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!

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.

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.

Too Cold to Go Outside

I haven’t been getting outside to walk for the past week or so. It’s too cold! I was really sticking with it too, well past the point in the winter that I normally do. Usually I’ve given up long before now. But if I can say anything good about a pandemic and working from home and rarely going anywhere, it’s that it has motivated me to go outside, see something besides the walls of my own house, and breathe fresh air. But the past couple of weeks with their sub-zero temperatures broke me. I’m pretty hardy, but I draw the line when the temperatures are cold enough to pose the risk of frostbite on skin exposed longer than five minutes.

It was eighteen below this particular morning.
An enjoyable view from inside the house

I miss my walks. I miss my friend and neighbor who walks with me. It always refreshes my spirit to get out of the house and talk with someone who doesn’t live with me. When the temperatures started falling, I told myself that if I couldn’t go outside, I’d still step away from my desk for a while each day and read a book, eat some lunch, watch an episode of something, or even do some laundry. But I never do. Without even giving it much thought, I just keep working. Oh, well. I’ve accomplished a lot at work and that in itself is fulfilling. It’s probably not a great long-term plan though.

This weekend promises a slight warm-up, thankfully, and next week looks good for getting outside again. I can’t wait!

Other benefits of these long, slow, quiet days? I’ve managed to stick with my goal to plan meals, cook, and eat better. I’ll dare to say that I’m well on my way to creating a solid habit of planning and shopping so that I have ingredients on hand to cook some things we’ll enjoy and feel good about eating. I’m only slightly worried I might start slacking off when spring and summer roll around.

I’m doing a ton of reading and really enjoying it.

I’ve not really worked much on crocheting. I got very excited about it at first and then I just fizzled. I’ve been too wrapped up in my books, I think. I’m not worried though. The yarn and hooks aren’t going anywhere. And obviously, neither am I!

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.

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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.

Season of Change

Fall has hit its prime around here. I can’t count the number of times I’ve paused this week to take note of the absolute stunning beauty of this time of year. While driving to and from Madison this week for work, I spent the nearly four-hour drive marveling at the expanse of trees lining the highway, the rural landscapes boasting a chorus of red, orange and gold. As much as I might complain about the Minnesota winters, this time of year makes me so appreciative to live where the world looks so spectacular at times.

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My backyard view

The past week has been hectic with me being away from home half the week. I’ve been in my “new” job just over a year now and have established a pattern of going to Madison about every other month for in-person meetings with my team. I’ve had my ups and downs during that time, thanks in large part to the fact that I completely underestimated the challenges of being the sole remote employee. I’ve realized that learning to understand and work with other personalities can be a hurdle when you’re not in the same physical space every day. And I’ve had to learn to speak up about my workload and ability to handle more. There was a brief period of time in which I was anxious, losing sleep, and questioning whether I belonged, but I’m happy to say that I’m in a pretty good place now.

Upon arriving home from Madison Wednesday evening, tired and ready to unwind, I came through the door to find that once again, my little buddies from next door, E and Little J had just arrived and were looking for me … and hoping for some dinner. Thankfully, Jack had found a rare inclination to do some cooking during the past few days and at that very moment there was homemade vegetable beef soup simmering on the stove. The aroma of it had my mouth watering, but I wasn’t so sure E and Little J would eat it. I told them they were welcome to have supper with us and cautioned them about what was in the soup. “I like vegetables,” E insisted. “Me too,” said Little J. I was wary, but invited them to have a seat.

Jack and Chesney had just started eating before I’d come home. E and Little J scrambled up onto two open stools at our kitchen island while I ladled the soup into bowls for them and myself. I found some crackers in the cupboard for the boys, sure that they’d need something solid once they realized they didn’t really like the soup. But I was impressed when each of them polished off their bowls and asked for more. When they’d had their fill, it was the crackers that hadn’t been finished.

