Friday, April 28, 2017

When the Time is Right

Recently, I read the book “The Last Letter from your Lover” by Jo Jo Moyes. It’s a bit of a haunting story that revolves around missed opportunities for love, largely due to timing.

It reaffirmed for me a theory that my husband and I have long had about that very subject, and how often timing plays a critical - yet unseen - role, until the benefit of hindsight becomes available.

But it’s not just love stories that rely on timing. I think so much in life really does.

And so that brings me to the story of how we added a third car to our family. (Yes, seriously. Bear with me!)

I've been wanting to add a 3rd car to our household ever since we got our 3rd licensed driver, or about 3 months ago now. But the timing wasn't right and - warning - full honest parent mode here - our newly licensed driver hasn't always made the most responsible decisions with that privilege and so, we put it off - er- waited.

Then this week we were faced with what I had feared, a reduction in usable vehicles during an especially busy time (even by our insane standards.) So I looked online at the dealership we love, saw a vehicle that fit our needs, and pretty much decided we were going to buy it and put an end to this. And let me tell you- when I make up my mind on something I've been deliberating on for 3 months, it's going to happen. (Just ask my poor husband!)

So today, we bought a third car. Literally while my car was getting a new battery and new brake pads 100 feet away, (and while my husband was riding a bus to Iowa with the soccer team) I test drove and then signed the papers for that “new to us” car. I shuffled between the service dept. and the finance dept. and probably earned a new level of crazy - er- loyal customer in the 3 hours it took to get all of that done. I mean, when the service department calls to tell you your car is done and you tell them you're just down the hall buying another- yeah, that was my afternoon.

What I have learned in this life is that we need to have good, reliable people we can count on to help us navigate some of the trickier moments. I’m lucky enough to count on my team a good lawyer, a good accountant, a good financial investment advisor, and a good mechanic. All of them have helped me navigate so much and their presence in my life has helped fill some of the void left by my dad. 

Another one of those is Brad May - who has seen us through the "minivan to SUV back to minivan (x3) transitions of our growing family.  We always knew one day he'd help us find the "kid car." - a concept that used to seem so laughably far off in our future. Over the years we have bought six cars from Brad. Yes, six. Once we even bought two at once but that’s another story. Brad has always been to us exactly the kind of salesperson I love- never pushy, taking the time to listen and help us find a vehicle that met our needs and budget, honest, and dependable. He’s treated us exactly the same whether we were buying a brand new car or making an even trade for a different one. The level of ease we’ve always felt with him is a gift.

But today, in the flurry of e-mails back and forth to him as we tried to hammer out some details of this latest purchase, another e-mail came in. This one was sent out to a group and it explained that Brad is leaving the dealership and the area in order to begin a new chapter in his life as his wife's job has them re-locating with the opportunity to also be closer to his adult daughters.

For him, the move is about - you guessed it, timing.

For us, the timing was good because as it turns out, if we had waited even a week longer, it wouldn’t have been Brad who helped us buy this car. In fact, ours might be the last car he sells. 

Maybe it seems silly to feel emotional about that but I suspect if you’re lucky enough to have a “Brad” in your life, you understand. 

And then, there’s more.

I was filling out the finance paperwork when I noticed our loan rate of 7.09%. I smiled and explained to the woman that I suddenly felt very peaceful that we were doing this at the right time, because that was a message from my dad. 709 has long been a “signal” and I don’t believe in coincidences. Then (and I didn't realize the significance of this until later) she asked me what color the car is because it's called "Whistler" and she wasn't sure what that meant?  It didn’t actually hit me until Ethan was looking the car over in the falling darkness and innocently asked, “what color is it?” As I answered, “It’s called Whistler,” I gasped a little. (My dad was famous for his love for whistling.) Oh, and Whistler is basically silver, in case you’re wondering.

So, here I sit. I didn't fully anticipate all the emotions this purchase would bring up in me today. I thought we were making a practical purchase and more than once I've explained how a third vehicle isn't so much for the teenager as it is for us. But I actually had butterflies of anticipation as I drove it home, eager for Ethan to be let in on the secret we'd been keeping. And while on the surface it may seem like just another family who bought their kid a car, the reality is we've had to work hard and shift some things and make some sacrifices to make this happen today and I'm feeling very blessed for the ability to do so. I certainly don’t take it for granted. I wonder if it's how my dad felt when he changed his mind on the "no teenager should have their 'own' car" stance and parked that 1986 Pontiac Sunbird on the driveway for me to find when I got off the bus that February morning of my junior year of high school.  

