I would love to claim to be a spontaneous person but I just am not.  I love to make lists, plan, organize and I just can’t help it sometimes.  This is something I have been working on though.  I don’t want someone to throw out an idea and my answer is always “no” just because my brain isn’t ready to mentally handle the fly by the seat of your pants idea.

This past weekend we finally saw Spring in a big way.  In the way that meant warm nights, 80 degree days and a sun that lasted later in the evening.  I had a weekend with no plans for once and a kid ready to fully enjoy the warmth upon us.  Instead of breakfast and coffee in front of the TV, that has become customary this cold Winter, we woke early to hang out on the back deck.  It was bliss, the whole day ahead of us.  Rebecca threw out an idea to go catch a Spring football game and I couldn’t think of a reason to say no.  Spring cleaning could wait and why not really?

Normally a trip like this would have made me need to plan well in advance.  Instead we called a friend to join us, made quick work of getting dressed, packed to-go lunches and jumped in the truck.  An hour later we were on our way, windows down, kids laughing in the backseat and a full day ahead of us in the sun.

The day went by with no problems and it didn’t matter that nothing was planned.  It just all flowed.  There was a random stop for ice cream that we didn’t eat on the go but sat and enjoyed in the fresh air.  We played late into the evening in the backyard, we dyed Easter eggs, we went out for dinner and lingered outside the restaurant talking to friends we ran into. I let go of my Type A and let the whole day and evening just happen.

Part of being able to let go.  Part of just living in the moment.  You know what I saw?  I saw the day from my daughter’s eyes.  The pure perfection of what kids can teach you if you just stop and listen to them more often.  They really do have some of the answers to the world.  Here is to being able to say yes more often than no.

Falling More in Love with Your Spouse

There was the beautiful bride in a princess dress, her groom standing next to her while candles lit the fireplace in front of them.  Behind them sat 250 people and in front of them the minister began to speak the words that would start them in their marriage.  There were some funny stories, a prayer or two and then the minister started to get a bit heavy into what he thought marriage was.  This part, was where many people in the room began to shift a lot in their chairs, while catching their spouses eye, wondering where this guy was going with this speech. We were all with him till he said the following words to the couple:

“How much you love one another, right now, in this moment, is it.  You will never fall more in love with one another because marriage is hard.”

He continued for another, very long, 20 minutes about how hard marriage is and how tough things are going to get and on and on and on.  Hey, I know, it is tough and you don’t have to sugar coat everything but woah.  Just woah.  I can tell you what people were talking about after the ceremony was over and it wasn’t about how pretty the bride was.  It was about how apparently none of us will fall more in love with our spouse but we sure as hell will start hating them more. I don’t know where this man got his license to marry anyone or what his marriage is like (he was fairly young) but I don’t think he could have been more wrong.

I can tell you I fall more and more in love with my husband.  Some days more than others but I can honestly say that I love him now more than the day we were married.  I can’t imagine standing there on our wedding day and someone saying what that minister said.  It was more than rude, it was appalling to those who were married in the room.  Your wedding day should be the one day that you and your new spouse can look with rose-colored glasses into your future and dream of perfection instead of hell.

How would you feel if that was your wedding day speech from the minister?  Or do you agree with him?

The Vacation That Just Wasn’t

Apparently there is such a thing as a bad vacation.  There is such a thing as regretting the thousands of dollars you spent to travel to another country.  There is such a thing as wishing you would have booked your tickets for another place, perhaps with a beach.  There is such a thing as sitting across from your best friend wondering what the hell has happened to her.  There is also such a thing as watching too many Friends episodes.  That last one really shocked me, but it all happened.

Our trip to England was set up to be a great time.  How could it not be?  Aren’t all vacations great because you are not at home or work?  It fails when your friend doesn’t take time off of work and owns a home day care.  It fails when you spend time changing diapers and the wail of a child outside your door wakes you.  It falls apart when you feel as though you are inconveniencing your friend by being in her home.  Then there were the nights where you were left on your own in the living room to be quiet as the household wanted to go to bed by 9pm. There I sat, with my sister, watching show after show of Friends and staying up till the wee hours because we weren’t tired after doing absolutely nothing all day.  It just went from there.

