Friday, September 22, 2017

I'm in Denial

I'm in denial that summer is not almost over!

I have really been thoroughly enjoying these final days of summer, and every time I see a yellowing tree, I want to scream, “No, no NO!! I am not ready for summer to go!”

I usually welcome fall with arms outstretched to the clear blue sky and a feeling of, “Ahhhhh! A break from sweating!” But, summer this year was slow to arrive, and once it did, it flew by so fast, and I am not ready for it to end. It’s like summer arrived, I blinked, and then poof!  It is now almost gone. It doesn’t help my mood that a hard winter is predicted for our area, and we all know how I feel about winter.
While I am denying the end of summer is near, I am doing my best to soak up and enjoy every last green leaf, vibrant flower, warm breeze, and taste of summer produce I possibly can. 

 *One of the first things I do each year as the calendar page turns to September is buy myself a bouquet of sunflowers from Schnucks. That happy little vase of sunshine-y loveliness is well worth the $10 it costs. When one bundle fades away, I buy another and another, right up until it’s time to decorate for Christmas. Sunflowers have been one of my favorite flowers for a long time, even before I knew that they are named what they are because they turn on their stems each day to face the sun. A vase of them on my kitchen table reminds me to be like a sunflower always look for the sunshine.

*Speaking of sunflowers, two weeks ago, I visited a 40-acre sunflower farm with two old friends. I have never seen anything like it, and I took so many photos. They don’t come close to showing how impressive this field was. It was hard to get good photos because of the time of day we were there, but wow. So beautiful. 

Afterwards, we quenched our thirst at a winery down the road.

Adirnondack chairs. A pond overlooking the vineyards. A delicious glass of wine. Old friends. A late summer Saturday afternoon.


*I have been making myself go for long walks a few times each week. My weight loss seems to have stalled, causing me to have to add in some exercise rather than get frustrated and give up. Thankfully, I have a couple of quiet, pleasant walking spots I stop at before I get home. Once I am home, the game is over, I am lazy, and my best intentions are given up on. So, I have been taking walking clothes and shoes with me to work, changing at the office, and then getting my daily exercise in before I go home. I tradeoff between Creve Coeur Lake and the river front in St. Charles, depending on my mood. Either place works because I find being near the water so relaxing, even if I am walking fast and sweating. If I have a choice of bodies of water, I prefer the beaches of the Gulf of Mexico over the Missouri River, but I am grateful for what I have near me—lake or river. Some days, I am tempted to blow it all off and go home instead, (and some days, I do just that!). Work has been stressful lately, and on the days that I don’t give in to my desire to be lazy, I always enjoy my walk and feel revived once I get home. The scenery does help! When I go to the lake, there are always flocks of ducks and a couple of high school crew teams practicing. 

*End of summer means my girl’s birthday as summer transitions to fall. 22 years ago, expecting a baby girl, I envisioned birthday cakes with flowers and pink frosting. And I made those cakes for a few years. However, she is partial to pie, so every year, she requests and apple pie. Her birthday is today, but she is spending it with friends on a float trip, so she came home last weekend just so I could make her birthday pie. It made my heart do a little pitter patter to know that birthday tradition is still important to her. 

*Yesterday, I had the opportunity to go to a luncheon fundraiser that my boss had tickets to but was unable to attend. Thankfully, a coworker whose company I greatly enjoy went with me, and I really can’t think of a more perfect way to have spent the last day of summer. Just LOOK at this place! (How can I have lived here for 27 years and never gone to this wonderfully picturesque place that is less than 20 miles from my home? HOW?? 

Very puzzling. But, without a doubt, I will be making more visits to Wine Country Gardens!
It was a blazing hot day (in the high 90s with gross humidity that made it feel more like mid-July than late September), lunch was outside, and we sweated like crazy and fanned ourselves with flimsy pieces of paper, but I didn’t care. We drank wine, chatted and laughed with the other ladies at our table, and had a delightful afternoon that was a decadent break from the same old work crap.  

