Looking Back Fondly

I had yet another amazing weekend! This summer seems to have been filled with amazing days, nights and weekends. I wonder why that is…could it be an outlook change?

The weekend started with a bang! I brought my best friend to the Taylor Swift concert in Minneapolis Friday night. It was my fifth TS concert, her fourth. We went to the first 3 together. She had lost interest after high school, but I remained a loyal Swiftie. I didn’t have to do much convincing to get her to go with me because the memories were already a part of our relationship. It would’ve felt wrong going with anyone else.

The thing about this concert, though, was that I felt like it was really aimed at the nostalgic fans who had been there since the beginning. So even though my BFF hadn’t listened to any of the current music, she was still able to sing along with a lot of the songs and we were still able to reminisce about the last time we’d heard the songs live.

I am not a dancer. (Probably for good reason.) But I was dancing and screaming and eating up all of “this is the best crowd” lines! I was so in the moment and I just couldn’t believe that that many people liked Taylor at least as much as I did. I’m surrounded by people who pride themselves on not liking mainstream music, so I often feel like a loser or a chump for liking it. So it was really, really nice to be surrounded by that many like-minded people.

But every song had a memory attached and that’s what really sent me over the top. This time I realized that she has memories attached to every song, too. I remember after seeing One Direction in Chicago years ago, I was really disappointed to realize that they were just 5 teenage boys. But every time I see Taylor Swift live, I’m so relieved to see that she’s just another twenty-something trying to figure everything out.

Okay, fangirling over. It was a magical night for me, but the best was yet to come.

Friday was also my brother’s fifth wedding anniversary and they threw a huge “dream reception” in the prettiest park around on Sunday. Family was trickling in all week, but our houseguests arrived Saturday. We brought them to a new little speakeasy in town (hello, girls’ nights!), got milkshakes at the cute, little 50s diner, took a little riverfront walk and picked up some gourmet popcorn before heading home. They joined us for church the next morning and we managed to fit in a little bit of shopping before party prep started. I love showing off our town and I love having the extended family around!

We got to the park hours before the party started to help with anything and everything. I was, of course, in charge of the kids (who hadn’t had naps…). It was really nice to have some quality time with them before the crowd came, though. I traded off kid duty with my dad and my sister-in-law’s mom all night so my brother and sister-in-law could enjoy their guests.

After getting family and group pictures, my brother gathered everyone together and thanked them for coming and being a part of their marriage. Then he said he wanted to thank a few people who they could not have lived without these past 5 years. Guess who the first thank you was…

Me.

He thanked me and his wife’s brother for always being willing to drop everything and help them with anything. And then he asked everyone to give us a round of applause.

I swear I almost cried.

Selfishly I’ve always really wanted that validation that they appreciate what I do. But getting it was just so much better than I ever imagined.

They both pulled me aside later and thanked me again for being such a big help.

Gah.

There are circumstances in our family’s history that have made our relationship awkward at times, but it felt so good to be so loved and appreciated by my brother. I realized that he’s not going anywhere. He’s not going to give up on me. And I’m not going to give up on him, either. We’ve got each other for life.

That was kind of the theme of the summer. I realized who was really there for me and who wasn’t. I really learned to appreciate who and what I have. I will always look back fondly at the summer of 2018.

But I’m so ready for fall!!

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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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Happy Places

I have a few things I want to write about, so please forgive the jumping around.

I’ve written “I love you” in every Mother’s Day card I’ve ever given. But this was the first year that I really felt it. I knew that I really meant it.

We’ve had a rocky past, but for some reason things really turned a corner on our last trip to Hawaii. I’ve always been more of a daddy’s girl, but it’s like a switch flipped when he found out that he needed a knee replacement. I don’t understand why, but I could relate so much more to my mom. Maybe it was the commiseration. Maybe it was just that it was the first time that I really considered that my dad might be…old. Or maybe I just made a decision (conscious or not) to give her a fighting chance. But for whatever reason, she is now the one I want to tell everything to. It’s taken a while to adjust to the new dynamic, but I really wanted her to understand how much more I mean it this year.

I’ve always been vocally jealous of my friends’ close relationships with their moms. Now I feel like I finally have one too!

Secondly, I was faced with a very triggering situation this weekend and it was the first time I’d really tested this new-found faith of mine. There is one recurring situation that I’ve never quite figured out how to handle. It usually makes me obsessive, which leads to a lot of guilt and shame and sends me into a slow downward spiral until I completely melt down.

I was determined not to let that happen this time. Which meant I needed to nip it in the bud.

I did my best to keep my mind occupied and focused on other things (Thank you, Royal Wedding!). But do you know what I realized? Positive thinking really is like the domino effect. I forced myself to find the positive in every situation and eventually I didn’t even have to think about it. I had to start deliberately, but then it just started to flow. And as it flowed, it carried my thoughts away from the tricky situation.

Now, a day later, I can still think about it, but it doesn’t consume my thoughts. I can turn it off and walk away. I can walk toward happier and more productive thoughts.

I’m having a hard time feeling anything but bliss right now. It’s been a long, but rewarding day. My mom was determined to figure out all of our floral areas around the yard and get everything planted and, somehow, we actually did it!