2019.10.16 (2)After dinner, the boys found the markers and paper that I’d added to the stack of games and cards I’ve begun to keep on a shelf in the living room for the times when they stop by. They settled themselves back at the island and went to work on the big sheets of white construction paper, remnants from a long ago school project that Chesney found in the game cupboard. Whenever I ask the boys about school, they’re most enthusiastic about art class, and I’m beginning to see why. They both exhibit a real sense of creativity, and Little J especially has a serious knack for drawing. On Wednesday evening, he composed pictures of Jack, Chesney and me. I tried not to laugh when I saw the likeness of myself. I’d like to think I don’t look nearly as old as he depicted me, but regardless, I was impressed with the detail. While he was working on it, Little J had said he needed to put glasses on me. I mentioned that I only wear them for reading. The finished product showed me holding something in my hand. When I asked about it, he said, “It’s a book!”  The drawings took a place of honor on the refrigerator, and the boys beamed with pride.

The following night, the boys were back again and hungry when I returned home from a hair appointment. I wasn’t nearly as ready for them this time, so I stirred up some pancake batter and we ate them smothered in syrup with a side of apple slices. Little J liked my habit of smearing peanut butter on the pancakes first, and then drizzling them with syrup. He ate at least four pancakes, and after dinner, he wanted to draw again. This time he produced a rather disturbing character that looked like something out of an adult horror movie, complete with an ax in hand, dripping with blood. Still … his talents were evident. For obvious reasons, I chose not to display that one on the refrigerator.

While I realize that by letting the boys spend time with us, we’re filling some gaps in their lives, they probably don’t understand they are filling one in ours. They bring variety, laughter, and innocence to what can sometimes feel like a stale and aging routine. The older I get, the more I realize that one of my needs is to take care of others (even though I might complain about it in some aspects of my life.) That is the gap that the boys fill for me. And especially as I think about how quiet the house will become as Chesney makes plans to move out and begin her own life, I know that I’ll welcome the boys’ presence all the more. 

Speaking of Chesney, things are moving quickly. It’s only been two weeks since she got engaged, and already she’s had a phone interview for a job in Farm Boy’s town. She and I spent Friday evening shopping, in search of something new to wear for her in-person interview tomorrow. If she gets the job, she’ll be leaving home much, much sooner than I’d anticipated. While all of this is somewhat bittersweet for me, I’m so happy that her life is gaining traction and moving in the direction she wants it to go. These past few years have been very happy ones with her at home again. She’s my best friend and such a source of joy and laughter. But now it’s her time to forge a life of her own and this will bring a whole new variety of happiness, I know. It is definitely a season of change around here.

And all of a sudden…

As I write this, the sky is dumping fine grains of snow to the ground here in Minnesota. On October 12th. This is a bit too early for my liking and I’m holding out hope that this is a fluke thing and the real fall will return again before winter truly sets in. But considering this, it’s no wonder I often find myself marveling about how quickly time passes. Then again, I guess it all depends on where my mind is focused, because at other times, life feels like stream of dull routine that seems to bleed slowly from one day into the next.

Not long ago, feeling tired of viewing life as stale and rote, I jotted down some goals intended to keep me invested in things that would improve my mind, body, spirituality, and relationships. The neighborhood dinner we hosted a week and a half ago was the result of a goal to spend more time with people and doing things outside of my own household. (The dinner was a huge success, by the way. The lasagna was a hit. Little Man next door who seems to like nothing but Pop Tarts and soda ate two pieces and took leftovers home.) We took a vote to keep doing it. Next time I get to relax and just be a guest.

My other goals are aimed at trying to spend some time in the Bible at least a few days a week, working out at least five days a week, and writing one to three days a week. Three out of four ain’t bad, right?

Last weekend, daughter Chesney’s boyfriend of nearly four years, Farm Boy spent the weekend here with her. Saturday was another day in a long line of rainy, cold and/or generally miserable days. But when the sun rose on Sunday, the weather was exactly as the weatherman had promised … a picture-perfect fall day with a clear, blue sky. The sun’s golden rays beamed brilliantly down to the ground, and the trees rejoiced in their autumn colors. Chesney and Farm Boy suggested we all go to the apple orchard. This played nicely into my goal to get out of the house and do something interesting more often, so it was easy for me to agree. We decided to visit a quaint little family-owned orchard that we’d discovered and enjoyed last year. When we arrived, Jack steered the truck past the old farmhouse and down a muddy dirt driveway to a grassy and soggy “parking lot” in back. We then trekked our way back toward the house to the orchard festivities along with a throng of other fall revelers who had similar thoughts to enjoy the pleasant weather while it lasted.

