The View From A Slightly Twisted Angle

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Honest or Unhelpful??

Iam helpfulThere are times in my life when I ponder whether or not I am a little too honest about myself.  I know me and I know the things of which I am capable. While I believe that is a good thing, there are times when I wonder if I should share that knowledge with others. Sometimes it makes me seem unhelpful. Just ask my poor husband.

When we moved into this house last year I was well aware that there was a likelihood that we would at some point be visited by a rodent or two.  It is to be expected when one occupies a home that has been vacant for several years and is located on a farm.  (While this fact isn’t one of my favorite things about our current home it is one that I decided I could handle: eyes on the prize after all.)  Knowing this I wasn’t all together too freaked out last fall when we had a few unwanted visitors. I was expecting them and was mentally prepared.  What I wasn’t expecting was that several months later, in subzero temperatures and following a small investment in pest control products spread throughout the house, that we’d have another rodent-infidel slip in.  I mean, after all, we hadn’t seen a sign of a mouse for months and it has been freezing cold outside. Shouldn’t those little buggars be frozen or hibernating or something?  Who can blame me for letting my guard down? I truly thought mouse season had passed. You can imagine my surprise when I discovered I was wrong. Really, REALLY wrong.

Last Tuesday evening we had spent the evening cuddled in our warm house as a family. (At 15 below who wants to do anything else?)  The children had retired for the evening and I was preparing to do the same.   As I walked out of the bathroom in the hall out of the corner of my eye I thought I saw something run across our bedroom floor. ‘Nah.’ I thought. ‘I’m just really tired. It was probably just one of those weird eye things.’  I went into our room and began to change when suddenly out from under the bed the same “eye thing” streaked out and ran under my husband’s dresser.  EEEEEK! So there I was, in an unclothed state, doing what I typically do when I see a mouse: freezing on the spot. Completely immobile with the words ‘do NOT scream and wake up the kids’ I managed to grab my robe and run out to get my superhero husband who was, thankfully, home.  Had he not been home I would have ended up spending the night on the couch…at my mother’s house. (Sorry kids – you are on your OWN!) Muttering “Great” my superhero grabbed his tools of mouse destruction (a flash light and a broom) and headed for our room.  Following my usual procedure and being my typically brave self, I headed for the furthest point in the house from our room. (I do the damsel in distress well – no??)

While I was sitting in the dark pondering how much longer we were planning to live in the house and wondering what in the world was wrong with the farm cats whose job it is to catch these creepy things BEFORE they get in (they are SO fired!), I heard thunking in our room.  ‘Yay!’, I thought, “My superhero found him!! It won’t be long until I can just go to bed.”  More time passed.  More noises in our room. No triumphant husband coming out to give me the ‘all clear’.  Maybe he was just cleaning up. I decided I could be brave enough to investigate, after all I was exhausted and just wanted to go to bed.  Upon returning to our room I found him still on the floor with the flashlight looking under things.  It turns out that he had in fact spotted Mr. Mouse under the dresser but the wily rodent had gotten behind the pedestal leg so he couldn’t get to him with the broom.  Knowing that he’d have to block the furry menace in there somehow while he moved the dresser, my husband had turned around to grab something and by the time he had turned back around the creepy creature had vanished. Poof! Gone.   I walked in just as he was getting ready to  check under the bed again. Looking for assistance he asked me, “If I chase him out from under the bed can you hit him with the broom?”  Here was my moment to shine. To truly be the helpmate to this man that I vowed to be so many years ago.  Here was my chance to be my superhero’s sidekick.  I looked my sweet husband square in the eye and said, “No.”  Completely unhelpful.

As I scurried away I felt a little guilty.  I knew I should help. I knew that at moment my superhero was pondering whether or not he should find a better sidekick: one who doesn’t flee during the heat of battle.   I was in one of those moments of being completely honest about myself that generally makes me look unhelpful.  I knew that there was no way I would hit that mouse.  I would freeze and watch the mouse run by.   Though my husband had looked at me with disbelief when I answered, I knew that I was really saving him some frustration.  Really I was.  I have experience in this. My mind raced back to the many times in my childhood when, during a “mouse rodeo”, my mom would stand with broom in hand ready to help my dad. He was the “flusher” and she was supposed to be the “bopper”. What happened every time, however, is that my dad would be the “flusher” and my mom became the “dancer” – hopping up and down screaming.  To my knowledge she has yet to ever hit a mouse with a broom.  (She might have accidentally landed on one during her hopping but I don’t think so.) While these moments make for really funny stories later in life the truth is hopping or freezing up really isn’t helpful at the time. The mouse escapes and the rodeo continues in another room.

