Her Stories

The kids’ laptop appears to have bitten the dust, so I had the privilege of sharing space with Kacey this evening while she wrote an essay on the PC. I was reading blogs, (trying to stay caught up for a change) and she was alternately writing her essay and telling me “her stories.”

Kacey’s stories seem to come out all at once, in one long, rambling conversation in which she spares no detail and barely pauses to take a breath. (I love her stories. Just thought I’d clarify in case there was any doubt.)

Her stories often begin along the lines of, “Okay. Get this, Mom. Hale had a blonde moment…” These stories are of school and friends, sports and life and so many things that make her laugh that just must be shared.

Tonight’s stories included contemplation on how best to point out to her Grammar teacher that she did, in fact end the trimester with an ‘A’ in his class in spite of the fact that he had previously informed her that achieving such a grade in his class would be highly unlikely. (It’s one of those advanced placement classes in which the teacher clearly finds great pleasure in making it difficult to achieve top grades.) She has decided that tomorrow, she will ask him to check her grade, and when he informs her of the ‘A’, she will ask him to remind her what it was he had told her earlier in the trimester about the grade she could expect to achieve.

There were stories from the first practice of the summer softball season in which she and her team mates laughed so hard that they were reduced to tears in the outfield because they were quoting Jenna Marbles. “Double lions!” “Chili-face noodle punch!” (Why these are funny sayings, I have no idea. Apparently they are hysterical when you are 17 and 18 years old.)

There was the story about how her teacher, Mr. K (of the aforementioned Grammar class) still doesn’t know her name after an entire trimester. Every day he asks the girl in front of her, “Mackenzie, who’s that girl sitting behind you?” Then when he looks at Kacey, she dips her chin down to her chest and rolls her eyes upward, looking up past her eyebrows at this guy. (I taught her that. It’s a variation on the famous eye-roll, for which I am famous and feared. By my husband, anyway.) She said that once Mr. K sees “the look”, he remembers. “Oh yeah. KACEY!”

“He knows me by ‘the look,'” she tells me proudly. (That’s my girl!)

“And by the way,” she says, “I need a check for 25 dollars for my cap and gown rental. And I just remembered that I still haven’t gotten Andi a birthday present, so do you have like ten dollars I can have?” (She doesn’t even bother to use the word “borrow” anymore in reference to money. We both know it’s not getting paid back.) I tell her to go get my 19 dollars of change that is currently in Brad’s pocket and she can have ten of it. With that, she returns to her essay and the stories are done for the moment.

She asked me a while ago as we were riding in the car, when stories are sure to be most plentiful, “What are you going to do when I go away to school and I’m not here to tell you my stories?”

“I’ll take a drive over to Wisconsin,” I said. “And knock on your dorm room door.”


“I’m kidding, honey,” I said. (As much as she loves me, she’s looking forward to the freedom of college.) “I promise, I won’t just randomly show up at your door. We’ll just have to make use of our cell phones.”

And sometimes I’ll probably cry just a little and miss nights like this when I had her all to myself for a precious and rare little while.


Working Weekend

As I mentioned in my last post, Mark and I got a small glimpse this weekend of what it will be like to have an empty nest. Brad went with girlfriend Heather to her grandparents’ lake home for the long weekend, and Kacey went with boyfriend Connor to his grandpa’s lake home. Jake stayed home, but spent most of his time working extra hours. (Two of his coworkers came down with Mono and he had to cover the slack.) When he wasn’t working, he was sleeping.

Mark and I took advantage of the freedom and as I’m writing this, I’m thinking to myself, “Everyone is going to think, ‘How BORING!'”

Oh well. Call us boring, but we spent our time tackling projects around the house. Kacey’s graduation open house is in three weeks, and like most people tend to do, we are using the party as an excuse to get all those things done that we’ve so far been putting off or just haven’t had the time to do.

Saturday we did the usual house cleaning and laundry, and in the evening, we were invited to the neighbors’ house for drinks and a few games of cards. By Sunday, we were ready to tackle some projects around the yard.

Our first order of business was to buy flowers to plant in pots around the yard. I always plant the same thing in these pots and I made myself a list so I wouldn’t forget anything. But even though I knew the plants I needed, I’m not always so good with remembering the names of various plants. So my list read like this:

  • 9 Geraniums
  • 3 Spikes
  • White stuff
  • That other stuff

Once we were at the flower mart, I remembered that “white stuff” was Alyssum and “that other stuff” was Vinca Vine. We lucked out big time when we  discovered that Mark’s sister’s long-time best friend was working there. She was very generous in sharing her employee discount with us. Everything we bought was half off, including three hanging baskets of flowers! (I still have a few more pots to plant. Wish I’d been prepared to buy stuff for those too while we were at it!)