There was a food stand, a band, areas for photo ops (of which we took advantage,) and there were chickens and goats in large pens. Visitors were allowed inside with the chickens and we laughed, watching young parents encourage reluctant toddlers to approach the curious chickens. Down a small hill, just beyond the animal pens and a make-shift store (a garage in reality) was a large pumpkin patch. We strolled down to the patch and perused the pumpkins, looking for the most likely candidates for carving. Upon making our selections, we decided to first pay for the pumpkins and take them back to the truck, before moving onto the apple picking.

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The orchard offered rows and rows of trees, bursting with ripe apples. Jack sent Chesney and Farm Boy toward the rows of Honey Crisp trees while he and I went a bit further to see what other varieties there were. We tasted a few and picked some before heading back in the direction of where we’d left the kids. Just as we walked past a particular row, I heard my daughter’s voice call out, “Mom!”

IMG_8685We turned and headed down the row toward her. Farm Boy was holding a nearly full bag of apples as Chesney said to us, “Guess what!” Before we could guess, she pulled her left hand up in front of her and it took only a split-second for us to notice that the sunshine was sparkling brilliantly off of her hand!

Knowing full well what I was looking at, I’m not exactly sure why I exclaimed, “What is that??? Is that an engagement ring?” My eyes brimmed with tears of joy as Chesney nodded, Farm Boy beamed, and Jack and I took turns hugging each of them.

While we spent a weekend at the cabin last July, Farm Boy had sought Jack’s permission to ask for Chesney’s hand in marriage. An old-fashioned boy he is! No wonder I love him so much! He had said he wanted to propose to her down on the dock with the lake in full view – one of her favorite places. It didn’t happen that weekend, or the next time we were all there together. For a while, we waited in anxious anticipation for him to pull the trigger, and then I guess we just stopped thinking about it so much.

I hadn’t thought about the pending proposal at all last weekend, and then all of a sudden there it was! My baby girl is going to get married! We couldn’t be happier! She and Farm Boy clearly adore each other and he is so good to her. I couldn’t ask for a better man for my girl.

And also … my baby girl is going to move out. I mean, not right now. But eventually. Not like I didn’t know this would happen at some point, but it’s been almost four years since she graduated college and moved home. She’s been here ever since. It’s been longer than I thought she might be here and I have loved every minute of it. Every day I thank God that we have such a close bond, that she enjoys hanging out with me, and that we just get each other. When she moved away to college it was hard for me. Really hard. But I got used to it. I guess I’ll just have to get used to it again.

However, I was not prepared for everything to start happening so quickly. First came the proposal. And it’s been no secret that Chesney and Farm Boy have been looking for a home to share … probably closer to his parents and the family farm where he’ll continue to lend a hand for the foreseeable future. That’s about an hour away. Still, the engagement just happened last weekend, and, in my mind, Chesney moving out again was still someday away. Until the middle of last week when she was offered a phone interview for a job with a company in the town where Farm Boy lives. Yes, I know it’s just a phone interview which may or may not transpire into a job offer. But still.

Chesney and I chatted one day this week about all of the looming plans and possibilities. She mentioned that Farm Boy had said he knew she was going to cry when she had to leave her mom and Lucy Pie. Just hearing her say that brought tears to my eyes and I told her I couldn’t talk about it anymore just then. Jeez, I love that kid! I always envisioned her living within fifteen minutes or so from me. I imagined calling her up on a Tuesday and saying, “Why don’t you come have dinner at home tonight.”

Well, you know what they say … Tell God your plans and watch him laugh. Yeah, I know. I’m getting way ahead of myself here, already living in some perceived future instead of just being in the moment. Besides, I’m well aware of my tendency to be a bit dramatic. An hour away is really just an hour away. Some people drive that distance to and from their jobs every day. Still, I told Chesney that when she and Farm Boy find a place of their own, they should be sure to have some space for me. Even a couch. I’ll be visiting frequently. Chesney said Farm Boy had already stated as much. Again … it’s no wonder I love him so much. He gets me too.

