The End of a Season

Volleyball is over for the season, ending with an “away” tournament up north, in Duluth. It was rainy, cold and windy, preventing a visit to the shores of Lake Superior. Another time.

The girls showed up with a vengeance for their last tournament and played out of their minds. It was a long day, and fatigue was beginning to set in by the time they played (and lost) their last match. They came in fourth place, but left the court with smiles on their faces.

For me, the best part was watching my girl play and revel in a sport she truly loves. Have I ever mentioned she was team captain this year? It was a well-deserved honor. She is dedicated, a team player, and encouraging of her team mates. I am so proud of her.

She plans to play on the school volleyball team in the fall, but then she will be done. This team is not coming back together for another year, for various reasons. She’s not sad about it, but I know she’ll miss the game and playing it with these girls.

What are we going to do now? Oh, don’t worry. We surely won’t be bored. The school softball season is already well under way, and the summer team is already in the works as well!

The Kitchen – before pictures

I spent all day in a noisy volleyball warehouse that was severely lacking in any kind of sound-proofing. (Imagine approximately 16 teams of teenage girls screaming, spectators shouting, all of it echoing.) I think my ears are still ringing.

The girls took second place in their bracket. All-in-all not a bad day. I thought Kacey had some excellent plays today. She had several beautiful blocks and lots of great hits and serves. But I am burned out on volleyball and was glad to see the day come to an end. Now we have two beautiful volleyball-free weekends ahead!

And you know what that probably means, don’t you? That’s right…

KITCHEN DEMOLITION!

I figured I’d better get some “before” shots while the kitchen was semi-clean. Here it is. This is where the magic happens. La cocina de Terri:

We’ve not done a whole lot with this kitchen in 22 years. Sure, it’s seen some wall paper and paint changes. The original linoleum floor was replaced with hardwood. It’s seen its share of dishwashers and microwaves, but the stove is original. It is time to bring this room up to date. The in-between stage should prove interesting, but I know it will be worth it in the end.  I’ve heard horror stories from others who have been down this road, including tales of washing dishes in the bathtub. I guess I could tolerate that for a short while. I might have to increase my wine supply to keep my sanity though.

This weekend…

I slept for fourteen and a half hours between Friday night and Saturday morning. I actually did wake up at a decent hour and contemplated getting up and starting my day. But Mark had vacated the bed by this point and it was calling me back, to stretch out across the middle of it, to use all of its pillows and to burrow under its covers without another body to do the tuck-and-roll maneuver which always robs me of all covers and warmth. How could I resist such a call, I ask you? Resistance, as it turns out, is futile! I went back and slept until 11:30. And I was NOT sorry! Ha!

I learned a new phrase, “B. T. dubbs.” As in, “B.T. dubbs, Mom, if I decide to take that A.P. English exam, it will cost thirty dollars.” Or, loosely translated, “Oh, by the way, dear mother, did I mention that if I choose to take the Advanced Placement English exam, the passing of which will earn me a college credit, it will cost thirty dollars?”

Luckily, since I share living accommodations with a sixteen year old and her frequent abbreviations, I was able to figure that out all by myself!

I did some butt-kicking bowling, followed by some almost-but-not-quite butt-kicking bowling, followed by some purely pathetic bowling. Yes, our Saturday night couples team remains somewhere near the bottom of the rankings. I blame it on Mark because he choked when we needed him most. And Jim. It’s Jim’s fault too. Because Jim bowled on the wrong lane one frame and everything went downhill from there.

I decided I am sick of volleyball. We went to another tournament for the third weekend in a row and I was kicking myself all day because I should have stayed home and made Mark take Kacey to this one by himself. Because I had to take her to last weekend’s tournament by myself. And next weekend, I’ll have to take her by myself again too. Granted, if he’s not attending a tournament, it’s because he’s working. But that didn’t stop me from being crabby about being there when I had an opportunity to stay home and try to catch up on my chores which are eternally going unfinished. Yes, I was just crabby today. I blame it on too much sleep.

