The View From A Slightly Twisted Angle

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The Uncomplicated Project

Saturday dawned sunny, bright and full of promise.  My sweet husband was off work, I felt well rested and the day lay before us with no specific plans whatsoever. Utopia.  Over our morning cup of really yummy mocha coffee we discussed what we wanted to do over the course of the day that stretched out before us.  Relax?  Catch up some housework? Relax? Do a little yard work? Relax? (Guess which one I was leaning towards??) By cup number two we decided it was about time to tackle the one remaining landscaping project we had been dreading putting off but wanted to accomplish this year.  Though the day was supposed to get hot we decided if we started early enough we could finish early and enjoy the rest of the evening.  Having determined our days plans we set off to tackle this:


This is the area in the front of our house where the two sidewalks meet into the steps that go down by the old wash house.  Yes. Wash house.  The little white house where my grandmother did her laundry before she had indoor plumbing.  Actually the white building  you see in the picture is the cellar house which is connected to the wash house but let’s not get technical.  And yes.  It is the front of the house which confuses the snot out of my kids because no one really uses the front door much so they think the back door should be the front door. I’ve tried to explain to them that no house’s “front door” opens into the laundry room.  Again…technicalities.  Since these steps lead to both doors I guess for the purpose of this post it really doesn’t matter. The point is that this mess was there to be viewed every time we sat on our front porch and it was time to do something about it. We’ve spent quite a bit of our spring and summer cleaning out areas about the farm and this was the final area left to tackle.  The fact that we’ve made it this far without killing each other is a minor miracle considering my husband’s “let’s just rip it out and start over” theory often clashes with my “my grandma planted those let’s weed around it” attitude. Combine that with the fact that neither one of us actually enjoys this type of activity – we just want it to look nice – and you have the perfect storm really.  Fortunately for him there really wasn’t much here that I wanted to preserve so we knew it was going to be a faster fix. Storm clouds were not on the horizon here. This should have been simple. Uncomplicated.

After pulling out almost everything growing in the dirt, we turned our attention to what we thought was going to be the hardest part of our project: digging the sunken bricks out of the dirt between the steps and the bank.  Those bricks are from the old “big barn” on the property – the barn built by my grandmother’s uncles – so of course I wanted to save them and reuse them as edgers. My husband cheerfully dug them up while my younger daughter and I reset them.  All was going well.  Everyone was quite content and pleasant as my husband and I left for town to pick up the mulch required to finish off our little project area.  It was a little before noon so we were right on track. Victory was in sight.

Arriving home with our mulch (and a couple bags of rock for a different area) in tow we paused for a quick bite of lunch before heading back out to finish for the day.  We were focused on completing our uncomplicated task.  That’s when the landlord, or “Daddy” as I call him, appeared.  He had mentioned before that he wanted to do some work on the concrete in that area so the water would quit pooling there and making mud, further burying the sidewalk and steps, every time it rains.  He had, in fact, purchased several bags of concrete mix to do that repair.  They are safely out of the rain in the barn waiting to be used. Apparently because we were out working in the area he remembered that project needed to be done so he was measuring and figuring while we were laying down mulch.  By the time our mulch was laid he had busted out the old step and was laying the old concrete in to “flagstone” the path behind the house.  My husband once again grabbed his shovel and my two favorite men worked together to lay the old concrete into flagstones.  (Looks great by the way.)  That project completed and back to figuring the best way to lay new concrete to get the water to run-off down the hill and rebuild the step they just removed, Daddy mentioned that at one point he had dug a trench under the handrail and filled it with rock so that the the water would run down the hill.  Muttering about some prior renters not keeping it up he pondered aloud the fact that redigging that trench and finding the now buried rock might help before he relaid the sidewalk.  Cleaning up from our other project I smiled and told him that we could probably do that…thinking we could do it another day.  Fixing the area under the handrail wasn’t on my agenda for the day.  That’s why my husband has a weed wacker. It didnt look so bad. I resumed cleaning up mulch bags. When Daddy brought up the buried rock trench again I suddenly knew my uncomplicated plans were changing.  We were about to dig up rock.

Once again the guys manned the shovels while my daughter and I helped unearth the billion and forty two rocks that had become buried over the last 5-7 years.  Big rocks….little rocks….lots of rocks.  Realizing that if we tried to find every lost rock were were going to be out there for…oh…one hundred and five years…I threw out a desperation contingency plan.  Why didn’t we just pull out the larger rocks, leave the smaller ones in the ground, retrench and then mulch the top of the trench over the mixture of small rocks and dirt.  That way we didn’t need to locate every rock and could save ourselves a week of work.  (I’ve always been more “just make it look pretty” than functional anyway. Well…when it comes to yardwork I just want to be done I’m that way.)  My plan met with approval so while my engineer minded father trenched the water run-off we quickly finished finding the large rocks. And washing 5 years of dirt off the large rocks. Yes. I washed rocks. Then we waited while my dad (I just mentioned he’s an engineer, right?) tested the run-off trench with the hose.  And a bucket.  And the hose again.  It worked  (Of course it worked.  He’s an engineer!) so we were given the green light to arrange the now ridiculously muddy large rocks and put the mulch in the now muddy area under the handrail.   I’ve seen ads for mud baths at spas and I must say….I don’t get it. There are few things I like less than playing in mud.  Since I used to make mud pies for my mother so I guess this is a new thing but I must say laying muddy rocks in the muddy ground was not my favorite part of the day. It was messy and squishy though so I guess there is some fun in that…okay…not really.  At any rate, we got it accomplished.  Satisfied that we had a well draining run-off that looked pretty we cleaned up our mess and dragged our now sun-burned – and muddy -bodies into the house just in time to take a fast shower and make dinner.  Not quite the quick project we’d envisioned but gratifying none the less.  It seems like life is that way most of the time isn’t it? Things are never as uncomplicated as you thought they were going to be but it turns out better in the end.

Just don’t say the word “rock” to me for a few days…okay?

Our Finished Project:



I Just Wanted To Read A Story

Supercell Near West Point Nebraska - June 2012

Supercell Near West Point Nebraska – June 2012

It seems we’ve had our fair share of severe weather this year.  I love a good storm but I’m not to hyped about the ones that look like they are going to wisk us away to Oz. A contributing factor to my recent sensitivity to the weather may have something to do with the fact that our house has no basement.  When a storm is looking ominous we have to run up the hill to my parents house to seek shelter in their basement.  It seems like we’ve spent our fair share of time there this year.  It’s been a learning experience.

We’ve learned that one shouldn’t wait too long to decide to seek basement shelter.  Running through the rain makes you wet and cold.

We’ve also learned that weather radios go off in the middle of  the night to warn you of the threat of a possible flash flood somewhere in Iowa 300 miles away.

The biggest lesson we’ve learned is that our kids are downright cranky when awoken in the middle of the night to go to Grandma’s basement.  (You’d think they’d be a little grateful we were saving their lives.) No seriously.  They are CRANKY.

