We are GRANDPARENTS!

Our sweet little granddaughter is here! She arrived in July, three weeks early than expected. She was tiny at just four pounds, fourteen ounces, but she is healthy and growing and she’s absolutely perfect! I can’t even believe how much I’m in love with her. Oh, who am I kidding? Yes I can! I knew long before she arrived that I would adore her.

She’s just beautiful, and like every proud grandparent, I think my granddaughter is the most gorgeous baby ever born. My son, her daddy, gazes at her with such adoration, and speaks to her so gently. He looks on that little girl’s mommy with such love love and admiration. He’s got his own little family now. I marvel at how quickly the years have transported us from the time when he was our baby. And now he has one of his own. His nest is beginning to fill as ours has now emptied.

I think about that little peanut multiple times a day. I count the days until I get to visit with her and hold her again. I imagine the things we’ll do together as she grows. I’m planning how I’ll decorate one of our now empty bedrooms just for her, how I’ll fill it with toys and books, or cars and trucks, or baby dolls or whatever it is that will bring her joy. She is my joy and I’m just over the moon with happiness!

Springtime, Puppies, and Babies

It is gorgeous outside this morning. Makes me think of Oklahoma songs. There’s a bright golden haze on the meadow! Of course, I don’t have a meadow. But I can be content with our yard where the grass is suddenly green and lush, the Sedum and Hostas are beginning to stretch up out of the ground, and the Crabapple tree is exploding with pink blossoms. I love this time of year! It’s so full of promise and expectation – especially now after the year of fear we’ve just endured. (I know, I know… not everyone was fearful. But I was.)

The impact of COVID on our household is quickly fading. Jack feels much better and has been back to work for a couple of weeks now. The first week, he’d come home and collapse, exhausted on the couch for the remainder of the afternoon and evening. But he’s been more like his old self this past week, getting outside, doing some yard work, socializing with the neighbors. I’m so relieved.

Now that Jack’s feeling better and we’re fully vaccinated, we’re going to go see his mom ASAP. She’s been a trooper throughout the past year and I’m so proud of her. Her assisted-living facility took great care of the residents and had very few cases of infection. And now restrictions have been lifted significantly and we can show up without an appointment and go visit my mom-in-law in her own apartment, sans masks and plexiglass dividers. I hope she’s ready for it, ’cause she’s getting hugged!

In neighborhood news, our neighbors and good friends had a visit from their brother/brother-in-law, J, who came to Minnesota from New York to buy a puppy. J and his new puppy stayed with our friends for a few days and (being the animal lovers that we are,) we were invited to stop by for a visit. The puppy was adorable and I was tempted to steal her and take her home. My Lucy wouldn’t have appreciated it though. Either she’d be insanely jealous, or she’d mistake the puppy for a chew toy. And puppy’s owner wouldn’t have been too happy either, since she’s a very pure-bred, very expensive little canine whose future holds serious bird-hunting duties! I sure enjoyed spoiling her for a little while though. I kept cooing over her and exclaiming, “OH, she’s just a BAY-BEEEE!”

Soon enough I’ll be able to hold a real baby though. The first baby shower for Jaeger and Camping Girl’s little bundle of joy took place last weekend. Chesney and I were invited to attend and we had so much fun meeting Camping Girl’s extended family and friends.

I have to say, our granddaughter is going to be one well-dressed and well-equipped little girl. Jaeger showed up near the end of the event to help transport gifts back to their house. The entire bed of Jaeger’s truck and the back seat were packed full with gifts. And there’s still another shower to take place with my side of the family! I now have to remind myself to refrain from buying every adorable little outfit that catches my eye. (Or maybe I just need to start buying down-the-road types of things.) The first grandchild on both sides of the family is going to be so very welcomed and loved!

In preparation for Baby Girl’s arrival, Jack and I took a virtual grandparents’ class this past week. I hadn’t even known such a thing existed, but Camping Girl suggested both her parents and we take it, and I’m glad we did. Times have changed, from the way babies should be placed in their cribs, to perspectives on eating, engaging with, and just generally caring for babies. We’re all up to speed now and I can hardly wait for our granddaughter to arrive.

Baby snuggles are the best!

Waiting for my Grandbaby

Jaeger sent a message out to the family in a group text earlier this week. “We got us a thumb sucker!” It said.

My oldest son’s words were accompanied by an ultrasound photo. Apparently he and Camping Girl had been to the doctor that morning. I myself had never had an ultrasound back in the day. I had uneventful pregnancies, and at that time, if all was well, then no ultrasound. The gender of each of my own children was unknown to Jack and I until the moment each made their entrance into the world.

