Peace and joy

It has been a stressful week in the season of thankfulness. I was out and about yesterday and overheard people freaking out about the fast approach of the holiday season…and my sister is coming from CA and she is always judging my decisions… cooking… stress… family. It seems rather ironic that the things we are supposed to feel the most thankful for seems to stress us out the most…family…

I have been hosting Thanksgiving and Christmas since I was in my 20’s. I took the baton from my grandma after she was no longer able to. My brother Luke stepped in to help out several times over the years. Looking back I don’t know how we did it.

I always get depressed this time of year. It never fails. I don’t know if it is just a lack of sunlight or the added stress of the holiday season. But this is when it usually starts and pretty much lasts all winter into early spring. But I am a functional depressive. I get out of bed and get stuff done like I normally do.

I have been having a really hard time lately. Alex decided to skip school the day before Thanksgiving break. Although half of the school may have decided to do that, he can’t afford to with his failing grades. Alex read the student handbook and found a loophole that as an adult he can pre-excuse several of his absences. I received a call from the school saying that he intended to do that, so we stepped in and told Alex that if he skips school he would lose his car priviledges over break and won’t be allowed to have friends over.

He skipped school and now we have a battle on our hands. I told him that the boy with the face tattoo could not come over for Thanksgiving as originally planned or stay with us over break. The boy can eat his Thanksgiving dinner at the homeless shelter for all I care. I am angry. Never underestimate the rage of a peri-menopausal woman. Why that coincides with teenage boy angst I’ll never know. One minute I want to hold him close and the next minute I want to smash his crap with a baseball bat! Happy Thanksgiving, huh??

I am also stressed out because Paul went to the doctor this week. He needs to have some tests done. I am worried about his health. Maybe it is nothing, but what if it isn’t?? What if something happens to him?? I told him yesterday that I am unhappy because I have not experienced a lot of peace and joy in my life. But the few fleeting moments I have experienced have been with him. I started crying and then moments later started to yell at him. What a hormonal mess!

The stress of maybe losing a life partner is terrifying. I am probably worried about nothing, but that is what I do.

Add the stress of a wayward son and my husband possibly having health issues with feeling like I am getting sick, having family over tomorrow, trying to find time to cook, covering for an employee who took the week off, less hours of daylight, feeling depressed and tired, aging, my baby getting her temps, getting ready for the holiday season, extra play practices for the musical, a teen minor with a face tattoo always hanging around our house, and raging hormones…Whew!

I know, I know…I really should be counting my blessings! I have a lot of those too.

 

Change is in the air

The winds of change swirl around me as I enter the fall season of my life pushing me towards something new and different.

Over the last few days I’ve had to prepare myself for a lot of change.

I am preparing for my son to graduate from high school and leave home within the next year.

Yesterday Angel told me that she is not planning on coming home from college next summer. Then when she graduates, she wants to go to graduate school in Boston. Her time at home has come to an end. I am happy that she knows what she wants to do with her life, but I am sad that she is leaving.

Then a couple of days ago, our youngest daughter Arabella told us that she wants to be a foreign exchange student. She wants to spend her whole junior year of high school in a foreign country.

By next year at this time, we might have an empty nest. I am excited, yet nervous of the change.

Something else changed too. My mom is starting to have health issues. She has to go to the hospital this week for tests. It is very likely that she is going to need surgery. She might need to move in with us for awhile if she has surgery. My dad is not in the greatest health, so he wouldn’t be able to take care of her since she takes care of him.

Everything and everyone is changing all around me. Yet here I am taking it all in. Letting go of summer and preparing for the winter. My house full of teenagers might soon be a geriatric ward.

I don’t like change very much, but I don’t have much control over the seasons.

I always thought that autumn is beautiful though. Its crisp cool air hits me like the truth. A warm blanket, a hot flash of flame, a crackling fire takes away the chill. The trees shine in brilliant color the beginning of fall, full of experience and nutrients. It is a time to sort and prepare. The end of the beginning, the beginning of the end. No longer volatile and stormy. No longer sunny and bright. But comfortable.

