Reasons to Smile

I stumbled across a bargain last Sunday while out shopping – a winter jacket, marked half off the original price, and another fifty dollars off if I text-messaged the word coats to a designated number. I’ve been keeping my eye open for a new jacket since last year and couldn’t pass this up. It was a really warm one, and simple in style and color. Perfect for me. When I brought it to the register along with a couple of other items, the cashier who rung up my purchases offered some of the worst customer service I’ve ever received. She didn’t greet me or respond when I attempted to be friendly. She scowled as she worked, and when finished, silently handed over my receipt without even looking at me. Clearly, this was a woman unhappy in her work. If I hadn’t been so eager to purchase my things at such bargain prices, I might have just walked out without buying any of it.

On Tuesday, I stopped by my parents’ place to drop off a meal to put in their fridge for another day, and to get a shopping list from my mom so I could pick up a few of their necessities. Mom complimented my new jacket and mentioned she really could use a new one. I told her what a bargain it had been and offered to take her to the store where I’d bought it so she could pick out one for herself. She said she really wasn’t feeling up to leaving the house, much less walking around a department store, but asked if I would just go pick one out for her.

Knowing that winter clothing starts disappearing quickly from the store racks this time of year, I decided to go straight there in the hopes of still finding something for Mom. I was lucky to find one jacket still available in her size, but I didn’t see the sign that was there on Sunday for the text-message discount. When I went to pay, I thought I’d just ask if the offer was still available. The cashier very kindly apologized and said it was not, but let me see what other offers might be available.

I was pleasantly surprised at her attempt to go the extra mile, especially after my experience on Sunday. This very friendly woman asked if I wanted to open up a store credit card that would earn me something like forty-five percent off my purchase. I politely declined, not wanting to take a hit on my credit score for a one-time discount.  That’s okay, I said. I’m still going to buy this. The price was still a good deal and within the amount Mom was willing to spend.

Well, let me just check something else, the cashier offered. Here, she exclaimed, pulling a clipped coupon from her register. Here’s a coupon for twenty-five percent off. She was holding it up to show me. Do you want to use this? We both knew darn well that hadn’t come in with that coupon, but she was offering it to me, simply because I had asked about another discount.

Um, sure! I said. I was a bit astounded at how hard she was working for me, especially knowing I was willing to pay the higher price. I thanked her, explaining that I was purchasing the jacket as a favor to my mom and that Mom would be thrilled and grateful for the lower price.

She smiled and proceeded to ring up the jacket. Thank you so much for doing this! I said to her.

You’re so very welcome, she offered back with a huge smile. Have a good night!

I like that store, and my experience with the crabby cashier on Sunday wasn’t typical, nor likely to keep me from shopping there again. But my experience with the much friendlier employee that Tuesday evening sure made me feel great, and I found myself letting go of any frustration I still felt when I thought back to my prior visit. I regretted not taking note of her name so I could let the company know how well she represented them.

I left with a big smile on my face and then headed off to go buy the things on my parents’ necessities list. As I wandered through another store’s aisles, finding each item, I looked down at the cart I was pushing and had to roll my eyes slightly at the things my seventy-four year-old parents consider necessities.


Between what shopping my parents manage on their own, and the errands my sister and I do for them, I know they don’t stand a chance of the candy dish running dry before one of us ends up at the store again. They absolutely didn’t need this much at one time. But they love to keep a variety of treats on hand so that every one of their kids and grandkids can find something they enjoy when visiting. Besides, I know they buy the kind in the yellow bag especially because it’s my favorite.

The rest of the week had its ups and downs. I had both work-related challenges and successes. While immersed in a project one early afternoon, I heard my phone vibrate with a new text message. I picked it up to take a look and following is what ensued.

Mark Text

I was totally surprised and wondering what he really wanted, but it seems he just wanted to connect with me. That is absolutely not typical of Mark and me. I know he loves me. He knows I love him. But we never just randomly stop to send messages like this one. This past week, he had been working second shift, so he was sleeping when I’d leave for work in the mornings and gone when I’d come home. By the time he’d get back home, I’d be sleeping. Guess he just decided to let me know he missed spending time together.