I tried to not be negative, I tried to relax and enjoy the down time but my sister finally spoke up and I knew I wasn’t the only one.  I texted my husband, feeling horrible for feeling this way but he agreed, it wasn’t really fair.  The last time we went to visit was quite the opposite.  If your friend is coming to visit, shouldn’t you take the time to spend time with them?  And that was just the thing, I don’t expect to be entertained but I would like to spend quality time with the person I flew a lot of miles to  visit.

We managed to get out a few days and see some sites but it felt forced and there was a gray cloud hanging over us.  I felt defeated and promised my sister another trip somewhere else one day soon.  Maybe a safari in Africa?  I was reading Chelsea Handler’s Uganda Be Kidding Me (Highlight of my whole trip) and quickly considered purchasing more wine and a new plane ticket.

I speculated about my dear friend, where she is at in her life and just what she might be thinking.  Her mind was elsewhere the whole time and while I saw glimpses of the person I know, it was few and far between.  We Skype every week, we talk on the phone all the time, text daily and yet here sat a person I didn’t know, treating me like someone she didn’t know.  I was lost…..and quite frankly a bit hurt, which is probably what it all comes down to.

My sister and I did what any normal person would do, we drank a lot of wine.  I got hammered the night before we left, as it was my sister’s birthday, and was still a bit drunk when we got to the airport the next day.  I’ve done this every time I have  left that country and figured I didn’t want to change things this time around.  We sipped mimosas at the airport and kept our buzz going with Delta’s free boxed wine on the flight while we Frozen like the real adults that we are.  We tried to keep with the motto “Hey, we are going to make the best of this vaca!” but we were really happy to touch down in the good ole US of A and call that vacation done.

My Sister.

There are those people who go on and on about their sisters and how they grew up being best friends, telling one another everything.  Then there is the story of me and my sister.  We did not grow up being best friends nor did we tell each other secrets late into the night.  I had other friends for that.  We shared a room in which we drew literal lines down the middle of the floor and often beat the crap out of each other.  Ok, she beat the crap out of me because I was really little but I tried to swing my fists when I could.  In fact we didn’t even start working on any type of a friendship until I was divorced. Who says good things can’t come out of a divorce?  Take that another step when my sister started on her own divorce journey and here we sit today.  While we aren’t sharing every deep dark secret, we do have a strong relationship now.

I remember going on a couple of trips after/during my divorce that were life changing for me.  The kind that open your eyes, change your perspective and restore your faith in the human race.  Just what my sister needs on the heels of learning she is officially divorced.  Time to move on and forward.  Which brings us to today and my quest for living better in the year 2014.  Through a series of events, that proves everything happens for a reason, I found myself booking a ticket to England without my husband but then realizing I could take my sister.  She deserved a break.

I broke it to her carefully.

Text to my sister: Is your passport valid?

Sister: Do we need bail money?  I can get an alibi.

This is how we have built a friendship that most are born with as siblings.

So in less than a month I’m “dragging” my sister with me to England to visit my best friend.  The best friend who has been my “sister” all these years.

This isn’t just any trip over the pond.  This is a trip that will change our relationship even more.  There is something about becoming older, realizing how precious these memories can be and being so grateful for the opportunity to spend this time together.  I’m happy to give my sister a chance that friends, bloggers, and strangers gave to me after/during my divorce.  The chance to get away and see the world again.  The chance to have that relationship that we weren’t born with.  We are even going to share a room and I don’t think we’ll need to draw a line down it.

30 Hours with my Dad

My Mom needed a break and her best friend called me to help.  She needed me to stay with my Dad so my Mom could go to a lodge in the middle of no where and learn to quilt with her.  I called upon my sister and she couldn’t come with me so I was on my own.  Sure, my brother would be 15 minutes away at his house if I needed help but he was always helping.  He already took time out of his day that he didn’t always have because Dad listens to him.  And Dad knows him.