Days like yesterday make me wish that days like yesterday happened more often.
And days like yesterday make me wish it wasn’t the end of September with winter right around the corner.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Off the Beaten Path

Several years ago, I spent the weekend with my niece who lived near Clearwater Beach, Florida. I remember having a drink with her while watching the sunset on the beach my first night there and remarking that it must be so wonderful to live that close to the beach. Unbelievably, she said she and her husband rarely went to the beach, and I was so befuddled by that. I told her I couldn’t imagine living that close and not going all the time. I thought about it later and decided that actually made sense; even if I lived in Florida near the beach, I would still have the obligations of life that would likely prevent me from going to the beach as often as I imagine I would. I thought about how we often take for granted that which is right in front of us, not really appreciating our surroundings the way we should while we let the routines of life prevent us from doing so.

Lately, I have been thinking a great deal about that conversation. I live on the outskirts of St. Louis, and I love the area where I live. St. Louis, for all of the bad press it has received the past few years is a vibrant, beautiful city with so much to do, see and eat. Yes, there most definitely pockets of the city where one would not want to visit or be lost in after dark. But, doesn’t every large city have such areas? St. Louis is known mostly for The Gateway Arch, but STL has a rich ethnic history, and there are areas and neighborhoods that still carry on that history.  A neighborhood called The Hill is known for its plethora of Italian food and shops. There are beautiful parks all over the metropolitan area. We have two popular sports teams, a world class botanical garden, breweries, festivals galore and a fantastic zoo. There are many surrounding communities and towns not far from St. Louis that also have much to offer in the way of shops, restaurants, scenic hiking trails and other attractions. 

It seems so crazy to me when I think about how I live in a place with so many wonderful things to see and do, yet I often stay in my own little bubble and don’t venture away from what I know and love. I have lived in the St. Louis area off and on my entire life, and for all of the past 27 years, but there are places I haven’t visited, for no real reason, other than I just haven’t. I did more when the kids were little and we made regular trips to the zoo, Grant’s Farm and other kid-friendly sites. Now, I go to Cardinals games here and there and make a trip to The Muny every summer, but other than that, I am not at all adventurous about checking out new things and places. So, the past few months, I’ve been trying to go off the beaten path more. I’ve tried new restaurants instead of falling back on my long-time favorites, stopped at places I’ve never been before even though I have driven by them many times with no attention paid to them in the past. Sometimes, it has been worth the effort, and sometimes, it really wasn’t at all, but I have really gotten a kick out of stumbling upon weird places and looking for new adventures.  I’ve also eaten some really good food from restaurants I didn’t know existed.

Two Saturdays ago, my sister and I wanted to take our mom out to lunch and shopping for her birthday. Typically, we go to Columbia, MO since it is close by and we know it well. I go there even more now that Lauren attends college in Columbia. But this time, I suggested we do something different and go to our state’s capital, Jefferson City, instead. I spent a few days there back in December when I was there for Share training and discovered it is a really quaint little town, not at all what I expected it to be. There is an historic downtown area near the capitol building with several blocks of shops and restaurants. I will shamefully admit that until this past December, I had never been to Jefferson City. I had never seen the state capital building of my own state up close, only from a distance as I drove through on my way to the Lake of the Ozarks. When I suggested Jeff City to my sister, I was surprised to find out that she had never visited the city either.

So, Jeff City it was! It is only 10 minutes further than Columbia, and it was so worth it.

On my drive to meet up with my mom, sister and Lauren, I decided on a whim to stop at a store that I have driven by more times than I can count, in Williamsburg, MO, an out-in-the-middle-of-nowhere country town. Williamsburg is about 25 miles from the town where my parents and sister live, one of those places I drive through but never stop because there is really nothing there, not even a gas station. There is however, Crane’s Country Store. I was a little bit ahead of schedule, and I decided to stop. It’s not a place I will go again, but I did take a few fun photos. The two old men hanging out on the porch drinking soda out of glass bottles gave me a chuckle, and I felt like I’d stepped onto The Walton's set for a moment.

I love these chairs! They remind me of chairs my grandma once had. 

