Taking Stock

I may not be the sharpest knife in the drawer, but I am a well-rounded spoon! -me

On my recent trip to the San Francisco area, I experienced a small earthquake. It was significant enough that the other people (who I assume are natives to the area and not all tourists like myself) became quiet, on vigil for any further rumblings of the earth.

To have a brick building move while you are in it – on the second floor – is just a tad disconcerting. If our second floor room overlooking the wine bar below had suddenly found itself on the first, we all could have been hurt, maybe even seriously – most likely quite shaken.

As the conversation around me and below started back up, I took a moment to take stock.

I was around people that I had just met that day, and a few just the day before. I was also with people I loved – my husband, my son and my Southern son and his siblings and boyfriend. If we had been injured or perhaps perished, how would I feel about what my life?

I would feel that I left many things unfinished, not said and not traveled some roads that beckoned. And that is the reason for buckle lists and soul revealing heart-to-hearts.

I know that I raised one child to be an independent, responsible man with common sense and a tender heart. I also shared our home and love with Southern son. He too, is independent, caring and responsible. I know they will be fine.

I am blessed with many friends – old and new. I am fortunate to have gained more by working on my high school reunion last year. More bridges were built in that time.

I have spent my empty nest life exploring new and creative things like hot glass, floral arranging, drawing, painting and especially writing. The experiences have given me greater confidence in my gifts.

There are several trips I’d like to make yet. This is where the bucket list will begin.

Looking at the above, there is one more thing this stock is missing – spending more time with family and friends. I try to make the most of each visit, each email, text or gathering. I should carve out more time to see them. Tell them how much I love them.

Is May 17th too late to make a new year’s resolution? I don’t think so. I think ever day is a great one to set that goal. Any goal.

Let the bucket list begin!

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Loving Someone Else’s Child

In earning my parenting stripes of an only child, I have always felt it was my duty to make all his friends feel welcome in our home. As my sister-in-law would say, “mi casa, su casa”.

In our hockey parenting days, one father once said, “There isn’t a kid on this team that if he showed up on my doorstep in need, I wouldn’t hesitate to help him.” So true!  When my father-in-law passed away a few years ago, his funeral wasn’t filled with fellow 95 year olds, it was a true mix of generations. Those boys from the hockey team came to pay their respects for one of the grandpas who talked to them and nurtured them. Even after these many years, I wouldn’t turn away any of them that came to my door.

Over the years we have had many children in our home and perhaps the ones we feel closest to are our son’s college friends. They are such a great group of guys. But there is a bond with one of the boys – now a man that we treasure.

In my son’s sophomore year of college, he arranged to rent a bedroom in a house owned by the parents of a friend. We made several trips down there and met the family. They were a more strict family from the Bible Belt then our laidback style up north. I was cautious, but respectful.

One day we heard about the severing of this boy and his parents’ relationship. His friends and us rallied around him when his parents pulled the financial assistance they offered and helped get him in positions to make up fr the financial loss. We offered our home.

For just about every Christmas and family gathering, this young man has become a part our family. We are his Northern family and he is our Southern Son. When he was away in the Peace Corps, we video chatted with. We learned of his endeavors and his quest for further education. He is amazing.

This past Christmas, Southern Son presented me with a plane ticket to his graduation on the West coast. I am the mother he wants there as he receives his Master’s degree. It is a humbling moment for me. Others in my family will be joining us and I’m both glad and proud of how our family stepped up to fill the empty spaces in his life. I hope he knows he has enriched all our lives by being a part of this crazy bunch. (Remember, we put the fun in dysfunctional!)

How would I feel if the shoe had been on the other foot? Since I only have one child, I would be bereft at the loss. But, I know that neither my husband or I would have cut ties or put restrictions on our son’s lifestyle. He is free to live as he chooses and love who he loves. There has always been several lines of communication with both – our own son and our Southern Son.

So I thank Southern Son’s biological family – for giving us the opportunity to extend our family and share our love. At one time I would have felt sorry for you – for your narrow mindedness, your inability to bend and to love all your children equally. I thank you for your cold heart and not loving all God has given you in your pius Christian life.

I pray that you one day before it’s too late, you learn to bend, open your eyes and hearts and accept all that God has gifted you. Should ever be ready to reach out and need help, my husband and I are here for you.

