Sunday, December 16, 2012

Where Do We Go From Here?

'Tis the season to be merry and jolly. Look everywhere. The signs are there. The lights, decorations, gifts and songs. There is of course the real reason for this season. We all understand this. It is time to be full of faith and spend our days with family and friends.

So the news that we all received on Friday seems to be especially devastating. This news would be heartbreaking at any time of the year. But during the holidays it is especially poignant. Twenty children were shot down in cold blood. Babies. And six people trying to protect these babies. Shot down.

I cannot imagine being one of the parents waiting to find out the fate of their child. The absolute fear they must have felt. And then there is the joy and relief of those who were reunited with their family members. And there will possibly be some guilt that these people feel. They are neighbors of those who have great loss. Permanent loss.

So where do we go from here? Truly I believe that waking up, breathing, hugging our loved ones, eating, working and resting are where we go from here. We need to continue to live. In honor of those who can't. We need to love our neighbors now, later and all of the in-between. This week in their time of need and months from now when seemingly life has returned to normal. For those who have had a loved one killed, life will never again be normal.

Days, months or weeks from now we may find ourselves wanting to do more. We may want to take more action. Help find a solution to the enormous problem. We might lobby and sign petitions. We may talk about and educate ourselves on the topic of mental health issues. Hearts have been broken in this horrific time. But broken hearts are still able to beat and sustain life. This is a miracle. Let us be kind to each other, allow memories to be alive and let us carry on with grace.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Seeing Red On Black Friday

Please, mom, please. Those of you who are moms know these words well. We hear them when our beautiful offspring want something from us. Usually when we don't want to give it.

So, a few weeks ago, Gracie was planning, researching and warming me up to the idea of Black Friday shopping. Of course friends were enlisted. The pressure was on. And after a day of family, laughter and lots of turkey, we went to the mall a bit before midnight. Crazy, right? Oh yeah.

Their first destination was PINK for the half price yoga pants. Our three girls and about 400-500 others. There was a group of young men chanting, "let us in." There were four security guards present. But look at the odds. An unruly crowd up against four guys? Come on. Kids were starting to push and shove. We texted our girls and told them to get out of line. Then came the fire marshall. He asked that the crowd line up in an orderly fashion. Not happening. These people were nuts. All for yoga pants. In came the police. I saw four, but heard that there were six police officers there at one time.

More pushing and shoving. This is crazy. Gracie wasn't answering my texts. Worry set in. And annoyance, too. My feet were being stepped on and I was being shoved into a kiosk. I said to a friend, maybe I should say that another store, way down the mall from here, is giving away free jeans and the crowd will lighten up some. Well, I was overheard by a few of the pushers and shovers. Where? Where are the free jeans, they asked. Well, it was one in the morning, I was a little tired and cranky, so I told them where this fabulous, ficticious deal was. A few took the bait and more room was made for us. I do feel a bit badly about spreading a false rumor. I hoped that they indeed did find a good deal or two. To make myself feel better, I reasoned that these were some rude and pushy young folk and for their safety and mine, we were all better off.

In the end we heard that the store PINK shut down for almost an hour. We left with a few deals and a promise that we made to ourselves. We will never see red on Black Friday again. I would much rather dream of sugarplums dancing in my head.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

I'm Thankful

This is the time of year that we are all reminded that there is much to be thankful for. This sentiment is not lost on me this year. For sure not this year. I am truly thankful for so much. Some of the things I am appreciative of are obvious and heartfelt. Other things that I am thankful for are flying low. Under the radar. Here's a little taste.

It almost goes without saying, but I am so grateful for my family and friends. This year has been a turbulent one. No pity party here, though. We made it. We have overcome. And we survived the tragedies mostly unscathed. I remember hearing that when a bone breaks it actually heals stronger. I think that is a perfect metaphor for my family and how we have healed and continue to heal.

I am thankful for blogging and texting. Yes, you read right. The written word is powerful. In all forms. This past year I have been able to stay in touch with all of you by writing. There were times that it would have been physically impossible to make enough phone calls, or to write enough notes. Emotionally it would have drained me. So I am so very thankful for technology.

I am thankful for a roof over my head and a comfy bed. Some days that is how I enjoyed my home. I wasn't in it much at times. But I did crash here. Literally. I needed a warm, safe place to refuel and relax. This is what my home did for me. Even if I only spent eight or so hours in it at a time.

I am thankful for coffee. It wakes me up in the same way each day. I can always count on it. I would also like to honorably mention Culver's. For feeding my family in a pinch. And Bath and Body Works for keeping my skin soft. I would like to thank my public library and Barnes and Noble for keeping my brain entertained.

And last, but not least, I am thankful for two furry creatures that are glad to see me each and every time I come through the door. They take me out for walks even when I don't feel like going. They make sure I stay warm as they cuddle up against me while we sleep. They make me laugh and are loyal beyond words.

Big or small, there are so many people, things and opportunities that I am thankful for. I am humbled and blessed. Happy Thanksgiving.

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Gift That Keeps On Giving

So Christmas is 43 days away. I know this because somehow Halloween happened and Thanksgiving is around the corner. And because I was at the mall this weekend and the decorations are everywhere. As well as the invitations to buy gifts for everyone I love. Sales were happening everywhere. But come on. It was 60 degrees out and the sun was shining. I was having a hard time wrapping my head around the fact that Christmas is really that close.

My list of people to buy for is small. And I won't be giving away what I am buying and possibly making for them. But here is the gift that I often purchase. It fits all different sizes. It can make you laugh. It can make you cry. You may be educated by it. You may enjoy it on your own or with others. You don't have to have electricity to run it. And this gift can be passed on and shared with others.

Books. I do love a book store. I spent some time in one this weekend. I found myself wandering from section to section getting more and more intrigued every minute. To read is actually a form of meditation for me. I read best when it's quiet. When I am in a comfy chair. Maybe covered in a soft blanket. Perhaps sipping a warm coffee, tea or cider. It's time to leave the hustle and bustle of life and lose yourself in the pages of times gone by. Or of the future. Or of a topic that you are just learning about. I love fact and fiction. I certainly love to learn about people and what makes them tick.

As I was purchasing my books, I thought of how I could hardly wait to get home and start reading. The clerk asked if I would think about donating books to children in the area. I didn't hesitate. What a small price to pay to continue this age old form of entertainment and enrichment. And it got me to thinking that I may do more gift buying this season and yes, it may involve books.

Books are gifts that keep on giving. You can read books and learn. You may be entertained. And the best part is you can share the gift. Over and over. Books are easy to wrap. They are easy to send. They come in all topics and sizes. Good luck with your shopping and gift giving. Mine is sure to be a page turner.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Fielding Phone Calls

I have no time to write this week. My apologies. I'm very busy answering political phone calls. Looking forward to next week. See you then.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Oh, October, How Do I Love Thee?

Let me count the ways...

First, the month starts with a birthday for a terrific lady. My Mom. This year it was a milestone birthday. Let me just say this. If I am lucky enough to look and act that young at her age, I will consider myself blessed. She is an awesome example of how to live your life with grace, intelligence, strength, beauty and humor.

Next, I just love the cooler temperatures. The red, orange and yellow leaves. The way the air smells. I love the noise that the leaves make when you walk through them. Swish. Swish. Swish.

How about hayrides? And squash bowling. Hot apple cider. Chili and soups. Yum.

And there's Halloween. I love to carve a pumpkin. Roasting the pumpkin seeds with a dash of salt. Ghosts, goblins, super heroes and storybook characters ringing my doorbell. Orange pumpkin lights.

And one more reason to love October. The 31st to be exact. It is our wedding anniversary. Twenty years. We made it. I say that with a smile on my face. Twenty years with my man. My best friend. He has shown me devotion and love I never thought possible. He has shown me that he is incredibly strong. And yet not afraid to admit to feeling weak. He has helped make me a better person. And I hope I have done the same for him. True partners in life.

This is why I love October.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Creature Comforts

I like to keep life simple. What is most important can't be bottled or bagged or put on a shelf. I just wanted to get that out of my system. There are a few things that I would call important or necessary to my every day style of living. Perhaps more accurately described as things that are creature comforts.

A piece of fruit and two cups of coffee in the morning. Absolutely a must have. These things jump start my day. Blue jeans. My clothing item of choice. I've tried other pants, skirts, dresses. By far, jeans are where it's at. I can wear them year around. They are comfortable, durable and can be dressed up or down.

Lotion and lip balm. Pretty much all I need. I can't stand feeling itchy. A ponytail band. If I'm not wearing one, there's one in my pocket. Guaranteed. My cell phone. That's in my pocket for sure. I am able to stay in touch with those who can't be bottled, bagged or put on a shelf.

What made me think of these creature comforts was a documentary I watched last week. It was a story of fighting for what is right. For what is ours. For what is important to our generation and generations to come. And how fighting this valiant fight caused a family lose everything. Except each other. It got me to thinking. What could I live without? What was important to my every day existence? And the list started with those that can't be bottled, bagged or shelved. But what do I find comfort in each and every day? I sort of surprised myself by coming up with a short list. These things could easily be thrown in a backpack. Or these items could be thrown away. They really mean nothing in the grand scheme of things.