A few miles later, I stopped at Apple Wagon Antique Mall. I have been there before, but I usually don’t take the time to stop. How can you not love a place where you are greeted with sights such as this before you even enter the store:

I went on my merry way, met everyone, and we headed to Jeff City. It was an unseasonably cool day, beautiful and sunny and only in the low 80s. The humidity was non-existent, which was a real treat for late August. We started with a delicious lunch at The Grand CafĂ©, shopped at what has to be the world’s largest Hallmark store and my favorite, Southbank Gifts. We finished our afternoon at Yo Yum with bowls of frozen yogurt. I think my sister and mom enjoyed the day. I know I did.  I adore old buildings, and I especially love this one, which just happens to be the home of Yo Yum:

Those stained glass windows. Swoon. <3 p="">

All this within full view of the stunning capitol building.

While my favorite part of the day was simply strolling along the streets of a picturesque town,

 Lauren's favorite part of the day was this:

She loves it when we go in stores that have couches, and she always has to give them a test run. She was quite comfy and laid there the entire time we were in the store. She didn't take a nap on this day, but she has been known to do that, too. :) 

I guess I can’t get enough of road trips because last Saturday, I drove to Ste. Genevieve, MO and met Rachel there. This is a town I have driven through multiple times the past year or so because it is about half way between home and where Rachel goes to school. I’ve always heard it was a cute little town with fun shops, etc., but since I live in a cute little town with fun shops, I have never bothered to go. I am not sure what exactly I was expecting, but it really is a hidden gem in the middle of practically nowhere, and we had a fun day exploring. It was quiet, not like the crowded St. Charles historic district is on a beautiful summer Saturday. The people and shop owners were so friendly—more than once, we were stopped on the street and drawn into long conversations about the history of the town and some of the buildings, many of which still look exactly as they must have looked in the town’s early days.
We had lunch in an old saloon turned restaurant called The Anvil:

We ate homemade ice cream (that really wasn’t all that great, I must say, and totally not worth the calories) and found some interesting little shops. 

Did I say already that I adore old buildings? 

And the flowers! I wish I had taken more photos. 

When I was on the way to take Rachel back to her car and head home, we (or rather, *I*) got lost and ended up many miles out of the way from where we were headed, which led us wayyyyyy off the beaten path to the biggest antique mall I’ve ever seen, in the teeny little town of St. Mary with a population of 360.

One fun fact about the day:  I learned that my daughter has inherited my weird infatuation with taking pictures of doors. She even said while walking by one building, “Oh, I want to take a picture here because it’s a cute door.”

It was a town full of "cute" doors.

She is also drawn to taking photos of herself in front of brick walls. 

What is the point to all this? Absolutely nothing. :) Writing it just provided me a mental break from trying to scrub tape residue from the walls in a bedroom I am painting. :) 

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Summer of Seeking Peace

Way back in early May, I was having coffee on my porch one gray, chilly Sunday morning, and summer seemed like a distant dream. I was feeling in a bit of a funk about summer and how it isn’t what it used to be now that the kids are all grown. I just don’t seem to enjoy summer the way I once did, so I decided to make a concerted effort to make this summer different, and fun. I made a list of things to do this summer to jazz it up a bit. Fun journeys for us to embark on. Fun things I was going to do on my Fridays off work and fun things I was going to do with my family on the weekends. My list included things like finding new hiking places, going for long bike rides on the Katy Trail, making a new flavor of homemade ice cream every Sunday, buying a treat from the ice cream truck, building a backyard fire pit and drawing “fabulous” art on the driveway with sidewalk chalk with my children, who now have much better artistic skills than they had at age 5.

I wrote a list in my journal, thinking that putting it in writing would make me accountable to actually DO these things.

2017 was going to be “THE Summer O’ Fun!”

I kicked of my Summer O’ Fun with a trip to visit my brother and brother in law in Atlanta. Really, I wondered, where better to kick off summer than in HOTLANTA? A place where I put my feet up and relax in ways I don’t at home? A place where a sign on the porch proclaims, “It’s Always 5 o’clock Here!”

Ahh…Memorial Day weekend. The official summer kick off. MY official summer kickoff. I came home on May 30 after a relaxing weekend ready to take on Summer 2017.

I had plans!
I had a bucket list!
I was ready!
I bought sidewalk chalk!
I bought a new ice cream maker!
It was going to be awesome!