And the post-Olympic blues are setting in already. I’ll probably have to combat those with more bowling. And running, which I did none of this weekend. Bad me. I’m sure it’s only because I spent  too much time sleeping. And I’m still not sorry.

What day is this?

I seem to have lost a few days. Last I checked it was Thursday and now here it is Tuesday of the next week already!

And you thought I’d been eaten by an alligator or something tragic like that! Nope. Just busy.

Last Friday we got back to work at work after spending over 18 months in very uncertain territory. But we survived it and are back in business once again. I’ve been hair-on-fire busy there and LUH-UH-UH-VIN it! I’m heavily involved in a few things, one being a major project that involves website stuff. I get to envision this site (along with a few others) and then see if the great techie minds of the company can make it reality. I get to do things like reach into the depths of my brain and say, “Hey! It would be REALLY cool if we could make this a capability!” And then, if I’m lucky, the smart people go, “Yeah. We can do that!”  I love this stuff. Sometimes I’m such a geek.

So there’s that. And then there was a weekend. At least I’m pretty sure there was a weekend. Kinda hard to tell because it doesn’t feel like I really had a weekend. Kacey’s team played in the annual Presidents’ Day volleyball tournament. We were gone most of the day Saturday and all day Sunday, then drove home in some crazy weather on some treacherous roads and got home in time to hit the sack. (Resisting the urge to complain about winter and the weather here!) I got nothing done at home, but the girls came home with medals, so it was worth it.

Oh! And something really cool happened on Saturday night! I gotta give my husband kudos for this one. He did good!!! Saturday evening, I walked into the family room and there was a Valentine’s Day gift sitting on my chair. Mark said, “It’s not much.” And I said, that’s okay. All I got you was a card! So I opened the box and inside was a heart-shaped tin of Dove chocolates. Mark said, “It’s just chocolate.” And I said, “That’s okay! I love chocolate!” And inside my head I was thinking, “And besides, I only got you a card.” So I opened the tin and inside I found the candies, but ALSO… AN IPOD TOUCH! I gasped when I saw it! I have been wanting one, but just couldn’t justify the expense, but my hubby knew how much I wanted one so he got it for me! Is he great or what? So now when I find myself in the midst of another weekend, stuck at a volleyball tournament, I can find myself some wi-fi and play with my new toy! WOOT!

For those of you following my reading pursuits, I just finished The Help by Kathryn Stockett. The setting is Jackson, Mississippi in the early 1960′s and the civil rights movement. I’m not going to try to review it. You can click on the link if you want to know more, but suffice it to say, I loved it and highly recommend it.

I’ve now moved on to The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett. After hearing at least four people say this was the best book they’ve ever read, I couldn’t resist. It’s a biggie, and not typical of the type of books I normally read, but already just a few chapters in, I’ve cried and regained hope and been amazed and think I’m going to love it. But at the rate things are going, it could be months before I finish it.

Books, Bowling & Finding Family in the Most Unexpected Places

It was a very full weekend!

Friday evening found me curled up in my favorite recliner with a book I couldn’t put down. It was Sarah’s Key by Tatiana DeRosnay and I picked it up based on a coworker’s recommendation. The story revolves around Sarah Starzynski, a young French Jewish girl who, in 1942, was arrested along with her parents and thousands of other Jewish families who were held in inhumane conditions for several days at the Vélodrome d’Hiver in Paris before being transferred to Auschwitz. Before Sarah could be taken from her home, she hid her four-year old brother in a secret cupboard in her bedroom wall and locked him in so the police would not find him. She was sure she would be back home by the end of the day to set him free again. The story surrounds Sarah’s fight to get back to her brother as she realizes the police have no intention of letting any of the Jewish families return to their homes.

The story was riveting and heart-wrenching, and as I said, I couldn’t put it down until I was finished. I highly, highly recommend this book!

