Saturday, November 30, 2013

But wait -- a family story

From my childhood:

My sister Cindy always dreamed of competing in Miss America. I have early, early memories of her walking in the living room – swanning, really – with a book on her head. The goal was not just to keep the book on her head but entirely level. Plus she’d stroke the front of her throat with her hands in upward motions because that was supposed to keep your throat looking pretty or something like that. And she loved to hold beauty pageants in the back yard.

I was a very dramatic little girl and summer I was four, I apparently participated in her beauty pageant game with a great deal of flare and gusto one night in particular. My talent competition was singing, and so I composed and performed a masterpiece. Here's part of the lyrics:
I love you to the house
I love you to the store
But stay away, til I comb my hair
I wandered all over the back yard that night, singing and posing and singing and posing for probably 10 minutes.

And apparently my fame spread to our neighbors. I'd posted the picture you see here on Facebook and tagged my sister and my brother Doug. The neighbor commented on the picture and said that her children had heard that story all their lives. I can only imagine what they must think of the crazy little girl who lived next to their mother and sang about combing her hair.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Two funny stories

On Tuesday, our daughter-in-law told her three year old son that we were coming to their house for Thanksgiving. He got quiet for a moment then said with great sincerity, "I love Granddaddy. He's my boy."

I made a pork dish for dinner Wednesday night, only the guys didn't actually get pork at the store. They got a smoked pork butt with bone in -- also known as a ham. Now there's nothing wrong with ham, and as it turned out the dish was fine, if different. Our other daughter-in-law wasn't feeling very well that day (she got bitten by a spider and the bite got badly infected) and she was a little zoned out from the infection and antibiotics. She fell asleep on the couch before dinner but woke up enough to come sit with us and eat. She wasn't actually all that alert as the rest of us talked through the merits/disadvantages of the purchased cut of meat over what the recipe called for. I kept calling it a ham, while my sons called it pork. I'm not sure what roused Sophie but she looked up from her plate and very solemnly told me that this was the best ham she'd ever eaten.

Yesterday morning, I ran with my younger son. He's in great shape and thankfully he took pity on me and ran at my pace.This morning I am off to Jen's exercise class at the Y. Did I mention she's the instructor? And incredibly fit? This class is a weight lifting class so I just hope I can walk afterwards.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Day 28

Whew, made it – got all 28 days done.

Originally I started this project because I was having some stress at work and thought that by focusing on the things that matter, I might do a bit of personal readjustment. That’s happened, although not entirely in the way I thought it would. But at the end of these 28 days, I’ve got a long list of things I am thankful for (and I’m also thankful that this is the last one).

I have no idea how to say this in a way that won’t offend anyone. Fortunately, this blog isn’t widely read so at least any offense will be minimal. But here goes: I’m thankful for God and for what He’s done for me.

Keep in mind that this is my position. I’m not preaching or judging anyone for whatever beliefs they hold or don’t hold. That’s not the point. I’d just ask that you’d take this for what it is – my belief, my opinion and the 28th topic of my thankfulness.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Day 27

I am grateful for Kent. Well you knew I'd get to this topic before the 28 days were over, right?

In my previous marriage, I didn't understand the notion of spouse as best friend.

Actually that's not quite right. I was very nearly scornful of the idea that I could be married to my best friend, that husbands and wives could fully support each other, be 100% for each other all while seeing the spouse as he/she really is. I thought that was just a delusional idea perpetuated by sappy love songs on the radio.

I'm happy to say that I was wrong. I have that today. Kent sees me as I am and thinks that the "as I am" bit is just fine. Somehow he can still encourage me to aim higher, do more, try new things all without implying that I should do those things because I'm lacking now.

10 years into this marriage, I am still thankful to be loved by him and married to him.


Edited to add that I wrote this post Monday evening before we went to dinner. As is so often the case with us, we had a really good conversation at dinner about life and things that matter (there's something about a hotel restaurant that for us anyway fosters great conversation). I told him then that this post was coming and that everything he was saying and doing at dinner only confirmed how incredibly fortunate I am to have him as my husband.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Day 26

I’ve been thinking about all the traveling Kent and I have done over the last year, and really over the course of our relationship. I know traveling abroad has always been a popular activity, even well before commercial flights were around. But the time and money involved to go from, say, the US to Spain would have made it impossible for us to take the trip in October.

