Proof that I am Cool (As if there were ever any doubt!)

I come in the door from work. Kacey says to me, “Connor says to tell you he got a turkey in bowling in gym today.”

(Clearly Connor knows how much I value bowling skills. So he wanted me to know he bowled three strikes in a row!)

So I said to Kacey, “Would you be okay with me texting him to congratulate him?”

“Sure,” she said.

I grabbed my phone and started texting.

“Don’t you need his number,” she asked?

“No, I have it already. He gave it to me the night you guys went to the semi-formal dance.”

“Creepy,” she said.

“Not creepy,” I said. “It was for safety reasons and for my peace of mind.”

I finished sending my text, and not long after, Kacey received one on her phone. She read it aloud to me, laughing, “Some random number just texted me, ‘Way to go…TURKEY!’”

She then explained to Connor that the random number was me, and in the meantime, he responded to me, “Thank you, anonymous person.”

I sent off one final text to Connor, “I’m taking you and Kacey bowling sometime.”

To which he responded, “So excited, YAY!”

I then told Kacey, “Tell Connor I will stop texting him now, because I don’t want to seem creepy!

“Okay,” she said. “Just one more thing. Connor says, ‘I’m having a convo with your mom over text. How cool!’”

See? Me = COOL. Connor says so.

Big Night at the Bowling Alley

Last night was couples bowling night, normally a night that I look forward to with great anticipation. But as I may have mentioned, a time or two recently, I am getting old. And this oldness means that my back hurts more often than it used to. And an aching back and the tossing of a fourteen pound bowling ball don’t seem like a good combination. But since I had bowled last Monday with the pulled-muscley back and it worked out pretty well for me, I figured I’d give it a go again last night.

I couldn’t seem to shake the achiness all day long yesterday. Not being a glutton for punishment, I took a bunch of (okay, just three) Extra-Strength Tylenol before we left and it seemed as if the medication was helping some. We left early and met up with a group of our fellow bowlers at Acapulco, a Mexican restaurant, for some drinks and a casual dinner. (I had shrimp tacos for the first time ever, at the urging of friend, Steve. And I must say, YUM! I will definitely have those again soon!)

I love having dinner with a big group of people, where the conversation is loud and varied, and I can leave one topic and join another without anyone hardly noticing. (I tend to do that when the subject of politics comes up.) It seemed like we had barely arrived though, and it was time to get going to the bowling alley, so we all trudged out of the restaurant, through the snowy parking lot and back to our cars, which started to get warm again just about the time we arrived at the lanes.

Upon arrival, we met up with our partners, Jim and Jackie. Jim seems inclined to give the team a pep-talk before each game and as I scanned over the last week’s standings, I informed him that we were slowly climbing our way up the ranks. For the longest time, our team hovered in or around last place. However, the last time we bowled, we started getting our act together and we now find ourselves in a semi-respectable eighth place out of twelve. (We consider this quite an accomplishment. Don’t judge.) Jim gathered the team and spoke some words of encouragement.

“We’re playing Jorja’s team tonight, guys. Remember last year when I tried to voodoo her and she fell down? And she ended up with what was probably the best game of her life that night. We are not going to let that happen tonight, you guys. Now let’s get out there and kick some ass!”

Jim’s excitement was contagious and I repeated, “Yeah! Kick some ass!”

Jackie said, “Where’s the waitress with our beer?”

Mark, never one to pay close attention during moments such as this, had already become distracted and wandered off to talk with one of the other guys. Despite the apparent lack of enthusiasm, I had high hopes for an overall win.

The bowling alley was buzzing with people ready to enjoy a night of fun and relaxation after a long week. Little kids ran back and forth behind the tables, begging change from their parents for the vending machines. Mark and some of the guys were swapping bets as to who would bowl the best games. At Jim’s insistence, I pulled out the naughty cards and began to shuffle, setting up our now routine poker game. I placed the cards up on the wall that separates the lanes from the tables in order to keep them inconspicuous from young eyes or those who would be easily offended.

Game one came and went without much excitement. Jim and I both bowled under our averages, but Mark did better than average, and Jackie had a great game! We won that one.

Then came game two. I am the first bowler in our line-up, so I always start off the games, and I started this one with a bang. STRIKE! My team clapped and cheered. As each took their turn, they did well too. We were off to a good start.

Then came the second frame and I was up again. STRIKE! More cheers from my team, and from our opponents as well, for although we are competing against one another, bowlers are a good lot, and they cheer for each other’s successes, even if they are not on the same team. My team mates each took their turns, and again, we had a good round. A win in this game began to seem promising.

