Gratitude week 23

  1. I am finally feeling like I am making progress on my self-improvement project.
  2. Summer weather!!
  3. I was able to get out on the sailboat for the first time this season.
  4. Things went better than I expected taking care of my autistic brother Matt. He adapted to our family well. More on this later.
  5. Taking care of my brother allowed my mom to get away with her sisters for a few days. It felt good to be able to give her a break. She decided she didn’t want to let fear control her life.
  6. I’m grateful our best friends had a really good experience with the foreign exchange student our daughter talked them into hosting. It was sad to say farewell to him over the weekend, but I’m grateful for the experience they had and we have had with our foreign exchange students. They are all awesome which says a lot since I’ve heard quite a few horror stories.
  7. I’m grateful that Paul’s new business is doing better than he thought it would.
  8. I’m grateful that for the first time I had a good experience singing in church. It has been difficult at times singing about the love I feel or the trust I have in God when I am struggling with that. Not only that, but I was able to sing relatively anxiety free. There were times that family issues made me feel panic or the thought of having to run to the bathroom in the middle of the service was terrifying.
  9. I’m grateful to have a clean house today.
  10. I’m grateful for the times I feel like everything is normal. That’s saying a lot because the last few months have been far from normal in so many ways.

Gratitude week 15

  1. It’s Easter! Although this is probably the first Easter that I didn’t go to church, it was one of the most enjoyable. We colored eggs while watching church online. We have the technology to do amazing things. Plus I didn’t have to dress up or anything.
  2.  And more compliments on my hair.
  3.  Clara was able to travel safely back home to Germany where she was reunited with her family.
  4.  We have been getting cards in the mail from friends and family telling us how special we are to them. It really means a lot.
  5.  I have been digging out memory boxes from storage from our wedding and when the kids were little. It brings back many happy times that I’ve almost forgotten.
  6.  A huge snowstorm is making its way through Wisconsin and it looks like it might miss us.
  7.  Life has gotten a lot quieter and less rushed. I like it more that way. When this whole isolation thing is over I might examine how busy I want my life to be going forward. It has given us the opportunity to look at what we want to keep or get rid of.
  8.  I am thankful for self-awareness.
  9.  I am thankful that all of my friends and family are healthy and safe.
  10.  I am grateful that today I am making the most out of the situation we find ourselves in. Although it doesn’t feel like Easter, or spring, we can take what we have and make the best of it.

Early good-bye

Clara left to go home to Germany on the 7:10 AM flight.

The last few days went by in a blur. There was much to do. Monday we ran errands. We mailed a 46lb box of her personal belongings back home. It was more than I expected. It took an hour and cost $160. We waited in line forever. Then she needed to fill out a customs form detailing all of the enclosed items. She listed how much the said items were worth and how much they weighed.

Maybe it would’ve been cheaper for her to bring extra luggage. She had two suitcases already. One of them was mine, but she didn’t have enough time to purchase another. Now we will have to visit her to pick it up! It cost an additional $100 for the second suitcase.

Good thing I didn’t decide to mail her package after she left. It wasn’t just popping into the post office, throwing on some stamps, and leaving.

Then we stopped by the district office for the school. We dropped off Clara’s laptop, books, and choir dress. It took two seconds. It seemed too easy after our time at the post office.

Yesterday we spent the day doing all of Clara’s favorite things. We took the dog for a walk. Thunder rumbled in the distance and we made it back home just before it rained. We finished a puzzle. We went swimming.

Then we got up at 4:15 AM to drive her to the airport. Arabella, Estelle, Paul, and I went to see her off along with the foreign exchange coordinator. The coordinator has a big heart and is rather long winded. I didn’t mind today because it proved to be a distraction. I didn’t really want to start my day off by crying.

I will miss Clara. She is very intelligent. She has a gentle, quiet, and stoic demeanor. She was content to do whatever it was that we were doing. In some ways she reminded me of my grandma. She made hosting a wonderful experience.