I wish I could ask him.

I suspect he's already given me the answer.

So- timing. I’m not a patient person (see above re: mind made up/must act now) but I do recognize and appreciate these little lessons when I experience them. Yes, it’s just a car. Of course. I guess. But that doesn’t mean it can’t also be a vehicle (see what I did there?) to convey a little life lesson, complete with a few reassuring signs that the time was right.

Thanks Brad. We’ll miss you. 

Friday, November 11, 2016

What I'm hearing on Facebook these days

When you say, "Please can we just stop the fighting and unify as the great country we are?"

I hear, "I am not listening to your concerns."

When you say, "Please can we just go back to posting pictures of what we're eating and cats?"

I hear, "I have accepted and moved on and so I need you to do the same, whether you are ready or not."

When you say, "It's time to move on past this."

I hear, "I do not respect or understand that you need more time to grieve and process."

When you say, "Stop posting all these hateful things."

I hear, "I have seen some truly hateful things being posted. And they are keeping me from hearing the message you are trying to send because I have lost faith in my ability to discern truth from fiction or reason from hyperbole."

When you say, "He won the election because a majority voted for him."

I hear, "I don't actually understand how our election process works."

When you say, "The protests should stop because they look like whining crybabies."

I hear, "I do not understand that people are truly hurting and very afraid."
(or maybe if we're being really honest it's "I am afraid I have contributed to these peoples' hurt and anger.")

When you say, "Protests have never happened before after an election."

I hear, "I do not know how to use Google to fact-check before I make an absolute statement."

When you say, "Keep it off Facebook."

I hear, "I need a break from reading things I do not agree with."
Also: "I do not know the difference between "unfollowing" and "unfriending" someone on Facebook.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Do you ever have one of those moments that seems kind of insignificant at first, then seems to suddenly take on some meaning and then before you know it, your brain is turning it over and over so much that you have to go and write it down just to be able to focus on something else?

No? Just me?

The grocery situation in our house is at code “you’re really just better off going out to eat” and since I was alone for dinner, I stopped at Culver’s while running a few errands tonight. At first I pulled into the drive-thru but then I changed my mind and was going to go somewhere else. Then I changed it again, so I decided to go in and get my food to go. (Yes, this is typical behavior for me and yes, my husband is a saint.) 

I walked in behind two older gentlemen. I’m terrible at guessing ages but the older of the two seemed to be in his 80’s and was walking with a cane. The other man appeared to be his son so for the sake of the story, that’s just how I’ll refer to him from here out. The son was helping his father to walk along and when I saw him struggling to hold the door with one hand and his father with the other, I jumped in and grabbed the door. 

And just like that, it hit me.

I miss the days of taking my grandparents out to eat. Even if it was something as simple as a dinner at Culver’s. 

I continued to watch these two as they ordered and the older gentleman joked with the cashier, pulling a handful of change from his pocket and asking her to find the 17-cents needed for their bill. As I observed all of this, I flashed back to the numerous times I would take my grandma out to eat after driving her to a doctor’s appointment or to the grocery store. It wasn’t easy to manage her and her walker along with a baby and then toddler but I just figured out the multiple steps we needed to get it done and did it. I knew the day would come that I would miss it.

I was right.

When I ordered my food the cashier asked if it was for “here” and I smiled and said, “sure.” Just like that, I decided not to take the food home. I felt compelled to stay.

So I sat several booths behind the two men and pulled out my phone while I waited for my food. Soon, their voices carried over to my direction and I could hear the older man telling a story while his son nodded his head and followed along patiently.

For the last several years of his life, whenever my dad and I would say “good-bye” he would thank me for spending time with him. I always thought that was kind of odd.

I understand it now, after watching the two men at Culver’s share the gift of their time with each other.

