Life is Good – November 27, 2011

I almost forgot to blog my thankfulness, on this of all weeks! I wouldn’t have remembered at all if it weren’t for Abby’s Silver Liningness post!

It was a nice short work week, thanks to the Thanksgiving holiday and the Thanksgiving weekend proved to be a good mix of busyness and family, fun and relaxation.

Our family enjoyed a delicious and plentiful holiday meal together, complete with multiple tasty desserts. The pecan pie was so yummy it didn’t last long. When I complimented my brother on his pie skills, he mentioned he was going to make another pecan pie over the weekend and he promised to bring me a piece. And he did! And I ate it for breakfast on Saturday!

One really special thing about this Thanksgiving was that my parents were with us. Since they’ve been wintering in Arizona for the past several years, they are often already gone to their winter home by the time the holidays roll around. This year they decided to stick it out in Minnesota through Christmas before escaping to a warmer climate. We kids were happy to have them. The holidays just don’t seem quite right without Mom and Dad.

Oldest boy, Brad was missing from our holiday gathering. He and Heather were spending this Thanksgiving with her family, about an hour away from here. (The trade-off here is that we get them for Christmas!) But since Heather’s parents live relatively close to us, Brad and Heather paid us a visit for the day on Friday. They brought Dacotah with them and Lucy was a happy girl!

I love weekends like this one, when there’s extra time to enjoy the kids, the comforts of home, and the company of friends. We visited our friends, Paul and Megan on Friday night and enjoyed a crazy and loud game of cards. Megan sent us home with her copy of Bridesmaids, which we watched on Saturday night. For me, it lived up to its reputation for gut-busting, tears-running-down-your-face laughter. But about the time I was trying to catch my breath, I noticed Mark was just staring at television with a rather blank look on his face. Guess it’s not for everyone, but I enjoyed it.

Doesn’t it seem like the long weekend just got here? And now it’s over already. That’s okay. There will be another one in about… oh… four weeks! And I need time to get ready for it!

Life is good!

Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving Day already. Where has the year gone?

I hung out in my kitchen last night, an activity I find myself enjoying immensely more than ever before. Maybe it’s an age thing.

First thing after I came home from work, I had boxes to unpack. I had a Pampered Chef party a couple of weeks ago. (For those not in the know, this is one of those home party businesses that sells kitchen products.) The merchandise arrived yesterday and Kacey, who is home for the holiday weekend, helped me separate and sort all of that fun kitchen stuff. We bagged up the orders for the guests first, and then gathered up all of my stuff. The beauty of hosting one of these shows in your home, is that as the hostess, you earn free and discounted products based on the amount of purchases made by the guests. And I did quite well. My kitchenware has been nicely refreshed just in time for the big cooking and baking season. (de-I, you will be pleased to know that I now own a set of stainless steel mixing bowls!)

After a quick dinner, I set out to prepare some things for Thanksgiving dinner at my sister’s home today. I made a cream cheese filled pumpkin roll for dessert and a snack mix to keep the hungry guests at bay until dinner is ready to be served.

In between all of this activity, I spoke with my sister, who called in a panic. It seems the requisite episode of family dysfunction had occurred in the form of a phone call with one of the brothers. Hearing her side of the story, it seemed he was upset over nothing. I’m guessing some kind of stress – work, family, life, who knows – prompted his complaints. Who ever knows why some people feel the need to stir the pot. Regardless, my sister was worried there might be a dark cloud over Thanksgiving. I told her I was sure our brother just needed to blow off some steam and she was the unlucky recipient. I said Thanksgiving would be fine, and even if it didn’t happen exactly as planned, we’d be okay.

Sigh! Why does this stuff have to happen within families? It’s tempting to let it sour my attitude about the holidays and family functions, but one nice thing about getting older is coming to the realization that no family is the picture perfect family. Everyone has their issues and no one is immune to conflict.

I just read a wonderful book called An Invisible Thread by Laura Schroff and Alex Tresniowski. It is the true story of an unusual friendship that is formed between a successful, single woman, Laura Schroff and an 11 year-old panhandler, Maurice. Maurice lives in a world of drugs, violence and poverty. One day while begging for change on the street, he asks Laura for some change. She passes him by at first, as if she hadn’t seen or heard him. But for reasons unknown, she comes back to him and offers to buy him lunch at McDonald’s. It was the beginning of a lasting connection that enriched and benefited both of their lives for years to come.

