Friday, February 22, 2013

Taking time when you don't have the time

I so don't have time to be blogging right now. But sometimes when things are at their craziest, that's when you most need to just stop and forget everything for a few minutes. At least that's what I've learned. When I think I don't have a moment to spare...that's really when I need to drop everything and go to lunch with a friend or watch a silly comedy or have a cup of tea and watch some senseless You Tube video. Or sometimes I need to blog and just get everything off my chest. After a little break, I feel so much better and like I have a better handle on things.

My week has been one of running and running and's included taking kids to music lessons, confirmation class, sport sign-ups, doing interviews for work (including a really enjoyable, lengthy, in-person one with a World War II vet -- those always are kind of a slap in the face to count your blessings), doing more shopping than I'm used to, typing up loose ends and attending meetings for upcoming events and programs and meetings, getting ready for a science fair, baking cakes for a Cub Scout dinner (which has an outer space them and has me searching for edible accessories to assemble a replica of our solar system -- the things we do for our kids! LOL), trying to plan out outfits for our seven family members for my sister's upcoming wedding, several work deadlines, trying to keep up on mountains of laundry, reading at my kids' school, corresponding with so many people I just can't keep up (I am averaging 500 new e-mails a day in one of three e-mail inboxes) and I am just totally burned out at the moment.

And as soon as one task is done and I think I can breath, I realize another pressing one needs to be taken care of immediately. The next few days - or weeks for that matter - are looking like much of the same. Tomorrow 3 kids have bowling league, 1 has theatre class, two have an area science fair, two have Cub scout dinner. Have to figure out how to get to as many of those things as possible. Think bowling might have to get crossed off the list. And then Sunday is covering a work event. Monday is a big program I'm helping coordinate for the historical society, Tues, a meeting and being guest speaker at an event, Wed I am a "celebrity" reader for a family reading night, kids activities Thurs, meeting on Fri, work event Sat., big community event Sunday...and it just goes on and on. It's all stuff that I love to do...that's why I just can't say no to any of it. Looking ahead at next month, every day has at least one entry scribbled on the calendar. Some are so full that the writing spills over into the next day. But, I do like to be busy and I am grateful that I have good health and the ability to be busy.

Ok, break time is over. Back to work. :)

Thursday, February 14, 2013

A Valentine's look back at how it all began

I was a quiet, shy 14-year-old high school freshman when I met Paul. My best friend, Jenny, was dating Paul's best friend, Todd, and they introduced us. I met him briefly in March of 1987 when we were all together at a park. Being the shy girl I was, I barely looked his way. I don't think I said a single word to him. A month later, Jenny and Todd invited me to hang out and Paul joined, too. The thing to do at that time if you had a car was to head out to B.A. (a dirty beach in an industrial area on Lake Michigan, which became known as Beercan Alley) and drink or make out or both. We went out to B.A. where the two of us sat on a rock in the cold air. We talked a little. He was a big jokester. I was sure he wouldn't be interested in me. He was a high school senior. Still I sat next to him hoping maybe he'd kiss me. He didn't.

Here's us around 1989

And 2013

The following Friday night was April 10. This time Jenny and Todd were setting us up on a double date. According to Jenny, he really did like me. When we went to pick him up that night, he wasn't home. Being in the days before cell phones, we had no clue where he was. I was sure I'd been ditched and stood up. We stopped back a couple more times and he wasn't there. I was so disappointed. I wondered where he was.

Before heading home, we made one more stop at Paul's and he was there. It turned out that his sister had a baby that day and he'd become an uncle for the first time. He'd been at the hospital the whole evening. We had a fun time hanging out. The night ended with a little game of "Truth or Dare" in the car in the Denny's parking lot. On a dare, I finally got my kiss. After that we were inseparable.

When I was 16, he proposed to me in a downtown restaurant in front of his sister and grandmother and took me on a carriage ride. I spent the next two years hiding that engagement ring and putting it on my finger as soon as I was out of the house.

Once I graduated high school, we started making wedding plans. He was four years older and by then had a good job and had saved up enough to pay for our wedding, our honeymoon and a down payment on our first home.

So, here we's been almost 26 years since we first met. We've been married for 21 years. We have five children. And it all started with a funny guy trying to make a shy girl laugh.

Over the years we've been through a lot. We continue to grow and learn more about eachother. We continue to fall more in love.

I cherish many things that have occurred over the years, like some of things he says that are so meaningful. One that comes to mind is when I was fretting over people not liking me and that all the writing I was doing was a waste of time. He told me "You don't know how many secret admirers you have. I meet people all the time who see my last name and tell me they love reading your column in the paper." He said that just when I really needed to hear it.

There have been some valentine's days that really stick out. One was before we had kids and I was in college. I'd worked all day and gone straight to classes and didn't see him that day for Valentine's Day. When I got into my car after class, there was a box of candy and a card. I loved that he took time out to go find my car in the parking lot and leave that for me. Another time was when he hid presents for me all over the house and left notes with each one to give clues on where to find the next. It was a fun and well-thought-out scavenger hunt. And another Valentine's I'll never forget was my first as a new mom. He took over baby duty, doing the feeding and bathing and changing of the baby and putting him to bed and filling a bathtub for me with bubbles and rose petals floating on top, surrounded by candles.

