New Year’s Eve 2011

It’s hard to believe 2011 is closing its doors already. This is a year that made an impact on me, made me contemplate who I am and who I will be in the future.

This was a year I’d anticipated with some trepidation. It ushered in the end of so many things that were an integral part of who I believe myself to be. If you read here regularly, you know where this is going.

2011 brought with it so many lasts. We enjoyed watching one of our kids get all dolled-up for the last high school prom. We watched our daughter embrace all of those high school activities – classes, sports teams, games, volunteering, Relay for Life, hanging out with the high school crowd – for the last time. We celebrated the last high school graduation in our family. We saw her play her last days of fast pitch summer softball. We enjoyed what will probably be the last summer my oldest son comes back from school to live at home.

In all my years of motherhood, I never realized how hard it was going to be for me to say goodbye to those things. I never knew how much I was embracing my own role as a mom until I felt the panic of a future that didn’t hold all of those things I held so dear to my heart.

2011 made me contemplate me. A lot. And eventually, I began to let go of the panic. I began to open my eyes to what lies ahead. I began to understand that as much as I wanted to hold tight to that phase of my life, the future holds promise too.

I realize that it’s impossible to stop time and our lives have to move forward. My kids are living good lives, as evidenced by their successes. They are focused, dedicated to their educations and their jobs. They have good friends who enjoy coming around our house; friends I can see holding places in my kids’ lives for years to come. They’ve nurtured relationships with people we’ve come to love as much as our own children. I am so very proud of who my kids have become. And if anything, that should make me happy, not sad.

Letting go of my kids’ childhoods means letting them grow up. And they have grown up to be wonderful people. Letting them spread their wings means making room in my heart for everything they’ve become and all that they’ve yet to discover about themselves. Letting them take flight means letting myself come back to me. I will always want to take care of them, but it’s okay if they don’t need me to do that as much as I used to. I can get back to learning and growing again without feeling guilty that I am taking something away from them by doing so.

In many ways, this  was a difficult year for me, but one that I can see was very necessary. With each passing day, my angst eased a little bit. 2012 is on the door step and I’m welcoming it with open arms.

Happy New Year, everyone – family and friends, online and otherwise. May the next year bring you peace and happiness. And in case I haven’t told you so lately, I love you guys!

Four Months and Seven Links

Once upon a time … long, long ago … way back in …

August

I was invited to participate in the Seven Links Challenge. I was invited by Bud who writes Older Eyes. Bud did his best to assuage any fears that this challenge qualifies as a meme. Apparently some people are opposed to/intimidated by the thought of participating in a meme. Snort! Can’t imagine who that might be!

Oh… I guess that would be me.

Bud went so far as to say, “Let me reassure those of you in the incipient stages of an anxiety attack that this is not … repeat IS NOT … a meme.  Put away the Xanax and keep reading.”

Xanax? Seriously, Bud? I don’t need Xanax to complete a meme. Now where’d I put my beer?

So, yes. I was invited to participate over four months ago and I promised Bud that I would do it even if it takes me some time. Clearly, getting started has taken me quite some time. Better late than never, I always say!

Okay, I can’t even take credit as if I’d been whole-heartedly planning to follow through all of this time. I forgot. But I was reminded again recently thanks to another nomination from Marion Driessen of Figments of a Dutchess. And no, Dutchess is not spelled wrong. Marion is from the south of Holland, lucky girl! See? Get it? Holland? Dutch? Dutchess? Pretty clever play on words if you ask me.

Anyway, I suppose at this point, unless you are Bud or Marion, you’re wondering what this Seven Links thing is all about. The goal of this challenge is “to share lessons learned and create a bank of long but not forgotten blog posts that deserve to see the light of day again.” The rules?

  1. The blogger who is nominated publishes his or her seven links, one for each category.
  2. The blogger nominates up to five other bloggers to take part.

A few months ago, I imported all of the posts from my old blog to this blog. So I think I’m finally ready tackle this Seven Links challenge. Here goes!

Your most beautiful post: Magicin which a typical winter snowfall makes me feel things that are anything but typical.