In the meantime, we have gained and love your beautiful and caring son.

The Bane of My Existence

I love to travel.

Except for one thing – packing. No matter how many days I work on the list of what to pack, what to buy, what to wear on the flight and what to get done before I go, it is the execution of packing that escapes me.

I watch YouTube videos, make note of little tricks quoted or displayed in magazines and update my list every day. The week before a trip, I am carefully considering, the weather of my destination, and what color scheme I should stay with to eliminate overpacking. Yet. when the day comes that the suitcases are laid out, I know I have pulled aside too many clothes, and way too many shoes. No matter how hard I try, I have twice as many clothes as my husband – ditto with the shoes.

And now I have to choose – eliminate one or two great outfits. I hate having to make that decision. Why can’t I take them all? Who knows what I’m going to feel like wearing until that morning – or that moment?

Where did I go wrong? Interchangeable clothes for most days, including the days traveling, toiletries, iPad, cell phone and their chargers – see? The bare necessities. The phone and iPad are essential because they are my e-readers. (If you find me staring at my phone, it’s because I’m reading, not texting, or searching the internet.)

The summer before last, my husband and I traveled to Europe and were quite proud of the fact we brought only one suitcase for both of us for the ten day trip. The kaviatt was we knew we would be bringing home most of our son’s clothes with us. He was graduating from the University of Gothenburg, Sweden and would be travelling with friends through parts of Europe and to see a friend in the PEace Corps in Mongolia.

So we had to fit clothes, hockey skates and momentos into a hockey bag – the size of which you could fit a couple of bodies. The kicker was that we knew it would be not only oversized but overweight as well. When we presented the lovely people at the airline counter the third bag we were carrying with us, that was when we got hit with the outrageous fee of $150 because it’s odd shape – his hockey sticks. For that price I could have bought him one!

It’s funny how they will charge you all that money for baggage, yet make you run circles around baggage claim to find the oversized baggage department. For that price, an airport employee should be running around in a golf cart with all those great pieces of luggage – but do the size or shape it’s been relegated to “baggage”. Boy, how true is that! Not only was it to carry physical instead of mental baggage, but a hit in the wallet as well.

So as I get ready for another trip, I’m hoping I haven’t repeated my previous mistakes. We shall soon see…

Photo by Anugrah Lohiya from Pexels

 

Control, Alt, Delete

Sometimes it takes me a while to learn my lessons.

The grocery store was running a promotional game based on that “Get Out of Jail Free” game – you know the one. At the start of the “game” you get a “board” and “game pieces”. The amount of game pieces given out depends on your purchases every week (or three times a week in my case). Grand prizes of a $1million or a million dollar vacation home are enticing. But I’m more of the realistic kind – I’m more likely to win the $25 grocery card than anything else offered as prizes.

Today, after spending almost an hour on opening a three-inch thick stack of playing pieces, I threw away the game board, the hundreds of playing pieces that were duplicates of those I already had. All that work and I didn’t gain any new pieces!  My board was filled with all but one in each prize level.

I was just one away from winning something! Anything!

I have to admit, if I had “won” the five dollar grocery gift card or cash after all those weeks of tearing, sorting and organizing the pieces in numerical order, I probably would have shoved it somewhere on some unsuspecting store employee.

So I shoved that dark and demented side of me back down in its Pandora’s Box and said ‘NO MORE’!

I reminded myself that I actually avoided it last time the game was offered because the same thing happened – nothing, nada, zilch.

It’s also the same reason that I stopped collecting the stamps for free or discounted dinnerware or the time cookware was offered. By the time you added up how much it would cost in grocery purchases to get the entire set, I had to spend thousands of dollars in groceries.

For two people, that wasn’t gonna happen.

So this time, I have taken a solemn vow to myself that no longer will I let those savvy advertising jerks in a skyscraper yank my chain over board games with empty promises or reach for what I cannot achieve unless I spend oodles of money.

I’m resetting my brain – control..alt..delete.

Ah, Spring!

It was just after dinner when I caught the briefest glimpse of yellow in my backyard. A zing of excitement shot through me.

Not only was this possible to see in the early evening because of the time change to daylight savings, but also because we haven’t had snow in almost a week. The temperature hasn’t climbed to our satisfaction yet, but we’re on our way to reveling in Spring.

