Gratitude week 36

  1. Summer for what little left we can squeeze out of it.
  2. Today is the unofficial last day of summer in Wisconsin and it feels like it. It was too windy and cool to swim this past weekend. But it was a nice weekend to play games, go hiking, and snuggle up by a fire.
  3. September has arrived. Autumn is my second favorite season. I like the cool crisp nights. I’m grateful for the changing of the seasons and the variety it brings.
  4. I’m thankful that my census job took me to beautiful Door County this past week. I even traveled to Washington Island which is the tip of the thumb of our state. I had to travel on the car ferry to get there and back. I felt like an adventurous traveler. I can’t wait to tell you about my adventures!
  5. While on the island, I was as close to a fox in the wild as I have ever been.
  6. I was able to visit with my brother Luke and his family up north for the first time since COVID.
  7. My daughter Angel came home for the weekend.
  8. It will be less than 3 weeks until my daughter moves back home.
  9. I’m grateful to be sleeping in my own bed tonight.
  10. I’m grateful for the time up north with family this past weekend. With everything going on it was the first weekend most of us could be together since Christmas.

Gratitude week 29

  1. Summer!!
  2. My birthday was this past week. Although the weather didn’t cooperate with my outdoor plans, I was able to go out to eat with my best friend Cindy. We went to a gluten-free restaurant. The food was amazing. They even had gluten and dairy free cheesecake. Plus it was open mic stand up comedy night. I’m thinking that would be a fun hobby. I’m planning on doing stand up in the near future.
  3. My daughter came home this past weekend. We started looking at places for her to live. It is starting to feel real that after 4 years she is moving back home. She also bought me a puzzle and mini vacuum cleaner for my birthday. It was everything I wanted but didn’t ask for.
  4. I spent a lot of good quality time with my daughter Angel and son Alex over the last few days. We went out to eat and did a painting class along with Paul and Angel’s boyfriend.
  5. I got a massage for my birthday week. Plus Paul gave me a gift card so I can go again.
  6. I am starting the training for the census job this week. It should be interesting!
  7. Paul and I took the church leadership sailing. It was very windy, but thankfully everything went well. We took them out without ‘taking them out’ which was a win.
  8. I am grateful for my daughter Angel whose birthday is tomorrow. I can’t wait until she moves back! It was nice to celebrate our birthdays together.
  9. I’m grateful to be busy since Estelle left. I miss her!
  10. Although I was supposed to be getting back from Europe this week and don’t have any vacations planned in the foreseeable future, I am grateful to have a sailboat we can get away on.

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.

 

 

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!

Together we will get through

The gym closed today.

I found out about it late last night when my pastor commented on Facebook. He said something like the one time he was thinking about going to the gym it was closed.

Exercise is a big part of the keeping myself sane routine. Addiction might be taking it a little far, but… More than anything I’m a routine addict.

Our trip to Florida we were planning for the end of the week is pretty much over.

The kids went to school today, but now the schools will be closed until at least the middle of April. My daughter works at Culvers and her work hours for this week have been cancelled.

The world is ending, yet here I sit calmly. I don’t feel like my anxiety is any more or less than normal. I’ve been dealing with a high level of stress and chaos since I was born. How is this any different? My husband is doing well too. We are not freaking out or buying massive amounts of toilet paper.

Yesterday I felt hopeful for a small amount of time that maybe our trip would still happen.

Today I am preparing for isolation. I am no stranger to it. I wish I had some control over it, but I do not. I like being alone. But I fear for the ones who do not.

I spent three years from 8th to 10th grade homeschooling. I rarely saw people outside of my family, much less my friends. That was before the days of cell phones. Right now we are safe. I’m not sending my children off to war. We will get through this.

Although I wish I could start my census job tomorrow. I would have more of a chance of finding people at home. Once this is all over, no one will want to stay home again.

Tomorrow starts the first day of the new normal. By the grace of God, structure, and routine will get us through. This might be the best memories we have together as a family.