Your most popular post: Braggy McBraggart - in which I brag about my healthy lifestyle only to realize it’s really not so healthy. This post was featured on WordPress’ Freshly Pressed page for a day or so and according to my site stats, that post received over 1,000 views!

Your most controversial post: Churchin which I describe my ongoing struggles with my faith and a surprisingly positive experience in a church that was so different from the one in which I was raised. Technically, this wasn’t very controversial. As a rule, I avoid writing anything that invites controversy. But it stirred up a lot of feelings and discussion in the comments!

Your most helpful post: Understanding Female Crabbiness – a survival guide for men. ‘Nuff said.

A post whose success surprised you: Happeningsin which I just ramble about the everyday happenings of our lives at that time. I tossed in a few photos I’d taken. One of them was a picture of a bug with a very long tail. According to my site stats, that post has had nearly 600 views. I think it was the bug that did it!

A post you feel didn’t get the attention it deserved: What if we all had beards - in which I help everyone contemplate what it would be like if we all had beards.

The post that you are most proud of: Our Transplant Storyin which I describe the experience of giving one of my kidneys to my dad. Biggest thing I’ve ever done in my life. I wanted and needed to write it down and preserve those memories.

THERE! I did it! And just so you can appreciate that this was no easy task, let me just say that I had to sort through 935 posts to find these! And now… to invite others to participate. Who do I think might be willing to give this one a go? How about…

  1. Abby of AbbyNormal
  2. Rock Chef of Snap-Happy Rock Chef
  3. Jeni of Down River Drivel
  4. Judson of Footprints in the Sand
  5. Kathy of Reinventing the Event Horizon

And I just have to say, as much as I dreaded putting this post together, it was a wonderful exercise. As I sorted through my posts, I found things I was surprised had even come from me. I hadn’t realized how much my voice changes with my moods, with the times. And I found old friends in the comments, long removed from the blog world. I’d almost forgotten how many connections I’ve made through blogging. I miss those friends, but I’m grateful for the time we had together.

Marion, Bud … thank you.

What next?

I don’t typically make New Year’s resolutions. It’s not that I’m indifferent to the prospect of self-improvement. It’s just that the beginning of a new year doesn’t tend to serve as a big motivator for me.

Not surprisingly, I don’t typically do spring cleaning in the spring either.

Regardless, I occasionally feel the pull to change something for the better. And when I do, I act on it, no matter what the time of year.  Remember that time when it wasn’t the beginning of the year and I decided to be a runner? Ha! Well, I had good intentions anyway. Someone once remarked to me that I have a classic runner’s body. My body apparently doesn’t know that.

So what about New Year’s resolutions?

Well…? Why not? I spent the better part of last year wondering what my new direction should be once my youngest child left for college. There was a slight mourning period that makes a reappearance now and then, especially after the kids come home to visit and then leave again. But more often these days, I’m remembering there is possibility in the days ahead. There’s time for me now. Why not make the most of it?

There are things I could do. I’m probably more likely to do them if I actually admit I’d like to do them.  Maybe there’s something to this whole resolution thing.

Yeah. There are things I could do. Like cooking. I feel kind of bad that I’ve always considered it such a chore and that I didn’t have more fun with it for the kids’ sake when they were around every day to enjoy it.  Now that I have more time on my hands and less pressure to be other places, I’ve discovered I sort of enjoy cooking. And I do a pretty decent job of it too. Granted, I’ll never come close to doing what de-I does, but I’ll bet I can do some pretty cool things in the kitchen. Besides, I have some new cookware and cookbooks. Best put them to use!

And there is some work-related stuff I could stand to work on as well. For most of the almost seven years that I’ve been with my employer, I haven’t really had to fight to advance. I just did my thing and it all came very easily. Someone noticed my work and said, “Hey, we’d like to move you up!” Then some changes occurred in the last year. I’ve come to realize that no one is going to just notice my work and pat me on the back for it. I’ve realized that I need to find a little bit of fight within myself. I could definitely stand to work on that.

