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!”

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

My Heart Is Full

(Disclaimer: Reading this post may require the use of Kleenex. More than one).

My heart is so, so full.

I just returned from a weekend that was something beyond the words I am going to use to describe it. I’m not sure I even will be able to describe what this past weekend was, but I shall try!
Those four words in the title say it all, but there is so much more I hope I can convey.
There is a great deal of background “stuff” that led to this weekend, but I am not going to write about all that because really, it doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of it all. All that matters is that I ended up in DC at a conference for parents who have experienced the death of a child, teaching a workshop to bereaved parents on ways to create a lasting legacy and keep their child’s memory alive. While the workshop is what started it all, that doesn’t matter to this story either.

What does matter is that I had one of the most extraordinary and poignant and beautiful and downright gut-wrenching experiences of my life. One would think that in my work, my heart would be able to handle quite a lot. It can and it does. I have written before about the families and stories I sometimes take home with me at the end of the day.

My heart has certainly been full before, but never like this.

I went to this conference alone, which was a first for me. WAY out of my comfort zone! I was uncertain about what I would do at such a conference by myself. I worried and wondered if this group would respond in a positive way to the workshop I taught. As the time grew close, my panic also grew. I was flying across the country to DC, and I only knew four people who were going—one of my coworker’s parents and a couple I have worked with on one of Share’s memorial events—and I really didn’t know them all that well. In the few days leading up to the trip, I was so uneasy—not only had I never done anything like this by myself, but my travel arrangements were kind of a disaster, and I had an upset stomach for 3 days. I wished I had someone to go with me, but I convinced myself it would be an interesting adventure. I stocked my suitcase with a new journal, yarn for a crochet project, books and my bathing suit. I put on my Susie Sunshine hat and began to embrace the idea of some quiet time by myself.

 I truly could never have imagined what the weekend would be like. I did not imagine just how deeply I would be moved. I met so many incredible and downright courageous people who shared so many stories of their beloved children with me. It was quite humbling, really, that complete strangers would open their broken hearts and bare their raw souls in the amazing and beautiful and touching ways they did. While I had envisioned spending evenings in my room at the Dulles Hilton crocheting and reading, instead I spent them relaxing on the outdoor patio in the company of a group of people I now can’t imagine not having crossed paths with. One couple lives only 2 miles from me! We all laughed and cried for hours each night over glasses of wine and plates of half price appetizers.

While there was lots of laughter throughout the weekend, there was also an equal number of tearful, heart-clenching moments when the stories I heard and the looks on the faces of the brave souls who told  the stories just about undid me.

Like the mom whose athletic, 22 year old son collapsed while walking across his college campus and died a few hours later because of an undiagnosed heart defect.

Or, the mom whose daughter died in a car accident minutes after she was talking to her on the phone.

Or the mom whose daughter was hit by a stray bullet after some idiot asshole fired a gun into the air at a fireworks show.

Or the mom of a 12 year old boy who was swept away and drowned in a freak flash flood in their suburban neighborhood after he and his sister went out to happily play in the rain on a warm fall day.

Or the parents of a 15 year old boy with the most charming smile who died in a car accident after another 15 year old’s father let her take the car to drive her friends to breakfast.

The “ors” could go on and on and on and pile up one on top of another.

By Saturday night, my heart was so full there was absolutely NO possible way it could hold anything else. Not even one little drop. It was more than full…it was overflowing. All of the stories I had been so honored to hear, all of the photos of such cute and beautiful and delightful and precious children of all ages with twinkling eyes and crooked smiles who had been ripped away from their parents and all who loved them was almost more than I could bear. By the time my new friends and I gathered on the patio that night, the mood was lighthearted as one of the speakers earlier that day had challenged everyone to tell their companions at least one funny story about their child. As they all shared, I laughed until I cried, and this quote came to mind:

This conference--the speakers, the parents who attended—they were all perfect examples of that quote.

I left DC Sunday morning feeling exhausted to the core of my being. As I stood outside the hotel with my suitcase waiting for the shuttle to take me to the airport, I tried to clear my mind and not think about how the weekend had not turned out in any way I had imagined just days before when I had a knot in my stomach the size of my head. This will sound terrible, but as I waited for the shuttle, I was thankful that no one I met in the previous few days was waiting there with me. We had all hugged and said our goodbyes the night before, and I am pretty sure I could not have handled saying goodbye again at that moment.

