Thursday, July 30, 2009

A red mower

When I was a high schooler, my dad decided that I could help mow the lawn every week. I was the prissiest girl on the street and I simply did not mow lawns. As a small girl, I had stepped on a large bee while barefoot and never had the desire to go outside again. Playing on the grass was full of the unknown, so whenever possible I protected myself. Shoes all the time. Blanket forts under the slide so that I wouldn't get dirty nor have to touch creepy bugs. No sweating. So, yeah, you can imagine the mowing idea didn't go over too well.

We had a red pushmower that looked ancient even then. My job was only to mow the front yard, but it was huge! Of course now, going back home I see that it would have taken me 15 minutes tops, but at the time you would have thought it was a field. I remember having serious issues starting that old contraption. You had to pull the chord back fast with some oomph or it wouldn't start. I would get so angry while trying to start it. It hated me, you see. And the darn thing was heavy! A skinny 10th grade girl was powerless to push it fast, so it took me forever to get it done. I grumbled and complained at every turn. Those were long, sticky, humid Indiana summers...

While Dan was out of town, I mowed my own lawn. The grass was threatening to overtake my house, so it had to be done. I've definitely mowed it before--the riding mower is such a treat compared to the red beast of my youth. But that night, I actually enjoyed it! (Dan is now reading this and thinking that he will concoct an evil plan to get me to mow every week, I'm sure). The temps were cooling down, there was a nice breeze and everything was so green. Our yard is surrounded by pine trees and they are getting so tall that it felt cavelike in the yard. I did see my share of creatures: two garter snakes (one I accidentally chopped up) and a big frog. And yes, I did scream when I ran over the garter snake.

It's interesting how years can make the same chore seem different. How age can sneak up on us and instead of hating something, we enjoy it. Instead of our parents taking care of us, we are taking care of them. Instead of mowing the lawn ourselves, we get our kids to do it. The circle of life is really here, isn't it?

My dad recently had surgery and found out he has colon cancer. I stayed at my old home during that time and walked around the yard with my dog. So many memories flooded back: the place where my sister's hamster was buried, the thin line of a garden that hasn't been planted in 30 years, the place where my swing set used to stand, the odd cinder block patio my dad built where the red charcoal grill used to stand, the sound of my sister laughing and running in the yard, the trees that I remember planting that are now taller than the house. It's all there. Where did time go? How can we stand in those places and feel as if it was only yesterday? How can we have the courage to move ahead into the unknown? I'm not sure, but I think it might be lurking just around the corner.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009


He was only gone a week. Scenes from conversations with an 11.5 year old boy about his week with grandma. See why it was so quiet around the house?

1. Zach: Mom, I want MEAT. Nanny didn't feed me any and I miss it. Can we have it tonight? Me: No, Zach. We are on a road trip home and I do not have any thawed out to grill. Plus, it's late. We'll get subs on the way home. Zach: I need BBQ. Or STEAK. Or sooomethinnnggg with MEAT. I just can't figure out why they didn't feed me any. It's just not like them. They always feed me ribs. I wonder why they didn't this time. (Sigh)

2. If I heard it once, I heard it 20 times before bed last night: Mom, there was this commercial I saw and it was so went like this...(proceed to fall apart in giggles). Me: Did you watch a lot of TV at Nanny's? Zach: No. I mean yes. Maybe. Kind of. But they have the hunting channel. I like that one.

3. Zach: I have this memory of the sun shining down on me and Poppa and we are laying with our heads on McKenzie. It's like a picture in my head, Mom.

4. Zach: I was thinking about when we used to go in the hot tub at Nanny and Poppa's old house. OH! And I remember Poppa sitting in the hot tub and you could see his fat belly sticking out of the water and I was swimming around. Huh. I haven't thought of that before until just this minute. Did they move that hot tub to the cabin? Where is it? Me: You have been to the cabin three times now and you just stayed there for a week, did you see it? Zach: No, I thought I just hadn't found it yet. Me: It stayed at the old house. You can't move a hot tub. Zach: Oh. They... SOLD THAT HOUSE???? Me: Oh. My.

