I’m Happy Today Because …

Jack doesn’t have Covid. He sounds awful. He’s been coughing, sneezing, and sniffling with increasing intensity the past few days, and has lost his voice. He got tested. So did I. We are both vaccinated and boosted, but the thought of him getting the virus still worries me, especially because he’s immunocompromised. When he had it last spring, mid-vaccination series, he was so sick I was literally scared. Thankfully, both of our tests yesterday came back negative.

I went back to work today. I’ve had a lot of time off over the past two weeks. My PTO balance in December held more hours than I’d be allowed to carry over into 2022 and so I scheduled some days off. Being on vacation over the holidays is wonderful. But for me, it can tend to become too much of a good thing. I get lax in my eating habits and sleep much longer than my body is used to. I need some routine to stay on top of healthy habits and personal goals. Fortunately, I love my job. My peers all seemed to have some positive energy upon returning after the long holiday weekend and so it was really easy to get back into the swing of things.

I’m cooking. It’s not something I mind doing, but I tend to burn out on it easily, especially when work and life get really busy. We seem to have survived on holiday leftovers and goodies for the past two weeks. I’ve begun to crave a hot, (not simply reheated) meal and actually had the urge to do some cooking. I grilled steaks on Saturday, made my grandma’s spaghetti yesterday, and an Instant Pot split pea soup tonight. And now we have some appealing leftovers too!

I know the thrill of cooking is going to wear off though, so I’m also happy we’re trying a meal delivery service. Thanks to Chesney and Farm Boy’s thoughtful Christmas gift, later this week, the ingredients for three meals will show up at the door. All we’ll have to do is follow the instructions to prepare a meal. I have high hopes!

Nothing to Do and Nowhere to Go

It’s one of those crazy Minnesota weather days. A fierce, blowing wind last night brought snow, and sometime this morning the rain followed. It’s a good day to be at home on a paid holiday. I had to salt the deck and steps before I could let Lucy out this morning as it was all covered in glare ice.

I haven’t written forever, which seems to be the thing I say anytime I manage to come to this dusty blog and try to put down a few intelligent words. I can’t figure out, now that we are truly empty-nesters, why I don’t manage to write anymore.

To be honest, I think I have figured out why. It used to be that Jack worked these crazy, rotating shifts. Nights and weekends while he was away, I’d fill my time alone by writing. When my parents’ health went downhill and they eventually passed, I could barely muster up any words that weren’t self-pitying. And then Jack took a day job after thirty-some years. For some reason, his being around all the time for the past four years has impacted my urge to write. I miss the habit, and I’d like to say I’ll make a New Year’s resolution to do this with more frequency, but I’m not sure I trust myself to follow through. Let’s just leave it at “we’ll see”.

Anyway, I’ve been off work for a stretch of days, and for a rare occasion, I have nothing I really have to do. Since Thanksgiving, I’ve entertained four times. Work has been crazy. There was Christmas shopping and wrapping to do, cookies to bake, and a million other things typical of the holiday season. But today? Today I am free.

Life these days seems to move so fast. When I first started writing, my children were in school. High school and college graduations happened while I continued to write, and eventually a wedding. The kids moved out on their own, the last one leaving just this past July. And our first grandchild arrived this summer! When they say life happens in the blink of an eye, believe them.

If the past year of my life was a collection of pictures, the vast majority of them would be of our beautiful granddaughter, MK. She is my joy and I absolutely adore her! Jack and I are having so much fun being grandparents and the entire family wants to smother MK with love and affection. She is so good-natured, so curious and ambitious. She is absolutely precious! Her daddy, Jaeger recently remarked while watching me hold and play with MK, “Someone, please get these people another grandchild already!” I wouldn’t complain, but for now, we are enjoying all of the firsts that come with being new grandparents. It makes me think of my own parents so much more often, and how they must have felt when my niece, their first grandchild was born. Life is funny this way. New experiences call back old memories and keep our loved ones who are gone very much alive and present in our day-to-day lives.

I like this place in life though. I was thinking just yesterday, actually feeling how well this fits me. Seeing my kids reach adulthood and begin lives of their own was tough. I wasn’t sure who I was once they no longer needed me like they used to. But now some time has passed and I can take a step back and appreciate that they’ve all succeeded in their own ways. They are good, kind, loving people. They are building lives and families of their own. I can relax a bit now. And I’m enjoying the space to invest in myself again.

Christmas is over already. It comes and goes more quickly with each passing year. Ours was wonderful, but I couldn’t help reminiscing and missing the old days just a little bit. Nothing can stay the same forever, but I’m so grateful to have the memories that I hold. I think back to all the little setbacks and challenges I’ve experienced along the way, and marvel at how some seemed so devastating and insurmountable at the time. But I’ve survived and moved on. Happiness always comes back in many different ways. I’ve been blessed more often than not. It really is a wonderful life.

Coming Back to Life

Daylight! We have daylight again! I have missed it so much. It might even have been worth losing that hour of sleep earlier this week just to be able to end my workday with the sun still streaming through the window. I know it’s not just me. The past few months have felt darker than most years. It’s amazing what a little natural light can do to lift the spirits!

It’s funny how the changing seasons can transform the same patch of sky that I see every single morning from my windows. Day after day, there’s a new piece of artwork inside the same frame.

The light at the end of the tunnel is growing brighter by the day. I can breathe again and can’t seem to get outside enough to soak in all of this nearly-spring weather. Lucy and I have been going for walks after work. She’s a little bit out of shape and needs the exercise. And even my four-legged baby senses the renewal taking place, displaying her funny sense of exuberance. As we trek through the neighborhood, she gallops as far as her leash will allow, and sniffs every patch of grass, every stray leaf, every place her nose can reach. As soon as she feels the leash go a bit slack, she bursts forth again in the hopes of more new scents, more sights to see. When her initial energy wanes, she slows to a prance, her head held high, searching right to left, up and down, making sure she doesn’t miss a thing.

I’m seeing people again, a friend in the neighborhood strolling out to the mailbox who flags me over to catch up for a few minutes. There are little kids playing in driveways who don’t know me but who eagerly shout, Hi! Hi! Hi! and wave frantically as Lucy and I pass by. I smile and wave back and Lucy’s tongue lolls out of her mouth as she considers them for the briefest moment before pulling me forward. Birds chirping. Squirrels racing. Geese honking. I have missed all of this during the long quiet we’ve just been through.

Things are slowly returning to normal. I worried that this Easter would be another lonely pandemic holiday. But I am so grateful it won’t be. We can gather together again. A bit. Normally, holiday preparations stress me out while I impossibly try to make everything perfect and conjure up expectations that can’t possibly be met. Now, as I plan to host Easter brunch with my immediate and some extended family, I’ve discarded any ideas of perfection. I’m not complaining to myself that no one else offered to host a gathering at their homes (again.) No. Like Lucy, I’m exuberant. I have missed life. I’ve missed my people. I won’t soon take either for granted again.