It’s funny how for weeks we were suffering in a January that’s lasted 120 days, and suddenly we are creeping above freezing. Just yesterday there was frost on the cars and lawn. But a shot of yellow in my peripheral vision of a lonely daffodil was comforting.

As if there is a secret code for spring flowers to bloom, our snowdrops finally opened and some little blue flower is winking as I walk by it in the morning and evening.

It’s all the encouragement I need to know that summer isn’t far away. Here in the Midwest, Spring can last two months, or two weeks. Since it took Mother Nature the month of March and April to figure when she would be returning to her job, it’s looking more like Spring will be a month tops before the sweltering, withering heat of summer hits.

 

Photo by Travis Saylor from Pexels

Removing the Mask

In writing, especially in dramatic novels (be it romance or mysteries), there is a point when a character removes the mask they wear and reveal their true self – be it in actions, by words or both.

Just as my characters invade my brain before I fall asleep, I jump into their skin, so to speak, to get in touch with them – know how they think, what they are hiding and how they feel – outwardly and inward.

So this week I had a new experience.

In planning this year’s Rotary gala, we purchased some masks to hand out and use as decorations. Our theme this year is “Venetian Night”. When they arrived I was stunned at their beauty. The colors and glittering affects will have people trying to decide which color they want!

A few of us slipped some on to see how we would look.

As the mask closed around my face, I immediately felt the excitement of holding a part of myself safe while parts of my mind rushed to see what side of me I wanted to reveal by wearing the mask.

Did I want to see these sides of my personality come to the forefront: the Clown, the Romantic, the Naughty? But I let the Writer come through to share this experience – to sense what parts of my mind were warring with each other for dominance. I allowed my writer being to embrace the freedom of being a different part of myself for the outside world.

But what about those who wear the mask for self- preservation? To hide the Victim, the Bullied, the Recluse or those that are unsympathetic. To live your life unable to be free from the inside out must be a solitary one.

Now I can understand the mask can be both a lock and a key – it keeps the less liked attributes huddled in the corner. I feel for the people imprisoned behind a mask, and revel with those who are free to be themselves.

Those knowing how it feels are the women and men of the #Metoo movement. They have removed the Victim mask and shouted out loud and clear – NO MORE!

For those still afraid to remove themselves from their self imposed prisons, I encourage you to take that that first step. If you can’t do it by yourself, seek help. It’s time you are free to be you.

Unless you’re a serial killer…

 

photo by: me!

April is a Bitch

Did you know there’a a warrant out for Punxsatawney Phil?

It’s true! I heard it on the news (fake or otherwise) and then scurried to my computer when I got home to follow up on this. After all, if they’d have told me that the ground hog in “Caddyshack” had an A.P.B. (all points bulletin) out on him, I’ve have laughed until my sides split.

Not anymore.

You see, like another Bill Murray movie, “Groundhog Day”, we are being assaulted by April’s inability to get out of the loop of snow, sun, rain, snow, no sun, rain, snow. And this is just the second week!

So the upstanding Depew police department in upstate New York, has taken the reins and arrested Winter and issued a warrant for that overfed and lying Phil. Now we can relax, right? I mean it’s all under control now. The police will find Mother Nature sipping margaritas in her Central American hacienda and wake Phil up (under multiple layers of polar fleece).

This week we were hit with snow on Monday (a day after April Fools’ Day – duly noted) followed by gray skies and rain turning into snow. Yesterday was sunny but about normal for this month (about time!) and today we’ll be in the 60’s (remember: cooler near the lake!) while the western suburbs will hit 70. Tomorrow will be a repeat.

I broke out my colors! Gone this week were the grays and black, staples of my winter wardrobe. The past couple of days have been splashed with turquoise and willow green. Tomorrow could be coral (the hot color this year) – my options are endless!

But hold on!

Don’t pack those winter colors away! This weekend will be raining and snowy. Which is code for cold and miserable. After all the snow this country has seen this winter, it’s no surprise we’re anxious for warmer days, a riot of flowers and less mud. Even if it means I have to begin taking my allergy pills.

So, April, I’m putting you on notice – you’d better shape up or you’ll find yourself an accomplice to Winter and that lying, lazy Phil!