Third frame. I was up again. STRIKE! My team cheered louder and our opponents offered smiles and congratulations for my “turkey”! Megan called over from the next lane, “Way to go, Terri!” I smiled in return and joked, “I think I’m gonna bowl a 300 tonight!”

The noise of the bowling alley filled my ears as I made my way back to our table, a huge smile plastered across my face. I love to bowl, but it’s obviously SO much more fun when I’m doing it well.

Now the fourth frame rolled around. I picked up my ball and approached the lane, relaxed. I had done well in the first three, but didn’t expect to continue as I had. That was okay. I had a nice cushion to push me on to a good game, one way or the other. I threw my ball down the lane.

STRIKE!

I slapped my hands against my cheeks and with wide eyes, looked up at my team, cheering me on. As I returned to the table, I exclaimed, “Oh my god! I can’t believe I got four in a row!”

“Keep it up,” Jackie encouraged. It was a nice thought, but I didn’t hold out hope that I would. After all, I’d just bowled below my average in the previous game. All around us, people were bowling and talking and laughing. I arranged my cards while my team mates took their turns and I watched our opponents take their turns. Soon we were in the fifth frame and it was my turn again. I found my usual starting spot, eyed my mark on the lane, made my approach and threw the ball. I watched it roll down the lane, as if in slow motion. It followed the exact path I’d hoped it would, hitting the pocket and knocking the head pin exactly as I’d pictured it in my mind. The rest of the pins began to tumble one by one and I watched as every single one of them exploded to the outskirts of the lane.

STRIKE!

Never in my life have I bowled five strikes in a row and I was ecstatic! I was being cheered on by my own team and by others. It was such a phenomenal feeling. I was walking on air. Meanwhile, Jim was doing pretty well himself, and while he didn’t have the succession of strikes that I did, he was picking up spares and closing his frames. We had a nice, solid lead.

Now we were in the sixth frame. I wasn’t sure if it was my imagination or not, but it seemed to grow quieter. Kenny had wandered over from a few lanes down and made a point of standing and watching. I picked up my ball. I found my starting point. My mind was buzzing with thoughts. “Remember exactly where you’ve been starting. Don’t forget how to hold the ball. Bend your knees. Extend your arm when you release the ball. Don’t pop up.”

I let the ball go and I watched with intensity. The ball began to hook hard to the left. Oh no! I was going to miss the pocket by a long shot! My ball rolled, down, down, down the lane… and knocked down one, single pin – the seven pin. I heard a collective “awww!” Oh, well. I could still pick up my spare. My ball came back up the ball return and I took my second throw… and that was that. I knocked down two more pins, taking my first open frame of the game. It occurred to me that I hadn’t remembered the lesson I’d recently learned. Stop thinking so much and just throw the ball. I’d put too much thought into it. I’d let the pressure get to me and I’d blown it.

The buzz picked up again in the bowling alley as everyone returned their attention to their own games. I was happily disappointed. I had a good run going, but considering my experience with this game, hadn’t really expected to keep throwing strikes. I’d just done something bigger than I’d ever done before in the game of bowling and it was over now. The rest of the game played out and we beat Jorja’s team solidly. Jim bowled a 202 – his first 200 game ever! I bowled another lousy frame or two before picking up steam again, but not before it was too late. I ended with a 192, my best score ever in a league game. I was really hoping for a 200, but it was not to be. Another time. I’ll get there. I know I will.

We ended up just losing the third game, but won overall, so we should advance to an even higher position in the standings. But more importantly, we had fun. I saw proof of my own improvement in the game and I won a hand in the poker game. And as I always say, fun is what bowling is all about.

I’m getting old. And I’m alright with that.

I look at myself in the mirror these days and I can see myself getting older. Most of the time I don’t actually feel like I’m getting older. But sometimes, like today, I do. I feel it. I stayed in bed too long this morning and my back is complaining. I stretched, I exercised. But my back still aches. There’s no doubt about it. I’m getting older.

I look at my face and I see the years in it. My eyes have crow’s-feet and there are frown lines between my eyebrows. I guess that’s okay because they are balanced out by the smile lines around my mouth.

I wondered today if I had the option to go back in time, shave a few years off, would I do it? How much would it be worth to me to erase some of those lines and to get rid of a few of those aches and pains that have begun to visit. Would it be worth giving back some of the things I’ve seen, some of the struggles I’ve faced, some of the joys I’ve experienced? Would I want to step backwards and relive some of the days I’ve already lived? There have been some good ones. There have been some bad ones too.

