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.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

More Ordinary Days, Please

Sometimes, I forget to remember, in the ups and downs and concerns of the week, just what a gift ordinary days are.

Early last week, I heard from Libby. Her cancer is back again, already. This time showing up as ten small spots in her brain, one more (probably) on her liver. And, the chemo she's been on hasn't made the spot on her lung any smaller. She'll undergo a round of radiation starting next week, to see if that'll help with the brain cancer, talk to her oncologist after that to see what her next option is for the other spots.

Hard news to hear, but it wasn't mine to share, so I didn't.

I spent the week simultaneously on two planes. One me went through the routine of my week without breaking stride. I reveled in the normalcy of production issues at work (no lives at stake there), of developing new code (ditto). I grumbled about the late spring along with everyone else in the office, stopped at the grocery store to buy dishwasher detergent, white wine vinegar and toothpaste.

The other me spent the week regrouping, sending her my thoughts and prayers, and coming up with ways I can be there for her. I spent the week cussing at fate, and working to accept what is, even though I HATE, HATE, HATE this answer.

I tried my best to live the days I have. It helps neither her nor me if I spend my time flipping through assorted doomsday scenarios, so I stopped those mental films as soon as I was aware they'd started up again.

She shared her news with us all on Friday - just the bare facts, she couldn't bring herself to say more than that just yet.

There's a lot I don't know about the days to come, but I do know, from my own experience, journeys into the unknown are hard. Another thing I know is that I need to remember to look for beauty, because when I remember to look for it, it will be there to be seen and to soothe my soul, just a little.

"Only in the darkness can you see the stars." (Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.)


Sunday, April 15, 2018

Everyday Heroes

I have a small, but loyal, following of readers for my blog. (some of them don't even know who I am - which I think is way cool!) A new reader found my post on 'The Right Time to Die' from earlier this year touching, and read it to her mother, who is a resident of a local assisted living apartment complex.

Her mother was taken by the story, and invited me to come talk to her writer's group - Readers, Writers, and Wannabees. (A great name for a writer's group if ever I've heard one!) I was thrilled to accept her invitation, and went out there this past Monday to be the featured speaker at their monthly meeting.

They were a fun group to talk to. They loved my camper van stories, were responsive, and asked questions in all the right places. They told me I inspired them.

What I'm pretty sure they don't realize is how much they inspired me in return. These people are not in the best of health; as my dad would have said, 'old age is catching up with them'.

When I think of getting old, one of the things I fear is that I will lose my sense of curiosity. I'm afraid of becoming stuck, rigid, convinced I've learned all I will ever be interested in and thus be unwilling to learn anything new.

The people at the meeting were living examples of how that doesn't have to be. No, they aren't as nimble as they once were, but they don't let that stop them from learning, from being curious, from trying new things. Like Stephen Hawking (another one of my heroes), they don't let the things they can't do keep them from doing the things they can.

It was a good reminder for me - a reminder I can make choices each day about the attitudes I bring out of bed with me. I won't become rigid if I practice flexibility. The days I learn new things and let myself wander down internet information rabbit holes help to ensure I will not become a mindless, television watching robot should I be lucky enough to live long enough to become old.

It's good for me to see living examples of the lifestyles I aspire to, and I am most grateful for the opportunity to glimpse the lives of these wannabe writers.

I wanna be just like them when I grow up.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

April Snow

It's been a cold weekend. Uncharacteristically cold.

I fear for my lilac blooms - we got just enough warmth for them to start to come out, then this latest cold spell came in to sit for a spell. It's been hovering around freezing all week; down in the twenties some nights.

In the mornings, I've been stopping on my way to the car, hoping against hope to see them still rightly purple instead of frost-killed black. So far, so good.

It's been a cold and grey, Minnesota kind of spring. Now, I love Minnesota, and in my heart of hearts still claim to be a Minnesota girl, but spring up there is a tough season.

It warms up just a bit; you start to think about putting away the winter coats. You get out your lighter jacket and wear it into work. That's the day the temperature decides to plummet, and you end up freezing as you walk head down into the cold wind, sleet biting into your face, wondering why anyone ever decided the climate could be considered habitable. Surely, the settlers were beyond desperate when they settled such a cold and desolate place. Surely, they settled in Minnesota because every other square inch of the country was already taken.

Then comes April. It starts the way March ended - cold, windy. The remaining snow piles are dismal gray, lined with black. But then, but then. On one magical day, winter will give up the battle. On this day, it often snows.

April snow is part of the magic of spring. The flakes are big and fluffy, you can tell it doesn't mean business at all. Often, it doesn't even stick.

Today, we had a genuine Minnesota April snow. I managed to finish up my to-do list in time to get for a walk around the park to enjoy it. I smiled the whole way, stopping every so often to try to catch the flakes on my tongue - and often succeeding!

And, sure enough, the forecast for the week says warmer. 48 tomorrow, 57 on Tuesday, then in the 70's for a couple of days. Also typical Minnesota spring, back into the 40s for the weekend.  **sigh**

But spring is here. Finally!