I spent Sunday afternoon planting three big pots with all the things on the list. These will sit in front of the house all summer long. I also planted a whiskey barrel that sits under the flowering crabapple tree with “Wave Petunias.”

(Forgot to take a picture of the whiskey barrel, but since the petunias aren’t yet blooming, it’s no loss.)

We also bought a water fountain for the front garden. We’ve talked about getting one of these for years and for whatever reason just never did it. I fell in love with this one.

After all of our planting and assembling the fountain, we needed to go grocery shopping. But without any kids to worry about, we decided to make a stop for dinner at Applebee’s first, then did the grocery shopping. We both laughed about how fun it was to be on our way to the grocery store and just be able to change plans without having to worry about anyone else.

Today there was more yard work to be done, and this time, it was less fun. While Mark power-washed the deck (to prepare it for sanding and then staining) I tackled weeding gardens and lawn mowing.

This garden is still somewhat of a mess, and not much is in bloom just yet, but at least most of the weeds have been pulled. And there were a lot! Trust me! I was using one of those Garden Claws and even though I was wearing gloves, I’ve got blisters on my hands!

I even found the Asiatic Lilies! They multiplied over the winter. Can’t wait until these bloom!

I didn’t do anything with this garden in front of the shed. I just thought it looked cool with all of the Irises that have yet to bloom. It won’t be long before this is a sea of purple!

After finishing what we could of our own projects (deck sanding and staining will happen in the near future) we headed over to my parents’ house and mowed lawn there too. I don’t feel guilty that I didn’t go to the gym this weekend. I think I worked plenty of muscles working outside this weekend! And the added bonus is that the yard is really looking good!

I Don’t Do Memes

I am, as my blog friend, Bud describes me, a memophobe. I used to faithfully participate in every meme that came my way. I don’t know why I suddenly quit playing along with all the memes. Maybe life got too busy. It could be that all the memes started to feel the same. Describe X number of things about yourself. Tag X number of blogs. Leave a comment on each blog letting the author know he or she has been tagged. Maybe I’m a rebel who refuses to conform to the traditions of the blog world and it’s just easier not to participate than to follow all of those rules.

More likely though? I’m just lazy. Yes, I’m pretty sure laziness is the reason I don’t do memes. Memes require some effort!

Recently, Bud, who is a talented writer and writes the blog, Older Eyes tagged me in one of these dreaded memes. (It’s not the first time!) This particular meme came with an award, The Versatile Blogger award! As I always do when tagged in a meme, I left a comment graciously (sort of) thanking Bud for his kind recognition and promising (weakly) to participate, knowing full well that chances were approximately 99.9% that I would once again fail to do my part in keeping a meme viral .

I think a major part of my memophobia has something to do with having to follow a specific set of rules. I’m not generally opposed to rules. Rules are good. They help maintain a sense of order in this world. But when I write, the words tend to come spontaneously. Rules tend to get in my way when I write. Memes have rules. So I don’t do memes.

For instance, The Versatile Blogger meme states that I have to “thank the blogger who gave the award and link to their blog”. So, if I were going to participate in this meme… which I’m not… but if I were, I would have to say something like:

Dear Bud, Thank you for the wonderful blog award. I’ve always wanted a Versatile Blogger award to place on my virtual mantel! This one is just the right color and the perfect size!

And after the thank you, I would have to comply with another rule that states, “Share seven things about yourself.”

Seven things is a lot of things to come up with when you’ve been writing a blog for four years. I don’t know that I could find seven things of interest to share with you guys that you don’t already know. If I were going to participate… which I’m not…  but if I were, I would tell you some things such as:

(1) I really cannot stand reality television. And this is a problem because my husband has to watch every reality show known to cable t.v. In recent years, I have been subjected to reality crab fishing, reality car repossession, reality parking enforcement, reality pawn shops, and most recently, reality taxidermy! Really? Taxidermy? Can we stop now?

(2) I drank Goldschlager for the first time this weekend (two shots of it!) and I loved it! 

(3) I was a cute little kid:

(4) There are few foods that I refuse to eat, but there are many foods I have yet to try. I just tried Thai food for the first time and loved it. Sushi is something I’ve been wanting to try but have yet to take the leap.

