In spite of what I’ve said before …

I’m hosting Thanksgiving this year for (most of) the whole fam damily. Even though in the past years, I believe I’ve said more than once that I would never again. Ever. Because …

Thansgiving 2014

But in my own defense, I think I’ve added a disclaimer to my no-more-family-gatherings rants, that as adamant as I wasI probably shouldn’t take my insistence too seriously. Good thing because here I am, doin’ it again! I’ve been off work since Tuesday, cleaning house, running errands, cooking and baking ahead anything that could be done prior to the big day. It’s actually been really nice to have a break from the office and spend time around the house, leisurely preparing.

And seriously? I am glad to be doing this. For one thing, I’ve learned a lot about myself over the past year, about how I relate to others, and how I allow myself to be impacted in ways both good and bad. My siblings and I have grown up to be different people with lives that have gone in different directions. We’ve each made choices that are right for ourselves and it’s not for us to judge each other. (I know this, but I also have to remember that not everyone is so aware yet.) We’re at varying levels of contentment in our lives and sometimes our differences bubble to the surface, sometimes in really ugly ways. We’ll probably continue to unintentionally hurt each other at times. As for me, I’m finally beginning to understand the importance of forgiveness. I’ve heard it a million times and never really grasped the concept before. It’s not about avoiding getting hurt. It’s about letting go and preventing that hurt from poisoning me from the inside out. I used to think that letting go meant I was weak. Now I know that it’s just the opposite.

There’s also something much bigger contributing to my change of heart this year. I think I have a fairly good sense of brevity of life, but never has it been more apparent than now. Mark’s dad is in the hospital. His health took a downward turn over the past few years, but worsened significantly two weeks ago. He won’t be joining his family for Thanksgiving today. In fact, it seems unlikely he’ll ever go home again. We are all so sad and it’s been extremely sobering to watch his daily decline. It’s been an eye-opener, to say the least, about what is really important.

When I said never again would I host or participate in an all-family gathering, I thought I would feel good about it. But I never would. It’s not so black and white. If I walk away in an attempt to never be hurt again, I won’t be just making a clean break. I can’t just take my hurt feelings and go on my merry way. My absence would actually cast a shadow, not because I think I’m so important that I should be missed that much, but because the reason for my absence would be obvious. And not only would I have allowed myself to be hurt, but I would have spread those dark feelings around to everyone else.

And so hopefully, with this realization, comes a better ability to have reasonable expectations, and to speak up calmly when it’s justified instead of adding fuel to the fire. I will strive to be level-headed, to walk away when possible, to be more understanding, and to refuse let the bitterness of another seep inside of me and stew. Better yet, I will work harder to promote good will instead of just expecting a melee to ensue at every gathering.

Of course, it helps that the one I butt heads with the most has other plans today. :-) Mark asked me yesterday, “What would you do if he called at the last minute and said he was coming after all?” I thought for a minute and said, “I’d welcome him.” And I meant it. I don’t really want to be forever at odds with my own brother. Heck, he probably doesn’t even realize that we’re at odds!

So today I am thankful for my crazy and appropriately dysfunctional family. I am thankful we have each other and will be happy to welcome them into my home which I’ve just spent days and hours cleaning and which will probably look like a bomb went off not long after everyone arrives, gets settled and the feast begins. This house is small and no matter what I do, we’ll feel like it’s bursting at the seams once we’re all here. And I am especially thankful for my sister, who makes me laugh and keeps me sane and who is is helping to cook a good portion of today’s meal. Not to mention, her willingness to arrive early to help me pull this thing off, if not in a Martha Stewart manner, at least in a way that might please Larry the Cable Guy. (I didn’t buy any wine. No one drinks it. It’s a redneck Thanksgiving with plenty of soda and beer!)

And besides, these people make for good stories! ;-)

Seriously, though. I have it good. And I am grateful. Happy Thanksgiving!

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 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!