Understandably, the book describes many instances of what is wrong with this world, with people and among families. Near the end of the book, I read this passage:

We all want relationships that are healthy and resolved, and sometimes that simply doesn’t happen. But the beauty of life is that inside these disappointments are hidden the most miraculous of blessings. What we lose and what might have been pales against what we have.

Those words struck a chord with me. Over all the years of my life, how often have I wished for something better or easier or more carefree within my relationships? How many years have been spent expecting things to miraculously change, only to find disappointment time after time? It rarely occurred to me to consciously be grateful for what is. And yet, somewhere, underneath it all, I can see that I am thankful for what is, even if I didn’t know it. Despite the flaws within my family, I wouldn’t wish for any other family. Given the chance, I would never go back and change the people who were predestined to be my parents, my siblings, my aunts, uncles and cousins. In spite of all of our quirks, I know, this is right where I belong.

This morning as I began preparing stuffing and thinking about when the “back-up” turkey needs to go in the oven, I realized something. I don’t love the occasional fighting and bickering that happens. But I do love my family’s silly nature. I love the way we reminisce about the past and find things to laugh about together. So maybe I don’t love the fact that my brother once wore a favorite radio station t-shirt on Christmas that stated across the back, I have to poop. That may have been a little much! But I love the goofy banter that takes place at family gatherings. I love the chaos and the noise and everything that makes us unique. And I am thankful that in spite of all of our imperfection, we have abundance.

Dear family, I love you … even though you can’t all possibly hope to be as perfect as me! ;-)

Happy Thanksgiving!

Life is Good – November 18, 2011

How boring would life be without laughter?

Do you ever laugh so hard that your stomach muscles ache? Do you ever laugh so hard that you have tears running down your face?

Life is full of hurts and frustrations. It’s full of injustices and disappointments. Maybe that’s why it feels so good to laugh when an opportunity comes along.

I love to laugh. I laughed a lot this week.

Things that are just goofy make me laugh; things like this article, a worrisome, dramatic piece of journalism which ponders whether or not Tuesday will ever come to an end and casting doubt on whether or not Wednesday will ever get here, OH MY GAWD! (Thanks to Oscar for sharing this with me!)

Or what about those emails? You know the ones! They’ve been forwarded on by eleventy-hundred other people and inevitably land in your inbox. Sometimes I don’t even look at them. Rarely do I pass them forward. But once in a while, a goody comes along. Check out these graphs:And there’s nothing like a good old-fashioned juvenile game to spark a bunch of good belly laughing. We had a catered lunch at the office this week, consisting of Asian food. Of course, there were fortune cookies – enough to feed a small country – and these lasted throughout the week.

Have you ever played the fortune cookie game? It’s simple. Once you’ve cracked open your cookie, read your fortune out loud and add the words under the sheets to the end of your fortune. My little lunch crew  was entertained with this game as we enjoyed leftover cookies all week-long. I saved a few fortunes. Read these, and as you say them to yourself, add the words under the sheets.

Never underestimate the power of the human touch.

A woman’s thinking is quicker than her action.

Your problem just got bigger. Think, what have you done.

Your nature is harmonious and affectionate.

I swear, I am not making these up! (Yes. I admit it. I am a child.)

But my favorite source of laughter this week came from an instant message conversation at work between three coworkers and me. We were trying to resolve an issue with our project. I won’t even try to explain it. It was one of those had to be there sort of things and it went from silly to ridiculous in the course of ten minutes. It had us shrieking with laughter, tears running down our faces and stomach muscles convulsing, proving that while work is necessary and important, it can also be fun.

Lately, at times, I have felt… not entirely happy. It could be an early onset of winter blues. It could be something to do with this stage in life and not being quite sure who I am and what I’m supposed to be doing. It’s not always easy, but it’s okay. I’m figuring it out. And while I do, it sure feels good to laugh whenever I can.

This week, I am grateful to be surrounded by people with a sense of humor, who know how to have fun and who know how not to sweat the small stuff. I am thankful for the positive and uplifting effect they have on me and the contagious influence of their happiness and laughter.

Life is good.

Life is Good – December 4, 2009

Whoa! It’s December already! Can you believe it?

I’m sure you’ll all be relieved to know that Winslow the Thanksgiving Turkey has been found. I know you were just as worried about his whereabouts as I was.

