Sunday, December 4, 2016

Fifty Is Nifty

Hello everyone, I'm back.  I've been gone for a while and I can't really explain why.  But I'll try.  This year has been a pivotal year for me.  I have never been one to get hung up on age.  Ever.  And I'm not looking for any sympathy here.  At all.  But fifty sort of hit me.  To be real honest the hit was not all bad.  In fact a ton of it was good.  I will even stretch and say that the scales tip in my favor.  And of course this needs a bit of explanation.  So here goes.

We're all busy. That hardly even needs to be said.  For my family we definitely keep a bit of a crazy calendar and there are only three of us.  Ok, three pups, too, but they go with the flow.  I mean I don't
have five kids going in all different directions.  You know who you are my friend, and I truly admire you.  Gracie had school, church and workouts.  Scott volunteers at church, a homeless shelter and mentors.  I work full time, volunteer at church and spend time with friends and family as much as possible.  Sounds manageable, right?  Hang on. Well you mix that with a shoulder injury for Gracie, a spinal surgery for my dad and a serious surgery for my sister and I became a bit bonkers.

What made me grieve was Gracie's track season was over. She had ended the last year with such excitement for this season.  She had broken the former freshman discus record by 14 feet!  She worked out constantly, she attended several throwing camps.  She was ready not only for the athleticism, but the generous coaching and the camaraderie of her fellow teammates.  Her surgery was painful and the recovery, both physically and mentally, was long.

Then there was dad.  He had been having some leg issues.  Cramping, shakiness, not having balance.
And it took what felt like forever to find the solution.  His decline happened fairly rapidly and completely changed how he and mom live.  Coffee and lunch dates were difficult.  No more walks. They weren't attending church as much as they had previously.  They were living in the place of the horrible unknown.  Would he get better?  Could someone just please figure out what is ailing him?Believe me, there were several tests and doctors working on this.  The diagnosis of spinal stenosis was made and there was surgery.  I won't go into all of the details of the surgery and recovery.  That's not my story to tell.  Suffice it to say that through some truly heart wrenching moments I was blessed to witness the unwavering love that my parents have for each other.

Amy was visiting dad in the rehab wing of the hospital and started to feel ill.  Dad was the patient, but always a dad, suggested she go see a doctor.  After a few blips, and let me just say this family is about done with blips, Amy had a diagnosis.  Soon thereafter a full hysterectomy.  All is well after a long recovery and some serious complications.

Through all of my family's health issues, I prayed.  And I stayed---as often as I could.  There were visits on the weekends.  I tried to remain present for them as much as possible.  But I live here, in Madison, and they live there, in Appleton.  Not impossible, just difficult at times.  I wished I could do more.  I wished I lived closer.

And there was the trip to Glacier National Park that we had been planning for almost a year.  It was a bit hard to get excited for our travels when worries were on my mind.  I had many hours of drive time when I went to visit my family.  That's a lot of time to think and make lists.  On this particular drive I was somewhere between Rosendale and Neenah.  I started to make a list of things I was grateful for.  Not the things I was worried about.  And I kid you not, an amazing wash of calm came over me.  When I got to the hospital to visit dad,  I was still feeling great.  We visited.  Mom and Amy were there, too.  As I said goodbye to dad, he told me I should wait a minute.  He stood for the first time I had seen, on his own, since his surgery.  This was the first time in over a month that I had hugged my dad without having to bend over to hug him while he was sitting in a chair or lying in a bed.  Hallelujah!

We had the best trip out to Montana.  We love it there.  I need to go back.  Soon.  And before I knew it my birthday was upon me.  I opened my arms and embraced this new age.  I've got this.  Fifty is fine.  Fifty is nifty.  I feel strong.  I feel silly.  I feel smart.  I've learned a lot.  I have a lot of life to live.  I've made some decisions.  I'm going to try and love every minute of every day.  I'm cool with imperfection.  I'm going to continue to simplify.  Navy blue is my new favorite color.  I'm going to travel more.   I'm going to be quiet.  Sometimes.  I'm sleeping more.  I'm back to blogging and I'm going to make the word "nifty" popular again.  These are my wishes and goals.  Yep, fifty is nifty.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Getting Ready

So the other day it dawned on me.  Well, actually this started in September.  Gracie was about to celebrate her 16th birthday.  A few days after that she took her driving test and passed.  I suppose that's when it really hit me.  I still have so much I want to teach her.  I have so much I want to show her and experience with her.  But she'll only be under our roof for another two and a half years.   I don't have much time.