(5) I LOVE to bowl. (I know. SHOCKER! You’ve never heard that before!) One thing bowling has taught me is patience. Improvement in the game of bowling comes very, very slowly, but when it does, it is highly rewarding!

(6) I discovered this weekend, with my children all away, that as much as I’m dreading the empty nest, it might actually have its perks. Running on your own schedule, going out to eat spur of the moment, and spending an entire afternoon gardening at your own leisure is sort of fun!

(7) I will have the privilege of meeting one of my long-time blogger friends very soon. De-I and I connected through our experiences as kidney donors three years ago and have remained friends ever since. He is extremely creative and skilled in the kitchen and I often comment on his food posts that if we were ever to meet, I would expect him to cook up one of his famous creations for me. Well guess what? He’s going to be in my area and has asked if he and his lovely wife can come have dinner with Mark and me. And he will be doing the cooking! Can’t wait!

After listing X number of facts about yourself, a meme will probably include another requirement such as, the one stated in The Versatile Blogger meme. “Pass the award along to 15 bloggers and link to them.”

So, if I were going to participate in this meme… which I’m not… but if I were, I would tag a small sampling of all the wonderful writers I read on a regular basis, such as:

And after the tagging requirement, you might still not be finished! The Versatile Blogger meme says that after tagging 15 blogs, you should “Comment on the tagged blogs to notify the author of the award.”

If I were going to participate in this meme… which I’m not… but if I were, I would probably be too lazy to complete this part of the requirement. Besides, most blog platforms offer some type of notification to let the author know that another blogger has linked to their blog. And then the author would probably come to investigate the reason for the link, in which case they would find a post such as this one which explains it all.

And if I were going to participate… which I’m not… but if I were, I would tell the awardees that they should feel free to participate if they like, or feel free to accept the award I have just bestowed upon them and do nothing more. Because participating in a meme like this one is a lot of work. And that is why I am not participating. Thanks anyway, Bud!

How I scored free flowers for my yard

My mom had a cardiac catheterization done today. Because her Scleroderma causes scar tissue to form in her lungs, there is the concern that it will begin to cause scar tissue in her pulmonary artery and/or cause pulmonary hypertension. Since she has been feeling so sick for the past several weeks, her doctors decided to get a closer look at what was going on inside.

I was the designated driver for this appointment because first of all, I volunteered for the job. A driver was needed because my mom would not be allowed to drive after the procedure for the remainder of the day. My dad, considered legally blind, was not an option as the driver. Pretty sure it would be frowned upon should he attempt to get behind the wheel again. I also went along because my dad would require some babysitting  entertainment company. It was going to be a long day. Once the procedure is completed, it requires the patient to lay flat on their back for several hours afterwards.

The appointment was at 6:00 am. I told my parents I would be in their driveway around 5:20 or so. I know how long it takes to get downtown, and I wanted to make sure we had plenty of time to get downtown, then to the parking ramp and then to the heart clinic without rushing. My mom is not capable of rushing. Apparently, neither is my dad.

I was in my parents’ driveway at 5:20. My mom was ready. Dad was still brushing his teeth. And gargling. And looking for his Chap Stick. And checking his blood sugar. And making sure he had his Bible to take with. And deciding (for unknown reasons) not to take the Bible with. We left the driveway at 5:35.

Thankfully, we made it to the clinic just in time and got my mom all checked in and ready to go. When it was time for the procedure, the nurse invited my dad and I to wait in the waiting room and to be sure to check in with the receptionist so that we could be informed when my mom was done. So we did just that, then made our way to the cafeteria for some coffee. (FYI – just because the hospital cafeteria says they sell Starbuck’s coffee does not mean that the coffee will taste anything like the real Starbuck’s. Mine ended up in the trash, unfinished.) The coffee run killed some time anyway and then we headed back to the waiting room where I asked my dad if he’d like to sit near the television so he could watch the morning news.  He did not want to. He did not bring anything to read. It was a long wait. The people-watching was lackluster.

I proceeded to read my book on my Nook, check my work email, check to see if anything interesting was happening on FaceBook. I accepted a friend request from a friend who I am sure I was already friends with several times over. He just needs to quit changing his name.

Time passed. I’m not sure how much. It had probably been an hour or so. Eventually, the receptionist approached us and said that my mom’s procedure was finished and that the doctor would be out to talk to us shortly. She shouldn’t have been so specific as to when the doctor would arrive.

