July already. And busy. And happy. And gratitude.

There’s a little chalkboard in my kitchen. I originally bought it with the idea that it would be the place where we’d leave notes for each other; something to replace our habit of leaving sticky-notes on the kitchen door frame.

But… the sticky notes continue to be the method of communicating such things as, the dog’s been fed or If I’m not awake by 5, please get me up.

One day, not long after the kitchen became home to the chalkboard, I stumbled across an inspirational quote that I really wanted to remember. I wrote it on the chalkboard. And it remained until another quote struck my fancy and replaced it. Kacey joined the movement and periodically adds words of wisdom that she finds along her reading travels.

There’s almost always something on the chalkboard to remind me to have gratitude. Deep, down inside, gratefulness has not often been my focus. I’m focusing on it now, and sometimes it’s an effort. Passing by those dusty, white words each day, and stopping to think about them helps.

Hazy morning sun

Hazy morning sun

This time of year, it’s easier to have gratitude. My daughter is home for the summer and I’m just so thrilled to have her near me every day. Her bubbly attitude about life in general inspires me.

The longer hours of sunlight, warm weather, and the colorful, seasonal landscape give me frequent reasons to stop and feel appreciation. As summertime brings people outside, we often find ourselves spontaneously gathering with the neighbors. I sometimes forget how much good it does me to interact with others and just relax for a while.

The birds have moved out of the house on our deck. I thought I’d be thrilled, but was surprised to find myself feeling a little sad that they’d gone without saying goodbye. Shortly afterwards, I was checking out the growth in our vegetable garden down in the yard and realized as I heard their familiar song, that they were hanging out in the pine trees just outside the back fence. All is right in their world and I was relieved to know they are thriving.

Logan next door is growing up before our eyes. Having firsthand experience with the fact that kids grow up in the blink of an eye, I’m reminded what a privilege it is to be in Logan’s circle. Last night while putting away a few groceries after a visit to Sam’s Club, I heard his voice trailing behind Mark as he helped carry some things up the stairs to the kitchen.

“Here, Terri,” he said in that sweet, little boy voice, as he reached the upper level and handed me a package of lunch meat. While he still calls me “Tee” sometimes, that habit seems to be fading away.

“Thanks, Log,” I said. He proceeded to tell us about how he’d gone fishing earlier in the day. His arms and hands gestured wildly, and his story was sprinkled with lots of wells, as in “Well, I didn’t get any fish. They wouldn’t come out!”

He’s getting talkative, and his words are easier to understand. After the food was put away, he hauled me out to the driveway where we, of course, played chalk. Logan usually tells me what to draw, but now he’s creating more of the artwork himself. He was thrilled when I made one of his shapes into a fish. From this little boy who was previously very shy about expressing affection, I was rewarded with a full-frontal, tackle-hug! Then came a game of hide-and-seek, where Logan would tell me where to hide. He counted while I attempted to hide from his peeking eyes. He helped me water the pots of flowers, and then just before it was time for him to go home to bed, we played “bad guy.” Logan was the bad guy, and he said I was the fire truck. (?) I guess fire trucks chase bad guys until they capture the bad guy and pick him up, swinging him in a circle and make him giggle.

It’s been a busy summer, but mostly in a fun kind of way. We’ve been invited to several graduation parties this year, chances to gather with friends and family, and reasons for my oldest son to come home for a weekend visit. I love to see the way my grown-up kids now appreciate each other so much more than they did when they were younger. They have so much fun together, and truly seem to have become friends. Makes my heart just want to burst.

Last weekend, I tried something I’ve been wanting to do for a while. Cheers Pablo. Have you heard of this? It’s a sort of painting class. You pick a session in which you’ll get to create a specific painting, show up, and everything you need is ready and waiting for you. And if you like, you can purchase drinks to sip on while you paint. Hence the cheers. My niece invited her mom, (my sister,) and Kacey and me to go. We each painted our own barn scene, following the instruction of a fun, young twenty-something girl who kept getting paint in her long dark hair! And while my first impression was that the result was rather elementary, I had so much fun painting it! The more I look at mine, the more I think I’ll hang it up somewhere in the house. And I totally want to do it again. Maybe in another class. Maybe on my own.

Today I’m enjoying a holiday from work. There’s a long weekend ahead in celebration of our country’s independence and nothing too spectacular in my next few days. The kids all have fun plans of their own and Mark has to work on the fourth. So I’ll do a few things around the house, spend a little time with extended family and just savor these summer days before Monday rolls back around again.

Hanging with Logan

It’s that time of year when we start to hear the familiar whir-whir-whir of Logan’s battery-operated tractor. Lately, I’ll often find myself looking out the front window to see him cruising a wide circle between his yard and ours. He drives round and round the trees out front, and I understand from what his mom tells me, that he’s been busy chasing imaginary stray cats out of our Maple tree.