So where was he? Winslow and friends were whoopin’ it up back behind some of the Christmas boxes.  They missed their big day and didn’t even care! When I dragged their sorry asses out from hiding two days after Thanksgiving, they were downing the last of a case of beer with Santa Bear 1986 and a family of snowmen. I swear. I don’t know where they learn these things. It’s disgraceful! That Santa Bear is a BAD influence!

I got the turkeys whipped into shape, gave them some Tylenol for the hangovers that were sure to follow their little escapade, and packed them safely away in their proper place so they might be easily located next year. Afterwards, we managed to get the Christmas tree assembled and decorated with new L.E.D. lights and lots of ornaments. We decked the halls around this place and it’s looking pretty festive!

And no, I haven’t done any Christmas shopping yet. I’m not one of those early shoppers. I like to avoid the stores on Black Friday at all costs. I’ll get started shopping this weekend and it will probably take me until the week of Christmas to finish. That’s the way I do things and I like it that way.

In completely unrelated non-holiday news, the highlight of my week came when Jake finally applied to the local community college. He’s going to school! We had to push him to do it, but once he filled out the application, suddenly he was full of ideas about what he might like to do with his life. Go figure. I guess it just took a little nudging from his parents to make him realize that living at home until he’s thirty probably doesn’t sound like much fun.

And in the “I’m not sure how I feel about this” department, someone in this family has a boyfriend. I won’t say who, as I make it a policy to try not to embarrass my children on the blog. He seems like a nice boy though. He came over to the house, met the parents, and was very polite. I guess I really can’t complain so Mr. New Boyfriend gets a nod in the Life is Good post this week.

This weekend I’m looking forward to seeing a bunch of relatives on my mom’s side of the family when we attend my aunt’s 80th birthday party. It should be fun. And afterwards? You guessed it! BOWLING!

How about you? Anything good going on this weekend?

La Vida es Buena! November 6, 2009

Brad & Jake HuntingAND we’ve found our way to Friday once again!

It’s been a good week…

Monday began with a smile as I opened up my email at work and saw a message there from our good friend, Paul, along with a picture that he had attached. My boys had been hunting with him the previous weekend and he managed to capture a rare moment on camera – my two boys, standing together and appearing as if they actually like each other. There are very few such pictures in existence, so this was a treasured gift. I may have to frame it in spite of the presence of dead animals in the picture.

Wednesday brought an opportunity to spend time with the two best girlfriends I’ve ever had. Gina, Kendra and I met at the bowling alley. (I know, I know. The bowling alley. Big surprise, right?) After Kendra finished her league games, the three of us bowled a few games just for fun, then went into the bar to find a table and just talk, since we couldn’t seem to keep the game going for all of our gabbing. That night, I realized how lucky I am to have such amazing friends. Gina has been there for me for over twenty years. She knows me and gets me in a way most people don’t. Kendra is the person who filled those same shoes in an earlier part of my life. We kind of forgot how important we were to each other for a few years and I feel extremely blessed to have been given a chance to renew that friendship. And as the evening wore on, I realized that Gina and Kendra seemed to like each other just as much as I like each of them. How cool is that?

Speaking of long-lost friends, Facebook brought me another blast from the past. Becky is a coworker from the bakery where I worked during my teenage years. The bakery was a family owned place, and those of us who worked there were sort of like a little family. We have such good memories and so many stories from that place. (Suffice it to say that when the owners left teenage girls in charge of the place for the evening, there were plenty of antics.) Kendra was one of my coworkers there and so was Marilee, who now lives just a few miles from me and whose daughter is one of Kacey’s best friends. I haven’t seen or heard from Becky since she left her bakery career to go to college. She contacted me on Facebook yesterday and said she was trying to organize a little reunion of all of the people who worked at the bakery during our years there and wanted to know if  I would be interested. I responded something to the effect of, “BECKY! OMG! HOW ARE YOU! IT’S BEEN FOREVER! WHAT HAVE YOU BEEN UP TO? AND OF COURSE I’M INTERESTED!” And soon, we were walking down memory lane, catching up on each other’s lives and promising to stay in touch from now on.

