All Our Love

I’m a year older today.

Yes, today was my birthday.

In a lot of ways I really do feel older. A lot of the situations I’m facing now are decidedly adult. I never fully understood the phrase hard choices until recently.

But I also don’t feel any different than I did 5 years ago.

The day felt much, much different, though, than last year.

Last year the day basically came and went. I wasn’t working, and my parents did go along with my wishes, but that’s all they did. Actually, it’s not fair to my dad to say they. He really tried to make the day special for me. My mom just went along. I never heard a “Happy Birthday!” from her, never got a card signed “Love, Mom and Dad.” My niece and nephew were also with us all day, so that’s a different dynamic all on its own. We did the birthday stuff, but it didn’t feel special.

This morning, on the other hand, I was greeted with smiling faces, “Happy Birthdays” and hugs. After completing my civic duty, I headed to my other kids’ house. I had to work today and we really didn’t do anything special, but I was greeted with more smiles and “Happy Birthdays,” and gifted some cupcakes and a sweet homemade card from the kids. Their parents wrote a nice thank you note on the back. That would’ve been enough, right? Around lunchtime the kids’ grandma stopped by with a card and gift. I mean.

After the youngest went down for her morning nap, I noticed a voicemail from my brother. They all sang to me and my niece, obviously a little bit confused, kept insisting that she wanted to talk to me.

I really wasn’t expecting anything at home. My parents were gone for the evening–having dinner with some of my mom’s siblings. I was looking forward to coming home to an empty house, maybe going for a walk and getting ready for the evening.

When I walked into the kitchen, I saw flowers and cards from my parents. All our love, Mom and Dad. Cue the tears.

I was touched, to say the least, but I had to get over it and get ready for dinner.

I went out for margaritas with one of my best friends in our little waterfront hometown. This was especially rewarding because, try as we might, we hadn’t seen each other in about 4 months and a lot had happened! It was so fun to catch up and just hang out! At some point during the meal I mentioned not being used to all the attention I was receiving and she just simply replied, “Well, we all love you.”

Quite a different experience from last year.

When I got home, I decided to enjoy the sunset and take my dog for a walk and as I was admiring the sky, I started reflecting on the day and, I’m serious, I literally felt a wave of gratitude just wash over me. All of these people took the time and effort to show me they care. I’m important, I matter to them. After having some rough years when it comes to that subject, it was overwhelming to come to that conclusion.

I thought about all of the times throughout the day had said “Thank You.” And it struck me that I was in the moment and truly felt the gratitude as I said those words. Every time. But it felt bittersweet, because I can’t shake the feeling that things won’t be the same this time next year. Maybe that’s for the better, but I couldn’t let myself focus on that too long, because I wanted to soak up every last second of daylight. I couldn’t (and still can’t) let this day go.

I want to bottle it up for all those ordinary days. But while I still have the house to myself, I’m going to let myself bask in it. How many times in life do you feel truly special and completely loved? I think I owe it to myself to enjoy it.

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30 Years

I did a good thing today (yesterday for most of you reading this).

Tomorrow (today) is my parents’ 30th anniversary. They would have been happy to just let the day come and go without any kind of celebration. But I couldn’t let that happen. (I’m also the girl who wrote them a thank-you note and gave them a dinner out for my 20th birthday…)

So about two weeks ago I approached my dad with an idea for dinner out and a reservation at a swanky new hotel in town. He loved it and we decided to keep it a secret from my mom for as long as possible. The next step was getting my brother involved. He was all in.

Everything was set up; we just didn’t know how my mom was going to react to it all. We decided that it was necessary to tell her about the dinner last weekend, so she had time to warm up to the idea and so she wouldn’t plan something with someone else! But we managed to keep the hotel a secret until hours before we left.

We enjoyed an adults-only dinner in our favorite small town sipping manhattans, martinis and an old fashioned. They reminisced about the last 30 years, we cracked up talking about favorite TV shows, we shared stories about our two favorite children. We dropped them off at their hotel and the “kids” went off to get ice cream! It was an evening none of us will soon forget.

And it all started with my idea.

I mean, technically I know it all started with a blind date 31 years ago…but we wouldn’t have made those new memories tonight without my idea.

I’m letting myself bask in it tonight. We made them feel special. Appreciated. Valued. Loved. We wouldn’t be who we are without them and we needed to show them how much they mean to us.

Family can be a tricky thing. There are lots of downs, but there are also lots of ups. The really beautiful thing is that family is there for it all. We help each other through the difficult times so we can enjoy these times.

30 years ago, my parents made the crazy decision to be each other’s family, baggage and all. I am so thankful that I got to celebrate this amazing milestone with them and give them an evening to realize what a milestone it truly is.

I don’t want this night to end. I want to live in this feeling forever. At least we’ll have the memories and each other.

