Daily Affirmation

The best things in life are free.
The second best are very expensive.
- Coco Chanel

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Saying the "R" Word... (retirement)

I'm at a crossroad.  After 22 years of working at one job or another, I'm reaching the end.  And I'm not quite sure what to do with myself.  So funny - I never thought I'd feel like this.  Every year I worked, I would think of so many projects I wished I had the time to finish.  Or even start.  And now that I'll have the time, I'm kind of wringing my hands over it.
I've been working from home for the past three years.  I have to admit that I didn't totally love the work, but I did love working from home in yoga pants, and the no early mornings.  However, it was mostly comprised of tasks that any monkey could do.  Not a lot of creative input or innovation - the things that make work fun for me.  But it was easy work, and as I've slipped in and out of my fifties, easy started sounding better and better.  And maybe that was the root of the problem.  We learned that one of the main admins for our Education Department back at the Minneapolis Mothership was retiring.  So happy for her.  It sounded like she and her husband had a whole host of new adventures to set sail for.  Trouble is, as it turns out, the Mothership decided to hire ONE person to do both her job AND my job.  That was a nice little surprise that was sprung on me the day after I returned from Arizona.  Sweet.
That first day I just walked around with a rock in my stomach.  I called L.  I cried a little bit.  And L was amazing.  The first words out of his mouth were "Well, maybe it's just time to retire."  And as the days have gone by the past couple of weeks, it's sounding better and better.  I'm starting to think of this or that project that I might want to tackle.  Mulling over enticing possibilities is a delicious way to daydream.  I wouldn't be opposed to working even just part time (because let's face it kids, I love having money) but right now I have nothing in the works, and I'm feeling okay about that.  But more than that, I'm anxious to get in touch with my creative mojo, which is something that hasn't happened in a long, long time.  Painting comes to mind.  Cooking.  Doing things that in years long past used to give me such a release and so much satisfaction.  Yes, I'm looking forward to reconnecting with that part of myself.

I want to take more charge of my health.  I've been reading books on essential oils, and herbal tonics, and homeopathic remedies.  Realizing (more strongly) that healing must involve body, mind and spirit.  Western medicine certainly has it's place, but more and more I'm drawn to whatever I can do to help myself, relieve symptoms, and walk away from as many of these current medications I'm taking as I can.  I will probably always need to take something - Orencia, or something like it - but I'd sure like to at least get off of the steroids and over the counter Ibuprofin.  Give my poor liver and bones a break!  There are some classes I'm trying to figure out how to take, and I'll figure it out eventually.  (They seem take place in a largely inaccessible area of Idaho... no hotel within 35 miles, and airports?  HOURS away.)
Besides all of that, my daughter Katie and I signed up for a 6 week fitness challenge.  I needed something to kick start me into finishing my weight loss goal.  So here we are on Team 7 with 3 other young mothers from Utah that we've never met other than via email.  No matter, we are emailing each other once or twice a day with support and encouragement.  We really want to win those $40 gift cards, but more than that, we really want to win back some healthy habits and lose some bad ones, shed some pounds, and remember who we are and why we're here.  Katie and the other girls are at one stage of life with small children and a hectic lifestyle, while I am at the other end wondering how it all got by me so quickly.  At first I felt bothered by all of the emailing and fuss - I'm not used to so much human contact - but now I'm really starting to enjoy it.  I'm getting downright gabby in my emails.  And I've not been tempted once to cheat on the goals and rules I set for myself. 

I'm most proud of that I think.  We are a team, and it's one for all and all for one.  We are making our individual worlds a better place for our families.  We are taking time for ourselves, we are eating healthy, we are breaking bad habits.  We are not drinking anything but water.  That's right.  Not even Coke Zero.  We are just in Day 4, but so far, so good.  5 1/2 weeks to go.  By that time we should be awesome and completely invincible.

So that's life as I know it right now.  Nothing is certain - not even my end date.  It is supposedly July 31, but it may be extended, as the new hire is proving tougher to find than anticipated - I mean, who doesn't want to do the work of two people for the pay of one?  But sooner or later, I will pack up their laptop and equipment, and reclaim my office as the project room it was meant to be.  It will be bittersweet as the past 12 years have been spent with that company in one capacity or another.  But I've learned that life goes on.  There are new delights just around that scary corner if you can be brave enough to take a peek.  And usually, whatever happens is exactly what you would have asked for if you'd only known it was what you wanted in the first place.