And finally,  I’ve been thinking this week about how much I love my daughter and how lucky I am to have her. I was talking with a coworker this week about daughters; particularly teenage daughters. They are famous for causing their parents much angst and frustration. But Kacey isn’t your typical teenage girl. She’s so easy-going and yet so responsible. She’s an excellent student and she has a great sense of humor. She’s a good person and likes almost everyone. She talks to me with ease (and often in Spanish, just to keep me guessing.) I am blessed to have such a great relationship with her. I know not all parents are so lucky. I love that kid.

La vida es buena!

Life is Good – October 10, 2009

Snow - on October 10th by you.All day yesterday, I kept hearing we were going to get some snow overnight. I didn’t really believe it was true but when I opened my eyes first thing this morning, I peeked out the window and there it was! I have to admit, the sight of the snow on the ground made me feel like a kid again. It still had that magical charm a first snow always held when I was young. But…I’m still holding out hope for an Indian Summer! It’s too early for winter just yet.

It’s been a busy week with lots of good things going on. At the office this week, we celebrated National Customer Service week. The boss and a few others did a great job of putting together some really fun team building activities. People were enthusiastic and there was a lot of laughter. And yours truly won a virtual scavenger hunt with a prize of two bonus hours of PTO time. What an excellent prize!

Kacey is still knee deep in volleyball season, playing for both the J.V. and varsity teams.  It’s so fun to watch her play a game she loves so much. She is a constant on the J.V. team and her confidence grows each time the varsity coach puts her on the court. I am so very proud of her!

On Thursday, I went out for an early morning run. I have to admit, after a year of running, I’ve begun to grow frustrated with what feels like a lack of progress. I often feel like I’ve hit a brick wall or even that I’m losing ground. I often feel like I lack the stamina to run the same distance I always try to go. I have begun to think, “Maybe I’m just not a runner.”  But I made myself get out there again that morning, and something was different. I don’t know what it was, but I kept myself on pace and everything just clicked. I felt great and just like that, my motivation returned. I returned home and thought, “I AM A RUNNER! WOO-WOO-WOO!”

And the best news of the week? I finally went in for my one year post-donation check-up (just a few months late – I should have been there in July) and my kidney appears to be functioning perfectly! And the one that now belongs to my dad is working great too!

Life is good!

Perspective

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?

No.

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

Life is Good – September 18, 2009

Homemade Salsa by you.It’s been a beautiful week; sunny, with temps in the eighties every day! Here’s some good stuff from the week…

A couple of months ago, after it became obvious that I was really getting into this whole bowling thing, Mark clearly became jealous of all the fun I was having, and also realized he was unable to live without me for the few hours a week I was out with the girls (and Dave. No offense, Dave. I know you’re not a girl.)  Mark  said he wished we could join a couples’ bowling league so he could bowl with me. I told him, “Forget it buddy. Bowling is MY thing! You have your own things. Do I ask you if I can go on your hunting and fishing trips? NO!”

I’m kidding. I didn’t say that.

Actually, I really might have said that. But if I did, I was kidding. No, really! Mark would wonder what was wrong with me if I didn’t give him crap every time I spoke to him. He likes it that way.

The couples bowling thing actually sounded like a great idea at first. And then I remembered Mark has a stupid rotating work schedule that prevents him from being able to commit to anything that requires his presence on the same day and time each week. That great idea went straight out the window.

Enter Paul. Paul is Mark’s buddy and also the husband of my good friend and coworker, Megan. Paul and Megan bowl on a couples’ league on Saturday nights. Paul called last Sunday and said that one of the couples in their league had quit, leaving the other half of their team in the lurch. They were looking for another couple to take the quitters’ place. I said that we would love to join, but reminded him that Mark has to work every other weekend. Paul said that was ok. The league only plays every other weekend and the schedule just so happens to run on the weeks that Mark is off work. So… we accepted the invitation and joined! And there’s a bonus! It was brought to my attention that our new bowling partners won the lottery a while back and are living the good life. We haven’t met them yet, but I’m thinking it couldn’t hurt to get tight with these people! I told Mark to be sure to turn on the charm. (I kid, I kid! You know I’m not that shallow!)

So there will be even more bowling for me! YAY me!

Oh, and uh… Yay Mark too.

And as long as we’re on the subject of bowling (which happens every other post around this place, I know…) our Monday women’s league started up this week. My friend Shannon from work joined our team this year. She forewarned me that she didn’t have her own ball and it’s been years since she bowled, so we shouldn’t expect much from her. I told her that was fine. We’re just in this for fun. And then came Monday. And Shannon proceeded to kick all of our butts, racking up the highest scores. She fit right in too, and we had a great time. It’s going to be a fun season!