We waited.

And waited.

And waited.

The receptionist came and apologized for the wait and said the doctor should arrive soon.

We waited some more.

My dad got up and walked over to the receptionist. My dad is not a very patient man. Never has been. To make matters worse, he had just informed me that he was becoming less patient than he normally is. I refrained from reminding him that patience has never been one of his virtues. I worried what he might be saying up there at the front desk, but the receptionist didn’t look annoyed at all, so I figured he must have behaved himself. When he returned to his seat, he told me that he said to the receptionist, “I know the doctor is very busy, but does he know how unbusy I am?”

He seemed to think that was funny, so I chuckled. The receptionist came over to us and apologized again and said she was going to go back and see if she could “light a fire under someone’s butt.” I told her I appreciated any attempt she could make at butt-lighting. She disappeared for a few minutes then came back to the waiting room and resumed her perch at the front desk.

We waited some more.

My dad’s patience, what miniscule amount he may have possessed, was dwindling.

“This is terrible,” he said dramatically.

I didn’t really think it was terrible. Slightly annoying, maybe. Terrible was a stretch.

“Dad,” I said, trying to appease him. “Whether or not the doctor comes to talk to us right now, Mom still has to lay flat for several hours before they’ll release her. We’re not going anywhere anytime soon.”

“Well,” he said in his dramatic, drawn-out fashion, “at least someone could come out here and tell us, I don’t know… that the procedure is finished.”

“They did,” I said. “The receptionist told us that.”

“Well,” he said again, leaving whatever thought might have been there unfinished.

A few minutes later the receptionist came and apologized profusely, saying the doctor had just returned her call and was on his way.

I thanked her.

As she walked away, my dad asked, “Well, where the heck is this guy coming from?”

“Wisconsin,” I said.

If my dad found any humor in that comment, he didn’t show it. But I get away with this stuff because he has my kidney. I try not to push my limits though.

Finally, the doctor arrived. He suggested we all go back to my mom’s room so that he could explain the test results to all of us.  It was good news. Although the scarring in my mom’s lungs prevents them from absorbing as much oxygen as most people are able, (65% is normal, vs. about 13% for my mom) the scarring has not progressed to her pulmonary artery. In fact, the pressures in her ventricles and aortas are okay and the doctor described her arteries as “beautiful.”

At least there is not further damage. But the lack of absorption of oxygen in her lungs explains her constant fatigue. I guess it’s good to know the reason behind some of her symptoms so she can try to combat them whenever possible. (ie. stop pushing herself to do more physical activity than she feels able to manage.)

Armed with the good news, my dad’s lack of patience subsided to his normal levels of impatience. My mom was tired and wanted to try to sleep for a while, so she suggested Dad and I go find some lunch and not feel guilty about leaving her alone for a while. So we did. I must say that the cheeseburgers and onion rings served in the cafeteria were much more pleasing than the pseudo-Starbuck’s coffee we’d had earlier. We actually conversed and actually enjoyed each other’s company too!

An hour later, we returned to the room where Mom informed us it was impossible to sleep. But I know she enjoyed the break from Dad and me for a while. It would be two and a half more hours before my mom would be discharged and we could all go home.

Thankfully, my dad fell asleep.

Later on, after we had all returned home, I walked over to my parents’ house to check on my mom and she seemed to be doing well. She informed me that she wanted to buy me a hanging basket of flowers for my yard as a thank you for taking care of her and Dad today. I told her that wasn’t necessary.

She insisted that she wanted to.

I said on second thought, I would take her up on her offer. I think I earned it!

Evening Walk

My oldest child has finished his fourth year of college already. He hasn’t graduated yet, though he wishes he had. Since he switched his major a while back, he’ll be taking classes for another year. I don’t mind so much. I’ve never been in a hurry for my kids to grow up.

Last Friday, Brad moved back home for the summer months. I’m so glad to have him back! His first order of business was to buy a new pair of running shoes. In spite of the fact that he is gainfully employed, it somehow fell on me to pay for the shoes. He promised that if I paid for them, he would go out for walks with me. I promised I would hold him to his promise.

We took our first walk tonight and it was so much more than just an outing for exercise. It was fun! I enjoyed being out with Brad, having time to talk one on one. I took him out by the neighborhood ponds, hoping to show him all the geese and goslings that I’ve seen on my treks to and from the gym in the early mornings. I knew Brad would love this route because he is a true lover of nature. Neither of us was disappointed! We saw several families of geese, all out enjoying a warm spring evening, just like us.