Saturday night we returned to our couples’ bowling league after having had a break for the holidays and missing a week due to Kacey’s out-of-town volleyball tournament. It was fun to see everyone again, and I bowled well, surpassing my average pretty substantially all three games. (We still lost, however, as our partners were absent this week and we had no substitutes to take their places.) One of the other couples, Dan and Bonnie, asked if we wanted to join in their poker game. I see people playing cards while bowling all the time, but this was a first for me. There were seven of us playing, a dollar per game per person in the pot. Dan explained that as soon as you bowled your first strike or spare, you could pick up your hand and draw a card. Then for each subsequent strike or spare, you got to draw a new card and discard one. The winner of each game would win the pot. And in spite of having a full house and a straight, I wasn’t able to win the pot either time. But the bigger surprise, as I found out when I picked up my very first hand, is that we were playing with porn cards! Soooo, I was slightly shocked but amused, none the less. I kept my hand safely tucked in my back pocket so as not to offend anyone who might see. One of the guys was studying the cards and adding commentary. “That looks like it hurts… THAT looks interesting!… This one? Maybe not…”

Sunday morning came too soon and we were off to one of Kacey’s volleyball tournaments. We didn’t have to go far, just across the border to Hudson, Wisconsin. But it was an early start as the girls had to be there at 7:15.

As soon as we found our way into the building, I ran into Terrie, the wife of one of my cousins, Johnny, neither of whom I  see often enough. We were totally surprised to see one another. Neither of us had any idea the other’s daughter was involved in this level of volleyball. Terrie was on the board of the group that was running the tournament, so she was busy keeping things running smooth all day long. We stopped to talk several times during the day and when I saw her daughter, Jessica, who I was sure wouldn’t remember me (she didn’t) I introduced myself and explained how we were related. Jessica was sweet and told me her dad had been at the tournament but had left. But, he was going to be back again later. I told her to be sure to tell him his cousin wanted to see him if he had a chance. When he returned, Johnny came and found us and we enjoyed a nice talk during some down time between games.

But the best part of the day was the fact that our girls finally pulled off a win and came home with some medals! They had to fight hard for it and that made their victory so much sweeter. Of course, this was the one time I didn’t bring my camera along, so the best I could do was a couple of camera-phone snap shots of the winners!

It had been an exciting and fun day, but a long one, and we were glad to get back home.

No wins, but we had fun anyway

It was another frustrating tournament for the volleyball girls. They played well today, but just couldn’t pull off a win no matter how hard they tried. They won a couple of matches, but getting an entire game under their belts was not to be.

I was proud of Kacey today. She loves volleyball. She likes to play hard and she wants to win. She could have allowed all of the losses to dampen her spirits, but she dug deep and kept a positive attitude. It went a long way in motivating the other girls too. Even when it was all said and done and it was time to go home without anything to show for their efforts, they looked tired, but not defeated. Good girls. They’ll get it together soon enough and their efforts will pay off.

Sharing some encouragement before the game

Having fun and showing off those beautiful smiles

Goofing off between games

“Head Bump!”

The hotel, as I mentioned before, had some history. Our room had a brochure that told all about it. I was wrong when I said that the hotel used to be a hospital. It has always been a hotel. But when it first opened, the third floor was a medical facility with an operating room and patient rooms. And it was on the third floor that we stayed.  The bathroom was the most obvious sign of our room’s previous purpose – a typical hospital bathroom if I ever saw one.

I found this feature in our bathroom particularly intriguing. It clearly hasn’t been used for years. I peeked inside and all I could see was dust and dirt.

One of the many hallways on our floor had a hospital feel to it as well… Maybe it was those wheelchairs?

Does anyone else find this reminiscent of The Shining?

The pool was located on the 11th floor and was only accessible by taking the elevator to the 10th floor and then walking up a flight of stairs (in a stairwell that had a very disturbing smell, I might add. The girls insisted it was haunted and smelled like old ladies. I’m not sure what old ladies smell like. To me it smelled like burnt pizza.) I was stupid and didn’t think to bring my camera along when we visited the pool. It was beautiful, enclosed in a dome that allowed the night sky to be seen from below, and surrounded with windows that provided a spectacular view of downtown.