Likewise, for the last six years we’ve gone to wherever our younger son and his family live for Thanksgiving. Sure, we could technically drive there in the time we have available to take off from work. But what a very short time together that would be.

So yes, I’m really thankful we live in a time with airplanes and that we can afford to get the tickets.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Day 25

Christmas is a month away (if you celebrate).

And I’m grateful for something that’s fairly innate to me. I plan ahead – I mean I really plan ahead so most years I’m done buying Christmas presents in October. We are slightly behind this year but not by much. And celebrating Thanksmas with our kids and grandkids the day after Thanksgiving means we have most of it done now anyway.

But having that tendency to plan ahead and get it done means December is just not a hassle. And it means I can enjoy the stuff that matters – like the traditions I mentioned yesterday.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Day 24

I really like family traditions. Well OK, maybe I don’t like all of them but I do like a lot.

And it’s been really cool to see which traditions my kids have picked up as their own. One of the most adhered to traditions is what we eat at Thanksgiving – always turkey, my mother’s mashed potato recipe, a cranberry relish I make (with port, it’s good not yucky) and pumpkin pie. There are some other foods added in (after all, both sons are married and their wives have perfectly good family traditions of their own) but I’m still pretty pleased that things like my mother’s mashed potatoes are considered essential.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Day 23

You know, this is harder than it looks. Mostly I struggle with coming up with things that aren’t incredibly shallow or sound too preachy.

Anyway – day 23. Continuing on with the theme of friendship, today we fly to Boston and tomorrow we’ll drive down to the Cape to spend Sunday with our friends celebrating Friendsgiving. I can’t remember if this is our fourth or fifth year, but it’s definitely a great tradition. Things will be different this year since various friends have started having children. We’re going to have our big dinner earlier in the day so those with kids can get home at a reasonable hour. I will say, I remember when I was the one needing that accommodation so it’s fun to see things from the other side now.

These friends were the ones who really helped us through some very dark times in Boston. I’m not sure if they realize how much they helped us and comforted us, but they did. And as long as they’ll host Friendsgiving and we can afford tickets, we’ll be there every year.

So yes, for the third time this month I’m grateful for friends. This time it’s my Boston friends.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Days 21 and 22

Day 21

So I have a group of virtual friends – by virtual, I mean that 99% of our interactions are online. I’ve met two of the seven face to face and actually knew one of the two face to face people long, long ago and far, far away. We coalesced around . . . well honestly I don’t even remember the original catalyst. Two I grew to admire tremendously as I read their blogs, another lives in the Boston area and was already connected to a couple of the others, and anyway now we’re friends.

The other day I wrote that I was grateful for a couple of work friends (still am), but then I realized that these women are equally my friends. While I can’t exactly loan them a cup of sugar or take them out for drinks when things go poorly, that doesn’t negate the friendships we’ve created.

I see a common thread between expanding the idea of family the way my wife-in-law and I did, and expanding the idea of what constitutes friendships the way these seven women and I do. To my mind, both expansions are good things. My life has been enriched in ways I wouldn’t have realized years ago before the internet, before I made friends in online games.

I get it now. Just because I can’t hug a friend – because she lives thousands of miles away – doesn’t mean we’re not friends.

So virtual friends – that binder full of women I hang out with most days online – I’m grateful for you. As our monkey arm hugging friend would say: MOAAAH.

Day 22

A slightly more mundane topic of gratitude – but I’m off work today and off work all next week. I’m so incredibly grateful for that. I need a break.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Day 20

This is an easy one and based on events from today. I am so very thankful for my friends at work. Today they really came through for me, more than they know. All I can say is thank you.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Day 19

Incredibly grateful for mail like this:

We got that yesterday. You better believe I am thankful for Eliot (and Alison and Colin).

Monday, November 18, 2013

Day 18

Today I'm grateful I live in a climate that's more sunny than not in the winter. Oh and at a latitude that's not quite so dark in the winter months. Today in Boston, the sun rose at 6:38 AM and set at 4:19 PM. Here in Kansas, the sun rose at 7:04 AM and set at 5:02 PM. I know the daylight hours in the two locations are pretty close but here's the thing. In Kansas, I need my sunglasses on my way into work, and it's not full on dark when I drive home. I like having the light.

So there you go, a few measly minutes more of daylight makes me really thankful.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Days 15, 16 and 17

By the end of the week, I find it’s harder to post daily. I’m usually about as energized as a can of flat soda. So here are three more things to go on my gratitude list.