I marveled at the picture Jaeger had shared. Ultrasound photos have come such a long way! I could clearly make out the shape of our granddaughter’s tiny little head and the curve of her back. She held her arm at an upward angle, her hand splayed open and four delicate little fingers pointed straight towards her nose. Her thumb, as Jaeger had said, was presumably in her little bitty mouth. I felt tears of joy spring to my eyes.

She’s not even here yet and already I am so in love with this baby girl. My granddaughter. My granddaughter! My oldest son is going to be a daddy and he is absolutely giddy. He and Camping Girl are going to be such amazing parents. As for me, I’m already buying adorable baby girl clothes. I can’t help myself! Jaeger will balance out the wardrobe some. He’s already got a camouflage outfit and a matching pair of Crocs for baby girl.

Staring at the photo, I was filled with emotions. Particularly after a year that’s been so dark, she is a bright and shining star making her way into our world. I cannot wait to meet her, to hold her, to kiss her sweet cheeks, to tell her how much she is loved.

I remember having my own babies, the anxious anticipation, the sometimes panicky sense that we didn’t know what we were doing, and wondering who in their right mind decided we’d make good parents. (Although, I’m glad Someone did. Being a mom has been one of my life’s greatest joys.) I remember one particular evening shortly after Jaeger was born. Jack had gone back to work – on the night shift – for the first time since Jaeger’s birth. I was alone for the first time with my newborn, sitting in my living room and holding him in my arms, thinking how perfect he was and feeling my heart about to burst with the love I had for him. I can still picture the fuzzy yellow sleeper he was wearing (because of course, we hadn’t known ahead of time whether we should buy blue sleepers or pink ones.) I started crying as I sat cradling my baby. I was thinking about how difficult this world can be and I was feeling guilty for bringing him into it. Of course, I later realized I was probably suffering a small bit of postpartum depression. For Jaeger, the world and life have turned out to be a pretty good adventure so far. As for Jack and I, we managed to navigate parenting fairly successfully. Everyone made it out of childhood alive!

While I stared at my granddaughter in the ultrasound photo, I had some of those same feelings of dread that I’d experienced when her daddy was a newborn. This world! It’s going downhill so quickly! How can I not worry about all that this precious child faces once she arrives here?

But then I thought about how my parents must have had those same fears, just as my grandparents must have, and all of the generations before them. And yet somehow in spite of it all, tiny humans keep arriving here. We do our best to protect them, and the world just keeps on turning. In spite of life’s inevitable difficulties, hurts and fear, we continue to find joy, create beauty, and experience love. And if, like the song says, all you need is love – then our precious girl is going to be just fine. Because I have no doubt whatsoever that she will be loved beyond imagination.

Winter at the Cabin

For years, Jack and I struggled to make time to go to his family’s cabin in the summers. We’ve always loved to go to the lake, but we had kids in sports for many years which meant that evenings and weekends often found us sitting and cheering at a ball field. Jack’s job was sometimes a roadblock as well with its rotating schedule that kept him at work every other weekend. Then my parents’ health began failing and their need for help became a priority over up-north escapes.

But the years passed by, the kids grew up, my parents passed on, and Jack’s work situation changed. Suddenly we had time again to get away to the lake, to unplug, to commune with nature and simply enjoy the peaceful surroundings of my father-in-law’s happy place. We have made a true effort to get there more often lately, to make use of it and help manage the upkeep the way Jack’s dad would have wanted us to do.

The cabin is a rustic dwelling and lacks many of the conveniences we enjoy at home. To be honest, that’s part of its charm. It’s small but it has a big farm table to accommodate the large extended family. There’s no cable television, (so get outside and play!) The rooms are few but there are many places to sleep. Just don’t expect any privacy. There’s no central air conditioning; just a small window unit used only on those days when the air is truly stifling and it’s too hot to sleep. There’s no furnace, but there’s a small stove to heat things up in the fall when the guys gather for hunting trips.

Jack and I have never gone to the cabin in the winter. The conveniences are even fewer during the cold and snowy months. Since the cabin isn’t occupied on a regular basis, the water and heat are shut off after hunting season. That’s not to say that we can’t go in the winter. It just takes a more effort. It takes a couple of hours for the cabin to heat up to a comfortable level, and using the bathroom means walking outside – day or night – to use an outhouse.

Last summer while spending time at the lake with extended family, the talk turned to planning some winter trips. The idea took hold and last weekend, we made it happen.