After so many years together, I can still get butterflies in my stomach when he looks at me. I miss him so much when we are apart. With over two decades under our belt, it often feels like we're still on our honeymoon. And I hope that feeling never goes away.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

If it makes you happy

Parents want their kids to be happy. Sometimes they give in a little too much to accommodate their happiness. Sometimes they try to block that happiness in the name of practicality. Sometimes the parents just think they know better.

And it all depends on the stage in parenting and there's a fine line. You can't give kids everything that makes them happy. If we all did that we'd have a society of cranky, sleep deprived, sugar buzzed, lazy kids. We have to step in and steer them in the right direction even if it causes some unhappiness.

When they grow up its an entirely different ball game. They often know better than you do what makes them happy. They still could use our guidance, but once they're past that magic age of 18, your input isn't always what matters most and it doesn't hold the same weight it always did.

Last spring I became the parent of an adult. It still blows my mind that my baby is grown up. And as he neared graduation and I tried to steer him in the direction I thought was best for him, he wasn't interested. He wanted nothing more than to follow in his dad's footsteps and do what he's been dreaming about since he was 3-years-old - being a firefighter.

He'd been a cadet and not long after turning 18 became a probationary firefighter and enrolled in the fire academy. There will always be a part of me inside sighing and wondering why he can't just get a desk job so his mom won't have to worry. But, I don't want him to make me happy. I want him to be happy.

In reality, I am so stinkin' proud. I really am. It's just a lot of worry for one mom with both a husband and a son in a profession that can be pretty dangerous. There is a good amount of downtime and there's a lot of routine stuff that gets done that isn't remotely dangerous, like washing a rig. That's what I tell myself all the time. Then I talk to hubby after a shift and he mentions that he extricated someone from a vehicle or performed CPR on someone and I remember how truly important and amazing the job is that he does everyday and I'm in awe of him.

Last night my son was gone at the fire station until long after I'd been in bed (something that's been hard for me to adjust to), so I didn't see him until this morning. He walked in the room with the biggest smile I think I've ever seen on him. When I asked what was up, he told me he'd gone to his first fire. Ah, I remembered when his dad went on his first call and when he worked his first fire. I understood why he was so excited.

He's literally dreamed of being a firefighter since he was 3. That's when my husband joined the fire department. As a preschooler, he memorized every piece of equipment the department had. He played dispatcher with the phone, taking emergency calls and sending out crews. He dressed in authentic kid-sized turnout gear we bought him and did countless stuffed animal rescues. He attended a local junior fire academy as many times as he could before he got too old for it. Then he went back as a helper. He tagged along as much as he could when his dad was at the firehouse, stopping there with him for a cup of coffee or to check his mailbox. He memorized the numbers on every fire hydrant in town. He was in love at a young age with the fire service and seemed destined to be part of it and as much as I tried to deny it, he's even more in love with it now.

If it was really entirely up to me, he'd be working a desk job right now or away from home on a college campus. But it's not up to me. It's up to him. And really, I do just want for him to be happy no matter what path he chooses. And that smile said it all. He's doing something that makes him happier than I think I've ever seen him. How could I want him to do anything else?

Life is like a box of chocolates

Life is like a box of chocolates. I always loved that line from Mama Gump that Tom Hanks would repeat. (Insert Southern Drawl...) "Mama always said, 'Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get."

The year has started off much that way. You never know. One day things are smooth sailing. The next, you're in a room in ICU wearing a facemask. That's how the new year started off. Three days in, the kids had been off school. We'd just returned from a nice little family trip to Amish Country right after Christmas. It had been a nice holiday. I made some resolutions (all related to my foodie blog), so hubby and I had gone out for a nice dinner using a gift card I'd won for an online recipe contest. Things were going good.

Then as I was waltzing through KMart with two of the boys who were eager to spend their Christmas Cash, I noticed I had a voice mail. My husband was taking my father-in-law to the hospital. He was conscious, but just not responding to anything. He has stage 4 lung cancer and had just finished up his chemotherapy and radiation treatments, but we'd seen him on Christmas and he talked about how he hadn't seen much as far as side effects other than some weight loss. I'm sure there was more to it, but he didn't say so. Anyway, it turned out he was dehydrated and we thought some fluids would get him back on the right track. But then there was an infection he was fighting. And chest pains. And very low blood counts, causing the need for transfusions. And just more and more bad news. He wasn't eating, was terribly thin, had lost much of his hair and I suspect as a side effect of the medications was in a scary state with eyes rolling all over, not talking. Things gradually got a little better, but it was apparent that he wouldn't be back to the guy he was before he went into the hospital. He's improving little by little, but after more than 3 weeks of laying in a bed, getting up and moving again is moving slowly.

He's in home hospice care and improving a little with time. Although we know he has cancer and know that it isn't curable, you just don't expect someone to be walking and talking and going about life one day and barely hanging on the next. And it's been difficult for the kids to witness.

Yes, life is like box of chocolates. You never know what you're going to get. But it is full of sweet stuff that you need to sink your teeth into while you have the chance. Those chocolates might not be there tomorrow. But right now they're in front of you to enjoy. Seize the day and don't let that box of chocolates get away even if it throws you some curveballs.