Monday, January 31, 2011

Forever Friends

You've heard all of the terms these days. Like BFF, or soul sister, my girls, my peeps. Well, I'm 44 and these don't really sound like something I would say. But I do have to tell you that I have a bunch of these ladies in my life. This past week has been full of them. Twice I got an unexpected call from my forever friends. One was in the morning and one was at night. Both surprised the living daylights out of me. Maybe that's why they were so special. We talked about our kids, our husbands and our jobs. Most importantly we talked about each other. We can say anything to each other and not be afraid of how the one listening will react. There is no judgement. Only support. And it's like this EVERY time we talk. Even if months have separated our visits. We pick up right where we left off without missing a beat. We laugh and sometimes we cry. For sure, we bleed the valve of every day stresses. And when we hang up the phone our hearts are full. I guess I shouldn't speak for them, but I know that my heart is full.

And then there was this weekend. This week had been a long and busy one for me. I was looking forward to the weekend, though. I drove up to Appleton to pick up three of my forever friends and head up to my cottage. Man, did we all need this. We had 24 hours of only feeding ourselves. Only dressing ourselves and playing games we wanted to play and eating at leisure. We went out for dinner and actually could sit at the bar and enjoy a drink without running kids to the bathroom. Or digging in our purses for crayons or a pen and paper to keep some little people busy. And then the funniest thing happened. The restaurant seated us smack dab in the middle of the dining room. We were conversing, making jokes and laughing. It dawned on me that we may be a little bit loud. And sure enough, as I gazed around the room, I could see many a table engrossed in our conversation. We should probably take our act on the road. I'm thinking we could earn good money. Husbands and wives were listening, Young and old alike. We kept it clean. Well, most of the time. Remember, we didn't have our kids with us.

So my forever friends and I headed back to the cottage. Played another game and watched all the t.v. that we wanted in our pajamas. There were intermittent discussions about a wide variety of issues. Some political. Some not. Lots about family. The young ones (our kids) and the older ones (our parents). And we just leaned on each other. With lots of laughter injected into the conversation. Just like old times. Nothing has changed. And that's the way I like it. Oh and wait until I tell you what they talked me into...That's a blog for another day!

©2011 Ann M. De Broux

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Packers

I'll admit that when I was in college and people in Iowa asked me if I was a Packer fan, I wasn't nearly excited about it as I am today. Yes, I grew up 25 miles from Lambeau. Yes, I've been to a game. These are the replies that I would offer when asked. But with not a lot of notable enthusiasm.

Fast forward to 1992. I married my husband. He was a Packer fan. For Pete's sake. The family has had season tickets in their possession for at least three decades. Yes, we went to occasional games. And yes, they were fun. For me the crowd watching was the best. The bands, the costumes, the cheeseheads! Who would have thought. And to see so much green and gold. Holy cow. There were even cars and campers painted team colors. Outrageous.

When the stadium was going to be renovated we were offered the opportunity to take over the family tickets. This meant we would have two tickets to the "GREEN" package of games. This includes one preseason game and six regular season games.
The price wasn't prohibitive, so we said yes. Oh wait. Remember this is the year of renovation. We were also charged a seat tax. In the thousands. Man, this was an investment. Did we really want to do this? The answer was of course. And so the check was written.

Now, each year we have the opportunity to see the Packers play in person seven times. Absolutely amazing. We can't always go as a couple, so we invite friends and family. And speaking of family, the other season ticket holders around us have sort of become that. You get to know each other. It's a nice feeling. I took Gracie to a game when she was six. Scott was deer hunting. Just us girls. There happened to be a couple of fans for the opposing team next to us. Some vulgarities were spoken in reference to a call in the Packer's favor. One of the fellow season ticket holders said rather gruffly, "can't you idiots see there is a goll darn kid sitting right here!" The fans respected the fact that Gracie was within earshot for the rest of the game. It really warmed my heart.

Some other things that make me so proud of my team is their community outreach. Love that Aaron Rodgers. Did you know that he anonymously funded and attended a fun day of bowling, pizza and shopping for kids from the Boys and Girls Club in Green Bay one Christmas. He and several of his teammates made the holiday a bright one for these kids. That kind of gift giving is so wonderful. And I believe that I read he asked that there be no reporters and hoopla at the event. It was about the kids. The story was told by someone who admired the situation months after it happened.