I’m often guilty of having expectations that are too high, ending up disappointed when things don’t play out as perfectly as I imagine. As the weekend drew near, I daydreamed of perfect weather that would ensure snow on the ground but not too much. I wished for temperatures cold enough to maintain the snow cover and to keep the ice strong on the lake, but not so cold that we’d be forced back inside. I envisioned all of my kids and their significant others being able to join us. And I pictured all of us frolicking outside happily until we were exhausted and starving for one of those simple cabin dinners that always tastes best when every chair at the table is occupied. I had to keep reminding myself to take the weekend as it came, and not to be upset if everything wasn’t perfect.

I’ve made a concerted effort to find reasons to be grateful over the last year. Our winter cabin weekend made it so easy. I sincerely could not have asked for more. All of my kids and their significant others were able to join us, as well as Jack’s younger brother and his family. The weather was spectacular! Saturday was overcast with really comfortable temperatures. Sunday brought a clear blue sky, brilliant sunshine and temperatures just a bit colder than the day before. And we did it all!

I have to give credit to my brother-in-law who is just a big kid at heart. He talked Jack into participating in this weekend when I couldn’t. And once we were all at the cabin, he bounced around encouraging everyone to do this and try that. He was like a cruise director, making sure everyone was happy and having the best time imaginable! We rode sleds and tubes down the hill from the deck of the cabin down onto the lake. We made and threw snowballs. The guys did some ice fishing and the dogs ran, and ran, and ran! Thanks to my brother-in-law, I learned to drive a snowmobile as well as how to cross-country ski. The snowmobiling was exhilarating and fun! The skiing was more work than I’d imagined but such a peaceful experience. I definitely want to do more skiing.

After so much activity, I truly did work up a hunger such as I rarely feel. The food, though simple and convenient, tasted so good because it was shared with loved ones. When it was too dark to be outside any longer, we gathered around the table and played board games together, our voices growing louder as the night went on and laughter bubbling over easily. Leaving at the end of the weekend was, as it always is when departing from the cabin, bittersweet. I was anxious to get back home to a shower and a comfortable bed. But I was reluctant to see it all come to an end.

I needed this weekend. It was an opportunity to escape the sense of COVID fatigue for a while. And it is so rare that we’re able to gather all of our kids together in the same place for any length of time, much less an entire weekend. My heart swelled with love as I watched my kids talk and play together. I love seeing the incredible adults they have grown to be and the way they’ve grown closer to one another as they’ve matured. Everything about this weekend was simply amazing and I was literally overjoyed. Before I closed my eyes last night, I said a prayer of thanks for such a beautiful gift.

Oh, Baby!

I mentioned recently that I’ve been making an effort to journal things for which I’m grateful. Sometimes I have to dig really deep, especially considering the events of the past year and now those of the past week. Sometimes, finding a reason to be grateful is so easy! Take for example, that day recently when my oldest boy, Jaeger stopped over with his girlfriend, Camping Girl. Considering how little I’ve written here over the past couple of years, I may not have mentioned the lovely Camping Girl before. She is lovely. He loves her. She loves him. And we adore her. For quite some time, it’s been so easy for us to see they are right for each other.

Jaeger has made some remarks recently that have led us to believe a marriage proposal was in the works. Jack and I have talked about it periodically, wondering when we might finally hear some news of wedding bells. One Sunday, not long before Christmas, Jaeger and C.G. let us know they’d be stopping by that afternoon. I invited them to stay for dinner and when they arrived, homemade spaghetti sauce and meatballs were cooking on the stove. We were all gathered around the island in the kitchen, chatting and waiting for the pasta to finish cooking when Jaeger whipped something white out of his back pocket. The small white thing unfurled before my eyes and I realized an announcement was being made! Though it wasn’t the announcement we’d been expecting.

We’re going to be grandparents!

It wasn’t the wedding announcement we’d been expecting, but instead, a BABY announcement! We are going to be grandparents! I can’t remember exactly how I reacted, but I remember bolting over to the other side of the island to throw my arms around both Jaeger and C.G. I cried. I exclaimed that I was so excited. I must have exclaimed it several times because Jaeger finally laughed and said, “Are you so excited, Mom?”

I am going to be a GRANDMOTHER! I am so ready for this! I am going to spoil this kid rotten! Well, maybe not rotten but there will definitely be some spoiling going on. I may have already bought a baby toy.

A few people have asked me what I’ll be called when the baby arrives. Will I be “Nanna” like my mom was? That would be really cool, but I’m thinking that this may not be a decision I’ll make myself. When my parents’ first grandchild, my niece came along, my siblings and I began to refer to my parents as Grandma and Grandpa – until my niece started talking. And she called them Nanna and Boppa. I remember Jack saying, “I’m not referring to your dad as Boppa! It’s embarrassing.” But it stuck. My dad was Boppa and he was darn proud of it.