We will be forced to get through this together and together we will get through.

Gratitude week 11

Wow, what a tough week to have gratitude…

1. My daughter Angel is feeling better after having a fever. She called the doctor’s office and they weren’t concerned about her having corona virus. My mom and I decided to just go on with life and attend the bridal shower today. However, we were told they didn’t want us there although my aunt with lung issues works at the hospital and her future DIL flew across the country to be there. Everyone there had the potential to be exposed which created hurt feelings from my mom.

2. Everyone in the family is currently healthy.

3. And more compliments on my hair.

4. My daughter Angel was offered and started a new job in her field. She will be graduating in 2 months.

5. I had a wonderful week with my daughter over her spring break. With her new job she insisted on taking me out to eat and paid for my lunch. I feel gratitude she is good with money and has a new job that will pay her bills.

6. I was offered a job with the census today.

7. I’m grateful for my husband and children.

8. I am grateful to be able to make fairly good decisions while under a lot of stress. We still have not decided whether or not to go to Florida on our planned vacation this week. I try not to let fear dictate my life, however still have the need to make realistic plans under the circumstances. The good thing is we developed a plan I am more comfortable with if we go. Angel will stay at our house while we are gone with our son Alex. I trust my adult children will be able to take care of things while we are away.

9. If we end up being stuck in our house for a month, it is a great place to be.

10. I am grateful to belong to an awesome church.

Getting viral

Life changed in the last 48 hours.

As if the time change, full moon, and Friday the 13th in the same week wasn’t bad enough…now we’ve got a pandemic on our hands.

Just 3 days ago, life was normal for us. My husband had plans to see the Bucks game with friends. The girls had track practice. Clara had play practice. The girls were planning on going to state. We were planning our trip to Florida in the following week. Then upon our return, we were going to Angel’s recital. We were going to visit family for Easter.

Today we were planning on going bowling for my brother Matt’s birthday. Tomorrow is a bridal shower.

Then everything changed.

It seemed strange, but the basketball game was cancelled.

Then we found out my daughter’s college is closing until after Easter. The dorm rooms are closing and everyone was sent home. The recital cancelled. Graduation? Who knows?

Angel’s boyfriend Dan works at a hospital and developed a fever a couple days ago. Should we be concerned about corona virus or is it something else?

We had our friends over last night to plan our trip to Florida. Should we even go? Disney and Universal closed.

We received word yesterday that all of the schools in Wisconsin will be closing for almost a month after Tuesday. The track meets are cancelled. The girls aren’t going to state. Will they cancel the play? What about prom?

It’s as if someone took an eraser and wiped our plans away like they were insignificant.

People are panicking. Toilet paper is flying off the shelves.

Angel came down with a fever last night. Is there even a place where we can go for testing? What should we do? Angel has been waiting for the last two hours for a call back from the doctor’s office.

My mother stopped by yesterday right before Angel got sick. The bowling birthday party is cancelled for today. I decided not to go to the bridal shower because my aunt whose future daughter-in-law it is for has some serious lung issues.

We are supposed to leave in less than a week to go to Florida. Our friends still want to go, but I am the only one that no longer does. I want to go, really I do. But is it wise? Our discussion got rather heated. Everyone is extremely emotional about this. We don’t know what to think or do.

What happens if my parents get sick while I am gone? They don’t have to worry about that. My closest brother is 3 hours away and has health issues.

What happens if we get sick on the road? What if we need to be quarantined in an unfamiliar place? What if we get stuck somewhere? What if we can’t find restaurants that are open? What if we can’t find a place that has food and toilet paper? The what if list goes on and on.

Yes, we want our foreign exchange students to see America. But is this the America we want them to see? Life seems different now. People are not at their best.

I have images in my mind of the apocalypse. Check points with people in contamination suits. We will be taking our visitors to a dystopian world. Tylenol and test kits.