My suitcase was stuffed full thanks to all of the books I bought at the bookstore, and my heart was stuffed full with all of the love and aches it could possibly hold. To say my heart was full is a huge understatement.

As the plane took me away from DC, I tried to read, I tried to sleep, but it was the bouncy sort of flight that the nervous flier I am HATES, and I couldn’t relax. Thankfully, it was short, not much over an hour. I landed safely in Indy, (don’t ask why I flew into and out of Indy when I live 4 hours away in St. Louis…I’m an idiot, I shall just leave it at that!)

Since I am an idiot who had to fly in and out of Indy, I decided to stop and spend the rest of the day and night with my mother in law since she lives only an hour or so from there. I should never have thought or said that my heart couldn’t hold anything else. Because it could, and it did.

Stay tuned for My Heart is Full, Part 2. 

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Joyful Simplicities

Several years ago, I decided I was going to write a weekly post here titled “Joyful Simplicities.” I did a few times, but then I fizzled out for some reason. I went back through my posts to see when and why I started the Joyful Simplicities posts, and I was surprised to see that my first one was 5 years ago, in the winter of 2012.

Wow, five years ago. Time sure does fly slowly by! I wrote my first Joyful Simplicities posts before the boys joined the Navy, if that puts it in perspective.

So much has happened in those five years; so many twists and turns and wind-y paths I never envisioned for my life. 

I started writing this blog to help me keep a positive perspective during what was a challenging time of my life, and when I look back through my old posts, I can see that for the most part, I have kept my writings here to positive things. When I first began, I made a vow to myself that during the very times I was feeling the most negative or down in the dumps and so not in the mood to don my Miss Susie Sunshine hat would be the times I most needed to make myself come here to write. There have been times where something happened that gave me the kick in the ass I needed to turn my thinking around and that drew me to write something here.

This is one of them.

The twists and turns my life has taken the past couple of years have not been easy to deal with, but I have done my best to keep my chin and spirits up. I am not perfect, and I fail at that task. I fail quite often. I do find myself wallowing in self pity and anger and "what if" moments way more than I want to. I wallow, then I hate myself for wallowing. I try to put on my Miss Susie Sunshine hat, but it is battered and torn, and sometimes, I think I need to just pitch it into the trash bin and forget I ever even HAD a Miss Susie Sunshine hat.

But,in the past few months, I have had so many “life is too short” moments happen, like the drowning death of Lauren’s roommate’s smart and amazing brother.  Or the car accident that recently took the life of an old friend of mine. Or the sudden unexplained death of my sister’s best friend’s sister, who was my age.

All of these things and more have been a proverbial kick in my ass/slap in my face.

Life. Is. Too. Short.

Too. DAMN. Short.

All of these things, and other things that I just don’t have the mental energy to write about, have made me want to/forced me to think about life’s crazy twists and turns in a new way. Life is always going to be filled with sorrow and heartache. It just is. But, it is also filled with joy. The joy may be hard to recognize amongst the heartache, but it is there, and I often found it is there in simple things that I may brush off and not even think about.

Soo…on that preachy note..I am going to stop preaching and just share a few joyful simplicities from my own life lately. I have been clinging to them for dear life.

~A sweet thank you note from a friend (that came by real mail, in my M.A.I.L.B.O.X!!! That does not happen often; mostly, every piece of mail I get each day goes straight from the mailbox to the trash can. (Except for the  bills). That handwritten note from one of my PLIDA colleagues truly made my day. That little card went straight into my warm fuzzy file.

~My house is very gradually coming back together. It is still not where I want it to be, and it has a long way to go until it is where I want it to be, but it is starting to be restored to the coziness that I love. AND, I finally have a hole-free ceiling in my kitchen! It looks a mess because Tony hasn’t finished it, but the hole that has been in my kitchen ceiling for close to a year is now gone. I kind of want to throw it a going away/good riddance party.

Tony finally put the trim up around the kitchen door, too. I have lots of repair and painting work to do after both of his fix-it projects.

I have also been (finally!!) hanging some things on the walls. 

It has been important to me to get my dining room whipped into shape since I see it as soon as I walk in my front door, and it is also in the process of slowly “getting there.” A few weeks ago, I purchased some new lamps for the buffet, and I love them. I especially love the shades. They look and feel like silk, but they aren’t. (They were pretty inexpensive at Gordman’s.) What I love most about them though is the color. I have taken a gazillion pictures, and I can’t seem to capture the right color; they are a bluish gray that is so pretty.