Four days later, my mom fell and broke her hip. My summer plans went out the proverbial window as I spent the next 4 weekends going to my parent's house to help. My Fridays off became the only day of my weekend when I could do laundry, clean my house and run errands, and I got home late on Sunday night, so my bucket list of summer fun was put aside and forgotten about.

July was vacation and work craziness. I often looked longingly at my bucket list, thinking that I still had a few more weeks to fulfill my summer wishes.

Now, the end of August has arrived, and the only thing I’ve managed to cross off that bucket list I so dreamily wrote back in May is a big fat NOTHING. Not one thing.
I haven’t gone on one bike ride.
I haven’t taken one hike.
I haven’t drawn that driveway chalk art.
I haven’t made a batch of homemade gigantic bubble mix.
I haven’t visited the friend I wanted to visit.
I haven’t made homemade ice cream every Sunday. (I did make it one Sunday, and it didn’t even turn out).
I haven’t picked peaches. (I did buy some from an orchard, though!)

If I look at the bucket list I wrote back in May, it seems this summer has been a dismal failure.

But, really, it hasn’t. My Summer O’ Fun hasn’t turned out the way I envisioned on that dreary day in May, but it has, however, been really good in most ways. I have put a great deal of effort into making the most of this summer, and I have done my very best to find peaceful moments in all of it while trying not to long too much for what I expected/wanted it to be.

*While spending all those weekends with my parents for a month wasn’t easy, there were most definitely things I enjoyed. I went grocery shopping with my dad. I helped him do yard chores like planting tomatoes and cutting weeds. (I won’t talk about the icky huge bug bites I got that required a doctor visit because I am such a delicate, precious little city girl). It was nice to be able to help them out and spend time just being with them. We did have some nice chats, and I know they appreciated my help.

I feel at peace with my relationship with my parents for the first time in a long (very long!) time.

*We went to the beach. It was sort of a last minute trip, we didn’t go where I wanted to go, but we found a beautiful hotel on Ft. Myers Beach, complete with a fun beach side bar that hosted a band almost every night that we could listen to on the deck outside our room. It came at really bad time for me at work, and it was a real struggle to put crap aside and enjoy the trip, but I managed to do just that. I have been writing quite a bit about our trip, and there will probably be a whole post or two about it at some point. For now I will just say, envision lots of heart eyes, and I keep these images close to my heart.

My heart found a great deal of peace on my trip to the beach. It was just what I needed at the time. I want to go back!

*I have had some time to spend on a couple of crochet projects. I finished a baby blanket for a gift that I absolutely love, and I started on a new blanket for myself, that I think I am going to love. I’m calling it my Sunshine Blanket. It is literally little squares of sunshine, that I am crocheting in all colors of yellow and orange that will one day be sewn together into a blanket. More about that another time, too.

Crocheting always brings a bit of peace and calmness to my day, even if I only have a few minutes to devote to it.

*I wrote a few months ago about the weight loss challenge with my co-workers. I have now lost 20 pounds since the beginning of March. It’s been an up and down adventure, sometimes I go weeks and don’t lose anything at all, but I have stuck with my healthy eating, and I feel better than I have felt in a LONG time. I go for walks almost every morning, and I am eating so many vegetables that it’s a wonder my skin isn’t green. I still have more I want to lose, but I have gone down a couple of sizes, which has helped keep me motivated. I have gone from a size L-XL in shirts to a M, and I am down two pants sizes. I even bought a pair of skinny jeans in the JUNIOR department this weekend! I haven’t been able to fit in junior size clothes since I don’t even remember.

I feel a great deal of peace knowing that I am healthier and stronger.  

*My three college children have returned to their schools, and my house is way so quiet. I’d like to say it’s now clean, but it is not. They each left some sort of mess for me to clean up, and I will at some point. For the most part, they are all settled and happy.

It brings my mama heart peace to know my children are on a path to becoming productive adults, even if some of them have taken a twisty, roundabout path to get there.