I rearranged my schedule, I packed up, I drove two hours through a snow storm and walked in the door.  I sat and talked with my brother for a while before he headed to his own home.  That left me standing in my parents living room with my Dad.  This was only for 30 hours.  We could handle this, right?  He attempted to tell me to change the channel to a certain show.  He couldn’t remember what it was called and was struggling to find the name.  “Pawn Stars?”  I asked him.  “Yes!” I know this because this is literally the only show he will watch.  My Mom has 132 shows saved on the DVR.

I settle in knowing this is all we will do for the next 30 hours.  He asks me if I have ever watched the show before.  I tell him yes.  He ends up asking me this 14 times in the course of those 30 hours.

I glance over at him and see what has changed.  There is always a change and I just saw him 3 weeks ago.  He is just shy of 54 but looks 70.  Three years of Alzheimer’s is taking its toll.  He looks like an old man and smells like one too.  He hardly lets Mom bathe him but once a week.  He refuses to eat anything but M&M’s and ham balls.  The ham balls he picks apart, declares they taste like shit and dumps them in the trash.  The M&M’s he carries in his pockets and then asks if someone stole them.  There are trails all over the house of the colored candy.  Trails around the kitchen, blue ones kicked under the cabinets, yellow and orange ones on the bathroom floor leading to the toilet, one of every color around his chair in the living room and on the side table.

I notice he eyes me funny out of the corner of his eyes every now and then.  “How did you get picked to come sit with me?”  He asks.  He has two normal care providers during the week, he knows I am not one of them.  “I wanted to come hang out with you Dad.”  He has no idea who I am.  I can see it on his face.  They are selling a mini bike on Pawn Stars and he begins to tell me, in great detail, about a mini bike he had as a kid.  He later asks me if I want a tour of the house.

He spends his day chasing M&M’s.  I keep the fire going.  He gets up, wanders in a circle, sits back down like he has worked a 15 hour shift.  Pawn Stars ends and the DVR asks if we would like to delete the show.  If I’m in the other room he yells “Oh, Shit!  The TV broke.  The show wasn’t over!  It is asking to delete the TV.”  I go out and tell him I can fix it and I start the next episode on the long list.  Lord, please don’t let Direct TV go out on me.

I have a friend, that lives in town, come over that night with a bottle of wine.  I’m beginning to feel like I have been cut off from civilization and need some company.  So many hours of Pawn Stars and Pinterest and I’m losing it.  My Dad eyes her suspiciously when she walks in the door.  He used to love seeing her.  Her and I met when we were 10 and lived two houses apart.  For the first time you can tell he has no idea who she is.  He takes a sip of my wine, declares it shit and goes back to Pawn Stars. Her kids are not phased by his current state and seem to be entertaining him while we catch up in the other room.

Later that night I go through the bedtime routine my Mom instructed me to do.  His bed is located on one side of the living room and my Mom has been sleeping on the couch for months because he refuses to go to their bedroom.  He sees too many dead people in there.  After a lot of haggling and up and down I get him settled into bed and I settle myself on the couch.  I turn off the lights and tell him goodnight.  He answers back with a goodnight.  I’m exhausted but I know I won’t sleep much.

10 seconds later….goodnight.

Me: Goodnight.

Him: Goodnight.

Me: Goodnight (I feel like John Boy should chime in now.)

30 seconds go by. Maybe he is asleep.

Him: Goodnight.

Me: Dad, close your eyes and go to sleep.

Him: Ok…..Goodnight.

Three minutes more of goodnight and I hear him snoring.  I wonder where his mind goes.  It isn’t even here during the days as it is.  I try and recall the last time my Dad even told me goodnight in my life.  We just haven’t gotten along in so many years.  I hardly sleep all night.

The morning comes and he eyes me funny again.  He is in a shit mood and demands that show be turned on.  We sit and I begin the countdown in my head for my Mom to come back.  I have no idea how she does it.  The cats kick around the M&M’s that are littering the floor and I realize the huge bag of them is almost empty.  That could be a disaster.  I bring in more firewood, clean up the kitchen and walk around collecting lost M&M’s.  I put my stuff next to the door like it will make Mom come home sooner.  I text my brother and sister that we are still alive.

