Sunday, June 17, 2018

Father's Day

my Christmas Onion
It's Father's Day today, and I've done a bang-up job of ignoring the fact.

I got up early this morning, before it got hot, and spent a few hours in the garage, trying to make progress on getting the rest of it organized. I came in, ate lunch, took a nap and cleaned the kitchen and bathroom - such a good little do-bee.

But after dinner, it got a little harder to pretend there wasn't a hole in my world. Why after dinner? Perhaps it was the cold beer I treated myself to after finishing my work for the day. I'm not much of a beer drinker, but must admit they go down easy when I've been working all day in the heat.

I sat there looking at my beer, and my heart and mind went back to all the times I remember Dad doing the same thing. He worked hard, and enjoyed a cold beer at the end of a hot day. I remember him working around the house almost every weekend. He worked, but rarely did he finish a project 100% of the way. He'd get almost done with the job, then lose interest. Something else would come along to claim his attention and his time, and he'd never get back to putting up that last piece of trim. Nor, near as I could tell, did it ever bother him that the trim piece wasn't in place. (It did me - now I'm the one in control of finishing the projects, they pretty much always get all the way done.)

The hole he left in my life when he died in 1994 at age 69 is subtler than the one left when Mom died. Partly because I was an adult by then, partly because I didn't get to see him often anyways, and it was easier for my psyche to pretend he was still out there in Arizona, and would be coming through any day now on his annual trip home.

It's been a long time since he got around to making the trip, though, and I miss him. I miss his crooked smile and the sound of his voice. I miss knowing he's out there if I really need him. I miss the letters he used to write me, letters about nothing really, just a way to stay in touch.

Happy Father's Day, Dad. I hope, where ever you are, you have a workshop full of good quality tools. I hope the blades are sharp and and the workshop is full of fun projects for you to putter around with, even if you never do manage to finish a one. I love you....

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Lumber Rack

the scary tool - it looks so innocent
This past Saturday, I told me it was high time I got the lumber rack in the garage built. Unfortunately for me, this involved using the angle grinder, with its shower of sparks, to cut the steel pipe I needed to build the rack. I've watched Joe use it any number of times, and while I was familiar with the technique needed (in theory), I was intimidated by the noise and the fire flying everywhere each time I watched him use it.

I got up in at a decent hour. I hemmed some, hawed some more. I took a nap, I piddled around the house, then, finally, after lunch, I spoke firmly to myself and got me out to the garage. (I am an excellent procrastinator when I'm afraid to do something.)

I decided to start with the hard part of the project. I managed to delay for another thirty minutes, making sure I had on hearing and eye protection, gloves to protect my hands, that my jeans were thick enough to shield my legs from the sparks, that I'd properly protected the wall behind my cutting area, that there was a fire extinguisher close by. I clamped the pipe into place, then, there was nothing left to do but actually turn on the cutter.

I braced my elbows to steady my nerves and the cutter, and tentatively touched touched the wheel to the metal. Sparks began to fly, and I jumped back about a foot. Feeling a bit foolish, I got hold of myself, counted fingers, and checked for burning objects. All was well, so I re-braced my elbows and started again. This time, I held the disk firmly to the pipe and watched in amazement as it made short work of cutting through the thick steel. Sparks flew, and I could feel their heat as they landed on my clothes, and the skin of my forearms, but nothing caught fire. My hair wasn't singed, nor was I actually hurt, despite the evidence of my eyes.

Since I'd survived the first cut, I reclamped the pipe and tried again, managing to complete a relatively straight cut. So far, so good, I made the remaining fifteen cuts in relatively quick time. (Quick being only three times slower than Joe would have been at the same task.)

Nothing bad happened. I even managed to change the cutting blade when it wore down without too much difficulty.

the finished product
Buoyed by my successful experience, I made pretty short work of cutting the lumber braces to size and drilling the holes for the pipe. I ended the day feeling pretty darn proud of myself. I feel powerful when I convince myself to face down my fears and do the hard things anyways.

Cutting with the grinder will never be my favorite task, but I have to admit - there was some primal joy behind being in control of the spark shower; behind being the master of the tool. Not to mention the positive feeling behind crossing the dreaded task off my to-do list.  **whew** That's done, and it feels GOOD!

Sunday, June 3, 2018


I am always intrigued by the ability of people to adapt to the changes life throws at them.

This past week, my daughter, Kate, took my granddaughter, Alexandra to the Dodgers baseball game near their new home in Los Angeles, and posted the picture to Facebook. They moved to California from Minneapolis a year ago, and Alexandra and Kate are both proud of being from Minnesota, where they made it through many a tough winter without a problem.