I worried last fall that Logan would grow up too much over the winter, during the long, cold months when we tend not to see much of our neighbors. I wondered if he would outgrow that sense of trust and excitement he had last summer whenever he’d catch sight of us. But spring arrived, and although Logan is taller and talking more, he’s still cute as a bug and full of wonder, and still thinks we’re some of the coolest people around.

Friday night, I wandered next door to hang out with Logan’s parents and a couple of other neighbors who were sitting around enjoying the beautiful weather. I chatted with the adults for a while, but eventually ended up blowing bubbles with Logan. He handed me his extra wand and we competed to blow the biggest and the most bubbles. Then he wanted me to blow all of the bubbles. He waited for them to land in the grass and then stomped on them, making himself giggle. The more bubbles I blew, the faster he stomped them, and the harder he laughed.

When he got bored with stomping on the bubbles, he began to chase them around as they floated in the air and tried catching them with his own bubble wand. Finally, we ended up in a “sword fight” with our wands. He was giggling so hard by then, he could barely catch his breath.

Afterwards, he asked his daddy if he would build a bonfire in the back yard. When his dad said that he would, Logan turned excitedly to me. Jumping up and down and swatting his thighs with his hands, he shouted, “Tee, you come-a bonfire?”

I had some things to do at home, but I promised Logan I’d come back for the bonfire if I could get my chores done before it got too late. I left him as he continued making the rounds with his invitations. “Jo, you come-a bonfire? Erbody come-a bonfire!”

We’ve been insanely busy here at home this weekend, tearing carpet out of the three upstairs bedrooms so the new carpet can be installed tomorrow. As I was working yesterday, I heard the high-pitched whirring of Logan’s wheels again and went to the front door to see if I could catch a moment with him. We’d found an old Fisher Price multi-tool in Jake’s closet while cleaning things out. Jake used to love pretending to build and fix things with it. I thought Logan might like to have it.

Just as soon as I could get to the front door, Logan had disappeared already. His dad was busy doing yard work on the side of their garage and I could see the tractor parked in their driveway, but no sign of Logan. No worries. I knew he’d be back around again soon enough.

I went back to working in the bedrooms. It was a beautiful day and all of the windows were wide open. It wasn’t long before I heard the hum again. This time I followed the sound to our back yard. I walked outside onto our deck and saw that Mark had opened up the big double gates so that Logan could drive in and out. I rested my elbows on the deck railing and looked down to see Mark strolling the yard with a shovel, and Logan wheeling around, pointing out spots of doggie doo for Mark to pick up.

Logan

I asked Logan if he was being Mark’s helper, and he responded in his little toddler voice, “Yeah.” But before he could say anything more, his attention turned to battling the barrage of kisses Lucy was laying on him. He hit the “gas” pedal to escape her wet, slobbery affection and was off once again to his own yard to help his dad. I never did manage to give him the toy tool I meant for him to have, but I’m sure I’ll have another chance again soon.

Chalk Season

Tee! Yay down!

Logan motioned for me to stretch out on the driveway. His mom had just finished making Chalk Logan. Several Chalk Logans, actually.

Logan1a

Now he wanted to make Chalk Terri. He’s the only one who could even make me consider sprawling out on my back on our asphalt driveway – even if I was wearing my new boots and was at risk of scuffing them up. He’s just so dang cute!

In the end, he decided he would be the one to lay on the black top and I should make another chalk outline of him. He wanted this version to have his arms raised up high above his head. I happily accommodated and added my drawing to the collection of Logans already populating our driveway. Logan added his own flair to the outline I’d created.

Logan3b

Our driveway’s always covered in chalk these days. Mark introduced Logan to the idea of making chalk people a couple of weeks ago. And as tends to happen with toddlers, this fascinating new idea is to Logan, the greatest thing since sliced bread. Now we have two containers of sidewalk chalk in our garage, which is usually open if someone is home. Logan knows he’s welcome to help himself to the chalk whenever he’s outside. He knows exactly where to find it and knows that either Mark or I is always willing to come outside and pway chalk with him. In fact, I think Mark takes a special pleasure in making sure Logan’s clothing is covered in layers of multi-colored dust before sending him back next door to his own house where bath time is Logan’s parents’ problem!

Oh, but if Kacey is home from school for a few days, the rest of us are chopped liver. Logan loves Kacey!