So I stand on the brink.  Still forming a plan.  Still entertaining dreams.  But each day I'm getting closer to discovery.  I'll most likely start with something familiar.  Painting, perhaps.  Or, I'd really like to finally get my piano repaired and start playing again.  Both of those are long-cultivated, long-neglected talents that I'd love to dust off and polish up.  But I feel there are other avenues just waiting to be explored and tested.  This could be the best thing to happen to me since... well, since my husband and kids.  It's a little unsettling, but then again, what wonderful thing ever happens without some thoughtful angst?  Time to take a deep breath.  It's go time.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Mia Turns 8 - and That Means a Party! (Or Two)

Late June in Arizona - could anything be more hot than that?  Probably... but I don't want to experience it.  We departed the Mothership on Friday morning, heading for Arizona and the upcoming celebration of Mia's 8th birthday and baptism, complete with the parental units.  Why Arizona?  Because Katie and her little family had been vacationing with Zach's family down in Mexico the week before, and having everything in Arizona (where Zach's family lives) made it so easy for everyone to attend the festivities.  Our year old Ford Edge was a wonderfully comfortable ride, and the trip went quickly and smoothly.  Dad ended up riding up front with L so he could stretch his legs a bit, and have an easier time getting in and out.
We arrived about 5:30 that evening and had just enough time to unpack before the Wild Bunch (Katie and her family) also arrived to check in to the hotel for the night. Because after they arrived there wasn't a minute to spare.  We swam, we witnessed classic pool moves, we played Marco Polo, we read stories, and had stories read TO us.  It was non-stop.
The girls of course remembered us, and were sooooooo excited that we were there with them.  Little Drezden had no such recollection, but I don't know when I've met a more mellow baby who was so content being passed from person to person to person.  He loooved  Dad.  That was cute to see.  And Dad has always been a baby lover.  Drezden is a busy little guy: if you're not feeding him something, he's on the move.  He's learned to stand up on very wobbly little legs, so it was a challenge to keep after him - but he's a happy little guy.  If you had some fruit in your hand, he was your forever friend.  He's gone from being our Man Cub to being our Fruit Bat.  So we spent some time at the pool that first evening, and then we went out to dinner all together.  There was a nice little Italian place right by our hotel, and they gave us a nice table out on the patio, complete with misters to keep us cool. (Did I mention that Arizona is HOT??)
See Mia giving herself bunny ears?  Really nice to have a family dinner all together!
The girls had macaroni and cheese, we had our various pasta dishes and/or salads, and the Fruit Bat had a little of everything.  It was a really nice evening, but soon the girls and Drezden were starting to fall apart so we went back to our hotel and got them ready for bed.  I don't mind saying the Mema was also feeling a little wilted.  Hayden had a Pinkalicious book she wanted me to read to her, and Mia had a Junie B book that she wanted to read to me.  Luckily, at our hotel they had little the nicest little reading room right outside of their room, so off we went to revel in the adventures of Pinkalicious and Junie B.  Good times.

We all met for breakfast the next morning and had a little breakfast buffet all together.  Drezden had (what else?) fruit, and the girls had their fill of BACON.  How they love bacon...  Back up to the rooms to get in their swim suits.  There was a large biker club staying at the hotel, and they were taking over the pool at noon for their big shindig, so we went there and got some playing time in before their party started.  The girls twirled and spun and cannon-balled their way into the pool, all the while screaming "Watch this one!  My grand finale!!"  There were some glorious, never-before-seen moves witnessed by the pool goers that morning.  And Drezden?  He hung out on the sidelines in his straw hat.
 Nana enjoying Drezden poolside
Mema and the Fruit Bat

Hayden wore herself out thinking of new jumps to do.  It was a continual round of "Watch me!" and "Look at this!"  Mia kept hoping for a good game of Marco Polo, but soon invented some pretty good jumps of her own.

I noticed my dad watching the biker people start to set up for their party.  Lots and lots of HUGE biker guys.  My dad walked up to a particularly huge, slightly dangerous looking one, (and this is totally out of character for him) and asked him if he would wish his great granddaughter a happy birthday.  I have NO idea where that random request came from, but I guess the idea just struck his fancy.  The biker man got a huge smile on his face and enthusiastically wished Mia a happy birthday and asked her if she would like to have her picture taken on the big purple Harley they had parked by the pool.  Well, of course Mia loved that!
So there's our little 8 year old biker chick having the time of her life.  And all because her great grandpa wasn't shy about striking up a conversation with a great big little bit scary looking biker club member.  It was a highlight for sure.  Such nice people in this world wherever you go... sometimes in completely unexpected places!
The next event: Mia's 8th birthday party.  She wanted a Hawaiian -themed party, and our pineapple princess's wish was our command! 