I would like to believe that I would fight valiantly for important rights and for the people I love. In some ways I already have. That being said, a couple of cups of coffee can fuel the warrior in all of us.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Date Night

Yep. I'm dating again. Simmer down now. We're dating each other. Scott and Ann. This time is different though. No pressure. No wondering what would be the least messy thing to eat when we go out for dinner. No having a plan to get out of the date if it doesn't go well. Who would do that, right? Ok. I did that.

Scott and I were set up on a blind date. I was nervous for sure. At the time I worked at a place that required me to carry a pager. So I had this all planned out. At 9:00 my sister would page me. If the date wasn't going well, I would say I needed to leave and address an emergency. If the date was going well, I would say good, my sister would hang up the phone, and I would let the people that I was with know that I had handled the work situation over the phone. Pretty tricky, huh?

As you have probably figured out I didn't have to leave for an emergency that night almost 21 years ago. And I certainly didn't need to fake a page over the weekend. We dated in a comfortable and not taking advantage of each other kind of way. We dated in a grateful manner. We took turns talking and listening. We enjoyed conversation. Our dates were relaxed and fun. Just as they should be.

Tomorrow Gracie gets a date. She'll be picked up from school and they are going out for ice cream. I'm not jealous. I'm happy for both of them. I will say this, though. We are incredibly lucky ladies. Life is good again.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Today Is Right Here

Yesterday, as I drove away from a visit with Scott, I had the most peaceful feeling. This was our last visit away. The next time I see him he will be back in Madison. I thought I might have feelings of sadness. Because we had been through so much in the last forty some days. I thought I might feel anxious and nervous. Or maybe like I couldn't wait. In a good way. Instead I felt a calm. A real feeling that this is the way it should be.

We had a rough start to this process of getting well. For Scott it was rough medically, physically and emotionally. For me it was mostly an emotional struggle. With the expert and human guidance of professionals we were able to cut away the fat, so to speak, and get to the meat of the issues causing our family to be out of balance. The most important piece was that we needed to work separately to come back together. Stronger than before.

And it worked. Not for everyone going through this process. But for us it did. And there was a lot of work involved in this process. There still will be. This is a lifetime journey. We will need to maintain. We will need to take care of ourselves before we can work as a team. Always. Forever.

So yesterday, I lived in the day. The moment that I thought I might be crying, instead I was smiling. The drive away through the grove of trees was exhilarating. I know that I can't live in yesterday. I don't have to be filled with a need to always make things right. I also know the danger in living too far out in the future. This is when we get overconfident and forget about the here and now.

I will fully live today. I know that by doing this I won't miss the beautiful, sad, funny, miracle moments that are supposed to be part of who I am. I will enjoy today because it is where I am at the moment. Just as Scott is living one day at a time, so am I. And together we will continue loving each other. Today. Right here.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

We Shopped, We Ate And We Slept

Yesterday was a day like many others. I went to work and Gracie went to school. It was what went down after we got home that was not your every day norm. My sister, Amy, is visiting. That could have something to do with it. And the fact that Gracie just celebrated her 13th birthday had a bit to do with it, too. Lots of gift cards were burning a hold in her pocket. I get that.

To the mall we went. For those of you that know me, this is difficult for me. I do this only a couple of times a year. If that. I went through the normal speech. We won't be here long. We have things to do at home. The dogs need us. You have homework. I need to write Christmas cards. Ok, maybe not the cards.

We entered the mall with a plan and a limit of time. To Aeropostale she went. Amy and I went across the aisle to Bath and Body Works. Before we entered the store I ran into a former student. Big hug. She's doing great she told me. We caught up quickly and said good bye. Then I was lured into the store by the yummy smells. We resisted mostly. But we gave in when it came to marshmallow and cinnamon lip balms.

We rejoined Gracie and after paying, left the store with new comfy sweat pants. Yep. Sucked in again. Off to Pink. I'm not getting a thing is what I said to myself. Then many underthings later we left that part of the building. And on to Dick's. Gracie was great. She really was moving along. This trip to the mall was not as painful as I thought it might be.

We were famished when we got home. Pizza was on the menu. The sweats, yes, the new ones, were being enjoyed by all. And then the sleepiness overtook us. I forgot to mention that I didn't sleep well the night before. Why? Because my fan died. I need a fan to sleep. And sleep is what I did last night. New fan, new woman today. Slept like a baby.

The day and night were enjoyed. We were busy ladies. Just doing girl stuff. Everyone needs to have fun like this every once in a while. Especially when you've just turned 13.

Sunday, September 23, 2012


When you are an adolescent being flexible means that you are limber. Like a gymnast. Like the splits kind of flexible. In your twenties you are flexible in a way that keeps you at work late and on weekends. You are flexible in your social life. Always ready and willing to have fun. Even on week nights.

In your thirties you are flexible in your ability to fit in yet one more school or church function. You are able to volunteer professionally. Practically full time. You are flexible when your child is sick and you need to change plans on a dime. You are flexible when your spouse works overtime.

And then your forties happen. No amount of stretching will keep you in gymnast form. You work diligently and whole heartedly. Your employer will feel your loyalty. But you will be home to have dinner with the family. You still are able to have fun if you are home and in your pajamas by 8 p.m. on weeknights and 10 p.m. on the weekends. You are flexible enough to say no.

I would change none of my decades. They have all served me well. They are the fiber of what makes me who I am. And I am still flexible. Not in the splits kind of way, but in the way that makes me recognize what is most important. I am flexible in the drop everything and enjoy this very moment kind of way. This is by far my favorite kind of flexible.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Hi, My Name Is Ann...

And I'm a codependent. For those of you that don't know what that is, here goes. To be codependent is to be involved in a relationship with someone who is addicted to something. The addiction can be to drinking, drugs, gambling or even work. As the codependent you are consumed by the activities of the addicted one. You are controlled by their actions. And in turn you do everything in your power to control everything else. For example, the codependent will make every effort to have their family seen as normal on the outside. Even when it's far from that.

I would like to believe that I was too smart to fall into the trap of codependency, but I wasn't. Our family had experienced so many changes in a short amount of time. We sold a house in Appleton and bought a new one in Madison. Scott had changed jobs a few times. All for promotions, but stressful all the same. Then I started working full time. And Scott's health problems. I fell into the pattern of thinking that I should cut him some slack. There was a reason he wasn't himself. Look at all that he's been through. But my gut told me something else. No, this is not right. I exhausted myself trying to make the house and the family seem normal on the outside. When inside I was spinning out of control.

I must say that we as a family are fine. We are getting better. But some families are not able to do so. Sometimes the history is too painful to get over. There has to be a level of trust within the family. And certainly the willingness to move on and feel whole. And there is the necessity for hope. When all of these things are present life can be good once again. There can be balance and evenness to the family. We can all do our best and take care of ourselves. It's a wonderful thing to be part of a family. An active part. Not a reactive one.

So these past few weeks my posts have been pretty deep. Next week I'm thinking of tackling the less serious topic of flexibility. Think what you will and stay tuned...

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Day 15

It's day 15 for our family. Fifteen days of us taking care of each other. Scott is a third of the way through his treatment. What an accomplishment. I am so proud of him. This is a new lease on life. For all of us in this family.

It feels like a step in the right direction. We are all being cared for. We are learning new boundaries. We are learning about ourselves and others. We have felt love in written word. We have received phone calls of support. Hugs are appreciated.

Probably most importantly what we have learned is that life is what you make it. Living is surrounding yourself with people that have similar values. Forgiving is not forgetting, but remembering differently. It is stepping outside of a situation and viewing it with a sound mind. This is not easy to do.

These are baby steps. In the right direction. We are letting go of things that we have no control over. We can only be in charge of us. Individually. And as a team. We have learned to take a day at a time. Not to plan too far ahead.

We have rediscovered things that we already knew. People we love are precious. Time together is special. Relationships should not be taken for granted. Standing up for yourself is a right. People make mistakes. How we react to those mistakes defines us. On to day 16.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

There Are Angels Among Us

A week ago I told you that our family was broken. Oh what difference a week can make. Please don't misunderstand. We have work to do. Boy, oh, boy do we have work. But we are headed down the right path.

A week ago I was nervous. I was nervous because for the first time in a really long time, I wasn't feeling very optimistic. My husband was in the hospital. Going through withdrawal. The next day was my birthday. It wasn't feeling very joyous, but at least I knew he was safe. And that was a gift in and of itself. Two days later he was released.

Part of me was excited to get him home. The other part of me still feared for his life. There was more treatment that he needed. It could be four weeks was what we were told for him to get into the center. We went into survival mode and started dreaming up plans for him to have to fill the days and keep his mind and body busy.
We were scared. Four weeks can fly by if times are good. If times are stressed this can feel like an eternity.

And then a miracle happened. A friend asked a favor of another. And the next day the love of my life was on his way to treatment. I have had highs and lows this week that I never knew possible. I'm sure they pale in comparison to what Scott is physically going through. But all the same my roller coaster ride feels like it's coming to an end. I'm not ignorant to the fact that there will be trials ahead. But I can lay my head down at night and dream of relief and the future. Not fear and the inability to see past my nose.

He is with people who have quickly become extended family. People who look after him when we can't. There is peace in that. I told you it takes a village to raise someone. It doesn't matter if you are a child or new to recovery. We are so blessed to have angels among us.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

This Is Difficult

I've been MIA for a couple of weeks and for this I apologize. I haven't really had much to write about. Or maybe too much to write about. Or as my students might say, I "wasn't feelin' it." There is a lot happening in my family right now. I'm not trying to tease and I promise to explain with more detail later. But for now my family needs me and I need them.