It’s been kind of quiet around our house this week. Jake worked a lot of hours. He’s always sleeping when I leave for work, and every evening when I’d get home, he’d already be gone, not returning home until midnight when I would be sound asleep. Finally, yesterday, I got a chance to catch up with him again. He was off during the day, so I made him do little things like come to the grocery store with me to pick up a few things. He pretended to be annoyed. Or maybe he really was annoyed. The grocery store really isn’t all that exciting, come to think of it.

When we got home, I got to work in the kitchen. One of my coworkers had given me some tomatoes, onions, jalapeno and chili peppers from her garden. I had picked up cilantro and garlic and some bell peppers from the store and decided to make salsa. (That’s right. Homemade salsa. Just call me Susie Homemaker!) I got more tomatoes from my parents – about eight pounds more – and without me even asking, Jake grabbed another cutting board and knife and helped me chop all those tomatoes.

We had a nice time working together like that. Jake had left the television on in the living room and we could hear it. He had just discovered that old series Just Shoot Me with David Spade. And since we’re both big fans of David Spade, we laughed at the show while we talked to one another and worked together. I really enjoyed having that time with Jake.

Also yesterday, I got to watch Kacey play some great games on her JV Volleyball team. She’s a middle hitter and played hard and strong. The whole team played well and they won the match. After her games were over, Kacey came running over to where we were sitting in the bleachers. I could see the excitement on her face and wondered what was up. She could barely get the words out fast enough to tell us the varsity coach had asked her to join the varsity team for the evening. She really didn’t plan to do anything but sit on the bench, but she ended up getting in the game for one play and made the most of it. She did her job perfectly. After she came out and took a seat on the bench again, I caught her eye. She had the biggest smile on her face I had ever seen. It felt great to see her rewarded for all of her hard work! What a great way to close out the week!

Life is good!

Life is Good – July 24, 2009 – Our Transplant Anniversary

It’s hard to believe it’s already been a whole year. Last year on this day, I was a patient at the Hennepin County Medical Center. So was my dad. I was donating my kidney. My dad was the recipient. After several years of dialysis, he finally had hopes of surviving on his own again.

My dad and me, just before our surgeries

It was an amazing time for my dad and me during the weeks preceding and following our surgeries. I was gathering information trying to learn all there was to know about being a kidney donor. I was connecting with people in the online community who had donated a kidney too. Michael, better known as De-I is one of those people. He supported and encouraged me from the start, shared his own story and has remained a cherished friend ever since.

My dad was preparing for a major and difficult surgery and what I remember best about him at that time was how hopeful he seemed. After several years of dialysis, feeling sick and tired and as if he was missing out on a big chunk of life, he was ready to get back to the business of living.

I also remember being surprised at how so many people seemed, I don’t know… I guess, kind of… awestruck… at what I was doing. Maybe it’s because I was doing it for my dad and once I knew I was a match there simply was never a question as to whether I wanted to do it. I certainly never felt like I was doing something amazing, and I still don’t. It was just something I had to do. The decision wasn’t really a decision at all. It was merely an understanding that this was something I would be doing. And it was one of the easiest things I’ve ever done. It really was. There was some pain after the surgery. True. But once I was home, two days later, healing happened quickly. Aside from being a bit tired for a few weeks, my life returned to normal; you might even say, better than my previous normal, very quickly. Afterwards, I had a new appreciation for the body and began to respect my own a little better than in the past.

As for my dad, he is doing phenomenally well. I know as well as anyone that an organ transplant doesn’t always have the happy ending that is anticipated. Not true for my dad. I think he is doing infinitely better than anyone ever expected. Just a few months after surgery, my parents were able to move to their winter home in Arizona. Although I kept in touch by phone and heard things were going well while they were away, I was still amazed when I saw my dad for the first time when they returned home to Minnesota this past spring. He had energy and spunk. He wasn’t so sleepy all the time and he was back to his old self and getting on my mom’s nerves again! ;-) It was one of the simplest things that really solidified for me the reality of my dad’s recovery. He was able to mow his own lawn again. Seeing my dad zipping around on his riding mower made me incredibly happy. I can see my parents house on the next block from my own driveway. I’ll often stop to just watch my dad as he putters around in his garage. Such a simple thing, and yet so significant to me, considering all he’s been through. He’ll celebrate his 69th birthday in September and I’m sure many more in the years to come.