The weather early this week was warm, but gloomy. We had fog one day and gray skies several days in a row. Late in the week, the temperatures dropped and I was able to put my new jacket to good use. The cold weather brought a slight break in the clouds, just enough to  provide some relief from that dreary feeling. It’s funny how different the same sky can look depending on where you see it. Here was the view just a few blocks from home while I waited at a red light.


And only a half hour later, as seen from the office parking lot.



As easy as it is to be connected with so many people these days, through text messaging and social media, I’m hyper-aware that many others are struggling daily with real difficulties in their lives. Some just seem to face one tragedy after the next. By the day, I see messages asking us to pray for successful job interviews, for healing of physical ailments, or to keep loved ones from the grip of death. We may sometimes be guilty of being too connected, but this same connectedness often gives me the opportunity to be grateful for all that I have and each new day I’m graced with. It reminds me to smile whenever the chance comes along, no matter how brilliant or trivial the opportunity seems.

Dude, where’re my earbuds?

I went to the gym this morning to run. Since the snow and cold settled in, I haven’t done a whole lot of running. So for the last few weeks, I’ve been trying to work it back into my schedule by using the treadmills at the gym.

One of the first days I was going to the gym to run, I realized I had no idea where my earbuds were. Which is odd, because if they’re not plugged into my phone, I put them back in their little black zipper case. I had the case. But no earbuds.

It’s not like me to lose something like this. Oh, I can lose things as easily as the next person, but not something like my earbuds, which are always in one of two places. Not to mention, they were really nice Bose earbuds. Mark bought them for me for Valentine’s Day four years or so ago. Their sound was better than any other earbuds I’ve ever had. And they fit comfortably in my ears, unlike almost everything else I’d tried.

I’ve got a plethora of other earbuds floating around here. Some of them came with the various iPhones owned by the family over the years. Some I bought in my quest to find earbuds that would stay in my ears while running. Once the Bose earbuds entered my life, all of the rest of them began collecting dust. But I’ve resurrected a few pairs over the last couple of weeks. And I was quickly reminded how much I miss my Bose earbuds.

I’ve continued to search, without success for my favorite earbuds. And I’ve done my share of whining over the fact that I still can’t find them. This morning, I woke up Mark while rummaging around my nightstand drawer in the dark.

What are you doing? He mumbled.

Sorry! I whispered. Looking for some earbuds.

I found another old pair. Mark rolled over and went back to sleep while I headed off to the gym. I claimed my treadmill, plugged the earbuds in my ears and began to listen to music while I ran. And then I thought I felt a little sting in one ear. And then the other. Those earbuds were zapping my ears! Guess that pair had a short in the wires or something. I yanked ’em out in frustration and resolved to do my run to the sounds of the gym and whatever music was being piped through the speaker system.

I was a little thrown off by all of the distraction, but I kept at it. I realized that, for me at least, being able to run continuously is mainly a matter of telling myself I can! The minute I start thinking I might need to slow down and walk for a bit, that’s my downfall. I’ll do exactly that. So I have to keep mentally encouraging myself.

A gentleman came along and claimed the treadmill next to mine around the time I was hitting the first mile. I kind of prefer if I can run without anyone directly next to me, but that’s a rare luxury at the gym. My treadmill neighbor started to run too, and then I became grateful he was there. Because another recent realization is that running with another person is highly motivating. Whether he knew it or not, he was my motivator, and the run felt easier for the next mile because I was keeping up with him.

But then? He slowed down and stopped. Oh, no! And I still wanted to go another mile. So I had to motivate myself. I said to myself, I said,  Dude, just one more mile. Keep going! (I don’t know why I referred to myself as Dude. I don’t really fit the bill of your typical dude, but the encouragement seemed to do the trick. I kept running.)