Used to be there was a time when Logan was so shy that he would only converse with us while holding his mom’s or dad’s hand, and hiding behind their legs. Over the past summer, Logan grew more comfortable with us. I think the chalk had a lot to do with it. We all have now earned our own special Logan names – Mahk, Tee, Jake, (that’s an easy one,) and Kee. (Brad isn’t around often enough and I’m not sure he has earned a nickname yet.) Every one of us, at some point, has been beckoned to pway chalk. And we’ve been rewarded. Logan has opened himself up to us and has found his way into our hearts.

Last week, Logan helped Mark dig up onions from our fading vegetable garden. Mark loosened the soil with a shovel. Logan pulled the onions out and then hurled them out into the grass in the backyard, rotating his arm above his head and letting go, baseball style. He doesn’t have enough strength yet to do any damage to a bunch of onions! When they were all pulled, he and Mark collected all of the onions in their arms and brought them up on the deck. Logan knocked on the patio door that day to get my attention and proudly held up an onion with dirt still clinging to the bulb. I came to the door and signaled my approval from the other side of the glass. Logan’s little chubby cheeks beamed with pride.

Yesterday after a chalk session with Mark, Logan wanted to come inside our house and check things out. This would be a first. His comfort level with us has thus far been limited to interactions out in the yard. Coming inside the house would be a big step for him. He wanted his mom to come inside with him, but she refused, clearly worried that we were encouraging behavior that might later become a bother to us. (We’re not worried.) Mark told Logan he could come in without Mom if he wanted to. Logan was hesitant at first, but curiosity got the best of him. Soon he was climbing the half flight of stairs to our main level and pulling Mark down the hallway and back, asking him to explain whose bedroom was whose and where the snack cupboard was. Logan sampled a variety of crackers from our cupboard before his dad came to bring him home for dinner.

Logan wasn’t happy, and he clung to Mark in protest. Mark laughed but told Logan he had to go home for dinner because we had places to go. Logan crumpled his eyebrows and pursed his mouth. He crossed his arms over his chest fiercely, but allowed his dad to carry him home for dinner, his little body held stiff like a toy soldier against his dad’s embrace. Even in tantrum-mode, Logan is cute!

I think we’re going to have to plow a path in the snow this winter between Logan’s house and ours.

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (plus men in little clothing)

Look at this big guy who was hanging out at the bird feeder on Friday morning! There must have been a shortage of discarded french fries and/or roadkill out on the street!IMG_8481bLucy and I really enjoyed our morning walk today. The air was perfectly comfortable and there was a slight haze in the sky so the sun wasn’t so hard on the eyes. (I hate wearing sunglasses when I’m out walking. They always fall down my nose.) We encountered a few other dogs along the way. They greeted Lucy from their yards and she strained on the leash in an effort to get closer to them. A big man in nothing but his bathrobe stepped down off his front porch to tell “Julie” to stop her barking and go sit up on the porch while we passed. She did as he said, stopping once or twice to turn and yip-yap one more time in Lucy’s direction.

We went out early, while it was still quiet in the neighborhoods. I love how peaceful it is in the early part of the day, before the hustle and bustle of life takes over. Lucy followed the trails of various scents along the way, nose to the ground and sniffing loudly. I admired the way the rain has promoted full, green lawns. They look so manicured after a fresh mowing. Flowers and plants have grown past their budding stages into full, colorful bloom.

When we first moved into our house, the neighborhoods in our area were just being developed. There was always new construction to watch and we would take walks just to see what kind of projects other new homeowners were working on, sometimes taking home ideas to put to use ourselves. These days, the trees are tall and strong, those that weren’t taken down by last week’s storm, anyway. There’s a definite sense of establishment. The storm couldn’t take that away, hard as it tried. As we walked, I admired the different ways people give personality to their yards and homes with colorful flower gardens, decks full of comfy patio furniture,  carefully patterned brick patios and even a few pools here and there. One home had a volleyball net set up in the side yard, and a back yard with a swing set and sandbox, and children’s toys scattered everywhere.

As we neared the corner to turn toward our house, another dog began to greet Lucy. My neighbor, Pat stepped out the door, bare-chested and wearing only a pair of shorts, scolding his dog and pulling him by the leash back inside the house. He waved as we walked by I said, “Hey, Pat!”

A few homes and properties in our neighborhood have fallen into disrepair. I guess that’s normal as a place begins to age. But for the most part it feels comfortable here. It feels settled and most of the time, it feels safe too. I am grateful that this place is where we call home.

Oh Happy Day!

It is 72 degrees Fahrenheit as I write this at 4:45 pm and I am happy, happy, happy!

Lori and I escaped the office at lunch time. We slipped on our tennis shoes and took off walking down the path around the pond. The sunshine and warm breeze felt so good after months of shivering and seemingly endless days of gray, cloudy skies. We walked to Jimmy John’s, bought some sub sandwiches and then found a place to sit outside and enjoy our lunch under a flawless blue sky.