I'm trying to glue broken pieces together. I just need to find the right kind of glue. And as some wise person once said, family first. This story needs to be told. I know many of you have similar stories to tell. Suffice it to say that a year like we have had caused fissures in the strength of our family unit. We need to care for each other. Especially Scott. No, the cancer is not back. I want you to know this. But there is brokenness that needs to be attended to. And this is not only my story to tell.

I will share soon. Just as it takes a village to raise a child, I believe that it takes a village to help someone who is broken. Please pray for us as we pray for you. We appreciate all of you. I'll be in touch soon.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Bucket List

Last week I spent a day doing something I have always wanted to do. I spent the day at Packer's training camp. We left Madison as the sun rose. It felt way too early, but our excitement was starting to build. We arrived in Green Bay just as practice was starting. The weather was perfect. Upper 70s and breezy. We walked all around the field and saw all of the special teams doing drills and working plays. Amazing!

And then the time came for the Packers to head back to Lambeau to shower and go over what went well and didn't during the morning practice. The Packers filed off the field and continued the tradition of riding kid's bikes from the practice field back to Lambeau. All of the sudden the players started to file by me. I'm not kidding when I say they were less than three feet from me. I could have reached out and touched them. Why I didn't is still something I'm kicking myself over today! Seriously, Clay Matthews and Jordy Nelson. James Jones. I could have touched their beautiful arms passing me by. Idiot, Ann.

We walked to the stadium and walked up to a tent that was giving out free bike helmets to kids. We got our girls fitted for helmets. They are great and of course advertise our favorite team. But wait. The folks fitting kids wanted the moms to get helmets, too. I said, oh, that's ok. Let's save the free helmets for the kids. No, the fella said, we need our moms to ride bikes with the kids and they need to be safe, too. Score!

Off to lunch at Curly's we went. We were seated right away. And starving. Lo and behold who was walking right in front of us as we alked to our table? Mark Murphy, president and CEO of the Packers. Holy crap. He was gracious and posed to have his picture taken with the girls. My heart was beating even faster than before. Lunch was delicious. It wan't our first Curly's Pub experience. We knew it would be great.

On to the Pro Shop. And shop we did. Love that place. One year I actually did all of my Christmas shopping there. We all found things that we wanted and yes we bought a few. You could spend hours in there. I find it almost more fun watching all of the other people and how they react to all that is green and gold.

And at the end of our day we opted for the stadium tour. For all of the years that we have been season ticket holders. For all of the times I have been to Lambeau. And for all of the games I have attended, I have never taken the stadium tour. Oh, man. We sat in a luxury box. We were educated on more history than we had ever had before about our team. Funny stories were told. And at the end we walked through the tunnel and entered the stadium just as our team does on game day. I literally got the chills. What a truly glorious feeling.

I will always be a Packers fan. I will always go to games. And if I'm not at a game, I'll be watching it on t.v. I will continue to bleed green and gold. And now I will always remember that perfect day in July when I got to know my favorite team even better than before.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Week In Review

This is going to be short, sweet, maybe a little sassy and of course, simple.

When your favorite bra dies, it's a sad day. Yes, an actual day of mourning. And hopefully when this day arrives you are prepared with back up and bandages. When the wire snaps...that's when you need a bandage for the wounded bosom.

Isn't it crazy the things that we marvel at? Like how my girl dog can hold it in and pinch it off a hundred times in one day. Why I ask her? Don't you just want to get your business done and get back to the air conditioning? Obviously her answer was no.

I went to the library near our cottage and checked out a mystery novel. Brought it back to the cottage and began to thoroughly enjoy. Gracie looks over my shoulder and asks, what's up with the funny font in your book, mom? Funny font? I look at the cover and there's the sticker that says LARGE PRINT. No wonder I was enjoying the book so much.

Bar soap. It's what I grew up on. I kind of miss it. All of these pumps and bottles that squirt. I have them, don't get me wrong, but it's kind of nice to not have another something to add to the landfill. And the citrus mint scent. Heaven.

And one more thing. I am once again an Olympic junkie. Lovin' every minute of it. I wish I was there. Attending the Olympics is on my bucket list. In the meantime, I'll just enjoy watching them on tv. Go Team USA!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Ups And Downs

This was a great week. Gracie and I drove to Appleton to participate in a national program call Feed My Starving Children. We assembled packages of nutritional foods, full of vitamins and grains that so many starving people need to live. We were told that wonderful people were initially sending food to these third world countries. Finally, a relief worker said please stop sending these foods. The people receiving the food were in such a progressed state of starvation, that their bodies couldn't process these foods. They would be wasted.

So some wonderful people came up with a formula of protein, vitamins, veggies and grains that will help people in their recovery. We saw pictures of an eight year old boy who weighed less than 20 pounds. After weeks and months of nutrition, we saw his progress. He is now 75 pounds and living a healthy life. In our meager two hours of volunteering, our group churned out enough boxes of food to feed 76 children for an entire year. In two hours! What a terrific experience. And suddenly my high gas and electric bill means not so much.

Another high to my week was some special time with my sister. I picked her up Wednesday. To the cottage we went. With Gracie and her friend, Abby. We were a riot. Listening to 80's music and singing all of the words. Making the younger girls car dance with us. I'm sure we laughed more than we ever have. And the young ones followed suit. I'm pretty sure there was some eye rolling going on, too. But never mind, it was more than we could have ever hoped for. We had the time of our lives!

And then the down. On Friday I watched the news about the horrible tragedy in Colorado. A time that should have been fun and entertaining turned deadly. Tragic. The stories that are starting to surface. Not of the grim gunman, but of the survivors and the those who were killed. What wonderful people. These stories define humanity. Not the sick and sad story of the one who caused the chaos. The focus should be on those who overcome. Those who perform random acts of bravery and kindness. Whether it was holding a hand. Closing a door or reuniting friends and family. These seemingly small acts meant the world to people and in some cases saved lives.

Every week has ups and downs. Some are more significant than others. Some say we need to feel the downs to enjoy the ups. I think there is some truth in this. Of course no one wants anyone to suffer tragedy, but how we react often defines us. This was a week that renewed my faith in the need to help humankind. Whether the help is right here in North America or across an ocean, when we join forces we can make a big and positive difference.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Happy Birthday, Scott

It's a great day here at the De Broux household. It's Scott's birthday. Forty-nine. I don't think he'd mind me telling you. It's a bit of a badge of honor for him. This is a year some say you might want to forget. We say no, actually, it is part of our story. This year has been rough and tough, no doubt. But it is part of who we are.

Amongst all of the anxiety, sadness and uncertainty, there are many bright spots. We have had a constant stream of family and friends visiting and calling us. That kind of support can't be bottled. Even after visitors leave or the phone is hung up, the warmth of the memory stays with you. It is medicine that can't be prescribed.

It's also been a year of realization. My superman is still a hero in my mind. But his physical limitations are greater than they have ever been. It's hard. Probably harder for him than me. It doesn't matter. He still looks the same. He still has the sense of humor that made me fall in love with him. He just can't move mountains like he used to. His strength is on it's way back. It's happening in a slow but sure way. There is no map for this. I can say this, a positive attitude is where it's at.

Gracie and I have done a little makeover on our guy. We've updated his wardrobe a bit. He is not looking 20 something, not even 30 something, but definitely early 40 something. And he smells wonderful with his new cologne on. This day will be a celebration. Of learning to live life to the fullest. Each day. It's a day to realize that there are different kinds of strength. So if we don't answer the phone it's probably because we are partying like rockstars. Please try back later!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

A Letter To Gracie

This past week we were up at the cottage and did lots of walking down memory lane. Stories were told and laughs were enjoyed. It got me thinking. There is so much I want to tell Gracie. And so on my drive home from my week and a half of bliss, I made a list for her:

Drive no more than five over the limit, baby. This was brought home to me about two weeks ago. Scott and I had just switched from his driving to me taking a turn at the wheel. No further than three miles down the road I was pulled over. For excessive speeding. I got off with a warning. Thankfully. But it brought up a story of days gone by. Of Scott's insurance dropping us after we returned from our honeymoon because of two speeding tickets I had received. Yes, do not follow in your mama's footsteps here.

A good bra is always a good investment. It makes a world of difference. Enough said.

Be sweet. Even when you don't feel like it. When people aren't being sweet and you are, it has a way of speaking volumes. A lot of the time people will rectify their behavior.

Find a mate that is beautiful on the inside. The outside attraction is often the first step. But what's most important is the beauty of the person's soul. I lucked out on this one. Your dad fits the bill on both accounts for me.

Coffee is the nectar of gods. I'm not kidding.

Trust your gut. Your mom is psychic. I trust my gut. Like all of the time. My gut has served me well. It has kept me out of danger. It has helped me with life altering decisions. Trust your gut feeling.

Your heart will break. Someone, a friend, family member or boyfriend will hurt you. Perhaps unintentionally. But guaranteed you will be hurt. Don't let this stop you from opening your heart to people and situations. Here is the truth. The heart heals. If you allow it. And when it heals it is even stronger.

