Thursday, October 30, 2008

30 down, 1 to go

I admit I'm fascinated with the new tradition of getting BOOed. And I love our local zoo and its pre-Halloween "Boo at the Zoo" trick or treating event. I'm even getting used to trunk-or-treating as a way for the kids to fill their bag quickly without wearing out too much shoe leather.
I'm just not sure I'm ready for Halloween to become a "season" that lasts the entire month of October.
With The Big Day just 48 hours away, we carved pumpkins last night. Those wonderful kits of design templates and custom tools helped me create something that looks less like it was hacked with a chainsaw and more like I have at least a little bit of talent. You'll just have to guess which masterpiece is mine, because I'll never tell. I was in the company of greatness this year.
But, since the boys were involved, I would like to make it clear that I was NOT part of this one:

Some things never change.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Reason, Season or Lifetime

I ran back to the truck, knowing the wailing I heard coming from MiniMe would have Mr. O's nerves worn down to their very last fiber. With map and space assignment in hand, I pointed him down the winding and narrow dirt road toward our campsite.

We approached the corresponding number on the post next to the compact dirt parking pad, and I braced myself for the unpleasant task ahead. Knowing full well that it wouldn't matter whether I did or didn't, I asked anyway.

"Do you want me to hop out and help guide you?" I asked with a sigh.

Before it was all over, we had thoroughly annoyed each other as well as everyone else within shouting and engine-gunning distance.

Except? The folks two spaces up the hill. He, an experienced big rig truck driver, provided impartial pointers as Mr. O wedged our 27-foot trailer into an uphill, 25-foot space. She, with a smile and wave, beckoned MiniMe and I over toward their trailer to get us out of the way.

It's been said that you meet the nicest people when RVing.

A few months ago they sent us an enormous box full of treasures from their home base in Maine. When I say treasures, I mean treasures. Handmade, thoughtful, personal treasures.

For us, a family they briefly met four years ago at a remote campground in central California and haven't seen since. Not only the quilt, but the photos to show the love that went into every stitch. And, for the kids, some adorable seaside additions to their community of stuffed critters:
The delivery of this shipment coincided with a span of time that left me just shy of wanting to weave my own little cocoon and forget about the world for awhile.

My subsequent lack of communication with anyone personally, and even with this, my beloved blog, set many to worrying.

It set her to praying for me, as she always does.

Although I don't worship within the structure of organized religion, I feel like I have spiritual connections with forces in the universe. Signals don't usually have to arrive with a crash and a bang to get my attention.

Many signals come to me through the people I meet. I collect friends. They are with me for a reason, a season or a lifetime.

Is it coincidence that today I got an email from her? On a day when yet another frustrating splinter from the past year found its way under my skin? After weeks and weeks with no response from me to her last email? Saying that reading this blog keeps her feeling like we're closer than the thousands of miles that separate us?

No crash or bang needed.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

+ 60

Two months ago? This sent my heart straight to the pit of my stomach. It is the view from my office window.

This house
is across the street from ours.

Well-trained professionals were minutes between alarm and response, and we traded panic for wariness.
And then, sadness. Our beautiful open space, the trail system that drew us to this place we now call home, was charred. My friend, colleague, and neighbor Cath had some things to say about it at the time that were much better expressed than I could muster myself.

Mr. O rode the trails as soon as they reopened. He reported back with what we already knew: it was scorched. Where the earth was not blackened, it was tinged red with the fire retardant so blessedly applied to save the homes just below the fire line.
Rains came and washed away the soot and retardant. Cooler weather arrived. Fall color touched the mountainside where the fire had not.

We saw hints of green.

Although it will be years before the scrub oaks again show off their fall colors and the deer have leafy hiding places to which they can dart when we share their trails, there are cycles that are necessary. There is beauty in re-birth that we would not otherwise see.
Mother Nature has a way of providing hope in the bleakest of landscapes.

I'll take it wherever I can get it.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

The blooms may be fading...

...but the thought still warms my heart.

Especially today, when I needed most to remember that this, too, shall pass.

They got me roses. Roses.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Who makes me angrier?