The boss was feeling generous and “ordered” us out of the office an hour early this afternoon. As soon as I got in the car, I rolled the windows down and cranked up the radio. Riding down the highway, it felt like celebration was in the air. Most of the other drivers had their windows rolled down too. We were all soaking up this bit of springtime after being deprived of it for so long! I couldn’t wait to get home and take Lucy out for a walk in the sunshine.

She was waiting for me when I got home. So was Mark, who has a new ambition to join us on our walks due to the unwanted spare tire that has grown around his middle over the winter.

Many of the neighbors were outside as we took off on our walk. They stopped to talk for a few minutes or just waved from their yards. Out on the path, we came across other walkers, with and without dogs. There were children riding bikes and scooters, or just running or skipping along the path. There were runners out welcoming the warm weather. Lucy thought they were all out to see her. She pulled toward every person and dog we came across and as they went on their way, she looked confused, as if to ask, “Why didn’t they stop to pay me some attention?”

 

It was glorious! And to think only three days ago, things looked like this!

Oh, it's SO pretty! (When it's NOT April!)

I don’t miss it. Not one little bit!

Blueberry Morning

Lucy and I got up early today. I’ve got a full weekend ahead – a bridal shower to attend today, a night of cards with the Bayfield vacation friends this evening, and hosting a family birthday party for my mom tomorrow. And things need doing!

I used Lucy as my excuse to get my lazy bones out of bed early. Actually, I haven’t been all that lazy the past few days. I made myself start getting up an hour earlier and go back to the gym this week. As he was refilling the hand sanitizer and paper towel dispenser, the friendly maintenance guy asked, “Where’ve you been?”

I said, “Sleeping.”

He smiled and asked, “Where’s your friend?” He was referring to my workout buddy who hasn’t been seen at the gym in a while either.

I said, “She’s pregnant.” He laughed.

Wanting to keep up the momentum, I thought I’d start my busy weekend with a walk with Lucy. We went out when the sky was still dark, but I knew it would start turning as we walked. It was nineteen degrees, not as cold as last weekend, but still… I put on my UnderArmour leggings and shirt under some yoga pants and a sweatshirt. I forgot that Lucy has two speeds – run and stop, (run, stop, sniff… run, stop, sniff.) I’d underestimated the effectiveness of UnderArmour and soon I was sweating.

Luckily, Lucy began to lose her momentum after a couple of miles and slowed down just enough to allow me to take in the morning and appreciate things a bit. I love those moments of the morning, when the darkness is fading but just before the sky really lights up. The sky is a beautiful color. I just read something describing it as the color of blueberries. I wish I could remember what I read and give the author credit, but they were right. Blueberries.

There’s a farm in our neighborhood. I suppose at one time our whole neighborhood was the farm, before all of our homes were constructed. Now the farm seems slightly misplaced in the middle of all this suburbia, in spite of the fact that it was here first. When I look at the old, white barn, its paint peeling in places, I can almost see the streets and homes disappearing and imagine what it looked like, undisturbed years ago. It’s still a functioning farm, in some capacity at least, and the smell of farm animals was potent in the crisp winter air. A few blocks away, where I live, I notice those smells occasionally. There’s a row of homes directly adjacent to the farm. I imagine it’s an ever-present aroma for those homeowners. I wonder if they’ve grown used to it, just like I’ve become accustomed to the sound of the trains.

Lucy is fun to walk with. She’s like a child who can’t discover enough about the world around her. She stops and marvels at every bird that flies overhead. Her ears perk at the hooting of an owl. Her body freezes, her tail pointing as she sniffs and tries to discern ducks, geese, cats and various other creatures that have ventured into the tall grasses near the ponds and wooded areas.

Even as her energy is waning, Lucy’s legs move at a trot, her body nearly bouncing because she can’t wait to see what we’ll encounter next. She finds sticks on the ground and grabs them up quickly in her mouth, as if she’s found some treasure. She trots off again, her head held high, turning her neck momentarily to make sure I’ve noticed the prize clenched in her teeth. She quickly gets bored with carrying it and drops it a few yards later. She’s so cute, I can’t help but laugh.

Back in our own driveway, as she always does, Lucy recognizes that the walk has come to an end. She begins to resist. No matter how far we’ve gone, no matter how tired she may be, she does not want to go back home. There’s adventure to be had and she wants more! I have to convince her we’re going in the house and in a moment, she relents. Once we’re back inside, she admits that maybe I’m right. It is time to be back home again where it’s warm and all of her toys live.

“Oh. There’s the love seat I’m allowed to be on. I think I need a nap.”

See? That didn’t take long!