Our first tornado warning experience occurred at 2am one Saturday night….Sunday morning….you know what I mean.  We were awoken by our phones ringing combined with my parents car horn beeping.  My folks were obviously trying to get our attention which was a good thing considering I had shut off the weather radio after a few nights of sleep interrupted by wind warnings issued for northeastern Canada. (I’m only exaggerating a little.)  Groggily we got up and assessed the situation and arrived at the conclusion that it was probably wise to head up to the basement.  Waking our kids and dragging them through the chilly rain that was beginning to fall didn’t make them very happy.  Shivering in their grandparents’ basement with little to do other than listen to the weather radio didn’t improve their moods much.  It was in this cranky situation I, being the ever helpful mother, decided to help out.  I’m full of great ideas in the middle of the night after being yanked from deep REM.  I quickly grabbed a gardening magazine off of the stack my mom has in her basement.  Trying to engage everyone in interesting discussion I began sharing some of the interesting tidbits of information I ran across.  Sparking no interest from anyone I switched gears and began an engaging conversation about what fabulous things we could plant.  No one was engaged.  Fine.  Party poopers.

Putting down the magazine I began to poke around in some of the other treasures my parents’ basement hold when, lo and behold, I spied one of my favorite childhood books: “Little House In The Big Woods“.  Perfect.  I decided that there would be no better way to liven up our party in the basement than to read to everyone from this classic story.  I am a very entertaining book reader I must say.  Settling in I began to attempt to share the beloved story of Pa and Ma and Laura and Mary when my children, loudly, began protesting.  “MOOOOOM! Please!”  Eye rolling.  Groaning.  More “MOM! STOP!”  Sigh.  I guess no great entertainer is appreciated at first.  My mother was the only one highly amused by my attempt to be entertaining during the storm.  The guys left to “check” what was going on outside.  The kids began to try to get the book out of my hands.  Admitting defeat (while accusing them of being party poopers) I put the book down and quietly waited for the storm warning to expire.  Fine.  Let them be bored during a storm.  No one could say I didn’t try.

That was a month and a half and about four storm warnings ago.  During the second storm warning I noticed the book had been shoved under a large pile of blankets in an attempt to hide it.  Fine.  I helped my mother sort through a box of things instead. (Who said one can’t multi-task while waiting on a storm to pass.)  The last time we made a basement appearance I couldn’t locate the book anywhere.  It seems my youngest daughter was helping her grandmother sort things one day and she might have, accidentally of course, stuffed the book in the Goodwill box.  Wow.  That was pretty cold giving away my childhood book.  I mean after all I had just been trying to help. She may have been embarrassed by my storm-induced behavior  but geez: I just wanted to read a story.



When Life Gives You Brown Bananas….

Photo Credit:

Photo Credit:

When our oldest child was quite young one of his favorite books was “Alexander And The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.”  Can I quote it for you? No really: I can.  I read it to him that many times.  Actually after the way things were going this past weekend I don’t need to quote the book.  I lived it. Two days in a row in fact.

I woke Friday morning looking forward to completing my last day of a very long work week and getting home to my family.  We all have weeks that wear us out on occasion.  Mine was last week.  I was in a pretty good mood because it was, after all, Friday. I knew I had little on my plate to complete at work that day so I was looking forward to an “easy” day and…perhaps…leaving a little earlier than normal.  Yep. I was pretty chipper when I arrived and sat down at my desk.  Joking with a few coworkers I settled in for the day feeling pretty good.  That feeling lasted until I opened my inbox and started reading the emails that were awaiting me.  Part of my responsibilities is to QA data prior to transferring it to one of our clients.  I could go into greater detail here but I’m sure if I did it would somehow be a HIPPA violation and the last thing I need is for the HIPPA cops to come looking for me.  Anyway, the data transfer QA  is by far the least favorite part of my job. Mostly because if there is a problem with any of the data I get an email and a weekly “issues log” and I have to figure out what is wrong and why.  There in my inbox was last week’s issues log. UGH!  As I opened it and began to investigate the “issues” my mood was still pretty good.  It is a weekly occurrence and usually is some silly little thing like the scan was hard to read so it transferred into the spreadsheet incorrectly or that the original number was plain flat wrong. No big deal.  The computer makes mistakes and so do I.  I am a human after all.

I pulled files and happily went about answering questions until I hit the “issue” that made my stomach roll.  The one that turned my happy mood on its ear.  As I began investigating the final problem I discovered that the issue was caused because I had somehow shuffled all the data on the Excel sheet into the wrong place.  I had totally screwed up the file.  It didn’t matter to me that the file was submitted when I had only been at my new job for two weeks I was sick at the fact that I had messed up that bad.  As I said before, I am fully aware that I am capable of messing up.  I can live with that. No what my type A personality can’t take is when I can’t figure out how I messed up and I, still to this moment, couldn’t figure out what I did. I had no explanation for it other than I messed up…somehow.  After running myself in circles for a while I did the only thing I could do: I redid the entire file, resubmitted it to our client, and then emailed them taking full responsibility for my error and apologizing.  Knowing that my error not only affected our client but our client’s client, I felt horrible and I braced myself for the reply email that I knew was not going to be happy.

About this time my boss came in and I quickly explained the problem to her.  Thankfully she was very understanding and sweet to me, as per usual, because I was already doing a pretty good job of beating myself up.  I even offered to have her take the fee I was sure our client was going to charge for the screwed up file out of my paycheck.  Yep.  I had myself in a real funk by the time she’d arrived.  She reassured me that wasn’t going to be necessary and I handled it the best way possible so I was feeling a little better right up until the reply I was dreading hit my inbox.  I knew the reply wasn’t going to be pleasant but I wasn’t expecting to be made to feel like I’d bankrupted a company by my error. (I hadn’t by the way.) Nor was I really anticipating to be spoken to (can you apply that to an email? It doesn’t really “speak”.  You know what I mean right?) like I was an inept toddler.  As I read through the  reply I knew the day was going to get ugly.  You see with this particular client when she finds one mistake she then becomes the mistake FBI.  She digs until she hits the core of the earth.  Suddenly she suspects that if you screwed up once you had to have done it multiple times before.  I again replied my apology noting that I understood the problem it caused everyone and assured her that I would be diligent to never let it happen again.  That’s the best I could do.  I braced myself for the barrage of emails I knew were coming.  The ones questioning other things that wouldn’t have been questioned before.

They arrived.  I spent my day re-checking all the files for one of the companies her company represents while fielding the emails from her that kept hitting my inbox.  Thankfully one of my coworkers had pity on me and sweetly helped me out. (I have great coworkers.)  Had she not I might have done myself harm with my staple remover.  I contemplated it a few times during the day.  Added to the “heat” I was feeling for my screw up and the internal berating I was giving myself, the air conditioning was on the blink making the office feel somewhat like a sauna.  Now saunas are nice in a spa but not so fabulous when you are already having a bad day at work.  By the time I left for the day (not early I might add) I was hot, tired and completely drained.