It was hard to say good-bye at the airport. I tried to crack jokes. Sometimes I try to lighten the mood with laughter. We watched Clara until we couldn’t see her anymore then went home. I was sweetly surprised to find that Clara left handwritten notes for us in her room.

I’m sad that she left early, but I am okay. I know this is not good-bye forever. She will be reunited with her family. Tomorrow morning when I wake up she will be home.

 

 

Gratitude week 14

  1. And another compliment on my hair that one time I needed to leave the house.
  2.  Gas prices that almost remind me of my college days. Now if we could only go somewhere. But think of all the money we are saving by not.
  3.  Although I didn’t receive the news I wanted, my test results came back much earlier than expected at the wellness clinic. I just started a new medicine and don’t feel as bad as I thought I would. It’s slow going but at least I am moving forward.
  4.  Clara is going to be reunited with her parents in Germany, but I am very sad to see her go. Hopefully someday we will be able to visit her.
  5.  I don’t know anyone that tested positive for the coronavirus so far.
  6.  The weather has been nice the last couple of days.
  7.  We threw Clara a good-bye ‘party’ making her favorite foods and doing some of the things she enjoyed the most here. I even shaved my legs, did my nails, took a shower, and wore jeans and makeup.
  8.  Paul and I have been fighting a lot. We are at the point of working things out or going our separate ways. Today I am feeling a little more hopeful things might work out.
  9.  We were able to get our broken TV fixed.
  10.  We finally said good-bye to the month of March!

Gratitude week 13

I’m not the superstitious type, but week 13 pretty such says it all for me right now. I’m having a hard time feeling grateful. Whose stupid idea was it to do this gratitude crap anyway? Oh well!

Right now I’m supposed to be touring New Orleans for the first time with our foreign exchange students and family. Instead we got the news today that Clara’s parents want her to go back home to Germany. We are so sad it has to be this way. We also decided not to have our daughter be a foreign exchange student.

This week the last thing I put in pen on my calendar is gone. We will not be visiting my brother and his family for Easter.

The Europe trip open to students and their family that got cancelled is not refunding us all of our money. They are keeping almost 1/3 of the travel expenses. Parents are angry and a petition is being sent around to try to get everything but our security deposit back. It’s a huge mess.

My husband and I have been fighting like crazy.

Everything keeps breaking. Now my son is having problems with his car.

Need I mention the economy.

So…it might be hard to find ten things this week.. Here goes..

  1. We are all healthy.
  2. We have enough food to eat.
  3. I only left the house once this week. That being said, the only compliment on my hair was from my husband. Just for the record, the last time I colored my hair was in September. I started doing this before it became cool (the hair salon’s closed).
  4.  I spent some time working on our new business today and it felt good to be productive.
  5.  In some ways I kind of like not being so busy.
  6.  The weather is going to be nice this week, sunny and temps around 50. It is so hard to exercise outside when I am freezing so this will be nice.
  7.  We named our indoor pool Florida. We can go to Florida now.
  8.  I think I am doing pretty well holding things together.
  9.  We will only have 3 teenagers in the house, although I am very sad Clara is leaving early since we get along so well. But it isn’t good bye forever and she will be reunited with her family.
  10.  I had a couple nights this week that I slept fairly good.

The new normal

I’m doing okay with this isolation. It’s not that I don’t like isolation, I like having a choice. I was supposed to be on a beach in Florida right now.

Things are breaking down. The DVD player broke that I watch my exercise videos on since the gym closed. Thankfully my ancient laptop has a DVD player. Our main TV died. I don’t think it responded well to the surge of overuse. Or maybe it didn’t like being the bearer of bad news. Or maybe it got a virus. Oh wait, that only happens to computers.

We dug out some puzzles. After sorting the pieces of three puzzles in a row on the same day, all three were missing multiple edge pieces so I threw them out. Then Clara and I opened a brand new puzzle still in its plastic wrap and that was missing an edge piece too. We searched and searched but all I found was some dried up dog puke behind the couch. Now I remember why I hate puzzles. I had to walk away for a few days. The last remaining shred of my sanity was on the line. Seriously!!?! A brand new puzzle had 4 pieces missing.

