House Aplenty

Sometimes I feel packed into this house … jam-packed. It’s not the biggest of houses, but we’ve managed to live pretty well here as a family of five. Mark and I built this home and moved in before our first year of marriage was over. Our kids have all been born while we’ve lived here and it’s the only house any of them has ever known. As they grew up, so increased the amount of stuff inside our house. Over the years, we learned to be creative with our home furnishings. Any new furniture was chosen because it included some kind of hidden storage or ability to maximize space. There were bunk beds at one time when the boys shared a bedroom, cube shaped end tables with removable tops in the living room, and a captain’s bed with drawers underneath in Kacey’s tiny bedroom. The closets have all been equipped with organizers and we’ve had to be somewhat diligent about purging and donating unneeded things on a regular basis.

While many of our friends and relatives have house-hopped over the years, we’ve stayed put. Sometimes I was jealous. There’s always been a part of me that has wanted more. More space. More room. More house. And it’s when we have company, in particular, that I wish for a better space in which to entertain.

I am just fascinated with living spaces. I love to look at others’ houses, and see how they make them their homes. I love to watch those television shows where the experts make something useful and beautiful out of homes that just don’t work for the owners. I love to watch The Rehab Addict and see old houses restored to their original charm! I’ve even had dreams in which I discover entire additional rooms in my house that I never knew were there before! SO disappointing to wake up from those dreams!

Mark always says we’re going to live here until we die. And why wouldn’t he feel that way? So many of his talents have created and enhanced this place we call home. Besides, we live in a good neighborhood full of great people. And as much as I always think I would go in a heartbeat if the right house came along, I don’t think it would be so easy. I dreamt of that very opportunity just the other night. And in my dream, I felt so conflicted and sad about leaving the place where so many of our memories have been made.

Anyway, we’re pretty happy where we are. We began with a very basic house, only as much as our newlywed budget would allow. And over the years, we’ve improved and remodeled and refined things until this place really became us. Our personalized touches are everywhere, inside and outside of this house.

Of course, being a homeowner means there’s always something to be done. It’s been awhile since we’ve taken on a major home project and I’ve had a list brewing in my mind all winter. Oh, it’s nothing some new carpet and fresh coats of paint won’t cure. But I’m kind of thinking we need fresh paint throughout the entire upper level. And painting is no one’s favorite chore around here. Still, we’re starting to dig in.

Our purchase of a new bed a few weeks ago got things kick-started. Kacey happily claimed our old queen sized bed. She’s long been ready to abandon the twin bed that’s been in her room since she was four years old. And along with the bigger bed, she moved herself into the bigger empty bedroom that’s been serving as the spare room. She claimed that bedroom in spite of the fact that Brad seems to think it should be reserved for his visits home.

I was talking to Brad today, explaining that we were preparing a new spare bedroom and that it would be ready when he comes home for Easter. He was concerned that we might not be planning to paint over the colors that have adorned the walls of Kacey’s old room for the past many years.

I assured him there was a fresh coat of paint on the way, along with new carpeting and a new bed.

“Is it going to be big enough for me and two dogs?” he asked. “You know Lucy always wants to sleep wherever Dacotah and I are.”

“It’ll be a full-sized bed,” I told him. “Plenty of room for all of you.” He tried to argue for something bigger, but I reminded him that the room just wasn’t big enough for a bigger bed. I told him that as long as he’s planning only to be a visitor and not a resident here, he’ll have to settle for a full-sized bed and fight for sleeping space with the dogs if necessary.

We packed up Kacey’s old furniture today. Mark’s niece and her husband just bought their first home, which is ironic, because it seems like just yesterday when she was born, just three months after my Brad was born. And here she is all grown up, married, and with a baby on the way. She and her husband are happily taking any home furnishings they’re offered. The timing was perfectly aligned with our need to swap out some of the stuff in our own house and I was so happy to donate it to someone we know and love. I helped unload the matching dresser, nightstand and captain’s bed from the pick-up trucks, and watched as the guys hauled it all into the house and up a very narrow, steep staircase into the upper level of the house.

Theirs is a teeny tiny old home, in an old neighborhood in St. Paul. I was instantly fascinated by its charm and history, the six-panel doors with glass doorknobs, the plaster walls, and the bathroom tile. The tile was recently painted white, presumably to make the house more sell-able. But when we looked inside the vanity, we could see the tiles behind it hadn’t been painted. Those tiles had retained their original Pepto-Bismol pink color – the very same pink tile as was in the bathroom of the house where I grew up!