It was in that frame of mind I began my commute home through the increased traffic caused by the College World Series being in town. I love the College World Series but I wasn’t in the mood for the increased volume of cars nor the fact that none of them knew what lane they needed to be in. My already frazzled state became even more frazzled after nearly rear-ending the fifteenth person cutting across four lanes of traffic to exit.  Added to that I was deeply contemplating whether or not I am cut out for my current job or whether I should begin looking for something with a little less pressure like…for instance….checking groceries at a local supermarket. (Okay I’ve seen the way people treat the workers at check-outs. I was only half serious in that thought.)  I was seriously re-evaluating every decision I have made in the last 6 months while trying not to kill anyone with my car.  By the time I arrived home I had myself in full cranky mode.  Tired, grumpy and slightly depressed I managed to make it through the might without scaring my poor family too badly.  I had my moments but I have a great understanding family.  I found myself relaxing and letting things go. Somewhere in the back of my mind I knew the next day would be better.  I was wrong.

I awoke Saturday earlier than I’d planned to the sound of ice falling from the window air conditioner in our bedroom.  We are currently living in my grandparents old house and since my grandfather would have none of that new fangled central air stuff we cool with window units.  The one in our bedroom is one from our old house and it is pretty old as evidenced by the fact that it ices up every few hours.  Because there has been no room in the budget to replace it we’ve been just dealing with it and waking up a little warm.  No big deal.  Just annoying.  As I stumbled out to start the coffee pot I failed to notice my husband had already set it up for me before he left for work earlier that morning.  Water all over the counter.  Nice.  Noticing it was warmer in the rest of the house than usual I investigated and discovered the living room unit was shut off.  After a text conversation with my husband I learned it was struggling that morning so, thinking it needed a rest or needed to be hosed out because of cotton, he’d turned it off for a while.  I tried to turn it on.  Nothing.  Because I don’t trust myself to “hose” out anything I wandered up to my parents house to enlist the help of my daddy.  He was more than willing to, once again, help out his youngest child.  After his expert assessment it was discovered the fan motor was burnt out.  I felt bad that I’d broken his air conditioner.  (I go to guilt pretty fast.  I didn’t break the air conditioner.  Time had.)   Being the amazing landlord and father he is,he assured me it wasn’t our fault and then informed me he would go buy a new one because it is his house and it needs one anyway.  The deal was that my husband could put it in when he got home from work so he wouldn’t have to.  Okay.  That was more than fair I thought.  One warmish day.  I could handle that. The third and final unit was still plugging along so it wasn’t too bad in the house. Yet.

I rushed about getting some cleaning done before the house got warmer than I prefer. My kids were not so happy about that but they wisely didn’t say much. They just helped me…while “standing up on the inside” I imagine. We had just finished when…bang…no power in the house.  Great.  What had I done now?  Locating a flashlight to check the breaker box I was about to investigate when my mom showed up at our house. Her power was out too.  Okay. At least I didn’t break something this time.  (At this point that was a bonus point.) We called in the outage to a computer generated voice, not something that inspires confidence that anyone is going to get it, and set in to wait. Not much else you can do with no power.  Have you ever noticed when the power is out and you can’t use the bathroom (one has to have electricity to pump water from a well on the farm) suddenly everyone needs to use it?  Have you also noticed that when it gets hotter in your house than normal your children start bickering over nothing?  It was in this state I texted my husband inquiring if he thought it was too early to start drinking.  Since I don’t drink I think he figured I was having a bad day. Again.

While my mom and I were trying to distract the children from bickering with a game of cards my phone rang.  It was my father in law.  It seems a little birdie (I think the bird’s name was “Whining Facebook Post”) told him we were having air conditioning problems so he had ordered one for us.  He informed me we could use it to replace our dying one in the bedroom. Feeling guilty I left to go pick up the unit he ordered.  I was too hot to argue with him but not hot enough that I didn’t feel a little guilty that they’d bought us an air conditioner.  I also felt slightly guilty that I left the bicker twins with my mother in her heating-up house while I got in my air conditioned car to go get it.  I did it anyway.  Once again fighting through stupid drivers with baseball tickets,  I obtained the amazing gift from my in-laws and made it home.  I think I only thought a few bad words during the trip and didn’t verbalize them. That was a minor miracle considering the mood I was in.  Arriving home I discovered that we still had no power.  I had two new air conditioners but no juice to run them.  I was also starting to get a “hot and tired” headache.    At this point I was afraid to even open the refrigerator because I didn’t want to let any cool escape.  Two and a half hours at 90 degrees outside was making it quite warm inside. Settling in again I silently hoped that the power guys were close to a solution and my food wouldn’t all spoil before they found one. It was then that  my husband texted that he would pick up a pizza on the way home from work.  Things suddenly started looking up a little. I didn’t need to open the fridge now.   Then the power came on.  Even better.

My Superman arrived home with the pizza and immediately began installing the new units. I of course was irritated because I thought he should eat first.  I am so rationale when I’m tired and hot.  He firmly informed me he wanted to get the air conditioners in first so the house could start cooling.  You’d think he’d know better than to be logical when I’m trying to “wife” him.  Geez.  Never the less: he began putting in the new units. That sounds simple but in this house it is a bit more complicated.  Because the windows slide open left and right instead of up and down the process involves plexiglass, foam filler and tape.  Lots of tape.  And patience.  I probably wasn’t a really great candidate to help but he put up with me anyway. It was well into evening before the job was complete and the house had a chance of cooling off.   After feeding Super-husband the pizza he wouldn’t eat earlier, cleaning up the mess from putting them in and standing in a cool shower for a while I drug myself to bed, reminding myself of the lesson that Alexander learned from his Mom: everyone has bad days.  I’d had two.  Surely tomorrow would be better.

Sunday dawned with a storm but as I woke in my cool house I didn’t care.  Checking the coffee pot before I added water I hummed about preparing for a new day.  After a good night’s sleep I found myself thankful for our amazing parents (both sets) my wonderful husband and even my bickering kids.  I even found myself thankful for my job and co-workers I enjoy. My attitude much improved by a night of cool sleep. It was going to be a better day I’d decided.  Then I noticed the bananas on my counter.   It seems the heat in the house Saturday had turned my nice yellow bananas brown.  Quickly I knew no one was going to want to eat them.  What a waste.  ‘Okay’ I thought, ‘If you make lemonade when life throws you lemons what do you do when it gives you brown bananas?’  Then I had an epiphany: Banana Bars.  When life gives you brown bananas you bake banana bars.  With cream cheese frosting on them you won’t care if you’ve had a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day…or two.