I got my few miles in and then called it quits. I’d had a hard time waking up an hour earlier, but I was glad I’d dragged myself out of bed and done some exercise to jump-start my day. I always feel a million times more energetic when I do some kind of workout.

And when it was all said and done, it was quite a day, bringing up the end of a particularly long week. A real brain-drainer. I spent way too much time just sitting, staring at my computer screen and typing. I really should get up and move around more often. I hate to imagine what all of that sitting is doing to my heart. So especially after days and weeks like this, I’m glad when I start my days with something physical.

I came home from work to an empty house, save for Lucy, who greeted me with a level of excitement that would imply I’d been gone for weeks rather than hours. As I made my way up the steps from the foyer to the living room, being careful not to trip over the dog who was still dancing around my feet, something caught my eye.

It was a box on the end table, next to my stack of books. There was no question it was for me and no doubt in my mind it had been left there by my hubby.


This is definitely one of the most thoughtful things he’s ever done for me! And it’s not even Valentine’s Day!

In which I learn that what I want is not always what I need

We are now smack dab in the middle of our three-day weekend and I am loving it. And I have to say this because I didn’t expect to love it.

My husband is working this holiday weekend. And this is not all that unusual. If you know us at all, you know it’s not uncommon for Mark to work weekends. His job requires it of him, every other weekend, holiday or not. This is our norm and for the most part, I am just grateful that he is gainfully employed and able to help keep a roof over our heads, put food on the table, and help the last of the three kids get through college.

Obviously, I would prefer if Mark could enjoy every holiday at home with his family. I don’t feel quite whole when he’s not with us on these special occasions. I tend to feel a bit sorry for myself when it seems like most everyone I know is with their families, celebrating, or relaxing, or escaping everyday life … and we’re not.

I expected to feel let down this weekend. I expected to feel alone and a little bit bitter. Because my husband didn’t have to work this weekend. He chose to work.

Yes, there was a slight lack of communication in which he forgot to discuss this choice with me until it was too late to undo it. And I didn’t have the chance to tell him how much I would hate him making that choice.

I hate to admit this, but I … tend to … maybe be a little bit of a …


There. I said it. I’m a grudge-holder. (Hey. Everyone has a fault or two that needs continuous work. This is mine.) And if this weekend ended up being miserable for me, it would have been my own doing. But I made a pivotal choice yesterday morning when Mark’s alarm clock went off at 5:45 am.

As I lay there in bed, trying to go back to sleep, feeling disgruntled about being awakened on my day off, on my holiday weekend, I realized that returning to dreamland was not going to happen. It’s not in my early rising make-up to go back to sleep once I’m awake. Still, I thought I should have at least had the chance to continue sleeping past my norm.

Go out for a run, I said to myself.

I don’t run anymore, I reminded myself.

Well, since you agreed to run the Color Run with your daughter in seven short weeks, it might not be a bad idea to start again, my damn self said to me.

Fine! I’ll get up and go outside, I replied to myself. But I’m not running. I’ll just take Lucy for a walk.

But actually? I did run. Lucy wanted to run. Actually, Lucy always wants to run. And if there’s anyone who can melt my stubborn tendencies, (besides my daughter,) it’s my dog. So we ran. And it was good.

The sun was ablaze and the sky was a gorgeous blue. Flowering Crab Apple trees were in various stages of bloom all along the way and I breathed in deep, enjoying their floral fragrance. My legs weren’t in as bad of shape as I thought they would be and neither were my lungs. And Lucy was my motivation to keep going when I thought I couldn’t. By the time we came back home, I had a new attitude.

After our run and a good drink of water for both Lucy and me, I enjoyed a big cup of coffee with creamer and sat down to write. More therapy for my now significantly less bitter self.

Both Jake and Kacey were up early, and when Jake said, I’m going to make us some Belgian waffles, that sealed it. There’s nothing I love more than a hot, unhealthy breakfast with my kids on a lazy morning. Jake mixed up the waffle mix and I started some bacon in a frying pan. I ate too much bacon and the waffles didn’t come out of the iron in one piece, but it was all delicious.