Jack, of course is taking it all in stride. And on the flip side of my tears, I thought about the fact that as much as Chesney is one of my most favorite people to be with, because she lives in my house and I love hanging out with her, I’m less likely to make social dates with friends. If she and I are engrossed in conversation as we often are, I don’t make time to write, and I don’t read as much as I might otherwise. I guess that in the years since she’s been back home, I constantly think that I should make the most of her presence before she’s no longer present in my life every single day. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. But as parents, it’s our job to push our kids out of the nest and watch them fly successfully into lives and worlds of their own. And maybe … just maybe in this perceived future I’ll enjoy a little bit of quiet and time to focus on my own stuff. And probably … our times together after Chesney moves out will be that much sweeter.

Just last night, Chesney said to me, “You know you’re going to have to hang out with Dad more when I move out.”

Yup. Probably not a bad thing either. Maybe he’ll take her place in the kitchen and begin to enjoy cooking dinner with me. One can dream, right? 😉

SO Damn Happy for Spring!

This past winter was a beast! It took a while to arrive, but when it got here, it came with a vengeance. When the snow and cold decided to show up, they hit hard, and just kept coming.

My mom used to share with me that the winter days were so hard for her, so depressing. I always wondered why she couldn’t just shift her focus to a brighter place and rise above it. That’s an easy thing to think when you’ve never experienced how persistent those dark emotional clouds can be.

Like so many others who live in this part of the country, I’ve often felt the winter blues to some degree. But this past winter, they were intense! I felt like I was just trudging through endless dreary, frigid days with little enthusiasm for anything. And I hadn’t realized how much harder it was hitting me until the season finally began to break.

Now I’m seeing the sun again before I leave for work in the morning, and it’s still shining when I drive home at the end of the day.  The air is slowly warming and the mountains of snow are beginning to melt away. I feel like I can breathe again. And I’m definitely a candidate for snowbird status at some point in my life.

IMG_7697That’s not to say it was an entirely awful and wasted winter. We started a new home improvement effort in which the remaining carpet in the upper level was ripped out. (YAY!) It has been replaced with wood flooring, which I have to say, thanks to my hubby, sons, and a small crew of talented friends, turned out beautifully.

Since adding living space to the back of the house a couple of years ago, we no longer really need the small living room in front. So we’re planning to convert that space to a dining room. I’m not in a hurry,  but I’m keeping my eye out for a dining table that will seat at least ten. Yes, I have plans to host more family gatherings! After we move our smaller, round table out of the dining area that adjoins the kitchen, we’ll replace it with an island that will have more kitchen storage space and an overhang so that we can have some casual seating there.

We had some fun too, in spite of the cold winter days. There was bowling (and both my women’s and couples’ teams are contending for first place!) We enjoyed a weekend up north with friends at their beautiful “cabin.” (The quotes are necessary because in spite of the fact that our friends called it a cabin, it could hardly be labeled a cabin. It was a gorgeous lake home!) The weekend was way too cold for any outdoor activities, but we enjoyed food, games and camaraderie.

We saw 38 Special in concert a couple of weekends ago… which was actually Jack’s Christmas present. It was a great show, and they’ve still got it!  And, not to mention, we had some good cuddle time with Lucy. She’s way more cuddly during the winter when she’s shivering as much as we are.  

 

Oh, and did I mention a little trip we took to Mexico? I wanted to just stay there forever …

 

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So the winter wasn’t an entire waste, but I, for one, am not sad to see it go! Goodbye, winter. Thanks for stopping by, but good riddance!

Never Too Old to Carve Pumpkins

As I grew out of my childhood years and into adulthood, I carried with me a belief that had been solidly ingrained by having witnessed the course of my parents’ lives (whether the lesson was intentional on their part or not.) And that is the fact that as we age, we stop making time for certain frivolous, silly activities. Maybe it’s because our children have grown up. Maybe there’s simply no longer time. Or is it merely that the heart is no longer in it?

But my life … and especially my own offspring are teaching me differently. I am grateful that my parents reinforced the value of hard work and managing finances responsibly. They made big sacrifices so that their children might have an easier go of it. Still, it’s sometimes hard for me to shake the idea that the majority of my time should be invested in serious and important endeavors. Fun and relaxation are luxuries to be enjoyed only when all of the chores are done. (But are they ever done?)