Things You Shouldn’t Text (Or Tell) Your Mother


I was blissfully working yesterday
when I received a text from our oldest. “Hey Mom – Guess What?!”  Because I didn’t really have time to play the “guess really stupid things until he tells you” game, I simply replied, “What?” (Boring – I know.)  “I was sitting on my porch drinking coffee with Shannon and lightening hit her car and my truck.”  Okay – WHAT?!  A few frantic mother-texts later I deduced he was indeed fine, as was his truck, however it was his final text to me which caused concern: “It was the coolest thing that’s ever made me fear from my life.”  Now this boy has been my kid for almost 22 years. You’d think by now he’d have learned what information he should and shouldn’t share with his mother.  Upon arriving home I quizzed my husband to see if he too had received a similar set of texts.  With that half-smile “I am so amused” look that brings out the twinkle in his eye and made me fall in love with him (a look his eldest child also gets and I don’t find near as adorable I might add…) he replied, “Yep.  You do know he does that to get a rise out of you – right?”  Of course I know that.  Dang kid. Works every time.  Chuckling, my husband went on to say, “Look at the bright side: he gave you something to blog about.”  Have I mentioned the man is brilliant? (Even when he is annoying me by being right?) Without further ado, I present to you a list of things kids should never text – or say to – their mother. Some of these are gleaned from real-life experience.  Okay….most of them are.

  • “My arm is in a sling.”  (And then don’t reply when I text back.)
  • “Hey Mom!  They let me keep the glock!” (Before my gun control friend start: the kid had a summer internship as a guard at a women’s penitentiary.  He’s studying to be a cop.) While I’m on the subject…
  • “They put me on the maximum security floor. Some of these women are scary.”
  • “Do we have any super glue?”
  • “Remember your favorite mug?”
  • “I have a really cool new bruise.”
  • “We’re stopped on the highway. Someone hit the school van.”
  • “How do you get chocolate off the couch?”
  • “Did you know the vacuum sucks up rocks really well?”
  • “Chill Mom. No one was badly injured.”
  • “I’m bored.”
  • “Are you stopping at the store?”
  • “How much grease does it take to clog a drain?”
  • “How important is that knob thingy?”
  • “I’m okay Mom but you need to talk to the school nurse.”
  • “The fire is a few miles away mom. Relax”
  • “It’s a long story.”
  • “Do we have anything to eat?”
  • “Are we doing anything fun tonight?”
  • “How fast does hair grow back?”
  • “Before you yell Mom I can explain…”

and finally:

  • “You’ll never guess what I did today!”

And I wonder why I’m forced to color my grey hairs….



Highest Distinction

b_gradYesterday I whined about mentioned that part of our frantic busyness lately included a graduation.  The graduation of our second child and oldest daughter. Above is our little graduate in all her glory.  I must say I couldn’t be any more proud of our little girl.  Three years ago at her brother’s graduation ceremony she leaned over to me and said, “Mom I’m going to wear one of those white robes.”  The white robes are worn by the kids graduating with highest distinction: extra AP  and foreign languages classes.  She also had her eyes set on the gold ropes: top ten percent of the class.  As evidenced above: she did it. She ranked number 6 in her class and never got lower than an A in high school (or any school for that matter.) She’s always been like that: set her mind on something and you may as well give it up because she is going to do it.  Thankfully thus far she has always set her mind on good things.  I’d hate to think of the wars we’d have had if she had not.  We had enough wars getting through the “good stuff” while trying to keep her from killing herself in the process.  WE had a lot to celebrate!

Somewhere in my head I thought this graduation was going to be easier.  After all I didn’t have to clean a house or landscape a yard like before.  We held her party in the garage of the home where she has been living for the last few months. Her gracious “other parents” are amazing people and opened the use of their home to us.  She also picked a simple menu.  She didn’t want “normal” graduation fare.  Nope.  Not our girl.  She wanted dips: nacho, spinach, salsa….you get the drift.  Simple, right?  Sure is until you have to mix them all up on the day of the party.  She also decided she wanted mini cupcakes instead of a normal graduation cake.  No problem.  Cupcakes are easy.  Until you get to number 500.  Then they are annoying.  On top of that was the simple task of storing and transporting them the 100 miles to her party.  But this was a party for our graduating daughter so we muscled on.  She really hadn’t made any requests that were unreasonable.  She even came home the week before and helped bake her own cupcakes and make her own special chocolates.  A mom can’t ask for anything more than that.

Because of our job schedules we couldn’t make it up until the Friday before her graduation.  I must say I shed many a tear the week before knowing that I was unable to go to her baccalaureate or final awards night but she never complained.  She wouldn’t complain if I asked her to.  That’s just how she is.  It was with great joy we rolled into town on Friday to get our party weekend started.  Our oldest son drove across the state to join us in celebrating his little sister’s achievements.  We hadn’t all been together since the last night we spent together in our former house.  It made my mother’s heart happy to see all my kids together again acting like the genuine goofballs I have raised them to be.  We got ready for the party and swam in the hotel pool.  We just hung out and had some fun.  It was wonderful.

Sunday was the big day.  Thankfully our daughter had texted me following her graduation practice earlier in the week: “Mom they may make you stand up when they announce my name for highest distinction.”   My reply:  “Why? I didn’t do anything.”  Her reply: “Well…DUH! You are my parents!”  Me: “So?  We didn’t graduate with highest distinction.”  Her: “Well no but YOU’RE MY PARENTS! You had something to do with it”  ‘Okay’, I thought, ‘so I’ll stand.’  And I did.  With tears in my eyes and pride clogging my throat.  I did manage to make it through the ceremony without breaking down, a point my oldest son was proud to point out for me.  “Gee Mom.  You cried when I graduated.  You must be getting better at this.”  Stinky kid.

Formalities done we went on to party.  A hot pink and zebra striped party to be exact. (Which reminds me…if you would like to host a party with zebra napkins and pink and black plates and utensils let me know.  I’ll ship them to you.  With some mini-cupcakes in zebra liners.)  We saw friends we hadn’t seen for a while.  Our families drove up and joined us, which was a little surreal considering we live by them all now.  We talked and laughed and ate. It was a great day and one that I hope honored our little honor graduate.  One I hope she will remember for the rest of her life.  We celebrated until the rain started and the clock warned us it was time to be done.  Exhausted, we all pitched in to return our friends’ home into some semblance of order.   After the last of the mess was cleaned and everything was packed back into vehicles to head home we all gathered for last goodbyes.  As I stood in our friends’ kitchen and watched my kids give each other one more giant group hug I realized something.  I have some truly great kids.  I also realized that my daughter’s text from earlier that week was true: we are their parents.  we had something to do with it. That will forever be our “Highest Distinction”.

**Even if they usually act like this…. (No they aren’t looking at anything.  They just wanted to look “up” because they were tired of pictures.)