Later, Kacey helped me do the minimum of cleaning we felt obligated to get done around the house. We watered our new vegetable plants out in the gardens, (we’re hoping to grow our own salads this summer,) and pulled Lucy’s pool out of the shed and filled ‘er up. Then we played with our crazy, adorable dog and laughed as she splashed in and out of her pool and ran circles in the yard under the warm, spring sun. Dogs really know how to revel. I could learn a thing or two from Lucy.


When Lucy pooped out after so much activity, we marveled at how cute she was, all curled up and sound asleep on the family room loveseat. Kacey and I headed back out to the patio table on the deck and  “did” our finger and toe nails with some bright pink polish. My coworker, Nick was getting married in the afternoon and Mark and I were going to the reception after he got off work. Thought I might give my fingernails a rare coat of polish to go along with the dressing up I’d be doing for the occasion.

As we sat outside soaking up as much enjoyment of  the day as we could, me polishing Kacey’s nails, she said, I just love this weather. It makes me so happy.

I said, Me too, and I thought, I really am happy. And here I had been all ready to be a pouty mess.

What a gift the day, and my kids had turned out to be. I was all prepared to be in a funk for the weekend, but instead had followed my instincts to make the best of what I had. And it did turn out to be the best. I think every day about how fast the timeline of my life is moving and I realize that I can’t afford to let the precious moments slip away while I dwell on things that aren’t all that important in the grand scheme of things. Even the wedding reception turned out to be more fun than either Mark or I expected. There was one of those photo booth type of set-ups, and my coworkers and I got in on the fun.

NickWeddingThe rest of this weekend promises to bring more picture-perfect weather. Our good friends, Paul and Megan have invited us out for a night of walking and dining in downtown Stillwater tonight, (historic and fun place). And Mark and I have had a long-overdue conversation about his choice to work. We both agree we should have had a more solid discussion about his plans. And I can now see that he was only trying to do what he thought was best for his employer, his work life and for the family. (After all, there is some serious holiday and overtime pay involved.) I can’t fault him for being a dedicated employee and trying to take care of us. He thought he was doing a good thing. And as a compromise, he will not be working on Monday, Memorial Day after all.

I really couldn’t have asked for anything more. This weekend didn’t turn out like I thought it should, but still, somehow, it has been everything I needed. Sometimes I’m my own worst enemy. But sometimes, I win the battle against myself. Perspective. It’s all about perspective. And choosing the right one. It’s a lesson I have to keep on learning.


In which my husband nearly got his asphalt kicked

We had our first snow of the season overnight, a very manageable kind of snowfall. Pretty. Didn’t affect morning traffic at all.

First Snow 20131106And it had pretty much melted by the end of the work day.

First Snow after 20131106I attended a city council meeting with Mark tonight. He’s been to a few of these over the years. I was a City Council Meeting virgin until tonight. It was … fun? Maybe “fun” is a little much, but it was certainly interesting and definitely entertaining. I thought Mark was going to get beat up!

We’re getting new streets next year. And it’s going to cost the neighborhood residents some money. Understandably, people are going to have concerns. I expected that. But there was this guy. He kept demanding to know why his street hadn’t been replaced or paved in the past ten years. He was very confrontational and I felt bad for the City Engineer who was running the meeting. He patiently explained how such decisions are made. The guy just wasn’t satisfied with the answer. Throughout the couple of hours we were there, the guy kept interrupting to ask the same question. It was annoying and uncomfortable. Around the fifth time he interrupted the presentation to ask why his street hadn’t been addressed in the past, someone finally yelled from the back, “Let it go. It’s getting fixed now!”

The guy went on to say that his street currently looked like it had suffered a barrage of bombing. “It looks like a war zone,” he complained. I am familiar with this man and I know where he lives. I knew he was grossly exaggerating the condition of his street. I also know he has the most unkempt yard and home on his block. I try not to judge. I don’t know what people’s’ financial situations are. But he does have a couple of really nice motorcycles, so I have to wonder how much of a hardship it would be to mow his lawn or trim the tree that’s spilling  all over the place. Tonight I couldn’t help but picture his run down property and find it ironic that he demanded better of the city. But I didn’t say anything. That’s just not me.