Less is more. Buy good shoes. No, great shoes. They should look nice and feel better. And this costs money. Big money. And speaking of money, be smart. Stay out of debt. Pay your bills and save for a rainy day. There will be rainy days.

Tattoos. Wait. I'm not saying don't get one. That would be hypocritical of me. But wait. And make sure it means something to you. Something that you can live with your whole life.

Find a favorite swear word. I know, I can hardly believe I'm writing this. The reality is that you will need to vent or blow off steam sometimes. So find one that you can live with and that won't gravely offend others. And every time you use it, pay your child one dollar. Hopefully the word won't be used too often.

Finally, please know that I am always here for you. Even when you need to talk to me about something that you know I don't want to hear. Especially then. I don't expect you to be perfect. I'm not. Your dad's not. We know that you will make mistakes. It's how you react to them that makes or breaks you.

One more thing. Do things that make you uncomfortable. Not in a bad way, but a good way. Try new things. Confront the unknown. You will feel and be very brave.

I know there's more. I know that you'll roll your eyes at some of this. And I'm ok with that. You are a strong, smart and beautiful young lady. I know I had a little something to do with that. And this makes me smile.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Mornin' Sunshine

Mornin' sunshine is how I start my day. Every day. The alarm goes off. The dogs start to stir. I can read their minds. They are saying, hustle it up lady. We're hungry and we have to pee! Sorry guys. I, too, have needs. I enter my bathroom and can't avoid my mammoth mirror. And on this particular day I am spectacularly beautiful. Mornin' sunshine, I say. To my ponytail that looks like Pebbles from the Flintstones. To my dark circles under my eyes. To my, wait, what is that? I get my reading glasses from the nightstand. I look closer. How is it that a forty-five year old woman has a blemish that big?

On autopilot I turn on the coffee machine. Fill the dog food bowls. Feed the dogs. Hook up the leashes, grab a plastic bag and off we go. And truly it is a beautiful day with gorgeous sunshine. It's a great day to be alive. When we return from our walk, I feel energized and young. I take the stairs two at a time. Until I start hearing this horrible crunching sound. It's coming from my knee. What? Oh yeah, for a minute I forgot my age. I forgot that this knee started making funky sounds a couple of years ago. And now I remember. The doctor said we shouldn't do anything to this knee until the crunching hurts. Well, it's starting to. You aren't 18 anymore, Ann.

To the shower, lotions and potions applied and dressed in comfy clothes, I feel ready to greet the world. I've had my week or so of being a slug. I needed that after school was out. Long cups of coffee. Good Morning America. Live With Kelly. Get off your butt, Ann! But I have to say I needed it. I needed the transition. I've been running so fast and hard this year that a break was long overdue. I love working full time and in the school that I do. But you add in the happenings of my family and I was tired. Just saying. Not complaining.

Now being well rested and excited about the rest of summer, I walk the line of feeling young and living the reality. Middle age is right where I want to be. I'm in good health. I have gray hair. There is a fix for that. I have a few aches. They're minor. She-ra lives on. And I have lots to look forward to. Especially the sunshine that wakes me every morning. And the sunshine I see in the mirror every day.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Her Story

Okay, this is my little play on words. I want to tell you about a little history. Like the history of revolutionary times. Of my history. And of the history that Gracie experienced last week.

My family has always taken trips that involved history. We have been to the east coast and traveled many miles. We have experienced battlefields and museums. We have visited Williamsburg and interacted with people who tell the stories of colonial times. We love this mixture of learning, living and exploration. All three generations of us.

And this brings me to her story. My parents have given Gracie a trip every year for Christmas for the past three years. They have been to New York. They have been to San Francisco. This year their trip was to Boston.

Each year we have encouraged Gracie to take pictures and keep a journal. It is so wonderful to see her trips through her eyes and to focus on her thoughts that she records in her journals. She has her Daddy's photographic eye and her Mama's like to write. What is so cool is that we have been to these places, too. We see her visions and know what she is experiencing because we have been there.

What is unique about her experiences is that she has her own twist on the story. On history. She has seen the same monuments and learns the same information. She takes pictures of things that we have seen. But she has her own time with them. She has walked the same miles, but in her own shoes. She has unique experiences that will form her. She and my folks had a lot of special moments. Not the kind that you schedule.

One particular experience on this trip to Boston really touched me. Gracie and mom and dad had eaten lunch at a fabulous Italian restaurant. They all commented that the food was delicious, but there was too much of it. They asked for boxes for their leftovers. As they walked back to their hotel they passed a shelter for veterans. They decided to stop and offer the shelter their leftovers. This experience forever changed Gracie. The people at the shelter thanked them for their kindness. Gracie has always had a kind heart. I think she was surprised at how a small gesture meant so much. And it made her realize how fortunate we are. It also inspired her to do more.

This wonderful gift from her grandparents was multifaceted. It was a present of the past and of her future. All from history. Gracie's story is touched by so many. By Paul Revere. By Harvard Yard. By the stories of the Revolution. Stories that her family has helped her experience. And they have helped her continue the story of her family. Their desire to pay it forward and be kind to others. Even complete strangers. This has all made Gracie who she is and who she will be. This is her story and I'm so proud to be a part of it.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Monday, Monday

So it's the first Monday off for me. Ahhh. I woke up at my regular time. Creature of habit, dogs on a schedule, I had to. We walked further than normal. I came home to a cup of coffee that I thoroughly enjoyed. Right to the last drop.

I'm a bit of a news junkie. I turned on a morning news show. Simultaneously, I checked out a news website online. And this is what I learned. Looks like Greece dodged a financial disaster. A man set a world record walking a wire across Niagra Falls. Rodney King died. And a hockey mom stepped out on the ice to break up a fight that wasn't being handled by the refs. Hmmm.

Then I decided to stretch out on the floor with some yoga poses. This went well until my dogs got hip to what I was doing. Next thing I know I was being slobbered to death. Then my pony tail got stepped on. Scrap the stretching. Note to self. Next time go upstairs and shut the door before stretching.

One of my goals this summer is to clear clutter. This simple girl has a pile of papers to go through. They are neatly diguised on the counter. You may hardly notice them. It's because I've made them look so pretty. They are stacked orderly. Vertically. Like little soldiers. And in the corner. But the jig is up and I'm doing it. It's time. Please don't let me find anything that was important and needed to be addressed last month.

It's time to get back to my basics. The stuff that I base my life on. The simple stuff. And now that it's hot out, and I'm wearing tank tops all the time, there's the constant reminder of my simplify tattoo. Yep, there it is. Keep it simple girl. Don't get bogged down by the clutter. Clean it up and take time to stretch.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

The Things I Love

This post isn't about the people I love. I don't have enough time or space to accomplish that. This post is about the things that make me smile. On a daily basis. Some are what you might expect. Others are a bit odd. Go figure. So here goes.

Superman blue nail polish. I love the color blue. And I'm pretty sure that when I wear this polish on my toes I have super powers. Just saying.

The smell of coffee greeting me in the morning when I have been wise enough to load the machine the night before and remember to set the timer.

I love when my dog Bailey jumps up on my lap and is one half inch from my face. I then say, well, Bailey, I don't think we could be any closer. And he moves in so that our noses touch. Smart dog.

I love my windows open and the smell of fresh air.

My new fuzzy blanket. Yes, I said it, my blanket. It was only $12.99 and has comforted me and helped me sleep like no other.

Marshall's deals. This store has everything. On sale. And the store on my side of town is always organized. I can find things without digging. Love it.

I love the little stone that a friend bought me that has the word SIMPLIFY painted on it. More than once I have carried this in my pocket. A gentle reminder to stay focused on what's important.

I love riding in cars with heated seats.

I love reading all day and not feeling guilty about it.

I love maple donuts and bacon. Heart attack, I know. I'm just speaking in terms of the occassional treat.

I have to have lip balm. Right now my favorite is the super huge Bonne Bell Lip Smacker in Dr. Pepper. And yes I am 45. Totally brings me back to my teenage years.

Love my sweatpants. Yep. The ones from my daughter's favorite store. Thankfully she's ok with me shopping there. Not so thankfully when she wants to wear them.

So these are a few of the things that bring me comfort and joy. These are the things that in a small way make me who I am. These are small, not expensive and sometimes free. They are also the things that I look forward to. Each and every day.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

What I Am Looking Forward To

The end of the school year is upon us. I couldn't be more torn. I am going to miss all of our students. I wish them the best. My life is better for knowing them. I hope in some way they feel the same. On the other side I am still a kid at heart and can't wait for summer! Woohoo! Sun, fun, sleeping in, lots of coffee. Time at the cottage. No schedules that have to be kept. Yep. I'm ready. What a terrific time for renewal. Just when I need it.

It's my season to purge my house. These past few weeks especially, the place has been looking like a tornado hit it. We've had clean clothes and food to eat. But that is where it ends. The dust bunnies are a-multiplying at my house. It's time to clean closets, scrub tubs and wash windows.

Then comes the fun. We will go to the cottage whenever we want to. On a whim. I'm looking forward to it. We will swim and boat. We will grill out and entertain. We have a share of organic foods delivered each week. Easy peasy in the grocery department!

I am looking forward to walking the dogs. Not under the gun in a hurried way. In a not rushed way and lengthy walks multiple times throughout the day. Gracie is going to be my personal trainer and get me moving even more with all sorts of exercises.