I have a friend who is Nonna to her grandkids. Another friend’s kids call her dad, Bumpa. Heck, my own nephew couldn’t pronounce my name when he was young, and although he is now in his twenties, he and his siblings still call me Dewey. So I think I’ll be open to whatever this little one wants to call me. But in case I’m asked to choose, I’m open to suggestions if you’ve got ’em!

And P.S. A proposal was actually in the works. To make a long story short, the news of the baby beat Jaeger to the punch. Like I said, we’re thrilled. Jaeger says they’ll work on planning a wedding after they settle in with the baby, who is scheduled to arrive in late July. Lots of good stuff to look forward to around here!

Why do I worry? Because I have to do it for everyone.

We went back to work yesterday, Jack and I. No more vacation days. No more waking up without an alarm. No more over-indulging in Netflix or sneaking a few more leftover Christmas cookies out of sheer boredom.

Thanks to a tracking error on his employer’s part, Jack was informed in mid-December that he had fifty-some hours of vacation time to use (or lose) before the end of the year that shall not be named. (A coworker introduced me to that label today and it made me laugh out loud, so I am using it henceforth!) So my hubby had been at home for the last two weeks without anything particularly pressing to do. Twenty-four hours a day. Seven days a week. Not that I was keeping tabs or anything. Near the end of his vacay, he said he was looking forward to going back to work this week. I said I was glad he was going back to work too. (I’m kidding. A little bit.) I also was looking forward to returning to my work. Having time off during a pandemic just isn’t that fun.

Alarm clocks sounded yesterday morning. We got up before the sun. Off we went to work. Well, off Jack went to work. Off I went to the family room in our lower level which continues to serve as my office until we tackle some projects which will allow me to convert a spare bedroom into a better workspace. I can’t do that right now since there is a new bathroom vanity taking up a large chunk of space in the bedroom. So first, bathroom remodel. Then bedroom remodel and new office space. Soonish, I hope.

It felt good to be back in the swing of things at work, using my brain for something more stimulating than watching the Hallmark Channel. Not that I’m knocking the Hallmark Channel. I got totally sucked into the non-stop holiday flicks between Thanksgiving and Christmas. After I decided to boycott watching any channel cycling non-stop news of COVID and politics, hatred and violence, the Hallmark channel saved my sanity. I could pretend the country wasn’t spiraling out of control and just get lost in beautiful people who live in quaint, cozy small towns where nobody ever really seems to work, and everyone is filled the Christmas spirit all the time, and love always wins in the end. Sigh! Funny thing about Christmas movies though. Even though Hallmark offers them … What? Year round I think? They’re not nearly as charming and actually feel a lot cheesier when it’s no longer the Christmas season. Besides, I was beginning to see reruns. And after the New Year’s Eve celebration that wasn’t, going back to work sounded awfully inviting.

So there I was yesterday morning, about three hours into my work day and participating in a Teams meeting when I heard the front door open. Thinking that was very odd, I heard footsteps come down the stairs and suddenly there was Jack. He looked wretched. I muted my microphone momentarily and leaned away from my web cam. Without me having to ask, he muttered, “I don’t know what’s wrong. I’m going to bed.”

I could feel the blood drain from my face because of course, I instantly assumed COVID, which where Jack is concerned, scares me to death. With his autoimmunity and some other health issues of late, I really worry about how he would manage if he got the virus. But of course, I was stuck on my meeting for a few more minutes and couldn’t drill him with questions at that exact moment. After he walked out of the room, I tried to continue to pay attention to the topic at hand. And by the time the meeting ended not long after, Jack was sound asleep in bed and stayed that way for hours. Around mid-afternoon he resurfaced from the bedroom and said he felt a little better. I asked what had been wrong. What he described certainly didn’t point to COVID, but definitely didn’t ease my mind. He used words like “dizzy,” “light headed,” and “nauseous.” Also, there was “short of breath” and “felt like I was having a heart attack.”

“A heart attack? And you drove yourself home?” I asked incredulously.

“Well, I sat for about an hour at work until the worst of it passed and when I felt a little better, I figured I could drive home,” he replied.

“Maybe it was a panic attack,” I suggested. I’ve heard people say they thought they were having a heart attack and it turned out to be anxiety, although even as I was saying it I was thinking that would be much more likely to happen to me, not Jack.

“You had two weeks away from work and maybe you were worried about catching up on things.”