 I am in the process of painting the old hardware for the china cabinet and buffet. I bought some new round knobs at Hobby Lobby, and they look just perfect against the gray.

~Both of my girlies coming home for weekends. There haven’t been many weekends since they went back to school after Christmas break that one or both of them haven’t been home. This is a bittersweet joyful simplicity because the reasons they have both been home are due to some struggles, and they just want to be home. It warms my heart to know that when they have a crisis they want to come home, it really does. They come for hugs and spaghetti and chicken soup and the comforts of home. While it really does indeed warm my heart, I wish they weren’t struggling so. When they come, I let them sleep until noon and I fill their bellies. I make their favorite meals, I bake them cookies and when they leave, I hug them tightly, kiss their cheeks, tell them I love them because that is all I can do. It seems simple, and to them, it probably is, which is just how I want it to be. I want to make everything easy for them, but I can’t. All I can do is welcome them with open arms (and an open refrigerator!) when they need to be here and feel grateful they know this is their soft place to land when they need it.  

~My plan for losing weight is showing success—I have lost 10 pounds so far! Oh my stars, that makes me so, so happy. I have been unbelievably motivated, more motivated than I ever have been to lose weight, and I am thrilled and giddy that what I am doing is working. Oh, but I can’t tell you how much I would love to have a giant plate of spaghetti with a side of drowning-in-butter fluffy mashed potatoes and another side of gooey cheesy deep dish pizza. The thing is, I am eating quite well—lots of veggies, very low carb—and I am not counting calories. I am never hungry. But oh, potatoes, let me count the ways I miss thee!

~I became a volunteer for a wonderful organization called Bridget’s Cradles. BC’s provides beautiful crocheted little bassinets for babies that are born still in the second trimester. I love to crochet, and I run out of things to make, so this will provide a meaningful purpose to my crocheting. My first goal is to create 17 sets (each set includes a cradle, small blanket and prayer square) by June--5 in memory of Declan, 15 in memory of Hannah, and 1 for sweet Caroline. I have finished 1 set, that I made in memory of Caroline yesterday, on her 4 week birthday. I love how it all turned out, and I am excited to make more.

~The end of a really amazing Share training. It always seems that just when I am at the end of my rope and totally hating my job, something happens that fills my empty cup right back up.

~A stack of books waiting for me to read them. One was loaned from a coworker, one was purchased super cheaply at my favorite antique mall, and I ordered the other two from Amazon. I am anxiously waiting for the time to curl up in my comfy chair and read.

So that list ended up longer than I thought it would be. That is a very good thing, huh?

I won’t promise I will keep up with regular Joyful  Simplicity posts, because as soon as I say, “Oh, this will be a weekly thing,” I will yet again FAIL. But, I will promise to keep putting on that battered and beaten Miss Susie Sunshine hat and plug and plod away at always trying to look at the joyful side of life, no matter what else is happening in my world.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Tis the Night Before Fat Tuesday...