I am looking forward to living each day for what it brings. I want to not hurry everywhere. I would like to savor each and every moment. I want to laugh and catch up with family and friends. This is time for renewal. I have more goals set for myself. I just need to get them organized and I will share soon. I hope you have things to look forward to this summer. It doesn't matter what your age or our goals a time for renewal is good for the soul.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Excuses, excuses. Yep. The last week of school and this brain is focused on the countdown. Sorry. Next week I'll be back with lots to reflect on. Guaranteed.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Plain Please

When Gracie was little I did the introduction to food just as the pediatrician told me to. One new food every week or so to see if there were any food allergies. She ate all of the foods like a champ. Fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy and meat. Never did she grimace at anything. I was lucky. Some of the moms in our play group would talk about how their kids were resistant to new foods. Some of the diets of these kids were limited to three or four things.

I worried. As did these moms. What are you to do? One mom tried blending smoothies. This worked until her child saw what she was putting into the smoothies. He didn't trust the blender after that. Another mom had her child drinking supplements and taking vitamins. And she felt so sad that her child wasn't getting enough nourishment by just eating.

So as the weeks went by we talked about all sorts of options for this mom. We made snacks and brought them to play group. I brought orange slices, raisins, strawberries one day. We encouraged the kids to make faces out of these fruits and then eat them. They were so creative. The faces were so cute. And then the snacking began. So this was all geared towards helping this one little fella experience new foods. Where was he? He had wandered into the bathroom and his mom caught him dumping his snack in the toilet. Oops.

The next week another mom brought dips. Ranch, of course, for the veggies and chocolate yogurt for the bananas. We had fancy toothpicks to use for dipping. It was a party! The kids loved it. But not the little fella we were targeting. He had dumped the toothpick cup over and was building with them.

And then this family relocated to a different state. So I can't give you the happy ending I had wished for. The one where I could tell you that the kid asks for fruit now and turns down chips. And this food issue isn't unusual. I see it all of the time. In fact I live it. Gracie is the champion for trying new foods. Guess who isn't? Yep. Scott. I had an awakening to his fussy eating when we first dated. I didn't know how to cook. I did however know how to open containers. So I made the man a spaghetti dinner. He loved it. He even ate seconds.

The following week we were visiting with his family and they said that they had heard that I made Scott dinner. He complimented my culinary skills. And then it happened. His mom asked, what did you make? Spaghetti. The whole family gasped and then started to laugh. Turns out the man doesn't eat red sauces. Or ketchup, mustard, relish or mayo. This was news to me. He even asked for seconds. It must be love someone said. And it was.

So this fussy eating husband of mine made my cooking a challenge. No red sauce. No chicken salad. No condiments of any kind. And yet now that we are about to embark on our healthier eating I wonder what is so bad about that? Scott may have had the right idea. We should taste our foods for their actual flavors. Just eat a carrot sometime. No ranch. Just the carrot. Not the baby ones either. Get a big one. Maybe even organic. Peel it and eat it. The taste is enough on it's own.

I now make my own salad dressing. My family prefers it. It's made with olive oil and we use very little. I don't use salt hardly ever. Pepper is more common. So I guess the happy ending to my food story, at least for this family, is that less is more. Trying foods in their natural state is a great experience. The flavors are fresh and real. They don't come from a bottle with a list of ingredients that I don't recognize.

Foods the way they were made. Not hard to digest, just plain simple.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Busy weekend + sick child = late post. I'll be back soon. Please stay tuned...

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Store It With Style

I had lunch with a friend who shared interesting information with me about closets in Europe. She said there are hardly any. And the ones that they do have are small in comparison to our American closets. I wondered why. My friend said that Europeans will choose quality over quantity every time. Wow. That's a new concept.

We have so much stuff. It's always on sale. It's always tempting. Retailers make it impossible to resist. And so we buy. And buy and buy. One is never enough. We stockpile. We always want to have enough. Crazy, huh? When a holiday or season is over and the items go on clearance we are hard wired to crave these things. Never can have too many Christmas decorations. Valentine napkins? We need them. Easter basket stuff? We'd be crazy not to keep a huge supply. The red, white and blue stuff. Well, that can be used for Memorial Day, the Fouth of July and Labor Day.

Then there are the out of season clothing items. Marked down fifty, seventy-five and even ninety percent. Gotta have them. Then we store all of this. Often in bins that are color coordinated to the respective holiday. We have these bags that hook up to our vacuums. We in a sense shrink wrap out of season stuff. We store these under the bed, under the couch, wherever we can fit them.

We need to get a handle on this. First we need to stop spending. Then we have to start with sorting. Ask yourself these questions. Do I love it? Do I need it? Can I let it go? And for Pete's sake donate the stuff that you can live without. Then sort and store logically. If you don't it will be too hard to find it when you need it. And then the whole vicious cycle starts again. I can't find it when I need it, so I buy it again. For example, I have cleaned out my cupboards in the kitchen well enough that I actually have holiday platters and bowls in a designated area. No more digging. Stop at your local liquor store and ask for a few of the wine boxes with dividers in them. They are great for storing ornaments.

When it comes to clothes, towels and linens, make sure you can see everything. I hang items and stack things so they are visible, not pushed back where thet can't be seen. In drawers of toiletries, I use plastic take out containers to keep like things in order. The sock drawer? I usually buy white socks and black socks. Not hard to sort.

My junk drawer is sorted using Dixie cups. Rubberbands, nails, all those little itty bitty things? In cups they don't roll around anymore. Same thing in my car. Take a plastic cup and put it in a cup holder. Great place for a pen, pencil, a few stamps, a lip balm a couple of extra straws and napkins. All at your finger tips.

Roll things up in drawers and it makes more room for clothing. It keeps them wrinkle free and ready to pack in suitcases, too. Always ready for a quick spontaneous trip. When it comes to furniture buy ottomans and coffee tables with storage in them. Roll up the blankets that are usually on the back of the couch and store them inside. You know all of that stuff in the middle of the kitchen table that you need? Buy an attractive box with a lid or a box with a hinged top and put salt/pepper, napkins and toothpicks inside. All contained and pretty to boot.

Overall less is more. You should be able to open a cupboard, drawer or closet see everything at a glance. You should pretend you are selling your house and stage your closets in a way that would make your realtor proud! And for certain don't forget the golden rule. Take it out, put it back. This is more than half the battle. We should start thinking like Europeans. Buy quality over quantity. And store it with style, too.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

I've Got My Mojo Back

This is how the conversation went. "So, are you going to church tomorrow?" He replied, "maybe." I in turn said, "I think you should go and thank God for giving you a wonderful wife!" He said, "are you in a doorway?" I asked why. "Because the way your head is bloating, I don't want you to get stuck. My reply, "ha, ha." What's so significant about this banter? Well, we've got our mojo back. We are feeling confident and are able to laugh and be silly again. With ease. And we're loving every minute of it. I promise this is the last post about cancer. We have chosen to embrace this great second chance. We are being wickedly funny again. There's lots of silliness going on. Lots of hugging and kissing, too. We are done with the days of sitting on the couch holding hands in fear. Now we are making plans for the summer. With optimism. It is so good to focus on the day at hand, but to be able to make plans is a liberating feeling. When Scott called with the good news over a week ago we all slept that night like babies. We fell into REM sleep that doesn't allow you to dream. It's that peaceful. Over the last few months my days went like this. I woke up. Usually tired. One cup of coffee was made. Two dogs were fed. Three lunches were made. And off to work I would go. I would lose myself in the busy times of the school I work at. At least for about eight hours. Then on my drive home I would muster up the strength to put on my happy face and greet the rest of the evening. Even though I was worried sick. I did talk about this, but didn't want to dwell on it. And we would have supper, go to karate, violin lesson and preconfirmation. People would ask. And I would answer. Now I have better news to share. And life is beautiful and funny again. And life goes on. Cancer does not define this family. But it is part of our history. We won't forget about it or ignore it. What we were before cancer is a family that loves to joke and be crazy silly. We lost that for a bit, but now it's back. And so next week I'm back to simplifying. And I'm going to address an incredibly interesting topic. Yes I am. Storage...

Sunday, April 22, 2012


What a glorious day Friday was.  Yes, it was the last day of the week.  Yes, I had plans to head north for the weekend.  And yes, there's more.  I got the best phone call I have ever received.  Do you remember the phone call I got on December 5?  The day that my husband couldn't reach me?  The day that he was so sad and so desperate to reach me that he called the administration building and they were able to track me down?  The call I received was that I needed to call home immediately.  There was a family emergency.  And when I did reach Scott he told me he had prostate cancer.  My heart broke.  For him and for Gracie.  And for me.

So back to the second call I will never forget.  The one I received on Friday.  It was again from Scott.  I have carried my phone with me every day since December 5.  You all know that he had surgery.  And a very long recovery.  He had a PSA test that came back saying that he still had a count that was worth taking further action on.  He was all set to start radiation at the end of May.  You know, the eight weeks, every day, Monday through Friday treatments.  And then this past week, he had another PSA test.  The level of PSA was undetectable.  UNDETECTABLE.  Can you imagine a better phone call to receive?  At this time there is no need for Scott to have radiation.