This is exactly why I’m so thankful for the example my own adult children provide. They all possess a good work ethic. (Whew! We did our job!) But all three of them also know the importance of breaking out of the everyday routine. They remind me that making time for play has a larger purpose, that it can strengthen relationships, and even provide the reinforcement sometimes needed to reckon with the challenges that inevitably come our way.

My sons love the outdoors. Spring, summer and fall can find either of them with a buddy, in a boat on a lake, with a line dangling in the water just waiting for the biggest fish. Or in a field, dressed in camouflage, watching for a flock of ducks to soar overhead. All three of my kids enjoy sports, and in the summer, my daughter can still be found on a ball field. After years of youth and traveling softball, she’s now spending time playing in the local adult league. Movies, music, or simply an evening spent ’round a bonfire with friends are all regular aspects of my kids’ lives. I admire them for this and I’m reminded to stop worrying and stressing so much, and make a conscious effort to relax once in a while.

Growing up, I think money was just so tight that after bills and expenses were covered, and monthly donations made to the church, there just wasn’t anything left over for much outside of the ordinary. (Except during the holidays! Christmases were always wonderful. Probably financed with a credit card and paid for during the next twelve months. Our parents were so good to their four children, even if we didn’t always realize it at the time.) I’m beyond appreciative that there was always a roof over my head, food on the table, plenty of love, and a constant effort to ensure that we went off into the world as prepared as we could possibly be. But the lack of extravagance often translated beyond that which cost money, and as a result, I don’t always easily relax. Breathe.  Have some FUN!

Last weekend, my husband and boys went on a hunting trip. Chesney and her boyfriend spent the weekend with me. She worked on Saturday, and it was generally a low-key couple of days, but I loved having them around. I tackled chores around the house after being away most of the previous week for work. Then I took the “kids” out for dinner on Saturday evening to a local bar and restaurant. They wanted Juicy Lucy burgers, and we found a spot with a good view of a television airing a football game. Some old friends from Chesney’s younger softball days ended up at the table next to us and we had a great time catching up!

Afterwards, I settled in at home to read a book with the t.v. on in the background when I soon realized there was something going on in another room. From my comfy spot on the sectional, I peered around to the kitchen to see these two twenty-five year-old “kids” with a big hearty pumpkin. The table was being prepped with a spread of old newspaper, knives, and spoons big enough to carve out oodles of pumpkin guts.

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She hates how her hair looks, but she’s always beautiful to me.

It made me smile to hear them contemplate their design, and the way they joked and laughed together as they worked on creating a Halloween masterpiece. Most of all, I was proud of them for refusing to ever be “too old” to revel in the spirit of this “children’s” holiday.

I love these two! They remind me that life is short enough as it is. Make time for a bit of fun and play.

I’ll be carving my pumpkin this weekend.

 

 

 

Transitioning

It’s a beautiful time of year here in Minnesota. Sometimes, in the dead of winter, I ask myself why I’ve chosen to live in a place where it gets so cold and feels overwhelmingly dark for weeks and months on end. But when spring and summer, and especially fall come around again, I remember.

As I was running an errand a few days ago, driving a nearby road bordered by a stretch of trees and open space, the late afternoon sun provided a deep golden backdrop for the red, orange and yellow canopies atop the trees. No matter how often I witness this particular transition of nature, it never fails to strike me with a sense of awe. Momentarily, I felt bad about rejoicing in something that essentially equates to the beginning of an end.

Almost as quickly, I realized that this season is not about endings at all. There’s no reason to feel sad about the dimming of this period of life. It’s simply part of a recurring cycle. Fall plays its part in a bigger picture. Nature quiets this time of year, tucks in for a few months, before reinventing itself and bursting back to life the next spring.

I walked a lot this past summer. In the very early part of the day, bird songs created a morning symphony and the sunrises were spectacular. Walking has been a regular part of my days for years, but this summer was different, and I felt myself coming back to life each morning in many ways. I felt a sense of peace drifting over me that I’d been missing for far too long. The lingering sadness that seemed to permeate my heart for the past few years was finally starting to dissipate.

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The days have grown shorter over the past several weeks, and I miss those brilliant summer morning walks. But those days will come around again.  In the meantime, I’ll keep trying to appreciate what’s in front of me right now.