Right now the allure of an adventure is gone. I think it is safer to stick with what we know even if it means being stuck at home for the next month. It’s hard because we were really looking forward to our trip.

Maybe we are already sick and don’t even know it.

 

Traveling with friends

All I can say is proceed with caution. We’ve had some good experiences and some bad. The first trip we took with friends didn’t go that well. We knew what they were like ahead of time so we should have known. They have been known to drink too much and get into arguments. Sure enough, it happened on vacation and we weren’t sure if we would still be friends when we got back home.

Last year we went on vacation with another group of friends. It went well because our friend Cara insisted on planning everything a year in advance. You can pretty much trust someone who is a project manager to plan a good trip. All I had to do was show up.

Fast forward to 2020. This year we are planning a spring break vacation with Cindy and her family. We started talking about it last spring. I wanted a commitment by late summer, but didn’t get one until Thanksgiving. By the time I looked at a trip to Disney for 10 people all the deals were gone and nothing was left in our price range. So I started looking at places to stay outside of Disney.

My friend Cindy wanted me to do all the planning. I have the time, plus I am very detailed, organized, structured, experienced traveler who tirelessly thinks about and searches every option. I had no problem with that. I researched flying vs driving. They were pretty convinced they wanted to drive. Again, I looked at all the options. I even called a place that rented out a 12 passenger van. I researched the driving route. Everything. Then I presented it to them and they said they didn’t like the van idea because it had bench seats which weren’t comfortable. Okay.

Then they wanted to fly again. So I searched all the airlines again. Now the prices were sky high, pun intended. They baited you with an affordable flight but once you wanted to return home you had to add on another $250 if you wanted a good flight. What I mean by good flight is not leaving late at night and getting to our destination the next morning, leaving very early morning, or having 2 layovers.

From our home airport the going rate to fly to Orlando was almost $1,000 per person. I flew to Thailand for less than that price. Insane! We couldn’t fly anywhere out of the state of Wisconsin for much less than that. Yes, I checked. Everyday I checked. We could fly out of Chicago for $750 per person which is still pretty expensive. But we were leaning towards doing that.

We are now less than two months from our trip. I asked Cindy to give me a call and we could sit down at our computers to book a flight together. I just sat down to eat supper with the whole family, nothing short of a miracle, when my phone rang. I didn’t answer the phone because I have the boundary that no one is going to disturb supper with my family. It was Cindy.

By the time I was done eating, Cindy had already booked their flight by phone. Yes, by phone! She told me she was able to find a flight for half the cost and wanted us to do the same. I was like, no way! My husband looked up the company they purchased tickets from. The company had several complaints filed against them with the BBB. Some consumers were calling this company a scam. Sure, they got a cheap flight but they are also taking a big risk. They received their ticket confirmation from a gmail account. Geez!

I was very upset. They couldn’t wait until I was done eating to talk about it? They totally circumvented me in the process after all the work I did. But then I realized something. Our friends are very spontaneous, disorganized, and impulsive whereas I probably ruminate the details more than a serial killer. Honestly, I was so upset and hurt that I didn’t even want to go on vacation with them anymore. We’ve had such a rough start before the trip even started. It all could’ve been prevented if they were more organized. But I already knew this about them.

It took a couple of days to feel better. Last night our family made the decision to drive down to Florida. We want an adventure. We want to do our own thing. We will head out after school on Friday and spend the night in Chicago. From Chicago we will drive to Chattanooga, TN. Then we will spend almost a week in Orlando with a couple days at Disney, a day in Universal, and some down time at the beach. Then we will spend a couple of days in New Orleans before heading back to WI.

Today I spent the morning planning out the rest of the trip and I almost felt happy. I love planning trips. I’m glad we are taking two separate vehicles now. We have the option to do different things. We can be structured and they can be spontaneous and hopefully our worlds don’t collide.

Stay tuned…

 

 

 

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…