Lots of fresh fruit, chicken and shrimp skewers, and everyone was required to wear a lei.  Zach's whole family was there (it was at his parents' house), complete with tons of cousins of all ages.  The food was great (thanks Renee!) and the highlight (as it is at every birthday party in Zach's family) was the pinata.  This year's pinata was a big tiki mask, and Mia almost tore it apart all by herself.  Plenty of candy for each and every cousin.  She received a pair of roller skates from all of her cousins, and I've never seen a happier girl!  (Her gift from L and me is still waiting in Massachusetts: a 4 man tent with a queen size air mattress.  Pineapple Princess wanted to go camping!)

So much kid noise, so much laughing and talking, so much fun, but at last I could see it was time to get my parents back to the hotel for some needed rest.  (Truth be told, I was getting tired myself, but I just blamed it on the parental units...)  Our little Mia was 8... unbelievable!

Pineapple Princess Mia, Katie, and Dad (sporting his red lei!)
Sunday was Mia's baptism day.  And, true to Arizona tradition, it was blazing hot!  We went to breakfast and then drove out to see the new LDS temple that had just been built in Gilbert.  Beautiful, beautiful...  But it was about 110 degrees so we scuttled back to out hotel room to keep cool until our 3:00 lunch at my friend Sandy's house.  I've known Sandy ever since our kids were little together.  She moved to Arizona a few years ago, and I'd not been to her house yet.  It was GORGEOUS, and she had set out such a wonderful luncheon for everyone!  Soon it was filled with grandparents, great grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins.  And a few dogs and a cat.  We ate, we laughed, we caught up with each other, and spent a few really fun hours together.  L and I gave Mia a silver locket necklace with her name engraved on it, and she was thrilled.

 Mia and her Nana (my mom)

Thanks Sandy, for treating us all like family!  I can't wait to come back and have a good girl visit!
Beautiful friend Sandy and daughter Katie
Luncheon over, on to the church for the main event.  We gathered the baptism clothes, the towels, and everything else we'd need, and drove over to Zach's parent's church building in Mesa.  Mia was so excited to change into her white clothes and have her daddy baptize her!
Mia and Zach ready for the baptism!
In our church, you are completely immersed in the water when you are baptized.  Not even a toe can float up or you have to do it again.  Luckily, Mia kept it all together and nothing floated up, but when she came up she gasped because the water had become a bit cold.  No to worry - dry clothes awaited, and she was ready to go in a few minutes.  Her aunt Christy had given a short talk on baptism, and after the baptism, L gave another short talk on receiving the Holy Ghost.  Soon the whole ceremony was over, and there were hugs all around, followed by an endless round of family pictures.  Here are a few:
Zach, Drezden, Katie, Mia, me, Hayden, and L

3 generations of girls
The older end of 3 generations of girls - so lucky to have these pictures!
A few days before we all arrived in Arizona, Katie had taken Mia out to the new Gilbert Temple and had taken several baptism portraits of her.  They turned out so lovely, I'm going to include my favorites here.  They really capture the inner beauty of this sweet and happy 8 year old.

I had a hard time picking a favorite, so I'm making you look at almost all of them!  One of them will be going into a frame - just haven't decided which one yet.  After the baptism, Zach's family hosted yet another round of dinner and togetherness.  L and the folks went back to the hotel to rest, and I went to the inlaw's house to help Katie pack.  I found she was actually almost done with the task - just a few little details to include in the packing.  It was a big day, a beautiful day, and an exhausting day, full of emotion and heartfelt moments.  Too soon, at 9:30, it was time to say our goodbyes as L picked me up, and Zach's parents drove this wonderful little family to the airport to head back to Massachusetts.  I'm never EVER ready to say goodbye and it was hard.  I couldn't get enough hugs in, so finally L had to practically throw me in the car.  Someone has to be the grownup, I guess.  I'll leave you with this one last picture taken of Mia as she said goodbye to the ocean down in Mexico where they'd been vacationing.  It pretty much describes how I always feel saying my goodbyes, and I love you's to Katie when it's time to go.  So bittersweet.  Aloha for now.  But new adventures are just around the corner.  Waiting...

Monday, June 2, 2014

Happy 31st Birthday to Scott

This one is for Scott.  My baby.  The two others would say "the biggest baby."  Meh.  Wait until their "babies" grow up.  All of my children are strong, strong personalities, and I say that meaning it in the best sense.  All of them have their daddy's debate skills coupled with my family's strong propensity to "argue with a fence post."  (Oddly, I don't have a large helping of that gene - I'm more of a pleaser, wanting everyone to play nice.)  They are charming and funny, and have the gift of gab.  They are never at a loss for words.  They are not much like me.  And I say that with a sigh of relief.  No shrinking violets afraid to go after what they want in this bunch.  They are never without friends for more than 5 minutes.  Wallflowers at parties?  They don't know what that means.