My Grandmother’s Legacy

I spent the weekend working in the yard and thinking about my grandmother.  It seems I think about my grandmother a lot lately.  I guess that is inevitable considering that we are living in her old house.  I think about her as I cook in the kitchen where she spent hours cooking, baking and canning.  I think about her when I look out the window and see the bird feeder she hung.  I walk into the living room and I see the spot where her piano used to sit.  I can see her sitting in her rocker in front of the window doing “fancy work” every evening.  As I said, I think about her a lot, but none more than as I was working in her flower gardens this weekend.  She loved those flowers and spent hours tending them.  The daffodils coming up in the front of the house.  The rose bush by the old wagon wheel.  The lilac bush outside my bedroom window.  I see touches of her everywhere which makes me think of her more.  The more I think about her the more I talk about her.  My children have heard more stories about their great-grandmother in the last six weeks than they have probably heard in their lives.  It helps that their grandparents are right here to help supply some stories too.  Some of them I didn’t even know.  The more we talk the more amazed I am at the lady she was.

My grandmother was the oldest of ten children.  There were actually thirteen (two sets of twins) but only ten lived past infancy.  When my grandma was 14 her mother gave birth to her youngest brother and never really regained her strength.  My grandma had to quit school in order to stay home and help her mom.  Two years later her mother passed away and at the tender age of sixteen my grandmother was left to manage the home.  A farm home.  With eight younger brothers and a little sister who wished she was a boy. No electricity or indoor plumbing and not much money.  She made and mended their clothes and then she washed them by hand.  She baked loaf after loaf of bread and cooked on a cook stove only to have her brothers come in and devour it in one swoop.  She loved her younger siblings and gave up all the “fun” stuff she should have been doing to take care of them.  For ten years until she was well to the age where people considered her an old maid.  Then she fell in love with my grandfather.  Her father forbid her from getting married (presumably because he didn’t want to lose his housekeeper) so, with the help of her aunt, my grandparents eloped.  Her father remarried shortly after that.

Of course getting married didn’t mean my grandma’s life got any easier. She married a farmer during the depression.   She made all their clothes, mended them and washed them by hand.  She cooked on cook stove. She raised chickens and geese.  She helped on the farm.  She gardened and preserved everything she could find. She worked hard and then worked some more.  They didn’t have electricity until my dad was in grade school.  Indoor plumbing didn’t come until they replaced the old farm-house with this house – in 1967.  (My brother was a baby then.)  This house that would now be considered small and too plain felt like a mansion to my grandmother when they moved in.  even though this house did make her daily chores a little easier she still worked hard.  Every day.  That is just the way she was.

She lost her cousin in World War 1 when his plane hit a mountain.  She worried as her two youngest brothers also fought in that war. She lost her younger son to a tragic drowning when he was only 21. Over the following years she lost more brothers to heart issues.  Each of those events took a piece of her heart but she continued on. She never looked back or dwelled on it.   I’ve only recently heard some of the details about these things from my parents. I can’t remember my grandmother ever talking about them much. That was also the way she was.

She was also my grandma.  The lady who would light up when her grandchildren walked into her house.  She always had a cookie and a hug.  She taught us all to play the piano.  She taught me to play the trumpet.  She helped with our various 4-H cooking and sewing projects.  She taught us to garden.  She fed us and took care of us on the few evenings when my mother had to work. She recorded our concerts on her old-fashioned tape recorder so she could listen to them again.  She clipped out every newspaper article in which we appeared.  She loved us with her whole heart and “grandmothered” us like no one else could.  That was just the way she was.

My grandmother passed away in 1994 just four days after our oldest daughter was born.  She hadn’t been feeling well for a while but she still managed, with the help of my mom, to can all the pears on her tree that year. (The tree I look at out the dining room window now.)  Even though she wasn’t feeling well she sent my dad out to see me and meet his new granddaughter. She sent my favorite homemade sticky buns, a can of her pears that my son loved and a pink handmade baby quilt.  I talked to her that day and she told me she’d felt well enough to putter in her flowers a little that day.  She expressed her delight over her new redheaded great-granddaughter (She loved red heads.  She did marry one after all!) and told me how much she loved me.  That night while she was getting ready for bed she fell to the floor from a massive heart attack.  As shocking and hard as that was at the time I’ve often thought in later years that it really was a blessing that she went so fast in the home she loved after spending the day doing things she enjoyed. She’d have chosen that if she’d have been given a choice.  That’s just the way she was.

The more we’ve talked about her the more I have realized what an incredibly amazing lady she was.  Her work ethic.  Her quiet strength.  Her fierce love.  Those were her legacies to us. I can only hope to grow up and be half the person she was.



It Isn’t Home Any Longer

Early (very early!) Saturday morning found me jumping in my vehicle for a road trip to the north. My companions: my mother, our youngest (sleepy) daughter and my over sized travel mug of coffee. (I did mention it was early – right??)  Our mission: to help our oldest daughter get ready for her senior prom.  I think I’ve mentioned a million a few times how hard it is for this mom to have her little girl finishing her senior year without me there so since I had the day off we decided to whisk up to our former hometown and spend the day with her.  It seemed important.  I didn’t want to miss it. I think she was happy that I didn’t want to miss it too. Since I am a multitasker I also scheduled an appointment with my wonderful hair therapist whom I haven’t seen since we moved. (I had the gray hairs showing through to prove it.)  Of course it was prom day (or “up-do day” for hair therapists) so she sweetly squeezed me in early since I was going to be in town. That was the reason for the giant coffee mug and early start.  I really can’t blame my daughter.  Don’t tell her I said that though.

As we took off for a ladies road-trip day I couldn’t help but wonder a little how it was going to feel to return to the town which used to be home.  I hadn’t been back since the day we took off with the U-haul except for one quick trip for a final walk through our old house.  That particular trip left a rather unpleasant taste in my mouth, but that is a rant blog for a different day.  Setting out on the route that is oh-to-familiar I hoped this trip would be a little more fun and produce better memories but  I did wonder if I’d feel weird in such a familiar place now that things have changed.  I had promised my husband that we wouldn’t drive past our old home: something our daughter has struggled with since we moved.  She would drive by and get upset at the changes that were taking place.  Then she’d text me.   It’s hard to say goodbye to a house you grew up in.  It’s even harder when they are changing everything about that place.  Like cutting down all the trees you loved.  Since I am “away” it was easier for me to detach: we don’t live there any more and everything has changed for us.  For her it has been harder: the only thing that has really changed for her is her address and her “parents”. (Trust me – she got the good end of that deal.  Her new “parents” are way more fun, own a Keurig and make homemade blizzards.  She may never come “home”.)  Even though I detached fairly easily there have been times since we moved that I’ve missed that old house.  Like the times when our youngest daughter and I are both trying to get ready to leave in the morning.  I miss having two bathrooms.  Or when the kids are bickering.  I miss the space to send them away from each other.  Or when I’m tired. I miss our private master bedroom.  Just a few times few and far between. For the most part  I am over the moon with happiness at being where we are but there are times.  Driving by the old place, I knew, wouldn’t accomplish a thing.  I didn’t intend to do it.  What I forgot was that when you enter town you can see our old house from the highway if you know where to look.  From the backseat our youngest daughter exclaimed, “Oh my GOSH!  What did they do?? The trees are all gone and it looks stupid!”  Heart sinking a little I turned up the street to take my mom and daughter to the local coffee shop not far from my hair salon without responding to her.  Maybe this hadn’t been a good idea.