See? My honesty really was helping my husband, he just didn’t know it at the time.



When Life Gives You Brown Bananas….

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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.



Hitting The Wall And Finding The Gift

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It was bound to happen really. One can only go so long at full speed, or what feels like full speed,  before one winds up running smack into “the wall”.  You know “the wall” right?  The place where you figure out that you are physically, mentally and emotionally exhausted.  I don’t know why I was surprised by my wall but I was.  You’d think I would have seen it ahead but apparently I was running blind or thinking I could go around it.  Maybe I thought I could plow through it.  Silly me.

It’s been a draining two and a half weeks.

Draining physically: packing, purging junk, cleaning, unpacking, cleaning, laundry…did I mention cleaning and packing?  I always thought I was a neat, clean and organized person.  I now know I was delusional.  Or maybe I now know that life has a way of making things messy. I do know for sure that cleaning to leave a house that you’ve lived in for so long makes you discover muscles, and dirt, that you never noticed before.  I also now know that a family of six accumulates a lot of stuff.  Probably too much stuff.

Draining mentally: remembering all the last-minute details, making sure you’ve taken care of everything before you move, figuring out what things you need to function and what things can be stored for a while.  We downsized to a MUCH smaller house for now.  Trying to find the line between necessary and functional while still wanting to achieve the feel of “home” was a little more daunting than I thought it would be. (Remember I just said we have too much stuff?)  While doing that at home I was trying to ensure that everything at the job I was leaving was lined up and easy for those who followed me.  I didn’t realize how many details there were to my former job until I started trying to list all my tasks.  Life is kind of like that isn’t it?  We don’t realize how much there is to  the “ordinary stuff”.

Draining emotionally: leaving a job I had for 12 years, friends I had for 14 years, the house where we raised our children and, worst of all, our oldest daughter.  That may have been the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do.  I spent a portion of the day following our move looking at the snow, missing her and crying.  Emotionally drained. Of course along with the hard stuff was the good stuff. Like returning “home” after 21 years. Moving into a house that belonged to my grandparents where my memories are so happy. Life is kind of like that most of the time isn’t it?  There is always good mixed in with hard.  Sometimes I think that makes it more confusing.

Of course there is always just the stress that goes along with moving.  Like getting the moving truck stuck in mud, twice.  Or eight inches of blowing snow the day after you get to your new home.  Or trying to remember which box you packed the toilet paper in.  We had great help and I will forever be grateful but the bottom line is this: moving is hard.  And tiring.  You’d think I’d have seen that wall coming. But I didn’t. Or I ignored it.

I tend to function best at full speed.  I like a plan and a deadline. I like to be busy. So really the last two weeks were right up my alley: I had a goal to accomplish and a checklist to get through.  It works for me.  Well it works for a while.  We got moved.  We got settled.  The younger two children got settled into their new schools. I had a job interview.  Things were clicking along according to the schedule in my brain.   In my brain I need to be working again soon. I thought I was on track for that. I have settled the house, gotten the kids settled in school, established a routine…there is really nothing left for me to accomplish here.  I’m not used to all this free time and it’s messing with my head. Then yesterday I found out that the job that I interviewed for and thought I got I may not have gotten.  I’ll find out next Monday.  That threw me for a loop. What it really did was throw me into the wall.

The wall which reminded me that I can’t control everything.  The wall that says not everything is going to go according to my plans or schedule.  The hard wall.  The solid wall. The wall that knocked me on my fanny for half a day.  The wall that made me stop mid-rush and realize that I had been throwing away a gift.  A gift of some time to rest and take a break from frantic living.  The gift of being able to just hang out with my parents and the rest of my family for a while.  The gift of quiet.  The gift of peace.  The time to take a deep breath and relax a little.  I didn’t even know I needed that until now.

So what’s the “plan” for today?  I’m going to sip coffee and enjoy the view from my front window:

or maybe the back one:

Later I’m going to make dinner for my parents who are returning from a trip out of town for a few days. Until then maybe I’ll read a book.  Or take a nap.  Do a craft.  Bake something.  I really have no plan.