Day 15

For the most part, I’m glad I’ve lived such a nomadic life. Sure, there are times when I get a pang of envy or a case of “gosh if only” when I hear people talking about the life-long friends they’ve got or the connection to a specific place because of how long they and their families have lived in that area. But those times aren’t all that frequent and really it’s more like wondering what it would be like to have blue eyes or be tall or some other not likely to happen event.

I’m sure it’s all just a matter of whatever you’re used to – whether it’s living in the same house for more than four years (haven’t done that yet) or moving on average every 1.4 years (which I have done). And I’m used to being nomadic. Moving or making new friends or finding new favorite restaurants or dry cleaners or what have you just seems to be normal to me. I think the greater challenge will be to see if I can stay in this house that I do love so much for more than four years. Stay tuned on that one.

Day 16

Wally sticking his head
through the sewing machine
I am so very glad I sew.

And I’m downright tickled that Kent’s got into it too. In fact he’s already sewn two gifts for family this Christmas and has another three items planned.

I like that we can share this hobby, I like that we are both learning to really fit our clothing and I like that anymore it’s a slightly unusual hobby. You can see some of what I’ve made here.

Day 17

This one may sound frivolous, but I assure you it is not. I am beyond thankful to have a great cat sitter. Our cats ended up getting really wigged out during our time in Boston, and unfortunately the boys haven’t returned to a more normal, placid cat/Zen existence. In fact, Eddie has only gotten meaner when he feels threatened and we aren’t around (he never acts aggressive if we’re here – our Boston vet said he’s a cowardly bully and that’s pretty accurate). Wally is much more high strung than before we lived in Boston, and will just go hide when he’s scared. He’s gotten a lot worse about anything that smells like the vet. He hisses and attacks the other two cats if they smell like the vet, and he’ll hiss at himself if he’s the offender. Only Chloe is relatively normal.

Stacy refuses to give up on the cats. She swears she will get them to accept her and in the last 18 months, she’s made real progress. I hope she never does give up because otherwise we’d either have to stop traveling or the kitties would get kenneled at the vet’s. I shudder to think of what the readjustment period would be like after that.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Day 14

Here's another silly topic of gratitude.

I ran across this website when a friend shared the link with me. I don't browse it every day (hey, I'm not that much of a crazy cat lady) but sometimes I do. What I really like about this site is the notion that lots of other people, in other countries who are living very different lives than mine also love their kitties. Talk about a unifying element, that sense of connection with others over something as mundane as pets.

Go check it out. Yes, it's in Russian but really it's in purrs.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Day 13

Another fluffy topic but one I'm feeling today. I am very thankful today for carry out or delivery. Boston had a lot of carry out options, the KC area has fewer. But pizza gets delivered just about any place, I guess, and tonight it's getting delivered here.

Both of us had very long, challenging days at work and both of us have zero energy to cook, not even an omelet (which is my normal go-to dinner when I am beat).

So there you go. A shallow topic but a real one nonetheless.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Day 12

Shortly after we divorced, my ex married a woman who’d also been married before and had some children. I had no idea what to expect as this was uncharted territory for me, but I needn’t have worried. She wasn’t at all interested in having bitterness or animosity between the two of them and me. She thought that the idea of family could transcend the traditional structure and that really, kids can’t have too many adults in their lives loving them.

I agreed with her entirely, and so we began an unusual friendship – I say unusual only because of the reactions we would get as we all sat together at concerts or plays, or I came over to their house. People were flabbergasted and thought that I should hate her or she should resent me or there should be all kinds of drama in our lives over this new blended family structure.But that’s not how it played out.

She coined a term for us: wives-in-law. She said she disliked the hierarchical nature of first and second wives and thought her term more appropriately described us. She was right, it did and I was glad to call her my wife-in-law.

Over the years, she’s always been great with my kids. I know if you were to ask her she would not call them stepsons at all but sons. I’m fine with that because really, kids can’t have too many adults loving them.

Sadly, she and my ex are in the process of splitting up. Technically I guess that would make her my ex-wife-in-law. I won’t call her that though. She’ll always be my wife-in-law.

R – I’m grateful for you today.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Day 11

This one may also sound self-serving but hear me out.