I don’t think I would do it. Getting older has its drawbacks, but it has its perks too. While it is true that my physical self is losing steam, my emotional self is gaining. I’m more self-confident with age. I spend less time worrying what others think of me. I question myself less and feel more comfortable about marching to my very own drum. Superficial things that were so important to me in my younger years? They don’t matter so much anymore.

I was talking with a coworker the other day and we were contemplating the fact that at our age, theoretically, we could still have babies. I commented that while that is true, I certainly wouldn’t want to have a baby now. I’ve experienced those years, and I loved them. And while I miss them tremendously at times, I’m content with where I am right now. It’s funny to be in this place where I could still have a baby, and also see the grandparenting years just around the corner.

I’m actually looking forward to being a grandparent. I definitely would not want to go back in time, even if it means living with the occasional aches and pains that just won’t be convinced to move on. I think I’ll stay right where I am, thank you.

Roof-sicles

I was supposed to be leaving  for work. Instead I was standing on the front step, without a jacket, shivering. How hard would it have been to throw on a jacket?

Neighbors drove by on their way to wherever it is they go in the mornings – work, or to drop the kids at daycare or school. I wondered if they wondered what I was doing. It’s not uncommon to see me out in the front yard with my camera. There are some interesting things out there sometimes, like this icicle hanging from the overhang above the front step. I wouldn’t have noticed it except for the fact that Kacey pointed it out to me as she was waiting for her ride to come pick her up for school.

“Mom, you should take a picture of this icicle.”

“Okay.”

Still made it to work on time too.

Shannon

I forget sometimes how easy I have it as a mom. When I stop to think about what Shannon’s life is like, I remember. I was tempted to say that I sometimes fail to realize how blessed I am, and that when I think about Shannon’s life, I am reminded. But that would imply that Shannon isn’t blessed or maybe that she’s less blessed than the rest of us. And that is simply not true. I think Shannon is blessed in a way that only a very special person can appreciate and that’s why she was chosen to be Emily’s mom.

I didn’t know Shannon when Emily was born. But I’ve been working with her for over six years now, and little by little, I’ve learned bits and pieces of their story. Emily was born with Spina Bifida. Shannon and her husband were not prepared for this reality. They were completely unaware of Emily’s condition before her birth. I won’t pretend to even know the half of what a person with Spina Bifida faces on a daily basis. You can click on the link and you’ll get an idea of the challenges that accompany such a condition. Then think about Shannon, with two younger kids in addition to Emily and imagine the balancing act she performs every day.

I can only imagine the emotions a new mother would experience when faced with the realization that the life her baby girl faces and the life she imagined for her are two drastically different things. Personally, I don’t think I would have coped very well in those first hours and days. Personally, I think I would have been asking a big fat “WHY?” But knowing Shannon as I do, I’m guessing she took a deep breath and said, “Okay then. Let’s figure out how we do this and let’s get on with it.”

From what I’ve learned, Emily, now a young teenager, has faced many surgeries in her lifetime. I couldn’t even begin to tell you what they were all for. She has a brain shunt. I know that was the reason for at least a couple of her surgeries. Sometimes the surgeries were planned and sometimes they were emergency surgeries. And there are daily challenges too, physical as well as emotional.

Most of the time, I forget that Shannon has a child with special needs because she just seems to take everything in stride. Shannon and I are close. We get each other. We gripe about the same things, and we laugh about the same things. Our lives seem so very similar most of the time. And then I remember that when I go home from work, I can just park my butt in the recliner if I so choose. Shannon can’t just drop in a chair and think only of herself. Although Emily is very independent in many ways, she still has many needs that require Shannon’s attention and care. Some of those things are things that most of us couldn’t imagine having to deal with on a daily basis. But we would. We would do those things without question if it was our own child. But if you’re anything like me, the thought of the possibility scares you half to death.

The thing about Shannon… the most impressive thing, is she does not feel sorry for herself. She doesn’t let Emily feel sorry for herself. And she certainly doesn’t let her other kids feel sorry for themselves either. There are many things that, as a family, they have to face differently than the rest of us might. But Shannon doesn’t let that hold them back one little bit.

Emily has some physical disabilities that make it difficult for her to walk without great effort. Her legs don’t straighten out completely and when she stands, her legs maintain a sort of crouched position. She has braces that help her walk when walking is an option, and a wheelchair for those times when it’s not.