Whatever I do I intend to enjoy my unexpected gift!

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Poor Man’s Flowers

carnationsSo today is Valentine’s day: a day of romance and love and…well…setting most men up to feel like they are failures. Not romantic enough.  Not thoughtful enough.  Just not…well…enough.  They didn’t get us the right card or chocolate or take us to the best restaurant.  They didn’t spend enough on flowers and gifts. The card wasn’t handwritten. They just didn’t hit the romantic standard we had in mind.  Like the guys in the movies or television or romance novels do. Quit trying to pretend ladies – we’ve all been there.   I was reminded of it last night as I heard my girls discussing Valentine’s day and their friends’ expectations from boyfriends.  Most of us grow out of that eventually but I know some women who haven’t.  I find that kind of sad.  If you’ve followed me long enough you already know that I firmly believe that if I don’t show my family that I love them and they are special to me on more than just a select few days a year (Valentine’s, Birthdays, Anniversaries, etc.) then I am sadly missing the mark anyway.  That doesn’t mean that we don’t get our kids something for Valentine’s day or their birthdays or any other special occasion.  We do. We just aren’t extravagant for them or for each other.  I don’t need those things to know I’m loved and I have hopefully passed that security on to my children.  It isn’t about the gift.  It’s about the giver.

Not long ago I was sitting in a meeting where there was discussion about handing out flowers.  Someone made the statement, “We’ll be giving out roses – not carnations, the poor man’s flower. ” (or something to that effect.)  My eyebrows shot up.  “I LOVE carnations.”  I said.   “They are cheap.”  was the reply.   That statement bothered me on several levels.  It not only exemplifies the attitude I was just discussing but it reminded me of the time I had to grow up and begin to learn what true love is about.  It reminds me of how ugly my attitude and expectations used to be.   And it all happened on a Valentine’s Day long ago.

My husband and I had been married a little over a year and our son was still a baby. We didn’t have any extra money.  None.  In fact we barely had enough money to feed ourselves.   It was obvious to both of us that there was not going to be any kind of special celebration or gifts for Valentine’s Day that year.  I’d like to say that I was mature about that but at that point in my life I just wasn’t.  I was disappointed that I was going to be gypped out of a romantic day filled with flowers and gifts.   I did force myself not whine or complain too much to my young husband but he knew how I felt.  I’m not sure how he could have missed it really.  Pity parties are pretty hard to miss. My poor husband, married too young and doing the best he could at that point felt like a failure because he couldn’t go out and buy roses and chocolates and take me to dinner.  He wasn’t a failure.  His wife was just a spoiled selfish little girl.  On February 14th that year I baked a chocolate cake and decorated it with heart sprinkles (all the ingredients donated to me by my mother by the way) and felt some sort of martyr-ish satisfaction knowing I had a least done something for him for Valentine’s day while I knew he would have nothing for me. (How many times have we played THAT game girls??)  Much to my surprise he walked through the door that evening with two carnations: one red and one white.  He had scrounged through our vehicles, couch cushions and everywhere else he could think of to come up with the change to buy them because he didn’t want me to have nothing that day.  He knew it was important to me so he did everything he could to make sure I got something.  He loved me.  Amazingly – he still does.  From that day to this: carnations are my favorite flower.

Just a few weeks ago  I arrived home from work right before my husband had to leave for his four-day (ok – overnight) work week out-of-town.  I found a simple vase with two carnations, one white and one red, sitting on our headboard.  “What is this?” I asked him.  “Nothing really. Just a little something to let you know I love you and I’ll miss you.”   He does things like that for me all the time.  Nothing extravagant but just a “little something” to tell me he loves me.   Those “poor man’s flowers” bought simply “because” are worth more to me than all the roses in the world.  I guess I learned my lesson all those years ago: any gift given out of love is precious no matter how expensive (or inexpensive) it is.  So tonight while people are out wining and dining and celebrating romance I am going to look at my $10 bouquet of flowers that my sweet man brought me yesterday.  He picked them up at the grocery store while he did the grocery shopping for me.  Now that, my friends, is true love!



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…..