Since it was before noon  9am on a Saturday and no teenager in her right mind was going to be awake yet, I dropped off my traveling companions at the coffee shop to wait for daughter #1 to meet them while I got my hair done.  It was really kind of an odd feeling.  Everything there was the same yet it felt so very “different”.   Odd.  My hair appointment helped quite a lot.  There is nothing like being pampered and walking out of a place feeling pretty that helps one frame of mind.  My sweet little hair therapist is a miracle worker and I love just talking with her.  I felt a little more “at home” after spending time there and even better when I arrived to pick up my road trip-mates to discover daughter #1 had rolled out of bed and joined them.  Have I mentioned that I miss that girl?  Giggling and planning for the rest of the day we took off to go to the house where she is living with some very sweet friends of ours.  We had a dress to shorten and time to spend together.  The day was looking up!  It was great to see our friends again and catch up on the happenings of the past five weeks.  While we chatted my mother and I managed to figure out how to shorten my “inherited her mother’s height” daughter’s dress without deconstructing it.  When the last-minute (thanks kid!) dress alterations were complete it was time to take off for her to get her hair done.  Back to the salon.  Half an hour later she emerged with a princess-‘do and we were off to have lunch.  Then back to the house for nails. Make-up.  Last-minute primping.  Every girl needs a day to feel pampered and special and I’m so glad I didn’t miss this day with ours.  It was a wonderful day: a day of girly giggling and spending time with some of the most precious ladies in my life.  Despite the surreal moments of being in our “hometown” but staying in someone else’s home, it was a great day.

After the pictures and the good-bye hugs we watched her drive away before taking off for our return trip.  My mommy heart was a little sad seeing my beautiful girl take off and knowing I wouldn’t see her again for a few weeks.  It was in that frame of mind I pulled out of the driveway in the neighborhood very close to the neighborhood where we used to live.  Out of habit I pulled onto the shortcut street to get to the highway.  The one that runs parallel to the street where we lived.  I didn’t even think about it until we were passing our old house.  “Mom – LOOK!” daughter #2 exclaimed. I couldn’t help it – I glanced over.  I took in the yard now void of trees: the lilac and magnolia and crab apple that I loved to watch bloom every spring.  The pine trees which blocked the view of the garbage trucks parked in the lot behind the house.  Oh my. I quietly observed that I was glad they didn’t make those changes before we moved because I wouldn’t have liked them.  We got to the highway and headed south.  Somewhere in the middle of that trip the feeling of “I just want to get home” set in.  About the same time the realization hit me: I was headed HOME.  I finally realized why things felt a little odd all day long.  Though I have left a large piece of my heart living in our former hometown and I will cherish the memories we have from there the truth is this: It Isn’t Home Any Longer.

Of course I’m going to post a picture of the purpose for our trip.  Isn’t she beautiful??

Three of My Favorite Ladies

Three of My Favorite Ladies


This Is Why We Pray

prayerAfter logging a bunch of miles on the road last week I cannot begin to tell you how thankful I am that this week the farthest trip I have to take is to work which is about 5 miles from home.  I’m pretty sure after arriving home Sunday evening that if I had to go any further than that my lower half would go on strike. Permanently.  I love my vehicle but I’m tired of it right now. For those who didn’t catch my tales of the road you can read about our longer trip last week here.  I also mentioned that after returning home from that trip we turned around a day and a half later to go and begin doing things to prepare our “new” house for our arrival while my husband worked the weekend. While my husband, I and our youngest two children were there our oldest daughter traveled with some other students from her high school to an honor choir in a different part of the state.  It is that trip which has made me stop and ponder some things the last few days. Our family has the practice of praying together before anyone takes off on a trip.  We take a moment to ask God for a safe journey when we are all together in the car before starting off. My husband and I pray with any child who is leaving with a group on an outing.  I pray with my husband before he leaves for work each week.  It is just something we do.  Like so many other things I thought less and less about why we were doing it and just did it out of habit until something happened this weekend that gave me pause and reminded me that all too often I take things for granted.  I think every once in a while we need a reminder.  I got mine.

Saturday night while sorting and boxing things up at the house into which we are moving I received a text from our daughter that they were headed home from the honor choir.  I texted back to have a fun trip and paused a moment to ask God to keep them safe on the way home.  If I’d have known what was going to unfold I probably would have done more than pause a moment.  I’d have hit my knees. About an hour after her text arrived my phone rang, the ringtone indicating it was our daughter calling.  The conversation went a little like this:

Me: “Hey you! What’s up?”

B: “Hi Mom. I’m just calling to let you know we are stopped on the highway right now. I didn’t want you to worry when I wasn’t home by the time you thought I should be.”

Me: “Stopped on the highway? Is everything okay?” (I was thinking flat tire at this point.)

B: “We’re fine. A car just crossed the line and sideswiped the van but everyone is okay. We’re waiting for the other van to get here and pick us up.  She isn’t too far behind us.” (For those of you who have never had a conversation with a teenage girl this would be a good place to inform you that they talk FAST when explaining things to you.)

Me: “Sideswiped?! Are you sure everything is okay.”

B: “We’re all fine. The driver’s window got knocked out but no one got hurt. We just can’t drive without a window.  Mrs. Bender is coming. My phone battery is dying so I can’t explain it all now.  Don’t worry. I’ll call when I get home.”

I did manage to refrain from asking too many questions such as “Why do you always have enough battery to tweet but never enough to talk” and let her off the phone.  After disconnecting the call I texted her father who was working and passed on what little information I had to him.  I really should have known better than that. He immediately was prepared to take emergency time off from work to go and pick up his little girl.  (That’s one of the many things I love about him.  He is a GREAT daddy.)  It took me a little to convince him that they had things under control there and that there was no possible way for him to arrive there before the other van arrived.  We had to trust the teachers who were with them had it under control.   Again I stopped and, along with my mom and younger daughter, prayed for the kids safety for the rest of the trip and thanked God for keeping them safe that far.  It sounded like a pretty minor incident from the things our daughter had said and the sound of her voice.  That’s what I thought anyway until she arrived home, called me, and filled in some details.

It seems a drunk driver crossed the center line of the two lane highway they were travelling. The choir director who was driving his students got over as far as he could without running them into the ditch and tipping their 15 passenger van but the oncoming car still clipped the driver’s side mirror sending it crashing through the driver’s window.  Guess whose child had been sleeping in the seat right behind the driver. Mine.  She opened her eyes at the sound of the glass shattering and blowing everywhere: mostly on her and the choir director. Part of the mirror clipped her forehead and she had glass fragments everywhere but she assured me she was okay and not bleeding.   No cuts just a couple scratches.  Oh – and she’d bumped her head. Again.  She hadn’t said anything to anyone because she didn’t think there was any big deal.  No.  She didn’t think she needed to see a doctor. Yes.  She was going to take a shower and make sure she had all the glass out of everything.  After talking to her a while I was able to settle my racing mother’s heart down and assured by her that she was in fact fine I let her off of the phone.  Good thing because her daddy called her right after we hung up.  He too wanted more details. After he talked with her he sent me a text:

Do you realize what could have happened?  That wasn’t sideswiped – it was almost a head-on!