and  here in my house,
the fridge is stocked with food that would be loved by a mouse.
Bowls and baggies of veggies galore!
Olives and apples and cheese and much more!
Yesterday, I flew to the store in a flash!
Grabbed squash, mushrooms, tomatoes, and spent lots of cash!
And the eggs!
Dozens of them are all snug in the fridge,
While visions of pounds melting off me dance in my head just a smidge…
Now Veggies! Now Bacon! Now Sausage and Broccoli!
On Brussels Sprouts! On Beets! On Snap Peas and Celery!
To the top of the cheese, to the top of the eggs,
Now dash away, dash away, dash away…
(Yeah, I know that doesn’t rhyme)
I write such excellent poetry, don’t I?
My jolly plump self has joined in a weight loss challenge at work, hence the above crazy writing.
My coworkers and I are each pitching in $5, weighing ourselves on Wednesday, (EEEEEK!) in front of each other (EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEKKKKKKKKK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!). Then, for the 40 days of Lent, we will be encouraging each other to eat healthy, exercise while we keep each other motivated to lose weight and get in shape.
When my coworker Sarah proposed this ridiculous idea last week, I laughed and said, “Oh, HELL no!” But, the more I thought about it, the more it sounded like a good idea.
I need to lose weight, and I need to get in shape, so why not join the people I spend the majority of my time with, who can hold me accountable?
So, yesterday, before I did my normal weekly grocery shopping, I spent a lot of time planning healthy meals for myself, breakfast and lunches mostly. The thing is, I really do like eating vegetables and other healthy food, but I am usually too lazy to prepare it. Typically, I buy fresh produce and stick it in the fridge in those flimsy little bags and then throw it all way a week or so later, still in the bags.
Let me tell you what I did yesterday. I bought lots of produce (LOTS!) I came home from the store and rather than stuffing it all in the fridge, I unloaded it all onto the counter, then spent the next 2 hours washing and cutting and slicing and dicing and roasting some of my favorite veggies. The shelves of my refrigerator are now stuffed with stacks of little Rubbermaid tubs and Ziploc bags that hold those veggies and others with grilled chicken…all easy to grab in the morning when I am on my way out the door. I told Tony last night that my goal is for all of those containers to be empty by the end of the week, and not because I threw wilted and rotten vegetables away.
I typically eat pretty healthy anyway, but I am trying to eat very low carb, except for some fruit now and then because I can’t give fruit up completely, and I have high hopes this will help me get rid of my belly that is like a bowl full of jelly.
But eating better is only half of my plan. I am going to work out, too. I actually joined a local gym right after Christmas, and then 5 days later, I tripped over a dog toy and injured my foot and ankle. I spent almost 6 weeks in a giant, clumsy boot. Not really conducive to exercising!
I have been completely out of the boot for a week. I am still not in much of a condition to exercise, though. But as Sarah told me today when I was complaining about how much my foot hurts, “No pain, no gain, Rose!” So, I stopped on the way home from work and reactivated my gym membership that I put on hold just days after I joined. I won’t be able to do the yoga classes I initially signed up for just yet, but I think I will be able to walk on the treadmill and ride an exercise bike.
No matter what I end being able to do, it’s gotta be better than sitting on the couch watching HGTV, right? I actually walked around my block today, twice!
A couple of my coworkers are determined to win the pot of money, but my eye is on the real prize…that my belly will no longer shake like a bowl full of jelly.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

All is (or soon will be) Calm

Christmas is over. I have undecorated the house, and as it always is, undecorating was a little bit sad. I love how festive my house looks at Christmastime, how the sparkly lights make every nook and cranny inviting and warm. And cozy. Cozy is the best perk of all. This year, it was especially hard to take everything down and pack it away mostly because all the greenery and bows and baubles and lights made it easy for me to ignore the things in our house that are still unfinished after 8 months of renovations. Now that Christmas is packed and stacked away in a tall, neat pile of tubs in a far corner of our basement, it is as cold and dreary inside as it has been outside.
I miss all the shiny brightness that the Christmas is.
This Christmas season brought a great deal of joy, too…another reason why it was hard to wrap it all up and box it away.
For lots of reasons, I am feeling emotional not finding it easy to write about the past month, so I will show a few pictures, share a few words, and call it good.
*My kids were all home for Christmas. I’ve already written about that, and it was the best thing about Christmas this year. After all of my anticipation about having them all home, it almost didn’t even happen. Tony’s mom ended up in the hospital having heart surgery just 2 days before Christmas. Tony, Brandon and Lauren went to be with her, and they barely made it home for Christmas. On Christmas Eve, we met Justin’s new girlfriend, and she is adorable and very sweet. A weird new addition to our Christmas Eve celebration...I made Jello shots for my kids.

At the last minute, my sister and her family came to spend Christmas with us. It was so nice and the first time ever that I have spent Christmas with just Theresa and her family. We went to a local park for a walk since the weather was a bit warm, although it was damp and foggy. It wasn’t our typical way to spend Christmas day, but we all enjoyed it.
This picture makes me smile because it reminds me of how Brandon was always so difficult when they were all little and I tried to get a decent picture of all of them.
*My life the past month has been a whirlwind of cooking and baking. And I spent oh so much money at the grocery store. Holy wow! I do love having everyone home, and I want to make sure I cook each of my kids’ favorite meals when they are home. But having three home at once, along with holiday baking…I am saying with all honesty right now that I am tired of cooking and baking. I am hanging up my oven mitts and skipping by the baking aisle at Schnucks. 
So, why did I title this All will soon be calm?
By this time tomorrow, it will be calm around here for the first time in weeks. Brandon is safely back in Glenwood Springs, CO. The girls are both heading back to their schools tomorrow. By the time I get home from work, my house will be so quiet. Rachel has been home for the longest of all of them—almost 5weeks.
I am going to miss them all.
I am usually full of many words, but for now, that is all I can muster.