As I looked around the old house, I was struck by the smallness of it all. Mark remarked that when we were kids, our parents raised bunches of kids in these tiny houses, and we never thought a thing of it. True story. My parents raised four kids in what was technically a two-bedroom house. Back then (if you were lucky) they just threw paneling on the basement walls and created extra bedrooms. Others just squeezed as many beds as would fit into one room and the kids just had to deal with it. We didn’t feel deprived by the houses we lived in. We didn’t think twice about sharing a bedroom with a sibling, or pushing the kitchen table back against the wall after meals so there was room to walk through the kitchen. That’s just the way it was. We lived in little houses and we grew up just fine.

I recalled all the times I said I hated this or that about our house, and all the times I wished for something more, something different. Looking around our niece’s house today, I realized that I’ve never needed more. Of course, it’s not easy to entertain more than a few guests here. And when we do, it’s crowded! But it doesn’t matter. What matters is that our friends and family spend time with us here. We’ll continue to make memories here. No one is going to look back and remember only that it was too crowded. If that was important, they wouldn’t keep coming back. And they do keep coming back! No, we have enough. In fact, we have more than we need.

(Still, if Mark ever makes good on those plans to expand out the back of the house, you won’t catch me arguing!)

The Last Spring Break

It’s the last day of what is likely to be the last spring break we acknowledge in our family.

Kacey got a part-time job after Christmas, working for a retailer in the mall near her college. It’s limited her ability to come home any weekend she likes, but it’s been good for her to earn a little spending money. She’s doing very well there and has been praised by her supervisors for her ability to learn quickly and her good work ethic. One might assume that means she’d be scheduled to work as often as her class schedule allows. So I was grateful when she told me she had a stretch of free days during spring break and that she’d be coming home for a few days. As it turned out, she was able to stay for the better part of the week.

It’s always a treat to come home from work to find my daughter waiting here for me, with stories to tell and a willingness to help pull something together that resembles dinner. It’s wonderful to have her at the table with us at meal time! She’s a natural optimist and always brings laughter and fun to the household. I took a day off at her request, so we could have lunch together on Wednesday and she could help me spend some of my money at the new mall which she hadn’t yet had a chance to visit. We had a gorgeous, unseasonably warm day for walking around the outdoor outlet mall. And she came home with some new fashions and footwear to add to her wardrobe.

There is a pile of home improvement tasks to tackle that Mark and I have lately committed to addressing. And Kacey even helped get us started on one of them. The upstairs bedrooms need new carpet and one of them needs to be repainted. We’ll soon be giving some of the “kid” furniture to a niece and her husband who are buying their first home. Then we can begin the chores of ripping out carpet and replacing it, and then the dreaded painting!

Of course, Kacey was highly motivated to help us get the ball rolling on the great bedroom clean-out. She moved her belongings from the smallest bedroom she’s occupied for nearly twenty years to the bigger bedroom which has been serving as the spare bedroom since Brad moved out of the house. We emptied closets, moved beds back and forth, and got rid of stuff! You can’t imagine the amount of stuff that was packed into that littlest bedroom of Kacey’s! We filled up several bags which were later delivered to the Goodwill and there was plenty more which took up a good amount of space in the trash barrel.

I was a little sad to see some things go. There were toys that just a few years ago I had tucked up onto a high shelf in Kacey’s closet. Keepsakes, I’d thought. But with a few more years between, I’ve come to the realization that there’s only so much space in a little house to hold onto the belongings of five family members. Some items will serve a better purpose in the hands of others who can enjoy them rather than gathering dust here.

There were a few photos too, a sweatshirt, and a stuffed toy dog that went into the trash pile. Gifts from her ex, Connor. Kace seemed way less melancholy about letting them go than I felt. But I only had to see how easily she was looking ahead in her life to know that there was no point in dwelling on the past.

And ultimately, it was my daughter who helped me feel good about the major purge that was happening. She was enthusiastically making the bigger room her new “home.” Her college career will come to fruition by the end of this year. And she is planning to come back home, at least for a while, after she graduates. Yesterday as we were driving back from the Goodwill, she talked about a good friend of hers, who has likely job prospects after graduation in the city where she attends school. “But she wants to find something closer to home,” Kacey was saying. “She just wants to be able to come home for dinner whenever she feels like it, and spend time with her mom. You know? She doesn’t want to be hours away and limited to a weekend here and there when she can come visit. She and her mom are close. Not like you and I are, but in their own way.”