I love being in places where you can literally feel the ghosts of the past all around you. That’s how I felt at the Kahler Grand Hotel.

One of several restaurants in the hotel.

The wig shop located just above the main lobby. The girls were creeped-out by the mannequins. It occurred to me that this shop is probably very successful considering what is located across the street from the hotel:

And yes, we could have stayed in any number of the “usual” hotels. There was a Days Inn and a Holiday Inn, both within sight of The Kahler, but I’d be willing to bet that those hotels couldn’t boast of playing host to famous guests like the Kahler did.

And my kid has never felt compelled to play in the closets at those other hotels either.

Ahhh, but it’s good to be home again.

In Rochester

We’re at one  of Kacey’s volleyball tournaments this weekend in Rochester. We left home at 6:30 this morning and drove about an hour and a half, straight to the National Volleyball Center. We spent a long day there. The place was way overcrowded. I felt claustrophobic. And though the girls played better than they did last weekend, they still couldn’t pull off a win.

We just checked into our hotel. It’s the Kahler Grand Hotel and word has it this place used to be part of the Mayo Clinic. By the looks of the bathroom, I’d say that’s probably true. I’m sleeping in a converted hospital room tonight! It’s really a very pretty old place and I’m going to try to take some pictures if there’s time after dinner and before we go back for tomorrow’s games.

Tonight I’m being dragged to a local restaurant for food and to watch football. I hate football. But I don’t want to be a party pooper, so I guess I’ll go.

Volleyball Day

Yep. It’s that time of year. Kacey is playing volleyball again. Technically, she never really stopped. The school season ended and the winter team started practicing. They’ve practiced for the last couple of months, and today they had their first tournament of the season.

Kace and I were up before the crack of dawn and heading off to a local college where the tournament was being held. These games start early! The team didn’t look so good today though. They came close a couple of times but just couldn’t put it together. They lost every single game. I thought Kacey looked pretty good though. She loves volleyball and takes it very seriously. She gets frustrated when other players make careless mistakes or miss a play because they’re goofing off. At the level she’s playing, they’re supposed to take it seriously. It is about winning. She knows what she’s supposed to do, and sometimes she has to help others remember what they are supposed to do. It’s the reason she sees so much playing time. And she’s not perfect either and can handle losing now and then. But losing every game? That’s a little hard for her to take. She had some serious pouting going on when it was all said and done. Can’t say as I blame her.

During the games, I sat in the front row of the bleachers and I kept the defensive stats for the coach. Between games, while our girls were sitting or refereeing other teams’ games, I read a book. And I learned something while I read…

You should never sit in the front row of bleachers during a volleyball game, with your head down, and allow yourself to become completely immersed in a book. Why? I’ll tell you why. Sometimes those volleyballs don’t get hit back over to the other side of the net. Sometimes they get hit. Really hard. And the players in the back row – the ones whom you are sitting behind – miss the ball. And sometimes while you’re reading your book, with your head down, completely absorbed, you might faintly hear someone say, “Heads up! Heads up!” But it doesn’t register because you are so lost in the book you are reading. And then you’ll get hit in the head with a volleyball. And OUCH!

And also, after a long day of sitting on metal bleachers. Your butt will hurt. Bring a cushion.

On a more serious note, I found time to talk with some of the other moms. Quite by accident, we started talking about kids. Oldest kids and middle kids and youngest kids. And the topic of college came up. And it just so happens that these two moms I was talking with each have middle children who are very much like Jake. We talked about the struggles with school, the years of battling and pushing, pleading and helping, praying and hoping it will all be okay. They talked about how each of their kids had taken a little break after high school too, like Jake, instead of just jumping right into higher education. One of them has a daughter who graduated with Jake and is just starting school this month, like he is. The other one has a daughter a couple years older. She described her daughter’s struggles throughout her younger years. It was comforting to feel that bond. To know that other parents struggle with a child who struggles. There are other people who have kids who succeed easily and also have kids who have to work so much harder at all those things most take for granted. And the best part was hearing this mom talk about her daughter, the one who sounds so much like Jake, and the way she is making it. She’s going to school and she’s passing and she’s going to make it.