His complaints continued in spite of the explanations that were given by the City Engineer. Since the guy couldn’t get the explanation he wanted, he seemed hell-bent on continuing to express his frustration ad-nauseum. He had just finished complaining about how after the last big storm, the street’s condition grew even worse, and the city didn’t do anything about it. Suddenly, from beside me, I heard someone ask, “Did you call the city?”

That someone was my husband! I felt all eyes in the room turn in our direction, but I was watching the guy. He turned a skeptical eye to Mark. “I get sick of calling people,” he sneered. “YOU ever try calling the city?”

“Yep,” said Mark. “They’ve always been responsive and reasonable.”

The guy dismissed Mark with a scowl and a wave of the City Council meeting notice he clenched in his hand. I elbowed Mark and gave him an approving smile. Normally I would be far from encouraging of such behavior. Normally, I would probably be embarrassed. But I was proud of my husband. The guy was a bully and was using the meeting as a means to force everyone else in the room to endure his childish behavior. He was preventing the City Engineer from getting through his presentation and letting anyone else ask legitimate questions.

The evening moved on and we heard from a couple of experts about asphalt recipes, curb replacements and street lights. Periodically the guy would interject some sarcastic remark. And then he let loose again, stating that parks and pedestrian paths should never be maintained unless every street in the city was perfect. The City Engineer, clearly tired of doing battle and trying to answer to issues that were outside of his authority, simply replied, “You’re entitled to your opinion.”

Someone from the back added, “And we’ve heard it all night long. Enough already.” A murmur arose from the small crowd of attendees. Obviously, there was a shared sentiment in the room. Everyone had heard enough from the guy. Another active participant who had contributed many valuable questions and comments throughout the evening, cooled things down. He said he just wanted to commend the city for keeping our taxes low and ensuring our community was kept in good repair. There was a round of applause. I looked over to see the guy had slouched down in his chair and was scowling. He didn’t want to hear anything positive.

And there the meeting ended. I hustled out the door with Mark, a little worried that the guy would try to follow us out and beat up my husband. Not to worry, he apparently planned to hang around afterward and give more grief to the City Engineer.

Had I known these things could be so exciting, I might have attended one long ago! And in all seriousness, I actually learned a lot. Being informed is empowering. I’ll probably go to one again.

Livin’ the dream!



On Again/Off Again – The Battle for the A/C

Mark is anti-air conditioning. We have it. I love it. And there is a constant battle in this house between using it and agreeing to let the fresh air come in through the windows. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t mind the fresh air. I rather enjoy it, actually. But when the outside temperatures and humidity levels reach a point where it’s impossible to merely sit without sweating, I see no need to suffer.

Yesterday was the hottest, most humid day of the most summer-like week we’ve had so far this year. As the sun began to set last night, Mark came in from outside and announced, “It’s really cooling down out there! Should we shut off the air?”

I sighed and said, “Sure.”

It wasn’t really cooling down out there. But there was no point in arguing. Oh, Mark would leave it on if I’d argued, but he would be sure to let me know how wasteful he thought I was being. He wouldn’t be mean about it or anything. He would just be sure to let me know. And I would feel like I was being selfish. Sometimes I fight for the comfort. Sometimes I let him win. It was his turn to win.

So the air conditioner was turned off and the windows were opened. Our bedroom is in the lower level of the house, so the cooler air settles there anyway. And I have to admit that I slept rather comfortably most of the night. Until 5:30 this morning.

It was a combination of things that woke me. Yesterday, Mark broke the string on the pleated shade that covers our window. He took it in for repair and it won’t be ready for a few days. So the morning sunshine was coming right through our bedroom window. I tried to keep my eyes closed, but there was no pretending that I could still make it dark behind my eyelids. The air was still humid and I realized I was feeling sticky. And also? There was a bird party going on in the back yard. They were chirping and squawking like crazy! And since our window was wide open to let in the cool, fresh air, there was no way I was going to fall back asleep.