That made my heart swell, that my daughter acknowledged feeling the same closeness that I feel with her. She went on to tell me that she’s of the same mind as her friend. She can’t imagine living and working far from this home, our family home. I love that she cherishes the bonds of family and wants to stay close and connected. I see great things ahead for her, and I’m thrilled that whatever waits for her, she wants to experience it in close proximity to her loved ones.

So later today we’ll say goodbye when she hops in her car and drives back to school. I’ll feel a little sad, as always to have to part ways. But only temporarily.

Life with (Imperfect) Human Beings

My boss has a favorite saying. If you’re going to stir the shit pot, you’d better be prepared to lick the spoon.

Having an almost 24 year-old still living at home presents occasional opportunities for the shit pot to be stirred. For the most part, I’m happy to have him still here. Considering the person he is, and his current circumstances, it’s the best thing for him to live at home right now. As far as I’m concerned, he can stay as long as he needs. But it’s not always a bed of roses for him, or for us.

Well-meaning people have their opinions. My oldest son, for example, has been known to say, “Mom, he needs to go live on his own for a while so he can gain some concept of what it’s like to be solely responsible for himself.” (Actually, he says it more like, “Mom, you just need to kick him out.”)

A coworker without kids of her own is always preaching tough love to those of us who make the mistake of admitting to challenges with our kids – adult or not. She’s always spouting off about tough love and how she would so easily do this or that. Teach that kid a lesson. And if he didn’t agree with her position, he could just go away. And stay away until he’s ready to come on board. Easier said than done. A parent’s heart carries a lot of guilt about letting a child suffer, or sitting idly by, when it would be so easy to make everything better. And honestly, when I think about his shortcomings, I frequently wonder how we failed him in those areas.

He still has some growing up to do, although, for the most part, I think he’s pretty typical of a lot of people his age. He’s a little bit impetuous at times with his money. Living under a roof that’s not his, and being constantly reminded that it’s not his, he has little motivation to contribute without being asked. And he has that youthful ability to just tuck certain worries away for another day. Not to completely bash on the kid … he can have a great sense of humor at times. He’s got a good work ethic (at work.) And he comes home every night at a reasonable hour.

Obviously, three adults living under the same roof is not always a bed of roses. Particularly when one of them is at the early end of the spectrum of life, while the rest of us are on the far side with all of  our scars and experience and knowledge of how it should all work.

Admission. Conflict ties me up in knots. I’m not entirely sure from where comes this fear of letting it all out, saying exactly what’s on my mind, to raise my voice, and of letting anger and frustration rise to the surface. There is something in me that believes that’s not okay, that once it comes out, some damage occurs that can’t be undone. I’m guilty of swinging too far to the side of not saying anything at all and just hoping the heat will pass. There’s probably something too about being too much of a fixer, even though I know sometimes the best thing is not to rescue someone from their own devices.

I’m reluctant to express serious anger. But that doesn’t mean I don’t feel it, or that it’s not obvious to others when they stir the shit pot. I just get quiet. And Lord help those who have done the stirring. I know that losing their cool is their way of releasing those pent-up emotions. Unfortunately for them, the aftermath is that they’ve frustrated their wife and mother, the queen grudge-holder, who envisions a household in which differing opinions and life-lessons are discussed rationally, with calm and compassion. And would it be too much to ask for some hugs and I’m-sorries now and then?

I know. Pretty unrealistic. I live with cave men. And most of the time, I’m pretty proud of who they are with all their manly talents. And hugging and feelings don’t necessarily go hand-in-hand with the caveman lifestyle. I know this. Also, they take care of the icky and dirty stuff around here so that I don’t have to. And I can forgive them for the fact that they’re oblivious to the idea that bathrooms need cleaning on a regular basis, or that having food to eat requires advance planning. I’ll gripe about it, but deep-down, I know that domesticity is my arena.

The thing is, Mark’s hair can be on fire and his head can fly off his neck and the next hour, he’ll be like, “Hey, whadda ya wanna do this weekend?”