Jake starts community college tomorrow and I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to being worried about him. Brad accused me yesterday of holding Jake’s hand too much. The comment made me angry and all I could do was walk away from him. How do you explain to one kid, to whom everything comes pretty easily, who thinks you just favor and coddle and baby another kid? How do you make him understand how much it hurts to see your child struggle and fail? How do you make him comprehend how many failures, how many looks and words of disappointment it takes to make a kid stop believing in his own ability? He’ll never understand that what looks like babying and hand-holding to him is a form of support I need to give. He doesn’t know what it’s like to not believe in yourself. He doesn’t know how it feels to be so afraid of failing again that you hesitate to even try. It doesn’t occur to him that Jake’s sometimes arrogant attitude is only a way of masking insecurities. It hurts to see Brad holding this against Jake. I just hope some day he will get it, maybe just a little bit. Maybe someday these two boys can actually be friends with one another.

State Softball Tournament

It’s State Softball Tournament weekend for Kacey’s softball team. They’re doing well so far, with two wins under their belts. In their final game today, they beat their local rivals.

Wait….Let me rephrase that.

They SPANKED ‘em! They completely outplayed them. They ten-runned ‘em!

It was a sweet, sweet victory due to the fact that the rival team is made up of some not-so-nice girls. It was so gratifying to see our girls’ good sportsmanship and teamwork win out, especially after watching the other team’s pitcher smiling and smirking after she hit a batter with one of her pitches.

After the big win, the team went out for a celebratory dinner at an Italian restaurant. While there, we picked up Joe Mauer and took him home with us.

IMG_0420 by you.

IMG_0421 by you.

IMG_0422 by you.

Great Start

I dreamed again last night and actually sort of remembered it! (Maybe this just takes practice!) I dreamed we were on vacation with our friends who own the big boat. In the dream we were obviously going somewhere to enjoy some time out on the boat, but it wasn’t a place I recognized. We had to drive over a long and wide bridge that crossed a big body of water and the bridge had no side rails. I was freaking out that we were going to drive off the bridge and fall into the water and drown inside the truck. So one our friends decided to keep me calm by playing a game of Name that Tune. All of us were competing to be the first to name the song and the artist. In real life, I’m pretty good at this game. In the dream I knew it was Duran Duran singing, but for the life of me could not come up with the name of the song. At that point I woke up and knew the song I was hearing in my dream was Rio. How’s that for a vivid dream?

I woke up feeling refreshed, rather than drained; a nice change of pace. The window above my head was open and the cool morning air was washing over me. After extracting myself from the tangle of my body pillow and a couple of cats, I went and gathered up a pair of running shorts, a t-shirt and some socks. I threw my hair up in a pony-tail and slipped on my running shoes. I tip-toed out the door quietly so as not to wake up the kids. When the garage door opened and I stepped out onto the driveway, the sun was already high in a bright blue, cloudless sky. There was a good breeze blowing. It was a perfect morning for a run.

And my run was about as perfect as could hope for! The train rolled through just as I was getting started, its rhythm helping me set my pace. The birds were trying to out-do one another and I never get tired of their singing. I usually end up struggling with my run in some respect, whether it be too little stamina, weak lungs, or side stitches. Usually it’s a side stitch that finally gets to me and I end up walking through it at some point. Not today. I felt strong and solid all the way through, right up until the final stretch, when a major side stitch set in. Today, I told that sucker I wasn’t going to let it win and I kept fighting it, even running a bit longer than normal. I felt awesome when I returned home! (Maybe I should have kept going? I’m trying to increase my distance and haven’t had much success yet.)

It’s shaping up to be a perfect day. The forecast calls for clear skies and temps around eighty. Kacey’s softball team is playing in the Tri-County tournament this weekend. They’re the number one seed! If anyone is looking for me, I can be found at the ball fields, lounging in my canvas chair, soaking up some sunshine and cheering on my girl and her team mates!