Post Holiday Funkiness

The post-holiday blues have hit me. Damn it. Why do I have such a tendency to fall into a dark state of mind, especially this time of year? I hate it.

It’s probably due in part to the fact that we had such a great weekend. The days after Christmas were nice. The house was full with the kids. Brad’s girlfriend, Heather and her dog, Dacotah were here. There was laughter and chatter and everyone was in a good mood.  (Except when they were nit-picking at each other, which they have a habit of doing frequently!) :-) We enjoyed guilt-free laziness. We visited with friends and I took Jake and Kacey bowling – a couple of times. Jake has a new bowling ball he needed to test out! You know I loved being able to help him out with that! There is just something about the days surrounding Christmas. We’re all able to take a break from the rat race. I can get completely immersed in those days.

The weekend ended and it was time to get back to reality. Things were slower than molasses at work yesterday, due in part to the holidays.  I have plenty of PTO time left in my account, and the office looked to be well staffed today so I took the day off work, which is nice…


Kacey left this morning to go shopping at the Mall of America with a friend. Jake went to work. Heather and Dacotah left to go home at noon today. Brad went to run some errands. As soon as they were gone, the house seemed so much quieter and lonely. A sad feeling came over me.

Like a million times before, the realization hit me that these kids are growing up and preparing to leave home for a life of their own. More frequently than ever, I find myself all alone for stretches of time. And it’s not that I wish the kids would never leave home. My job is to raise them to be independent adults and if that’s the direction they are headed, then I guess I’m doing okay at this parenting thing. It’s just that I’m not sure what to do with myself now. What do I do to fill the spaces of time that used to be all consumed with mothering and caring for my family?

Don’t get me wrong. I am fully capable of enjoying some solitude and independence of my own. In fact, I need a healthy dose of each on a regular basis. It’s just that it is so much more enjoyable when at the end of such a period, there is the prospect of being needed again.

I think part of the problem is that I haven’t quite reached the point where the kids are fully independent.  They still need me to be available. Yet, I often find that in making myself available, everyone else has gone off to explore the world while I wait at home, just in case. I assume that when the kids are grown and have all moved out on their own, I’ll find more hobbies to fill my time and will make a greater effort to schedule activities with friends. But in the meantime, I’m stuck in this in-between place.

The past week brought the return of a full house and happy chaos and I was all too ready to settle back into it, forgetting it was only a temporary situation.

I think I need a more positive perspective on this situation. Instead of feeling sad, maybe I should stock up on books to read, go find things to photograph or write more.

Maybe I should get a dog… :-)

Shopping Therapy

The past week has been so dreary around here. Last weekend it went from summer to fall in the course of a day. It’s been cool and cloudy ever since. I miss the sun.

Saturday, I was all alone at home. Everyone was off doing their own thing. Brad has yet to visit home since he left for school, Jake was hunting, Kacey was at a volleyball tournament and Mark was working. I had the whole house to myself. At first it sounded heavenly. You would think I’d be all over this, wouldn’t you? And I know most are going to think I’m crazy, but after a while, having the place to myself just didn’t seem so great.

I had a lot to do and I had big plans for Saturday. I had the weekly house cleaning and tons of laundry to do. I thought I might spend a little time playing around with some writing. I could play music as loud as I wanted. I could read, uninterrupted. But it wasn’t fun. There was no sound of a television or the kids’ music playing in the house. There was no one who just had to tell me something. No bickering. No one to laugh and talk with. No one to help share the chores. I didn’t get much done. My heart wasn’t in it. Instead of being productive, I took a nap and watched a lot of t.v. It was too quiet and I couldn’t find my motivation. I would make a terrible recluse.

I needed something to lift my spirits and decided a day of shopping was in order. This morning I called my sister, Cory and invited her to join me. Kacey called her friend, Brianna.  Soon, the four of us took off for an outlet mall located about forty-five minutes from home.  The place was huge and had all our favorite stores and then some. We wandered around shopping for several hours and I don’t even think we saw the half of it. Kacey and Brianna went off on their own every now and then, while Cory and I went from store to store looking at everything, spending a little money and just enjoying some free time together. Everyone got a little something for themselves.