And I’ll be all, “Are you kidding me? I don’t want to do anything that involves you! You just yelled at everybody and your head’s still rolling around over there in the corner of the living room. You have to suffer for that for a while.”

Yeah, when I see it in writing like that, I realize just how crazy it is. Yet I keep doing it. Today I have some repairs to make – with my son who needs a little honesty mixed with my brand of patience, and with my husband, who doesn’t deserve to be emotionally exiled for making our son hear some things he needs to hear.  We need to work (again) on communicating realistically with each other. I see it as my job to keep working on this. No one else gets tied up in knots over this kind of stuff. They just see it as how we are and they’re okay with that. It’s not the end of the world, in their worlds.

As Mark was leaving for work today, and I was still laying in bed with my eyes closed, I heard him ask, “Are you still mad?”

Without opening my eyes, I said, “No,” while in my head I was saying “Yes.” All I can say is thank God my husband doesn’t take too seriously my need to punish everyone for their unpleasant emotions. I’m also grateful for the changing season, with the warmth it brings and the opportunity to get outside for a walk with Lucy before the sun was fully up. I blew off some steam and am ready to put the shit pot away again for a while.


This isn’t just a story about a funeral

I had a funeral to attend yesterday. Seems there have been more and more of these lately in my circle of friends and family. An inevitable sign of my age, I suppose. Yesterday’s funeral was in honor of the father of my friend, Kendra. Kendra and I met on our first day of high school and became inseparable for the next four years. So her father was more to me than just “my friend’s dad.” He was kind of like a second dad to me. He was in his late seventies and had his share of health concerns lately, but his death was still rather unexpected.

Although I’ve rarely seen him since Kendra and I have become grown ups, I have such great memories of her dad. He was a neat-freak who frustrated Kendra by refusing to allow her to leave the house each day until she’d thoroughly cleaned the bathroom after her daily beauty routine. (It was the eighties, and  a lot of hairspray was involved.) He had funny nicknames for all of his kids. Kendra thought they were embarrassing, but I was secretly honored when I’d spent so much time at her house that I’d earned a nickname of my own. From that point on, whenever I came through their door, her dad would greet me with a resounding “Terri Mary Berry Cherry!”

Mark and I went to the visitation, then stayed for the funeral mass, which honored Kendra’s dad nicely. I’d thought we would skip the luncheon afterwards because Brad was home for a weekend visit and I wanted to be sure I had enough quality time with my oldest son before Monday showed up and he left again. But I should know by now that it’s useless to make such detailed plans. They have a way of falling apart.

My parents attended the funeral too, not only because Kendra held a similar place in my family as I did in hers, but because (fun coincidence that we discovered when we first met,) my dad had attended grade school with Kendra’s mom. My Dad was planning to stay for the luncheon. When I learned this, I had a little twinge of guilt that I should offer to stay with my parents. The funeral was a biggie. LOTS of people. And I knew this would be hard on my mom. She can’t stand or walk for any great length of time, and I already knew the line for lunch would require more standing, waiting and walking than she could endure with her limited stamina. And I worried about my dad’s ability to assist her as much as she needed.

We stayed. And it was no big deal. When I texted Brad to let him know we’d be back later than expected, he responded, “That’s fine. I’m visiting Grandma right now anyway.”

And as I seem to be constantly realizing, things have a way of just working out. My neat little plan was unravelling, but in a good way. Mom was able to sit at the table while Dad, Mark and I tag-teamed in the buffet line to fill four plates. Deep down inside, I knew I was doing what I should have planned to do all along.

After most people had finished eating, the volume in the room intensified with conversation. I got to spend time with Kendra’s mom and siblings, most of whom I haven’t seen in forever. Kendra came over to say hello to my parents and after she moved on to other guests, I noticed my dad had walked away. He had stopped near the front of the room and was slowly looking around. Mom said, “He doesn’t know who he’s looking for.”

“I’ll go help him,” I said. “Who is he looking for?”

“A man from St. Casimir’s,” she replied. (St. Casimir’s was my grandparents’ church, where my dad attended weekly mass during his childhood, where my parents were married, where I was baptized, and where my dad worked as deacon in later years.)

I met up with Dad and said, “Who ya lookin’ for, Dad?”

“I don’t know,” he said. This stumped me a little, but Dad has a way of thinking that everyone knows what he’s thinking, even if he doesn’t communicate it well.