And there’s something else I’ve contemplated a lot over the last few months. Writing. I love to write. I didn’t really realize that until I started blogging almost five years ago now. Over the last half-year or so, it just hasn’t seemed as easy to write as it once did. And when it doesn’t come easy, it’s all too easy to just not write. More often than ever, several days would pass between writings; sometimes almost a week. The less I wrote, the harder it was to just sit and write. Then Abby clued me in to this NaBloPoMo thing where bloggers commit to posting every day in a given month. I had heard of NaBloPoMo, but thought it only happened in November. Turns out it happens every month. So I took the leap and signed up in December. (So far, so good! Only two more days to go to meet the challenge!)

Writing daily has been challenging at times, but it has really helped me find my find my muse again. I wrote some pretty good posts in December and it felt good! So I think I’ll do it again in January.

So not wanting to set myself up for failure, I think I’ll just stick with the three resolutions.

  1. Find my inner culinary artist
  2. Workplace assertiveness
  3. WRITE!

That’s definitely a do-able list. And trust me. If sometime mid-year I decide to work on my sense of adventure and take up skydiving or some such thing, I’ll feel free to add that to the list of resolutions. I’ll let you know how it goes.

 

Functional AND Smart!

The first time I bought them, it was purely because I thought they’d make me look smart.

Wait. That would imply that I’m not. Smart, that is.

I bought them because I thought they would make me look smarter. That was all. And since everything went blurry when I had them on, I couldn’t actually wear them anyway.

So lately I’ve been thinking I might need some real ones.

Spectacles, that is.

I wanted to cook some frozen chicken patties for lunch one day recently. They came in a plastic Ziploc bag. There was a label on the front of the bag with hieroglyphics on it. I held it close to my face. Hieroglyphics. I held it at arm’s length. Still hieroglyphics. I couldn’t make heads nor tails of the hieroglyphics.

I handed the bag to Kacey and asked, “Are there cooking instructions on there anywhere?”

Without skipping a beat she said, “Bake at 375 for 16 to 18 minutes.”

Not long afterward, I had a similar experience with a box of cold medicine as I was trying to prevent Jake from overdosing on it. That’s when I knew it was time. So last week Mark and I took ourselves to the eye doctor, he as a returning patient, me as a newbie.

I put my face in the contraption while the … uh … I don’t know what her exact title was. Let’s call her the eye doctor assistant. I put my face in the contraption while the eye doctor assistant flipped various lenses up and down over the holes through which I looked. I read lines of letters in a far off mirror. I impressed myself with my ability to read the smallest line. At least I think I was reading it. She didn’t really tell me if I was saying the right letters or not. She asked me things like, “Is it more clear with number one? Or number two?”

She wrote things down and then put some drops in my eyes to dilate them.

“We need to give those drops a few minutes, then the doctor will see you,” she told me. She sent me out to the waiting room and said someone would call me when it was time. I thought I’d pass the time playing Words with Friends on my iPhone, but my eyes were working even less than usual, thank you eye drops!

No matter. I was quickly called back to another room where a teenager calling himself an ophthalmologist came in and brashly asked me how I was doing.

“Pretty good, other than the fact that my eyes feel kinda funky.”

He shot me a dripping look that told me he’d heard that one a hundred thousand times already.

“So,” he said. “You using readers?”

“Yep.”

“They work pretty good?”

“Yep.”

“Okay. Well if I were you, I’d keep doing that. Unless you want to spend the money for glasses to wear all the time. There will be a light prescription in the lower half of the lens and no prescription up above. I’ll write you a prescription either way. It’s up to you whether or not you choose to purchase glasses.”

“I guess I’ll stick with the readers,” I said.

“You can pick up your prescription at the front desk,” he said.

“Thanks. Merry Christmas. Want some help getting that stick out of your *ss?”

On the drive home I marveled at the Christmas lights which suddenly looked like star bursts and thought how cool it would be to always view them through dilated eyes. Then hours later, when I still couldn’t see clearly enough to play Words with Friends or read the recipe to make the peanut brittle I was planning to make, I became less enamored of the whole eye-dilation thing.

The next day, twelve bucks, no more hieroglyphics.

Whaddaya think? Do I look smart? Smarter?