I decided to approach all of this with a cool and calm mind.  No freaking out.  There was the night that she had to go to a meeting for work.  Downtown.  In the dark.  I asked her where she might park when she goes downtown? She replied with, wherever there is a parking spot.  Sassy girl.  So then I said, just make sure that it is in a well lit area.  Please don't use your cell phone while you are walking from the car to your work.  Walk with confidence and don't talk to strangers.  Ok.  That was probably enough.  Whew.  Then she said, mom, I have a black belt in karate.  And I'll be careful.  Kisses and hugs and a text me when you get there.  I've never felt so relieved as when I heard that garage door go up upon her return.

I've found myself explaining things to her differently.  Like when we went through the drive thru ATM at the bank.  Be aware of your surroundings.  When you punch in your PIN try and hide the numbers you are punching in.  Count your money after you have rolled up your window.  And then we moved on to other basic instructions.  When you're filling your gas tank, stay near by.  Those automatic shut off things don't always work.  We were on our way to a craft store and I said, when I enter this traffic circle I stay in the left lane.  That puts you right where you need to be when you want to turn into the strip mall.

Other little tips started rolling out of me.  Like when we were doing laundry.  Line dry your bras, they'll last longer.  Save your coins they really add up.  Always listen more than you talk.  Make sure you ask others lots of questions.  Google it.  Make sure to not text and drive.  Don't speed. Too much. It's not worth it.  I may know this from personal experience.  Maybe your dad does, too.

And even more basic.  Eight hours of sleep.  Always.  If not more.  Fruits and veggies, of course.  Give money to charities, but more important, give time.  Please and thank you.  Always.  Thank you notes.  This might land you a job.  Thank you note.  Follow up.  Professional.

Make your bed.  I know that you told me smart people are messy.  That is a good thing.  Genius on. But keep peace with your roommate or partner, too.  Learn how to change a tire.  Your Papa made me do this.  Learn to take a few seconds to respond rather than react.  A well thought out response is so much better and braver than a knee jerk reaction that you can't take back.

I've saved the best for last.  You know the golden rule.  Treat others like you wish to be treated.  Wish on falling stars.  Have fun.  Laugh.  Oh my goodness, LAUGH.  And love.  With gusto.  Love your family, your friends, your neighbors.  Be kind in general.  Make people feel as though they are the most important thing in your life.  The amazing miracle is that you, too, will feel very important.  That is the foundation that life is built on.  And trust.  This is easy.  Until your trust is taken for granted.  And then the best thing you can do is trust a little.  Again and again. Day after day.

When you have pain, push through.  You will learn that it won't define you.  Coming out on the other side is what does.  And that, baby girl, is all I have for you right now.  Except for one more thing.  Pack your bags.  We're going traveling.  We have places to go and people to see before you leave my nest.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Sweet Home Alabama

This trip had been planned for a long time.  And I looked forward to it with anticipation and a little apprehension.  I looked forward to spending time with Scott and Gracie.  I looked forward to spending time with lovely people from Messiah Lutheran Church.  I was excited to see what challenges we would be offered and what help we could provide on this mission trip.  Those were my expectations.  I was a little nervous about the long drive and getting tired.  This concern was quickly erased.  Yes, the drive was long, but we had a well-directed and fearless leader at the front of our seven vans.

We ventured to Peducah, Kentucky our first night.  We were welcomed with open arms to a church there.  A small stop on the way, but one filled with hospitality.  We traveled with 43 people and were able to pack our vans in less than 30 minutes and trek further south.  And as we traveled we kept in touch with each other via walkie-talkies.  We would count off and make sure everyone was present we would point out sights that should be seen.  Like hay bales that were misidentified as buffalo.  Ponds that were hilariously identified as the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.  Good times.  And all of this kept us together.  All seven vans.