The company that makes these truly permanent markers, or myself for leaving one where a certain 2-year-old wannabe artist could reach it?

Aw, heck. I wanted new dining room chairs anyway.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Seventy Five

Your sense of adventure is something to behold.

You stoically set up a home for your family over the years in whatever country your husband's career demanded -- a journey that took you as a newlywed in Switzerland to Taiwan to Japan to Bahrain to Singapore. An all-too-short time in the U.S., and then finally...back to Switzerland 40 years after leaving.

You make friends quickly, and keep them for a very long time. As an ex-pat wife, you have friends in all corners of the world. They all have deep affection for you and gladly host you as a guest whenever you are near.

You are as elegant and well-groomed as the Japanese gardens you love so much.

You've survived breast cancer. Twice.

You hike regularly, through altitudes and terrain that would challenge the best of those half your age.
You continue to make your way through life on your own, with a bright outlook, even though I know you miss him so very much.

You raised two wonderful sons who both have a healthy respect for themselves, their families and -- most importantly -- you, their female role model while they were growing up.

You gave up 7 weeks of your life to come from Switzerland and stay with us when your first and only granddaughter was born. You were so calm and reassuring. You and I shopped...talked...just spent that time together. I will never forget how it made me feel. Safe. Loved.

Happy Birthday!

You are extraordinary.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Cat's in the Cradle

"You know," he said, "I'm really impressed with how much Mr. O does to help with the kids."

I pondered that little morsel as we puttered through the kitchen making dinner together on the last evening he was in town. He was not around much when I was growing up, focusing instead on working long and billable hours as an attorney. I still don't see him very often.

"Yeah, I married pretty well this time, didn't I?" I replied with a chuckle as I grabbed a serving spoon from the drawer.

"No, really," he emphasized. "Watching him feed the kids dinner, get them in and out of the bathtub, put them to bed at night..." his voice trailed off. "It's more than I ever did with you two girls," he said with a sigh.

Our reverie was interrupted as the broccoli started to boil over and the timer on the rice rang out to get our attention. We called everyone to the dinner table.

Later that evening, after everyone else headed for bed, he casually asked if I was done for the evening or if we were going to sit a spell.

He's an Iowa Boy through and through, I thought.

"Oh, I think I've got enough energy to finish my glass of wine and watch a little David Letterman," I told him. We plopped down on the sofa and switched channels.

We kept a casual eye on the TV, but mostly just shot the breeze -- politics, family, travel, my recent career shift. Occasionally noticing what Letterman said, but mostly just being together and connecting.

"And now, the Top Ten Things Overheard at Sarah Palin's Debate Camp," said Letterman.

We stopped talking. Watched. Laughed, but for very different reasons.

"Well," I said with a yawn, "I guess after the Top Ten there's not much else to say."

"No," he replied, "but I just wanted to spend this time with you. It doesn't happen often enough and I wish it did."

He's right, I thought. It really doesn't happen often enough.

"Yeah, we've gotta fix that," I said. "See you in the morning."

Note to self: fix that.

Monday, October 13, 2008

And for dessert? A nap.

He plays hard, he sleeps hard. And his sister? She has a hilarious sense of timing.

He gets it from my side of the gene pool.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Hotel Schaererville

April 13 - May 31: The Best Man
Living with us. Yes, you read that correctly. His dog, too.

May 6 - 27: Mother-in-law
First visit in 3 years. All the way from Switzerland. While The Best Man was living with us (I'm sorry -- have I already mentioned that?).

May 8 - 11: The Best Man's family
A house-hunting trip. The Best Wife, C-Dude (7) and Bananny (3). And? The Dog.

May 23-26: The Best Man's family
Another house-hunting trip. Same guest list.

[NOTE: Archive has no May posts. Now you know why.]

July 23 - 27: The Brother-in-law and his family
First visit in 8 years. Also all the way from Switzerland. And the brothers didn't even kill each other.

August 5 - 30: Mor Mor
To help. To hang out. To provide moral support. Moms rock.