This Friday, Emily will be having surgery to help straighten out her legs. She’ll have some bone cut from each leg and a metal plate placed in each, and her tendons will be stretched. There will be lots of physical therapy in the coming year. And if all goes as planned, she’ll be able to stand up straighter and walk more fluidly than she’s ever been able before.

Shannon is going to be gone from work for a couple of weeks so she can stay with Emily while she’s in the hospital and take care of her when she comes home. All I could think today, as I was saying goodbye to Shannon, is how hard it must be to watch your child go into surgery. Shannon has had to do that too many times already. But she was calm today. She said she was ready and comfortable with things. She seemed, as always, so strong and so brave. She is such an inspiration to me. To many.

If you are the praying kind, please say one for Emily, for her surgeon and the medical team and for Shannon and her family.

We haven’t talked bowling for a while…

I’ve been putting in a lot of extra time lately, working on my bowling. But for all of my efforts, progress has been slow. It almost feels embarrassing sometimes, how little improvement I’ve made. Bowling is a very fickle game, let me tell ya!

Last week was a particular low for me. I’d been taking instruction from my unofficial coach, Keith during recent weeks. When practicing before our league games began, he would give me some tips, and when I’d put them to use, I’d have success. Keith would say something like, “See how easy that was? Now go bowl a 600.” (That means, “Get a score of 200 points each game.”) 600 still seems optimistic to me, but I’d be happy to get a 500 series.

Last week, my league scores were so pathetic that my average actually dropped. I couldn’t figure out what I was doing wrong. I focused on where to stand, my approach and how I was holding the ball. I made sure to bend my knees and not “pop up” before I let go of the ball. I paid attention to where I was aiming and how I released the ball. And still, I could not make the ball do what I wanted it to do. I was actually beginning to wonder why I spend so much time and money on a game that clearly does not come naturally to me.

Last night was bowling night once again. I was still suffering yesterday from the pulled muscles I experienced in my back last week. I debated whether or not I should even bowl, since I haven’t been able to even sleep without neck and back pain for the last several days. But I’ve been trying not to let this pulled muscle keep me from doing things. It is relaxing, but very slowly. I had been afraid to do some of my usual exercises, but found yesterday morning that they actually helped. So I figured, why not bowl too? Besides, I didn’t have a sub, so that pretty much settled it. I realized that I probably wouldn’t be able to bowl as comfortably as I normally do and I told myself that I would just do the best I could. For a change, I had no expectations of myself.

You can see where this is going, can’t you? That’s right. I had a really good game! I bowled a 184, a 162 and a 158. That’s a 504 series! I finally broke 500! And Keith wasn’t even there to see it, but no matter. The girls and I celebrated a winning night.

Lesson learned. Form and strategy are important, but sometimes you gotta just relax, have fun and not care what the numbers say.

Now if I can just remember next time I bowl, how exactly to relax and not care about the score…

What I do when it snows

The Minnesota winter took a little vacation last week, but it is making its return with a nice raging snow storm.

Like everyone else in the city, I figured I better start my day with a visit to the grocery store. Since I planned on being stuck in the house, I wanted to pick up a few things to cook Sunday dinner. It was crowded in the store, as I expected, but for the most part, people were polite. The snow was falling lightly when I went into the store. By the time I left, the lines in the road had already disappeared.

It was a good feeling to get back home and know I didn’t have to leave again. I spent a lazy afternoon doing some laundry and cooking dinner.

The country-style ribs had gone into the crock-pot first thing in the morning. If you haven’t tried one of these little gems, I highly recommend them:

Today I used the barbecue seasoning, but the one for beef roasts is the best. I love me some easy!

Then I got out my new favorite cookbook and made some amazing twice baked potatoes. Yum! These are full of butter, sour cream, bacon and cheddar cheese so calorie counting goes out the window.

Dinner is served!

And for dessert? I’ve been wanting to try Emjay’s brownies. Why yes! Those are Heath Bar bits on top! You’re good! (Emjay recommends waiting for them to cool before cutting them. I didn’t follow directions. And I’m not sorry. Does anyone else think that there’s some vanilla ice cream missing from this picture? Hmmm…)

Now all that’s left to do is figure out how challenging the drive to work is going to be tomorrow!

The Old Man Returns

Winter took a little vacation last week and I was in Heaven! By Thursday, temperatures were in the fifties and the mountains of snow that lined the neighborhood streets had begun to shrink.

Sadly, our little heat wave had to come to an end. After all, it is only February and this is Minnesota. Time to get used to the fact that over the next few days, things will be returning to normal for this time of year.

It was starting to look a little dirty after all that melting anyway. A new snow will make it look all fresh and clean again.