I Love this Messy House

Ugh, I had to go back to work today. It’s so hard to go back to work after a four-day weekend and celebrating Christmas and eating sweets and all that fun stuff. And the hardest part of going back to work between Christmas and New Years is how quiet it is. All those other smart people thought to schedule vacation time between the two holidays and all I can think is how much I wish I were at home, sleeping late and lazing around in my pajamas too!

Okay, it really wasn’t all that bad. I sort of thrive on routine, and as much as I hated the sound of the alarm clock this morning, I knew it would be good for me to get back at it.

These last few days have been great though. I just love having my kids home. Yes, so technically, Jake is always home because he lives here. But he’s not actually around much. And that really hasn’t changed just because the holidays came through. So we’ll have to work on having some quality time soon.

But Brad and Heather have been here. They arrived on Friday with Dacotah dog and it has been so fun having them home. We’re all battling for shower time and the house is rather untidy with all the extra activity, but I don’t care! We talk and hang out. We eat together. They made an awesome vegetable-tortellini soup for all of us for dinner tonight. We played Words with Friends and cracked up when I played the word pubes over a triple word score. Brad yelled at me for use of a dirty word. I said if the game lets me play it and gives me sixty points for doing so, I’m going for it.

Lucy has fallen in love with Heather and also thinks that Dacotah is her sister and new best friend. Poor Lucy is going to be so sad when these guys leave tomorrow!

He loves her too!

"Can my friend and I go outside???"

And Kacey is home too. I get to keep her until January 22nd! I love seeing her face when I come home. Love the random text messages and phone calls I got from her during the day today. Love the fact that we can lounge around on Saturday mornings drinking coffee while I listen to her stories.

And Kacey being home means Connor comes around much more often. I am not complaining!

The fun-loving duo!

A few years ago, you couldn’t have convinced me I’d be happy to walk through my living room and see it cluttered with laptops and iPods, phones and discarded pairs of socks, half-drank water bottles and television remotes. The thought of two dogs shedding all over my furniture and floors and slobbering all over the patio door would not have been met with enthusiasm. And yet, here I am, sitting in the midst of a messy house, the kitchen cluttered, with kids and friends coming and going, and so much going on there’s no hope of keeping up with it all.

And I love it. I’m going to miss this when life goes back to “normal.”

After Christmas

Today was a day for sleeping in and doing whatever we wanted to do. We cleaned up some of the Christmas aftermath, lounged around a bit, ate Christmas cookies…

Brad received a bonus from his summer employer and the money was burning a hole in his pocket. He went to Gander Mountain to go price a new gun for hunting. Kacey wanted to get her new hockey skates sharpened. No, she’s not a serious hockey player, but she and her friends love to go skating and often play hockey just for fun.

While we waited for the skates to be sharpened, she browsed the selection of hockey sticks. As a thank you for all of the work she did helping me prepare for Christmas, I bought one for her. It’s pink! It’s a breast cancer awareness hockey stick. Pink and hockey don’t really seem to mix, but Kacey was excited. Now she wants winter to show up so she can put these things to use at the park. If it stays as warm as it’s been, she’ll have to pay to go skate at a local rink.

We came home to find Brad, Heather and Jake visiting with Brad’s good friend, Justin.

I downloaded my Christmas photos and thought I’d share some of them with you:

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Tomorrow it’s back to work for a short week. It will be good for me to get back into routine. I love the holidays and having everyone home, but it’s too easy to get lazy!

Merry Christmas!

It’s all over but for the mess that still needs cleaning up.

Christmas Eve is where the celebrating really begins for us. I was a maniac on Friday, up at the crack of dawn and spending the day making peanut brittle, baking cookies, wrapping presents, ribboning, gift-tagging and cooking lasagna for twenty-some people. I called it a night around 11:00 p.m. Saturday saw me up early again, cleaning house, doing all the last-minute preparation for a house full of company.

I remember sitting down late Saturday afternoon in my living room with my kids. We were watching something Christmasy on t.v. We were going to go to church with my parents and had about twenty minutes to spare before we had to leave. I looked around at the house, thought for a minute, then looked at the kids and said, “I think we did it! We’re ready and with time to spare!”