Active duty picture
I'm thankful I served in the US Army. And the reason for that has nothing to do with nationalistic pride (although I am very proud to be a citizen of this country) or because I was all noble and sacrificial (I was 18 and a very typical 18 year old at that, in other words NOT noble and sacrificial). Nope, I'm glad I did it because I was able to live abroad for three years and even more, I was a minority.

I believe everyone should have a chance to be part of a visible minority. I think it would go a long way toward breaking down barriers if we all had to experience being part of the not powerful. Since I was a white female in the military, I was a double minority. I don't recall the numbers that were tossed around back then (remember this was long ago and far away) but I do remember there weren't very many white women in my units.

That's not to say I think for a nano-second that I truly know what it's like to be part of the disenfranchised minorities. My "membership" was temporary and lasted only until my ex and I both got out of the military and returned to the States. People of color, or those with disabilities never get to leave their statuses -- it's not temporary.

Anyway, today is Veteran's Day. I'm glad I served.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Days 9 and 10

Day 9 

I am so very glad Kent and I can cook and moreover that we enjoy cooking. I was thinking about that at lunch yesterday. I'd reluctantly gone out to lunch with some co-workers and my reluctance wasn't about the company but about not having my own yummy lunch that I bring every day. And a tiny bit of it was also that if I'm going to spend money eating out, I'd rather do it at dinner, with Kent.

Anyway -- we do love to cook, and even when we get in cooking ruts (we are in a pizza rut right now), it's still really good food, it's far cheaper than eating out and it's almost certainly healthier too.

At the risk of sounding very shallow, Day 10's topic of gratitude is . . . my car. Yes, yes, I know. An inanimate thing! And yet I love my car so very much.

I got the Volvo just over a year ago and I got it because I felt really unsafe in the Fit (you may remember I'd gotten hit by another car, well actually the other car's door). My Volvo isn't a lot bigger than the Fit was but it's sure heavier. I'm confident that if someone opened his door in traffic the way it did when my Fit got so damaged that the door-opener's car would suffer more. In the case of the Fit, it barely damaged his car.

I've never loved a car before. I liked my CR-V a lot, it was the first car I'd had that had power everything and I loved that the car sat up a bit higher. But it was green with a khaki interior and that just never felt like me. Plus it was humongous, at least to me. But it was roomy, handled well in snow and ice and it served me well for nearly 10 years.

This Volvo, though, is just amazing. The seats are so comfy (and heated! and NOT leather!) and it's unusual looking but not a freak show car, and my MP3 player works in it and -- well I could go on and on but why? You get the idea.

I guess the true upside of me falling in love with a car is at least now I get it when other people wax poetic about their own vehicles. I'm not judging them now.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Day 8

This may sound like a variation on day 1 when I was grateful for my lungs being OK now. Because today I'm thankful for decent joints: knees, ankles, hands etc.

A co-worker who is a couple of years younger than I am has to ice her knee constantly. She stays very active but has issues with that knee and hasn't taken the time to let her knee heal up. Now you could argue that her approach is pretty short-sighted and I would completely agree with you. Nevertheless, she believes she can power on through and she's also positive this is just a congenital thing, rather like her bunions.

Fortunately for me, I don't have any congenital joint issues (nor do I have bunions). Any time I've had problems with anything, usually my ankles, it's because of an injury. When I first returned to running in 2006, I had some pain in my knee but I changed my shoes to minimalist shoes and I also revamped how I run and poof! No more pain.

Watching this co-worker walk is almost disturbing because she lurches from side to side, sort of how I think zombies walk. I did a quick bit of Googling and holy cow there are a lot of different types of abnormal gaits out there (here's a link to a description of eight of them)! I had no idea, nor do I know what, if any, kind of disorder she might have. I suspect it's because her knee is so unstable and I'm grateful I don't have that problem.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Days 6 and 7

Oops got behind by a day.

Day 6: I'd thought about listing sleep yesterday but thought it might seem frivolous, although I guess it's not any more frivolous than, say, Milk Duds. Plus I know a lot of people with insomnia and doubt they think it's a frivolous topic.

But here's the thing. I need a lot of sleep AND I get up early. When I say I need a lot of sleep, I mean I do best when I get a good eight hours every night. And when I say I get up early, I mean I get up at 4:30 AM five days a week (I sleep til the scandalously late hour of 5 or even 5:30 on the weekends). The math doesn't lie: if I'm to get the sleep I need, I need to be in bed, lights out before 8:30 so I can actually fall asleep on time.