And then, it hit me that I will never get to take my elderly father to Culver’s on a Sunday night to have dinner. I will never have the privilege of having him hold on to my arm for support as I lead him to the booth and listen to him talk about the medical things that are ailing him or hear him tell a story I’ve heard dozens of times before. 

You can probably guess what happened next... I turned in to a blubbering mess right there in Culver’s and had to make a hasty exit to retreat to the safety and solitude of my car for a good cry.

I guess you could say I’m not a person who really believes much in chance. I tend to think things happen for a reason and when I’m in the midst of the most complicated or even the most seemingly simple of experiences, I often find myself wondering, “what does this mean? What is the message I’m supposed to be getting here?”

So as I sat and cried in the car while my custard was melting, I searched for the significance of the moment. I never really eat at Culver’s and if I do, I certainly don’t go in and sit in the restaurant by myself. So why had I done all of that tonight?

The gift of time. 

The luxury of growing old.

The reminder that no matter how much we appreciate it and soak it in, we never have enough time with our loved ones.

And suddenly, I knew.

We are on the cusp of a summer family vacation that will include a long road trip. We are a busy family with a hectic schedule and as such, we tend to welcome the slowing down of time that a long drive together brings. So while most people think it sounds awful to drive 18 hours with 4 kids, I am like a kid on Christmas with anticipation for the journey.

But I haven’t had such a great attitude about the drive home. You see, this vacation is going to be spent with my in-laws. They are flying to our destination but decided they’d like to drive home with us instead of flying back.

And I’ll just be blunt: I have not had a good attitude about this “plan.”

To begin with, it just didn’t make sense to my logical loving brain. Our car will seat us all, but just barely and not comfortably. Part of the key to success for long road trips for my kids is that they each have their own corner of the car to retreat to and namely that they not have to be touching each other. With all of us in the car, that won’t be possible.

This plan has meant an entirely new set of logistics for us to work out - now we need a roof top luggage carrier, we’re not sure if we’ll stop along the way or drive straight through (because we potentially have another driver now), and then there is the matter of getting my in-laws to their house, which adds a lot more time to the trip.

And I couldn’t help but wonder if my in-laws had really thought through the ramifications of driving 18+ hours with the 4 grandchildren they had just spent a week with?

I’ve told lots of people about this plan. It’s made for a great story as I made new friends this past weekend and gotten a lot of laughs and good luck wishes. I was trying to adopt a good attitude about it, but I was kind of failing.

I’ll admit it.

But now - message received. It will be ok. It will be precious, special time that my kids will get to spend with their grandparents. Time spent together isn’t always convenient. It rarely happens without effort and even sacrifice. My children may retreat to their rooms and collapse in a frenzied state of relief when we return home and they may be miserable for much of the drive.

But they will always remember the trip, and the time spent together and if we’re very, very lucky - there will be lots of stories they’ll have to tell as a result.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Moving, Moving, Moving

I am not a runner. In fact, I am not an athletic person at all. Growing up, the only sport I really participated in was swimming and really I only did that in the "I swim on the country club's summer swim team mostly so my parents can socialize" kind of way.

I didn't like balls coming at me, or balls that I had to chase (really? what's the point of that?) and so I just avoided most sports completely and willingly accepted myself as "non-athletic."

As a mother with children who are athletic (and of course now I'm also the wife of a soccer coach), I have learned to appreciate sports but still mostly in the "I'm just here to sit on the sidelines and socialize" kind of way.

And I was fine with all of this.

But earlier this summer, a friend who is helping to organize the Pekin to Peoria St. Jude Run (a satellite event to the Memphis to Peoria run) tried to convince me to sign up. At first, I just laughed but she insisted the event isn't about running, it's about raising money. And she insisted anyone - runner or not - would be able to participate. But still, I balked. Too many other things going on this summer. I didn't need one more thing to fill my schedule.

But then I had two friends who unexpectedly found themselves St. Jude parents. One of them was the friend working so hard to convince me to join the run. Another has a 4-year old diagnosed with a brain tumor. In the back of my head, I kept hearing a voice.

"Why are you resisting? So running is hard, so what? It's no harder than what these kids are doing. Don't turn your back from this opportunity. You have something to give, and you have something much larger here to receive. Do it."