The picture showed a typical happy crowd of baseball fans, with the two of them broadly smiling for the camera. All the comments on the post were variants on, "the two of you look great!", which they did. My attention, however, was caught by their attire. The picture was taken in late May - Kate's jacket was zipped to the neck, Alexandra had on her winter coat.

I couldn't help myself - I asked, "is that a winter coat I see on Alexandra???"  Kate responded, "the temperature did dip well into the mix-sixties! She claims she's still a Minnesotan, through and through. But no one likes to be cold".  Tongue firmly in cheek, I agreed. "Of course. I know many, many Minnesotans who put on their winter coats when the temps drop into the sixties."

As a former Minnesotan myself, I have been laughing all week. Also as a former Minnesotan, I, perhaps, have also been known to bundle up long before a true northerner would consider hauling out the jackets. Cold is definitely relative.

Mostly, I have been grateful for their ability to adapt. Moving from the land of very-long-winters to the land of mostly-mellow-weather has been quite a change. They left behind their friends and their comfort zones. Kate left behind school to join the world of work, Alexandra started in a Spanish immersion program. Lot of changes, not much familiar. There's been a lot of adjusting going on, but looking at the coats, I think California must be beginning to feel like home.

I miss them horribly; I've only gotten to see them a couple of times this past year. It's good to see them laughing, happy, relaxed and having fun. Winter coats at the end of May and all.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

It's Summer!

I heard on the radio a couple of weeks ago that April was one of the 20 coldest on record around here, and that Mother Nature flipped the switch come May, and it's been one of the 20 hottest.

The quick switch in the weather has left me a bit disoriented. One night, I'm snuggled under a warm blanket and flannel sheets, the next, I'm tossing off the light cotton sheet because it's way too hot, and sleeping with no blankets at all.

My heat / AC break lasted just a few weeks; the windows are already tightly closed against the heat of the sun. The spring flowers came in a rush, and are already gone. My new roses, on the other hand, seem to like the heat just fine. And the tomatoes I planted have flowers, and a couple of small fruits already forming.

I find myself wishing, once again, for a do-over. Yes, I know I remembered to enjoy the days - enjoyment enforced by my weekends away. (It's hard to get too caught up in tasks when you're not at home to get any of them done.) But there weren't enough of those warm but not hot days - and I spent far too many of the days there were sitting in my windowless office, typing away.

Then, *poof*, here we are, Memorial Day and the unofficial start of summer.

Time for me to let go of my regrets over the days gone, and enjoy the days here. I went for a walk this morning, before the heat started in earnest. I had a lot of company on my way around the park - like-minded people. The birds were out, the trees are green, the grass is still growing.

The season has turned, and I have some ordinary days to enjoy it. My people are doing as well as they can do right now. Libby is feeling all right; is keeping to the plans she made for summer. The radiation did all it can do to slow her tumor growth. It took her down for a bit, but she's determined, and determination can carry her a long ways in her fight. She got right back up again. My children are doing well. I can stand down from high alert mode, and stop to breath a bit.

I can stop to enjoy these ordinary days. Days to fret about chores undone, to leave them that way as I head off to visit yet another friend for the weekend. Days to work, days to begin to plan for the days when heading to the office will no longer be a daily routine. (Those days aren't here yet, but they are on the horizon.)

Days to relax on my porch after work, ceiling fan on high, enjoying the flowers, the shade, the cool drink in my hand, the gentle motion of the porch swing. Days when my world isn't rocking on its spindle, throwing me off balance yet again.

Thank Good for the ordinary days; days to stop, to breathe a bit, to re-balance my soul, to relax.

Aaahhhhh.... summer....

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Chores? What Chores?

Lake Stockton, MO
Surely, the chores don't need to be done EVERY week.
Surely, I can skip town for the fourth week in a row.

I have some friends who have a lake cabin I'd never seen, but every time we get together, which is only a couple of times a year, they talk about their place and how they've poured blood, sweat and, I'm sure, more than a few tears into it.

We were with them during the last Christmas season, and I decided I REALLY wanted to see their place, so I asked them if they meant it when they said they'd love for us to come down. They said yes, so we all got out our calendars and picked a date in late May that happened to be free for the entire group. (Nothing like inviting yourself for the weekend, eh?)

The date was last weekend, and amazingly enough, they still had it on their calendars, and reissued the invitation. Lynn, Tom and I were happy to accept, but Karlie couldn't make it. Which wouldn't be so notable, except for the fact Karlie is the glue who has brought us together. We've never gotten together without including her.