5. Zach: One time, when I was at Nanny's, I was playing with Max (the cat) and he really likes me. He spits sometimes, but then he will sit on my lap. And he likes that new toy I made him with the string. Sometimes, when I was reading while I was at Nanny's, in the loft--you know in that bed up there? Max would come up the stairs and sit there waiting for me to go play with him. Max will miss me so much. He never even scratched me when he was spitting. He doesn't have front claws.

Glad to have you home where you belong, big guy.

Monday, July 27, 2009

On redemption

Back home after a whirlwind trip to my in-laws cabin and to my sister's house. Zach needed to be picked up from a week spent with Nanny and Mike, so off I went with Tyson (he navigates from the backseat when he is not snoring).

The in-laws recently built a lovely cabin on some adjacent family property to the house where Dan grew up. There are stories on every corner of this land: from November deer hunts with Dan's dad, forts built by the 'crick' as it is called in these parts, a bear sighting by Dan and his brother, and numerous other exploits by boys too brave for their own good. Grandma & Grandpa's house was up the hill on another piece of land and Dan tells of days spent there away from his parents' prying eyes. His grandparents had plenty of farm animals and didn't miss an opportunity to feed their growing boys. What more could a boy want?

Dan's dad passed away several years ago and when his mom remarried, the dream was to build this cabin and sell the original house. As adult children, you wonder and worry and yell when a parent wants to remarry after the death of your father. Dan certainly did. Change is never easy especially when it involves emotional ties. But after this weekend, I will say that my worries about Mike, the step-dad, are subsiding. Okay, so yes, it's been years since they married, but the trust doesn't come easy when you loved your father (or father-in-law) so deeply. No one could take his place.

You see the other thing about Mike is that he has a past. Mike had screwed up his life before he met my mother-in-law. He'd divorced after several kids. He'd had an affair. He drank too much. He was in jail for something that I will probably never know. He does not have relationships with his adult kids. He had terrible anger issues. He smoked. He seemed to be a gold digger to a widow who didn't have any money. The trust would not come easy. It would need to be proven over time.

He immediately took to Zach when he married into the family. Zach was at an age where anyone was fun who would play with him and so they bonded. And of course, Zach does not know about Mike's past. As the years have gone by, their relationship has grown and developed. I asked Zach once if he felt Mike had taken the place of Poppa. He said no--his relationship with Mike was special. Just special, that's all. Last summer when Zach spent the week, the two of them camped in a tent out in the yard. Big fun. Last week, Mike called in sick to work so that he could spend an afternoon with Zach while he was staying with them for the week. He took Zach around to an enormous cattle ranch, a friend's farm and to McDonald's. Only the two of them. When I asked Mike why he had called into work, he said this..."Zach is growing up. He might not want to spend summers with us many more years from now. I wanted to hang out with him while I had the chance."

His words cut to my heart. Here is a man who does not have adult children visit him. Here is a man who tells his wife not to buy the other grandkids gifts for Christmas since he never sees them anyway. The grandkids don't know him and his children don't want them to have anything to do with him. Here is a man who has made huge mistakes in his life and who has one last shot at redemption. A boy who doesn't know Mike's past, accepts him for who is is now. Nothing more, nothing less.

Redemption is indeed a gift.

Friday, July 24, 2009

10 Things That Make Me Happy

10 things that make me happy on a Friday:

1. Sunshine on my shoulder
2. Biggby Coffee
3. A massage at the chiropractor and the promise that we'll work to "get that back better"
4. That Dan wasn't hurt when his driver in China wrecked their car. Don't know extent of damage or circumstance but I am sure there is a story or two about the police station.
5. Going to pick up my boy Zach today. I might not recognize him. He may have grown a foot and his hair will be long and shaggy. He needed a haircut before he left, so now it must be all crazy!
6. My leather ring with the leather pink flower on it
7. Daughtry's new music which begs me to question...if I downloaded it from itunes is it still considered a CD? Or does that happen only when it is burned to a CD or you purchase it as a CD? Ah, the world of music in 2009.
8. The potential for an ice cream snack as I drive to pick up Zach. It might not happen, but it could. Wouldn't you like to know?
9. New books to read this week from the library: The Help by Kathryn Stockett and The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows.
10. My four nieces. I will get to see them on Sunday and hang out with them for 24 hours and embrace all their girlness. Love, love, love that.