Yes, the football. I do have a much bigger appreciation for the game now. We are teaching Gracie the fundamentals and it's so rewarding to see her get it. And Clay Matthews, Donald Driver, Greg Jennings, B.J. Raji---need I say more. And there are so many more that make the Green Bay Packers such a respected team.

So for many years I have been a fan and I dare say that I will be until I die. I love sitting eight rows up from the field---on the Packers side. I do bleed green and gold. And yes, I'm having a Super Bowl party in two weeks.

©2011 Ann M. De Broux

Monday, January 17, 2011

How It All Began

Back stories are always interesting. How did the two of you meet? What made you decide to become a_____? What brought you to Madison? You know how it goes. These are questions that when answered, help us understand someone and get to know them better. So, I was recently asked by a reader, "what got you so interested in simplifying?" Here is the long and the short of it. Love that saying.

I was 22 years old and living in Milwaukee. I was the Marketing Director of an independent retirement community. My job had many aspects all of which I loved. I wrote newsletters and talked with groups of people. I gave tours of our building and helped people through the application and moving process. Every day was different and yet there was great comfort in the norm. Because the facility was "independent" it meant that retired persons could live there if there was no need for any form of nursing care. Basically condos for people 55 and older. With tons of amenities. A dining room, exercise classes and equipment, a convenience store, coffee shop, beauty/barber shop, social and holiday events, transportation. The list could go on for a while.

On a day that I was catching up on paper work, I got a call from the receptionist. Could I give a tour to a couple who had just walked in. Of course. I gave the tour and visited with them. Truly lovely people. I mean the epitome of health. Really looking for a place to call home that wouldn't require outdoor maintenance. They wanted more time for golf and travel. I could see them in the next newsletter welcoming them to our building! I sent them home with the paperwork. They wanted their children to look it over. Their son is an attorney. I said I understood. The next day the son called. Could he come for a visit? After our tour he said this is exactly what his parents wanted. Everyone was excited.

Then no contact for a few weeks. I was growing a bit concerned and placed a phone call. The wife answered and said that she just wasn't sure this was the time. They were still so vital and involved in so many things. I said, exactly, perfect to move in now to free up even more time for these things. Now isn't the right time, she said. We stayed in touch via notes through the mail every few months. I thought this was the end of the story.

About six months later I received a call from the attorney son. Was the type of apartment still available? They had wanted a two bedroom, two bath. No, there is now a waiting list was my reply. What is available he asked and I told him. Could we come and see you? And a date was set. I was happy that this couple was going to move in. I could see them going with a group to the Performing Arts Center for plays and musicals, playing bridge and hosting parties in the community room. I could hardly contain my excitement.

And then they came for a visit. The son and the mother. The husband had very suddenly died of a heart attack. And now the wife was in a wheelchair. She had slipped off the back step shoveling. Their story absolutely broke my heart. It was two fold actually. I was so sad to hear of her husband's death. Such a wonderful man. And to see her suffering even more from her injury made my heart break. And then I had to deliver the news. She would not be able to move in to our facility with her nursing staff. Ours is an independent living facility. Unfair as this may seem, she needed assisted living arrangements. I was able to help get her in to one such facility.

A few months later I received another call from the son. Mom is flying through rehab faster than they can believe! Her motivation is to move to our building. And true to form a month later she did. No more need to have help from any nursing staff. Her move went well. She made friends as I knew she would. She was very active in social gatherings and I would see her in the coffee shop often.

One day she invited me to her apartment. She wanted to show me how she had settled in and decorated. She offered me coffee. We chatted about her children and how happy they were to have her living here. And then she gave me the jewel of knowledge that I have carried with me ever since. She recapped how it was her husband's idea to sell their house. He wanted the freedom from shoveling and mowing. He wanted to travel more and not worry about the house. He wanted to get rid of stuff so that they could spend the rest of their lives interacting and not cleaning and maintaining. He told her no one ever dies wishing they had more stuff. They may die with regrets of not spending enough time with people and going to places, though. And when he died, she hung on to all of her stuff and her house. She said it was silly, perhaps, but it made her feel closer to her husband. And then she told me it almost killed her. She was shoveling, slipped, broke her hip and almost died of pneumonia. She thanked me for helping give her the nudge to recover. She wanted to honor her husband and herself by getting better.

As you can imagine, I was touched. For this woman to share such sage wisdom with me at my age, was forever life changing. That day I decided to never fall in love with my four walls, or my house, or my clothes, furniture or car. This is all important in life. You need it to live. And it feels good to be comfortable and stylish. But I reserve my love for the people in my life. My family, my friends and my pets. The experiences I have with them are always with me---no matter where I am living, or what I am driving or what I am wearing.