He really didn’t think it was anxiety and said he figured he just had the stomach flu. But I insisted that the heart attack feelings didn’t jive with a stomach bug and he shouldn’t have driven home afterwards. I have about sixteen jillion hours of PTO and could easily have come get him. Also, now that I think about it, there’s an emergency squad where he works, trained First Responders. Maybe he might have called on them? Maybe? And also, feeling like he was having a heart attack warranted a call to the doctor. “Now,” I said.

He brushed me off, saying he felt better now.

“I don’t,” I said. “Call the doctor.”

“They’re wrapping up their day by now. I’ll call tomorrow.”

“It’s 3:15. They’re not wrapping up. If you’re feeling better in the morning, you’ll go to work again and you’ll forget to call. Do it now and at minimum, you can leave a message asking for a call back.”

“I don’t have a card with the phone number.”

The excuses with this man!!!

“There’s this thing called Google,” I deadpanned. “Helps you find all kinds of information.”

I insisted that particularly with his health issues, he shouldn’t mess around and should at least check in with a professional to see if we should be more concerned, or maybe go to a hospital. He finally acquiesced and called his specialist’s office, actually reaching a live person and getting put directly through to a nurse. (Go figure!) She drilled him with questions and when she didn’t insist he head to the E.R. I felt a bit better.

Later on, Jack ate dinner, watched television, and slept through the night without incident. He went back to work today, put in an entire day, and lived to tell about it. His specialist’s dedicated nurse also called today and eased my mind even further. She said the doctor didn’t feel his incident was related to his health issues or current medications. It might have just been a fluke thing, a virus, stomach bug. Who knows? And if he continues to experience the same symptoms, he should GO SEE HIS PRIMARY DOCTOR. (Imagine that!)

Seeing as how Jack is feeling back to his normal self today, I guess we are going to let this go. But this sure put a damper on that whole not-worrying thing!

They Said I Do!

Our baby girl is married!

Chesney was a gorgeous bride, absolutely radiant. Farm Boy was so handsome, literally beaming every time he looked at his bride. I felt as if I might burst with the joy I felt for my daughter and new son-in-law.

Also, can I just say? My family cleans up nice!

Oh, how I prayed about this day, and not just the usual prayers for a young couple committing their lives to one another. I stacked prayers on top of prayers because while planning a wedding can be stressful during the best of times, no one could have imagined a year ago when they were engaged, what it would mean to do so during a pandemic.

Last spring after having already set the date, the venue informed us that due to the pandemic it now had to operate at a lower capacity. Lucky for us it’s a large venue and our guest list fell comfortably below those restrictions. Many guests declined their invitations from the start, but we were happily surprised that most others were still willing to attend. We worked with the staff at the venue to plan extra spacing between tables, making use of both the upper and main levels. We planned to seat guests either by household, or small numbers of those in the same bubble. The invitations stated that everyone should plan to wear a mask and we bought extras just in case, along with a multitude of hand-sanitizer.

Their wedding day would surely look different than what they’d dreamed, but Chesney and Farm Boy handled themselves with immense grace and patience (with just a few tears shed) along the way.

But as the November wedding date loomed closer, the impact of COVID-19 was rapidly increasing in our state. Three days before the wedding, our governor was to announce new restrictions. I sat on the edge of my seat the afternoon of the press conference, waiting to hear whether this would require us to cancel with only three days to go, or if we could somehow go forward. All along the way, the venue held us to the scheduled date, because as they explained, they were still allowed to be open. And we truly sympathized when the owner explained that if they rescheduled or refunded everyone who asked, they would go out of business. Long ago I told my daughter that while we’d already invested significantly in this wedding, money isn’t everything. If they wanted to cancel, we’d figure it out. Jack and I maintained this stance even now, but Chesney and Farm Boy decided to just roll with things as best they could.

As it turned out, there would be new restrictions for weddings and receptions, but not until just after our event. Still, I didn’t feel good about things. The governor had simply drawn a line in the sand. On the date of this wedding, we could gather a couple hundred people together in an enclosed space. Just a short time later it would no longer be allowed. I could not stop thinking about how the virus didn’t care about dates. People would still be at risk at this wedding. And in the days just ahead, upwards of forty guests called to tell us they weren’t coming. Some had already been personally impacted by the virus, others simply didn’t feel safe coming. At this point, I’d have been happy if our immediate families could just be there, but a good number of guests weren’t backing out. I felt like we were on a freight train racing out of control.