Have a great weekend. Go get ice cream right now. You know you want to!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Our little Bubba

Since all week it has been pretty much me and the dog around here, I thought it high time he make an appearance on the blog. Tyson is a Boxer and he is almost 12 years old. Yes, he is old. Yes, he is grey. And yes, he still acts like a toddler.
Tyson is the son of McKenzie who was our first dog. She died two years ago and I miss her every day. She was our first--baby or dog--and we spoiled her rotten. We were determined that she be a good dog and enrolled her in obedience school. And she failed twice. In the end, she was a good girl and obedient to the core. Her son, well, that apple fell far from that tree.

Okay, my husband would disagree with me because Tyson listens to him. Very well actually. He will give Dan the evil eye sometimes and heave a big sigh when told to stop or to do something, but he will do it. With me, when Dan is out of the house--even to walk to the mailbox--Tyson needs to share everything with me. LOUDLY. Dan says it is because I am a pushover, but I have tried. People, I have tried to use the firm voice or the Dog Whisperer Rules or any other pull-me-up-by-the-straps firmness that I can muster. He still barks at me.

I should rephrase. His barking is not random. He really is telling me something when he speaks. Here is the common theme,"I see the treats on top of the fridge. I know that you gave me one as you always do when you come home. But it is an hour later and I have slept on the couch and I have decided that I would like another." And so on, until he has decided that he wants my dinner or he wants to walk or he needs to go outside or he wants to lay on the deck in the sun. Did I mention he does this LOUDLY?
Don't get my wrong. This boy is my dog. And of course that is why he barks. Yes, I am indeed a pushover. Frankly, when he was a pup I was too tired to argue. He was born six months before my son and during Tyson's terrible puppy stage, I was learning the schedules of a newborn. Tyson probably had to speak loud to me in order to get my attention as I fed Zach and slept on the couch between feedings. No wonder he's like this.

He doesn't bark all the time though. The other thing he does quite well these days is sleep. Poor guy, I guess getting old bites. When he was a puppy and I was still pregnant, I was told to lay on my left side to reduce the swelling that I was beginning to show all over my big self. Guess where Tyson decided was the prime seat in the house? In the curve of my leg by my knee. It's still his comfort place to this day.

Crazy creature that he is, we wouldn't trade him for anything. In fact, knowing that this is probably our last year or so with him pains me. I can't think about it or I will cry. I never had a dog growing up and now I cannot imagine my life without that furry bundle of joy no matter how much he drives me crazy. He's been comfort when I was sad, kept me warm on many a cold Michigan night, made me belly laugh at some of his antics, and kept me company when I was lonely. Our little Bubba is my honey dog and I don't know what I would have done without him all these years.

What's that? Oh, I'm sure he wants another treat. Sorry he's so loud.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Hear ye! Hear ye! Schedule your mammogram today!

Today was mammogram day for my second sixth month check-up. Yes that would be a one year check up officially, but that is what the doc called it--we're sticking to his story. I call this my "super duper" mammogram since I get the high-res scan at the shiny new hospital. (Sorry, but I am not gifted with the ability to retain technical terms. Tell me something with a long name and many consonants, and I will glaze over before you have finished speaking. Just so you know.)

Anyway, last year when my mom was diagnosed with stage IV breast cancer, I immediately called my doctor for a little chat. It's funny how you go along with life, then someone in your immediate family is diagnosed with a disease and you immediately think it could show up in you the next day. No time like the present, though, and our lovely chat ended up with a mammogram scheduled. Excellent. Let the base line begin.