“You don’t know who you’re looking for?” I asked.

“Well, Mom said there was a man from St. Casimir’s over here. Thought I’d come see if he’s someone I know.”

“What’s his name?”

“I don’t know.”

“What’s he wearing?”

“I don’t know.”

I’m not even sure why I thought what he was wearing mattered. With my dad’s limited vision, he probably wouldn’t have been able to pick out a specific color of clothing, even if he knew what he was looking for. “Hold on, Dad,” I said and left him standing there for the moment. I hurried back to Mom and asked, “Who are we looking for?”

“There was a man sitting two rows in front of us during mass. Remember the guy with the huge comb-over? He’s sitting at the front table with a woman in a purple shirt. I think he’s from St. Casimir’s.”

A clear picture formed in my mind of the back of the man’s head and his impressive hair-styling skills. I vaguely questioned the sanity of seeking out a person who may or may not have been someone my parents even knew. But I figured what-the-hay. Que sera, sera. I went back and looped my arm in my dad’s, steering him to the front table where I could see the two people my mom had described. As we neared them, I noticed the man had beautiful blue eyes and a warm expression on his face. I suddenly felt bad for my earlier judgement of his comb-over. I thought I heard him ask the woman in the purple shirt, “Is it him?”

Dad and I were now standing right next to the man and as he looked up at me, I said, “Excuse me, but are you from St. Casimir’s?”

As he was just responding in the affirmative, his eyes moved to my dad and the name tag Dad insists on wearing whenever at a Catholic function, the one that identifies him as a deacon. The man’s face lit up as he exclaimed, “Tom! It is you! I thought it was you!”

He jumped to his feet and wrapped my dad in a huge bear hug as he explained to anyone, maybe to me, “Aw, we went to grade school together!” I felt a lump form in my throat at the sight of this man’s affection for my dad.

His name was Joe. He explained where he had lived in the old neighborhood, in close proximity to where my dad and grandparents had lived. His last name was oddly similar to my dad’s name and we laughed when he told me, “I was the bad kid. He was the good kid. But he got in trouble sometimes because the teachers mixed him up with me.”

The domino effect ensued as others at the table identified themselves as former classmates of Dad’s. One woman kept looking at me and then telling my dad how beautiful his daughter was. I blushed with embarrassment. She told me how she remembered my grandma, and what a nice woman she remembered her to be. “Your grandma was a saint!,” she insisted.

“Yeah, we miss her,” I said, laughing a little to myself. I wondered if she was remembering the right woman. My paternal grandmother was an incredible woman, and we loved her dearly. But she was a rather stoic person and her nature wasn’t exactly warm and fuzzy. Still, no disrespect intended to my grandma. There was never any doubt she loved us fiercely.

So much hugging, hand-shaking and storytelling followed. Joe told us he still lived in the old neighborhood, in a hundred year-old house he’d bought that sits right across from the childhood home of the woman who’d deemed my grandmother a saint. He told Dad about the current happenings at St. Casimir’s Church and as others in the group took Dad’s attention, Joe shared proud stories with me about his adult children and his grandchildren. I won’t fill this space with everything he shared with me, but suffice it to say that rarely have I met a person who exudes such happiness with the circumstances of his life. He was not just a glass-half-full kind of guy. He was a cup-runneth-over kind of guy.

Joe invited my dad to come visit him whenever he wanted. Dad thanked him but explained that he can’t drive anymore and he has to be careful about how much he asks Mom to chauffeur him around. I found myself thinking how I’d love to hear more of Joe’s stories and I was acutely aware of how he was helping me see my dad in a different light. I often tend only to see my dad as the person he is today – an aging man, frustrated with his limitations and sometimes short-tempered and self-centered. Joe knew my dad not only from their childhood days, but from Dad’s time as a deacon in his church. Through his eyes, I was reminded of the positive impact my dad has had on the lives of others, a fact I too often forget.

I made sure Joe heard me tell Dad that if ever he wanted to go visit, I would be more than happy to drive him to Joe’s place. Joe told us exactly where we could find him, on the corner of two of the familiar old streets. Biggest house on the block with the tallest pine tree around. He hugged me several times, and Dad as well, before deciding to walk over where Mom was sitting and talk with her a while. More goodbyes and hugs followed before we finally parted for good.