So, I signed up. And in the roughly two weeks since I started "training" (boy, do I use that term loosely!) I have racked up about 16 miles. That is approximately twice as many miles as I have run in my entire lifetime prior to this point. (Probably not as exaggerated as you may think. :) )

And guess what? I like running. Or more specifically, I like the way I feel after a run. I like that I have discovered I CAN run, a lot further than I ever imagined - up to 3 miles at a time without stopping so far. I like the quiet time to myself, and I like the camraderie of running with friends.

I do run slowly though. Partly I think because I am such a terrible runner and partly because I have a lot of slower music on my iPhone. I like to pull up the playlist and hit "shuffle" and then get lost in the songs that show up and the meaning they have in my life.

There are a lot of songs on my phone right now that relate to my dad.

Earlier tonight, I was clipping right along in my run... just about to reach the 2-mile mark and only a few blocks from my stopping point. I was doing great, focusing on my breathing, enjoying the spirit lift that comes when you know a good workout is coming to an end.

And then the song on my phone changed and suddenly Josh Groban's "To Where You Are" began to play.

Who can say for certain
Maybe you're still here
I feel you all around me
Your memory, so clear

It's such a beautiful song, and it speaks right to my heart.

And right there, I stopped running and started sobbing. In the middle of the block, right there in the street, sweat pouring down my face amidst the tears. Gut-wrenching, ripping your heart out sobbing.

You see, just before I left for my run tonight, I got a text that my little sister is engaged.


This is GREAT, happy, WONDERFUL news! It's the kind of engagement that makes you say, "finally!" because you've known it was coming for many years now. My dad knew Ben, my dad loved Ben, my dad knew Ben and Tiffany would get married one day.

But now it's happening and my dad isn't here.

And I jump back on the grief roller coaster again.

I felt the same way last May when my other sister graduated from high school. There are certain life events that you just *expect* your parents to be present for. High school graduations, college graduations, and weddings are not out of this realm. Many people take them for granted.

I never did.

With each passing milestone in my life, I thanked God for the presence of my family. My dad started chemotherapy two weeks before my wedding and as he walked me down the aisle, he brushed away hair that was just starting to fall out from his eyes.

But he was there.

I don't have any pictures of myself with my dad at my college graduation (an unfortunate slip-up that still haunts me to this day) and only one of us together at our house before I left for my high school graduation.

But he was there.

And when my first three children were born and I was miscarrying my second baby in the emergency room of the local hospital, my dad was there. The hand holding mine in the photo just after Elisabeth was born (while I braced for a shot for stitches) was my dad's.

Again and again and again, my dad was there. Because he wanted to be.

And I know he'd want to be here for my sisters too. And sometimes, I just get so mad at the unfairness of it all. It's not fair to them, it's not fair to him. It's not fair to my children.

Fly me up to where you are
Beyond the distant star
I wish upon tonight
To see you smile
If only for awhile to know you're there
A breath away not far
To where you are

It's not fair.


And I feel guilty too. Guilty for the experiences I got to have that they won't. Guilty for wanting more. Guilty knowing some people don't ever have the kind of relationship we had with a parent, let alone get to have it for 34 years.

Are you gently sleeping
Here inside my dream
And isn't faith believing
All power can't be seen

As my heart holds you
Just one beat away
I cherish all you gave me everyday
'Cause you are my
Forever love
Watching me from up above

Just yesterday, I was emailing with a friend who lost her father a few weeks ago. As I explained the concept of "grief bursts," I thought about how long it had been since I'd experienced one. They're the sudden, unforseen things that suddenly set you off and they happen when you least expect it. I cried when I heard a stranger whistling at Wal-Mart, but did just fine when my 10-year old son made sure to include his Papa Tebben's birthday on his new planner. Sometimes, the happiest of events are the ones that evoke the strongest, aching longing deep in the soul.

That's how I'm feeling tonight.

Life is moving on. And of course I know my dad is watching and smiling. I know he's even smiling as he watches me, the emotional one, work through and process all of this with excitement, tears, and finally... writing.

I know he'll be there. I suspect he will even make his presence known.

And I know he's proud that we all keep moving. That we all face the challenges in our lives and keep moving, moving, moving, trying new things and not shying away from the things that seem hard.

We all just... keep... running.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Royally Entranced

Yes, I’m going to blog about it.