 Katie, Rex, and Scott - a rare picture all together
 Moving day from California to Texas.  A dark day for this mom...

When Scott was born, Rex was 6 and Katie was 3.  Scott had big dark, dark brown eyes, and Rex used to say he always looked amazed.  He was always able to entertain himself - much more so than the other two.  Unlike Rex, he actually knew what to do with Legos, and he'd spend a lot of time playing with those.  As he got older, he had a riding toy (think they were called BigWheels?) that he would ride up and down the sidewalk with all the other kids in the neighborhood.  Even when he was just 2 or 3 I would go outside with him and he'd wave at any neighbor who was out, and say "Hello, hello!"  My little towheaded bundle of personality, who had the longest eyelashes, and when he cried, the tears would gather on those eyelashes and just drip off in huge, sad, splashy drops.  I couldn't resist him.  I would tell him he was a handsome boy as I held him up to the mirror and he would repeat back "I am hampmum boy!" (He's probably dying right now as he's reading this)

Scott was one of those kids who just went after things with everything he had.  Didn't stop to think much before he did it though.  So he was always the one with ripped shirts, mud on this clothes, broken bones.  There was a short period of time when I affectionately called him "my little dirt bag" because he played so hard he was always filthy.  I had to stop calling him that when he burst into tears once, and sobbed "I'm not a dirt bag!"  Sometimes we're a little dense as parents, not realizing when something wounds - because to us it's sweet and funny.  My heart still hurts a little when I think about that.

He broke his leg when he was just a little guy - about 18 months or so - stepping down into the family room from my mom's entry hall.  His leg whacked the tile as he fell and caused a greenstick fracture.  He didn't really cry, but he wouldn't stand up.  I kept trying to stand him up and couldn't understand "what's wrong with this baby."  Yep, mother of the year here...  Another time I had left one of those self-threading screws on the edge of the table, and went out into the garage to throw some laundry into the dryer.  I walked back in the house just in time to hear Scott go "Aaack!" and to notice that the screw was no longer there.  *sigh*  Off to the doctor for an X-ray - Scott called it his "boney picture."  I still have that boney picture that shows that little screw sitting there in his stomach.  We were a little nervous for a few days waiting for that thing to pass through.  At least he never shoved vitamins up his nose like Rex did...
These are all from his graduation day from Utah Vally University - above with
my grandma/his great grandma who made the trip to see him graduate in her 90s!
Best friend Bill "Petey" Peterson who drove up to help him move back home after graduation

 Graudation dinner with the family

 Singing with his friend's band later that night - such a fun night!

As he got old enough for school I had some serious concerns, because whenever Scott got hungry and his blood sugar dropped, he'd get really mean.  He'd starting hitting people, throwing things, whatever.  I can't count the number of times a baby sitter would call me saying that Scott was out of control.  I'd have to tell her to feed him something and call me back in 5 minutes.  It always did the trick, but what was he going to do in Kindergarten?  He couldn't bust out a sandwich whenever he felt cranky.  Luckily, he got the same Kindergarten teacher that both Rex and Katie had had.  (He was actually brought to her class as a baby when I'd help in the class)  Mrs. Patch told me not to worry about it - she would be able to handle him just fine.  I think he got grabbed by the ear a time or two, (back in the day when teachers still did things like that) but he survived it all, and seemed to grow out of that little problem.

He was just a gem of a little boy.  He loved the Ninja Turtles, and baseball.  He and Katie would play with their stuffed animals (Scott's were Chunky Dog and Care Bear), and they would take pictures with the Polaroid and make scrapbooks for their animals.  He loved to ride his bike, and I know I heard at least once about how he would scream down our street on his bike, narrowly avoiding the school bus.  (Can you say "lucky to be alive?")  I'm sure he was the kind of little boy that made people wonder where his mother was...  "Active" doesn't even begin to describe him.  Did I mention he liked to argue?  Oh my... the arguing I've heard from him.  I gradually learned that the best thing to do was to just say "Have it your way" and walk away, because he would never EVER give up.  Ever.

Scott knows how to be the favorite uncle!

When he was a little older - maybe 6 or 7, he and Katie were fighting about something.  He was on his skateboard, and she gave him a little shove.  Sadly, he fell and broke his arm.  But did I realize that?  NO.  I was so mad at the two of them that I made them go upstairs and clean their bathroom.  It wasn't until later that I realized there was something wrong and we had to rush to the doctor to have it looked at.  (Seriously, don't break a bone around me - you'll never get care).  He had to have a cast on for a few weeks, and he just sobbed because he'd have to miss his soccer games.    The league did let him play in one game, but had to tell him no after that, because they were afraid he'd knock another kid out with his cast.  When he was first learning to play soccer, someone kicked the ball in the air towards him, and we all shouted "Keep your eye on the ball, Scott!"  And... WHAM!!! That ball came down and hit him full in the face.  When we rushed over to see why he hadn't moved out of the way, he just cried "You TOLD me to keep my eye on the ball!"