I’ve always been champion worrier, but now I was experiencing true and severe anxiety. That evening after the governor’s announcement, my brain kept reminding me we were being selfish to forge ahead. The remaining hours of that day dragged on for me and I lost the ability to focus on anything else. I began to feel a burning sensation in my chest which traveled up my throat and into my mouth. I was convinced I had the virus and I can’t describe the devastation I felt at the thought of missing my daughter’s wedding day. I frantically searched online for locations where I could be tested, but without displaying any of the typical symptoms, I couldn’t get a test before the wedding day. I kept all of this to myself until I burst out crying, telling Jack my worst fears.

Jack assured me I didn’t have the virus, but I didn’t believe him. I couldn’t sleep that night and woke up in the morning with the burning feeling still raging in my chest. Then I had a revelation … and took something to ease the effects of heartburn. Voilà! I quickly felt so much better. I had literally worried myself sick.

I felt a bit less anxious the day before, and on the day of the wedding I forced myself to pack my anxieties away in a dark corner of my brain. While my fears never truly went away, I’m happy to say that I was able to rejoice in and fully celebrate my daughter’s wedding day.

In the end, the number of guests who attended was just over a hundred, about half of the number we’d invited. People were really good about keeping masks on. We had to forgo hugging and handshakes, which was hard for a hugger like me. Some people left right after the ceremony, and some as soon as they’d finished dinner. Some of us still danced and it was FUN! But the whole thing wound down by around ten o’clock. Those who stuck it out told us how much fun it was, how good the food was, how happy they were to help us celebrate this amazing event.

Most importantly, my prayers were answered ten-fold. In spite of it all, my daughter got to marry the love of her life. The newlyweds were truly happy. I’ve said something to Chesney and Farm Boy many times throughout this year, and in my toast at the wedding reception, I said it again. If Friday the thirteenth is suspicious during a normal year, in a year like 2020 when we celebrated their wedding day, it can only be a magical day filled with blessings for the years ahead.

Coping, Cooking, and Missing My Kid

We’ve started our spring yard clean-up. It’s taking forever.

Jack’s workday begins at 5:00 am, so he’s home by mid-afternoon while I still have a good hour or so work. Every day, he pokes his head into my “office” and says hi, then goes outside to “do yard work,” which is code for “hanging out with the neighbors.” I can see Jack through the front windows. There’s rarely much actual work happening. Instead, I hear the loud conversations he carries on across the yards with the neighbors. They keep an appropriate social-distance and yell back and forth to one another. Jack will be out there for hours, with all of the necessary tools close at hand; the lawnmower, the leaf blower, work gloves, etc. Still, other than my corner memory garden, no yard projects seemingly ever reach completion.

I can’t really complain. We have friendly, good neighbors. And everyone has to find a way to cope with staying at home. Jack has found his. Work a little. Chat a lot. Do it all again the next day. I mean really … what else have we got to do?

Me? I’m walking. Every day around lunchtime, I go outside and head toward the nearby walking path. My neighbor-friend joins me and for thirty minutes we walk, share work stories, talk about the good books we’re reading, or ponder the complexities of life before we go back home to finish the workday. This is what gets me through these days. Sometimes I walk after dinner as well, earbuds in with an audiobook streaming from the Audible app on my phone. It helps me breathe and minimizes the sense that the walls are closing in.

Now I need something to spark my interest in cooking again. Actually, it’s not the actual cooking that bothers me. I just haven’t planned meals very well lately, and without a plan, cooking feels like such a challenge! One of my weekend goals is to spend time sifting through recipes and deciding on the week’s dinners. Also, I had an Amazon gift card burning a hole in my pocket (reward for participating in my company’s wellness program,) so I ordered an InstaPot. I’ve heard great things, so I’m hoping this will bring some life back to our meals. InstaPots not being considered an essential product though, I’ve got a couple of weeks to wait until it shows up on my doorstep.

Another weekend goal is to see my youngest. I’ve been extra-specially missing her this week. Our oldest son, Jaeger has stopped by a few times to pick up his mail that still comes to our address. He just moved in with his girlfriend last weekend (YAY!) so maybe he’ll officially file a change of address soon! Middle son, Ryker is living here, so I’ve been able to stay well connected with my boys. But I haven’t seen Chesney in person in … over a month? Six weeks? Feels like forever. We text a lot, call sometimes, and FaceTime now and then. I still miss her. She sent me a great picture this week though. Her transition to farm girl is coming along well!

IMG_9687

We’re going to try to connect this weekend, halfway between here and there. Farm Boy’s chores and the weather might dictate whether we manage to pull this off. But if all goes well, I found a park that looks good for us to have a nice social-distance picnic or a leisurely stroll.