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.

photo credit:

photo credit:


I Guess I Haven’t Heard It All

I’m a secretary so part of the joy of a new year for me  is the changing of the paper in the office. By December my files are stuffed so full that I can barely shove one more piece of paper in them.  I thoroughly enjoy arriving on January 2nd every year to begin clearing out the “current files” storing the “old files” and generally getting rid of junk.  Besides that I really enjoy my paper shredder. Until the bin gets full and I have to dump it and make a mess that I have to clean up. At least its a colorful confetti mess.  The entire process usually takes a day or two, depending on how many interruptions (read: “phone calls”)  there are.  While humming along in my “out with the old in with the new: mode the past two days I’ve gotten a few of my favorite phone calls in all of the twelve years I have worked here.  I thought I’d taken all the funny church phone calls anyone could take.  I was wrong.

Yesterday I interrupted the rhythm of my shredding to answer a phone call from a very energetic telemarketer.  I know these people are just trying to earn a living but I’m not a huge fan of telemarketers. It isn’t that I don’t appreciate their willingness to work.  It’s that if I want to buy something I will call you.   You can imagine my pleasure, then, when  that one was disturbing my “Enron Secretary” impersonation.  I answered to discover an eager young man selling advertising space in the local movie theater.  Not on the walls, mind you.  They were selling 30 to 60 second spots that would run before movies start.  All movies shown at the theater.  No matter the rating or content.  As I assured the young man that the church he had called was probably not interested in doing that,  in the back of my head the thought, ‘Oh yeah and could you be sure that you run our ad right before you start  Paranormal Activity 5?? I’m sure people will be looking for a church after that movie…..’  Have to say that I never thought of a church advertising before movies.  Wonder if that would drive attendance up?  I’m going to guess ‘no’.   (Maybe if we played movies during church….  But I digress.)

A little later in the day I answered a call from a woman, who has never been to our church, inquiring as to whether or not our church helps people pay their utility bills.  This is not an uncommon call.  I take many of these calls every week. All the churches in our town do.  That is why the local churches have gotten together and created an interdenominational office to handle all those requests.  Through that office  they can track who they help, how often, etc.  It keeps people from making the “church loop” as we used to call it.  As I started to inform the woman that she would need to either call that office or one of the other agencies in town which are set up for assistance she interrupted me.  “I’ve called all those places but they won’t pay my cable bill.”  Okay.   Cable bill? That was new.  I replied, “Well ma’am that isn’t probably going to be a bill that would be considered necessary to live so you may have trouble finding any agency with that kind of assistance.”  “Not necessary?” She shouted at me. “It’s winter.  What the *%$& else are my kids supposed to do??” Slamming phone in my ear.  Muttering, “Um…..go to the library?” I hung up my receiver.

Today as I continued to sort, file and shred I received what was perhaps the most unusual call I have ever taken in this office.  It was from the youth pastor’s neighbor who sounded like she was perhaps 104.  Okay.  74.  She was calling to see if he was out of town. (The dark house must have clued her in.) I informed her that, yes, the family was out of town.  “Well I live across the street and someone has tied a dog to their front door.”  “A dog?” I asked.  “Yes.” she said. “It’s just been driving me crazy to see that poor dog tied to the house and no one is home.”  Again the voice in my head: ‘So you called me because??? Oh – I know. You lost animal control’s number?’  Out loud I said. “Are you sure it is their house?” and said their house number.  “Well I think so.” she replied.  Thinking quickly I said, “Well I’ll tell you what.  Their landlords happen to attend our church so I will call them and have them drive by and check.”  “Oh. Thank you!”  She replied. “I just didn’t know what to do.  I hate being nosy but it is so cold outside for that poor dog.”  Oh yeah.  She hates being nosy.  Obviously.   I hung up the phone and, laughing, called the landlords.

As I returned to Fawn Hall mode to finish off my beginning of the year organization I kept thinking of that call. I’m hoping they let me know if there was actually a dog tied to that door. I’m dying of curiosity now. I have to say after all these years of dealing with colorful church people this may have been the funniest thing that has happened yet.   Of course the year is still pretty young and obviously I haven’t heard it all yet.


Busy Work Brain Fog

brain-fogWe’ve officially hit the “quiet time” of year at work which is always a problem for me.  I don’t do really well without a list of things to do.  Particularly when I have a list of things that need to be done at home.   The whole situation makes me get agitated.  Add to that my feeling of guilt for getting paid to not do a lot and I’m usually getting a bit psycho about right now.  There are only so many office supply cupboards to clean out and things to dust.  I can only answer the phone when it rings which it isn’t doing much.  I can’t make up work to do.  Or can I?