Yes I had already realized that and I was already crying and thanking the Lord for protecting our daughter and all of the other people on that van.  Thanking Him for preventing the oncoming truck from crossing any farther into the van’s path.  Thanking Him that all that was hit was a mirror.  Thanking Him that the van didn’t tip.  Thanking Him that our daughter’s eyes had been closed so the glass didn’t hit them.  Thanking Him for the choir director who did such an excellent job protecting his students as best he could by keeping his cool.  Just thanking Him.  Then it occurred to me that our “habit” before trips was probably more important than I had let it become.  I wondered how many other close calls had happened that I never even knew about. How many times had we been kept safe while traveling from things I didn’t even see coming? How grateful I am to God that in all the trips we’ve taken this is the worst accident any of us has ever suffered.  We are blessed beyond words and I hadn’t even taken the time to think about it or thank Him before Saturday night’s reminder. The thought running through my head that evening over and over was: “This is why we pray….”  I’m just so thankful He answers whether my head is fully in the game or not…..So Thankful!

This is what a “few scratches” from flying glass looks like…..but she’s still smiling…..



Tales Of Traveling 20

As I mentioned yesterday Monday and Tuesday of our week were spent taking our daughter to visit the college she is going to attend in the fall.  It’s the same college her older brother attends so we’ve made this trip before.  Every time we do I remember why I prefer it when he comes home rather than me going to see him.  You see, in order to make this trip you have to cross almost all of Nebraska on Highway 20.  Here is a little map I doctored just to give you a visual.


While that may not look like a great amount of distance on a map, I can assure you that in real life it is a really long way.  This is particularly true when this is what you are looking at for the lion’s share of the trip:

Excuse the photo quality - I was using my phone....while going 65 mph.

Excuse the photo quality – I was using my phone….while going 65 mph.

At least this is what we looked at once the sun came up.  We started our trip at 6:00 am in order to arrive at the college in time for her appointments and tour.  Six o’clock the morning after a black-out delayed Super Bowl.  Needless to say the local Scooters was our first stop.  Clutching our life-giving caffeine-infused drinks we headed out in the dark.  All was quiet for the first half hour or so until my husband who was sticking to his new diet threw his banana peel out the window.  My head snapped toward him, “I can’t believe you just littered.”  He gave me a side-long glance, “It’s bio degradable. It isn’t littering.”  My coffee was starting to kick in so I wasn’t going to just let this go. “What if some car skids on that peel?  Won’t you feel terrible that you caused an accident?”  (Never mind that we’d only seen about 4 other cars thus far.)  He smirked, “A car skidding on a banana peel? More likely some coon is going to have a nice breakfast now.”  At this point I think he began to figure out that he was in for a very long trip indeed. “Okay so some coon is going to be standing out in the middle of the road and cause an accident. Don’t you feel bad???”  Because he has been married to me long enough to know he wasn’t going to win nor was I going to quit, he simply chuckled and shook his head.

About the time the sun was rising we approached a lovely little town named “O’Neill.”  It is Nebraska’s Irish capital. (Not to be confused with our Danish capital, Swedish capital or Finnish Capital.  No. I’m not kidding.)  This is what the center of O’Neill looks like all year round:


Yes. That is green cement. Festive bunch of Irishmen aren’t they?  The second shot of espresso kicked in about the time we entered this green utopia so I was feeling a bit wired as we pulled into the gas station there for a pit stop.  Upon entering the bathroom my daughter and I discovered this:

flushApparently Jedi mind powers don’t work in the Irish Capital of Nebraska.    As you can imagine this set both my daughter and myself into a fit of caffeine-induced, this-trip-is-too-long laughing.  As we snickered our way out of the store my husband followed behind mumbling something about us getting banned from every town in Nebraska before we were done.  Every town?  He’s so dramatic.  I promised to be good as we pulled away and intended to keep that promise until I spied an insurance agency out my window.  A bright yellow building with a red roof the sign proclaimed, “Waldo Insurance”.  “FOUND HIM!” I yelled.  “No wonder no one knows where he’s at. He’s been in O’Neill all this time!”  I wanted to snap a picture but my husband wouldn’t slow down, assuring me that I could get one on our way back through the next day.  I think somewhere in his mind he was well aware that it would be dark the next time we went through town so I couldn’t but that didn’t occur to me at the time.  I can’t say I blame him for not slowing down.  When one is traveling Highway 20 in Nebraska the quicker you make the trip the better off you are.  Besides if he’d have let me take that one he would have had to slow down for all the signs that caught me eye. There were a lot.

I noticed a name trend in many small towns: “Eastside Mart”, “Westside Restaurant”, “Southside Gas”….we Nebraskans are very directional.  Of course I shared a loud my thought that we should open a gas station on the north-west side of town and call it “Southeast Service” or something like that but my daughter pointed out no one would ever be able to find it.  She’s so logical.  Among some of my other favorite signs was the one for bull accident insurance.  I have no idea so don’t ask.  I’ll just let you ponder that as I have for days now.  I also enjoyed the sign at the edge of town proclaiming: “Welcome To Cody: The Town To Tough To Die”.  That makes you want to pull in and visit doesn’t it?  On another pit stop along the way my daughter and I noticed this sign on the local grocery store  (Again forgive the phone picture, but if you look close at the top of that building it says, “Hi Neighbor!”  I’m not sure if that is friendly or creepy. ):

Gordon, Nebraska

I suppose it’s friendly in a big brother kind of way.  Small towns in Nebraska are like that.  Tough in that they aren’t too thrilled with “outsiders” moving in but friendly enough if you are passing through.  They are also friendly with each other.  Probably because they are all related somehow.  Take one town on Highway 20: Nenzel, Nebraska.  It’s population is 20.  Seriously.  I’m going to risk a guess that the town’s name also happens to be everyone’s last name also. Just a guess mind you.

In between those small towns is farmland in the east – ranch land once you cross into the Sandhills of Nebraska.  That sounds grand doesn’t it? “Sandhills”.  Can I just share once you’ve seen one mile of the Sandhills you’ve seen all of the Sandhills.  Ever been to “The Badlands” in South Dakota?  Same concept.  I’m not even sure where you cross into the “Sandhills” for sure but you know you’ve arrived when the land gets….well….sandy.  And the ranches get bigger.  And the towns are farther apart.  And you don’t see people trees or electrical lines for miles. Just sand, cows and a random tree here and there.  And the occasional ranch entrance.  My favorite was named “13 Bar Ranch”.  A loud my daughter and I wondered if that meant it was the local “watering hole” or if it was the only place in the area with cell service. (We sure weren’t getting any at that point.)  Either way we were dying to visit. My husband denied our request to turn in and find out.  In his defense it could have been 20 miles in to the ranch house from the road.  Still…..