And wouldn't you know it, I got the call. Well, not THE call, but the one that says the regular mammogram was showing something that needed checking out with a super duper mammogram. Please refer to above paragraph for explanation of why this would happen. Remember the line about showing up the next day? You got it. Although I was highly suspicious of the machine that took the first scans since it looked like it was built before I was born. Sure, that was it.

Seriously, wouldn't it be ironic if I was diagnosed two weeks after my mom? And tragic? People would surely talk. And bring casseroles.

Not to make light of the situation, because I will say that those days waiting for the results of the super duper mammogram were intense. I am a highly imaginative little girl and I created scenarios that would chill you. My husband was worried. My girlfriends were worried. My sister was worried. We didn't tell my mom. And if you know her you are sworn to secrecy. In the end, the OTHER call came--the one with good news--and all was deemed clear. Good. Nothing to worry about. Whew.

So now I have six-month checkups that turn into yearly checkups on my super-duper-squash-me-ultra-mammogram machine. And that is what I did on my Wednesday.

Schedule yours today! I mean it. Go write it on your planner and call that doctor's office.

And I was know those little stickers that they give you when you walk out of the voting place? "I Voted Today" they say. I think clinics and hospitals should give you stickers after a mammogram that say, "I Got Squashed Today."

You would certainly get attention.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

De-fense! De-fense!

I am a people person. Over the past three nights without my boys, this fact has been quite obvious. The silence around here is making me crazy. Oddly enough, when I was a child I was extremely shy and loved nothing more than coming home to recoup from being with people. Alone time was my favorite time of day. It's not that I didn't admire those that were outgoing and chatty because they were outrageously cool to me. Those that could perform on stage or skate at the Olympics or could be an actress were my heroes. But I never dreamed that I could be one of those people until the year that I was in seventh grade.

It was my first year at a new school and for the first time, I saw cheerleaders. Now in the early eighties at a small Christian high school, cheerleading was not the extreme sport that it has turned into today. I didn't have to do a flip or get tossed in the air by a hot guy. I only had to be brave enough to stand in front of a hundred fans on a good night and cheer for our boys at soccer and basketball. Without a doubt I wanted to be in that uniform. So I announced to my parents a few weeks before tryouts that I wanted to be a part of it.

I cannot imagine the shock my poor parents had. The girl who looked away if someone spoke to her? The girl who was oddly gangly and tall? The girl who could not speak above a whisper? Right. They encouraged me to try, but I can imagine many conversations behind closed doors about my obvious possibility of failure. In the end, I worked hard. I learned the cheers and the moves and found out that I could do the splits. I watched and listened. I made the junior high squad for Calumet Baptist High School.

And I found my voice.

I credit much to those many years of being a cheerleader (or yell leader as my mammaw always called it)...Confidence in myself and my abilities. Communicating to people during frustrating practices or leading a crowd in a cheer. Being part of a team and knowing that the bottom of the pyramid would fall without me. Supporting others with posters on lockers and excited talk before a game. Finding the humorous side of myself. Learning to tell a joke or telling a story to a crowd.

Sometimes, though, it is good to be alone. I have to remind myself of that. I cannot always have my boys around me nor do I constantly need to "be busy." I do need to stop and slow down. Often, I realize that I tend to use people as a crutch and don't allow myself that alone time. This week will be a good push for me to reflect, think and stir up my creative juices again. I can see already that is has stirred up the writer in me again. And I have some new project ideas buzzing around in my head. So, here's to possibilities for a wonderful week alone.

I promise to not talk to myself that much.

Monday, July 20, 2009

I miss the sound of your voice (with kudos to Matt Nathanson)

A voice. The subtle nuances that define the one person in the world who knows you best. You wait to hear it from halfway around the world and it finally comes. Listening to it you can breathe again. A silly grin jumps across your face as you realize there is no delay in hearing him, his time is your time. It is as if he went to pick up a pizza or called on his way home from work.