A noticeable change of seasons is in the air. The leaves are starting to change color. But as of right now, none of the leaves have fallen totally from the branches of my tree.

 

longevity

My daughter Arabella is currently taking health as a high school class. A week ago she had to take a longevity quiz and just for fun she asked Paul and I the questions as well.

Today I am sitting in the waiting room at the hospital waiting for Paul to complete an uncomfortable procedure that happens once a person reaches the magical age of 50. It gets one to think about life, and death.

At the beginning, I did very well on the longevity test. I smugly thought that I would be my family’s first centurion. I am doing a lot of things right. I eat my vegetables. I drink in moderation. I am not overweight or underweight. My parents are still alive. I take my vitamins. I go in for regular check ups. My cholesterol and blood pressure are low. I don’t smoke. I don’t do drugs.

Plus, I am a marathon runner. I mean, that should count for a lot more than exercising three times a week for a half an hour. Right??

I was feeling pretty good.

I am literally going to live forever. I probably won’t even die. I will be the only person to live forever without turning into a vampire first.

Then the questions took a bit of a negative turn…

Do you easily feel bored or depressed? Yes

Do you often feel stressed out? Yes

Do you always feel like you are in a hurry? Yes, yes, yes…

Do you listen to your body? No! When my body tells me to stop, my mind says push harder. Is that a problem??

Do you worry a lot? I am really starting to feel worried now.

My daughter said that according to the test, I am supposed to live to 85. Paul is supposed to live to 75 (with the average female living longer than the average male). So if her calculations are right, then I will outlive my husband by 16 years (he is 6 years older).

We’ll see…

The procedure went fine without any issues.

We might not know how long we will live (even after taking the health class longevity quiz and going in for procedures). But what we can do is try to make the most of the years we have been given.

 

 

upkeep

I cannot say that I have ever seen order come out of chaos without a whole lot of work.

My house never seems to stay clean. Even if we weren’t making messes, there would still be dust. The cabin at the end of the season is never as clean as we left it come spring.

With my kids going back to school, it is hard to keep up a great GPA. In fact it is even harder if you let your grades slip just a little. I recently heard that it is easier to turn a 3.0 into a 2.0 than it is to to turn a 2.0 into a 3.0.

Chaos just doesn’t turn to order. It is unnatural.

It is hard to blog. It is hard to come up with fresh new ideas day after day year after year once the initial excitement wears off. Bloggers come and go just like friends tend to.

It’s hard to stay happily married after the honeymoon is over.

It’s hard to raise children when the cute bubbly baby turns into a surly teen.

Something always needs fixing in the house. The lawn needs mowing. The laundry needs to be done.

It’s hard to go to work every day even if you love your job.

It’s hard to maintain a fast running pace. My husband always tells me to just compare myself to me. But, frankly, I would rather compare myself to people my own age that chain smoke and never get off of the couch. I could never compete with my 17 year old self. I probably couldn’t compete with my 35 year old self either.

Order takes constant work. There comes a point in your life when you really have to judge whether it is worth all of the upkeep.

That’s when you become experienced enough to put your time and effort into the things that really matter.

 

 

 

In 2 more days..

In two more days, my whole life is going to change..

We will be closing on our new house and moving in this weekend…

Yesterday we walked to the nearby cemetery one last time for the Memorial Day service. We saw a lot of people that we knew from the community. We ran into some friends of ours that recently bought a plot for themselves there.

Where do I want to be buried? What kind of headstone do I want? What do I want written on it? I couldn’t get myself to make any decisions in stone yet.

Our friend has leukemia, so the concern for her is a little more immediate. She talked in a matter of fact manner about death, cemetery plots, and updating her will. The last time she updated it, she was looking for guardians for her children. Now her youngest is living out of state, graduated from college, and is engaged.

I understand the feeling, but there are some things I refuse to think about yet. We just updated our will and passports. I removed my mother and listed my oldest daughter as the main contact/decision maker. Will my mother be living when I update my passport or will again? She will be 70 this year. It wasn’t easy to think about.