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Old Habits

Something miraculous happened today. Well, maybe not miraculous. But it was certainly a change for me.

I was faced with the triggering situation I’ve mentioned in other posts and I feel like I reverted back to old habits. (You know the saying!) I obsessed and felt guilty and ashamed of what I was doing.

But one thing changed.

I always end up going for a walk to try and clear my mind and when I reach a certain spot with my favorite view (I call it my mountaintop), I pause and let the emotions wash over me. Usually this ends with me clutching my phone to my chest while sobbing and feeling sorry for myself and trying to decide whether I want to burden a friend with my sob story.

But as I approached that spot today, the only way I can explain it is that it felt like I was revisiting the scene of a crime. Or the scene of a great tragedy. Things were visually very different–the big open field is starting to get developed–but it was more than that. It was that feeling a character in a suspense novel gets at the end of the story. You know, when they go back to the place where they had that really big fight and someone “accidentally” dies. (I’ve been reading a lot of those books lately…) It felt like a line was drawn. I looked around and had memories of those days, but this was a new beginning. Things were physically and emotionally very different. But also exactly the same.

As I approached the fence and started to let down my guard, I was startled by my gut reaction.

I prayed.

I actually prayed out loud for the strength and courage and confidence to get through this situation. I tried to contain sobs and admitted that I can’t do this alone and that I need help.

I was so humbled by the beauty in front of me. Yes, things were changing. There was the beginning of a road, a fire hydrant and construction trucks. But it was still the same view I’ve been admiring for years. The tall grasses still blew in the wind, the birds still flocked to the pond, the butterflies and dragonflies still floated through the grasses, the big, strong Oaks still rustled their leaves. Everything was the same and yet, everything was completely different.

I turned around, crouched down and completely lost it. The tears kept flowing as the prayer became internal.

Eventually the tears stopped and I felt the need to circle around, walk it off and return to the same spot. As I walked, I felt more and more at peace. Words and phrases kept popping up in my mind and by the time I got back to my “mountaintop” I knew what I wanted to say.

I did end up calling a friend, but not with my sob story. I explained that things have been different lately. Better. I told her I wanted to tell her more about it in person sometime soon.

I haven’t talked with anyone about my new-found faith. I’ve kept it to myself because I don’t want to be that Jesus freak. I haven’t told my parents because while they would appreciate that I’ve come around, I don’t think they would quite understand why I don’t agree with them on all aspects. We’ve also had cryptic conversations about faith being a personal thing that you don’t need to vocalize to others. My friends all grew up in a church–not necessarily mine–and it’s just never been a major talking point for us.

But I’m ready to share. I want to be able to talk about it with someone who might understand. So I called a friend whose family has gone to our church for more than 10 years. (In fact, I saw her at church this morning!) She grew up in a much more openly religious family, but we’ve never really talked about it.

This is a big step for me. I’m nervous, but I’m also excited. I’m mostly just relieved to finally let those old habits die.

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Right Now

You guys.

It’s been a week.

Oh, man.

Nothing big happened, but a whole lotta small things happened.

I had a whole post written up that I was going to publish last week, but (thankfully) when I went to hit “Publish” it was dinner time and I decided I’d read through it one more time before sending it out into the blogosphere.

It always bothers me that we don’t do anything special for summer holidays and my friends and their families do, but for some reason it hit me especially hard last weekend. I fleshed out my feelings about the subject in the almost-post and ended up actually expressing it (quite emotionally, I might add) to my parents at dinner. We finished dinner with the understanding that we would treat the weekend as a staycation.

Luckily, the weather helped us out. It was the hottest Memorial Day on record here and the high temperature never dipped below 90° for 6 days. It was too hot to do anything outside, so we spent most of the weekend in/by the pool, experimenting with Mai Tai recipes, making (and receiving) far too many sweet treats, catching up on The Crown, whipping up fancy brunches for friends (just call me Martha!) and falling in love with our hometown all over again. It may not have been the lake, but it was one of the best Memorial Day weekends I can remember.

By Tuesday, I was actually missing the kids. And this was the last week of “normal” scheduling before things start getting topsy turvy for the summer, so I was determined to take it all in and enjoy every minute.

Spoiler alert: not every minute was worth remembering. And it rained. Almost. Every. Day.

On top of that, I was feeling pretty sluggish and disappointed from all of the indulging I was doing over the weekend.

Lots of familiar thoughts started popping up and it was exhausting trying to quiet them.

But I did.

I dove headfirst into a new book, made exercise a priority again, started saying no to that second slice of cake (and banana bread and ice cream sandwich and cookie…), made a new get-up-and-go playlist and started looking at minutes and hours instead of days, weeks and months.

I’m realizing that while I’m a planner and actually enjoy planning out months at a time, it’s healthier for me to focus on right now. 