This corona virus is the new crisis in my life right now. It’s not that bad really after the last couple months of crap going on. Being lonely and bored has been an adjustment. It’s hard to sit still and not to feel like I should be rushing around doing something. I almost feel guilty about sitting around while essential employees are working hard with people getting sick and dying.

I worry somewhat about my loved ones getting sick. I realize that my husband and most of my best friends are over 50. Having my mom, husband, and close friends all be older than me is slapping me in the face hard right now. It’s forcing me to look at death. Thankfully at this time all my friends and family are healthy.

My daughter Arabella got her old job back at the grocery store. The last couple weeks its been like the day before Thanksgiving there. They recruited her hard. They gave her a raise and put her back in the bakery packaging products and washing dishes. They told her customers would probably be rude to her. Arabella was happy about this. At Culver’s she used to run orders out to people’s cars. People treated her kindly and gave her tips whereas they chewed other employees out except for the ones with special needs. Then she started worrying that the customers thought she had special needs because they treated her differently than everyone else.

Our foreign exchange students are still here. They could stay if their host and real family still wants them to as long as school is in session. Online schooling is scheduled to start on Monday. They both realize they could be stuck here beyond the time they planned to go home. Estelle is feeling homesick and Clara was also crying about it this week. They are keeping a journal of their experiences and hopefully some day it will make for an interesting historical book.

It seems like all of our plans have been washed away. The trips we were planning are gone now. Financial security. Gone. Paul and I are working on starting a new business soon. How will that go in this economy? My structure and routine are gone. The gym is closed. I won’t even be able to see my daughter graduate from college.

I worry about death more. I even worried about what it would be like to become very sick from the virus. After running outside I felt a little wheezy from seasonal allergies. I wondered what it would be like not being able to breathe. My workouts are lackluster. Why bother? The races I might sign up for this summer might not even happen this year.

I have to hope that soon we will get through this and it will be on to the next crisis.

Garbage day

We were supposed to leave for Florida today.

Today we found out that our music trip to Europe for this summer has been cancelled as well. I was going to go on the trip with my mom and daughter Arabella.

I suppose it’s just as well because I don’t know if we can afford to go any longer anyway.

I just want to take my 2020 calendar and toss it in the fire. I wrote too many things into it in pen that will no longer happen. Every time I look at it I will be reminded of that.

With everything going on, I don’t think my daughter wants to be a foreign exchange student anymore. She was planning on staying with Estelle’s family. But Estelle and Arabella haven’t been getting along that great. The honeymoon is over and now they are like real siblings. I don’t think Estelle wants her at her house anymore anyway.

Yet we will continue on with our foreign exchange students. Although I have a new worry. What if one of their family members die at home while they are stuck here? It is stressful having four teenagers in the house and sometimes I just want to send them home.

I am feeling really bummed out by the change of plans. I’ve always lived by structure and routine. Now everything I thought was certain is uncertain.

The gym closed so today I dug out one of my old exercise videos. In the process I found out that my DVD player no longer works. Maybe it conked out in the 1990’s. Who knows? Then I got the video to work on my computer but messed up my TV. My 45 minute workout turned out double than that. In the meantime, Estelle fell asleep on her exercise mat.

Then I thought to dig out a puzzle. It seems like half the pieces are missing to make the edge. I might have to throw that out too. What a way to clean the house. If this never happened, I might still think these things worked into the next decade or two.

I’m afraid I might lose track of time. The garbage truck never came yesterday. Did I have the day wrong? How will I remember without my schedule?

Ah yes, today. Today is the day we were supposed to leave to go to Florida. It is still written in with pen on my calendar.

I miss the life I planned

Today was a sad day. We cancelled our trip to Florida.

There has been a lot of feelings going around our house lately from sadness, anger, and anxiety.

We are preparing to spend the next two months at home.