Distance Visiting

We haven’t been able to see Jack’s mom in person since early March. She’s been in an assisted living facility since late last fall. Just before Halloween, she’d fallen at home and laid all alone on her laundry room floor for several hours, waiting for someone to realize she needed help.

I hate that this happened. And it wasn’t even the first time. This time it was a broken hip. After surgery and recuperating in a transitional care unit, Mom-in-Law and the family agreed that a senior living situation might be best. She took to her new digs easily, made some friends during her daily visits to the dining room, and all-in-all seemed to be doing much better than she had been at home. She was smiling again. She had a new enthusiasm because she had things to talk about when we visited. We all felt some peace of mind that had been lacking for a long time.

As the Coronavirus crept into the U.S., precautions were put in place at the facility. First, Jack was questioned upon entering the building a few days after our return from Mexico. Upon admitting we had been out of the country within the past fourteen days, he was told we could not come back for two weeks. (Luckily we had squeezed in one visit the day after our return from vacation before things got really serious.) Before our fourteen days were up though, the building was closed off to all visitors. And not long after that, residents were no longer allowed to leave their apartments.

We call Mom frequently, and she insists she’s fine. She says she’s not bored out of her mind and the Game Show Network keeps her entertained. She has a favorite caregiver who she mentions frequently, and that gives me some comfort. But we’ve been missing her.

Seeing the occasional story of others visiting their elderly loved ones at a window, we thought we’d try something similar. Mom’s apartment is on the backside of the building. She’s on the main level if you walk to her place through the front entrance. But the property slopes downward to the back of the building. On that side, her apartment is two floors up since the lower-level memory care apartments sit below at the ground level. However, there’s a little parking lot just beyond the back of the building which offered some promise. We made a plan with Mom, telling her we’d call when we arrived on Saturday and she could come to the window and see us while we talked on the phone. Son Ryker came along, and so did Lucy Pie. Grandma loves Lucy Pie!

The visit went well, even though it didn’t go exactly as planned. When we pulled in to the lot, Jack called and told Mom to go to the window. She said, “Okay. Just a minute.” And then she hung up.

Mom appeared in the window, without her phone, and she waved at us. We waved back. She waved again. Jack held up his phone and put it to his ear, trying to signal to her to get her phone. She waved again. “Just call her again,” I suggested. So he did.

We could tell the moment Mom heard her phone ring. She raised one finger at us as if to say, “Hold on!” And she ambled away from the window, returning shortly after she’d answered the phone. “You were supposed to stay on the line and keep the phone with you, Mom.” Jack said. “Oh,” she replied amiably. Jack put his phone on speaker and we all chatted with her for a while. A few geese were nearby, honking nervously at Lucy. Lucy pulled on the leash that Ryker held tightly and rumbled back at the geese. Mom thought this was quite funny.

Before we’d left home, I’d found an old box of sidewalk chalk in the garage and tossed it into the truck. As we chatted with Mom, I took it out and drew a few simple pictures on the asphalt, hoping she could see them. I guess it wasn’t obvious. She asked Jack what I was doing. He told her I was drawing for her. She laughed but was appreciative.

Watching us from the window required Mom to stand with her walker. She tired out after about fifteen minutes, so we said goodbye. After hanging up, Jack helped me put the finishing touches on the drawings, and before we left, we heard someone shouting from above. We looked way up to the top corner of the building where a window was open and two employees were waving and calling down to us. “Thank you! Thank you!” they said. “You guys are awesome! Can we take your picture for our FaceBook page?”

We proudly posed behind our artwork and allowed our pictures to be taken.

Those two employees made me feel so good! I realized that our efforts for Mom might brighten the day for a few others. Maybe I should get some more chalk and make this a regular thing!

Weekend to Weekend

2019.10.20_2bLast Saturday and Sunday were brilliant weather days, and left me with such an immense feeling of gratefulness and contentment. Clearly, this is my time of year! With Jack off on a hunting trip last weekend, I got the house cleaned and in order, and then spent Sunday afternoon fulfilling a promise to bake cookies with the little guys from next door. We had agreed on “after lunch,” so when my doorbell rang at 8:50 am Sunday morning,  I was taken by surprise. I pulled the door inward, only to find E standing on the front step beaming hopefully and asking if I was ready. I gently asked him to come back later, after I’d made a trip to the grocery store and when I’d be more prepared.

E and Little J later showed up at the agreed upon time with a friend in tow, the little guy from the other next door. Not long after, Big J and yet another neighbor boy came knocking at the door. Apparently Little J had told them I would only allow three boys to come bake with me, but Big J thought he and his friend would chance it and I welcomed them inside. I hadn’t planned on hosting a party, but they were all (mostly) so polite, and the house was filled with their laughter as they made jokes about pumpkins and underwear. As I watched them sneak candy sprinkles and dabs of frosting into their mouths, mix the frosting colors together, and generally make a big mess, I realized my patience has grown significantly since I was a young mother. We had a great time and everyone took home a plate of Halloween cookies.

