk about the kids – how old they are getting; how much they’ve grown. I mention that in a recent picture, I realize Jake is now every bit as tall as Brad. I talk about the fact that the boys have jobs and how we’ve had to juggle cars to get everyone where they need to be since there are more drivers than cars. I talk about how Kacey is ready to be done with school for the summer and is eternally busy with her sports.

We talk on and on, I’m not even sure about what, but I feel this appreciation for simply being there with them and having them to myself. I find myself thinking, “This is good. This has been really nice.” I think how this is probably one of those moments in time that I will look back on and be glad that I set aside other obligations just to be here. I think about the fact that there aren’t enough times like this and I remind myself that the time we are given to enjoy moments like this isn’t unlimited.

I look at the Norman Rockwell clock on the wall, the one that has adorned the kitchen wall for as long as I can remember, and realize that a couple of hours have passed. It is nearly nine o’clock and with reluctance, I tell them that I need to go home.

“I’m so glad you came tonight,” my mom tells me again.

“Me too,” I tell her in reply.

Me too.

Life is Good – June 4, 2009

Jake Graduating by you.His demeanor on graduation day was nothing short of joyous. I know that’s to be expected for most high school graduates, but even his sister noticed it. And siblings aren’t generally prone to caring enough to notice each other’s emotional well-being.

I volunteered for a couple of hours at his Senior All Night party and caught a glimpse of him here and there. Most of the time he was surrounded by girls and the smile never left his face! Maybe it was the girls. Maybe it was his new found freedom. It didn’t matter. It occurred to me that I can’t remember the last time Jake seemed so completely relaxed and utterly happy. It’s as if he has finally broken free of his educational chains. I remember feeling that way after graduation. I didn’t struggle with my studies the way he did, but throughout my high school years, I felt the weight of conformity and a  lack of self-confidence hanging over my head. I remember feeling like I had grown wings when I graduated. I was free to be whomever I wanted and to do whatever I chose. I can only guess that he is experiencing similar feelings of having a weight lifted. It makes my heart happy to see him this way. He hasn’t made a decision yet on what comes next, but considering all that he’s been through to reach this point, I’m not pushing yet.

Jake’s graduation would have been plenty to keep me on cloud nine, but it gets even better. My sister and her family arrived back in Minnesota this week and are getting settled in their new house, a mere ten minutes away from me. I am ecstatic! After having to settle for being approximately seven hours away from each other for the past several years, this seems almost too good to be true.

Ironically, she and I harbored a pretty good hatred of each other all the years we were growing up. Then the minute we became actual grown ups, it was as if a light had been switched on. We began to realize we had a lot in common and that we were lucky to have each other. Having my sister gone so far away the past few years made me feel as if a piece of me was missing.

I used to spend much of my free time with her and her family. The phone used to ring and it would be my sister, asking me to drop what I was doing and come over or go shopping. And I would. I took for granted that she would always be there for me when I needed her. When she moved to Illinois, I felt as if I were suffering from withdrawals. I would drive down the road near her old house and for a moment, think about swinging by before I’d remember they were no longer there. Now they are back, and like it or not, I’m afraid they’re going to have to get used to me dropping in again when I happen to be in the neighborhood.

Amidst such huge blessings this week, you might think the simple pleasures would escape me, but they haven’t. Each day that I feel the warmth of the sun on my skin; each day that I have the chance to feel the soft, green grass against my bare feet; I feel such contentment. The gardens are blossoming, some with home-grown vegetables and others with colorful flowers. The sun arrives early and hangs around until well into the evening. I feel as if the outdoors are beckoning me out of the house. The beauty and warmth of the spring fills me with such a sense of calm and peace, I can’t help but be happy.

Once again, it is clear to me, life is good.

It's the BIG day!

JakeHat2I am happy to report that Jake has recuperated and he’s ready to graduate from high school tonight! He’ll also be able to attend the Senior All-Night party. I’m so glad. I hated the thought of him missing out on these final celebrations. If anyone deserves to celebrate, it is Jake.

I am so proud of this kid I am just ready to burst. School was never easy for Jake. From the time he was in kindergarten, it became clear that there were going to be obstacles for Jake to overcome. But he struggled and fought and put in extra time making sure he earned the grades and the credits he needed to pass. Last year, he decided he was not going to spend one more summer in summer school. He worked his butt off and passed all of his classes. For the first time in four years, his summer was free and clear.

This year, Jake knew he was on the home stretch. It became clear to me that he had grown up immensely. He took charge of his studies and did what he had to do to achieve his goals. The year wasn’t without its roadblocks and on more than one occasion, words of anger and frustration erupted in our house over school issues. In his final trimester, he struggled with a Physics course that was a requirement for graduation. I think we all worried every day about him earning this particular credit. And it was tough, but he did it!

This morning, I was thinking about the significance of this day for Jake. For some kids, school is a walk in the park. For others, like Jake, it’s a battlefield. He’s such an intelligent kid. He just couldn’t function as easily in a traditional classroom as so many others. There are two very special teachers who made a significant and positive impact on my son over the past four years. I bought thank you cards and a small gift for each of them, as if such a small token can ever convey the appreciation I feel for them for making my son feel important and capable. Some teachers are angels and these two definitely qualify. I wasn’t surprised to have received an email from one of them today, saying, “Today is the BIG day! Are you ready??” She went on to mention that she had a little something for Jake and would try to catch up with him at the graduation ceremony tonight so she could give it to him. I wonder if she’ll ever know just how very wrong Jake’s course could have gone if not for teachers like her.

It’s true.  Today is a  very BIG day. Jake is graduating!!!