Our foreign exchange students are having an especially hard time because they are not at home. The separation from their families has been heartbreaking for them at times. Both students have shed tears of sadness and fear.

Some of the foreign exchange programs are sending their students back home. But as of right now, ours is not. My daughter is uncertain about whether or not she wants to be a foreign exchange student next year.

What isn’t uncertain at this time?

Prom has been cancelled. My daughter’s college graduation has also been cancelled. Thankfully she lives off campus because otherwise we don’t have extra room at our house for her to move back home.

One of the host parents of a foreign exchange student said she could no longer handle the responsibility of caring for a child that is not hers. They decided out of fear to abruptly stop hosting. Now the child does not have a home.

The foreign exchange students are panicking. Will they be sent home? What will they be sent home to? Will they have to stay longer? Their whole experience is off the rails now.

Our foreign exchange student from France, Estelle, has parents who are not together. They disagree about what should be done. Her dad wants her to come home, her mom wants her to stay.

Now I long for the days when I had to convince my kids to get out of bed to go to school.

This is the beginning of the new normal.

All of the restaurants and bars closed in Wisconsin. I never thought I would see the day the bars would close on St. Patrick’s Day. The churches will be closed on Easter. They closed the mall today. We can no longer order items on Amazon.

I’m trying to get everything done before I can’t do it anymore.

Today I got fingerprinted for the census job. I tried to make an appointment immediately after I got the link but apparently the link was not active right away. I called their 1 800 number and got a recorded message. I figured I needed to get in ASAP because I didn’t want to call that number again.

I plucked my eyebrows and shaved my legs. I even painted my nails. This will be the last time I leave the house in awhile. Normally I wouldn’t shave to get fingerprinted. I mean, it is too cold to wear shorts.

Yesterday I ran outside. I won’t lie, it was cold. I had to be careful too because the roads were icy in spots and I nearly fell. I really miss the gym. I even miss my stalker. I miss the guy that sweats on the machines around him. I miss the lady my age who runs and smiles at me. I imagine we are friends although we never spoke.

I miss the life I had planned. This is my new life now.

On a good note, I should not have an excuse not to write everyday.

Stay safe!

A weekend in Chicago

We decided to take our foreign exchange students for their first trip out of the frozen tundra. My husband had a conference in Chicago. We thought we would kill two birds with one stone. Now that I think about it, boy is that a strange expression.

Unfortunately, I had to break the bad news that although we were heading south it wouldn’t be any warmer. We took off after school on Friday. We were planning to stop halfway for supper, but decided to keep going after I saw the big blob of heavy precipitation on the radar. The temps were hovering around the freezing point.

The sooner we could get there the better. This caused some hangry arguments from our daughter. Tears were shed. In fact, all three girls cried before we even got to Chicago for various reasons. That’s life with teenage girls.

We got to Chicago in a torrential downpour during rush hour. Meanwhile, I frantically tried to scrounge up some green for the tolls. They don’t just nickel and dime you anymore. We checked into the hotel Fieldhouse Jones then found a place to eat. Our daughter said her culinary arts teacher raved over a restaurant which we were glad was close to the hotel. We ate an average meal there and left to see a sign that they didn’t pass their health inspection to find out later the restaurant was nothing special, just a chain. Thanks a lot!

That night the hotel didn’t have any open parking spots, so Paul had to drive around several blocks to find an open spot in the rain after dropping us off. I felt like we were visiting Gotham city.

I let the girls pick what they wanted to do in Chicago. The girls were interested in seeing Mean Girls, but the cheapest tickets started at $150. We all thought it was too pricey so we didn’t go. I suggested the aquarium to deaf ears. Estelle wanted to search for something called the bean. Then they wanted to shop until they dropped. Me personally, I would’ve preferred to drop shopping.

We set out late the next morning. Our first stop was the Hard Rock Café for an early lunch. While I was there, I started feeling very light headed. My body started to freak out like it tends to do when I break out of my normal routine. I thought maybe I was dehydrated and started to guzzle down globs of gross chlorinated city water. But after that I felt better.