I had gone to the funeral, I’d thought only to grieve and pay my respects. But I was finally beginning to understand why funerals are so often referred to as a celebration of life. I’ll bet it made Kendra’s dad proud to see how much we celebrated life – not only his, but our own.


There’s a rhythm to life in this house these days, one to which I’ve become fairly accustomed since two of our three chicks have left the nest. Granted, one of those two is likely to return for at least a while after she graduates, but most days, there is only one chick still in the nest and it’s not exactly what he’d choose for himself if he had better options.

Being a young man of almost twenty-four years, Jake is understandably not always happy to still be here. His older and younger siblings are on different paths than his, ones that lead to more frequent independence and adventure. I’m sure it’s often hard being the one who marches to a different drum. But living at home is his best option right now, and I do my best to encourage and support him whenever possible. He holds down a respectable job. He doesn’t drink other than socially and comes home every night. And he always gives us the courtesy of telling us where he’s going. He’s also a slob if left unchecked, and would never do a household chore without first being told. He eats all of the junk food and little of the good food I stock in our cupboards. He worries me when I see just how much Mountain Dew he consumes every day. I do my best to be patient with him. After all, as I mentioned, he is a young man of almost twenty-four years and that patience sometimes requires an extra effort. He’s not exactly all about a tidy house, making his bed, or keeping up on his laundry. I try to give him some leeway while reminding him that living under our roof requires certain contributions on his part.

I can also attest to the fact that being the wife and the mom, and the only female in the house (not counting Lucy,) is sometimes a challenge. I often feel that I’m the only one responsible for thinking ahead, thinking about someone besides myself, planning for anything, or making sure we have the simple comforts in life, such as food, laundry soap, and a supply of toilet paper for the bathrooms. Most of the time, I don’t mind being this person. It’s how I operate. But sometimes I think it would be nice if the other two could occasionally shed their caveman personas and pitch in.

I’m also highly aware that I’m the one most likely to have emotions. I have a lot of emotions, and from my point of view, most situations have many shades of gray.

I don’t want to say that Mark doesn’t have emotions, but I think his supply of them is much smaller and much more clearly defined than mine. And for him, situations are usually very black and white.

We’re not sure if Jake has emotions or opinions on situations. He spends a lot of time not being here and not spending time with us. Therefore, there is not a lot of conversation with him. Again, this is understandable to me. At this point in his life, I’d worry if here was overly willing to hang out with us old fogies. When he’s less than pleasant, I try to understand what’s behind his behavior. For example, there’s this thing Jake and I do every morning while getting ready for our workdays.

First, I should explain that Jake is not a morning person. Jake ranks somewhere in the 1,089th percentile of non-morning persons. He gets up sometime after I do and we go about our business. I might say good morning and he might grunt at me … if I’m lucky. And every morning as he walks out the door, I say, “Have a good day! Love you!”

And if I’m really lucky, Jake might say, “Yeah.” Otherwise, he probably grunts at me. He’s always much more pleasant in the evenings, but I can expect next to nothing from him in the mornings. Still, it bothers me that I wish him a good day, every day and he can barely acknowledge. I know it’s a bit much to expect him to tell me he loves me every day, but a polite reply would be nice. Recently, I decided that whether or not he ever responds courteously to me, I’m still going to wish him a good day and tell him I love him. I’m going to tell him this every day that I have the chance.

And then yesterday? I was crabby. I blamed this on Mark, but in hindsight, I’m willing to admit I was partly to blame. Our gray versus black/white differences on this day were the recipe for our discord. And the whole thing was one of those stupid things, fueled by fatigue and possibly some hormones on my part. Jake grunted at me when I said goodbye, and it just made me feel worse. I worked hard all day on things that drained me and when I came home, Mark was playing the crabby card. Inside my head, I said, “Oh, this is what we’re going to do? Fine then.” And I proceeded to discontinue speaking to Mark.

An hour or so later, Mark wanted to discuss the cloud hovering over us and work through it so that we could play nice again. Except the way he communicated that to me was to ask, “What is your problem?”

I opened my mouth to explain what I was feeling, but what I was feeling in light of his tone and choice of words – was defensive. Before I could begin, I stopped and said instead, “You know what? When you open the conversation with those words, I don’t want to talk to you.” And so I walked away and we proceeded to continue not talking.