The last few months have been very extreme as far as beginnings and endings go. I have a hard time dealing with change, even if it is for the better.

Even the weather has been extreme. Can’t anything stay the same/normal??? Last month winter did not want to let go. We had record snowfalls last month before we got hit by the blizzard. This last weekend we broke the records for hottest Memorial Day weekend.

I felt a lot of anxiety and trepidation the end of last week. I feel better now. For awhile I had this really strong feeling that something bad was going to happen. Maybe it was from all of the change or loosening the reigns of control. Angel flew out to Boston with a group from her college for a competition. Alex took his tax return money and bought a motorcycle.

Alex spent most of the weekend hanging out with friends. He doesn’t want me micromanaging his life anymore. He doesn’t want me to wake him up in the morning or remind him about the things he has to do. I guess I can’t blame him. It took everything I had not to wake him up a couple weeks back when I had to leave the house before he would normally wake up for school.

This weekend I noticed that Alex was at some sort of pond when I tracked him on his phone at midnight. It took everything I had not to call and ask what he was doing or where he was. I have to let go and it is hard. He will be 18 next month. I had to ask myself…Is it really so bad that he is at a pond on a 90 degree day at midnight?? Self, just go to bed!

I feel a certain isolation now that my kids don’t need me as much anymore. I tell myself that it is finally time to focus on my own life now. So I went trail running this weekend to practice for the marathon. I hit the trails for 3 hours each two days in a row. Then I had to ask myself honestly…Why the hell did I choose this as my hobby?? I was miserable, tired, irritable, sore, hot with temps in the 90’s, and bit up by mosquitoes. I felt this way all the more when I heard about all the fun things everyone else was doing.

Besides running and packing all of my earthly possessions, I did have a little fun. I was able to go sailing for the first time this season. After my long run, we sailed to the beach. The water was ice cold, but it felt great on my aching legs. I refuse to complain about the heat though…bring it on!! I love it hot.

I wish I liked change. It would be nice to just let go and not worry so much. These transitions are hard for me.

 

Let’s get a physical

It’s that time of year again..

Time for my annual physical..

It seems like every year the questions get more difficult..

Do you still have your monthly cycle?

Are you experiencing hot flashes?

How are you sleeping? I’m not! 

Is that why I am so tired all of the time?

You might also notice increased moodiness and irritability as your estrogen levels start to drop… Is that even possible??

Are your parents still living?? Have they developed any new health problems?

Have you noticed any changes in your vision?? Do you mean having to purchase reading glasses since someone started to make the print smaller on everything!!?!

How much coffee are you drinking??

Wait…Aren’t you going to ask me about my alcohol consumption and whether or not I use tobacco or take illicit drugs??

She must have forgot.

Are you still running?? Do you have problems with your joints?? Is your carpal tunnel acting up?

Are you feeling anxious or sad?? Why, yes, I am starting to feel that way now…

That’s funny, I was feeling just fine before my physical…

 

The second half of the weekend roller coaster ride

After church on Sunday, we went to visit our old friends Harv and Kate. Our old friends as in friends that are in their 80’s and not as in old friends we’ve known since the 80’s.

Harv and Kate invited us over under the guise of having us share our adventures in Thailand with them. They have been all over the world but have never been to Thailand. Despite being older than my parents, we share many common interests with Harv and Kate including traveling, sailing, singing, theater, the love of the outdoors, and being hard core intellectuals.

Once we arrived, I noticed in sheer panic that I forgot my phone at home. During this time, I missed the call from my friend Jen preparing me to see her with her new cancer diagnosis later in the evening at our children’s band concert. But I am getting ahead of myself.

Harv and Kate said that they had a surprise for us. We weren’t going to be eating lunch at their house as expected. They said they were taking us on a mystery date. Kate said that one time Harv took her on a mystery date and they ended up in Missouri. Wait! What? I got a little nervous when we started heading south. Not to mention that Harv went through a couple of stop signs.