August 16 - 20: The Sister and her family
First time in over 4 years. Long story. Probably last time for the next, oh forever or so.

September 29 - October 2: Pops and his wife
Annual visit. Low maintenance. Welcome any time.

Weave in a few other bits of chaos and we've been busy. Just a little.

Closed for the season.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Soft, pink underbelly

I'm independent. Fiercely independent.

My mom has told tales of me as a toddler, thrashing in my sleep, firmly saying "NO. I do it myseff, mommy."

I earned my first paycheck at age 14. Minimum wage, about 15 hours per week at the neighborhood pharmacy. Financial freedom. I would not hear the word "no" when I wanted to buy something.

At age 21, I brought my fiance home to meet my parents -- a man 17 and a half years older than me. Did they freak out? Nope. They knew that to tell me I was crazy was a guarantee I would not be in their life for a long time.

I knew it all. I needed no one.

I. was. strong.

When I found myself emotionally and financially on my own for the first time in my adult years after realizing I was, in fact, crazy for marrying him, I used those ol' bootstraps to make a career out of a rather lazy path of working for a paycheck.

I. was. strong.

When I was done living in southern California...a place he dragged me...away from my midwestern family and friends...I was methodical about deciding where to move. I interviewed several cities, and the one I chose became the centerpiece of a 6-month plan to relocate. I was here 6 months and 4 days after making the decision.

I. was. strong.

Kissing a helluva lot of toads, I persevered until I found my prince. He was settling the details of a divorce, building his career, and figuring out how to mesh his life with mine. I handled the joint finances, weathered the storm of his father's losing battle with cancer, managed our rental property (his former home), and eventually sold it in a challenging market.

I. was. strong.

We found ourselves unexpectedly expecting after he got laid off. I was suddenly the [pregnant] chief breadwinner, facing maternity leave, with the prospect of reduced pay. He got a job with three months to spare, I worked during maternity leave, and went back to work full-time when our baby girl was 12 weeks old.

I. was. strong.

We started a business. We found ourselves, um, again, unexpectedly expecting. I was hit with a lawsuit. We lost the business. We lost a bunch of money. We couldn't count on knowing where our next week of groceries would come from. We had to work to make money, but that brought about a whole new set of complications.

I. was. not. strong.

I'm not used to asking for help. I don't know how to ask for help.

Guess what? Moms, with their built-in radar, know when help is needed. Moms arrive, no questions asked, and help.

With the kids. With the laundry. With the housekeeping. With rebuilding self-esteem.

And somehow, I found it in me to say that I needed help. I needed her. She, in her Loving Mom Way, said she was glad she could help. And? That she was glad I asked.

Love you, Mom. Thanks for helping.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

So much for cracking myself up

I can't juggle TWENTY straws, people! Really, do you think I'm coordinated or something? to the rescue!

And the winner is...


So, Joybear, send an email with your full name and mailing address to editor (at) papercraftsmag (dot) com and I'll get our fantastic special issue sent out to you right away!

And? Since BusyDad was bold enough to comment on this one -- for the benefit of his sister-in-law, no less! -- I think I'll find a little something to send his way as well.

It's your "lucky" day, BD!

Little does he know...

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Since it's October... must be time for Mr. O. to remember our anniversary.

He apologized yesterday, and I reminded him that I'm not one to worry about stuff like that.

If I were, he'd be paying the price by now, dontcha think?

And we had a fantastic time the weekend before our anniversary, helping some friends start their own married life together. Holy hell, did we have fun. My, hungover for about three days. Top three weddings we've attended ever.

So we laughed about the forgotten anniversary together, and lamented the chaos in our life that keeps us scattered and unfocused on these things.

Hon, as long as we can deep fry a turkey together every so often, I'm not going anywhere.

Only in Schaererville.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

And what did YOU do last weekend?

I'm betting you didn't hunt down and kill a rattlesnake while riding dirt bikes in the godforsaken dustbowl that is the Utah west desert.

Formula for success:

1. Bud Light

2. A broom (a broom? Seriously??)

I guess if you've had enough of the first, all you need is the second.

The Best Man + Mr. O x beer = trouble.