Well let me tell you, people just love to poke fun at how early I go to bed. Some are incredulous that I occasionally go to bed even earlier. But think about it for a second. You eat when you're hungry, right? Why wouldn't you go to be when you're tired? So that's what I do. If I'm worn out, I'm going to bed.

That's what I did last night instead of posting Day 6. I went to bed at 7:30.

Day 7: The other day my daughter in law posted a video of her 3 year old giggling helplessly. It was so dang cute, and also infectious. I found myself giggling along because his laughter was not to be denied.

It reminded me of when my older son watched the Winnie the Pooh movie. He was not quite 3, and I think the scene that got him going was when Tigger bounced all over the place for the first time. My boy just giggled and giggled and giggled. He loved that movie and we must have watched it hundreds of times. We watched it so much that this summer when the grandkids were here and we rented it for them, I still knew all the lines. But what I really remembered was all the laughter.

So that's what I'm grateful for today. Laughter like that from kids I love -- it's just good for my soul.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Day 5

Because I live in a cheaper area of the country, I can splurge on Glenfiddich* 15 yr Solara Reserve. I love single malt whiskeys. They taste so very good and a little goes a long, long way. I especially like having one after a tough day or week at work.

In fact, the day we flooded in 2009, Kent had gone back to the drowned apartment to fetch some things that were above the water line that we knew we'd need -- things like toiletries, socks, the floating litter box (hey it was a litter box so who cared that it took a bath in Boston's finest water?). I called him from the crack house hotel to ask him to fetch a couple of other things (don't remember now what they were) and at the end told him to bring the (almost entirely full) bottle of single malt because I figured we would need it.

So cheers! I toast you on day 5 with a shot of Glenfiddich.

*I'd link to their web site but it's got an annoying net nanny feature that requires you to verify your age before entering the web site. I wouldn't inflict that on anyone.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Day 4

OK I'm really thankful we live in a relatively cheap area of the country.

One of the few benefits that came out of our time in Boston (other than the amazing friends we made) was learning to manage our money. Even when times were really tough -- and in a city with such a high cost of living plus down to one income plus a mortgage that was double what we'd paid in KC, times were tough -- we got strict, buckled down, got a bit lucky in that nothing else catastrophic happened and even saved some money. But it wasn't easy, not by a long shot.

So being here, where our mortgage is just under half what we were paying, plus we no longer pay $400 a month to park two cars on patches of dirt, plus gas, insurance and heck even food is cheaper? Well it's just enough to make me thankful.

The Little Yellow House

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Day 3

Milk Duds!

Why yes, they are left over from Halloween (for which we got exactly one group of kids for a total of four Trick or Treaters. FOUR KIDS!).

I took the rest of the candy into the office (Butterfingers, York Peppermint Patties, Kit Kat bars, Twizzlers, and I forget the rest) but we kept the Milk Duds. Wikipedia and other sources say they're called Milk Duds because of all the milk in the candy and because the original idea of having a perfectly round piece of candy failed. I sort of wondered about that.

They are small candies and since they're caramel, they aren't something you can eat quickly and best of all they are relatively cheap in terms of calories. So all you Leawood kids who didn't come to our house for Halloween, Kent and I are thankful you skipped us.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Day 2

These gratitude things are posted in no particular order of importance. It's more as something occurs to me so you shouldn't read anything into me calling out being thankful for the cats before I say I'm thankful for Kent.

And yes, I'm thankful for the cats. Even when they barf or lay horrendous stink bombs or wake me up in the middle of the night. I get to giggle at their silly antics, I love having a purring cat curled up on my lap and when Kent and I watch a movie, it's just so cool that all three make sure they are near us. They're either on the couch or lying on our slippers on the floor.

Hard to feel as stressed when I see this

Friday, November 1, 2013

28 days of gratitude?

You've seen it floating around the web, I'm sure -- probably on Facebook or maybe someplace else. I'm going to give this a try (although in all honesty, I may collate a few days and post them all at once; work is insane right now so it's hard to commit to a daily update).

So. Day one -- what shall I say?

This one is easy because I ran today. I am so very thankful my lungs are (finally) in good shape. I ran 3.4 miles this morning at just slightly over 10 minutes per mile. Since I'm not built for speed, I won't get all wrapped around the axles over my pace and instead will rejoice in how quickly I recover, and even more how I don't wheeze.