Right now my nephew is sleeping, my niece is playing Barbies, my dad is mowing the lawn and my mom is off to help a friend finish a big project. Yes, later today I will be tested. Chaos will ensue and I will probably lose my cool. Tears will be shed and food will be thrown.

But right now I’m sitting in the sun in my favorite spot with my favorite dog doing what I love. Enjoying the peace.

It may only last a few more minutes, but that’s all I need.

Right now everything is good.

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December?

Whoops.

I think I accidentally fast forwarded to December.

Allow me to explain: it’s the first snow of the season up here in Gray Duck country. End of explanation. It all spiraled from there.

Last night, in anticipation of the snow (and just the general transition to frigid temperatures), we (I) decided it was time to move the porch furniture inside for the season. That involved shifting a lot of furniture throughout the whole house. But I was determined to get it done because once everything was in its winter position, I could set up the newest addition to our Christmas decorations out on the porch: a giant (fake, obviously) Christmas tree!

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(Our last surviving pumpkin is sitting proudly next to the tree!)

This morning I woke up to snow flurries. The ground was still green, but the snow continued to pick up. It just started to taper now about 6 hours later. We now have a few inches of snow piled up on our deck!

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I wasn’t expecting to be so excited about it! Usually the first snow of the season is kind of depressing. Here we go again. But not this time! This time I was listening to Christmas music while getting ready, thinking about Christmas movies, Christmas cookies, Christmas cards, end of the year calendars, presents for the kidlets. And then I remembered it’s not even Halloween yet.

I don’t even care! I just went for a walk through the gorgeousness, again listening to Christmas music (what up, Mr. Bublé?!), and actually teared up at how incredible it all was.

My parents have been telling me that they’ve noticed something changing in me lately. They’ve seen how thankful I am for everything and how much I appreciate my life. That really struck me today. It’s been a perfect day so far, but it hasn’t been out of the ordinary at all. We usually have the kids on Fridays, but we got today off so I’ve been taking advantage of the free day.

I’ve been able to find something to be grateful for in every situation. And when I’m in that place, I feel it. Deeply.

Isn’t that what I said December (and Christmas) was all about?

But, wait. It’s still October! Happy Halloween, Happy Thanksgiving, and then Merry Christmas!

Screw it!

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

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Snow Day

It snowed today. And I was not smiling about it…until my plans were canceled and I didn’t have to go anywhere. Then it was beautiful!  It didn’t amount to much, but the ground and trees are white. It should–should–be gone by Sunday so we can have our annual Easter bonfire. But this is Minnesota, so you never know.

Meanwhile, inside, JuJu was decorating for Easter, loving on her puppy, and eating a balanced meal of cake and pudding (she actually did have an extremely well balanced meal before earning her cake and pudding).

Poor Cocoa. He’s such a good puppy.

I guess it turned out to be a pretty good day! The snow won’t last and my sixty-degree days will be back before you know it!

Once again, I learned not to judge a day by its morning.

Wee Bit of Snow

We got a little bit of snow last week.

Just a little bit, though.

No, but seriously, it was the biggest storm of the season…and we only got about 5 inches. Which, growing up in a state where we could get a foot of snow overnight and still have to go to school, is really not a lot. The roads were a little more slick than usual and people momentarily forgot how to drive, but everything worked out. And now we have this beautiful new snow cover! (Our yard was starting to look green again!)

Cocoa was SO happy! I was working when the snow started and luckily, was able to leave early. When I got home, this guy ran to the door and begged to be let out! I went out with him to get some pictures and he was like a kid on the last day of school. He was free! He refused to come inside.

We also got this little one out in the snow! She was okay with walking on the driveway, but was very, very concerned about walking in the snow. We lured her out there with the promise of seeing her LLAMAS (she always screams that word). She even got to pet our friendliest llama, Millie. But then we tried to get her to play in the snow with us and that wasn’t as successful. My mom and I both wanted to sled down some of the snow piles, so we did it by ourselves, hoping she would think it looked fun. Well, she didn’t. But, I took her down with me anyways! She enjoyed Cocoa kissing her when we got to the bottom, but did not enjoy the rest of the process! (Two days later she wanted to sled down the snow piles!)

We checked out the snow sculptures at the Winter Carnival last weekend and Juliana’s highlight, and therefore our highlight, was running into this massive Great Dane! She expects every dog to be as friendly and cuddly as Cocoa, so she walked right up to it with an open mouth and outstretched arms, ready for a hug and a kiss. Luckily, this dog was very friendly. The owner even let J sit on the dog! Those were the biggest smiles of the day.

Living in Minnesota, we learn to live with, and thrive in, the snow. J definitely brought out my inner child and, even though she may not love it right now, has reminded me how much I love it! It’s fun to have these storms every now and then! But, I’m good with an early spring, too!

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