There has been a huge weight lifted off our shoulders.  We had come to terms with what was in our future.  We had a plan.  We have a terrific support system.  And so many people praying for us.  We are so fortunate.  We know that the future is not for us to decide.  We also know that for now we are going to celebrate and live life to the fullest.  And we are able to exhale.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

I'm Kidding. Sort Of.

Do you know how people say that there is a little bit of truth in joking? That it's easier to say something without really saying it? I had a moment of this yesterday. We were at the cottage. For the first time since Scott was diagnosed with cancer. As a family. We fell into this familiar rhythm. Gracie played outside. Scott had a project. I cleaned the place up a bit, made a plan for meals and read on the deck. It was a very comfortable day. Actually, it was almost perfect.

I called my mom and dad. Dad answered the phone first. I asked him, could you do me a favor? Sure, what's up? I knew he'd say sure. He's my dad. And by this time mom was on the phone, too. I replied, could you go down to Madison and sell our house? We're perfectly fine here at the cottage. No need to be anywhere else. Of course I said this jokingly. Sort of. We have had amazing times at this cottage. We love it here. It's always hard to leave and go back to real life at the end of a weekend. But we do. And we always joke that we aren't leaving.

After all the air smells better up at the cottage. We sleep like rocks. We play hard. We have lots of friends and family join us. We have all of the comforts of home. We all have clothes and all our necessities at the cottage. Shoot. My toothbrush at the cottage is even better than the one in Madison. I know, buy another one. Simple, right? We literally can jump in the truck or car and leave. With no need to pack. See why I love it? The trees, the water, the campfires all make you want to stay. Work doesn't feel like work there. Being at the cottage is a retreat. Or a treat. Both I guess.

If you're ever up at the cottage, check our log book. The one we write in each time we're there. We always record who was with us. The weather conditions are noted. We write about our experiences. And I dare you to find a time that we don't sign off with the wish to stay. We love our lives in Madison, too. Please understand this. But If we had to pick, we'd probably all head north. I'm kidding. Sort of.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

The Heart Of My Home

About ten years ago Scott and I decided we needed a new kitchen table. The one we had wasn't big enough. We didn't have enough chairs. The chairs we had were wobbly. We often entertained. We once had forty people in our house. We love a crowd. We needed a larger table. Scott said he wanted manly chairs. The kind that he would be comfortable in. So off we went to the furniture store. We walked in and I announced to the store owner that we needed the kind of kitchen table that I could birth my babies on. The kind of table I could lay my deceased loved ones out on. Ok. Maybe a bit dramatic. But we were about to drop the mother load of money on a huge table. I needed to know that this guy understood what I was looking for. And boy he had better have a sense of humor! I appreciate this attribute in people I work with.

So from table to table we went. Not the right color. Four legs. I prefer a pedestal table. The chairs fit around it better. Still not finding it. I was starting to get worried. And then there it was. Our future table. With four leaves and eight chairs. This thing expands to the size of a football field. I'm not kidding. So this table became the heart of our home. Lots of family and friends joined us around it for meals, game nights, cookie decorating, crafting. Lots of conversations over a cup of coffee. Some good, some sad. And always a sturdy table to lean on.

When we moved to Madison almost two years ago, our table came with us. Only one problem. We no longer have the gargantuan dining room to accommodate the heart of our home. It fits, don't get me wrong. But as I move around the table there are lots of moments of, shall we say, sucking it in. Our dining room just isn't as big. It's a fact. What to do? Didn't take me long to decide. It took a little longer to get the entire family on board. We need to downsize our table. I know. I know. It's the heart of my home. But do you know what? It's my family that makes it so. We make the table the hub of all that's happening. It's time to sell and move on. It's time to let someone else enjoy the massive space and strength of this table. We will soon have a smaller table and we will make new memories around this piece of furniture. Because after all, that's all it is. We are the heart of our home.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Spring Break

No post this week. I'll be back next week renewed and inspired!

Monday, March 26, 2012


How busy are we? Let me see. Just a minute. I need to check my email. My texts. Can't live without the phone for goodness sake! But stop. Put down the electronics. It's okay to turn off the t.v. No music. Just quiet. Ahhhh. This sounds simple. But it's really hard to do. To disconnect from all of our modern marvels. You would not believe what a relief this can be. It's an opportunity to reconnect with your family and your friends. Even your dogs.

And this is what I have learned and rediscovered. My dog Bailey will hold my gaze forever. I think he may be reading my soul. And I'm reading his. We both came up with the same reading. We love and trust each other completely. I have learned from Sweet Pea that she, too, is loving and very thankful.

From my husband I have rediscovered this beautiful fleck of goldish brown in one of his eyes. I knew it was there from the start, but it's a reminder to me of his genuine new love for me. His sincere love of me. When it was all new. I noticed this fleck one day and thought some twenty years ago that I wanted to know everything about this man. And for this I am so fortunate. To stop my girl was hard. She's a busy one. So I caught her at a slow moment. As I was tucking her into bed for the night. Those freckles get me every time. I'm looking at the face of an almost full grown young woman. But what I really see is the sweet little baby with those kissable cheeks. I can't resist the urge to smooch them. And smooch them I do. She lets me. She's tired.

The other day I was visiting with a friend. I was listening. A lot. In fact my friend asked if everything was alright. Yes. Everything is fine. You haven't said much is all. It's kind of nice to listen, I replied. To hear how you are doing. It's nice to live a little beyond my own four walls.

So try it sometime. Just stop. That's all. Stop and pay attention to what's going on. Around you and beyond you. It really is amazing.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Let's Hear It For The Girls

When Scott and I found out we were going to have a girl we were elated. I started calling her by name after that tell tale ultrasound. For all of the trouble we had getting her here, life has been mostly easy and carefree since. We taught Gracie that there was nothing that she couldn't do. We are responsible parents, but we also instilled in her the fear of hardly anything. We wanted to and have given her many opportunities to try many things in life.

My mom and dad have done the same. Gracie has traveled with them to New York and San Francisco. This summer their trip is to Boston. There have been plays, concerts and musicals, too. Fun and educational all at the same time. Gracie has been part of musical events, student government, yearbook committee, karate and running club. There is no stopping this girl. And we'd have it no other way.

So a few months back, when she came home and announced that she would like to be a science olympiad, we supported this. And she went to regionals. And placed second! Yep. That was hootin' and hollerin' that you heard from her mom and dad! Then dad became a coach. She's really good at this, he said. I smiled and said, I'm sure she is. No, really Ann, she's got a knack for this. I believe you, I said. She and her friend Calista kept practicing. My kitchen table was starting to look like a lab. Good excuse to pick up take out for supper.

This past Saturday was the State Science Olympiad. In Oshkosh. Her dad's alma mater. We couldn't be in the room that the events took place in. We were there in time for the awards ceremony. I had a second to ask, how'd you do? I feel good about it, mom. And when their event was called and they placed third in the state in Crimebusting, we screamed and clapped like crazy people! Proud people. Proud parents.

We love that she tries new things. That she has a black belt in karate. That she embraces new challenges all of the time. Now if we could just get her to clean her room...

Sunday, March 11, 2012

With Dignity, Please

Friday night my family and I attended a movie. The movie was about all that happened in the state of Wisconsin last year. The changes that Scott Walker and others made that affected unions and collective bargaining. The movie, or documentary, was well done. It followed six people through the days of the protests, the occupation of the Capitol and the marches.

I am generally a very positive person. It is the way I choose to be. And last year, when the protests were happening, I was so proud of the way people conducted themselves. There were people united in a cause that was for the good of many. We weren't violent. We didn't swear. We brought our children down to the Capitol to be part of history. The kind of history that can't be taught in a classroom. And some of us had our children record their thoughts so that they could look back and reflect on their past. So that they could say they were there when.

I had a total stranger contact me from out of state when I posted on Facebook that I was bringing Gracie with me to the protests. He, too, wanted his child to experience this time in history. But he was met with much resistance from people who were worried that it wouldn't be safe. I told him on the first day, I had my own worries. They were immediately diminished. The kindness of strangers was amazing. And that kindness was felt from all over the world. He thanked me for making him feel better about his decision.

So this brings me back to Friday night. The movie was truly well done. The set up not so much. The theater was riddled with hecklers. I don't mean to portray the entire crowd. But the few that did this were very vocal. People that sat right behind us yelled "liar" every time a picture of Scott Walker appeared on the screen. These same people hissed and swore. I was embarrassed. Not for me, but for them. They were doing the exact opposite of what I was so proud didn't happen last year. Last year we, as a collective group, handled ourselves well. We were not petty. Another thing that bothered me about the theater was the seating arrangement. I know that this is a theater that serves dinner. It is what they are known for. But on this night, for this movie, it felt wrong. These dinner tables had food and drink provided to a select few. Not the majority. The dichotomy of this was not lost on me or others I overheard. Very strange. I would have liked to have seen the tables removed and additional seating put up for viewers of this movie.

I am hoping that we, as a collective group, can fight this battle with dignity. It's not hard. And it doesn't have to turn ugly. We don't have to swear and heckle. We need to unite. And we need to be polite. Please.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Ready, Set, Go

Grocery shopping done. Check. House cleaned. Check. Bills paid. Check. Laundry done. Check. Quality time with family and friends. Double check. So it's Sunday night and all of the important things have been done and experienced this weekend. I'm all ready to greet the new week. I think.