©2011 Ann M. De Broux

Monday, January 10, 2011

Courtesy Cleanliness

That doesn't quite have the ring to it that I thought it would. Maybe if I define what I'm speaking of it will make more sense. This courtesy cleanliness is the stuff we do every day. When we walk in to the house we kick off our shoes or boots to prevent more dirt from being spread throughout our home. And for heaven's sake we ALWAYS do this upon entering a friend's home. We clear dishes from the table. We hang up wet towels. Mostly because we want them out of the way. But also because the towels emit a peculiar smell after a while that is know in my house as FUNK. Yep, the same smell can infiltrate your dish rag in the kitchen sink. That smell can literally bring me to my knees.

There is the courtesy of cleaning up after your animals. Even in your yard. The last thing you want to hear when your child has a play date is, "mom, my friend stepped in some doggy doo and then threw up!" It only happened once, I swear. And in restaurants, yes, we pay to eat and be waited on. But this doesn't give you free range to become some sort of slob in public. I was once eating at a restaurant with a friend. We had finished eating and I put all of my silverware on my plate and proceeded to dust up my crumbs with my napkin and put them on my plate. My friend said, "geez, Ann, you're not at home." I said, I know, but I used to be a waitress and it's a really hard job. I don't mind the courtesy dust up. And yes, I do still leave a 20-25 percent tip.

Have you ever used a public restroom and wiped the counter dry after you washed your hands? After all it was me that made the splash. I once got a rental car washed. It had been dive bombed by pigeons and I didn't wash the car for the reason of embarrassment, but because I could hardly see out the windows. I have borrowed a crock pot and a food processor and made sure that they were clean as a whistle before returning them. And I'm pretty sure that I could borrow again if the need should arise.

These things have an impact on our every day lives. Whether it's how much time we have to spend sweeping, vacuuming, clearing dishes, hanging up towels or just dusting up after ourselves. Think of all of the nice little things that we do for ourselves and others every day. It's common courtesy and cleanliness and it makes a big difference.

©2011 Ann M. De Broux

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Sweet Dreams

I'm working diligently on one of my New Year's resolutions. I am working on getting eight hours of sleep a night. Sounds simple enough. But it isn't for me. I'm not an insomniac, but I am a light sleeper. This has proved to be beneficial in my earlier years. When Scott was a police officer he often got calls in the middle of the night. These calls varied from transport calls to crime scene investigation calls. The transport calls were for 72 hour holds. Generally to Wausau when we lived in Antigo and to Fond du Lac when we lived in Appleton. These calls were for people that were mentally unstable and needed to be looked after for the mandated 72 hrs. The phone would ring and he wouldn't hear it. He sleeps like a rock. When I first met Scott he would set five alarms to wake up. I'm not kidding. This is where I come in. I'm a light sleeper and answer the phone before it rings three times.

Gracie was always a good sleeper. Hardly ever woke up. But if she even made a peep, I heard it. Then a couple of years ago our dog Winston got sick. He was up several times in the night and I heard him and was able to let him out every time. Same thing with Chester. Towards the end of his life he often needed to get up and I would hear him. So for about a month after Chester died I was able to sleep my eight. Then came the new pups. They like to sleep in our room. And I'm very ok with that. For goodness sake, Bailey used to sleep in a chicken coop. The boy deserves a good place to sleep. And then there is the Princess Sweet Pea, she has to be there, too. Oh, and did I mention that my husband snores?

So lately my goal has been to create a serene and peaceful environment that lends itself to much sleep for me. For Christmas I received a beautiful bed set. New pillows, shams, comforter, bed skirt and the silkiest soft sheets ever. I felt that I needed to continue the theme. Shopping I went. I came home with some accessories for the beautiful new bed set. As I was unloading my purchases Gracie asked me some funny questions. I had bought twigs, rocks and three vases. Mom, she said, are those sticks going to help you sleep? I said indeed they are sweetheart. After I arranged the sticks and stones in the vases and put them on the dresser I called Gracie in for her opinion. Ah, it does look like a spa in here, she said. That's what I was going for I replied.

So how is this slumbering experiment going? Well, if I get into bed before the dogs do, and fall asleep before Scott does, it's a slice of heaven. This spa like atmosphere is really working for me. My eight really is great. It is the simple things that mean the most.

©2011 Ann M. De Broux