Our destination was Wetumpka, AL.  That's pronounced two different ways.  Younger folk tend to say WAtumpka and older people say WEEtumpka.  Either way it was to be our home for a week.  We knew that our lodging would be at Mulder Church, but what we didn't know was how amazing our accommodations would turn out to be.  The facility is beautiful!  And even better, it is airconditioned.
We lacked nothing.  We slept comfortably---well as far as sleeping on floors goes.  We ate well and we were able to shower for five minutes four times during the week.

And what tied all of this together was the staff of Youth Works.  Four amazing people who energized and inspired all of us.  We happened to come to Wetumpka for the last week of their programming.  We were to close out the final week of Kids Club and do some home improvement projects for people in the community.  It was our intention to help this community as much as we could.  Yes, that was our intention.

We loved on the children at Kids Club.  They were eager to learn.  They loved to sing and dance.  And they loved to run and play.  This is a group of children that live in a trailer park.  Poverty has been the only life they have ever seen.  At noon every day these kids come to a trailer that the church has purchased and they are welcomed with open arms.  They are cheered for and celebrated.  They have a lunch provided for them.  They do crafts, read, write and exercise.  Sounds like school?  It's intended to feel that way.  It is a loving structure that feeds their bodies and their souls.  And at the end of the day all the staff and volunteers walk the children home.

We were blessed to be able to visit with residents of a nursing home.  The facility was amazing.  So bright, beautiful and clean.  Such kind faces greeted us as we walked through the building.  Some of us had a beach/summer party with residents and others spent time with people who have Alzheimer's disease or dementia.  It was proven over and over again that with age comes wisdom.  One of the residents prayed for one of our youth.  We played games and sang songs.  We met a lovely little girl named Savannah who's mom is a therapist.  She was dressed in scrubs and is ten years old.  I asked, did she work here? "Yes, ma'am.  Full time, Monday through Friday."  We chatted more and there were so many more yes ma'ams.  I complimented her on her fine manners and her reply was, "it's all about love and discipline.  It's yes ma'am and yes sir or it's push ups."  I then asked, do you have very strong arms?  And I received a mighty "yes ma'am!"

Our work projects ranged from scrubbing the outside of a mobile home and prepping it for painting to folding clothes at a thrift shop to landscape clean up.  Every bit of these projects bettered the community.  The thrift shop sales helped support a home for children who have incarcerated parents.  At that facility part of our group helped clean the grounds.  We cleaned and painted mobile homes throughout the community.

So back to what I had expected from this trip.  I had expected the home improvements, working with children and visiting with older people.  What I didn't expect was to leave Wetumpka with so much more.  I saw and experienced God's work every second.  The smiles and hugs that we received.  The stories that were told to us about individuals in the community.  The history that we experienced at the Rosa Parks Museum and the Civil Rights Museum was so enlightening.  The people of Wetumpka would give you the shirt off their back if you needed it.  They were so kind and appreciative.  Seeing that a fresh coat of paint could be just the thing to help you feel proud of your home.

I saw a church group see a need and make moves to improve it.  To set up a church community within a mobile home park so that children could have a safe and educational place to go.  I saw amazing smiles from children and parents when their kids got their new backpacks and school supplies.  I saw children come to a safe place to play, be loved and to be fed.  I experienced a place where older people are respected and loved and nurtured.  I saw our group from Messiah become a close community with the youth and leaders from Minnesota.  And I felt our lovely people from Messiah become my family.

As I was unpacking my suitcase I took out my tennis shoes.  I notice a couple of pebbles stuck in the tread of my shoe.  My first thought was I should take those out.  But those are pebbles from Wetumpka, AL.  Those pebbles remind me of the walk that I took into this amazing community.  They remind me of the beautiful people in Alabama.  The pebbles remind me of my Messiah family.  And they remind me of the amazing life that God has given me.  I feel so blessed to have been part of this week in Wetumpka.  My faith has been strengthened.  So as I put those shoes with the pebbles stuck in the tread in my closet, I know that some day I may lose the little rock reminders, but I know that my heart is forever full with my love for God, my Messiah people and a sweet community named Wetumpka, Alabama.