I would never have gotten everything done this year without the help of my kids, and I told them so. The house was festive and clean. The food was ready and there was plenty of it. We had covered every detail and were ready to host the best family Christmas yet!

So off to church we went. My dad was busy performing his deacon duties, and I got to sit next to my mom. My nephew, sister-in-law, brother and my kids were all in the pew with us. I kneeled and said a quick prayer, thinking how lucky I was. My parents were home with us for Christmas. My kids were all with me. I was able to buy gifts for the people I love without too much struggle. I thought for a moment that I wasn’t sure why I deserved this, but I knew I was beyond grateful. In my mind, I saw the perfect Christmas unfolding before me.

After church, the kids and I headed back home. Other family members were pulling up in front of our house before we were even in the door. The carefully cleaned and tidied house seemed to explode before my eyes as our house filled to the brim. We don’t have an extravagant home and there just didn’t seem to be space enough for everyone. Some family tensions bubbled to the surface momentarily, but thankfully, were set aside almost as quickly.

Everything seemed a blur. The lasagna I’d worked so hard to prepare was a big hit and the meal was over almost as soon as it had begun. Next the gifts were passed out. We tried to keep some semblance of order as we encouraged the younger kids to take turns opening so we could see what treasures each received. Before I knew it, the evening was done and we were already saying our goodbyes and Merry Christmases.

Our night wasn’t over yet though. Since Mark had to go to work early  the next morning, we had our “Christmas Morning” with the kids after our company had gone. When all was said and done, everyone was happy and we finally went to bed well after midnight.

Christmas Day arrived and we were all exhausted. The kitchen still wasn’t entirely clean and stray boxes and trash bags filled with gift wrap were still in the entryway. All that hard work preparing and making the house perfect and afterwards? Such a mess!

We spent Christmas Day with Mark’s side of the family and nearly twice as many people. Again, some family tensions arose and there were some distinctly uncomfortable moments. I wondered why I always hope for the perfect Christmas when years of experience should have taught me it’s not possible.

A phone call from my mom today put it all in perspective for me, though. She called to say she hoped I wasn’t too exhausted. She talked about how cute my little nephew Josh was when he opened his gifts and his face erupted into the most priceless look of surprise and joy. She talked about how wonderful the food was and happily chaotic it had been. She told me that over the past few years, when she and Dad were already in Arizona at Christmas time, that Christmas was the most depressing time for them. It was hard to be away from home, celebrating differently, on a much smaller scale, with their children and grandchildren hundreds of miles away. She thanked me for giving them such a wonderful day and said it had been the best Christmas she and Dad had enjoyed in years.

All I had been able to focus on before that phone call was what hadn’t gone right. Mom put it all in perspective for me with her words. It wasn’t perfect. And it didn’t have to be. We were our usual silly, loud, obnoxious, dysfunctional and loving selves. And we were together at this most special time of the year. And as imperfect as we are, that is all that really mattered.

Favorite Days

No work for me today. I have a lovely four-day weekend ahead of me. But I was up early with plans to meet my workout buddy at the gym for our five a.m. workout.

Just as I was getting ready to put on some shorts and a t-shirt, I thought to check my cell phone for any messages. Sure enough, there was one there, and sure enough, it was from my buddy. Her little boy awoke with a fever so she was taking a necessary pass on the gym.

I decided to take a pass too. As always, Christmas seems to be sneaking up on me. I think I’ve done a good job of enjoying the season. I’ve celebrated the spirit of Christmas all month-long, and still, somehow, it is upon us and it feels too soon.

Between Mark and me, we’ve got a good amount of family and so our Christmas celebrations span the course of two entire days. Christmas Eve is spent with my relatives, Christmas Day with his. And it’s my turn to host the Christmas Eve festivities. And somewhere in-between all that, we want time to spend with our kids. Just us and them. I was worried there for a while. Between Mark’s and Jake’s work schedules and the family obligations, it seemed like we might not have that chance this year. But it all worked out and I am so grateful!