Well, I could tell story after story about Scott.  When he was in high school I used to make dates with him where we would do things, just the two of us - he could choose what he wanted to do.  Those were my favorite times.  When it was just us, he would really talk to me, and I'd hear the most amazing things that he was thinking about.  He always did think about things in a way that was beyond his years.  When he was in 7th grade his best friend was killed in a car accident over Easter break.  Not only did he gather himself together enough to write and give a eulogy at the memorial service, but he also took it upon himself to go over to their house almost every day after school and play with Chris's brothers and sisters, because he knew they were missing their brother.  He did that for a really long time, and it just touched me what a sweet and tender heart he had.  An amazing boy, and once again, so far beyond his years.

He's my most difficult child in that he's prickly and sensitive, and he has a deep love of debate, and a deep loathing of being told what to do.  I just wanted him to clean his room and his bathroom.  And so we would go round and round and round.  And the room and bathroom didn't get cleaned very often.  But he's got that side to him that is sweet and sensitive and wise.  He can be very understanding and forgiving.  He will carry his wife's purse when they're out and about, and to me, that's the ultimate sign of a good man.  He can quote lines from every movie he's ever seen.  And he's funny.  Sooooo funny.  When you're with Scott, you just laugh until, well... tears roll down your legs.  I can be soooo aggravated with him because he's stubborn and argumentative, but then he'll make me start laughing, and I can't resist.

And so 31 years ago today, this amazing person came into my life.  Determined to be noticed, even though he was the smallest one.  Big, big personality.  Big, big fun.  Stubborn?  Sure.  Arguments aplenty.  But I'd go through every one of them again to watch his life unfold.  He and Ashley are just starting out life together.  There have been bumps and life events, just as we all experience, and I've been proud of the way they've worked through them together.  They're a good team out there in Texas. 

 Wheelchair dancing with his Nana at his wedding reception - she was 99.

Happy birthday, Scott.  Keep your sights set on the important things, and chart your course.  This is your year to shine.  I love you more than you could know.  Hugs from your mama in California.

Scott, Ashley and granddog Kingsley

Friday, May 23, 2014

To My Dad Who Is Finding Life A Little More Painful Than He Bargained For

Dear Dad,

I see you struggling with a body that is betraying you.  Bravely fighting to come back from a rough bout of chemotherapy.  You are 83, and it's not easy.  Chemo took your hair, your lovely wavy white hair, and it came back super curly, although it's growing in softer now.  It took eyebrows, fingernails and toenails. 

All have grown back, but there was a cost.  Your joints hurt, your knees ache and crack. (I can relate to those things!)  It's hard to stand up straight.  You are having a hard time accepting what most of us accept way before the age of 83.  Body aches.  Knees giving out.  A fickle, tricksy memory.  You are used to being the smartest guy in the room.  The brilliant mind.  A body that was in such good shape it denied your years.  Cancer and The Cure has robbed you of some of this.  You are in denial.  And you are angry.  Justifiably?  Perhaps.  But life happens, one way or another, to most of us.  It pounds, and jabs, and teases us.  You are not alone, although I suspect you think you are.  It makes me sad to see you struggle to be what you think we all want to see.

You deny being tired.  You deny that you hurt.  You hate taking that wheelchair through the airport.  And you get quite angry about it.  Sometimes you are not very nice to people, and it's usually people who don't deserve your anger.  People who have nothing to do with the reason you're lashing out.  Are you frightened?  Do you think we, your family, will love you less, admire you less,  if you're suddenly vulnerable?  If we see that you need some help?  Do you think that we will lose respect, or dismiss you as no longer viable?

You're wrong, you know.  There is no shame in asking for or accepting help.  It's the smart thing to do.  It makes more sense than spending 5 minutes struggling to stand up from a chair unassisted, when any one of us would be honored to be the one to give you a hand, a steady arm.  Just as you always have to us.  It makes more sense to let yourself be pushed through a crowded airport in a wheelchair (and boarding first!) than it does to wear yourself out trudging through and then you can't enjoy the rest of the trip because you're too tired.  We are watching you, taking notes on how to age gracefully and wisely.  And the pitfalls to avoid.  Like pride that makes you deny what we all can see.  It turns you into an angry, ranting, frightened child.  Personally, I think it's okay to shake your fist at disease and a body that won't cooperate.  In private.  Perhaps in prayer.  But after girding your loins to continue fighting the fight, take a moment to be grateful for all that you do still have.  All you've been blessed with that no disease, no cruel aging process can steal from you. 