Then we set off in the rain to find the elusive bean. We circled around the city blocks only to circle around again for another time. Skyscrapers sometimes mess with maps on country folks phones. I created my own detour when we got to a sketchy area I didn’t want to walk down. It seemed unsafe. I didn’t want my nightmare of the girls getting murdered to come true. I felt nervous worrying about their safety because I didn’t even know where I was. With all of the trafficking and crime, you can never be too safe with young girls unfamiliar with our culture. It was a big responsibility.

We finally made it to the bean which was like a huge mirror in the shape of a bean. (See pictures below). We walked and walked some more and shopped. It was a cold, windy, snowy, rainy type of day. By late afternoon we put on 6 miles. It was getting dark and the prospect of walking back to our hotel in the dark was not very positive. The girls wanted to take an Uber back. Again thoughts of murder crossed my mind. An Uber or walking back on the dark rainy streets?

We took an Uber back. Our driver was great. He was a philosophizing theologian. We had an extremely deep conversation about life which was right up my alley. Later that evening Paul, the girls, and I went out for Chicago deep dish pizza. Since I am dairy free, I ordered mine with vegan cheese. It wasn’t the greatest. Vegan cheese looks and tastes like glue when it melts. My husband still makes the best pizza. Sorry Chicago. Everyone else was happy.

Then the next morning we headed out, but not before Paul and I played a close game of air hockey at the hotel. I was very impressed with the hotel. The décor was very unique. Plus we were able to get an affordable two bedroom room. One on the rooms had two sets of bunk beds. The other room had a double bed with an outside wall a couple feet from the El. I thought I would be up all night with the noise, but it wasn’t bad. That says a lot from an insomniac who can’t sleep well in her sleep number bed set to her comfort in her perfectly dark, quiet, and cool bedroom at home.

We thought we were going to have to drive home through a snow storm, but thankfully it never showed up. It’s hard to believe that our time with our foreign exchange students is half over. In a few months I will go from having four teenagers in my house to zero. Our son will be turning 20 the same month Clara and Estelle leave. Then our daughter Arabella is applying to be a foreign exchange student in France living at Estelle’s house. I’m trying to enjoy every moment I can because in the blink of an eye it will be over.

I’ll close with a couple pictures…

 

Expectation reflections

It hasn’t been too much of an adjustment having 4 teenagers in the house.

Our foreign exchange students have been very quiet and friendly. When we told others of our plan to have 2 foreign exchange students, they cringed. Most shared horror stories of wild teen exchange students that made every effort to sneak out and party. So far there haven’t been any problems.

It’s probably because they are not comfortable being family yet. There aren’t any fights or talking back. We are all on our best behavior, no belching or farting. My husband has been giving them special treatment. He is buying the foods they like, taking them to places they are interested in going, asking if they are too hot or too cold. It’s hard not to treat them like visitors.

This is going to sound insane, but I felt a twinge of jealousy. It triggered something inside of me that reminded me of my mom’s special treatment of my autistic brother Matt.  Everything in our house revolved around Matt and what he wanted. I honestly wasn’t expecting to feel that way.

Of course, the students paid a lot of money to have a great experience here. I want things to be wonderful for them. Things are going really well. The girls don’t seem to be too homesick. If anything, at times they seem a little bored. But I’m sure that will change once school starts and they make friends.

It’s fun because they get excited about all of the little things, like going to the grocery store. They eat differently than we do. They use their knife and fork to cut things more. They cut up grilled cheese sandwiches instead of just picking them up and plunking them in their soup like I did.

Today Clara made homemade German potato salad for our friend’s Octoberfest party tomorrow. Real German food!

I also didn’t realize how much Hitler and the nazi’s were the butt of American jokes in TV and movie comedies. Awkward! But none of us were alive when any of that happened. If anything, countries that were once at war can be friendly towards each other again.

Hopefully in the next couple weeks the girls will come out of their shell a little. As for right now, I’m really happy that things are going better than I expected.