I have so much to do. We’re having lasagna for Christmas Eve dinner and I want to get it pre-prepared today. I think three pans should do it! The peanut brittle (which I was planning to make the other night, but didn’t) needs to be made. I wasn’t planning to bake cookies this year. There just never seems to be enough time and I figured that was one thing we could easily do without. And then my mother-in-law requested that I bring cookies on Christmas Day! Good thing Kacey is home from school now and loves to bake! She’s been knocking off a batch or two for a couple of days now as well as wrapping as many presents for me as she possibly can while I’ve been at work.

Did I mention the wrapping? Yeah, I’m sort of a last-minute wrapper too. Thank God for Kacey! She’s been wrapping away and putting Post-It Notes on each gift to tell me who they are for. I need to tie the ribbon on each (because I had some crazy idea that instead of the easy-peasy stick-on ribbons, real ribbon would be a fun change of pace!) It was too much to expect Kacey to tie the ribbon to my liking, so I have lots of ribbon-tying and gift-tagging to do.

I spent all last evening wrapping presents for my kids and Heather and Connor. And the house needs cleaning. And there are still some things to pick up from the grocery and liquor stores. And Brad comes home tonight with Heather and Dacotah dog. And… and… and…

It’s going to be chaos. Lucy Pie isn’t going to know what to do with herself with all of her people at home for the next few days and lots of visitors. There is so much to figure out and so much to worry about and so much to get done.

And yet… these are my days. My favorite days. We’re on the cusp of Christmas. My kiddos will all be under the same roof again. My parents are home for Christmas for the first time in… what… four years? I’ll get my wish – to have some time with my family, all together for a few hours for the purpose of being with just each other.

Three days from now, I’ll look back over these days and wish they hadn’t passed us by so quickly again. So right now, I’m going to try to remember to stop and appreciate every moment while I’m in it. These are the best days of the year. These are my favorite days.

A Golliwog Christmas

There’s a book I’ve always loved to read at Christmastime. The Golliwog’s Christmas by Bertha and Florence K. Upton was my mom’s book when she was a child. When her children were old enough to appreciate it, we began to love it as much as she did. We loved it for its old-fashioned prose and the colorful illustrations. I loved to imagine what my mom was like as a little girl, reading her special Christmas story book in her bedroom in my grandparents’ home.

As the years passed, the book became so special, so sentimental, that my mom photocopied the pages one year and hand-colored the illustrations for my sister and me. She placed the pages in plastic sleeves and bound the books with metal rings. But even as adults, when visiting my parents, we love to ask about the real book and bring it out again, traveling back to childhood through the original pages.

The book has become very fragile in the years since my mom’s childhood. The pages have come loose from the binding. I’ve worried about the book on more than one occasion. What would we do if the book fell apart, irreparably?

I searched the internet for the Golliwog books. I thought I might be able to find new copies of the Christmas book. I would even settle for used copies. What I found out, though, is that any copies of Golliwog books still in existence are rare. And the Christmas book is even more rare. There are no new copies available and there haven’t been for quite some time. The book is no longer in print. Apparently the series of Golliwog books were seen as controversial, even racist, because the main character, the Golliwog was black, minstrel-like. I can understand. But to us? To us, the book was a gateway to the life my mom lived before us. It shed a little light on the person my mom was when she wasn’t our mom. And the characters in the book? To us they were just toys. They weren’t black people and white people. They were characters that we had grown to love because they were a part of my mom.

With my mom’s permission, I borrowed the fragile book. There was an upside to the fact that most of the pages had come loose from their binding. They could be fully and cleanly scanned with my scanner. I spent the good part of an afternoon carefully lifting the pages and gently placing them on the scanner, then cautiously returning each to its rightful position in the book.

A conversation with a coworker with knowledge of such things soon revealed that a print shop could not legally print the pages for me since they are copyrighted material. So I worked out a deal at work and printed them there. And the print shop had no issue with binding the pages and attaching front and back covers, as long as I had printed the pages myself.

The books turned out beautifully. This is my gift to my siblings this Christmas and I am so excited to give them. I think they’re going to like it!

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