You have a wife who has stuck by you through thick and thin. 

She loves you, and is fiercely proud of who you are.  She was and is an incredible mother to your four children, and worked with you to raise us to be solid citizens.  We have been blessed with good fortune and good health.  No one died young.  Your have a lovely group of grandchildren who love you and think of you often.  You've given them memories of taking long walks with Grandpa, and yearly weekends in Palm Desert with the whole family.  They were so lucky to have grandparents who came to their many games almost every week, and cheered them on.  You've seen most of them graduate from college and into successful lives. 

And now there are great grandchildren.  And at least one little almost-8 year old girl who is soooooo excited for Nana and Papa to come to her baptism and birthday party next month in Arizona.  So much to be grateful for.  Life has been good overall.

I know it's hard for a man who rarely ever took so much as an aspirin, to suddenly be required to take lots of expensive medications just to fight off the evil C.  It stinks, quite frankly.  You don't feel well most days, and to top it off, the world has evolved into a confusing whirlwind of technology consisting of confusing computer programs, iPhones, and oh so much more that we don't even want to think about.  But this world has also wrought some amazing things that really do help us if we're not too stubborn to learn.  If we can lose our fear and pride, and just try. 

One of those things is called Advil.  It's an amazing little pill, that taken as lightly as possible, can ease some of those aches and pains, and turn that frown upside down.  I am the poster girl for Advil.  I am it's champion.  We should always try to avoid taking medication needlessly, but when you're hurting?  For heaven's sake, do yourself and everyone else in the room a favor and pop one or two.  Your knees and whatever else aches will thank you.  You can enjoy life a little bit more, and find that elusive energy you thought deserted you.

Don't be afraid to learn.  You can't always be the teacher, the family sage.  Sometimes it's a blessing to learn from others.  Be teachable.  Learn to use that iPhone for everything it can do.  (It's so much more than a phone - it's an indispensable tool!)  That smartest guy in the room that you're so fond of being?  He's overrated, between you and me.  He is obnoxious a lot of the time, and I don't know anyone who likes a know it all.  It's a great thing to be blessed with intelligence, but only if you use it to lift others up.  Concentrate on doing that.  Other people have ideas and opinions too.  They won't always agree with yours, but that doesn't make them less valuable.  Or interesting.  It can be fascinating to explore why people think the way they do.  (It can also make you throw your hands up in exasperation, but it's best to do that when they're not looking. ) Be approachable in your discussions with others.  And patient.  And most of all, kind.

Now back to that guy you think we all expect you to be: strong, who we can all lean on.  A man who has no weakness or fears of the unknown future.  News flash:  he doesn't exist.  Never did.  You are a real person, with real insecurities and viable fears.  You're our dad.  You're the guy who got up every Saturday morning and made waffles from scratch.  No mixes for you.  (Did you know that the very first Saturday after I got married I half woke up, and in a dreamy haze I could hear you and the boys down in the kitchen making waffles.  Measuring spoons clanging, fuzzy conversation I couldn't quite make out.  A homesick dream.)  You're the dad who made runny pumpkin pies from whole pumpkins, and biscuits with jam inside from a recipe you made up.  (The jam was a little burned, but that's okay.)  You're the monster chasing us through the house in the dark when Mom was at a meeting.  You're the fireworks master, lighting the biggest, most exciting box of fireworks we'd ever seen. 

You're that Baby Lover guy, the one the grandkids loved to play with and swim with.  You're the Dad who so kindly let his daughter bumble through learning to join the work force.  I learned to use a computer while selling Mustang parts at Larry's.  Worst parts girl ever, I'm sure, but at least I never packed styled steel wheels in the same box as a windshield and shipped them to Australia!  (That was a brilliant GUY.)  And I tried so hard to please... so you wouldn't be disappointed in me.  In a weird way, I have you to thank for the good jobs I've had since.  I learned to survive in a tough work environment, learned to work with, and enjoy, all kinds of people from all over the world.  I learned selling skills as well as computer skills.  It was hard, but it made me tough, which I most definitely was not when I started.