Now Harv and Kate are by far the happiest married couple that I know. Although they have been married longer than I’ve been alive, they act like a couple of newlyweds. They said that they often plan surprises for each other to keep their relationship alive. Maybe Paul and I will have to start doing that.

Soon we arrived in a small town to a hole in the wall bar/restaurant/theater/art gallery/hotel that was 150 years old. Harv and Kate surprised us with a dinner theater show that Harv and Paul performed in together years ago. We had a marvelous time. When we got back to their house, they wouldn’t let us leave until we saw Kate’s drawings, they watched our son’s solo and ensemble performance, and we set up another date to tell them about our Thailand experience.

That set us on the road with just enough time to grab my forgotten phone on the way to the concert. I didn’t have time to call Jen back.

Arabella, my mom, Alex’s girlfriend, Paul, and I attended the concert that evening. We saw Julia sitting by herself and invited her to join our crew. Our other old friend Vince showed up. He sat down next to Julia. He asked Julia if she was married. She replied, “Not happily”. Her husband never attends their children’s events, just like my dad. Julia told Vince that it was so nice that he could come out to watch his grandson perform. Vince told her that he wasn’t related to us.

That can be the awkward thing about unconventional friendships…people always think we are related. He is not your dad?? No, my dad takes no interest in my life and Paul never had a dad. At this point, we don’t even bother explaining all of this anymore.

Paul invited Vince over to our house after the concert to watch the video of Alex performing at S&E. That was before we ran into Jen, before I found out that she has terminal cancer. I cried all the way home. I cried while Vince was at our house watching the video of our son perform. I cried myself to sleep. I was still crying when I got to work the next morning.

For so many years, I stuffed my feelings. I don’t remember crying when my grandma died. I told myself that she was still alive. For years, I crammed all of my bad feelings in some back closet of my mind. I wouldn’t allow myself to feel. After a while, I could no longer pick or choose what feeling I put behind the door…all feelings got locked up until I became completely numb to life.

After awhile I got sick of living in the empty void. Eventually I opened the closet door and all of the old junk of emotions came crashing down on me. I sorted it out. I processed it. I dealt with it and lived to tell about it. It was only then that I started to live again.

This time I told myself that I was going to deal with my feelings. If I’m sad, I’m going to cry. If someone can’t handle me crying because I found out a close friend is dying, then why would I want that negativity in my life??

But I didn’t cry in front of Jen, in front of her husband and children, in a public place. There is nothing I can do to heal her. But I am going to her house later on this week to see if she needs anything to make her last days happier.

So there you have it…I have a new friend with lupus, an old friend (15 years) with cancer, and 3 old friends in their mid-80’s.

Just because our time with others may be short doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t forge relationships…because, who knows? Nothing is guaranteed in life. Might as well start living every day to its fullest.

 

 

Reading the fine print

I have been lying to myself.

I’ve been telling myself that everyone my age is old, except me.

Here are 3 things that happened this week that shattered my illusion that I have been drinking out of the fountain of youth:

1). I went with my best friend to the wedding store to pick out a mother’s dress for her son’s wedding. All of my friends stopped getting married and having babies a long time ago. Now their children are starting to leave home, get married, and graduate from college. Before we know it we’ll be grandparents.

2). I bought a pair of reading glasses after visiting the eye doctor. I can’t see anymore like I used to. All of the little images on my phone are blurry. I can’t make out the scribbles on receipts or read the fine print. Why is everything so tiny?

3). My husband started walking. This one really hit me hard. My husband was a runner before I was. Now he decided that he would rather walk because it is easier on his joints.

But on the flip side, I finally figured out what I want to be now that I am older. I want to be younger.

 

Old friends

Paul and I stayed out late last night.

This may sound weird, but Paul and I have several really good friends that are in their 80’s. It is scary, really, becoming close friends with people of that age. I wonder why they like us so?? Are we but little birds that they have taken under their wings?

Sometimes people just seem to come into your life for no reason.