Shopping is great therapy! A new purse, some shirts and a kick-ass pair of ankle boots later, and I am a very happy girl!


Awake before the sun today. I had my alarm clock set, but my internal alarm had my eyes open before it went off. Kacey had a volleyball tournament today and I had to have her at school to catch the bus by 7:00. I tossed on a t-shirt and shorts and got her there by ten to seven. The bus was already there.

I swung by the post office on my way home. I had an envelope for Brad that I’ve been meaning to send off – some toothbrush heads for his electric toothbrush and a copy of the Darius Rucker CD I promised him weeks ago.  Nothing too exciting. Of course, the post office isn’t yet open at that hour of the day. I swung through the drive-through on the side of the building and tossed my envelope in one of the boxes there.

Driving the short distance home from the post office, I realized the streets of our little city were quite empty. There’s something I love about being out while the day is just beginning. It’s like the world hasn’t come to life yet and I get to be there before all the hustle and bustle begins. I’ve always been a morning person. I can think so much more clearly when my mind isn’t being assaulted by activity and noise.

When I got home I went out for a run. I love the fact that the gym doesn’t open until 8:00 on the weekends. It gives me an excuse to run outside again. I welcomed the sounds of birds singing, crickets chirping, geese honking, and the general hum of life in the air. I needed this today. It helped me think and put things in perspective. I needed some perspective.

I’d been allowing my thoughts to turn in a pretty negative direction last week. There was a lot of doubt and self pity running around my heart and head. Today things look so different. You want to know why? Two things.

On Thursday, while sitting in the bleachers watching Kacey’s volleyball games, I became aware of some excitement going on in the next section where most of the student spectators were sitting. The boys were calling out to one of their classmates who was just coming in to the gym. I could hear them all shouting, “Tyler! The MAN! Tyler!”

I looked back toward where their accolades were directed and recognized the boy they were welcoming. He had been a classmate of Kacey’s since her early grade school days. It wasn’t clear to me why everyone was making such a big deal of his arrival and presence. I hadn’t realized Tyler had become so popular.

Later, after the games were over, I saw one of Kacey’s team mates holding a newborn baby. She was parading that baby all over the bleachers and I was worried she would drop him. I leaned over to Mark and said, “I wonder whose baby that is?” Mark just shrugged. I thought about the viruses already making a strong impact in the schools and worried about the baby catching something. Who was allowing their newborn to be so easily exposed?

Soon all of the junior girls were flocking toward the girl holding the baby, begging for a chance to hold him too. I watched the whole scene with curiosity. Someone asked whose baby it was and a young, blonde girl said, “It’s my baby.” I thought I recognized the blonde girl, but couldn’t quite remember where I had seen her before. She was absolutely eating up all the attention as her classmates oohed and ahhed over the baby. Suddenly, Tyler appeared at her side (looking a little shell-shocked) and it all came together for me. Two years ago, I had run into Tyler and his mom at conferences when the kids were freshman. The blonde girl had been Tylers girlfriend even back then. She had been there that night I talked with his mom at conferences when the kids were just starting their high school lives.

And now Tyler is a father. He and his girlfriend have just begun their junior year of high school and they have a newborn. Sixteen years old. Maybe seventeen. And they have a baby. I know it happens all the time, but this hit too close to home. I felt almost sick as I watched all those girls marveling over the baby. I wondered if any one of them stopped to think how difficult the next few years are going to be for this new little family. How many pitfalls will they face? How many opportunities lost? I truly hope they are able to make the most of their lives in spite of this. The odds are against them though.

And I thought I had problems.

Driving home from the game that night, Kacey and I talked a little bit about Tyler, his girlfriend and the new baby. I asked if the girl had been in school last year during her pregnancy. Was she back now? Kacey said she didn’t remember seeing much of her and guessed she was taking online classes. She approached the whole subject with an air of disbelief. She just can’t imagine being in that position. GOOD!