My biggest goal became turning the porch into a cozy little happy place for me (without any crazy DIY projects!). I think I definitely nailed it.

This has always been my favorite place to curl up with a book. It’s been one of the most inspiring places to write. It’s the perfect setting for a leisurely conversation with a friend. It’s where I feel most connected to nature and where my dreams don’t seem so crazy. I love a good ocean view (Aloha!), but there’s really no beating this. It’s my little corner of the world.

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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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Extraordinaries

The past 30 or so hours have felt different than what I’ve accepted as normal lately. It’s not that everything has gone perfectly and lived up to every unrealistic expectation I might have. In fact, I think most things have deviated from the “plan.”

But I’ve noticed every single little beauty and blessing.

That tends to happen to me a lot at this time of year. Everything is so gorgeous with the leaves changing color and dropping, so cozy with the cooling temperatures and return of the blankets, so delicious with more apple flavored treats than I ever imagined and so exciting with the growing number of birthdays and the anticipation of the holidays.

This year has been extra special for me, not only with the addition of my nephew, but with the quality of my time spent with family and friends (with a few exceptions).

It got to the point yesterday where I actually thought, “How did I get so lucky to have such an extraordinary life when so many people live such ordinary lives?” But I know that my life looks pretty ordinary to a lot of people, too. I guess that’s the secret, though. You have to recognize all of the extraordinaries in your life, no matter how big or small. They add up fast!

My dad and I were walking around soaking in all of the fall colors last night and our conversation turned toward an old, ailing tree that I’ve always called The Tree of Life. It sits alone on top of the highest hill on our property and our most beloved pets are buried beneath it. We were trying to figure out what we want to replace it with when it inevitably dies. I kept suggesting a tree that would either flower in the spring or change colors in the fall. While my dad agreed, he pointed out that those trees don’t grow very fast.

As we wandered, we pointed out all of the trees that could work. At some point my dad suggested an Oak. Oaks are pretty much his favorite trees. He went through a period where he saved every little Oak seedling because there weren’t many trees around. Now he has forests of towering Oaks. Because of the number of Oaks we already had, I immediately dismissed that idea. But as we made our way around the property for the second time, I noticed that there weren’t nearly as many Oaks on the back half as there were on the front half.

And then I thought: If I’m going to continue to call the tree on the hill–whatever it may be–The Tree of Life, what better tree is there to represent our family? Oaks are big, strong, sturdy, stable trees. That’s how I think of my dad, the leader of our family, the one who created such an amazing life for his family. We already have so many memories planted on that hill, why not go all the way?

That’s kind of when it hit me. That’s the moment that all of those little extraordinaries provided me with that overwhelming sense of gratitude.

I don’t know how to carry this with me throughout the rest of the year, but I’m so incredibly grateful for the little glimpses this season has provided.

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December

I love December.

Because, as you know, I love Christmas. And December is basically just Christmas.

December is also the month of babies in my family this year. And, I mean, I don’t know, do you think I like babies?!

My “twin” cousin just had her little girl this morning and we’re all kind of betting on my sister-in-law having her little boy this week!

Combine those two things, Christmas and babies, and really what else do you need?!

I felt like I was going overboard with my Christmas shopping this year, but then I realized most of the stuff was for me…whoops. I’m really really enjoying the giving part of Christmas lately, though. I haven’t been able to give any suggestions for myself in years, but I have so many ideas for my parents, brother or sister-in-law, niece, or even friends. It’s a strange new era for me.

Another thing that’s strange for me is that I’m not really getting all of the familial warm and fuzzies I talked about in my last post. My dad and I are still doing all of the traditions, but my mom has no interest. Like, no interest.

I used to have an order that I would want to watch all of the Christmas movies in. I guess I thought it was important to her too, so I’d always wait for nights when we were all home. This year, when we tell her we’re watching a movie, she grabs a snack and watches her British dramas in her bedroom. Because she’s been so blatant about it, the magic has greatly diminished for me, so we’ve been *gasp* watching the movies out of order.

I also seem to remember at least 2 years when we had a little tradition of all of us putting the tree up together while watching (the first movie of the season) White Christmas. This year, while my friend and I were partaking in a Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life binge, my dad literally brought the tree home, set it on the deck and said “Okay, here’s your tree, Carrie.” put it in the stand (okay, with a little help), put the lights on, put the angel on top and put all of the ornaments on. There was no “we.” It was a little sad, honestly.

also put up all of the Christmas decorations around the house, which my mom used to help with.

The only tradition we’ve truly kept alive this year is my dad and I putting up the outdoor decorations together to avoid being sucked in to one of my mom’s projects.

I’m not trying to sound down. It’s just an adjustment for me. I’m starting to realize what my Christmases going forward might look like.

Growing up feels weird.

That’s why I need to hang out with all of these cute babies being born!!

I seriously cannot wait to meet the little dude!

Here’s the last calendar page for 2016:

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I haven’t decided yet if I will be sharing pages from next year’s calendar…cliffhanger.

Now that I see the page, I feel bad that I didn’t say anything about my best friend!! I think I summed it up pretty well last year! I love that dog more than any person (maybe he’s tied with that little girl)! He is literally the best, most constant and loyal friend I’ve ever had! Ugh, LOVE HIM. SO MUCH.

Merry Christmas!!

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