Mondays come to me with mixed feelings. Not all of the time. Just every once in a while. Especially when the weekend has been great. You don't want it to end. It does though. And I know that there will always be next weekend. I'm an adult. I know these things. Here's part two of the equation. I do love Mondays. I love my job and the people I work with. A new week is a fresh start. A new set of five days to change the world. Or maybe just five days to make little changes. To make a difference. To pay it forward. I like to start small. Smile at people. Hold a door for someone. Let a person in your lane in traffic. Life is short and little things do mean a lot. Don't listen to those who say they don't.

So I've picked my clothes out for tomorrow. Something bright and cheery. Just in case the sun isn't out, this should give me a bright and shiny look on life. I'm relaxing tonight. Enjoying the quiet night with the family. I know I'll get a good night's sleep. This arms me for the week ahead. I really can't wait. I'm looking forward to it. I'm ready for it. I'm set. And tomorrow off I go.

Challenge yourself to start the week like we used to start our races in grade school. With great anticipation. With the idea that there is a prize at the end. It's called the weekend. But don't forget to enjoy the week along the way. Sometimes hidden prizes are revealed along the way. Happy Monday!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Call It The Present

So tomorrow is a big day at our house. We're kind of anxious about it. It sort of feels like the first day of school. It's Scott's first day back at work in two and a half months. The time has flown by. For those of you who don't know these months haven't always been joyous times. With Scott's cancer diagnosis we suffered. We were extremely scared. We waited. Patiently. Ok, not so patiently. We got results and we took and are taking action.

For these two and a half months we have supported each other. We have had this amazing ability to lift ourselves up. Just when one of us is feeling weak, another steps in for us to lean on. We have laughed. Certainly we have cried. We have been at the receiving end of a constant stream of family and friends who visit and call. We are blessed.

And when we got the news that there were some cancer cells still in Scott we thought about this. We consulted friends. And doctors. And friends who are doctors. We decided that we need to take action and we will. Scott starts radiation in May. He will go to treatments Monday through Friday, for eight weeks. We are confident.

So tomorrow is a present. It truly is a gift to us. Scott starts a brand new position at work. He is regaining his health. We've decided to live in this present and enjoy every moment to the fullest.

Sunday, February 19, 2012


We've all received them and hopefully we have given them, too. Compliments. They can make your day. Really. It can be a simple comment about your hair or your outfit. It can be about something you said or did. Whatever it is, it feels good. We humans get that warm fuzzy feeling when others feel kind toward us. At least most of the time.

There is the backhanded compliment. For instance someone may comment on how much your cooking abilities have improved. This may be true, but of course needs to be handled in a gentle way. Otherwise this may actually offend the recipient. Don't worry, this such compliment does not offend me. Mostly because it is true. I've admitted to it several times. But to some it may be hurtful.

And there is the unwarranted compliment. In my younger years, I dare say I was whistled at more than once. At the time, depending on the whistler, I would either feel giddy or completely grossed out. Well time changes our viewpoints and our looks. Last week I was waved and winked at in traffic. I didn't feel threatened in any way. I choose to believe that it was just kindness. And the fact that the fella looked a bit like Harrison Ford did not harm me one bit. So, even being the married woman that I am, I waved back. I'm sure I'll never see this guy again. And that is exactly how I want it.

It was Thursday morning and I was wishing it was a Friday morning instead. I was tired and wanted to crawl right back under my covers. When the coffee didn't do it's trick, I felt at a loss. And the traffic was thick and slow. And then I looked to my right. In the lane next to me was this man who made me smile for a minute. My mood lifted and there was once again a little pep in my step.

So my momentary encounter with a total stranger lifted my spirits. He complimented me and it worked. I felt better. And then I went on to hopefully pass this wonderful feeling on to others throughout my day. I think sometimes we forget how easy it is to be kind and how much energy it takes to be frustrated and unkind. My advice this week is to take the easy way out. Be kind. Randomly or to those you know. The good feeling you have in giving compliments is even better than receiving them.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Love, Ann

Happy Valentine's Day everyone! This is the week to show those you love that they are special to you. In reality we should do this each and every day. This year, this day, is especially significant for me. My husband is doing well. I couldn't and shouldn't ask for more. We are a fortunate family. My daughter is weathering this storm well. How lucky can I be? I try very hard to keep things in perspective. A life altering event can do that for you. It should do that for you.

Today was a great day at our house. We got up and went to church together. We saw and talked with many of our friends. Supportive people. We are lucky and we are loved. After church I did something that I hardly ever do. I took my girl to the mall. On the ride home from church I offered up the idea. Scott asked what we needed at the mall. I answered as vaguely as possible. I said, it's not so much what we need, but perhaps more what we want. I am visualizing shoes in my future is what I said. And then I reinforced it with the comment that a girl can never have too many shoes. A tiny reply from the backseat came to us. From our girl came the words, it's true. We laughed for a long time. Such words of wisdom.

After leaving Scott off at home we were mall bound. I'm not much of a shopper and gave Gracie instructions as to how long we would be at the mall and how many stores we should enter. This may sound harsh, but it is with a reason. My girl would shop all day and night if she could. And believe me she tried. We left at approximately eleven. We both had shoes in our possession within a half hour of entering the mall. Silly me to think that we would be on our way. Of course we had to go to the cupcake shop. We bought some to bring home and shared one in the shop. If that wasn't enough, we decided to go to one of our favorite places for lunch, too. Loosened the belt a bit. And then the negotiations began. One more store? And we did this and came home with three more pairs of shoes that just had to be ours.

So four hours after leaving home, we were officially tired, had walked off the food we consumed and had single handedly boosted the economy. This was my Valentine gift to her. Doing something totally unexpected. She loved it and I did, too. It gave Scott the afternoon to relax. I have to say overall the day was what we all needed or should I say wanted. I think my favorite part was that I did something totally out of the ordinary. Something that Gracie wouldn't have expected. And the fun we had was priceless. During this week of love, let's all remember to love in unexpected ways. They don't even have to include spending money. Just send the message that you are in love. With them. Your friends and your family. And to all of you I say, Happy Valentine's Day. Thank you for being part of my life. Thank you for enriching me by doing unexpected things. Thanks for loving me. I love you, too.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

What's In Your Kitchen?

Far be it from me to sell myself as a cook. But over the past several years, I've gotten so much better. My family is the biggest test and they seem to enjoy almost everything I make. And I enjoy making it. That's even better. You know I make it simple. But it has to be delicious, too. So here are a few things I do.

I've automated my shopping list. We have variety, but the easier I make my shopping, the better. I actually have a computer print out of my shopping list. And yes, it is arranged according to the layout of my grocery store. It goes a little bit like this:

Produce: apples, oranges, clemetntines, grapes, blueberries, strawberries, bananas, lemons,
potatoes, onions, garlic, spinach, lettuce, celery, carrots, snap peas

Deli: ham, turkey, cheese

Meat: chicken, beef, pork roast

Down the aisles: beans, rice, barley, pasta, pasta sauce, oatmeal, bread, soda, coffee

Dairy: milk, eggs, butter, yogurt

And here are some things I always have on hand. Soup starters/bases. I get mine from Penzey's spices. I always have at least a dozen spices on hand, too. This isn't a commercial for Penzey's, but I do love their freshness and variety. These spices are also one of my favorite consumable gifts to give.

I clean and cut up fruit and veggies as needed. If it's ready I'm not tempted to run to the store for a less healthy alternative. When I make salads and soups I just combine already cut up ingredients. It's basically effortless. When I buy meat I buy big. I'll bake ten chicken breasts at once and add to soups, slalads, casseroles or sandwiches. Same goes for the beef. I'll brown up five pounds and freeze in portions appropriate for meals I make. And ditto for the roast. Put it in he crock pot and eat it for Sunday dinner. Shred the rest and have sandwiches or freeze it. We eat a lot of salmon, too. A little lemon, a bit of dill and we're set.

If I can do this, you can, too. We have cut back on fat and sodium. We hardly eat anything that is processed or has preservatives. Our recycling bin is less full. Bonus.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Scratch That

Those two words have so many different meanings. To start with, I wrote a blog with the same title and hated it. In my mind I said, scratch that! Delete. Believe me it wasn't my finest work. Way too random and well, just ridiculous. And then there is the scratch that when you have an itch. This is the one I really want to address.

So I'd like to think that I'm superwoman. Yep, I can be a daughter, sister, wife, mom and friend. I can pull it all together. Especially in busy times or times of crisis. Really. I can make a dinner happen on a moments notice. People will have fun and so will I. I am a bit of a last minute person, but things still seem to always work out. I've been lucky. Or maybe I should say blessed.

About a month ago, in the midst of us finding out about Scott's cancer and the surgery, I started to itch. Well, I wasn't flush on time and I was taking short cuts. It's winter and cold and I usually have sensitive skin anyway. But time was short and I would forget to lotion up sometimes. Then I bought laundry detergent that I hadn't purchased before and thought that might be the reason. The itching got worse. I started taking Benadryl at night to alleviate the symptoms. I tried every lotion and potion sold over the counter. Nothing helped.

I will tell you this. I'm pretty sure that the sensation of itching could actuallly drive a person insane. It's torture. I was getting inventive with things to help me scratch my itch. I have a back scratcher. Somtimes a pen or pencil would work. I was whisking gravy one evening and thought to myself, hmmm, this whisk? My itches were on my arms, legs, back, chest---ugh!