Today, in the throes of  ‘Oh my word what am I going to do all day long’ I thought I came up with a brilliant idea.  I decided to reorganize all the files and documents  on my computer.  Since I am leaving in six months it only seems fair to leave the secretary who follows me with nice tidy files and document names that make sense.  Some days when I finally find a document that I’m searching for I think to myself, “What in the world was I thinking when I saved that?”  Today seemed like a good day to start purging old and unneeded things, making sure that all the files are saved in places that make sense and are saved in the latest format available.  Sounds like a good plan – right?   It gives me something to keep myself busy and ticks off one more project that I should complete before my last day of work.  It’s something that needs to be done so why not plunge in and do it? What can be the down side here?

It is now late afternoon and I’ve discovered the down side.  I have total brain fog.  Fog so thick that I can’t see past the end of my nose.  No amount of coffee is going to cut through this stuff.  I’m down for the count.  Done for the day.  I cannot look at one more document name without losing my mind completely.  I’m on the verge of incoherent babble and drooling. In the midst of my fog I did make a mental note for myself.’I don’t care how quiet it is tomorrow I am not planning to spend the whole day organizing my computer.   I’ll finish this task a little at a time. There comes a point when being busy for the sake of looking busy becomes detrimental.   Besides that: I’m pretty sure it’s time to rotate that copy paper again…..

looking busy


Christmas Vacation?

This is actually something I wrote last year around this time.  I didn’t have a blog then it was just something running through my head so I wrote it down.  A friend read it and encouraged me to send it in to our local paper.  I did just that and much to my shock they published it shortly before Christmas last year.  While it may be cheating to “re-blog” this year as I read it over recently and I realized that a lot of it remains true this year.  I think perhaps I’ve learned a Life Lesson so I thought I’d share it with you.  Here is to kicking off the season with the right perspective.

While watching a family favorite Christmas movie last night, I was struck by the parallels of the movie and the way my life is playing out this Christmas.  For those unfamiliar with the movie “Christmas Vacation”: it tells the story of a man who wants to have the “perfect family Christmas” and the often hilarious things that happen to him and his family as he strives to achieve it.  Despite all his planning, all his dreaming, all that he does to make things “perfect”, nothing goes right for him and the family Christmas falls apart: ending with fires and swat teams invading the house.  Most of us laugh throughout the movie because somewhere in us we can all relate to at least part of his struggle: whether it be odd relatives or just the sense of “nothing is going right.”   This year, the movie made me ponder the question: “What IS the ‘perfect Christmas’?  What does it look like? What is essential for Christmas to be perfect?”

We all have an image in our heads of what the perfect Christmas suppose to look like, sound like, taste like, feel like. We all have a standard, whether it be considered high or low, of how we think things should go to make them “perfect.”  To some of us the perfect Christmas starts with the perfect tree or the perfect decorations. Every light has to twinkle, every ornament glimmer, every hall must be festively “decked”, or it just isn’t Christmas.  For some it is finding the perfect gift for everyone we know.  It has to be the most astounding, mind-blowing thing that no one else on the planet would even think to get them.  Or it must be the most thoughtful, the most handmade with love, the most special thing they have ever received.  For others, it’s all about the food. Perfect cookies, perfect appetizers, perfect dinners, perfect eggnog (is that even possible??) all add up to us hosting perfect parties that people will talk about for months to come.  Some want to perfectly implement traditions, that their parents didn’t implement perfectly in the first place, while others want to attend every perfectly festive function and make sure our kids experience the perfect Christmas season by attending every kid-friendly perfect function.  For most of us it is a combination of some or all of those things that make for the “perfect Christmas.”  Is it any wonder that by the time we finish unwrapping our perfectly wrapped gifts and cleaning up after our perfectly cooked meals we have lost our perfectly sane minds?

I took an impromptu poll of my Facebook friends and posed the question: “What do you need to have the perfect Christmas.”  Interestingly enough every person who answered said something that in some way related to family or relationships. I can honestly say that I was expecting those answers.  We all say “I just want to be with my kids” or “I just want my family together” and for the most part, that is true. However I have to ask: is that really all we want or is that the answer we feel expected to give?  If all we had were our family in a room with no decorations, no gifts, no special food, nothing but time to just spend together, would we really consider it a perfect Christmas?  I so appreciate my two friends who answered, “my family and….” went on to list things like snow and hot cocoa and games and twinkly lights.  That’s an honest answer:  “I want relationships AND….”  Clark, from the Christmas movie, wanted his family around him AND all the stuff he believed would make Christmas perfect.