12 episodes of Pawn Stars later my Mom happily comes back in the door looking a bit more refreshed.  I was never so relieved to see her in my life.  We made it.  30 hours together and I can now go back to my own world.  He looks at my Mom like he thinks he might now who she is and she gives him a hug and kiss.  She goes about the kitchen like normal and starts showing me what she bought and the pictures she took.  This is her life now.  A husband with Alzheimer’s who knows who she is at times but most of the times these days he doesn’t.

Later that night the two will get ready for bed and she tells me they have a Notebook moment.  He grabs her face and says “Oh, there you are.  I’ve been looking for you.”  He calls her by name which happens few and far between now.  She said that look comes over his face where for a few minutes he is fully there and she tells him goodnight.

What I learned from giving up Facebook for a month

Along with my many goals for 2014, I decided to give up Facebook for the month of January.  By giving myself just one month I didn’t feel like it was forever so the commitment to such a change wasn’t very scary.  New Year’s Eve, when the clock struck midnight I promptly deleted the app from my phone and said no more. I can honestly say I didn’t have any slip ups but did go on twice to answer private messages that were sent by a friend.  Several things came from this little experience.  Some I wasn’t surprised by and some I was.

  • The first few days I realized just how much I clicked on FB and I honestly didn’t think I had done that so much in a day.  I would grab for my phone waiting in line some place or go to click on it on my desktop when bored at work but I would have to stop myself.  What would I do while standing in line now?  I spent much more time noticing my surroundings once I shoved my phone back in my purse.  Or I spent much more time accomplishing the task at hand without getting so sidetracked.  Suddenly I was gaining all these little minutes back in the day that I was previously throwing away.
  • I had some friends that were promptly annoyed and unsure how to handle me NOT being on FB.  “Can I tag you?”  “What if I send you an invite?”  “How will you know what is going on?” The list of concerns went on and on.  I would shake my head thinking this was the exact reason I needed a break from it all.  People really do have friendships without FB in this world and I certainly could.  Could my friends though?  Apparently, yes.  People would send me texts or (shock!) pick up the phone and just call me.  There were words of “Miss seeing you on FB! Wanted to see what you were up to.”   “I know you won’t see this pic on FB so I’m texting it to you.”  And let me tell you how much more I appreciated that picture of their kid that was sent via text instead of in a rolling scroll of FB updates.  I knew giving up FB would change how I approached things but I didn’t think it would do the same for my friends. How cool.
  • I went out and bought Thank You cards.  Did you know there is still a whole aisle of options of them at Target? I sent hand written thank you’s and grabbed Hallmark cards for upcoming birthday’s for that month.  There was no easy route of throwing up a comment on someone’s wall and calling it good.  No, I wanted to do more because who doesn’t like something fun in the mail? You know what that prompted?  More actual phone calls of “How cool, you sent a card! How are you?”  Much better than a notification saying they liked my comment!
  • Being FB free truly helped me clear the clutter and noise that was in my life which was my main purpose.  I’m really trying to focus on positivity this year and living in the moment.  It is no secret to anyone these days that if you unplug your life, then you find a bit more happiness. I didn’t miss the passive aggressive status updates, the lunch updates, the tagging in at some exotic destination or anything else.  When I got rid of the noise from a person I knew back in High School, I just felt calmer. We all know that there are a lot of positive statuses on FB but there is a lot of downright meanness and negativity.  I just wanted to worry about myself in that moment.
  • The thing I missed the most from FB was the pictures.  Which made me realize the obvious reason I like being on Facebook and I don’t know if I knew that prior to this experiment. The picture from a first birthday cake attack or from a vacation that had long been planned.  I have an Instagram account that I love but so many friends are not on it.  If they were all on there then I would honestly not feel the need to be on FB anymore.  I know I have family that lives far away wanting to see pictures of my dog with her cone of shame because it is too funny NOT to see.  Facebook is just the only means to share that with everyone.