Kacey told me something else Thursday night just after we got home. A sixteen year old boy who attends her school was driving to school that morning. There may have been dew on his windshield and the sun was blindingly bright that morning. The rumor is that this combination made him unable to see what was in front of him. His car hit a 33-year-old woman who was out walking her three month old child in a stroller. He couldn’t see her. The baby is fine. The mother suffered head injuries and died in the hospital that evening. For both the boy and the woman, and for their families, the day started out as normal as any other. And in the blink of an eye, their lives have been irrevocably changed. I can’t imagine the anguish and heart ache that is being experienced by the families of each of these people.

And I thought I had problems.

I needed to run today. I needed to feel the air on my skin and see the sun in the sky and the wildflowers surrounding the ponds and the mist that hovered in the distance over the railroad tracks. I needed to breathe the fresh morning air and remind myself that I am able to run. I am able to see and hear and smell and experience. I am free to leave my house to go for a run. I have a home to return to. I have my family to return to. They are safe and healthy and as happy as can be expected.

My plans about the kids and life might not come to fruition as I’d expect someday. Who ever said everything was going to work out the way I planned? The world as I know it might come to a screeching halt tomorrow, next month, or five years from now. Am I going to let that stop me from enjoying the gifts I’ve been given today? Am I going to let my fear of the worst cripple me?


(Could someone point me toward this post the next time I decide to host a self-pity party? Thank you!)

Will I ever get past this?

I am not proud of what I’m about to say here. But this is about as honest as it gets…

I turned down a social invitation for tonight. And I flat out lied about why we couldn’t make it. Mark is not thrilled. I didn’t even bother to ask him before I turned it down. What is wrong with me?

The invitation came from one of the couples with whom we go on our annual Bayfield, Wisconsin vacation. They are such nice people and I really like them. She called to ask if we wanted to come over tonight and watch the Gopher football game and then go to the fall festival at my church. I don’t like football much, but will watch the high school games because my friends’ kids play and I want to support them. I might watch the Superbowl. But I have to draw the line at college football. I just don’t feel like trying to fake it tonight. And as far as the festival, we rarely attend mass at my church anymore, so I’d rather avoid it altogether. I don’t need to deal with all those familiar faces asking why they never see us in church anymore.

But that’s not even why I declined the invitation.

I declined it because the invitation came from the people with the perfect kids. And the gathering will surely include other friends who also have perfect kids. And somehow, I feel like I fall short in their company.

I know, I know. No one has perfect kids. This is my own issue and none of them have done a thing to intentionally make me feel like they were making comparisons or judging. They are all wonderful people and great friends and I love all of their kids. This is not about them. It’s about me. It’s just that sometimes I get in a funk and I torment myself with this stupidity.

You see, all of the couples that comprise this little group of Bayfield friends have kids who are academically, athletically, socially or otherwise gifted. And all of them have kids of very similar ages to my kids. It’s inevitable that we will talk about kids! And sometimes I can’t take it! Sometimes I feel like I’ve failed when I’m around them.

In particular, one of these kids, who is Jake’s age,  is one who was very active in all aspects of high school. He’s confident and loves life. He has a huge circle of friends. He is self motivated. He’s smart. He got into a good school and couldn’t wait to start college. He loves to socialize. He’s always got something going on and everyone knows and likes him. He is a great kid! He is taking life by storm!

So what’s the problem? The problem is that I look at my kid, who I love dearly for who he is and what he is about. He is unique and I get him and think he’s awesome. But…

He struggled just to make it through high school. He hasn’t gone off to college yet, though almost everyone else his age has. He thinks he’ll start some classes during winter semester at the local community college, but he’s done nothing to get the ball rolling. (I need to get on him and help make that happen.) He has a small circle of friends. He’s an introvert and never had a desire to hang out in a large crowd. He was never a social butterfly. He is athletic, but never earned one of those glory spots on a varsity team. He’s a major homebody. He marches to the beat of a different drum and he’s comfortable where he’s at. It doesn’t usually bother me, because it clearly does not bother him. But when I start hearing all those stories about the other kids whose lives followed the tried and true path, I start to second guess myself. I start getting those feelings of failure and doubt; the same ones I felt every time Jake struggled with school throughout the years and no matter what I did, I couldn’t fix his problems. I start to tell myself that it isn’t fair that Jake faced all the hurdles he faced. I wonder why his school years couldn’t have been more “normal.”