This goose family had about 30 babies! I couldn’t believe it. Brad explained that it is not uncommon for the more dominant birds to steal goslings from other geese. How sad! The babies didn’t seem to mind though. They traveled along in a big pack and none of them dared to venture away.

Aren’t they cute? Too bad they grow up so quickly!

I loved spending this time with my boy. I hope the summer holds many more such evenings for us!

A Game of Whiffle Ball

After half a day of storm clouds and rain that came down in sheets at times, the sun finally made an appearance. As I folded laundry in our family room, trying desperately to catch up on the never-ending array of household chores, I decided to open a window and let in some of the sunshine and fresh air. When I did, I was greeted with one of the sweetest sounds of summer – kids playing together out in the street. I peeked out the open window to see who was out there and much to my surprise, I saw my kids – my own three and a few others who aren’t really mine but who come around this house often enough that they are comfortable just calling me “Mom” just like my own offspring. It’s been so long since I’ve seen them playing a game of whiffle ball.

They’ve grown up so much these past few years. Their adult lives are on the horizon and so many of those sweet, childhood games have become a thing of the past. But just for today, they decided to visit childhood once again. The shouting, the cheers, the laughter – and a noticeable absence of bickering – were music to my ears. I watched from behind my window screen as this group of 18, 20 and 22 year-old siblings and friends played ball and laughed together. Periodically, someone would shout, “CAR!” and they’d all fall to the side of the road until the vehicle had passed and then the game would resume.

The neighbor across the street was out in his driveway and had stopped to watch as the game was played, as if he was just as aware of the magic of this particular game as the kids were.

They had no idea how much I was enjoying the simplicity of it all…one last sweet, innocent memory…a little gift to which I could hold tight before they all returned to their young-adulthood once again.

Of Thai food and other things that must be experienced in life

I would say that there have been relatively few people in this world with whom I have felt an immediate connection. It usually takes a while for me to realize the potential for a friendship and build upon it, which is why it makes me so sad that Erin is leaving the company for bigger and better things just when I was beginning to realize how great it was going to be to work with her.

I have known Erin for six years, but was only given the opportunity to work closely with her in the past few weeks. And almost as quickly as my opportunity presented itself, her big opportunity presented itself and as of today, she’ll be on her way to pursue new dreams.

So the last week or so has been spent trying to absorb a share of what Erin has done in her position so that I might try to fill her shoes a little bit. There’s no way I can hope to replace Erin, but in the short time we’ve been working together she has taught me much and I will take those little lessons with me as I move forward in life. Some of those lessons weren’t necessarily verbalized, but were implied. “Be bold. Don’t be afraid. Speak your mind. Stick your neck out once in a while. You might be surprised at how well things turn out. There is a world of opportunity out there. You just need to believe it’s yours for the taking.” Erin even sent me an email reminder of some of the things she feels are most important:

1) Sign up for: www.livingsocial.com, www.crowdcut.com and www.groupon.com

2) At Sawadtee – 2 is best. (Sawatdee is a Thai restaurant. ~Thanks for introducing me to Thai food, Erin! ~  “2” is just a little hot, but not too much.)

3) At some point in the near future, make Belinda, Joe and Carrie go to Barrio Taco bar for lunch.  You can thank me later.

4) Talk to Joe.  Topics that will get him going: Twins baseball, Packer football, religion and eco-friendly options. (Joe is Erin’s work spouse. He will be a little lost without Erin.)

5) Keep Carrie involved; she needs allies too.  I know she is sometimes hard to connect with around the office and is often pulled in a million directions, but I worry she will be holed in her office without friends to talk to. (I like Carrie. No worries there.)

6) I am always just a phone call or email away – seriously I practically sleep with my cell phone (cell: xxx-xxx-xxxx and/or notreallygonnashowthat@gmail.com).  I STRONGLY encourage you to use both!  (I will, Erin!)

Erin also gave me this “window” for my cubicle wall, since I lost my window in the recent move.

Yeah, I knew that I had connected with Erin when I found myself telling her that I am a blogger; something I don’t share with many real life people.

“You blog?” she asked. “I blog too!”

So cool. Erin is a great blogger too. Go read. You’ll see that her life is full of fun and adventure and she’s got the cutest little boy ever. Leave her a little comment.

It will be just a little too quiet at work without Erin next week. She made an impact on me, obviously. And her new peeps are gonna love her!