The point being, I suppose, is that after all of the help and guidance, and financial support you've given to each one of us over the years, it would be our honor and pleasure to help you now.  I beg you not to think you can't show pain or exhaustion in front of us.  That would make you inhuman, even if you could pull it off.  And mostly, it's just making you crabby.  It's keeping you from enjoying the beautiful experiences that are still coming your way.  While I can't relate to what you've gone through in the last year, I can relate to having pain, and feeling like I don't want to walk across the room.  Give yourself permission to give in to it when it's bad.  Use a cane.  (Get a fancy cool carved wood one.  It will give you some swagger.)  Take a painkiller or two when you feel bad.  Write down in your journal what you're going through, what you're afraid of, and how you are working through it.  (This would involve writing about feelings instead of facts and figures, which are boring and no help to anyone.)  Much of this is not in your nature, but it's like a refiner's fire, I've heard (according to Neal A. Maxwell).  The hardships reshape you, polish you, refine you into someone who is pure, and fine, and exquisitely priceless.  You'll be blessed with experiences you would never have otherwise, that will change you for the better.  Take the challenge.  Make goals.  Who do you want to be at the end?  What do you want to learn?  You've always had that curious mind - something I've always loved about you.  Don't let your fears and insecurities or pride keep you from the knowledge you want to have.  Let your imagination soar.  Be open.  And most of all, remember we love you and are always here to help.  We WANT to help.  You can let your hair down with us.  Because we've known each other forever, and that will never end. 
Love you, Dad...

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Sweetness, Sassiness & Everything In Between

Back from a whirlwind trip to Colorado for Lexi's baptism.  Where do I begin?  How do I even start to describe an amazing little girl who was so excited for her baptism day that she took 5 invitations to hand out at school, and came home needing 10 more?  (And many of them came!)  A little girl who took the responsibility of the choice she was making very seriously, and was beyond excited to share the day with everyone she loves.  In a word, the day was spiritual.  I watched her face during the opening talks, and it was one of rapt attention, drinking in every word.  Sweet doesn't even begin to describe it.  It brought tears to my eyes, and thankfulness to my heart for such a special little girl.  She greeted each and every person who came, and thanked them for coming.  She was gracious and attentive to everyone in her white dress and matching white purse.  She looked every inch the pure little soul.

After the baptism ceremony, we headed back to Lexi's house, where her mother had prepared a little brunch for everyone who attended.  There were cinnamon rolls, fresh fruit, a delicious blueberry bread pudding, and (the favorite of all of the kids) powdered sugar doughnuts - white, reflecting the occasion.  Lexi opened gifts, and thoroughly enjoyed the time with her family and friends.  I was so surprised at the variety of people who came in honor of this little girl - everyone from daddy's friends at the gym to school friends to the usual church friends.  It was a very good day for a very good girl.

In the afternoon, the little ones, Travis and Skylee, went down for naps and Matthew and Lexi wanted to come with us back to the hotel for some swimming.  They each packed up a change of clothes and some toys they wanted to bring and we were off.  Of course, L didn't bring a bathing suit, so it was just me, myself, and I in the pool with two rambunctious kids.  L did toss Matthew in a foot or two from the steps, which scared him at first until he realized he could swim/walk back to the steps. (He spent the rest of the afternoon bragging about what a great swimmer he is - HA!)  For the first couple of hours we had the pool to ourselves, and we had a great time.  They decided they would be Mr. Shark and Miss Mermaid, and they were in school together.  First it was Kindergarten, and then we rapidly went through the next few years in mere moments.  At one point they decided they were going to put on a show to "raise money for the school."  First Lexi sang a song from Frozen (of course).  All of the verses.  Good stuff.  And then it was Matthew's turn.  He decided to sing the "Let It Go" song from Frozen.  The whooooole thing.  It's quite long.  Lexi, not to be outdone, decided she would accompany his singing with a little water ballet.  It was all quite impressive.  A 5/almost 6 year old boy belting out the entire, full-length version of "Let It Go" in a clear, unselfconscious voice, complete with the last line "The cold never bothered me anyway."  All the while Lexi was leaping and turning and pirouetting through the shallow depths.  I would have paid to see it if I hadn't landed in the middle of a free performance.  It was awesome and so, so sweet.

About that time, L/Papa came back with our "school snack" - Subway sandwiches and chips.  I got all the way out and ate mine.  The kids got out, took a bite, jumped back in and swam, and repeated.  During the third hour of swimming, their dad arrived and another couple of families also arrived with kids in tow.  So for that hour Mema got a reprieve while the kids all played together.  Soon enough their dad was ready to go, and two bleary-eyed kids straggled out to the car after him.  We would meet up at the house in a couple of hours for dinner at Wahoo's.