Mostly, I hate the questions asking where he is going to school. And I hate that when I say, “He’s taking a semester off and hoping to go to the community college this winter,” that it’s inevitable I’ll get a response along the lines of, “That’s ok. Four year colleges aren’t for everyone.” I know they mean well, but I don’t need to be reassured that it’s ok. They have no idea how relieved we were to just get this kid through to his high school graduation. That’s a given for most people. Most parents don’t have to worry whether or not it will actually happen. I hate that we had to worry about that!

I don’t know why I allow myself to feel this way. I know, deep down, that we have been very, very lucky with our kids. They are good kids and don’t give us much reason to worry. Hell…my friend Shannon’s thirteen year old daughter was born with Spina Bifida. She faces challenges on a daily basis that most of us would never imagine. What am I complaining about? I just can’t help it sometimes. I find it hard not to make the comparisons when I’m listening to my friends proudly (and rightfully) boast of their kids’ accomplishments. Every one of us parents had a vision of our kids’ lives when they were born, and we probably all envisioned something close to perfect. We all hoped for normal and relatively easy journeys for our children. Even though we know that’s not always how the world works, no one ever dreams of a path filled with pitfalls and difficulties, anger, tears and frustration upon frustration. Maybe that’s my problem. I’m still stuck on what I thought should have been instead of dealing with what is.

I know this is monumentally selfish of me to feel this way. Am I crazy to let this get to me so much at times that I refuse an opportunity to spend time with people I like just because I can’t turn off the negative and pitiful thoughts? Does anyone else ever feel this way???


Maybe I’ve heard one too many stories lately. They’re in the news; stories of anger, hatred, bitterness and tragedy. I hear them from friends and coworkers.  I read about them through some of your words. They involve divorce, parenting struggles, abuse, loved ones in jail, illness and death. Often the words are masked with humor. Sometimes the words are raw. The underlying message is hurt and pain; the darker side of life.

I always say that I rarely dream while I’m sleeping. Lately I’ve been trying hard to hold on to the remnants of dreams before they dissolve from my memory. As it turns out, I do dream. Maybe there’s a reason I couldn’t – or didn’t want to remember my dreams. They can be very dark at times. Last night I dreamed that I was walking in the darkness with my children through an unfamiliar neighborhood. It was well into the night and tall trees lined the boulevard, illuminated only by a street light, casting shadows onto the lawns of large brick houses. There was a man with a gun roaming the neighborhood and I wanted to hide my kids and myself from him, but I couldn’t get my kids to grasp the magnitude of the situation. They are young adults now, and they thought I was overreacting. As soon as I would gather one or two of them near me, another would go off somewhere on their own. I was growing increasingly desperate to protect them and frustrated with my inability to get them to a safe place. That dream faded away without resolution, but another soon took its place. In this dream, I witnessed a car accident and ran to help the victims, a young mother and her toddler and baby. Someone, I’m not sure who, was ridiculing me for thinking I could help and asking me why I was bothering to try. That ridicule sunk straight through to the heart of me and I instantly stopped believing I could make a difference.

There is so much darkness and so much bitterness in life sometimes. There is so much that it seeps into my subconscious at night. I look at people and see not only their actions and reactions, but the forces behind them. I wonder how many people are who they are because they can’t let go of a past guilt or cling to the negative influences of their pasts; influences that are not their fault; influences that precede even their own births. Why do we allow the words and actions of others to dictate who we think we can or cannot be?

Most of the time I tend to focus on a very small part of the world that is familiar to me. That’s where my comfort zone lies, I guess. But once in a while I take off the blinders and see the bigger picture. I see a  world full of people struggling to find their way. Some of us struggle day after day, year after year, never quite “getting it.” We grow older, wiser in some ways, but always just missing the mark on what is truly important. Why is real and lasting happiness so hard to grasp? I’m always in awe of those who seem to have it figured out; the ones who seem to know a true inner peace in spite of all the barriers life tries to throw at them. Sometimes I feel like my grasp of it is just around the corner, and then life throws up another wall and instead of climbing it, I admit defeat. And when I look around me, I know that I’m one of many who gets stuck in this place. Maybe my mistake is thinking that inner peace makes one immune from hurt, anger and sadness.