In the midst of this, Jake came down the hallway from his bedroom and went down the steps to our entryway, probably oblivious to the tension in the house. He slipped on his boots and called upstairs to anyone listening, “I’m going to Bobby’s.”

Mark didn’t respond, because that’s just Mark sometimes. And since I was crabby, I didn’t respond either. That is just not usually me, but I was at the end of my rope and fed up with everyone and everything.

Poor Jake was confused, so he stood with his hand on the door and said, “Mom? I’m going to Bobby’s?”

“K,” I grunted. And then added under my breath, “I guess I’m expected to respond when you talk to me.”

“What?” Jake asked.

I was already ashamed of my behavior and said, “Nothing.” I’m sure he caught on to the fact that Mom was in a mood and couldn’t make tracks soon enough. Off he went, not to return until long after I was asleep.

This morning I felt like a turd. I was swimming in guilt over my childish behavior. Mark and I had both cooled down and he left for work with a silent hug between us. But as I continued getting ready for work, I kept thinking I needed to apologize to Jake. You’d have to really know Jake to believe this, but the reality is, he probably thought way less of the whole thing than I did. And even though he usually just seems to take me for granted, and I go along with it, I had just the slightest inkling last night that he knew exactly how he and I usually worked, but that I had messed with the system and thrown him off. I couldn’t let him out the door today without setting things right again. I was on alert so I’d be sure to hear Jake when put his boots on in the entryway. Soon enough I heard him trudging down the steps with his usual air of morning drudgery.

I was in the lower level and so I moved to the stairway as he was bending over, slipping on his work boots.

“Hey,” I called up.

His eyes met mine, with no expectation in them and I said, “I’m sorry for being crabby and rude to you last night.”

“Huh?” he asked. (See? Told ya.)

“When you told me you were going to Bobby’s and I didn’t answer you,” I reminded him. “That was rude of me and it had nothing to do with you. I’m sorry.”

“S’Okay,” he mumbled.

“Okay,” I said. “Have a good day. I love you.”

I didn’t wait for the non-response, but just turned and began walking the few steps back to my bathroom. And that’s when I heard him reply, “Love you too.”

Made. My. Day.

Cape Coral Canal Tour

Friday, February 20th was our last full day in Florida. When we awakened that morning, it was chilly! And I don’t mean “for Florida.” I mean it was cold. From what we’d heard, Cape Coral was seeing its coldest temperatures in fifty-five years!

The men folk had gone to a nearby marina earlier in the week to inquire about renting a boat. They were told that no boats would be rented out during the middle days of the week due to high winds, but they’d secured a rental for Friday. I woke up that morning thinking, “I don’t want to go out on the boat! I don’t want to go, I don’t want to go…”

But of course, it never even crossed the minds of the men folk that we might cancel our boat rental. Before I coaxed myself out of bed for the day, I could hear Paul and Steve in the kitchen, making coffee and preparing to go claim our boat for the day. Once I’d showered, I descended the spiral staircase from the upper level of the house dressed in jeans, t-shirt, hoodie … and socks for the first time all week. And there was Paul, standing at the kitchen island in a pair of cargo shorts and a nylon pullover, sipping on his coffee and studying local maps.

“We’re still going?” I asked.

“Absolutely!” he replied. He didn’t have to add, but I knew he was thinking, “We’re Minnesotans. And this is not real cold.” I don’t think I’m a true Minnesotan at heart. I was cold.

I poured myself a cup of coffee, hoping the heat of it would prepare me our day out on the canals of Cape Coral. Megan soon joined us in the kitchen and the three guys left to go claim their boat, promising to pull up in front of our (newly repaired) dock to pick up us girls.

During the short time the guys were gone, I realized there was food to be used up before we left for home again the next day. So I took to scrambling eggs, cooking the remaining breakfast sausage and reheating leftover pancakes from the previous day’s breakfast. Dori wandered into the kitchen and sat at the huge island while I cooked and we ate and waited for the guys to return. And soon, they did. They tied the boat up to the dock and came across the patio into the kitchen, telling tales while they downed their own breakfasts, about how the marina workers hadn’t put the boat in the water before they’d arrived. They didn’t think we’d really still be going out on such a cold day. The guys gave them all of their boastful we are Minnesotan lines and so the boat was put into the water and released to us for the day.