Because of the lack of cell service and…well….other life forms, I became very thankful for our satellite radio. Way more thankful than our daughter was when I found “80’s On 8.”  My husband was impressed with my quick answers to all the 80’s trivia questions they asked between playing some of the best music from the best era ever.  My daughter wasn’t impressed with any of it really.  To distract me from my potential five-hour karaoke performance she suggested we play a road trip game.  Since we were driving across Northern Nebraska the license plate game was out.  So was “sunshine.” This may have something to do with the fact that you see perhaps 5 cars an hour.  The odds of those being yellow?  I didn’t mind that really because I don’t like getting smacked when my kids see yellow cars.  My daughter decided instead that we should play “windmill”. I agreed on the condition that there would be no smacking involved.  Someone would have gotten arrested for abuse because you see every few miles there is something like this in the area:


Some are close to the highway and some are far away.  All have the same purpose – pumping water for the cattle. That kept us amused for a while.  Eventually our daughter fell asleep.  Upon waking I informed her that we’d passed a windmill factory and I was now up by 500.  “AW man! Figures!” responded my competitive daughter. My husband’s eyebrow shot up, “How did I miss that?” he asked.  I’ve never been able to lie, “You didn’t. I totally made that up just to see what she’d say.”  This is why I don’t play poker.  This is also the point my daughter started throwing gummy bears at me.  I, in turn, tossed Twizzlers at her head.  My poor patient husband kicked up the cruise control every so slightly.  Car trip craze had set in.  Before a full on food fight could set in our destination came into view.

Chadron State College

Chadron State College

What a relief to get out of the car.  What a joy to see our oldest son.  What a fun time we had together that evening: swimming, eating, hanging out.

And then we got back into the car and made the trip home…..


Here Comes The Curve Ball!

I’m pretty sure by now I have mentioned a few hundred times that I am a woman who likes a plan.  I work at the plan…live the plan…the plan owns me.  As hard as I have tried to become more flexible and “go with the flow-ish” there is a significant part of me that turns to liquid when my plans get messed up.  You may now call me “water woman.” My very observant readers may have notice that the countdown on my sidebar has drastically changed today.  If you didn’t I’m going to guess you have now because you just looked. (That’s what I would have done.) If you have no idea what I’m talking about….hang on.  I’m going to explain the giant-sized, ain’t-no-way-you-saw-that-coming curve ball pitched at me this week, destroying “The Plan” and turning my life on its proverbial ear.  It’s not a bad pitch really.  I just didn’t see it coming.

In order for this to make perfect sense I have to back up a little. I apologize to my followers who have already heard this story. Skim this portion okay?   In October of 2011 my amazing husband took a job in a town located about an hour and a half south of where we currently live.  It was a great opportunity for him and it seemed foolish to pass it up.  Our problem was that our oldest daughter was into her junior year of high school and wasn’t interested (at ALL) in moving.  We conferred,  plotted, prayed and hashed out until we came to the conclusion that he would take the job and the children and I would remain where we are until after our daughter graduates from high school.  His schedule worked out to four days there and then four days home.  He stays with his parents who live near the town where he works on his days “on” and then comes home for his days off. Pretty easy right?  Until you add extra shifts.  And overtime.  And weather.  And the fact that we have been doing this for 15 long months.  I have discovered that I am not wired for single parenting.  (I’m not actually a single parent – he’s always reachable – but it feels like it when he’s gone.)  I have learned a lot about myself, life and what is important over these months.  It hasn’t been all bad.  It’s just been very long. Recently it began to feel longer and longer and….well… drudgery.  But we had a plan.  A goal.  I could live with it because there was a plan in place.  I could pep talk myself though it because I knew where we were headed.  Until a few weeks ago.

A few weeks ago my husband received the information about the spring outage at the power plant where he is an operator. Without getting too boring detailed, the outage essentially is a time when they shut things down to fix them. It means my husband works six days a week.  It’s great money but we only see him for that one day and then he goes back.  We survived the four-week outage last fall so I wasn’t concerned about the spring one until I found out it will be eight weeks long this time. Eight weeks of him only being home one day a week.  Oh….and the days will run up until – literally – the day before our daughter’s graduation.  The graduation for which  I am supposed hold an open house and then begin packing the very next day so we can be out of our house in a week and a half.  Suddenly I was not only concerned,  I hit my breaking point.  I can do a lot of things but this all seemed to be too much.  I knew somewhere in my head it wasn’t going to work.  I looked at my husband and said, “I don’t think I can do this any more.”  That’s what the curve ball set itself in motion.  My moment of coming to the end of my rope and realizing that my bloodied hands were about to slip off.  It turns out my husband was losing his grip on his rope also.  So were our kids.  It was most decidedly time to re-evaluate “The Plan.”   So that is what we’ve been doing for the past few weeks: Re-evaluating, exploring options, talking through things.  Without boring you with all the gory details of the very long story of our past few weeks I will tell you that the consensus was that it is just time to move.  The details of how we were going to do that were a little more tricky to plan out.  Seemingly impossible. I was ready to concede back to the original Plan. Then….BAM!  This week things lined up and the curve ball was pitched.

Now instead of moving the end of may we are set to move March 9th.  Our oldest daughter will live with some friends until she graduates.  While that makes my heart hurt I also know she is ready and it is only for 9 weeks. We get her back for the summer before she leaves for college.  We don’t have a house but we are fortunately will be able to stay in my grandparent’s house on my parent’s property until we can find what we want.  I don’t have a job yet but now I will be in the area and I can explore my options more thoroughly without the pressure of having to secure an income so quickly. We’ve been given a gift.  The gift of rest and refreshing and the time to do things the way we’d like to do them.  A few months ago if you would have told any of us that this is the direction we were going to head we would have laughed at you.  It wasn’t in The Plan after all.  Today this just seems like a better plan.  My notice has been given, the younger kids’ schools contacted and things are in motion.  No turning back now.

For the last few days I have gone from being wildly excited to completely overwhelmed depending on the moment.  My head is swimming with the million things that need to be done, both at my job and at our home, before we leave.  My heart is beating a happy tune at the thought of finally – FINALLY – moving back “home.”  My countdown counter went from 122 days to 43 in a matter of moments. My posts may (and probably will) become a bit sporadic in the next few weeks.  If you don’t hear from me fear not.  I am most likely buried in a sea of moving boxes or paperwork or busyness or last minute check-listing. I might be sitting in the middle of my floor crying depending on the day.  I’m going to guess both things will happen in the course of the next month but I’m okay with that.  I’m learning to just work the plan that is in front of me and know that it may change. What I’ve learned this week is this:

Curve balls can mess with your mind and are not easy to hit but if you connect with one chances are high that you’ll knock it out of the park.

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