Today was the big “Royal Wedding” between Prince William and Kate Middleton. Facebook has been jumping all morning long and there seem to be two extremes of people... those who got up early to watch the wedding and those who want everyone in the royal family to vanish from the face of the Earth.

Maybe not that extreme, but there seem to be very few people who truly feel ambivalent. Most either love or hate all the media attention and “hype” surrounding this historical event (and it IS history, regardless of your opinion of the attention paid to it.)

I’m not sure why, but I’ve felt a need to defend against the naysayers. I didn’t really “plan” to get up and watch the wedding when it began at 5am CST, but I woke up just as the big moment was starting and so I watched. (For the record, it’s beyond “extremely unusual” for me to wake up that early so I took it as a sign that deep down, I really wanted to watch. Sometimes watching things recorded isn’t enough, when I have a chance to watch history happen LIVE, I tend to gravitate toward it.) Even Edgar commented on how funny it was to see me awake when he got up for work, since I do tend to place a very high value on sleep.

Anyways, as I drove around this morning running errands, I kept thinking about all the negative comments people had thrown out there. My mind has been racing, so this is my attempt (as always) to quiet it down.

First off, when did we become so darned negative? A wedding is a CELEBRATION of LOVE and HAPPINESS. When two people love each other enough to stand before God and everyone they know (and maybe a couple billion they don’t) and profess their intention to love each other until death... why do we immediately turn to skepticism? Shouldn’t we be rejoicing? Shouldn’t we feel happy for them? Shouldn’t we take the opportunity to reflect on our own relationships and the milestones we have celebrated in our own lives?

Why instead do so many turn to negativity? Will these two stay married? Who knows? In reality, I figure every marriage has a 50/50 chance of lasting. Forget statistics, it’s simple math - either you stay together, or you don’t. Period. None of us starts out with better than 50/50 odds. But we all (or at least most of us) do start out with the intention to carry through with the promise we are making. Does that sometimes change? Sure. Does it mean the love wasn’t real at the time? I don’t think so. I have certainly loved more than one man in my lifetime (it’s ok, my husband knows this!) and I think I have even encountered more than one soulmate. It was not just love and connection that led me to marry the man I did, it was also about timing and circumstances. My parents loved each other, but they got divorced. My dad and stepmom loved each other, but they got divorced. It happens. And it doesn’t take away from what they felt on their wedding day. Rainbows don’t last either, but I believe they are real while we can see them.

Being a member of a “royal family” doesn’t ensure a “happily ever after.”

NONE of us are ever guaranteed that.

But I’ve found the subject of the royals also brings out other emotions in people. They are wealthy, and certainly have power most of us can’t begin to understand. What’s more is that they did nothing to earn either of those things other than happen to be born into the right family. It’s not “our” tradition, but the monarchy is a long-standing tradition in England and it seems to carry with it a number of old-fashioned values and belief systems. Members of the Royal family are still human, and of course they fall victim to the same sins any of us “mere mortals” do. (With the added disadvantage of it becoming world-wide news) So they’re not perfect of course, but they do seem to follow some basic etiquette and moral compass that a lot of us could probably learn from.

Discretion. Manners. Service. Charity.

So while on the one hand, we rebuke the “antiquated” system of a monarchy and the so-obvious-to-us unwarranted power and prestige it bestows upon unworthy subjects, on the other hand we talk about the need to return to more traditional, time-honored, old-fashioned values. We complain that kids don’t respect their elders or find self-motivation to help others. They’re rude and impertinent. They don’t know their “place.”

So which is it?

We complain about the amount of money spent on an extravaganza like today’s wedding and how that money could be put to better use helping the poor and underprivileged. When we don’t like how someone with more money than we have is spending their wealth, we are quick to criticize their actions.

But on the other hand, we all know that money doesn’t “buy happiness.” Money doesn’t make everything better.

So which is it?

We complain that the news is always doom and gloom and never has anything good or happy to report.

Then we complain that so much media attention is being focused on this wedding, when there is real suffering and pain and crises in our world.

So which is it?

Look, I’m not trying to defend the monarchy. I don’t even disagree with ANY of the above statements but I try hard to see things fairly without talking out of both sides of my mouth.