Mark was beginning to wake up too. He had to leave for work at six anyway. And Lucy was thrusting her nose in my face, wanting me to get up and play. I reluctantly crawled out of bed and went to the window to see what the bird ruckus was all about. They were scattered all over the back lawn, plucking bugs and worms from the grass. Clearly it was breakfast time in the bird world.

Mark left for work and Lucy waited for me to finish observing the Grackles, whining occasionally for me to turn my attention to her. I looked down at her hopeful face and said the magic word. “Walk?”

She became a canine ping-pong ball then, scrunching up her body and bouncing with joy. It’s always a mistake to say “the word” before the exact moment I’m ready to actually walk out the door, but I do it anyway. I love watching the way Lucy anticipates our departure. I quickly tossed on shorts and a t-shirt. Lucy danced and whined for me to hurry up. I brushed my teeth. Lucy bounced and whined for me to hurry up. I washed my face and straightened up my bed head. Lucy bounced and danced and whined for me to hurry up.

When I was ready to slip on my tennis shoes, I glanced sadly back at the bed and the early hour displayed on the clock that sits on my nightstand. Oh, well. Who was I kidding anyway? I’m an early bird even when it’s quiet and I’m not sticky and sweating.

I grabbed Lucy’s harness and leash, tied my shoes and we went off for one of those quiet, early Saturday walks that I actually really love. Lucy pulled me along sniffing all kinds of interesting smells. I appreciated the relative quiet of the morning, some blooming Asiatic Lilies and the sunshine that still feels so welcome after all of the clouds we had in recent weeks. Arriving back in our own driveway, I opened up the garage door and walked back to the house through the empty spot where Mark’s truck sits when he’s at home. Lucy was panting and I was sweating. Inside the house, I unhooked Lucy’s leash in the foyer and headed straight for the thermostat. Smiling over my own private victory, I turned the air conditioning back on!

The Corn Man

I’ve been meaning to buy some paint for a couple of projects I have planned. I needed Mark’s handyman expertise for the paint purchase, so I asked him if he wanted to accompany me to his favorite local home improvement store. Of course, he did.

“Should we go see if the Corn Man is around first?” he asked.

We were planning to grill steaks for Sunday dinner and I had twice-baked potatoes in the works too. Fresh corn on the cob sounded like the perfect way to round off our meal, so I quickly agreed.

We visit the Corn Man several times every summer and we’ve never been disappointed. Up until just a few years ago, he sold his produce from the back of an old pickup truck parked on the corner of a busy intersection. A hand-painted sign advertising “Fresh Sweet Corn” was all he needed to attract business. He must have done well all these years. He keeps coming back and we look forward to seeing him every summer. As we pulled up in Mark’s pickup truck, windows rolled down so we could enjoy the perfect summer day, Mark called out to the Corn Man, “Hey, you got yourself a stand! You’re movin’ up in the world!”

Corn Man 2“Yup,” said the Corn Man with a big smile.

We got out of the truck and approached the stand. There were some tomatoes on display, fresh blueberries, asparagus, and muskmelon. There were a few ears of corn, but not many.

“Ya got more corn?” Mark asked.

“Sure do,” said the corn man, reaching down behind his produce displays to pull out a crate stuffed full of big, fresh ears of summer corn.

“Where’s it from?” Mark asked. “Is it good?”

“This here’s from Georgia,” said the corn man, dumping the crate of corn into the bin. He picked up an ear and peeled the husk back and took a bite.

“Mmmm,” he said and handed the ear to Mark. “Try it.”

Mark took a bite and handed the ear to me. They both looked at me, expecting me to follow suit and all I could think was, “I don’t want to bite off of that now!” But, I did anyway. I just peeled the husk back a little more and bit out of a lower section of the ear. And it was good! I couldn’t believe how sweet and juicy the corn was, even before it was cooked.