When everyone had eaten some breakfast, we packed up a cooler with some drinks and bagged some snacks for our day on the water. Megan borrowed some blankets she found in various closets around our rental house and I slipped my jean jacket on over my other layers. The boat awaited us and so we all piled in.

Even though the air was cool, the sky above us was clear and blue. Rays of sunshine danced on the surface of the water as we putted up and down the neighborhood canals. And as long as we weren’t facing the wind, the weather actually didn’t feel too bad. As the hours passed, the temperature rose to a more comfortable sixty degree range and I realized I was really glad we hadn’t cancelled our boat day. There was plenty to see – the usual birds and the flying fish, some of the rowers we’d been watching all week long, not to mention the homes, properties and boats that left us with our mouths gaping open.

Steve was dressed appropriately.

Steve was dressed appropriately.

By the time we’d passed through the lock and ventured out into the gulf, I was able to shed my jackets, shoes and socks. I rolled up my jeans and let the warmth of the sun soak into my skin. The music was turned up and everyone was having a good time, laughing, relaxing and admiring the scenery around us.

Canals 22

Mark being silly with Dori








We saw a handful of dolphins – or more accurately – we saw their fins. None of them gave us the full show, but still, it was a thrill to see them.

Canals 14b

There was a curious floating building. (A bar? Maybe?)

Canals 16b


There were the ever-present pelicans and just beautiful views.

When it was time to return the boat, I found myself thinking how glad I was that the guys had insisted we go out on such a “cold” day. It was an amazing way to end our week in Florida. From the marina after handing off the boat, we walked to a nearby bar and enjoyed some frozen fruity drinks out on a sunny patio before going out for our last dinner in Florida. (I had king crab legs. YUM!)

Even though home was calling to me, I knew I’d always remember this week in Florida as a special time with great friends, loads of fun, beautiful scenery, and a much-appreciated break from the Minnesota winter.

Florida 2015 06b

Thank you, Florida! We’ll miss you! Hope to see you again sometime soon!

Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary

After departing from the Naples Pier, we weren’t sure what to do next in order to kill off a few hours. And even though three of us were searching our smart phones for tourist attractions, no one was really offering up much in the way of suggestions. Truth be told, Mark was probably just playing Bejeweled and only pretending to the search for fun, entertainment, or education.

By the way, it occurs to me that this ongoing litany of sight-seeing experiences and typical touristy photos is maybe becoming slightly boring and doesn’t really describe the level of fun that was had in addition to the expected activities in Florida. But there is no photographic evidence of such things as Dori executing beautiful dives into the pool. In her strapless swimsuit. With me wondering out loud how her top stayed up when she did that. And her breaking the surface of the water again, laughing and shouting, “It doesn’t!”

Or on our last night, Paul and Steve, two fifty-something men chasing my husband throughout the main level of our rental home like a bunch of little boys. Attempting to catch him and throw him into the pool. Because he was the only one of the six of us who had not jumped into the cold water the entire week we were there. They didn’t catch him. He’s apparently faster than the other two. He never did end up in the pool, but the three of them were giggling like little girls by the time it was all over.

Or any number of us, upon losing a game of pool, kneeling at the opposite end of the pool table from the winner(s), howling and barking like dogs. Because howling and barking like dogs was the consequence of losing a game of pool.

Or Steve standing up on the bedroom balcony in his swimsuit and Megan’s bra. (Actually, there is a picture of that, but he would never forgive me if it made the internet!)

Instead … I give you pictures from the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, which is where we ended up after leaving the Naples Pier. Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary is two and a half miles of boardwalk weaving through a swamp filled with massive trees, impressive plant-life, and a host of birds and other creatures. And my first impression as we began our trek through the swamp amongst a steady stream of other visitors? Was camera envy. Some of the zoom lenses around me were enormous! My biggest lens didn’t even compare. Still, I wouldn’t have wanted to lug around ten or twenty pounds of camera and lenses, and I got some decent pictures in spite of my amateurish equipment.

In the sanctuary, we were protected from the wind and chill. We enjoyed our stroll amongst huge, hundreds year-old trees, with sunshine warming us from above. We searched below the boardwalk for a glimpse of a gator … and finally spotted a few of them, one sunning himself nicely in view on a log. By the time we’d reached the end of the trail, Steve and Dori were done golfing and ready for us to come pick them up. It was a good day of sight-seeing. And Steve’s famous Thai shrimp pasta dinner awaited us back at the house.