It’s their money, and I think they should spend it as they want to. Princess Diana was the same age I am now when she died, and yet she served on or chaired the boards of more than 100 different service organizations in her short life. Some may say I’m an “over-achiever” in the volunteering department, but even I can’t imagine matching that. Unless, maybe if I was a Princess who had access and resources available to me as a result of my status in life. Power CAN be used for good.

And I think that sometimes, a little old-fashioned etiquette and rules following is a good thing. Actually, I’m a BIG stickler for following “rules.” It’s probably a weakness, but I digress...

Sure, there are other more pressing "issues" happening in our world today. But depriving myself of enjoying this event isn't going to make them better. What WILL help is my attitude. I choose to be positive. Gas prices are crazy high. But it's just money. I still have my health and my family - and today's wedding reminds me of that. I hope and pray and pray and hope I will be around to see my own children's life milestones. I recognize there are no guarantees, no matter "who" you are.

But at the end of it all... here is what I saw today when I watched the wedding.

I saw a beautiful woman beaming with love and with incredible grace and poise - knowing the whole world was watching her but not showing the slightest sign of fear or trepidation.

I saw a man and his brother standing at the altar - and it literally took my breath away because we have watched this man grow up and it seems like he suddenly became an adult.

And, I saw a man who was getting married without his mother there to see it. I felt the absence of a mother who continues to miss milestones in her sons’ lives. My heart breaks for them all. I feel the pain.

My sister was 15 when my dad died, the same age William was when his mother died. Even at 36, I sometimes can’t believe how many things will happen in my lifetime that my dad will miss.

(Let me just say - as a spiritual person, I fully believe these people are still with us and watching over and enjoying these events. But please, let’s not pretend that it’s somehow the same as if they were actually here.)

My sister is graduating from high school in three weeks. High school. It’s her first major life milestone. Her FIRST. And he is gone. She isn’t alone of course, but we all know there will be far more students there with dads (and moms) in the stands than without.

I guess, at the crux of it all, is that I watched the wedding and I did not see a Prince and Princess. I saw a young man and woman who seem to be very much in love, taking a major step in their lives. The same step I took 12 years ago and have watched countless other couples take.

They may have money, but it comes with restrictions on freedom and certain expectations. “To whom much is given, much is expected,” no? They also still have loss and pain.

They really aren’t so unlike all of us, on the most basic, human level.

Today, they have love.

I think it’s worth celebrating.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

A Day in the Life of Ainsley - age (almost) 16 months

7:20am - Hey! What was that? Sounded like my big brother Aidan slamming the toilet lid! Thank goodness he did that or I might have slept in today and since everyone else is already up and leaving for wherever it is they go all day, I KNOW mommy wants me to get up too! Some days I don’t get up until after everyone else has already left and mommy always looks so lonely. I’d better start yelling so she knows to come and get me!

8:30am - Better start asking for some breakfast. Nursing was great but it’s time to sink my teeth into some toast too!

9:30am - Mommy is dozing on the couch. I don’t know why Sesame Street puts her to sleep, it’s one of the few shows I find really fascinating! Oh well, I will sit here in my little chair and watch... but just for a little bit.

10:00am - Got my exercise done for the day. I crawled all over mommy on the couch for about 20 minutes... phew, what a workout!

10:30am - I see mommy’s heading to the bathroom. I’d better go with her and be sure to shut the door behind us! I don’t want her to be lonely in there. But while I’m there, I’ll try reorganizing the garbage can to keep me busy.

11:00am - Mommy opened the refrigerator to make lunch. Oh boy the things I can get into in there! I found a bottle of strawberry syrup and drank some. Mommy just laughed and took my picture. Kind of feeling a little sugar rush now...

11:15am - Turns out, I like egg salad too! Who knew? I ate 2 little egg salad sandwiches... got to keep my energy up!

