Easter. Happy.

This Easter brought another reminder of yet another new normal. Easter was my dad’s favorite holiday, and this was our first without him. I was doing okay until, while sitting at the Easter Vigil mass with Mom and some of the extended family on Saturday night, the priest acknowledged us and expressed his sympathies at the absence of my dad.  I guess it might be a while before we can get through holidays without a few tears.

Otherwise, this holiday weekend brought about the usual full house and chaos. It also brought with it some new realizations.

I’ve always enjoyed the holidays with my family. I love them particularly now that the kids are grown because our usual daily lives keep us mostly spread out in different directions. I no longer have the luxury of seeing my kids every day or spending endless amounts of time with them. It is these special occasions that bring us all back together again for a little while. It’s weekends like this one that bring me the most joy these days.

All of those years when I thought I couldn’t wait to have a little time to myself again, I never imagined what would make me happiest is to share every bit of my time and space with these people whom I love so very much.

Just a few years ago, I was quite certain what the future would look like for our family by now. This weekend, I realized how different our lives look now from the pictures I’d imagined back then. I’ve learned some things in the past few years about being too certain of tomorrow, and about holding on too tightly. I’ve been reminded that life is full of highs and lows, and that people come and go from our lives, whether by choice or because their time has come. Some days might be fantastically phenomenal. Others could bring heartbreak.

But as the saying goes, life goes on, and with it comes new possibilities, new people to love, and so many new reasons to have hope.

Our Easter photos this year don’t include some people who just a few years ago I’d thought would be in all of our future pictures. It hurt for a long while after they’d gone. I often wondered what went wrong, and how things might have been different. I sometimes wished I’d had some magic power to make things go the way we’d have wished, to avoid all the hurt.

But time heals, and as new people join us on the path of our lives, I realize this is how it goes sometimes, and all we can do is love and support each other through all the ins and outs of life.

Chesney’s had someone new in her life for a few months now. I got to meet him a few weeks ago and liked him right away. I liked how respectful he was of my daughter, the quiet affection he showed her, and they way they made each other laugh. My mom got to meet him too. As soon as he told her he was from a farming family, Mom instantly loved him. How could she not? She grew up on a farm herself.

After that first meeting, Mom asked me what I thought of Chesney’s boyfriend, and I told her I liked him, but I wasn’t going to let myself get attached so quickly this time around. I learned the hard way how much it hurts to love the people your kids love, and then watch them slip away.

The new boyfriend came to spend this weekend with Chesney and celebrate Easter with us. I was nervous beforehand. Would an entire weekend be too much too soon? Would he feel crowded in our small house with all of these people and two rambunctious dogs? Would our weird-and-craziness make him uncomfortable? Would our dysfunctional extended families scare him off?

All that worry was for nothing. The kid showed up on Friday evening and settled right in as if he’d known all of us for ages. He seemed happy to meet Jaeger and Ryker, and in fact, made fast friends with Jaeger. They’re already making plans to go fishing together. And Jack’s intimidating father act melted away almost instantly. The boyfriend survived introductions to all of the extended family and handled like a champ all of the teasing Chesney’s uncles dished out.

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I can’t keep saying I’m not getting attached. What I’ve seen so far is a wonderful young man who I’m thrilled is a part of my daughter’s life right now. He makes her happy and that makes me happy. I’ve decided to let myself get attached. I’m not afraid anymore. If there’s one tough lesson I’ve learned over the past couple of years, it’s that tomorrow isn’t promised. We have to throw caution to the wind and embrace what’s in front of us today. Anyway, I’d rather feel happy at the risk of getting hurt, than sit numb on the sidelines for fear of it.

Besides, there was no question about getting attached when the boyfriend got in line behind my daughter to hug me goodbye as they were leaving after a very full and fun weekend.

That sealed it. As long as he’s around, he’ll be treated as one of my own. 🙂

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Third Day, an Easter Cactus, and More

Seventy (almost) degrees last Saturday. A dusting of snow on the ground this Saturday morning. In many years past, we’ve still had measurable amounts of white on the ground at this point in the season. I should be grateful that today, the winter layers of snow are all gone. But if I’m honest, last weekend’s weather makes a thirty degree plunge hard to swallow. I’ll get over it. Spring is just around the corner.

I still seem to be struggling with writing here regularly, so in the interest of catching up, I’m going to follow my friend MJ‘s lead, and offer some of what she would call “randoms.”

In music: I went to a concert last Saturday with a friend from work. We saw Third Day, a group that falls into the category of Christian music. If I’m honest (again,) I’ll admit that what first drew me to the group was the lead singer’s voice. Is it wrong to admit that I found his voice to be sexy? Listen and tell me I’m wrong.

But I’ve remained a fan because Third Day’s music is so much deeper than their appealing voices and sound. The concert was fantastic and uplifting, and we were so glad we attended. We left there feeling joyful and sorry it was over so soon. Still, I’m going to say that having now seen Third Day in person, the lead singer is not hard to look at! (Those dimples!)

In plants: For all the years of little ones running around the house … not to mention the cats … I could never have plants in the front window where they’d enjoy the most sunlight. My plants were always in sad shape, barely thriving. Now with kids grown and cats gone, the front window can finally be a good home to my plants. There resides an African Violet, as well as the Christmas Cactus that my sister gave me last Christmas. It’s almost Easter, and the Christmas Cactus is blooming! So is the Violet! My grandma, the queen of African Violets, would be so proud. Maybe if I get an Easter Lily, it will bloom on the Fourth of July.