There are a few differences: his Tuesday is your Monday. His day is your night. Bicycles buzz past him on a busy street. A family of four clings to a motorscooter and they somehow arrive at their destination in one piece. You hear the odd beeps of another place that exists beyond your imagination. Shouts and banging; birds singing at a new morning. He describes women washing their clothes in the river in front of him, up early with the dawn and facing a day that you know nothing about. Tonight you will put clothes in a washer and dryer. The hum will distract you while you watch a silly television show. There will be no manual labor. He is a window to another time, ancient in some ways yet modern in others.

There are more stories and laughter, but for now the voice is all you hear. A connection across thousands and thousands of miles, an ocean apart. He is yours. You are his.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Ruth Homer

Today I had a blissful afternoon digging around antique shops in Mason, Michigan. My family does not enjoy this and was more than happy to let me enjoy it alone. It pleases me to see glassware and beautiful oak furniture, funny old signs and quirky figurines. I tend to gravitate towards books and postcards and jewelry, always on the watch for ancient Revell books since I work for that publisher. A surprise pops up every now and then that makes me laugh: an old orange Crockpot like my mom used for years with glass lid intact (hers broke), a pink metal trunk like the one that held my doll clothes, a Fisher Price plastic barn with the mooing door, pristine McDonalds and Burger King glasses with Star Wars or Strawberry Shortcake on them. I never buy these items, but they stir up the nostalgic heart in me.

One of the coolest items found this afternoon was a suede photo book with black construction paper pages on the inside. The cover was wrapped with a suede strap and had the name of the girl to whom it was given, Ruth Homer, burned on the front. The suede is a bit beat up and stained, but I had to have it. I have no idea whether this is an old prize or not, but it spoke to me.

I can imagine a young girl giggling with glee as she received this as a gift. Maybe her dad knew how to burn her name on it. Or maybe it was from a boy. Perhaps she learned how to do this as a craft project at camp, but yet it seems far too detailed for an inexperienced person to have completed. But wasn't it the best to have your name on something you owned? Since my name is highly unusual, I remember the pain of NOT having my name on something. HA.

I guess that's why Ruth Homer's little scrapbook spoke to me. She viewed it as too precious to mess up. It was difficult for her to paste pictures in this album because it would "ruin" it. I remember that feeling to well, being torn in your decision to keep something special because of your love for it. Today it was a great reminder to me to use the things that I love. They won't be ruined, only loved on. My friend recently hung a chandelier of her grandma's in her favorite place in her house, the sunroom. I use my antique tea cups to drink my tea or brew a pot in the Brown Betty that was Dan's grandma's. I wear Grandma Boydston's costume jewelry to work when I miss her.

We only have one life. Don't let that special scrapbook sit unused--fill it with the photos of your life. Drink tea from that cup. Use your grandpa's fishing pole. Write in the journal you were saving because it was pretty. Bring out your wedding china for your teenage son to eat on at dinner.

Use what you love. I think it will make your day.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

On Love

Kissing you goodbye, the tears stream down my face. I won't cry. I won't worry. I won't be overcome with the emptiness of you not here. Two weeks is significantly less time than a soldier going off to war is gone. The danger is not their danger. But flying to the other side of the world might as well be the moon. Or Flint, Michigan.

We have had to say goodbye so many times this year. I don't want to get used to it. In fact, tonight I am at a loss.

Over the next few weeks I will feel as if a part of me is missing. My arm. My leg. My heart. Brad Paisley has a song out now that says, I Loved You Then, speaking of the times along the way that we thought we loved that someone in our life. We thought love was profound and real, and then we are moved by our capacity to love more. We take love for granted. And then we are surprised by it all over again.

It's been over 17 years since I first fell for you. And I am surprised again by love.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Next time, I think I will stick with a can, thanks.

After a blissful upgrade to first class from Denver to Grand Rapids, I thought my long day of travel would be full of great reading and a nap or two. Instead I became a soggy mess. Let me tell you the story...