After last weekend’s picturesque days, this past Monday arrived bringing with it an all-day rain and chill, along with a heavy dose of the Monday blues. The rain began to subside on Tuesday, but clouds and cold remained. By Wednesday, the sun returned and I took a break from work to go outside on my lunch break. A friend and I took two laps around the pond, kicking through a blanket of dry leaves and inhaling deeply the crisp scent of autumn. It’s the time of year that I always wish desperately would hold on just a bit longer. Driving home from the office on Thursday, I marveled at the explosion of color all around me. It wasn’t just the leaves on the trees. Even the air seemed tinged with a golden hue.

2019.10.25

View from my parking spot at work

It’s such a bittersweet time of year. The landscape will soon be gray and still, the temperatures encouraging a reluctance to leave the house. And like every year at this time, I’m contemplating ways to enjoy the outdoors so that winter doesn’t feel so depressing. I’ve been considering cross-country skiing, though I’ve never done it and have yet to get serious about finding some equipment.

The past week seemed sluggish after the previous week’s travels to Madison, and yet also felt a bit whirlwind-ish. While I returned to the routine of going to my own office, the workdays were hectic, in addition to the fact that Chesney’s life is changing course quickly. All I can do is sit back and watch. Her job interview went well. She was offered the position and she accepted. She moves out next weekend already, and starts the new job on the fourth of November. I can almost hear a clock ticking in the background during the hours we spend together. I’m so very happy for her, and yet still want to put the brakes on her time at home. She’s my dinner cooking partner almost every evening, and my go-to person for conversation of all sorts. We share the same weird sense of humor and taste for t.v. shows that offer an escape from the often dismal stream of world and local news. We encourage each other in our efforts to be healthy and share a mutual adoration of the family dog.

As news of her engagement, new job, and pending move spreads, she tells me that many people ask her how her mom is taking it. “Not great,” she tells them, and we laugh each time she conveys another of these exchanges. She’s kidding, sort of, when she’s says I’m not handling it well. I’m not desperate that she’s leaving and there’s never been any question in my mind that my kids would all someday leave the nest. Still, I’ve made no secret that I’m a bit saddened at the idea of not seeing her every single day, and I do love having her at home. But we both know that if she were to remain at home indefinitely, neither one of us would be completely happy about it. Her time has come to spread her wings. And it’s probably time for me to spread mine again as well.

This morning I awoke long before the sunrise. I tried to go back to sleep, but with Jack’s elbow in my back, and the rumble of his snoring filling the room, it was not to be. I start most mornings with a workout I choose from an at-home program I joined last March. It’s my habit to tackle it before I do anything else each day. So still yawning, I changed into my workout clothes, figuring I’d get it done in time to have coffee with Chesney a bit later on. I’m in the midst of an eighty-day program and just finished the first third of it yesterday. Today was supposed to be a rest day, but I felt the need to stretch out, and decided to try a yoga routine from the library of options. While the stillness of the night encompassed the rest of the house, I rolled out my yoga mat and pushed play on a beginner’s course.

Lucy tends to be an early riser too, especially if she hears me moving. I filled her dish with kibble, waited for her to finish, then let her outside and back in again before settling down on my yoga mat. As the recorded program walked me through some initial breathing exercises, Lucy sat square in front of me, trying to lick my face and making me laugh. I knew I wouldn’t master my breathing this way, but I couldn’t help reaching out to stroke her fur and give her a kiss. As long as I was sitting in the cross-legged position, Lucy continued to try to look into my eyes, and kept resting her paw on my knee. She finally gave up when I moved to get on all fours to do the cat and cow positions. She lifted herself up onto the couch then, settling into her morning nap on a blanket that had been left strewn there the night before.

As I finished my “practice,” the household began to come alive. I made some protein pancakes for Chesney and myself, the only ones who regularly eat breakfast. Jack got up and quickly left to go help a family member with a yard project. Chesney left for work, reveling in the fact that it’s the last Saturday she’ll have to spend at work from now on. Ryker, ever the night owl, remained sleeping in his room. (Nope, the nest still won’t be empty as long as he remains a full-time resident, though it will be much quieter. He’s rarely here except to sleep.)

For now, at least until mid-afternoon, the house is mine and the weekend is here. Two whole days to catch up, catch a breath, relax and take whatever these days may bring.