This year, because of circumstances related to a job change and an extended training time of less income, we are forced to either cut back the things that we regularly do for Christmas or not pay our bills.  Since the thought of not having heat for Christmas and the New Year is more disconcerting to me than the thought of not having the correctly scented candles burning or the proper Christmas goodies stashed, the bills are being paid and Christmas, well, it just isn’t going to be “perfect.”  I have for weeks struggled with the things that I wish I could do, love to do, want to do, but am not able to do this year.  It’s been a walk through sorting out what is really important and what isn’t  It has been a wrestling with coming to grips with my perceptions of a perfect Christmas. What we can live without and what we can’t. And, oddly enough, what I do because of my pride and what I do because I truly want to bless others. OUCH!

For years, I have spent a good part of the month of December baking an assortment of Christmas cookies and candies and then overloading friends and family with goody baskets.  I love to bake: a love that was handed down from my grandmothers and makes me think of them as I pull out their tried and true recipes every year at Christmastime.  I love passing down that tradition to my kids. It makes me feel a connectedness to the past and the future: one of those warm fuzzy Christmas-y feelings.  This year the baking list has been cut from dozens of recipes to about three, which is all we will be able to afford to do.  I asked my family for their most favorite treats and that is what we are making.  That’s it.  That’s the extent.  There will be no goody baskets to hand to friends, teachers, co-workers. Just a few favorites for my husband, kids and our respective family get-togethers.  I thought I could live with that.  I’m struggling.  I wonder why I’m struggling.  None of us really needs the extra calories and everyone gets plenty of goodies from friends, right?  In the midst of my wrestling of feeling like this year’s baking would be less, far less, than “perfect”, the thought hit me:  this is a PRIDE issue.  I like being the “cookie lady”.  I want people to look forward to the “Wedel Cookie Basket” that they get every year. I have turned my yearly baking bonanza from an act of fun and tradition to part of my value as a person. How did that happen?  It’s my AND!

Are we less of a person because we don’t have a perfectly decorated tree? Does it mean we like people less because we didn’t have the funds or time to find or make that one perfect gift for them?  Does a less than perfectly turned out Christmas feast mean we just don’t care?  Will Christmas be less than perfect if we don’t get our “ands”?  I suppose that is up to us.   Because of our circumstances, my focus has had to turn from all my “ands” to the one thing that I know truly makes for a “perfect” Christmas.  It has little to do with everything looking right.  Nothing to do with how much money I spend or how many cookies I can bake. It has everything to do with relationship, the one common thread in my Facebook friend’s answers, though not the relationship of family which everyone thinks of first.  It has to do with my relationship with the Perfect Savior: the One whose birth Christmas is supposed to celebrate. With my attention turned to Him, the rest of the “ands” just don’t seem as important. Don’t get me wrong: there is absolutely nothing wrong with the “ands” or the family traditions or anything else that is special to you at Christmas. I just realized this year that all of those things had been distracting me from what should have been MOST important. Do I still wish for them? Sure! But because of my hope in Him I know that the “ands” will come again someday and that whether I have them or not my Christmas will be “perfect.”

At the end of the movie the main character stands on his lawn watching his plastic Santa flying through the air after one final large explosion while listening to his family celebrating happily in his nearly destroyed house and he says, “I did it!”  Meaning that even though things did not go as planned, he felt he had the “perfect” Christmas.  My goal this year is to stand on my lawn Christmas night (Nebraska weather permitting of course) and say, “God, YOU did it!!”


A First, Some Lasts, and Hitting My Stride

It’s been an active and crazy fall at our house.  This is not a new thing really.  It happens every fall with the restart of school and all the activities that surround it. This year has been different, however.  This fall is our last fall in this house.  In this town.  At these schools.  It’s really rather weird when I stop to think about it and I’ve been trying to think about it as much as possible.  I want to savor the lasts.  Enjoy them. Remember them.  It’s a difficult balancing act: trying to enjoy the now while looking toward the future and wondering what it’ll be like at the same time remembering the past and feeling a bit wistful.  The last two weeks have been brought a slew of balancing and savoring for me. It’s kind of knocked me off my “stride” for a while.