Monday, April 20, 2015

The Girls

This past weekend was a rehearsal of sorts.  We had the privilege of attending Abby's confirmation.  Abby is Gracie's best buddy from forever.  They met each other when they were two.  They attended preschool together.  They went to elementary school together.  Through fourth grade.  We lived about four houses away from each other until the house next to ours went up for sale.  Abby and her family moved in next door.  The dads cut a part of the fence that joined our back yards and made it into a door between our yards.

The girls took ballet together.  When they were three.  They were klutzy little ladies all dressed in pink.  They had adorable hair and chubby cheeks.  They had tea parties and picnics.  Sleepovers and craft projects.  They are sisters of sorts.  And with that came the occasional disagreement.  There were matching outfits.  Pictures with Santa every year.

We were moms in the driveway.  The women who birthed these adorable girls.  We lived on a street called Bedford Lane.  We affectionately became the "Bedford Wives."  Several other moms joined us and our children outside.  Spring, summer, fall, winter.  Just like the mailman; we were outdoors every day.  Fresh air and snacks equal healthy, happy kids.  And healthy happy kids make thankful and proud parents.

The dads gathered, too.  They accomplished big outdoor projects together.  There were barbeque's and campfires.  There were even a few tents pitched in the backyard.  The dads slept outside with the kids.  Moms were all comfy inside their houses.  Strong bonds were formed.  We have become the kind of friends that are so close that we really think of each other as family.

So back to the rehearsal.  It was Abby's Confirmation.  She was a gorgeous young woman.  So grown up and graceful.  It was a wonderful thing to be present for this big day.  We were and are so happy for her.  And for a moment I thought about the fact that Gracie would have been confirmed with her on this day.  But this was Abby's day.  And Gracie loved being there to share in it.  In a month it will be Gracie's day.  She'll be confirmed on May 17.  At our church in Madison.

These girls are growing up so fast.  They are driving now.  They still see each other often.  Maybe not often enough.  They are really smart, compassionate and funny young women that we have had the joy to see mature over time.  

I'll always remember the little pink ballerinas that kept falling down and giggling.  I think that was a rehearsal for bigger and better things to come.

P.S.  On a different note, Bruce, my friend, I adore you, too.

Sunday, March 15, 2015


We all know how important signs are in life.  There is hardly a moment that people aren't somehow touched by signs.  This has been very relevant to us over the past few weeks.  Gracie is enrolled in driver's ed classes.  She has a very animated teacher who enjoys telling stories.  Much of what she shares is hopefully going to stick in the young minds she's talking to.  She is teaching her students to read physical, planted in the ground signs.

There are other signs to.  Everyday we are with people and can get a read on them.  We are able to see what mood people are in from seeing posture, crossed arms, lack of eye contact or smiles and eyes that sparkle with joy.  I have always been fascinated with body language.  I study it.  I use it every day.  I know that I, too, give off vibes or body language that lets people know how I am feeling.

So, this brings me to this weekend.  Gracie had a strings festival at school.  This is an orchestra concert that involves several elementary schools, Whitehorse and Sennett middle schools and La Follette High School.  The gym had all of the bleachers pulled out.  The floor was a sea of chairs and music stands.  There were grandparents, parents, siblings and friends in the audience.  It was a packed house.  We were able to find bleacher seats at the very top row and in a spot that we could see Gracie very well.

The music began.  It was amazing from start to finish.  I've been to quite a few of these concerts and sometimes things get a little rocky.  Usually the strings will get back on course and the songs are enjoyed.  Not this time, there was no rockiness at all.  This was truly well done.  My excitement heightened with each song that they played.  Some classical and  modern songs were featured.  I couldn't help but sing along.

Gracie really enjoys her orchestra teacher.  He was her teacher in fifth grade.  The first year we lived in Madison.  His impact on her was great and she is glad to be in his class again.  One of the reasons she enjoys his class so much is that he treats the students with respect and expects the same from them.  They are adults in his orchestra class.  And he throws in humor and lots of puns that keep them laughing.

So this is where it happened.  Just to recap, I was elated with the music being played.  I was commenting to Scott and other parents that this was such an awesome way to spend a Saturday afternoon.  And then I saw it.  Gracie's teacher stood up on his stand, picked up his baton and with a closed fist tapped his hand over his heart.  That was it.  I felt like I was at a Rolling Stones concert.  His appreciation for his students was so apparent.  I then, in a small way repeated the gesture and said quietly (thank goodness), we love you, too.  And then I waived a quick peace sign.