I need to remember that happy wouldn’t feel so happy if there weren’t sadness to contrast it. We would never know what it felt like to burst with pride if we didn’t know failure. Love could never overwhelm us if we didn’t first know what it was like to be disregarded.

I’m going on a little vacation tomorrow. Maybe I need it more than I knew.

Crabby no more

I can’t believe I haven’t written anything here all week. I guess that’s because it’s been one of those weeks when every little annoyance feels bigger than it really is. And in spite of the fact that I know better, I let things get to me.

Yes. I’ve been crabby. Living up to my contrary label, you might say.

I didn’t write because I didn’t think anyone would want to read about how when asked to hang some wet clothing in the laundry room so that it could air- dry, one of my kids actually folded a wet pair of pants over a hanger (and it was one of those baby hangers, no less, because it was apparently too far to walk to any one of the five closets containing normal-size hangers and collect a few empties.)  And to top it off, the wet shirt was put on the same baby hanger over the top of the wet pants. There was no hope of those clothes actually getting dry that way and the offender knew it.

Did I mention I washed those clothes three times because during the first run, there was a pack of gum in the pocket of a pair of pants? It took three washes to get the little bits of white wrapper pieces and gum off the dark clothing!

I’m sure no one else has kids who do such things! ;-)

And I didn’t think anyone would want to read about how I am still frustrated by my runs half the time. I run because it often allows me to blow off steam, but lately I seem to be focusing more on why I’m not getting faster or able to stretch out the distance. By the time I finish, I feel no sense of accomplishment. And to make matters worse, earlier this week, as I was coming back after a run, I was walking up my driveway while the sun was going down and two neighbors caught sight of me. One shouted across the street that I shouldn’t be running in the dark. OK. I know she was really just looking out for my safety. But the other…The other  shouted to me that I looked like a little girl. Presumably this was because of the ponytail in my hair? Maybe it was because of the not-so-flattering effect of the sports bra! In my crabby state of mind, I was so tempted to shout back my own assessment of her appearance and suggest she might benefit from taking up running too, but thankfully, my sense of common decency prevented me from being mean. And I really do like my neighbors.

There was the drive home from work Tuesday night when it began to hail the minute I reached the freeway entrance ramp and there was no hope of turning back and waiting it out. I got stuck on a freeway full of slow moving vehicles, all of the drivers, like me, gripping their steering wheels and hoping for the best while the hail rained down for what seemed an endless amount of time. The hail was so heavy that at one point, it looked like it had snowed out! My nerves were frayed by the time I finally got home. Luckily, my car shows no signs of damage.

Oh, look. I spilled out all my complaints here anyway.

I could go on about the multitude of little things that got on my nerves this week, but I won’t continue to bore you. As always, there have been a few things that opened my eyes to how petty I’ve been acting this week and a few things to make me smile and I’ve managed to climb out of the funk.

First of all, I won something! Me! I did! Can you believe it? I won a set of Tungsten rings from Weasel Momma. Now I just need to decide what I want and let her know so they can be sent to me. Decisions, decisions! (Thanks, Weasel Momma! And have fun at blogher!)

Meleah bestowed me with one of her awesome and very lengthy titles which can be found here. Go check it out. You’ll want one too!

Then, I was surprised with an email from my friend across the pond, Genius Rock Chef. We exchanged a few silly emails about one of my previous posts in which I contemplated getting a tattoo. I admitted that I will likely never get a real one but might see about getting a henna tattoo just to satisfy my curiosity. Rock Chef even went so far as to find a henna tattoo artist in Minnesota and sent me the link to the website. The artist makes appearances at the Minnesota State Fair every year, so I may very likely be able to find her there and get that tattoo I’ve been wanting!

A woman at work asked me about my running. She’s a serious runner herself and I expressed my frustrations to her. She gave me a few tips and lots of encouragement. She told me that if I can run three miles (which I can) then I can run six or more. It’s just a matter of breaking past the mental barrier that prevents me from getting there. I have a totally new sense of motivation.

I really hate when I let a bad mood stretch out over so many days like I just did. I’m done being crabby now. We now return you to the normal, mostly happy, slightly off-balance Terri.

Carry on!