After a Wahoo's feast we all went back to the house for chocolate cupcakes.  (Chocolate makes Matthew's eyes go all dreamy.)  Matthew had shown us his bunkbed, very proud of his perch on the top.  It's a queen size, with plenty of room for toys, his beloved video games, and - holy of holies - his box of candy.  Now, this little boy knows exactly how many pieces of candy he has (3 pieces of Easter chocolate, 3 Starburst, and 5 Skittles) and he keeps careful track.  According to his dad, standing in front of all the candy in a 7/11 puts him into a trance.  I love this kid.  A sweeter boy was never born, no pun intended.  Before we left for the night we discussed church the next day and Matthew said he never wears a tie.  But then he looked at L and his dad and said he would wear his the next day, to which L and his dad said "Yep - we'll all wear ties!"  It was a cute moment with 3 of my favorite boys.

We said our goodbyes for the night and headed back to our hotel.  Where everything went horribly wrong.  We watched a little TV to settle in, and got to sleep around 11.  At 12 we were awakened by a weird "tone" noise.  There were two clear tones, followed in a few seconds by 3 other tones.  Silence for about 40 minutes.  This went on for the next 3 hours, only by that time the "tones" were coming about 5 minutes apart.  We tore the place apart trying to figure out what it was, finally determining that it was the smoke alarm.  (It was one of those sounds that seems to come from everywhere and nowhere.)  Finally at 3am I told L to call the front desk as we weren't going to be able to sleep anyway.  Aaand of course, there was nothing they could do about it right then.  So they moved us to another room at 3:30am.  I think we finally slept at about 4am.  And then my alarm went off at 6:30am for  9am church.  I almost cried.  I struggled but I just couldn't get up.  My eyes felt like they'd been sand blasted.  So at 7:00 I texted Rex that we wouldn't be coming.  So sorry.  And so I missed Lexi being presented in front of the congregation, and her giving her own sweet testimony of her beliefs and love for her family.  Brief moments, but I am so sad to have missed them.

We met up later in the day (everyone needed naps - especially L and me!) for a barbeque.  Rex had a hankering for buffalo burgers so that's what we had.  And they were really good!  I didn't have long to enjoy mine because as soon as Lexi and Matthew were finished eating they wanted to play Crazy 8s and Go Fish.  I'm sorry to report that Lexi is a shameless cheater, and I'm happy to say that Matthew is honest and innocent with his cards laid out for all to see, but it was all in good fun.  Even Travis joined in the fun:

 Teaching Travis all of my card skills - HA!

Before the sun went down I tried my best to capture a few memories with my camera to last me until the next time I come visit.  Skylee loved it.  There was a rabbit in the yard and she chattered endlessly on about it.  She moves very fast, and it was hard to do her justice, but here are the best two:

Lexi is very easy to take pictures of.  And these reminded me of the fact that she's not such a little girl anymore.  That makes me sad, but it also gives me a lot to look forward to as this beautiful 8 year old turns into a young lady.

And Matthew.  Who can forget that happy little face?  That sweet chattering little voice?  He's smart and funny and tons of fun.

And he was Papa's little pocket pal all weekend.  I loved seeing L having fun with this little live wire.

One of the first things he told us after he arrived was that he was a very fast runner.  And I believe it.  I saw him in action:
He can run like that All.Day.Long.  But he never forgets to be a good big brother to Travis.

And Travis.  What a mellow baby.  He rarely changes expression.  Just don't take his food or bottle away.  A young man needs his food and drink.  Other than that, as long as you're holding him, and especially if you're viewing "Frozen" for the oh... millionth time, he's entranced.  Tickle his bald head and he's yours.

 Papa and his boys

I have one picture left to share.  It may seem ordinary.  A bit strange to put here on the blog.  

But I want to remember Skylee forever jumping into the little car and, when asked where she was going, she announced in a clear voice "I'm going tanning!"  How quick they learn...  She is at that funny age where everything they say is hilarious.  When asked to sing a song she would say "I can't - I'm too busy!"  But other times she would belt out every song from "Frozen."  That's the current favorite.  At Christmas time it was "Brave" and the character Merida.  I was told that during that phase she would walk around the house yelling "Curse this dress!"  I love 2 year olds - especially chatty ones.

I left them with a heavy heart, but a tired body.  Mema isn't used to running with the younger crowd.  But it was the best kind of fun.  We stopped by on our way to the airport.  All of the littles were home except Lexi, who was still at school (Oooooh how I miss that girl already!)  I will miss Skylee, still in the stubborn throes of being 2, and Matthew completely charming and irresistible.  And mellow little Travis.

So long for now Colorado family.  As usual after a visit, I can't wait to go back again.  There just aren't enough dollars in the bank for all the traveling I need to do.  I hate missing all of the fun, and all of the funny things they do.  But they are in capable hands.  Rex and Ronna are the best sort of parents, and I am so proud of the way they've taught these little ones.  My heart is just bursting with pride over the great work they do.  Makes the separation a little easier.  But only a little.

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