As we do every year we finished cleaning up our yard for winter, bringing in the decorative things that would get ruined in the snow.  Normally those things get put in a tote and stored in the garden shed in our back yard.  This year was a little different.  We won’t be using those things here ever again so everything was brought in, cleaned and packed in a moving box.  My first moving box has been packed.  Weird but exciting at the same time.  I wonder what my birdhouses and stepping stones and garden figures will look like in our new yard?  They sure looked cute in this one. As I dumped the dirt from my trusty planters and flower pots, washed them and packed them I couldn’t help but smile thinking about all the flowers they’ve held at this house.  The color they’ve added to our yard. I hope there is a spot for them at the new one.

We attended the last home football game for the local public school.  As we bundled up and walked to the stadium located just a few blocks from our house I realized that it was the last time I would ever make that trip.  We’ve been walking to every home football game ever since our oldest son started suiting up for varsity six years ago.  After he graduated we went to cheer on his friends and our oldest daughter in the band.  This year: two daughters in the band.  Multiple Friday nights in fall walking to that stadium to watch and that night was our last walk to a game in this town.  I wondered what we’d be doing next fall on Friday nights.  Which stadium we’d be going to. Would we be able to walk there?  I guess time will tell but I made sure to savor that last home football game in the “home stands” in our current town.  I may be back to watch a game someday but I’ll be sitting on the other side.  I wanted to soak in the atmosphere, the sounds, the smells, the familiar feel.  It was no wonder I told my husband we didn’t need to leave early even though the team was leading by a lot and my feet were freezing.  I’ve spent a lot of time in those bleachers. Spending a few more for a final time seemed important at that moment.

The next day we traveled to watch what will most likely be the last band competition we will ever attend.  The school districts we are looking at for our youngest two children don’t compete in field marching competitions.  They still have band and march in parades and do halftime shows but it will be different. No traveling on Saturdays to watch them march.  No intense “we have to get a 1” pressure all fall.  As much as we’ve enjoyed the competitions I think I might be looking forward to that part: just band that is fun.  Because it was the only year our two girls will ever march together and the last year we will ever be involved in field marching competitions we wanted to make sure we made it to every competition.  We wanted to savor.  The last one was no exception.  We stayed the entire day and well into the night for the awards.  It was the last time.  We can attend again in the future but it will be different because our kids won’t be competing.   It was worth the long chilly day and the long drive home well into the night.  It was worth being tired the next day.  It won’t come along again.

This past weekend was the final musical our daughters will ever participate in at this high school.  The only one they will ever be in together.  Our oldest daughter’s last one ever.  Guess who made sure they were there? We “tag-team” attended this time: I went one night with grandparents, my husband went the next night after he got off work for the week. He got the bad end of that bargain.  He was the one who had to hug our crying daughter after the show.  He’s the one who had to find the right words to say. She’s well aware that we are hitting some last times too. This time next year she will be off at college and on to the next exciting chapter in her life. That is normal and a good thing.  The difference for her is that “home” will no longer be here.  It will have moved to a different town where she won’t be as excited to come back to attend things at the high school.  She won’t know that high school or its teachers or former students.  She’ll show up to support her siblings, but it won’t be the same for her.  She is busy doing her own savoring.

About this time of the year every year just as I feel I’m about to the end of my rope things slow down for a few weeks allowing me to regroup.  Regroup time is a good thing for me.  It’s a better thing for my family who has to put up with me.  After weeks of being too busy to do much more than cursory housework my irritability rises.  I begin to feel swamped and overwhelmed and my family starts to pay for it.  I’m not a pleasant person to be around when I’m in that state of mind. Everything starts to fall apart: the house, my exercise routine, my mood…you get the picture.  This year has been no exception.   In fact this year may have been worse with the added pressure of not wanting to miss anything and thinking about our impending move.  Thankfully I was able to regroup a little this weekend.  I had a day to throughly clean our home.  I purged some things in the process. I got back on track with my exercise routine.  Life seems a little less frantic and more under control again.  This is a good thing for both me and the poor people who have to live with me. My mood has improved as some order was restored to the chaos.  It’s just in time.

Our last holidays in this house are coming up and I intend to enjoy them as much as possible.  I want to be able to blend the nostalgia of past holidays with the excitement of what is to come next year while enjoying this year’s celebrations.  It’s a balancing act.  At least now I feel like I’m hitting my stride again.