I will end this with this photo:

Last Friday, I spent some time with a dear friend walking around a peaceful lake. I have had this post in the works for weeks, and even had already titled it what it is, and we had a conversation about seeking peace. So it seems perfect to finish it up now because this friend brings peace to my soul for so many reasons.

And my “Summer O' Fun?” Well, it turns out the “Summer of Seeking Peace” was even better and more what I needed, I just didn’t know that back in May.

Summer isn’t officially over for another month, but it feels like it is. The things I didn’t get to cross off my bucket list probably won’t ever get crossed off as many of them won’t be fun by myself. And some of them, I’d look downright silly doing by myself. I mean really, what 50-some year old wouldn’t look completely ridiculous crawling around on the driveway drawing chalk art or running through the yard making giant bubbles all by herself?

Oh well. There is always next year. 

Monday, August 14, 2017

This Girl...

I ended my last post saying stay tuned for My Heart is Full Part 2. This is not that post, but my heart is indeed once again, quite full.

This time last year, I was moving a nervous 18 year old college freshman to college. The college I really wanted to attend when I was her age but was unable to. It was very bittersweet leaving her there that day, and I probably would have cried my eyes out the entire two hour drive home if I hadn’t had her boyfriend with me. He didn’t cry, but he certainly was down in the dumps and not very talkative. He kept my emotions in check that day for sure. 

Rachel is my child who seems to feel things deeply and take things to heart in ways that remind me so much of myself. She worried because she didn’t really know anyone who was going there except one friend from high school and her roommate, who she had just met during the summer. She wondered who she would hang out with, eat with, walk to classes with, which sorority she would be asked to bid, etc. I tried my best to reassure her that everything would work out, that she would find her way, but I wasn’t sure she believed me.

Sorority recruitment was a tough week for her as she had to deal with a couple of her new friends being offered bids in a sorority that she wanted but did not get and then ultimately receiving a bid from a sorority that was not her first or even second choice. She called me in tears that day because her friend got in the sorority she wanted to get into. I did my best to put on my calm mom hat and told her to give it a chance. I told her to ask herself if she was upset because she really LOVED that particular sorority, or if she was only upset because her friend got in and she didn’t.

I said all this to her as someone who was not in a sorority, who never wanted to be in a sorority. Someone whose friends made fun of snooty sorority girls when I was in college.

Karma bit me in the a$$. Now, my daughter was one of those sorority girls whose ego was taking a beating because she didn’t get asked to join the one she really wanted. My heart ached for her ache.
She took my advice (for once!) and gave it a chance.

Now, here we are a year later. And I am pretty sure that she can’t imagine her life at school without her sorority sisters.
She now LOVES Tri Sigma. She has made some wonderful friends. She has spent this summer making and buying gifts for her future little sister that she will have after recruitment in a few weeks. She has a chair position in her chapter. She is a mentor for incoming freshman, which is why she moved in a week before classes starts. As I helped her move into the Tri Sigma house today, I couldn’t help but think back to this time last year. She has a job this year, and she reapplied to be a student ambassador, even though she was so upset when she didn’t get that job last year.

She has come so far, and I am so proud of her! She has persevered and not given up.

She started college last year not sure of what she wanted to major in, but now she knows. She wants to be a teacher, which does not surprise me at all. She wants to teach really young kids—preschool or kindergarten. Rachel has always had a wonderful way with kids, and I have no doubt she will be a fantastic teacher. She is considering special education.

Did I say she has come so far, and I am so proud of her?
Oh, yeah, I did!
I’m writing just the facts here because that is what comes easy for me.
This time last year, I fought tears the whole way home after dropping her off because I didn’t want to upset her boyfriend.

This year, I didn’t cry even though her boyfriend was not with me. I smiled the whole way home. I smiled because this girl I love is finding her way in the world and I am so proud of her. I smiled because I remembered myself at her age, and I was in no way near where she is at right now.
I sometimes wonder/worry if I have done a good job as a parent. What parent doesn’t wonder that? Days like today don’t erase those worries, but days like today do give me a teensy little glimmer of hope that I have done something right. I have a dear, sweet daughter with a heart of gold.
Look at her! I look at these photos and think, “Be still my heart! This girl is mine, and I am so proud of her!”