1:00pm - Mommy thought it was probably time for me to take a nap, and really I’m too tired to arrrggguuuee...zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

3:45pm - I’m up! Looks like the “guys” are all back home from wherever it is they go every day too, and we’re off to Wal-Mart. Mommy says Elisabeth needs a birthday gift for a friend and we need a few things for dinner and some new socks for the boys. Boy, we sure spend a lot of time in this store! I’ve learned that mommy moves faster when I start standing up in my seat in the cart. And don’t think that strap thing is any use... I know just how to get out of it in no time flat! It makes the old ladies in the aisles nervous but I usually just smile and wave at them so they stop and talk to us anyway. Today we got all the way back out to the car with our stuff when mommy realized she hadn’t paid for something on the bottom of the cart. So, back in we went. Guess mommy got her exercise today too!

5:15pm - Time to drop Elisabeth off at soccer practice. Ethan is going to stay here too, but I’m going to stay with mommy. She said we have to go buy some stuff at Elisabeth’s dance studio, and then we are going home! I guess Elisabeth has a big dance event coming up... geez these brothers and sister of mine are busy! It’s a good thing my car seat is so comfortable because I spend a LOT of time in it! (Don't worry, this picture is a few weeks old and my mommy fixed that turned around strap protector thing!)

6:15pm - We’re home now and I’m trying really hard to help mommy. I noticed that earlier she messed up all the work I did decorating the family room and the kitchen with my toys, so I’m going to work on that. I think mommy is feeling a little lonely without me right by her too so I’m making sure to cry every time she walks out of my sight, even for just a minute. This girl who comes by a lot (I think her name is Jordan and mommy must be helping her get ready for some big competition or something?) came over for a few minutes tonight. She wasn’t here long, but I showed her how good I am at knocking things off of shelves while she was here. I also showed her how good I am at holding on to mommy’s legs and crying. Luckily, mommy took the cue pretty quickly and found something for me to play with right next to her. I guess she needed to get some paperwork done or something, so I finally let her do it.

7:00pm - Mommy gave me some green beans and cheese. Nobody else is eating yet but she must have realized I’m getting really hungry. I wonder how she knows? Eventually everybody got home and sat down to eat and she gave me some more beans and some fish. I ate all of that, plus a roll and some Pringles I sweet talked daddy into later.

8:00pm - These other kids sure are fun. They messed up my family room decorations too (mommy told them to) but they made up for it by playing hide ‘n seek with me. Daddy tickled me and made me laugh really loud - mommy said that was kind of a surprise because daddy is not usually a good tickler.

8:30pm - For some reason, everybody seems to laugh a lot when I make these faces. Ethan taught it to me. First, you tuck your chin way down in to your neck and then you look up at the person in front of you without smiling. Then you stick your chin and neck way out and make a “pa pa pa” sound with your lips, and then you start giggling. I don’t know why they like it so much but it sure is funny every time I do it! I also gave a bunch of kisses on the lips tonight, they love it when I do that too. I guess I’m pretty good entertainment sometimes.

9:00pm - Heading upstairs now. I sure love these warm, soft and fuzzy pink pajamas mommy put on me. I think she said Elisabeth used to wear them too? I don’t know, but they sure are comfy! Mommy and I sat in the recliner in her room and nursed for a few minutes. Now that I’m older, it’s harder and harder for me to sit still very long so I got a nice drink and then tried to get down and play. Mommy said it was time for bed though, so she laid me down with my blanket and my favorite toy “Violet” and turned out the lights. I guess I am pretty tired, because I didn’t even make a sound. Sometimes I fuss for a few minutes but never very long. I guess mommy doesn’t like that Ferber guy very much so she just waits until I’m good and tired and it usually works out ok. At least it’s fine when we’re at home but when we stay in a hotel I really try to switch things up on her.

You know, mommy seemed kind of tired today and I’m not sure why because I haven’t gotten her up at night for a couple of weeks now. Hmmm. I think that big wedding in England is happening tonight so maybe if I wake her up tonight she won’t even mind so much? Well, we’ll see what the night briiinngggsszzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.


Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Packrats Anonymous

I think I have always been a "packrat."

I consider it a side effect of my sincere, severe sentimentality. I hold on to things because of the memories they evoke and because so many times I've had those "I'm so glad I kept this" moments.

As a result, I've had some of my "stuff" scattered at various places around town. My old ten-speed bike and prom dresses were at my grandparents' house. My wedding gown and every newspaper story I wrote in the year I worked full-time for the Pekin Times were stowed away at my dad's house. My old dollhouse and speech trophies are still waiting for me to recover them from my dad's old house, where my former stepmom still lives.