We started becoming close friends with Vince a couple of months back. We jokingly called him the mafia guy. He has a lot of connections. He seems like a guy you wouldn’t want to mess with. He can be upfront and intimidating, but has earned a lot of respect. Mainly, though, he is entertaining and people like him. When his wife passed away last year, I’ve never seen more people attend a funeral.

Vince lovingly took care of his wife (who was wheelchair bound since we met them several years back) without complaint. After she passed away, I wrote a letter to Vince saying that they were the perfect role model of how a marriage should be. I didn’t really know much about his life at the time.

I think most old people have their life together, and most of them do at their age. But I have this stereotype that they have always had their lives together. After we started to get to know Vince, I realized that I didn’t want a marriage like his. It was awful.

Maybe everyone’s life is majorly messed up but they keep it hidden away. Everything looks perfect on the outside.

Am I the only one that struggles with my teenagers? Am I the only one that is depressed when I have so many things to be joyful about?

We can’t show the world that we are hurting. We also feel like we can’t share our joys because other people are without. So we hide behind this mask of normalcy.

I am okay. How are you?

I think the truth is that only a few people will open up that door for you to see what is really going on inside. Then you can really see all of the colors in bright hue.

I hate small talk, but hardly share with people the real me. (Except, apparently, with all of you)!! It seems easier somehow to write about it. I don’t know why. Maybe because I have control over what I tell you. I never shared my full story with anyone except my husband. But here I am. My life is an open book. But if you knew me in real life, no offense, I probably wouldn’t talk to you about any of this.

How are you? I’m fine. Not much is going on…nothing new. I wish I could tell you..

We also have plans later this month to get together with Harv and his wife. They, like Vince, are in their mid-80’s. Last year Harv was having some health problems and sold his sailboat. He ended up finding out that his health issues were related to a reaction from a medication he was taking. He is in good health now, but his boat is gone.

Perhaps it is strange that we have more plans this month with our elderly friends versus friends our own age. What is the attraction?? They are real people. They are ready to talk about their lives. There is so much knowledge to learn from them.

But why do they like us??

Why should age matter?

Does it matter in a friendship??

The hardest part for me is that it is going to hurt so much when we lose them.

What’s next?

This year my husband is going to be 50.

We recently went to Thailand to celebrate our 20th anniversary.

I don’t want to do that anymore…have a reason to travel.

Our first trip out of the country together was an extended weekend in Jamaica for our 10th wedding anniversary. It wasn’t worth all the time traveling to get there late on Thursday night and head home Monday morning. We didn’t know much back then. My husband was 40 the first time he was on an airplane.

For our 15th anniversary, we took our second trip out of the country together to St. Lucia.

Our third trip out of the country was to Thailand for our 20th anniversary.

I don’t want to have a reason to travel anymore if that is something we both want to do.  It shouldn’t just be for big anniversaries. Things change. We couldn’t go before. We didn’t have the money. The kids were little. We just started a business.

Now we have financial security. We will have an empty nest in 3 years. We will be thinking about retirement within the next 10 years.

My husband will be 50. We love to travel. We have the next 10 years to do all the traveling we can before we start thinking about slowing down. Paul’s only parent died in her 60’s.

We want to get away every winter. Next year we are planning on renting a catamaran to sail around the Caribbean British Virgin Islands with friends.

I want to visit all of the continents. I’m not sure about Antarctica yet. Wisconsin winters are bad enough. I’m serious about doing this. It was scary at first. I worried about flying, being uncomfortable, not liking the food, etc… Everything new is scary at first. But if you take the first step, you’ll want to start running.

I don’t want to just visit the continents. I want to immerse myself in it. I really have a passion to learn foreign languages. I would like to be fluent in Spanish and German. I love photography and writing. I might look into what it would take to be a travel writer. I could easily write something like I’ve been doing the last couple of weeks.

The time to do this is now. I can’t continue to watch the years slip away. I don’t want to look back in regret. It’s time for a second wind. I want to finish this race strong.