So, what have I done with myself now that January is over?  While I wish I could say I didn’t re-install the Facebook app back on my phone when the end of the month hit, I did.  Mainly to update pictures.  I can say that first day back on it I scrolled for about 15 seconds before I realized I didn’t want to waste my time and logged back off.  There it was still… the clutter, the noise, the competition.  I did go through my friend’s list and deleted quite a few people.  The ones that made me roll my eyes often or the ones that I met once 8 years ago didn’t need to bring clutter to my life.  The good thing is now I don’t reach for my phone to check for updates and I’m limiting myself to looking at it just once a day.  Old habits are easy to fall back into and I just don’t want to go back there. I like the change.

We all have a love/hate relationship with social media in general and it isn’t going away.  It is a great means of communication but you have to find a balance with it in your life and this was my chance to do so.  I was still on Twitter and Instagram  during this time but I have a different relationship with those two apps.  I don’t get the same negative emotion from them like I do Facebook.  And when you aren’t checking one app then you tend to not check the others as much, which means much more looking up and around at the life happening right there in front of you.  No matter how many more forms of communication come about, living life in the moment will always win.

Doggie Day Care

I’ve discovered having a dog is a lot like having kids.  They whine, they cause havoc, they  need watched constantly, you have to remember to feed them on a regular basis and everyone thinks they get an opinion on how you raise one. 

My neighbors are great at informing me if my dog is outside too little or too much.  Others will comment on the fact that she is tied up while outside versus running amuck through the subdivision.  The vet will question what obedience classes she has taken and friends will wag their fingers because she is required to sleep in a crate at night and not in our bed.  Oh the joys of advise from others. 

Then there is the advise that one can actually take.  The advise I never thought I would take because I was NOT that person.  Against my Husband’s desire, we took Fenway to doggie day care.  Who was I?  Who the hell spends money to take a dog to day care?  This girl.  Some people whispered the idea to me and I knew others had done it. So there Fenway and I stood at her first day of day care, at a place I had carefully picked out.  She jumped on everyone and peed in excitement as she had never done before.  One man stepped back from the check in table with his calm dog and waved me to go ahead of him.  “First day?” he asked me.  Was it that obvious?  Yes, we were those people. 

We haven’t looked back.  Fenway LOVES it.  She happily brings me her leash and jumps in the truck.  Once a week (sometimes more, I won’t lie) she goes to see her friends and teachers.  Once a month they even give her a bath and make her smell like a damn sugar cookie.  You would never know she barks at her own farts. 

The best part is the part where she comes home and doesn’t. move. an. inch.  Not one.  She collapses on the couch and sleeps like a brick till morning because what does day care do?  It wears her the fuck out.  Those are the nights we invite people over for wine and they comment on how well behaved she is.  I wrap presents on the floor and she doesn’t tackle the mess.  I can fold laundry and somehow manage to make dinner all without her helpful assistance.

Yes, I am the person I never thought I would be.  The person I used to make fun of.  I have no shame in this.  Better yet, my husband will proudly tell you he too is now a believer in the day care.

The End of the Holiday Season

Every year we have several family Christmas get together’s with immediate family, extended family and friends.  I love this.  I love the Holiday’s, the music, the decorations and the magic.  It seems the day after Halloween it is all pushed in our faces and then promptly ends at midnight on Christmas night.  It is that sudden halt that makes me crazy.

I hit up a few stores for sales and returns in the days after Christmas and it seems the Grinch had been there to visit.  Christmas decor was hanging by a thread from store walls, some lay trampled on the floors.  People tapped their feet in those return lines while rolling their eyes at the long wait.  Manners were lost, people were head down, pushing along, dragging over-tired children behind them.  That Christmas spirit was quickly forgotten.  Where does all that good-will go so quickly?

Honestly, I just find it sad.  Wouldn’t it be great if that Christmas spirit lasted a bit more through the year like the carols say?  Not the cold and the money spending that goes with it but just the general cheer.

This past weekend I hosted our last Christmas get together of the season and yes, our tree was still up past my normal New Years Day deadline.  I spent the extra nights soaking up the lights from the Christmas tree along with the last lingering smells.  I was ready to take it down on Sunday and get back to a calmer schedule.  There is always that feeling of emptiness when there are no longer lights casting a glow on us in the evening but I don’t have to vacuum up the tree needles any longer.  I’m just hoping I can carry a little bit more of that Christmas spirit with me until next year.