In birthdays: A group of us at work have become a sort of informal birthday celebration committee. We make sure there are decorations and goodies on our coworkers’ special days. It was Tom’s birthday this past week. Being the last one to leave the office the day before, I took the responsibility of decorating his cubicle. I went a little overboard, decorating both outside and in, criss-crossing banners and crepe paper across his work space. As employees walked by, they would stop and chuckle. One called me sneaky! Tom was a good sport when he arrived the next morning. He worked all day in the midst of all the decor, even though that meant ducking in and out of his cubicle.

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In dog-loving: My former boss, now my boss’ boss, who is also my friend, stopped by this week to share a story about how her daughter rescued a lost puppy last weekend. She didn’t share this, as one might expect, to see if I needed or wanted another pet, but just because she’s a dog-lover. She said that as a dog-lover myself, she knew I’d appreciate the happy ending. (I did. New owner volunteered. Original owner found.) After we returned to our respective responsibilities, my phone buzzed with a text message.

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I smiled because I couldn’t have agreed more.

In Mom news: My mom had lots of plans this week. A friend of Mom’s, my niece, and my youngest brother had all made dates to have dinner with Mom, resulting in a “free” week for me. I was grateful as I had a lot of catching up to do at home. And I accomplished much. I finished and mailed invitations for the bridal shower I’m giving for my niece. Jack and I went out to dinner one night. I picked out paint samples to help me decide colors for the main level, (which I’ve been wanting to paint for three years now.) And I bought a dress for my niece’s wedding which takes place in May. (It’s red, with some bling. Chesney says it might be too flashy for a wedding, but we both agreed if I’m happy with it, I should go with it. I’m keeping the tags on for now, just in case I change my mind.)

As of yesterday, I hadn’t seen Mom since last Sunday! I called as I was leaving work because I missed her and wanted to stop by. Before I could tell her so, she said she missed me. She wasn’t used to going so many days without seeing me. She was thrilled when I asked if I could stop by before her dinner date with my brother. I did so, and we made plans to attend the Sunday evening mass at her church. We did that last week. She was happy to have someone to take her to church and I enjoyed the more contemporary music. A win-win!

And how was your week?

Getting Muddy

There’s a bird caw-caw-cawing somewhere out back. I can hear him even though the windows are closed. Even though I know the call is coming from a big, dirty, black bird, it makes me smile. It’s such a welcome sound. If I listen carefully, I can hear the softer, songs of daintier birds in the background. Spring seems to have arrived, at least for the weekend. I won’t get my hopes up. After all, it’s only March. But it has been a forgiving winter. I’m grateful for the early arrival of warmer days.

The last two weeks – I don’t know where they’ve gone. Mom had some bad days. Work was overwhelming. The last weekend got sucked up by other obligations. There’s always so much to do, and the more I cross off the list, the more gets added. Days keep marching on, ready or not.

Yet … I know I don’t have anything to complain about. I have a job – one that I love. I have a family that stays as close as I can hope. And they are all doing okay. They’re well. They’re safe. And Mom is okay. She just had a few bad days and seems to be on the upswing again. The house may have needed a good cleaning, but if that’s my biggest worry, I’ll take it. I know I have it good.

Last week, we learned of a death – the daughter of some old friends. She succumbed to brain cancer at just thirty years old. Parents, siblings, and a significant other left to grieve her passing from this life.

Last week, someone I’ve been worried about for a while finally ran out of luck. She got a DWI. And the weight of her world was too heavy already.

Last week, I talked to my best friend. She’s out of state, and I haven’t managed to connect with her in months. Texts have gone unanswered, phone calls unreturned. Now I know why. The cancer she’s been fighting for years – and over which she had recently been gaining the upper hand – had moved into her brain. My heart weighed heavy as she told me. I didn’t have the guts to ask about her prognosis. As she talked, she proved that she continues to fight and maintain her fantastic sense of humor.

“My hair is gone,” she said. “Except for the one in the mole on my hand. And except for my  mustache! Still have to keep waxing that damn thing!”

Sometimes I look around at the vast circle of people we hold close. There’s a lot of struggle and pain. I was thinking of my best friend, feeling like I haven’t been the friend I’m supposed to be to her. Half the time, I’ve been completely unaware of how bad it’s been for her, while I’m feeling sorry for myself because of something like not having time to sit down and write for a little while.

I pray for her constantly these days, but it doesn’t feel like enough. I told her story – anonymously – on a prayer board, wanting more prayers for her. I’m asking for a miracle, even though I know it’s out of my hands. I selected the option to receive a text message every time someone prayed for my request. (Faith has gone all technology! Pretty cool!) My phone buzzed all morning long, signaling offered prayers. It’s astounding to realize there are people in this world who will hope and pray for someone they don’t even know.

I read through the multitudes of other requests out there and offered prayers for people I don’t know. It’s becoming a daily thing I do. Homelessness, brokenness, sickness, mental illness, addiction, financial distress… the list goes on and on. It’s heart-breaking to realize that there are others who would trade their problems for mine in a heartbeat. It’s humbling to realize how blessed I am – and for how long I’ve taken that for granted. It’s opened my eyes to a million ways I can give back and do something for others. And it gives me hope. It’s so easy to close myself up in the comfort of my own world, but more and more lately, I realize I’m not meant to shrink away like that. I’m supposed to do something about it, get in the mud and help wherever I can. However I can. Even if it’s as simple as just hoping and praying.

Life is messy, no doubt. But life is good.