I had settled in for a long flight. Library book (Heart and Soul by Maeve Binchy, if you would like to know) was on my lap and my Bose headphones were on while my iPod played some tunes. The businessman next to me had walked away to the bathroom. The flight attendant had asked me if I would like a drink. Ginger ale, thank you.

In first class, the middle arm rest is quite wide and allows a small area for drinks. My seatmate and I each had a glass and two cans resting there. The area was crowded and since I did not want to spill my drink, I decided to pull out the table from the other armrest. As I maneuvered it out with my right hand, I held my glass in the other. And that is when everything went horribly wrong. As the table moved to a flat position, the corner of it knocked the tip of my glass. The next thing I knew my lovely library book was filled with chunks of glass, ice and ginger ale that was beginning to run into my lap. Did I mention it was full?

Oddly enough, I never heard the glass shatter since my Bose headphones block out sound. It was as if a crash scene happened on TV without the volume up. One minute all was well, then smack. It wasn't. In reaction, I lifted the book up and when I did, all the ginger ale rolled onto my lap. I looked across the aisle at the other businessmen across from me. They were surprised as well, but did not move from their seat to give me a hand nor did they jump up to get a flight attendant. I was frantically looking around for help. I couldn't really stand up until someone took the book from me! I asked the men to get the flight attendant. And they looked back down at their reading material. Don't get me started on how I wanted to throw that glass at them.

Eventually the flight attendant and my seatmate arrived at my seat. The flight attendant grabbed the book and left to dump the glass. I got some thicker paper towels from her to soak up the ginger ale. My seatmate and I began to pick up pieces of glass from the floor, my seat, my clothes, his seat, etc. What a mess. To top it all off, my thumb was bleeding all over the place. After a quick bathroom cleanup, we put blankets on my seat and I got the joy of flying another hour or more with wet pants.

I looked as if my water had broke and I was about to give birth to a 7 lb 10 oz baby boy.

Next time, I think I will stick with a can, thanks.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009


It felt so good to blog last night. I am finding that the longer I take between making myself sit down and write, the more stuff pours out. Long post last night but I had fun remembering those bike rides. On Friday we will be visiting Dan's mom and step dad at their cabin. They don't have internet but I think that I shall take the laptop along. Sitting on that front porch looking out at the pond and fields might be quite inspiring. Although I have so many books now to read that I might end up shutting out the world with a few novels!

Zach is enjoying a summer free of the day care center. He's always gone to a summer program with field trips and adventures, but last summer he declared that he was too old. Dan and I didn't feel that it would be wise to let him be alone every day all week though, so we found a friend of his whose aunt lives next door. The aunt watches him two days, sometimes three, and he is a happy camper. He is pretty stunned that month one of the break is already complete. We have a week planned in July for him to spend at his Nanny's cabin, and he cannot wait. So cool for him to have that deep of a relationship with her and be able to swim in the pond and fish and do fun boy stuff. She will spoil him rotten and we are happy about it.

Dan is still working on contract at Eastman Outdoors. He seems to be very close with signing on full-time with them if we can get all the details worked out with the company for him to work from home. He would be in the office on the other side of the state twice per month for a few days. Even though they have not made the job official, he already has plane tickets for China at the end of the month! Who knew that my country boy would end up traveling overseas to a city of 17 million people! He will enjoy it I know as his adventuresome heart longs to try new things. Mine...does not. I like my house and these United States, thank you very much.

And so I will have some time to myself at the end of the month. Am planning lots of catching up on photoshop and photo saving. All that boring stuff that I have been putting off. A bug on my work computer scared me enough to make sure that my photos on my home computer get backed up soon. We have a separate hard drive but I need to burn them to disc. Gosh, I hate doing all that. Bores me to tears!!!

Worked hard at cleaning my desk off today before the long weekend. Feels good to have it done. Tomorrow will be cleaning out and filing a backlog of email and deleting a bunch of files on my harddrive. Again with the boring stuff, but I know that it will be good to get it over with.

Half day of work tomorrow--yippee!