“We’ll take a dozen,” Mark said. Other customers lined up behind us while the Corn Man filled a plastic bag with ears. He and Mark chatted about how soon the corn might be coming from Wisconsin and Minnesota. Not for a while, yet.

The bag was filled to full when the Corn Man said, “I’m giving you an extra, in case one of the ears is poopy.” In reality, there were a few extras. “Don’t cook it too long,” he added. Mark took the bag and handed over some cash, tossing in a few “extras” himself.

“Need any strawberries?” the Corn Man asked. Mark looked at me, and I shook my head. I didn’t really, and there were others waiting to buy things. We thanked him and Mark pulled his truck door open. Before I made my way around to the passenger side, the Corn Man handed me a big, red, ripe tomato.

“Here. A tomato for the tomato,” he said with a smile.

“Thanks,” I said, laughing. I wasn’t sure what he meant by calling me a tomato. I’d become a little sunburned earlier in the day. But when he added, “Don’t tell your husband I said that,” I was pretty sure he wasn’t referring to the color of my skin. Out of curiosity, I looked it up when I got home. The Corn Man’s comment was apparently meant as something of a compliment. Good thing I didn’t know to be offended, and he’s really such a good-natured,  friendly guy, I’m still not!

It had been a picture-perfect summer day and we ate our dinner under the shade of the canopy out on the deck with Kacey and Connor. The food was spectacular and everyone raved about it, eating until we could eat no more. We will definitely be visiting the Corn Man again this summer!

While the boys are gone fishin’

I bowled last night, really badly. I would mentally go over all of the mechanics of throwing my ball, position my feet in my spot, stay low, roll the ball forward while following through, hit my mark… Everything should have been perfect, right? Or at least respectable, right?

But it was far from perfect. I can’t tell you how many times I watched my ball head for the pocket, just where I wanted it, and then it would suddenly hook in the opposite direction. Instead of hitting the head pin and taking down the rest of the pins, I was hitting the ten pin. Or worse, landing the ball in the gutter. At one point, I stood there after throwing my ball, just looking down the lane and thinking, “How in the heck did I even make the ball do that?”

Almost to the end of our first game, I threw up my hands in defeat, looked at my teammate, Preacher Dave as if it was his fault and said, “I give up. I hate this game!” Dave said, “No you don’t. And lemme see your ball.”

He inspected it quickly while I pouted and in an exasperated voice, informed me, “Your fingertips are coming loose.” (Fingertips are rubber inserts that fit inside the finger holes.) I was aware of their looseness, but had simply been pushing them back down in the holes for several weeks with no ill effects. But last night, they began inching up over the edge of the finger holes, enough that my ball went sailing in the other direction when it rolled over them. I got the guy in the pro shop to glue them back in after game one. He brought it back to me in time for game two, told me I should be good for the night, but to come in early next week to get new ones put in. I then threw two strikes right off the bat! Too bad I didn’t realize this before I threw my first game in the trash! BUT… as always, I had fun. And that’s all that matters. (Translation: We lost.)

Meanwhile, Mark and the boys have gone off on a man vacation. They’re spending a few days fishing on Lake of the Woods, way up north where I suspect it’s still cold. I suspect that because Brad sent pictures and in them, it looks cold!  But it seems apparent that there is some male bonding going on as evidenced by the good humor being displayed by the subjects in the photos.

Brad says: "Dad's fish... Excuse me... Dad's sorry excuse for a fish."

Brad says: “Dad’s fish… Excuse me… Dad’s sorry excuse for a fish.”

Brad says: "Jake's fish. Look, I got him to smile and show his teeth!"

Brad says: “Jake’s fish. Look, I got him to smile and show his teeth!”

Jake is smiling! With his teeth and all! I know he’s having fun if he’s smiling with his teeth.

Kacey and I didn’t get to go on a vacation this week. We’re consoling ourselves by eating pancakes for dinner, watching girl shows on Netflix and we’ll probably throw in a little retail therapy for good measure. Maybe I should buy a new bowling ball.