Then it dawned on me. It wasn't any food I had eaten. It wasn't the lotions, potions or laundry soaps. I was at this moment allergic to the stress in my life. In desperation I went to urgent care and was diagnosed witth hives. Stress related hives. The doctor was so kind and said I can give you medicine for the hives. I wish there was something I could give you for the stress. I thanked her profusely and said if I could get a handle on the itching, I could take it from there. And I did. After a couple of days of no sleep, because that's one of the nasty side effects of the meds, I started to return to normal.

My hives are basically gone. The itching has almost completely left my system. So what did I learn? I am not superwoman. I can't do it all. I need to sleep. I need to eat. I need to breathe and read books. I need to destress. And if I do all of this I can scratch hive outbreaks off my list. Ahhh.

Monday, January 23, 2012

I Challenge You

Ok. This is when some feel I get a little extreme. Please know that I shop. Who doesn't? But come January and February I try to challenge myself to NOT shop. Maybe it's winter boredom. Perhaps I like to see how far I can make things stretch. Who knows? What matters is I find this entertaining and always a money saving adventure. So what is it that I do, you ask? I spend as little money as possible. Let me count the ways for you.

1. I send e-cards to relatives and friends for birthdays, anniversaries and holidays.

2. I mass cook. I do grocery shop. In massive amounts. And then I cook up a storm. Soups, stews, roasts, meatloaf, casseroles. I freeze it all and can eat for a month at a time. No more after work wondering about what to fix. Always plenty of food for the family. Even when we have unexpected company. And the leftovers are great for lunch. Veggies are always aplenty at my house for snacks.

3. I decorate my house with the most natural and colorful things. What could make you smile more than a bowl full of lemons or apples. And these things are edible. For Valentine's day I might find a twig after a nature walk. I place the twig in a vase/mason jar and fill it up with stones. I'll hang small red hearts with love notes on them for my family. Make clovers and eggs to decorate for St. Patrick's Day or Easter.

4. Go to the library and read, read, read. Check out movies. Free fun for the family.

5. Dust off the games on the shelf. PLAY them. With your friends and family.

6. Get together with friends and family. Don't stress about food. Everybody bring something. Enjoy the time together.

So at the end of one month, maybe two, check your bank account. I'll bet there is more money in those accounts than the year before. And did you have any less fun? Were you kinder to the environment? Were you kinder to your waistline? I'm guessing at least a few of your answers will be yes. Let me know if you're up to the challenge. I'm ready. To have a healthier body and secondly a healthier bank account. And you know it's not all about the money. It's about spending time doing healthy things with people you love. The financial gain is simply a bonus.

Monday, January 16, 2012

A Towel?

Sort of a weird title, huh? I know. I was looking for something with a little more zip. Just couldn't find the right words. And then it came to me. Why make the title spectacular. The definition I am about to give does that all on its own. Do you have flour sack towels? They are the best invention EVER.

My first recollection of these towels was when I was a kid. They were in my mom's kitchen and they were in my grandma's kitchen. Of course the towels were used to dry dishes. That's obvious. But they were used for so much more. The flour sack towel could be used as a baby bib. I've tied more than one towel together to help secure a baby on a regular chair. Wha-la. Makeshift high chair!

I have used these towels to clean mirrors and windows. They leave no lint behind. What about a salad spinner? Who needs one? I have a flour sack towel. Works just as well and takes up a whole lot less cupboard space. I use my towels as aprons and pot holders. These towels are great for attaching ice packs to a wounded knee or ankle.

These towels are white and you can bleach them. They always look fresh and clean. I have wiped up cranberry juice and been able to return these towels to their original luster. So my rule of only gifting consumables does have an exception. Flour sack towels. They go with everything. They have so many purposes. They are ALL purpose flour sacks. Get it? Sorry. Just had to say it.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Envelope System

About ten years ago Scott and I set a lofty goal for ourselves. We were determined to pay off our house. Early. Like twelve years early. What possessed us to do such a thing you ask? Well, we were simplifying like crazy. I was able to research all sorts of savings. We made things from scratch. We made bountiful quantities and froze them. We lowered the heat. We used the air conditioning sparingly. The clothes line was always in use. And do you know what? We had a bunch of money left over at the end of the month.

Now some may say spend it! Upgrade in house, car or vacation. It was tempting for sure. But when we got down to what we really wanted to do it was simple. We wanted to live a debt free life. We were so close we could almost touch it. So we came up with a plan. On pay day we would pay all of our bills. We had divised a budget. Scott is a whiz at budgets. So with our combined talents we came up with a cash only envelope system. We didn't invent the envelope system, but we refined it to our needs. After paying our bills, we deposited money into three envelopes. The categories were, groceries, auto and entertainment. We used cash only for these purchases. If I went to the store, I took the envelope with me. Upon returning home I would record my purchase on the outside of the envelope and subtract the amount from the total. As a back up I would place the receipt in the envelope. You get the idea.

In the meantime we had been paying much more down on our mortgage payments. We used all rebates, tax refunds, money from selling things (garage sales, etc.) to also pay down our mortgage. We also put money into savings regularly. And here comes the extra benefit of the envelopes. We always had money left over in our envelopes at the end of the pay period. Guess where that money went? Yep, the mortgage.

We never felt lke we were deprived of anything. We ate well. We had people over for dinner. I would make the main course and when our
guests offered to bring something we would take them up on it. Our dinners became potlucks. Our friends did the same. We always had plenty of clothes. In fact we prefer to buy quality over quantity. Our clothes last, so fewer purchases. Bulk cooking was mentioned before,
but it also became our favorite gift to give. We found Scott was actually the better shopper. He would comparison shop and save us on
average ten to twenty dollars per grocery shopping trip compared to me.

This is an attainable goal. You may feel pinched in these economic times, but there always seems to be a way to save a little. And we are
proof that saving a little adds up to a lot. The mortgage was completely paid off when we were thirty-five and thirty-eight. That's a goal worth reaching. And it all started with three simple envelopes.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Purge Time, Folks!

So the tree is down. The other holiday decorations are tucked away snug in their storage containers. What to do with all of the new things we received as gifts? Well, assuming that they fit and are wanted items, we need to find space for them. This is definitely a challenge. Here come a lot of my rules that I have written about in the past. Let's start with the one thing in, one thing out rule. This is as simple as it gets. Did you get a new sweater? Let go of one. A new game? Give up one that your family has played to death and is bored with. Not rocket science.

Next, let's do some reycling. We all have too many magazines, newspapers, general paper clutter. The season forces us to stay inside more. Baby it's cold outside! Read the articles you have been wanting to. If the article is super great and worthy of sharing, scan it and email to friends and family. Paper be gone. Do you really need all of those boxes in the basement? Ok, keep the t.v. box and the boxes for small appliances that have warranties. Beyond that, no need. But what if I need to ship a gift to someone? Please read on.

Make a radical change in your gift giving. Gift consumables only. This may seem harder than it really is. Did you know that it is possible the purchase a virtual gift card that the receiver is emailed? Amazing stuff! My other favorites are coffee, yummy smelling candles, lotions and potions and of course food. Almost always the containers that these items come in are recyclable. Leave as small of a footprint on the earth as possible.

Your momentum has been jump started. Keep going. No need to hoard. Get wild and give up more than you receive. It feels good. It's cathartic. And in the mean time, let me be the little voice in your head that says, do you need it? Do you love it? Use this to head off future accumulation of stuff that you will eventually need to get rid of. And with the money that you save you can do wonders. That will be the topic of next week's blog. Stay tuned.

Monday, January 2, 2012

It's How You Look At It

When someone lets you know that they are thinking of you it's a good day. Over the past few weeks a lot of folks have let us know that they are thinking of us. Scott has received so many calls and cards. The emails are abundant. Facebook has been a terrific way to communicate. Sometimes I have mixed feelings about social media. But over the past few weeks, I have appreciated it more than ever. When I am exhausted and need to reach many who care, a post on Facebook can be wonderful. Within minutes people are replying and my heart is full.

I could see Scott's face light up when I brought him mail in the hospital. One day I delivered a card that came from the Appleton Police Department. The card was signed by at least twenty-five or more people. He read each message with such anticipation. His heart was swelling with all of their thoughts, prayers and words of encouragement. He came upon a name he didn't recognize. Scott commented that how kind it was that a new officer, a person he hadn't even worked with, had taken the time to sign his card. Oh really? I replied. What is the officer's name. It looks like his name is Cha Lee. I got up from my chair to have a little look see. As I read the card, a giggle started out small. Then it turned in to a downright hoot and holler kind of laugh. I couldn't even talk. What? Scott asked. Seriously. I was laughing so hard I was crying. I said this new officer, Cha Lee, is someone you worked with for eleven years. It's Charlie! I grabbed a pillow and told Scott to hold on tight, considering his surgery was abdominal. He grabbed the pillow and applied pressure to his belly just in time. We laughed so hard we attracted the attention of some nurses passing by. They stopped. Everthing ok? We replied more than ok. Funny as all get out.

Of course we need to share this story with Charlie some day. We have gotten lots of mileage out of reliving this story. It just goes to show you that laughter is the best medicine.