Later in the day we had a trivia contest to participate in at church.  I relived this part of the concert with my trivia team.  Gracie looked at me with some of the biggest eyes ever.  Mom, you didn't.  Oh yes I did.  You see, when her teacher makes the fist over his heart gesture he's actually showing his students what time they should start playing in.  Oops.

Sometimes signs can be confusing.  Even misunderstood.  I choose to believe in dual meanings.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Up And Running...

My last post was what seems like forever ago.  I've had things I wanted to say.  I've mentally written blogs in my mind.  It usually happens when I'm about to do something and I don't have time to jot my thoughts down.  A few weeks ago I had this terrific idea while I was in traffic.  I willed myself to hang on to the idea until I had time to type and it was a fail.  Then last week I had a sort of half awake dream just before I woke up.  This is what I wanted to say.  I knew it.  And then I went downstairs to feeds the pups and make some java.  Idea gone.  Poof.

So today another subject came to me and I hung on to it.  This past summer I wasn't sure how I would do with the no driving thing.  For three months.  Turns out I did ok.  If I needed to go anywhere, Scott took me.  He said that he wished my backseat driver's license would have been voluntarily surrendered, too.  I learned I love being home.  At the end of the summer it was a surreal feeling to get my license again.  Thirty-two years after my first one.  And yes, I drove home from the DMV.

I needed to take a break from my blog and let my brain reboot.  My mind was a little foggy.  Every once and a while I couldn't find the right word.  One day I kept saying grocery when I meant to say jewelry.  A small thing I know, but frustrating all the same.  I hardly have any of this anymore.  Like my doctor said, I'll be more sensitive to these little blips than most, but it's normal and I'm fine.

I may have become part sloth. And I loved it!  I loved having people come to visit me.  And having people pick me up and take me places.  I loved purging the house with Scott and Gracie.  I loved Netflix.  I saw Luke Bryan and Bruno Mars in concert.  I spent time with my beautiful, silly forever friends.  I enjoyed the fruits of our garden.  I met two of my favorite authors.  The Minimalists.  I put my hand out to shake theirs and got hugs instead.  I was absolutely giddy over the moon.  And my husband was an absolute sport.  He took me to the book signing.  He got hugs, too.

I'm up and running.  Reboot and updates complete.  I'm feeling renewed.  Until the other day when I told Gracie I'd be ready in just a few minutes.  I needed to jump in the refrigerator and I'd be ready to go.  Of course I meant shower, but I happened to be a little tired and putting the milk back in the refrigerator.  Small blip.  It's good to be back.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Lost and Found

I love Shelties.  I've loved five of them especially.  I know someone who has loved hundreds of Shelties.  Her name is Lisa and she is a superhero.  She works day in and day out to place beautiful dogs in safe homes with loving families.

And that's exactly what she did with Theo.  He's such a cute little fella.  Two days ago fourteen week old Theo got away from his doggy daycare.  I hope you're sitting because the turn of events that took place are nothing short of a whirlwind kind of miracle.  Theo's mom called Lisa.  She did this because Lisa has told all of us to do this.  When Lisa delivers your new Sheltie/family member to your house, these are some of her parting words, "if your dog gets away or lost, call me.  I can dispatch help to you in minutes."  She means this.  Dogs have been lost before.  And thankfully they have been found, too.

The day that Theo went missing, help came from everywhere.   Lisa drove two hours to help.  Others in the area and out of the area rallied.    You see these people are part of the community that Lisa built.  Other people wanted to help, too.  Little girls passed out flyers.  Neighbors helped look.  Other Sheltie families drove around.  And walked around.  Police Departments helped.  Postings on social media kept everyone connected.  We were all on pins and needles.

We were doing all of this because one of our family was missing and needed to come home.  This was all happening because Lisa has helped us become a community or a family and that's what family does for each other.   We support one another in times of need and we celebrate in times of joy.

With Theo there is joy.  He was found.  His mom is over the moon.  And tonight I hope that our superhero can retire her cape and have eight hours of sound sleep and sweet dreams.