But since losing my dad and my grandpa and having to pack up and clean out both of their homes, I think I might be turning over a new leaf. Fresh off of the two-week stint of emptying out and dividing up my dad's belongings, we rented a dumpster for our own house and have been steadily emptying and re-organizing our basement.

It is a project that has been five years in the making. The basement was literally the first place we started moving stuff to when our house was inhabitable, and much of what was down there really shouldn't have been, or shouldn't have been saved at all. But we didn't have time for proper weeding out when we moved so we just got it in and figured we'd do it later.

Later finally came. And not a moment too soon, because Edgar and I both were getting anxiety attacks any time we had to go in the basement for even the simplest of things. Not only were things not organized in what had become our dumping ground, but the chaos had been exacerbated by frequent floodings that had us scurrying to move stuff out of water and to dry ground, wherever that might be.

So we dug in and took our time and now we happily walk into the basement with a bounce in our step. Not only do I know where things are, I also now have a place to put things. Earlier today I noticed a stray winter decoration and a card table sitting in the guest room/office. No problem... I now know just where they can go in the basement! I was practically giddy as I put them away.

But even better than the organization we have created is the feeling of freedom from having let go of "stuff." We've thrown the broken and unsafe and unusable into the dumpster. We've created a section of basement dedicated to "garage sale" or "just plain donation" stuff. I even went through old boxes of mementos and got serious about what I really need to save. Maybe it's the image of my kids having to do what I have just done - twice in the past six months - but suddenly the corsages from high school dances in the ziploc bag seemed just well, silly. I threw away dozens of photographs - previously a big no-no in my mind, but they really are starting to overwhelm. Plus, I know there are duplicates (and sometimes triplicates) of them already sitting in boxes waiting to be organized "someday."

Don't get me wrong, I'm still sentimental. And it does sometimes pay off.

In a photo album, I found this - right where I knew it would be, although the album itself has been buried and somewhat MIA since we moved here.

(Ok, having trouble uploading a picture but keep reading and you'll get the idea!)

It is a letter written by my dad and given to me on my Confirmation Day in 1989.

It is three pages long, typed - and much of his prose is devoted to the subject of death and more specifically, life after death. Here is some of what he had to say:

"I KNOW that there is life after what we know as death. Life after death is a TRUTH. Consider this: What we come to know as TRUTHS in this life is largely a result of opposites... of converses. For instance: to really experience happiness, we must experience unhappiness. To know joy, we must know sadness.

And what of this thing we call death? Well, without LIFE, there could be no DEATH. That is a TRUTH. I am convinced that the converse is also a TRUTH... that without DEATH there can be no LIFE."

Anyone who heard my eulogy for my dad may remember I quoted C.S. Lewis from "The Shadowlands" about how the pain now is part of the joy then, that's "the deal." It was one of my dad's favorite movies and was actually introduced to him by me when I performed an excerpt of the play for Speech competitions in high school. Interestingly though, "Shadowlands" came to us years after he had written the letter.

I'm sure it goes without saying what this letter means to me. I have a few letters my dad wrote me over the years, but this one has the most depth. I almost felt him reaching across the divide that currently separates us as I read this letter again.

Reminding me, teaching me, comforting me... helping to heal me.

He wrote, "God has given you many blessings, not the least of which is an excellent mind. You have wit, you have musical talent and appreciation. You are a caring and loving and giving person. You show a genuine concern for those around you and you possess a conviction to be of help... to make a difference. I have watched you grow in your maturity of faith, through instruction. I have watched you grow in maturity of judgment through experience. And I have come to realize that one of the many blessings God has bestowed upon me is a daughter named Shannon."

He says at the beginning that the letter will be "heavy stuff." And it definitely is. But in case this is just too emotional, here's something else he wrote:

"In a certain sense, confirmation is a rite of passage into adulthood. There will be others. Your first REAL love of another human being as a helpmate, a partner, a spouse. Your first full sexual experience. Your first hangover. (I assume these all to be future experiences, but it doesn't matter.)


This letter is one of my treasures, and tonight it's being moved from the photo album to a safer location.

Sometimes it really pays to be a packrat.