However, Lynn, Tom and I are not the sort to pass up an invitation to the lake because someone else can't come, and we headed down there after work last Friday. While we all missed Karlie, it was a lot of fun to discover I enjoyed spending time with this group even when she wasn't there. It was a new dynamic, interesting, as we trod carefully on new relationship ground.

The weather was as dynamic as the group. I've lived in Missouri for over thirty years now, and can't recall a single day with so many temperature swings. The night was cool, but the skies cleared for our morning walk - temp up to the eighties. They clouded over again after lunch, as a storm moved through - temp back down to the sixties. Just when we were about to give up hope for an afternoon boat ride, the skies cleared, and we were able to go out - temp back up to the eighties. Just after we came back in, another storm rolled through - temp back down to the lower sixties. We thought we'd have to eat dinner inside, but the clouds moved on once more, and the temp rose back into the seventies, perfect for an evening on the deck. The rain heightened my appreciation of the clear between the storms; I had a wonderful day.

And, AND, they invited us back. It's a good day when you find the people you like, like you back!

Those chores? They haven't gone anywhere. I'm still chipping away at the list, doing my darndest to see if I can cross off items faster than they get added to the bottom of the list. Yes, they still need to be done, and I'm behind in my duties, but it's TOTALLY worth the trade-off.

Stop.  Breathe.  Relax. 

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Chores, Schmores

As they did for many people I know, my May weekends booked up quickly this year. Assorted gatherings filled three of the four weekends long before winter ended. That's OK, I thought. I still have one weekend to catch up on chores around the house before summer's heat kicks in.

Then, my friend Karlie called late last week. Did I want to join her for a quick trip to their lake place Saturday into Sunday? My mind raced, cataloging the list of chores I'd promised myself I'd get done on the weekend. I had windows to wash, painting to do, outdoor maintenance galore, and a host of other things I've been trying to find time to do on the weekends.

I almost told her no.

What was I thinking???

Have I learned nothing from the last few years? While they do need to be done, chores are self-reproducing - the more I check off my list, the more add themselves to the bottom of the page. Time away to relax with friends, now that doesn't come along every day of the week.

So, I said yes, and we left noon last Saturday for a quick trip to places quiet and peaceful. We got there in time to spend several lovely hours relaxing on the dock. A little wine, a lot of good conversation, a blue heron flying by every so often. (He probably didn't do it just for us, but we sure appreciated the show.) The catfish (or whatever fish they were) were jumping in the shallows, creating quite the splash as they worked to ensure the continued existence of their species. The lake was peaceful, the sunset proof Good Is.

We got up early Sunday, and enjoyed a long walk in the Ozark hills before heading back to town in time to do at least of few of those neglected chores.

While I've been working to chip away at the list this past week, I'll be doing at least some of them in the heat of summer.

That's OK. As I'm dripping sweat caused by having to work in the humid heat, my mind will go back to a quiet evening by the lake. My breathing will slow a bit, and I will smile at the memory.

Totally worth the tradeoff!

Monday, April 30, 2018

Sisters Weekend

In the thirty-some years since I left home for college, my sisters and I have not once gotten together, just us. We get along well enough, and see each other a few times a year at assorted family events, but with a large family and lots of kids and in and out laws, time for quiet conversation can be at a premium.

We changed that this past weekend, and about time! The event has been on our calendars since last November; we planned it then knowing how quickly spring weekends get booked up. Des Moines is about halfway between the three of them in Minneapolis and me in Kansas City, so we met there. I left work early on Friday, and met up with them in time for dinner.

First on our Saturday agenda was a spa appointment. We all got facials and those who wanted them got manicures and pedicures. After lunch and a much needed nap, we went to a second spa for massages. (Relaxation is an important part of any getaway weekend, no?)

Needless to say, we all slept well on Saturday night, which boded well for our relaxing Sunday, which consisted mainly of shopping and stopping in to visit my Ankeny-based nephew and his adorable family.

The weekend was precious time. I rarely get to have long conversations with any of my sisters; I can't remember the last time we ALL sat down and talked without being rushed or interrupted (except by each other). We talked of life and our missing sister Maria, who died last year. We talked of how we never talk about Mom, then broke the family rule, and talked about Mom. We touched on how her dying younger than the youngest of us is now changed each our lives.

We laughed a lot, cried a little. We bridged the gaps of miles and years, and came together in a new, tighter formation. I learned new tidbits about each of their lives; understand just a little better how and why they became who they are.

I won't speak for them, but back home, I am one happily exhausted puppy. (Even when it goes well, and it did, building relationships is intense business.) I am SO grateful for the time we had together.

Ahhhh...  Good Is.