Jake & Grandparents by you.

My mom, Jake and my dad, last month

I don’t think much about the surgeries anymore. Life is back to its normal routine. I do however, pause when I see my reflection in the mirror and the scars that remain from my incisions. A couple of those scars are pretty ugly, but they don’t bother me at all. Rather, they symbolize a miracle; the miracle of my dad’s life.

Life is Good – July 17, 2009

IMG_0372_2 by you.Thursday afternoon this week found me, once again, in a bowling alley. One might wonder if I’m getting a little obsessive about this bowling thing, and that may be true. But although I have come to love the challenge of the game, being obsessive was not my reason for being at the lanes this time. I was there because my sister and her kids wanted to get out of the house and do something fun.

Since their move back here from Chicago earlier this summer, my sister and her husband have been extremely busy, acclimating to new jobs, trying to get settled in a new house and making it a home. As happy as I am that they are back within easy distance, there just hasn’t been much opportunity to see one another thus far. My sister took a break from her work on Thursday afternoon. She called and asked if I wanted to do something with them. When I asked what it was they wanted to do, the general consensus among her kids was, “I dunno.”

Several ideas were tossed around, including some outdoor activities. But the weather was a bit on the cool side and the wind was strong. My niece shunned the idea of an outdoor activity. My nephews, nine and eleven years old, excitedly cast their vote for bowling. And so it was decided. The afternoon also found Jake free from his own work obligations. He thought it would be fun to come along and entertain his little cousins.

It wasn’t long before my sister showed up in front of the house, my little nephews, Danny and Donny scrambling to the back of the van to make room for Jake. My twenty year old niece, Lauren slid out of the front passenger seat. She insisted I sit there next to her mom while she slipped to the middle of the vehicle to sit next to Jake. It was a short drive to the bowling alley and soon everyone piled out of the van.

The time we spent together was spectacular and it had little to do with the fact that we were doing something I enjoy doing anyway. What made the day so special was the simple fact of being with people I love and have missed so much while they were far away. For a few hours, work and chores were forgotten and worries left behind while we played together and enjoyed each other’s company.

We formed two teams, the boys bowling on one lane and the girls on the one next to them. No one bowled especially well and no one particularly cared. We merely had fun. There were squeals of laughter from Lauren as we watched her mom being silly and  “shaking her tail feather” at the start of her turn. I have missed that laughter. There was some singing along with the music that played through the speakers. Movie lines were quoted; silly ones from Tommy Boy and Wayne’s World. A bit of goofy  dancing took place. Lauren fake-pouted at her losing scores. There was a lot more laughter.

I loved watching the little boys as they tried to master their bowling skills. They are  skinny, little things and the heavy bowling balls threatened to topple them over. But those boys were not going to give up. Each would make his approach toward the lane, the right hand weighing heavily toward the floor with the weight of the ball, the left arm held straight out for balance. Next there would be a rather unsteady approach, their feet gaining speed as the ball pulled them forward. When their toes reached the line, each would swivel at the waist and fling the ball clumsily with every ounce of strength he had in him, his feet lifting off the ground from the force of the throw. Oftentimes, the ball ended up in the gutter. Sometimes pins were knocked down. There were even a few strikes. Their form and antics were funny, but the best part was the celebration and encouragement Danny and Donny shared with one another after each turn. One would watch the other and pump a celebratory fist in the air at his brother’s success. They slapped their hands together in high-fives. One would toss an arm around the shoulders of the other and tell him what a great job he had done. Serious-looking conversations took place, though the music and noise prevented me from hearing what was actually said. Danny and Donny seemed to share a rare sense of comraderie that I haven’t often seen among siblings. Throughout all of this, Jake took care of his cousins, noticing when Donny appeared to be getting tired and going to find him a lighter ball to ease his frustration.

As it goes with anything that takes us away from the drone of everyday life, our afternoon was over too soon. I returned home to face chores that had yet to be tackled, thinking for a moment that my time might have been better spent checking things off the to-do list rather than playing. It was only a moment before I brushed the thought from my mind.  The cleaning and laundry will always be there waiting for me. Opportunities to be with the ones I love may not. I’m glad I chose to spend some time playing this week.